Now safely inside the Crystal Palace, Sailor Moon, Sailor Venus, and Tuxedo Mask are brought up to speed by none other than King Endymion… Mamoru’s future self. So everyone finally puts two and two together about exactly who Chibi-Usa is, we get some more background on Sailor Pluto, Usagi’s acknowledgement of how ridiculous and stupid she is for being jealous does nothing to mitigate the fact that she keeps doing it, and Esmeraude finally goes after Chibi-Usa directly.
Well, don’t come between papa wolf Tuxedo Mask and his daughter’s safety, because two versions of him from different points in the timeline with team up to Tuxedo La Smoke your ass. Esmeraude is down for the count, which is all well and good, but Sailor Moon ends up following a trend by getting abducted by the Black Moon. Oh, and Luna and Artemis have a kitten in the future named Diana, who is pretty much Chibi-Usa’s mascot.
There’s a lot of exposition in this episode, but it’s handled very well. Rather than merely rehashing what the audience already knows, the characters are being brought up to speed and connections are being drawn between all the facts we’ve been given so far in order to form a fuller picture of what exactly is going on and why. We get some backstory on the Black Moon Family and Nemesis, which is tied directly into the mythology of Crystal Tokyo itself. They, as it turns out, were dissidents who rejected the vastly extended life spans bestowed upon humanity by the Silver Crystal. They considered it to be a violation of natural law. I always liked the idea that the Black Moon had their own morality from which they operated; they’re terrorists, no question, but adherents to their own ideology. Even if they’ve grown extreme and violent, clearly needing to be stopped, they have a legitimate motive and point of view from which their extreme methods spring. It makes them much more interesting than just another bunch of baddies who want to overthrow the monarchy and take charge just because.
The background we get on Sailor Pluto section is also very strong, and she’s used very well here. In fact, it’s interesting this episode seems to be far more about her than the previous episode, which was actually named for her. Certainly I’m not suggesting that every bit of development for a character should be shoehorned into the episode named for her, and indeed mystery is a big part of Pluto’s characterization; we shouldn’t know too much about her in her first appearance, so I’m not really suggesting it should have been in the previous episode. After all, there was plenty of other ground to cover anyway. However, it does feel a little out of place in this episode. I think the Sailor Pluto material we got was fantastic. I just don’t see why it had to be here.
I, for one, would have saved that exposition on her for a later episode (like maybe the one that actually explores her duties and shows the consequences of her breaking the law she is sworn to uphold) and stuck to expanding on her relationship with Chibi-Usa while establishing her unrequited longing for King Endymion, which the writers practically glossed over. They played it a little too subtle, so I hope they’re able to delve into it a bit more later on. While most episodes of Crystal don’t stray far from the manga, changes have been made on occasion to enhance character, as with Minako in Episode 8. Perhaps we’ll get a little more Pluto action than the manga provided. It’s unlikely at this point, but we can always hope.
In addition to learning about the fall of Crystal Tokyo at the hand of the Black Moon, we also get to learn of the rise of Crystal Tokyo in the first and see it at that height of its splendor. I really love the design of the city. As Joss Whedon noted in the Serenity commentary (heheh… Serenity), very often in visual media, when you see cities of the future, the buildings don’t look all that futuristic, they just look taller. It helps to see that the architecture of Crystal Tokyo looks leek and futuristic without being cold. The lawns and trees, as well as the waterways and seaside location help to give it a warm, organic feel. The crystal spires are at the heart of the city, as is proper both visually and thematically, but the rest of it looks like a real place where people would live, as opposed to the bleak, sterile Crystal Tokyo of Sailor Moon R. Whoever designed the background shots for this episode hit the bullseye.
Another design aspect I really loved was Neo Queen Serenity’s white hair. One of my big complaints about the Sailor Moon franchise is not enough variation in the characters’ designs (aside from their civilian fashions, which are refreshingly varied in each version). In terms of their faces and hairstyles, however, there’s very little change between their past lives and present selves, as well as their present selves and 30th Century selves. I understand that they all stop aging in their prime due to the power of the Silver Crystal, so their faces shouldn’t be too different, but am I honestly expected to believe that Minako Aino is going to have the same hairstyle for a thousand years? Bitch, please. Hence, I really dig Queen Serenity’s white hair as it helps differentiate her from Usagi/Sailor Moon. Also, knowing that Queen Serenity of Silver Millennium had white hair gives us the hint of some mythology. Perhaps the reigning queen’s hair turns white as some kind of signifier of her ties to the Silver Crystal?
