Sailor Moon Crystal Act 23: Covert Maneuvers/Wiseman review

Remember when we thought Sailor Moon Crystal was getting better? It seems we were wrong...

This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.

In the wake of the reactor’s explosion on Nemesis, both camps regroup. While Usagi shorts out due to an overwhelming surge of emotion – again – Demande and Saphir encounter Chibi-Usa’s new malevolent adult form, Black Lady. Black Lady leads the brothers to the heart of Nemesis, where the finally realize that Wiseman is not looking out for their best interests. However, no sooner do they speak out than he zaps them with some kind of zombification beam, turning them into compliant slaves to his will. Meanwhile, Usagi has another bellyaching whimper fest, brought to an end that could not come quickly enough by the interchangeable platitudes provided by her friends, and back to the future they go to… not really do anything. Again.

I… I swear. On the heel of such a powerful, interesting and dynamic episode, we get this boring, redundant waste of 22 minutes. Honestly, for all the shit that the ’90s anime got for being formulaic (and, in all fairness, it is), I am baffled as to how people hold the manga up as being fresh and dynamic when it repeats itself over and over and over again with every single issue. Sure, the mechanics of nearly every ’90s episode were identical, but something was always happening. Either characters’ relationships were developed or sub-plots were progressing, or maybe it was just as simple as having a bit of comedy, but at least it was fun to watch.

At this point, the manga (and by extension Sailor Moon Crystal) is just episode after episode of characters standing around talking about the plot. They don’t experience the plot or move it forward, they just talk about what’s about to happen, then they talk about what’s happening, and then they talk about what’s just happened. And they make sure to do so for at least a few episodes. People want to laud the manga for being serialized and having an ongoing story, but half that is just recapping the parts that have already transpired. It’s just boring.

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I grow increasingly frustrated with this show and frustrated with Usagi herself. She’s just not a fun character to watch, and her character development is for shit. There’s lip service paid to what a great warrior she’s become, but she’s still the same melodramatic, self-absorbed coward she was at the beginning, which is made even more infuriating by the fact that she shouldn’t be.

I mean, at this point, this girl has stared down death at least a dozen times. She’s seen some shit. She’s been through hell and back and had experiences that you’d think would have forged into a formidable heroine. She’s a powerful, magical space princess who has literally saved the world, but still after all this time, when the chips are down, all she can bring herself to do is cry and pass out from all the FEEEEEEEELINGS!

Just gag me.

Now, I’m not vilifying emotion, especially in the case of Usagi. It takes far more strength for a person to feel their own emotions, especially when those emotions aren’t particularly pleasant. Usagi’s sensitive nature is at the core of her character, and it’s the passions of friendship, loyalty, and love that drive her to work miracles. But we’re not seeing a girl internalizing her pain and using it to inspire strength and courage. She’s just some delicate flower whose feelings are simply too much to allow her to maintain consciousness because… girl. Blergh.

You know, courage, strength, and the ability to suck it up in the face of higher stakes are neither male nor female qualities. Nor are sensitivity and moments of frailty. But you wouldn’t know it from the way Usagi is written here. And what’s amazing is that Usagi should be past this by now, at least Sailor Moon should.

Like, if in her everyday civilian life Usagi were still acting like a vapid teenager, whining and pouting and catastrophizing the mundane challenges of her everyday schoolgirl existence, that would be fine, but once that Moon Crystal Power is invoked, she’s got to put on her big girl panties and get the job done. And then when the dust settles and the battle is done, if she needs to fall to her knees and cry it out, I say go for it, but this shit is just ridiculous. Like, the fate of the world in two time periods is hanging in the balance, and all Usagi can do is moan and navel-gaze. And cry. She can cry.

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There was some advancement of the plot in this episode. As a result of last episode’s reactor explosion, the surface of Nemesis has become an inferno, bursting with fire and volcanic activity, making the “Black Moon” even more deadly and ready for Wiseman’s final assault.

Considering the dude’s name, he doesn’t display much wisdom or very good tactics at all. If he could just zombify the Black Moon people, then why not just do that from the beginning? Why waste time with all this subterfuge? It’s not like Metalia, like Wiseman was weak and garnering energy to make his move. Why not just enslave Demande and his followers from the beginning? To do otherwise just seems like a waste of time and energy.

The transformation sequences look much better now that they’ve been slowed down a bit. Mercury’s especially is a lot more visually pleasing now that we can actually see what’s happening, rather than having a blur of CGI whipped across the screen at warp speed. As for the 2D animation, it continues to be an improvement upon, well, most of the series to date. Not that a clean aesthetic helped take the edge off the incredibly gross incest fest continued in this episode by Black Lady. Ugh, Chibi-Usa, go home. You’re drunk.

The previous episode, “Hidden Agenda: Nemesis” was so good. It was smart, interesting, dynamic, and fun. It kept the wheels turning, it gave us a sense of the character, and even a soupcon of mythology. It gave me such hope for the remaining episodes of this series. It appears that hope was false.


2 out of 5