This Sailor Moon Crystal review contains spoilers.
Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 Episode 9
Chibi-Usa literally dies, but is saved from the grave by Mamoru using his own energy as life-support. Meanwhile, Kaolinite is supplanted by the arrival of Mistress 9 and is determined not to let her demotion be permanent, so she resurrects the Witches 5 to serve her ends. The Sailor Senshi storm Mugen Academy, only to be confronted by the Witches 5 who screw with their heads to best them. It almost works, when the Outers show up and kick some ass, taking out the Witches 5. Together the fight Kaolinite, who in her last stand foes full-tilt daimon. Super Sailor Moon dusts her, but the fight is just beginning. Mistress 9 takes the Silver Crystal from Chibi Moon’s brooch… and swallows it whole.
Wow, just… this… what a great episode! The pacing was great, the story was full of reversals and developments, the character moments were on point. The music was good. And the cliffhanger was a beautiful cliffhanger.
Take notes, y’all! That is how it’s done! You resolve the story of the episode, but you leave one element open-ended to tease what’s to come. That shit was CHOICE. The animation? I mean, it’s not all the way through, but there are few shots where it looks like the art team was like, “Eh… fuck it. I’ve got to go pick the kids up from school.” Other than that, though, it worked fine.
It hurts my heart to see Chibi-Usa in such a fragile state, but it’s nice that Mamoru finally has something to do this season beyond sitting around, having visions of the future, which isn’t anything half the cast isn’t already doing. One of the bigger complaints about Mamoru, less so in the manga but in general, is that after a certain point, he becomes fairly useless. The knee-jerk response most people have to this is understandable. It’s a show about female empowerment. In a dramatic landscape dominated by narratives that focus on boys and men, why should one of the few stories exclusively about girls have to cater to a male character? And my response to that is that it shouldn’t… except that he’s the protagonist’s love interest.
It’s not about glorifying the one guy in the picture because he’s got some kind of penis passport that gives him narrative priority. It’s because Usagi is our heroine, and she’s awesome, and she deserves to have a love interest who isn’t boring. Mamoru’s a nice guy and all. Kudos to Usagi for finding someone who honors her strength and seems like he’ll be a good husband and father, but can’t he be all those things and not be so goddamn bland? I mean, the dude is a blank slate. He’s like Raoul from Phantom of the Opera. He’s perfect on paper. He’s hot, he’s got an inheritance, and he looks good in formal wear, but how many conversations can you honestly imagine having with that guy, and how many of them do you think you’d be able to stay awake through?
And it’s a terminal problem. Given Crystal’s premise, we’re not going to be getting any further insights or developments regarding his character and personality. So, at least he’s doing something productive by being his future daughter’s life support device.
Though I do have to question the logic of how this works, because if her heart stopped in the E.R., and they brought her all the way back to his apartment before doing the psychic life-support thing… wasn’t she dead for like 10-15 minutes during that transport not counting the rest of that scene in the emergency room? Everyone was surprised by what Mamoru was doing, so clearly he hadn’t done it yet. That’s roughly twenty minutes that Chibi-Usa’s brain wasn’t getting any oxygen. What kind of brain damage should we realistically expect when she wakes up? Not the tightest writing there.
This episode is where Professor Tomoe goes into full-on creep territory. Dude is apparently totally cool with Mistress 9 taking over his daughter’s body. Up to this point, there was some ambiguity as to how far down the rabbit hole he was. We knew he’d pledged himself to Pharaoh 90 and all that, but I still got the sense that he genuinely cared about Hotaru’s well-being to some extent. This was the point where I was just like, “Nnnnope. Elvis has left the building. He’s a puppet now.”
Of course, it’s far worse than even that, but that’s what I thought at the time. Still, even here he’s a monster. True, he said he never expected the egg within Hotaru to ever awaken, but he doesn’t seem particularly displeased about being wrong. In fact, he seems pleasantly surprised that the Messiah of Silence has completely taken over his daughter’s body. Duuuuuuude…
It is cool, though, that no time is wasted in showing us that Hotaru is still in there. We’re talking about a twelve-year-old girl up against an ancient and powerful demonic entity on a psycho-spiritual battlefield. That is some impressive force of will for anyone to display, much less a kid.
