Has it been a fortnight already? Well we find ourselves with yet another episode of Sailor Moon Crystal!! Will the show continue its upward swing from the last episode, or will reality come crashing down once again to remind us that we’re watching a rushed and under budgeted remake that doesn’t understand why COPYING THE MANGA EXACTLY TO A TV SHOW ISN’T A GOOD IDEA!! We can only hope for the former. Let’s get started!!
The episode begins with a recap of Sailor Mars getting kidnapped by the big bads of this story arc. Sailor Moon is clearly upset but notices that Chibi-Usa is standing off to the side. Usagi confronts the brat and demands to know what’s going on!
Before Usagi can go full Jack Bauer on her intergalactic ass, Luna comes in to separate the two which gives Chibi-Usa a chance to escape. After being deterred by Luna, Usagi ends up going home feeling exhausted, confused, and useless. One of her friends just got kidnapped and she couldn’t do anything about it. The only person she thought might have something to do with it is being protected by those close to her. It’s a great little character moment when she’s all alone in her room and is clearly not sure what to do next.
While Usagi is dealing with the crap that’s being heaped on her, Mamoru and Luna go out to find Chibi-Usa. They find her nearly asleep in the park and take her back to Mamoru’s house to rest. While Mamoru and Luna discuss what to do about Chibi-Usa, she’s having a nightmare that gives us a bit of backstory. Apparently her world was COMPLETLEY destroyed by… something (let’s go with the Black Moon) and that Sailor Moon was supposed to save them.
I’m not sure if SHE’S supposed to be Sailor Moon from another dimension or if the Sailor Moon from her world was defeated, but needless to say she’s come to this world looking for some help from its version of Sailor Moon. Mamoru and Luna notice she’s having a bad dream and try to entertain her when she wakes up.
Chibi-Usa wants to show off her toys too and introduces Mamoru and Luna to her Luna head ball thingy which she calls Luna P. We also learn that Chibi-Usa’s real name is… Small Lady? Okay… I doubt it’s a translation error, because you can hear them pronounce it like that, but that still seems a bit odd. Mamoru also notices that along with her own version of the Silver Crystal, Chibi-Usa also has a key around her neck which is very important to her.
Mamoru decides not to push the issue and puts Chibi-Usa back to bed. Before falling asleep, she asks Mamoru if Sailor Moon was strong and if she could save her mom. Man, I love EVERYTHING about this scene. We’re given a reason to care about Chibi-Usa without overloading us with exposition, and Mamoru is really coming into his own as a great character. My fear when I started watching this show is that Mamoru would end up being too aloof and distant so that he can stay all dark and broody. Nope! He’s got his baggage, but he’s not about to crawl up his own ass about his dead parents (like SOME heroes have been known to do *cough*Batman*cough*). He’s fun and charismatic at points, and he genuinely cares about those around him. We cut from there to the Sailor Scout Command Center where Luna is giving a status report to the remaining scouts and Artemis. At least, I THINK Artemis is there.
The scouts are trying to figure out how they plan to save Sailor Mars when Minako notices that Ami is playing chess on her tablet. This leads into a discussion where we learn that Ami likes to play chess when she’s trying to solve something because it helps her to think. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT!!! Oh and look! They’re using the black pieces as a metaphor for the bad guys from the Black Moon!! This is how you do it!! How can a show turn it around THIS quickly!? They went from expository waterfalls with barely any emotional context to effectively using their limited time to tell us about characters and the situations they find themselves in! After that, we go to the next day where Mamoru and Luna are dropping off Chibi-Usa. The look on Usgai’s face is absolutely perfect and shows the sense of deep betrayal that she is feeling right now, misplaced or not.
Let’s not forget that in the last episode Chibi-Usa pointed a fucking gun in Usagi’s face and pulled the trigger. Chibi-Usa is obviously not the villain in the piece, but I can’t fault Usagi for still not trusting her. Mamoru tries to smooth things over, but Usagi isn’t about to take this betrayal lying down.
I like that Usagi is showing some real depth here! She’s not ALWAYS going to want Mamoru to be around and she’s going to have bad moods every once in a while. Usagi has always been a strong character in this, and her actions in this one just further how well defined she is. We cut back to the Dark Moon (or wherever the hell the bad guys live) where we get some juicy bits of backstory that doesn’t bog down the story in lousy exposition. IT’S SO WEIRD TO WRITE SOMETHING LIKE THAT ABOUT THIS SHOW! Alright, so we find out that the main bad guy (Prince Demande) and one of his generals (Saphir) are actually brothers. It ALSO turns out that the weird cat people minions that the Scouts mercilessly eradicated last episode are not actually living creatures, but androids made from Saphir’s magic alchemy powers. Okay… I guess that would work? I mean, alchemy in anime is usually portrayed as a pseudo-science/steam punk type of thing already. Hey, at least they gave us a bullshit excuse for our heroes to kick massive ass without having to think about the families of those poor saps who got a pump shoved up their ass. The (most likely) disposable bad guy for this episode is Berthier who is yet another member of the Gaga Sisterhood and has an affinity to water. Can anyone out there guess who she’s going after?