One design nitpick I’ll happily harp on would be King Endymion’s tuxedo. It is not only in Takeuchi’s original artwork for the character, but it is commented upon by Sailor Moon in the dialogue of the manga itself. It’s pretty carelessly changed, but you know what? It’s a change I can get behind. The whole lavender Tuxedo thing never really made sense to me. I mean, I’m all for a man who is secure enough in his masculinity to wear pastels. More power to him. However, this always struck me more as something like a girl projecting a pretty color onto an outfit than it being something a guy – particularly a straight, Japanese guy who is a crowned monarch and must command the respect of his people – would ever actually wear. Hell, in certain parts of Japan, dudes won’t wear yellow or green if the shade is too bright because it’s considered feminine. So, the lavender tuxedo never quite worked for me.
The white tuxedo they have King Endymion wearing here totally works. It contrasts with Mamoru’s black tuxedo, differentiating the two characters. It also adds to his otherworldly, spirit-y feel, as his more or less a ghost. And the fact that Buddhism is all over Japanese culture and in Buddhism, white is the color of death adds a bit of creepiness to the character, even though he’s benevolent. It’s sort of the equivalent of having Morticia Addams smiling at you. She looks very nice and even is, but she’s still dressed all in black. It sets a tone and very well.
Of course, there were a few things about the episode that did it a disservice, namely more of Usagi’s fucking IDIOTIC jealousy of Chibi-Usa. Once again, I appreciate that she acknowledges what a stupid asshole she’s being about the whole thing, but her self-awareness doesn’t make it any less ridiculous and annoying. And… okay, look. I know Usagi can be kind of thick, but the genuine surprise on her face (and Mamoru’s, for that matter) after King Endymion introduced himself as the future version of himself mere seconds after Chibi-Usa addresses him as “Dad”… COME ON! And then after all that, Luna and Artemis are shocked about Diana. Give me a break.
The formality between Mamoru and King Endymion struck me as a little weird. To be fair, this could just be my own cultural bias and/or ignorance, and there could some aspect of Japanese culture I’m simply not picking up on. It’s possible, I suppose. However, I sincerely doubt that theoretical time travel etiquette was taken into account when the intricate social codes of Japanese tradition were devised several millennia ago. This entire exchange feels very weird and off. And I get that a conversation between someone and his past/future self is bound to be a little weird, but that’s not the kind of weird that’s causing the problem.
Both King Endymion and Mamoru himself are talking about Chibi-Usa like she’s not Mamoru’s daughter, like he’s babysitting for someone else, rather than looking after his own kid. I realize that Mamoru hasn’t lived through Usagi’s pregnancy and Chibi-Usa’s infancy and childhood, so he’s technically not her father yet, but King Endymion referring to Chibi-Usa in first person singular as “my daughter” just struck me as a little bizarre. Then, after all that drama, after all those meaningful looks and vows of protection…
Damn! Someone better call Child Services on Mamoru’s ass, because his own grade school age daughter isn’t even in his custody for a full 24 hours before she sneaks out and runs off to the future where she gets attacked by his enemies. Mamoru, you fail parenthood forever.
On the whole, this episode was pretty good. It gave us a pretty hefty exposition and dump without really slowing the plot down (too much) to do it. While the structure of the episode was kind of all over the place, the villain element not even coming into play until about halfway through and not being as well developed as it had been in previous episodes, it somehow ended up not being much of a detriment to the pacing, if one at all. We got some more character development on our new Crystal Tokyo characters, the full skinny on the conflict between Crystal Tokyo and the Black Moon, and even a little action.
I’ll go down on record saying that the fight sequence was once again lackluster, but that’s really become par for the course, so at this point in the plot, I guess it didn’t bother me too much. Still, this wasn’t Crystal’s best. A solid effort, but they really could stand to improve upon Takeuchi’s half-assed battle sequences. If that can manage that, it would really go a long way toward improving the overall quality of each individual episode and the series as a whole.