This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.
Usagi wakes up in Mamoru Chiba’s apartment and finally gets him to tell her the story of how he became Tuxedo Mask. On his sixth birthday, he was the sole survivor of a car crash that claimed the lives of his parents. He lost most of his memories, but in the years following began to have dreams of a woman who told him to find the Silver Crystal. He found himself sleepwalking in a Tuxedo, thieving for the Crystal. Once he became aware of his own activities, he adopted the persona of Tuxedo Mask.
Meanwhile, Queen Beryl reveals her own origin as an ordinary human woman who was drawn to the ruins of the Dark Kingdom where Queen Metalia had been sealed away. Following Metalia’s demand for more energy (how’s about a thank you, you gluttonous blob of dark matter?), she sends Zoisite forth to lure out the Sailor Guardians, particularly Sailor Moon, and kill them, but Zoisite’s plans (this time involving the dark mojo hijacking of a video rental store) are laid to waste when Sailor V arrives on the scene to save the day.
The beginning of this episode hits the ground running. Even the theme song doesn’t force the end of the teaser to linger through the first couple bars of “Moon Pride.” We just jump right in.
I didn’t comment on it last time, but there are some changes to the opening animation, namely some color corrections. Early on, when each girl gets a close-up while her full silhouette is tinted with her signature color in the background, Usagi is now tinted pink for a moment before going into her standard (regular lighting) coloring. Also, the confusing form of Queen Serenity with Princess Serenity’s hair color has now been cleaned up. Queen Serenity sports her trademark silver hair. I believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that Sailor Moon’s new tiara has been edited in, and the Moon Stick seems to be more prominent and defined now that it’s an element in the show.
There are also changes to the body of the episodes themselves. While efforts have been made to update certain cosmetic details, keeping true to the plot of the manga means featuring a video rental store. I don’t know if they’re still around in Japan, but here it would be positively archaic. Hell, the irony is not lost on me of the fact that I am watching, through an internet streaming service, an episode about a video retail outlet. And yet Ami-chan has an iPad. I’ve also noticed that Rei is more often in her school uniform in Crystal than she is in Classic or even the manga, where they played up the miko outfit far more. In this episode particularly, it was a conscious effort to swap out her miko outfit with her school uniform. I wonder what the reasoning behind this is, and I’d love to pick the art director’s brain.
It’s funny that an episode called “Mamoru Chiba / Tuxedo Mask” doesn’t actually give much screen time to either. All the character stuff on Mamoru we pretty much get up front in the first few minutes and the rest of the episode deals with Zoisite’s “Blockbuster of Doom” plot. To his credit, his involvement in the climax is an improvement in that he actually lands a punch on Zoisite, rather than being completely blocked by a force field like he was in the manga. At least that’s something.
The origin story is pretty straightforward, given a little more weight here than in the manga or Classic. See, I like how we jump right into the origin story. Usagi just woke up in Mamoru’s bed. Despite the fact that he (I’m guessing) did not sleep in it with her, and this was purely an act of hospitality, it’s no less an emotionally intimate moment between two people, compounded by the fact that she just realized that Mamoru is Tuxedo Mask. To be honest, preferring Classic as I generally do, this felt like a much more natural moment for Mamoru to reveal his backstory than the iconic elevator ride, and while I hold firm to the opinion that this moment came too soon, the moment itself is perfect. It feels very real and organic.
You know what doesn’t? The instant implementation of their pet names. They’re not a couple yet. They’re not even dating yet. Considering that shoujo manga and anime is such a vanguard of focusing on romances, Naoko certainly skipped right over the falling in love part and just plopped these two right down into the middle of the relationship, ignoring all that pesky getting to know each other that legitimizes it. Nope. One sob story and suddenly theirs is a love deep as oceans. Meh.
To be fair, it’s not like there’s no basis for a relationship at all. As one commenter on these reviews has noted, having Tuxedo Mask interact almost exclusively with Sailor Moon really does make him more mysterious and justifiably suspicious to Luna and the other Sailor Guardians, and the connection between Mamoru and Usagi stands out more. So, the foundation is there. It just hasn’t been reinforced very well. We are talking a completed building erected a little too quickly with some very sketchy-looking drywall.
