Endless Love- Sailor Moon Crystal 26 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 26 – Replay– Never Ending – Review

If I never see more Sailor Moon Crystal, it will be alright. If you didn’t know it, or if you’ve forgotten I’m new to Sailor Moon. From episode one of Sailor Moon Crystal I have really enjoyed it, by the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, I was calling myself a fan and praising Takeuchi’s craft work. When I say I don’t need more Crystal, I’m talking from a place of fear. I don’t want more because I don’t want it to be ruined. The work already exists, I could read the manga, watch the 90’s anime or ask several long-time fans, but I don’t really want to because Crystal is my Sailor Moon and I am attached to it in very specific ways. I have that tinge of fear as I think about the show’s future because it is so special to me. In truth, I know that Takeuchi is competent and its obvious she cares about Sailor Moon, so I have faith she’d do the rest of the story well, but to some extent I see my trepidation as a compliment. I don’t want to see this precious jewel tarnished and I think that speaks volumes of how great the show really is to me.

Now to do some actual reviewing of Act 26; it was perfect. Spellcheck. Screen grab. Publish. Have a drink.

But really.

26-A

First, a complaint: we need way more specific character interaction between all the Sailor Guardians. I am not sure how that would be accomplished while keeping up the fabulous pacing and escalation of the conflicts, but that is one thing that would make the show practically perfect.

The fairytale ending to the battle with Death Phantom is beautiful and packs a hefty emotional punch while allowing us to see just how powerful Sailor Moon is. The stakes are impossibly high, but Neo Queen Serenity believes so confidently in the power of her 900+ year old child and her younger self that she tells a group of warrior goddesses to just sit a spell while they go save the Universe. From the time she awakens King Endymion with a kiss, Neo Queen Serenity serves to show the audience just how great and powerful Sailor Moon is and it just works. The simplicity and elegance in the take down of this seemingly all powerful foe solidifies just how mighty Sailor Moon is and earns her the deference and awe King Endymion transferred to Chibi-Usagi through tales and which characters like Pluto and Demande (sort of) had for Neo Queen Serenity.

26-B

Sailor Moon gives emotions legitimacy and power and encourages taking action with feeling. The legacy of Sailor Moon is right there. It has fully delivered this wonderful message and done it through telling the story of Usagi Tsukino, the lazy cry baby. She was never the best or brightest, but that doesn’t matter because she has heart. Not grit and determination, but heart. Usagi’s love, that which flows from and to her from those in her circle is what makes her strong. The point isn’t community, it’s about being open and loving and accepting people into your heart, not so you can use them to gain strength or put them under your umbrella of protection, but because that is what good people do and though you might not be who or what you want to be today, with love in your heart and faith in yourself, you’ll get there. You may stumble, you may fall, but since you likely have people around you who love you, you can fight for them or they can help you, as long as you keep moving towards the future.

26-V

In Conclusion

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 26 earns 4 out of 5 for presenting a grand finale and giving me hope for more Sailor Moon Crystal while not actually needing it. Things didn’t quite go as expected, but it was all very good, even if we do not get any more Sailor Moon Crystal.

26-Y

But I would like to see more Sailor Moon Crystal.

 

Dispensing the Pleasant Tease- Sailor Moon Crystal 25 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 25 – Showdown – Death Phantom

I move to nominate Takeuchi to win two awards, the first is for Most Inexact Titles and the second is for Best Use of Split Focus in a Webcast episode. Showdown – Death Phantom is the work I would submit as proof of her accomplishments in both categories. Even though I’m poking fun at those features of the episode, they aren’t actually issues. How much should the title matter anyway? I’m not sure, as long as it isn’t distracting it shouldn’t, I suppose. The inexactitude of the title didn’t stop this episode from being really enjoyable. The split focus I alluded to earlier was actually part of what made the episode so good. In the past few episodes, the action has been ramping up and the conflicts have become more defined until now where there is a fantastic amount of momentum established and there is nothing else to impede the final conflict. I feel like going into the finale is going to be so much more enjoyable because of where the episode left off: Usagi and friends are at the precipice of battle and the stakes have been raised for the Sailor Guardians VS. Wiseman round two. Death Phantom seems like he could be unstoppable, but Sailor Moon just seems to keep growing more powerful. Our heroines have risen from a pit, but now must take on a foe they thought they had defeated. Again: this set up is really exciting.

