Princess D of the D Kingdom, famous for its jewels and riches, is in Tokyo and will premiere the royal family’s secret treasure at a fancy masquerade dinner party. Usagi, of course, wants to go and with the Disguise Pen, she has the perfect means. While at the party, she runs into Tuxedo Mask, who is there looking for the Silver Crystal. And, of course, the Dark Kingdom has designs on it as well, making it an evening to remember.
Having recently covered this story in the original ’90s anime, there are a lot of items fresh in my mind, and there’s bound to be some comparison, but I’ll do my best to take this one on its own merits.
Naturally, as we’re closer to the manga’s version of this story, Naru-chan isn’t present, and thus none of her interaction with Nephrite exists, but that’s not the only place where this episode feels a little thin. In fact, this has been an issue with Sailor Moon Crystal in general. The episodes feel much lighter, and seem to go by much faster than they did in the first anime.
Even though they’re only shorter by about a minute, it seems like the story is just starting to get going and then you hit the commercial break at the halfway point. Again, this has more to do with its faithfulness to the manga than anything else, and in that, the mission statement of the series is commendably being adhered to, but it leaves this reviewer (especially in light of the bi-weekly release schedule) feeling consistently hungry for more content and not in a simple “leave ‘em wanting more” way; in an hour-after-Chinese-food kind of way.
That said, it was a good episode that I enjoyed very much and for a few reasons. This episode had a lot riding on it heading in. Not only would we likely get an answer to whether or not Jadeite survived his encounter with Sailor Mars (which was certainly implied, but not confirmed), but the end of this episode would tell us whether or not we’d be meeting Jupiter next week, which would inform the ongoing question of the narrative’s pacing.
Well, not only did Jadeite survive, but the first person he talks to in this episode is Kunzite, a character with whom we have never seen him interact (except in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, but…no). Right off the bat, this interaction is confirming on multiple levels that this version of the Dark Kingdom is going to be handled differently.
Then, on top of that, Nephrite and Zoisite show up and all four are summoned before Queen Beryl. While this episode does cleave closer to the original manga story in that Nephrite and his “shadow” are the villains of the piece, the other three Shitennou show up at the end to introduce themselves to the Sailor Senshi as an opposing team, which HOLY SHIT THAT HAS NEVER HAPPENED.
In the original anime, they were in constant competition and (with the exception of Zoisite and Kunzite), constantly at one another’s throats. In Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, they may not have been actively trying to sabotage one another but were certainly possessed of their own individual agendas. Even in the manga, where there appears to have been much more camaraderie between them, there are few instances of two being on the page at the same time, much less active in the field.
Here in Sailor Moon Crystal, for the first time we see the Shitennou as a team, and the prospect of this is very exciting. All the dynamics that can be explored, the rotation of them in Beryl’s service, and what greater significance they’ll play in the arc of the story. In terms of when, how, and in what order they die, all bets are off, opening us up to fresh new possibilities.
In addition to this, one can’t ignore the greater implications of this change. The Shitennou are clearly being set up as a major presence in Sailor Moon Crystal, one that will be around for a while and be developed. The Dark Kingdom is going to be seriously beefed up. So, yeah. I know that the first two arcs of the manga cover 26 acts, but it’s pretty damn obvious at this point that Crystal is going to exclusively cover the Dark Kingdom arc, and I think that’s the right decision. However, the pacing remains a question.
It’s clear that with the appearance of Makoto at the end of this episode, the streak of having a one-for-one manga to screen translation will continue. However, as the treatment of the Shitennou in the last two episodes, especially this one, has shown us, there will be more and more of a butterfly effect as the narrative marches on. I stand by my theory that the full Sailor Team will be introduced rather quickly, allowing the bulk of the episodes to explore their interpersonal dynamics and individual characters (and, Lord, I’m hoping some more Silver Millennium material).
As for this episode, well, the story is what it is, and it’s one we’re used to. I wonder if in this instance, Ami and Rei used the Disguise Pen for their dresses as well since they’re displaying tiaras that are nearly identical palette swaps of Usagi’s tiara. Tuxedo Mask factored in as he always does, operating in the one setting where his outfit blends right in, romancing Usagi a bit.
And, of course, there’s the infamous kiss scene. Now, I ranted a LOT about this in my review of Episode 22 of the first anime, so I won’t dwell, but basically:
Sailor Moon was pretty much asleep when Tuxedo Mask kissed her. A guy who she’s only met a few times and barely knows kisses her without any quantifiable demonstrative consent. Granted, in this iteration, Usagi’s not drunk, but that’s only shaving one level of wrong off the incident. And thank God Luna showed up to call him out, but even then she seemed less upset about what Tuxedo Mask was doing than she was about who was doing it. The entire scenario is just…no. Not kosher, dude.
Altogether, though, I really liked this one. It went by a little too fast, sure, but it worked just fine and significantly altered the trajectory of the series by establishing the expanded role the Shitennou will play. Bring it on, Crystal. Bring that shit on!