This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.
The Sailor Guardians use their vague sailor mojo to go to the Sea of Serenity on the moon, where they find the ruins of the Silver Millennium. In the heart of the castle, they come across a sword embedded in a pedestal of some kind, and have an Arthurian moment where they attempt to pull it out. Even with Mercury and Mars’ help, Jupiter can’t pull it out, but Venus manages to do it on her own. The freeing of the sword activates a kind of A.I. echo of Queen Serenity who tells the girls more about their past lives and the fall of the kingdom, specifically the circumstances surrounding the death of the princess.
Meanwhile, the Four Kings spy on Beryl as she confers with Metalia, leading them to awaken to their own past lives in which they were knights sworn to Prince Endymion’s service. Before they can act on their information, however, Beryl puts the whammy on them and sends them out to turn Tokyo into a frozen wasteland hospitable to Metalia. When the Sailor Guardians confront them, Sailor Venus reveals their shared backstory, that the Four Kings were once their lovers. Unfortunately, Queen Beryl’s brainwashing is not something one can be simply talked out of, regardless of how passionate the plea. This time around, our girls will just have to settle for Sailor Moon flying into orbit and using some Moon Healing Escalation to thaw Tokyo out.
Wow. Just… wow. Holy crap, was this episode light years ahead of the last one! It still felt just a tiny bit fragmented, like two separate stories compressed into one episode, but at the least the second half successfully built on the first half’s tension to make for a satisfying narrative throughline. Though there is part of me that wonders how much stronger an episode we’d have if it consisted of Episode 9’s second half followed by this episode’s first half. You know, Episode 9 would have been a bunch of disjointed flashes of the past, framed by the loss of Tuxedo Mask, then the next episode would open with Usagi’s shock and trauma, the first act ending on the decision to go to the moon. The second act would then consist of the moon trip, which would naturally include a fuller, more cohesive picture of the events that transpired, ending on the Sailors overlooking the city with a new sense of purpose.
It would certainly flow better. And as for the Four Kings stuff… well, there’s no reason that could’t be expanded into an episode of its own, giving the bad guys their own POV episode. Okay, there is a reason. It’s just not one I recognize as particularly valid.
Though it’s still open to interpretation, Queen Serenity pretty much confirms that the capsules in which Luna and Artemis were sleeping (felines frozen in suspension capsules; anyone else think of Thundercats?) were in fact kept on the moon and sent down to Earth by the Eternity Main System only recently. It’s amazing considering how long the cats were on ice that they didn’t suffer any brain damage. Well, maybe that’s what accounts for the memory loss. Oh, if only that were deliberate on Naoko’s part, but you know it was just a happy accident. Foresight is not homegirl’s forte. Because didn’t Sailor Saturn supposedly clear away the ruins of the Silver Millennium? Wasn’t that a thing?
So, we do get this explanation, though we’re still unclear on how exactly these girls are walking around on the surface of the moon without any kind of atmosphere up there. I mean, it’s impressive enough that in the vacuum of space their bodies don’t freeze and their lungs don’t explode, but the fact that they’re walking around in mini-skirts and breathing comfortably is really something.
As I am an admitted glutton for all things Silver Millennium, I would obviously have preferred more time spent on it to really develop a sense of that world and make it feel like a proper setting, but the brief glimpses we got into it (and the Earth of that era) did an effective job of conveying the feel of the time and place. That sweeping vista of the palace was beautiful, and while the flashbacks didn’t have that slight haziness they had in Episode 1, they retained the same dreamy, ethereal quality.
We now know where that scene from Act 9 of the manga, the one featuring Endymion and his four loyal servants who would become the Four Kings, ended up. It was moved into this episode, and it really does work here. What was originally a confrontation between Beryl and Kunzite now involves Jadeite, Nephrite, and Zoisite as well, and seeing the four of them so effortlessly schooled by Beryl really illustrates just how powerful she is.
