Sailor Moon Crystal Act 9- Princess Serenity
I have been duped and for that I am so grateful to Takeuchi. This is my favorite episode of Sailor Moon Crystal to date. I was utterly sold on the true identity of Princes Serenity in the previous episode, until the narrative itself dropped clues to the contrary. What I didn’t expect to have such a great impact on me were the telegraphed punches that landed this episode. The twist and the reincarnation device used to obfuscate the truth were competently delivered, if a bit cliché. That may be why my guard was down and I was taken so aback by Usagi’s emotional struggle that followed the revelation of her past memories. Watching Usagi suffer from reliving a history she freshly remembered, withdraw and gain the resolve to smile again and go rescue her boyfriend was wonderful.
The strong thread that has woven nearly everyone together has been managed with great care. Not only is the finished product fairly seamless but it feels about as natural as such a fairy tale can. I am excited about the possibilities that come with knowing how large a part reincarnation plays in this story because it gives me something about which I can speculate aside from enjoying what is actually playing out in the show. The information given to the viewer, including the misinformation from last episode serves the narrative well, without alienating viewers (at least not this viewer). The story has been straight forward and earnest, but with a wink and a nod here and there, to let on that there is more than there seems to be. One could argue that Luna was deceiving everyone this whole time and that Takeuchi has drummed up the drama from this twist in a crass attempt to hawk her manga, but the brevity of the feint, tells me that isn’t true. The real selling point, all the tension and drama has come from character work. I care about Usagi and her friends because they have been well-written and their relationships, which have formed around their mission, are fairly strong and believable. I care about Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship, creepy moments aside. I care so much that after watching this episode in two runs, hours apart, I felt myself getting emotional when Usagi could do nothing but see her love taken away by malevolent forces.
There were some issues however. I felt the usage of reincarnation was a bit much, as if everyone we’ve seen given a name may turn out to be a reincarnated somebody. That would be asking too much to ask of the audience, I think. Another big issue is animation. This is a pivotal episode. The final scene was beautifully animated, if blocked in a slightly distracting manner, Minako’s close-ups come to mind. The problem is that there were a few scenes in the middle of the episode where people were making little to no expression, their faces seemed really off-model and at one point Usagi reminded me a bit of the catch of the day. I don’t mean to be brutal, but the contrast between the final scene and the handful of preceding weaker scenes really casts them in a poor light.
For not relying on cliché to compel viewers and engaging me through weeks of set up and storytelling this episode earns 4 out of 5, despite some wonky animation.