A foreign princess is in town, and a fabulous masquerade ball is being thrown in her honor, at which she’ll showcase her country’s “legendary secret treasure.” Naturally, this attracts the attention of both Luna and Queen Beryl, who both suspect this treasure could be the Silver Crystal. Nephrite has no trouble getting into the ball under his socialite alias, but Usagi requires a little help from the disguise pen, resulting in one of the best uses of disguise power in the series. Just when things couldn’t any trickier, Tuxedo Mask shows up to the ball, the one event where he actually blends in. And why? Well, he’s got his own designs on the Silver Crystal.
This is a very polarizing episode, and not just as a whole: from scene to scene. Where this episode is good, it is amazing, but there are certain aspects that… to call them problematic would be incredibly generous. However, since I’m not a complete buzzkill, we’ll start out with the things this episode got right.
For one, it is an incredibly tight story and nearly every plot element is justified. It’s focused around a central event, and every character in attendance has a solid reason for being there. Masato Sanjouin is a member of high society, so he’d get an invite. Mrs. Osaka, who owns a high-end jewelry store, would naturally be invited to an event where some kind of foreign treasure would be on display, and why wouldn’t her own daughter be her plus-one, so Naru’s there too, allowing for further interaction between her and Nephrite. Even Usagi’s dad, being a photo-journalist, would have a reason to go. And lest we forget that it’s a freakin’ masquerade ball. If there’s one place where Tuxedo Mask can walk around looking for the Silver Crystal without drawing any attention, that would be it.
The red herring of Princess Diamond as possible Moon Princess and her family treasure as the Silver Crystal… not bad, writers. Not bad. Even Beryl falls for that shit. Okay, sure, it’s not like it was likely, but a few viable possibilities that dead end pepper the story with a little variety, and it sure beats having the heroes search fruitlessly until they achieve their goal. This way, it forces them to show some perseverance despite any frustration or discouragement. It makes them earn it more. Now, this is the first episode with Tuxedo Mask’s dreams, and yes, the silhouette of his princess is rather tell-tale, but there were those of us (he said as he raised his hand meekly), who thought on their first run-through of the series that the Moon Princess may not have been Usagi, that their nigh identical silhouettes were a deliberate misdirect on the part of the creative team to throw the viewer off the scent. Of course, as well all know, Occam’s Razor prevailed, but at the time, I didn’t assume, so I appreciated the attempted obfuscation, as unnecessary as it may have seemed to some.
It’s been gradual, but you’ll note that Usagi doesn’t cry as easily or as often as when the show began, so when she does… boy, do you notice! And, God… I just love how she abuses the shit out of that disguise pen. Fuck. Luna barely even tries to stop her anymore. Though I’m not sure why she even gave a shit in the first place. It’s not like it’s got a limited power supply or anything. So, Usagi’s isn’t using it expressly for missions. What is the battery going to run out or something? Chill out, Disguise Sheriff.
I do appreciate how Luna will scratch a bitch! In the face! She’s still as hardcore as ever. And for the second episode in a row, Mercury is taking charge like a boss. You know, Mercury gets her share of flack for being a largely passive character, and true, her powers have more of a defensive function than the others, but when girl steps us, she really steps up.
The good guys aren’t the only one who get some time in the sun (or in the cold, incandescent light of a subterranean civilization). It’s mentioned once again that finding the Silver Crystal is Zoisite’s job, which makes him all butt-hurt when Nephrite steps in and hijacks this mission. Zoisite is understandably pissed that Nephrite’s arrogance is going without comment, but Beryl tips her hand just a bit. She knows Nephrite’s getting desperate, and she’s playing him.
In the midst of some fun Dark Kingdom cloak and dagger, we finally come to the introduction of Kunzite. Up until, it’s been clear that Zoisite is the most flaming creature ever to teleport in a flurry of cherry blossoms, but now we meet the man who is canonically his lover, and I kind of love them as a couple. I love that not one, but two of Queen Beryl’s generals are involved in a homosexual relationship. Talk about gays in the military.
And being demonic military masterminds does not mean the boys can’t decorate. Look at that chandelier… FUCKING LOOK AT IT! Its shape, its placement, the way it cycles through all those different colors… Now every time I see a sign for a restaurant or other business with a similar lighting effect, I’m going to suspect that the business in question is under the sway of the Dark Kingdom.
So, as I said, this episode has some good stuff. Plenty of twists and turns, the incorporation and progression of multiple character arcs in addition to the main story. Good stuff. But it also falls flat in a few places. Most are minor, like the fact that while I totally get why Tuxedo Mask would have a vested interest in checking the party out since he’s on the hunt for the Silver Crystal, if he only transforms as a reaction to Sailor Moon, what got him there? At this point, Mamoru doesn’t know he’s Tuxedo Mask. He can’t transform at will, and if Usagi doesn’t become Sailor Moon until after he’s been at the party for, like an hour, what activated the Tuxedo Mask persona in the first place? Did it piggyback off something Mamoru might have heard in the news about the presentation at the ball and then just take over?
And then there’s the timing with Naru-chan. It was perfect to put her in this episode and to have her continue to fall for Nephrite. However, I don’t love how they do this sharp left turn in her storyline with the mall encounter, only to drop it for two episodes. I mean, what the shit is that? Frankly, the last two eps could very easily have come *before* the one in the mall where she first gets Nephrite’s attention, and then going into this one, the effect would have been much stronger. Considering how directly Nephrite targets her, I’m surprised they would dally that way.
And, on the bitchy queen end of things… Ami, Rei… oh, girls… ohhhhhh, girrrrrrrls! What the fuck are you wearing? I want to meet the animator who dredged those hideous dresses out of some foul recess of his mind and forced them onto two of the cutest girls in anime. Whoever made that call needs to go to anime jail for a bit. Fail.
But like I said. All that stuff is minor. You know what’s not? How fucking rapey this episode gets! Yeah. I’ll stand by it. Rapey. And don’t get all “Blurred Lines” with me. Usagi’s first kiss was not romantic, because she WAS BARELY CONSCIOUS. In fact, a strong argument could be made that by the time Tuxedo Mask actually kissed her, she’d passed out.
I don’t care if they were lovers in a past life. I don’t care if she would have consented were she awake. Hell, I’d be surprised if she didn’t jump him. But the fact of the matter is, she was not awake. She was a fourteen-year-old who was obviously drunk, likely for the first time, and there was no ambiguity about it. But Tuxedo Mask… he didn’t give a fuck. He just steered her over to that balcony, away from where anyone might see or stop him, and just kissed her as she was passing out. How is that not insanely creepy?
I mean, they set me up with this wonderful romantic ambience, and then there’s the waltzing and a nice bit of foreshadowing there with Usagi mentioning how it feels like she’s danced with Tuxedo Mask before. And then we throw in a little action/adventure to really set the mood, and just when everything is perfect, Tuxedo Mask’s gotta go screw the moment by channeling the spirit of Robin Thicke. Like, what the fuck, dude?!?
You know, if you’re not sure if she’s consenting, here’s a helpful rule of thumb. If she’s falling asleep, especially due to how wasted she is, it’s a no. Like, if he’d gone in for the kiss, saw she was getting her alky-snooze on, and then kissed her forehead instead, that would have been sweet, but no. He totally crossed a line, and it’s one of those moments that I have to pretend didn’t happen so that I can continue liking that character.
I mean, fuck, at least we knew Usagi was kind of into it because we could hear her thoughts, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know. All he knew was that she was tipsy and passing out. That doth not a green light make. Gross, dude.
Keep up with all our Sailor Moon coverage right here.