There is another unexpected development to the arrival of Mistress 9. Kaolinite is actually getting an arc, and it’s unfortunate that it was cut from Sailor Moon S, in which Kaolinite is toasted pretty much the moment Mistress 9 shows up. This story plays out very quickly, but at this point in the plot, while it would certainly be nice to see it develop for another episode or two, the story doesn’t suffer for lack of that extra time.
Basically, Kaolinite has been demoted. Up until now, she was the HBIC, and now she’s just another flunky. There’s a reason “how the mighty have fallen” storylines work so well. They practically write themselves. I mean, how much more satisfying is it to see Kaolinite go all full-tilt Daimon in her desperation to remain relevant than it is to have Mistress 9 just needlessly incinerate a valuable servant? I’ve never been a fan of the whole “flick of my wrist and you’re destroyed” mode of villainy. I know it’s supposed to demonstrate the depth of their power, but most of the time it’s just boring. It’s part of the reason I never really warmed to the anime version of Galaxia. Sure, her effortless victory and the bored look in her eyes convey just how powerful she is, but that whole schtick doesn’t make for a very visually interesting confrontation.
The inverse is also true. Good on this episode for improving on the manga by making Kaolinite’s last stand more than some posturing and a Rainbow Moon Heart Ache to the gut. She goes down swinging and gives the Senshi a run for their money in a fight that befits someone who’s been so high up on the totem pole all this time. A massive improvement there, and it wasn’t the only fight in the episode!
The return of the Witches 5 was so many different kinds of awesome. The Senshi bust into Mugen Academy all pumped and ready to kick ass, and it takes all of five seconds for the rug to get pulled out from under them. The psychological aspect of this assault on the Sailor Senshi is so effectively creepy. Sailor Moon’s segment is particularly brutal. And as for the others?
See? SEE?! This is what I’m talking about. You hear in Eudial’s first appearance about her alter ego being the Head of Etiquette at Mugen Academy, but it’s just words, an informed attribute. We don’t see anything that illustrates this role or her personality to any degree. It was one of my major complaints with that episode. In this one brief scene she has with Sailor Mars – just an image of her sitting properly, drinking tea, and criticizing Mars’ manners – we get everything we need on this person for a functional characterization, and half of what we’d need for a well-rounded personality.
This is why when people make excuses for poor characterization, I don’t want to hear it: because it’s not fucking hard to do. It doesn’t require a lot of time or effort, especially in a visual medium, where you can convey so much about someone simply through their style and body language. Eudial was more interesting in that one brief scene than she was in all her aggregate screen time up to this point. In fact, all of the Witches 5 are so effective in this sequence, I don’t even mind how quickly they were dispatched. They got some good licks in and firmly had the upper hand, so sure. Take ‘em down, Outers. I’m good.
Oh, the Outers. I am loving how the team is finally a team, and Uranus of all people being the one to admit that they’ve wanted to fight alongside the Inners for a while hits me right in the feelings. The way they come together to power Sailor back up to Super Sailor Moon, this time as more of a deliberate choice to merge their energies than just sort of a crisis moment where they went with the flow… I just felt so charged. The visuals, the music, it was all just perfect.
Before I touch on the new opening and ending themes, there one tiny thing I would like to note, a small detail that I just can’t ignore anymore. Where are all these women’s upper lips going? Or is there some kind of in-universe fashion trend where you only put lipstick on the lower lip? Because this is an artistic choice I’m just not getting. Whatevs.
So the new themes. I like the new closing theme. I mean, frankly ANYTHING would have been an improvement, but this one had a slick retro-disco beat, some great imagery (once we moved past the “strike a pose” portion), and I actually found Tuxedo Mask sexy, which makes me understand his appeal, which enables me to better identify with the protagonist. Nicely done!
As for the new version of the opening, I really dig it. I’m honestly not sure whether I like this version or the second version better. I will say that it just goes to show what a good song it is, because I like the first version the least and I still think that first version is really good.
This episode was solid as hell, and I’m itching for the next one.