25-B

Going back to the split focus of the episode, Takeuchi has done this before in Act 13. Queen Metalia is finally defeated and the Guardians go back to their normal lives until Chibi-Usa drops from the sky and ruins Usagi and Mamoru’s tender moment. This technique reminds me of the caesura used in poetry, where there is a break in the middle of a line. I feel like Takeuchi uses it effectively in both instances. Originally she used to allow for an intensely dramatic finish to the fight with Metalia, it was almost as if her fight spilled into Act 13 which was meant to serve as denouement for the Dark Kingdom arc and set up what was to come. In Act 25 the caesura is used in a reversed order. There is a quiet and cool period for the first 12-13 minutes that pauses the action to help build up to a climactic confrontation. Pluto transgressing the third taboo allowed for the break which stopped the action and allowed for a resetting and restoration of elements to a condition where they are most effective for moving the story forward. The best thing about the resetting is that it took the form of heartbreak, internal struggle, bitter-sweet realizations and a dramatic assertion of resolve.

In Conclusion

Sailor Moon Crystal Act 25 earns a 5 out of 5 for misting my eyes, while pumping me up for the grand finale.

Good in Her- Sailor Moon Crystal 24 Review

24-B

Sailor Moon Crystal 24 – Attack -Black Lady

In the latest Sailor Moon Cystal, Usagi Tsukino: average student and teen-mom shows audiences across the world what love really is. This episode was great. I really wish that certain episodes of TV shows can be made compulsory viewing like books are in American schools at least. I don’t know how it works in other countries, but from going to many many schools I experienced gaps in my mandatory reading and I’m an outlier in some circles where many people have read certain books like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird and I have not. I always thought the concept was frustrating especially because all of the books are older and they didn’t really appeal to me but there were a few winners among them. I particularly enjoyed The Giver and 1984 as well as Fahrenheit 451. Watching this episode of Sailor Moon crystal I was entertained throughout but most particularly when Black lady and Sailor Moon were talking to each other.

24-C24-DThe interaction so strongly rings of one taking place between a parent and child. Despite the fact that the stakes are ridiculous, the sentiments in the scene were real; so real, that they struck a nerve with me. In my first review of Sailor Moon Crystal I identified with Usagi. I still do and that is why I stated at the beginning that I believe this episode should be compulsory viewing maybe not for students but perhaps for adults or parents. Far too often we become wrapped up in the vicissitudes of the adult or real world and it takes something to shake us from that. Throughout history people have worked to enlighten themselves and make themselves sensitive to the deeper truths of life that got lost in the daily grind. Perhaps the things going on in my life that cause me to strive for introspection and self-correction amplify my perception of the show as so lofty a thing, but I feel confident in saying that this is something worthwhile and substantive. The fact that it is packaged in magical girls, short skirts, shiny attacks and a bit of melodrama does not decrease the effectiveness of the message, this message or any other that Takeuchi has passed on to readers and viewers of Sailor Moon.

In Conclusion

Act 24 earns a 5 out of 5 for making me cry and think about life a bunch making Wiseman amazing villain, giving me hope for Chibi-Usa’s redemption, sfowcasing Usagi’s stunning power and inner-strength and making me root for Prince Demande for a moment or two.

Truth and Beliefs – Sailor Moon Crystal 23 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 23 – Covert Maneuvers -Wiseman

External and internal Mind Control is in play in a major way in the latest installment of Sailor Moon Crystal. Covert Maneuvers is not only an apt description of what Wiseman has been doing to Prince Demande and the Black Moon all along, but it also reflects something deeper that has been going on in the Silver Millennium family. While Demande and Saphir have been overcome by Wiseman’s power, much of their personality seems to be intact- almost to the point of Demande seeming unaffected. Chibi-Usagi’s manner and appearance differs though in that she seems to be in full control of herself, but with a change in mindset. The brothers are under the sway of Wiseman’s power while the princess believes in him and what he represents.