This episode also featured the introduction of Queen Metalia, as well as Beryl’s origin (at least in this life), though it was far more hazy with her appearance. As for Beryl herself, we got the manga’s somewhat tragic vibe in regards to her. She’s troubled by the realization that Metalia could very well destroy the planet, something no sane villain ever really wants. After all, there’s nothing left to rule if everything’s destroyed.
Like her manga counterpart, this Beryl is far more complex than Classic Beryl. Her loyalty to Metalia is not absolute. In fact, she has an agenda of her own to claim the Silver Crystal for herself so she can rule the world, remolding it to suit her own ideals. This Beryl is frankly the better villain. She isn’t just a petty, temperamental, counterproductive rage machine who sits on her ass all day. Yeah, she delegates, but that’s because she’s busy doing stuff on her own. She is more measured and reasonable, though no less firm, in her interactions with her subordinates, working with them to most efficiently achieve her goals. And if we’re on schedule to see more of her past life backstory, her interest in Mamoru / Endymion will have more substance as well. Having Beryl exist as more than just the voice of Queen Metalia gives the character more agency as well as depth and makes for a far more interesting Dark Kingdom… as does the continued existence of the Four Heavenly Kings.
That’s right. Zoisite survived the day, making this the third time one of Beryl’s generals survived where his manga counterpart died. The butterfly effect continues to do its thing, though at this point, I’m very curious as to how things will play out. My theory was that the show would start to diverge more from the manga once Venus appeared, and, well…
This episode marked the meeting of the Sailor Guardians and Sailor V. Let’s just hold off on the logistic problems of Sailor V appearing with her back to us, then having her suddenly in the full Sailor Venus outfit when the angle is reversed. The point is, she is recognized and addressed as Sailor V, and will likely continue to be until her little decoy act as Princess Serenity is over and she admits to being Sailor Venus. Minako’s appearance is really the only plot element so far that feels as though it was built up to properly. Her presence grew in the background over the past seven episodes, so her full appearance at the end of this one was welcome and even anticipated. It didn’t come too soon (well, in my opinion everything is coming too soon, but given this series’ pacing, it was well timed).
Even within this episode, we had Luna talking directly to Sailor V through her secret base computer, then had the girls doing some detective work in regards to Sailor V, noting the crescent moon mark on her forehead and hypothesizing that she may be connected to the moon like Luna. Could she possibly even be the princess? These are all questions that it seems from next episode’s trailer will be addressed in Sailor V’s first full episode. All the more reason I feel that her showing up in the orange Venus outfit to be premature. It would be far better, even if it’s obvious to the audience, that Sailor V’s status as “other” to the Sailor Guardians be part of the Moon Princess decoy ruse. It isn’t until she transforms into the orange uniform that matches the others, including the tiara where her fake moon mark previously was, that she reveals her true identity as Sailor Venus. But, done is done. That ain’t gonna happen.
My theory was that Sailor Moon Crystal would follow the manga pretty closely until the appearance of Sailor Venus in order to get the whole team together and would then start to deviate more broadly. Starting with the next episode, we’ll see how well this theory pans out.
I’ve heard that Sailor Moon Crystal would include side stories like “Casablanca Memory,” and while I haven’t yet personally corroborated this rumor, this episode doesn’t nix that idea. “Casablanca Memory” featured an attack on Rei by Zoisite as a means of avenging Jadeite’s death. Well, in Crystal Jadeite’s not dead, but Zoisite still has plenty to be pissed at the Sailors about. The details may change, a slightly different motive, the inclusion of Venus in a story that takes place before she joined the team, but it seems we still have plenty of time for Zoisite to carry out this plan. Either way, this episode has become something of a turning point, because now we have Sailor Venus in the mix. The team is now complete.
So, now that we’re done with the tedium of the debut queue, where do we go from here?