Where this episode really succeeds is in its adaptation of the source material. Just as “Act 8 – Minako/Sailor V” did very effectively, it expanded upon the manga, rather than merely parroting it. Not only does Kunzite survive this encounter, but it was all the Sailor Guardians against the Four Kings. This is a fight I have always wanted to see, one that Sailor Moon Classic denied us in the one scene where those eight characters all appeared together. This fight sequence not only provided a solid climax to the episode in terms of tension and action, it was loaded with some serious emotion, due not only to red strings involved but to all the emotions that surfaced during the Sailors little lunar expedition.
That scene where each of the Four Kings (then merely knights) pledged themselves to Endymion did more than just establish that relationship, it added little bits of character to the four with their self-designated titles such as “Jadeite, the knight of patience and harmony” and “Nephrite, the knight of intelligence and comfort.” It’s not much, true, but it’s more than we’ve ever gotten on what their past life personalities were. We also get official, in-universe confirmation that the Sailor Guardians and the Four Kings were romantically involved, something I have conflicting feelings about.
On the one hand, I love how this really gives the Sailors a personal stake in the fates of the Four Kings. These aren’t just some guys who used to be loyal to their princess’s lover. These were their lovers. Now they’re all as conflicted as Venus was when she faced off with Kunzite two episodes ago, because they all have that context. Defeating the Four Kings at all costs is now much easier said than done, because, well, having to kill them would really suck in a way it didn’t yesterday.
On the other hand, I find it a little too convenient that of all the men in the world who could have pledged themselves to Endymion’s side, it just happened to be four guys who were compatible enough to pair off perfectly with Serenity’s bodyguards. Even if having four bodyguards were, like, some kind of cultural standard, what are the odds that those four guys would fit perfectly with those four girls, that two of the guys weren’t into the same girl or vice versa, or that not a single one of those eight people had zero interest in any of their options. It’s just something that always felt a little pat to me, but it beats the otherwise completely flat characterization of the past lives, so I’ll take it.
As I’ve mentioned in my Classic reviews, one thing that always bothered me about the Silver Millennium Sailor Guardians was that they are Sailor Guardians. I know this is a fantasy series and that some suspension of disbelief is in order, but it always really took me out of the moment when I was struck with the jarring sight of this majestic, fantasy setting in which we see sailor collars and spandex. Considering what a fashion bug Naoko Takeuchi is, I’m surprised and more than a little disappointed that she didn’t jump at the chance to give Princess Serenity’s guardians some kind of medieval or Hellenic armor. Seeing those four jumping into the fray looking like the Xena Squad would have been freaking AMAZING. Come on. Tell me those girls wouldn’t absolutely dominate that battlefield in leather and steel!
Overall, this was a strong episode. In my previous review, I made no bones about this show’s flaws, and I firmly believe it would be stronger for being a touch looser in its adaptation of the manga, but if we’re going to be going act for act, this episode, like Episode 8, is a perfect example of how to do it.
In fact, my only real complaint with this episode has nothing to do with its content, but with its presentation. I don’t know who normally subtitles these episodes, but clearly that guy called out sick because whoever they get on the job for this one does not have a strong enough command of English to cut it. It is a sloppy translation with grammatical errors so numerous and so egregious, it actually goes beyond distracting and becomes comical. Check out these quotes:
“Even though I am physically perished.” Yes, indeed, tell me more of how one can perish something.
“We were the long-living creature on the moon.” Were you now? All of you. Did you all combine like a megazord?
“Variant creature who invaded Earth and attempted to plunder.” And all your base are belong to us.
“And shortly after, you passed away in grief.” That’s certainly a euphemistic way of saying “killed yourself by running your boyfriend’s sword through your guts.”
“But in return, she turned Silver Millennium into the stone.” The stone, huh? Yes, in old country we call it, how you say… we call it the stone. Bozhe moi.
Seriously, though, I kid. Good episode, very entertaining, very satisfying, very pretty, but they definitely need to get their regular subtitler some chicken soup so he can come back to work.