I won’t suggest just yet that Wiseman (or Phantom) did something to Chibi-Usagi centuries ago that caused her growth to stop or that this was all a part of his plan the whole time, but the dialogue form King Enymion in Act 21 concerning the insane ruler, Phantom (who must be Wiseman, right?) is possibly open enough for it to turn out that he somehow cursed Chibi-Usagi. Whether he would have cursed her so that he could hurt Usagi in a personal way or so that he could hold the key to unlock Chibi-Usagi’s awakening as a bargaining chit to make a move against Neo Queen Serenity is unclear, but I can easily see either or both as his motivation.

Amoral Conviction

The truth is often shaded by our experiences and Chibi-Usagi’s extended childhood and the woes she encountered never fully prepared her to deal with the likes of Wiseman, She is brave despite herself and certainly willful, but one with the mind of a child, no matter how precocious cannot be expected to have a fighting chance against one who uses the truth, with omissions, to make them see the world really is how they perceive it to be in with their limited scope. A conviction is a firmly held belief. Belief is a personal truth. We know the dangers of fanaticism and radicalized belief systems in our world and we get to see Chibi-Usa as that radicalized youth. She even changes her name as so many young men and women have when leaving behind an oppressive home and joining with a force larger than themselves to fight against the world that rejected and marginalized them.

Chibi-Usagi is convinced that all the pain that she suffered in unending prepubescence wherein she only knew love from her father and longing to be like her mother despite the vast chasm between them as people was a sign that she didn’t truly belong to the Silver Millennium. Crystal Tokyo was a prison for her. She couldn’t escape it and live her own life. She was ensnared by her rank and an impossible legacy she couldn’t possible carry on because she lacked something fundamental.

SMC23-13

When Wiseman told Chibi-Usa he needed her and he gave her a place where she belonged, everything changed. It was as if she had been returned home, she had been released from the curse on her like a fairytale princess by embracing the Darkness and rejecting her false home and past. She is even willing to destroy the Earth and Neo Queen Serenity because she has her love, the only one who ever truly cared for and loved her. What proof is there that she belongs with the Darkness? Her awakening and growth make her into a woman and a s a woman she is ready to take her place at the head of a monarchy, just like her fraudulent mother.

In Conclusion

Act 23 earns a 4 out of 5 for packing an emotional wallop with a wide variety of ordinance that each serves to characterize the people we’re watching without slowing down the plot for a second. To go by the modern vernacular, one might say: feels + action = WIN.

Unintentional Gambit – Sailor Moon Crystal 22 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 22 – Hidden Agenda – Nemesis

In Hidden Agenda, Saphir lays bare the Black Moon’s original plans for the Earth as well as the complications and changes to their plans that came when Wiseman contacted them. We glimpse the made-over Chibi-Usa and Wiseman’s smiling eyes, which tell us that there is something more going on. Takeuchi’s long game pays off as things set up over multiple episodes come to fruition here, for the second time. This is another set up episode after one only a few episodes ago and utilizing much of the same elements, but it feels good because of the active role Usagi takes in rearranging the pieces.

While there was some heavy exposition, the plot felt like it moved along quickly, perhaps even forcefully, because so many moves were made. Mamoru wanders through time asking Usagi for strength and carrying her busted up Moon Rod. Usagi learns her friends are somewhere in the castle. Demande tries to put the moves on Usagi again, but Usagi and Mamoru’s love stops it. She defiantly tells Demande she’s going to save her friends and follows through. The encounter with Saphir shows how deluded Demande is, how Saphir himself has become unstable from all of this, and establishes an issue for Usagi to answer with a clear, focused and powerful response.