So yeah, we spend the next few minutes as Ami gets ominously stalked by our new bad guy who uses water in a menacing way or something. Berthier’s main plan here seems to be to fuck with the school’s water pipes to put Ami on edge and while It does work, I’m not sure what this cat and mouse bullshit accomplishes. Well okay, I guess I couldn’t complain too much because it gives us even more time with Ami who (like the other scouts) is woefully underutilized in this series and could use as much screen time as possible. Ami tries to keep her head clear by going swimming, which along with chess was taught to her by her father as ways to calm down and think clearly. While at the pool, she runs into Usagi and her friend Naru. Naru ended up dragging Usagi there because she’s still in a funk over Mamoru and Luna’s backstabbing.
While Ami is chatting with them post swim, she notices that the mystery lady who’s stalking her is not only on TV, but is the third highest ranking chess player in the world (which should come as a shock to Alexander Grischuk) AND is calling Ami out personally on national television to face her in a chess match.
You’re telling me that an alien who’s only been around for a matter of WEEKS has not only provided the necessary information to prove that she DIDN’T just pop out the sky a month ago, but has also ascended through the WCF to third place!? Why couldn’t it just be local, or at the school!? Did she REALLY have to make herself a national celebrity to call out a single girl who would PROBABLY challenge you anyway if you just revealed that you knew where Rei was!? Anyway, Ami agrees to the match and faces her in front of a live audience. I’m not sure if Berthier is supposed to be smart like Ami is but she does have this dowsing rock thingy that points her to the next best move, so she spends all her energy trying to psyche her out which will make her mess up and inevitably lose the match. There’s a lot riding on this match because Berither will give back Rei if Ami wins, but will take Chibi-Usa if Ami loses. Not only that, but Berither can (supposedly) read Ami’s mind which is how her dowsing rock thingy works and can keep her several moves ahead. Ami is starting to sweat at this point, but really begins to lose it when Berither starts to cut deep by bringing up her parents’ divorce!
Ami’s confidence is slowly dwindling as she starts to dwell on her personal baggage and it’s clear she’s about to lose the match. Then all of a sudden, an angel’s voice carries out through the auditorium giving our hero the confidence she needs to win.
God DAMN I love Usagi! Her outburst snaps Ami out of her funk and she begins to outmaneuver Berither despite her psychic powers which may or may not exist and was just a way to try and break Ami. I honestly can’t tell at this point. Sure enough, Ami wins the game and demands that Rei be returned to her. Berither decides to instead shirk on her end of the bet and runs the fuck out of there with Ami in hot pursuit. Once outside, they begin to battle it out (the other scouts are being held up by minions who were in the audience) and Ami puts up a damn good fight.
Despite Ami’s valiant efforts, Berither locks her in an water prison (similar to Rei’s fire prison) and tries to get her to give up Chibi-Usa. Ami obvious refuses because she’s too BADASS to be snitch! While trying to get the information from Ami, Berither gets blasted by Sailor Moon’s death beam and just like Koan before her, gets fucking DISINTEGRATED! DAMN!! It’s STILL pretty shocking to see the scouts flat out murder people! They try to get Ami out of the water cage but sure enough they can’t and the Danny Elfman looking mother fucker appears out of nowhere and takes Ami with him.
And so we end the episode with another Sailor Scout in the hands of the enemy. GOD DAMN this was a great episode! Everything about it worked with plenty of characters getting a chance to shine and get developed further without overburdening the plot with clumsy exposition about things we don’t give a shit about yet the show insists is SUPER DUPER important. Ami finally having a chance to shine was great and they once again showed us how important Usagi is to the team even if she isn’t the most competent. She’s the glue that holds this team together and I always love it when the show decides to remind us of that. The Dark Moon guys are still a bit vague, but we’re also pretty early in the story so I won’t make much of a fuss about it yet. Hell, if they tried to fit in any more backstory we’d run into the pacing issues we got in the first story arc so I’ll just assume we’re getting to it soon. The only real issue I had with this episode was Berither’s plan which seemed a bit elaborate. Even if she DID win the chess match, what’s to keep Ami to her word any more than Berither? Hell, even if there was some bullshit “heroes are more honorable” argument, it still wouldn’t mean the OTHER scouts would give up Chibi-Usa so easily. Berither’s best bet really would have been to seal Ami up in a water ball and kidnap her, yet this was relegated to Plan B. Honestly, if the worst thing I can say is that an interdimensional space alien’s plan to fight against reincarnation of moon people was a bit over the top, then I feel I’d just be nit picking at that point. The show really seems to be hitting its stride at this point and I REALLY want it to keep up the good work. My only concern is that the next two episodes will follow the pattern that these two have (follow a Scout until she gets kidnapped) but that still would only be bad in that it’s repetitive and the other Scouts should pick up on the bad guys’ tricks at some point. The first story arc was a mess and it turned a lot of people off the show which is unfortunate, but the blame falls squarely on the creators of Sailor Moon Crystal. That said; if you lost interest early on then you might want to give it another chance considering how much they’ve been able to improve in such a short amount of time. Can’t wait for the next episode!!
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Sailor Moon “Crystal” Set 1 Standard (BD/DVD combo pack) [Blu-ray]