The facade of the Prince’s power over the future Queen warps and cracks as he once again attempts to show her that she has no agency in their relationship and never did. He had fooled himself into thinking that his resolve and borrowed power were enough to strip away everything from her. His self-deception comes from the fact that he wants to defeat Neo Queen Serenity, but is left with the option to fight her past self before she became the woman he fixated upon and hated. Demande is like the anti-Endymion, in that he doesn’t believe in Usagi. His overconfidence is his weakness and it sets the stage for Usagi to prove him wrong by, for a time expressing her inner strength and expressing the full potential within.

In Conclusion

Act 22 earns a 3 out of 5 for executing a competent setup with recycled materials and showing off the awesome power of self love and personal affirmation.

Contradictions – Sailor Moon Crystal 21 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 21 – Complication – Nemesis

Almost everything in Act 21 is a faux-contradictions and subversion. By faux-contradictions I mean things that are plausible, but we don’t quite have the right information at this point to really understand how they all fit together. These things subvert my expectations of how the world should work, but don’t break it and some of the characters share my experience.

Neo-Queen Serenity is an aloof goddess, who seems to be distant from her daughter, despite her magnanimous heart. King Endymion doesn’t sense that he should tell Small lady to believe in herself, though she seems to need it. Small Lady has heard tale of her mother’s greatness but doesn’t seem to know how she was able to accomplish all she did, or how she herself ever could. The Legendary Silver Crystal’s power is and isn’t invincible, yet somehow it was able to preserve Neo-queen Serenity, and those she loves most. Certain people reject the near-perfect world of Crystal Tokyo and though the petty cruelty of children is alive and well, so is boldly destructive evil.

Mamoru and Minako must have been as surprised as I am to learn that Small Lady is 900 years old and while most of the surprises delivered this episode were positive, this marks a huge negative for me. I want to know the whys of the above apparent incongruities because they intrigue me, but this 900 year old kid just has me flummoxed. What am I supposed to do with this? Unless she’s been a baby for around 890 years, I have a hard time believing that she could be so immature and unsophisticated. Even if her parents aren’t doing the best job, I don’t think her situation makes any sense. Was she not going to school of any sort? Shouldn’t she have graduated by now? Surely Small Lady must have had an education and learned about sociology or at least how to sort out her feelings. It feels impossible that the Queen and King could maintain the same dance with their daughter for centuries and not helped her to develop a greater emotional intelligence! I feel sympathetic towards her because she is a child, but it is difficult to not expect a 900 year old to act their age. This age debacle might be the most disappointing thing in Sailor Moon.

In Conclusion

For giving me so much doubt about how Takeuchi can stick the landing on Chibi-Usagi’s story during an otherwise decent set up episode, I give Sailor Moon Crystal Act 21 a 3 out of 5.

Growing Pains – Sailor Moon Crystal 20 Review

Sailor Moon Crystal 20 – Crystal Tokyo – King Endymion

Act 20 is a solid episode full of charming character moments and interpersonal drama which allows us to learn more about the principle players while, somewhat slowly, moving the plot along and telling the audience crucial things it needs to know about the Black Moon cell whose motives and goals have been fairly vague.

King Endymion makes for a fun plot device. Takeuchi may have not left herself very much room to maneuver, once Usagi and her companions travelled to Crystal Tokyo with Chibi-Usa, but the way she wielded Endymion was satisfying on two levels: he provided the catalyst for several humanizing emotional reactions and gave the audience new information about Black Moon, Crystal Tokyo and the like.

Father Knows… Stuff

King Endymion’s attempts to quell Chibi-Usa’s guilt and sorrow felt sincere and came off well. He tries to comfort her and exhorts her to be strong by offering her a challenge. He doesn’t tell her what to do, but asks if she can rise to a challenge. Whether she does or not is debatable at this point. It was foolish of her to return to Crystal Tokyo on her own, but missing her parents and feeling the pressure of being at the center of conflict between her parents’ younger selves pushed this child to take, fairly courageous, if less than ideal actions. Mamoru sure dropped the ball, by leaving the Time Key accessible.

Lots of Blushing

Endymion is an adult man who has been having sex with his wife for hundreds of years. It’s beautiful, natural and normal for him. Who knows what kinds of social progress have occurred within Neo Queen Serenity’s reign besides that. It is funny to me that Mamoru, Usagi and Minako all become so flush when Endymion clarifies that Chibi-Usagi or Small Lady, if you prefer, is the child of the Queen and King they will become. That means they are going to have sex. Again. At least once more. They just had their first sexual encounter together in the last episode, but it was in private and as far as we can tell, no one knows about it. When Endymion declares the familial relations, he is telling teenagers that sex is happening among their circle and everyone is charmingly put off by it. Minako may be wondering if it has already started, Mamoru and Usagi may be wondering if Minako thinks they have had sex, in their minds it is an uncomfortable mess and it makes for a delightful scene.

Oh dear. these poor kids can't even look at each other right now.
Oh dear. these poor kids can’t even look at each other right now.

Endymion brings on another bout of blushing as he praises Sailor Pluto for her many virtues. She is such a great individual on paper, but it is interesting to see that she is either extremely flattered (possibly because he is the King and she respects him greatly, which would mean to me that he is a really good king) by his words, averse to public praise or maybe a bit of both. We know from last episode that Pluto is an emotional person, but the addition of humility to her character is so lovely and serves a theme of this episode which seems to be rounding and humanizing the core characters.

26-I

Fighting For the World of Tomorrow, Today

At the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, Usagi was an invincible goddess who revived her friends and the world. Black Moon has negated those accomplishments one by one. Her fellow soldiers and friends have been abducted. Even when she knows where they are she cannot yet reach them. Chibi-Usa separated her from her family when she first arrived. Usagi pulled away from Naru and her other friends as she reeled from Black Moon’s waves of attack, which could come at any time, while balancing the loss of her team and holding on to hope that they can be found. Mamoru and Chibi-Usa’s relationship, which had put her off for so long is still an issue for Usagi despite the fact she is their daughter.

Chibi-Usagi, or more accurately, Small Lady, travelled through time to get help from her parents to save the future, the world she will inherit from them. The Black Moon stands in utter contrast to Usagi and the world shaped by her magnanimous heart. Where Usagi’s power and influence bring longer life, increased joy and peace, the Black Moon, with their Malefic Black Crystal seek to bring ruin, strife and death. Usagi Tsukino, high school student, lover of manga and pretty things is confronted by her future, which holds suffering and imminent doom and is forced to grow up to handle it. Throughout the Black Moon arc, Usagi has become increasingly isolated from her friends and has had to rely on fewer people for support, until at this point she is nearly alone. Being an adult doesn’t have to mean isolation, but there are times when there is no one but you to face a challenge and that is where Usagi is. Precedent has shown her that Venus could be taken away easily and despite her chiding herself for getting upset with Mamoru over Small Lady, there is still a distance between them.

26-K

 The harsh reality of what an equal and opposite force can do to you has become part of her. She has internalised the failure to fully defeat the Black Moon and the loss of her friends. Once invincible Sailor Moon is vulnerable. As the episode closes, Usagi is captured, dead-eyed and suspended in an orb of dark energy, splayed out like a corpse. I don’t know where this is going. I am new to Sailor Moon and while I know there is more Sailor Moon to come, I am afraid for Usagi. I don’t know how she can escape this situation or what she can do. What can anyone do? I don’t fully grasp what Demande’s designs for her are and don’t want to let my imagination wander towards the darker possibilities that stand out to me. How will prince Demande’s efforts affect Usagi, could she become as disillusioned and nihilistic as her enemies?

In Conclusion

Act 20 provides emotional context for Usagi’s struggle, making her mechanical deficiencies in Crystal Tokyo impactful. The Legendary Silver Crystal’s power is time-bound, but the guilt, shame, self doubt, and daunting odds she faces nearly alone- all of which are reinforced throughout the bulk of the episode- make the sting of her powerlessness against the Black Moon even worse. For the happy moments and humor experienced along the way which helped cement the foundation of this episode’s surprising end, I give it a 4 out of 5.