It has become apparent to me that the best way to enjoy „Sailor Moon Crystal” is to treat it as if it were an extremely campy comedy. If you assume that the choices writers make are meant to make us laugh, it is much easier to justify them. Sadly, when the show is not over the top in a campy way, it is just, well, somewhat dull, which should definitely not be happening right before the grand finale of an arc.
Episode 12 („Enemy- Queen Metallia”) is structured around three battles. The first one picks up from where the previous episode left off: the Senshi versus Evil Mamoru+ Queen Beryl. The point of contention is, of course, The Legendary Silver Crystal. We have some rare moments when the non-Usagi girls show initiative and use their powers against the enemy -Venus attacking Beryl with a sword is a definite highlight for her, showcasing her again as the leader in battle- but, as usual, they do not manage to defeat anyone (have the Senshi in this version ever defeated anyone at all?). I am too lazy to design an actual bingo card, but we could definitely play Sailor Moon Crystal Bingo with items like:
– The Senshi attack someone and it doesn’t do a thing
– The Senshi are crumbling the floor and they moan in pain helplessly for half the episode or more
– Usagi cries for Mamoru
– Usagi ignores one of her friends or all of them in favour of moping for Mamoru
Just don’t make it a drinking game, for heaven’s sake- you may end up in an alcoholic coma. In any case, it is (of course) Usagi herself who eventually kills Beryl, unlike in the manga, where the kill belonged to Venus. I thought the sad tone of the moment was well done, with the contrast between the flashback of the beautiful, pre-evil Beryl pining for Endymion and her current withering self turning to ashes. But it was also kind of anticlimactic- Beryl deserved to go with more of a bang than this.
From this point on, the fight moves to the North Pole, where Usagi follows Mamoru because he stole her sword and the other girls follow her in order to defend her, but they quickly get distracted by their boyfriends from their former lives. The latter, in particular, is very hilarious: as soon as the girls manage to get Jadeite &co to remember who they really are, the guys are immediately killed by Metallia, who seemingly drops something big and explosive on them. The girls are left standing next to a big crater, they start crying (simultaneously) and then the ghosts of their dead boyfriends tell them to get their act together, so they stop crying (simultaneously). This sequence is the very essence of everything that’s wrong with „Crystal”: the only original plotline, towards which we had been building for an entire arc, was squandered away in a second, and all it achieved was to make the girls look silly and weak.
Meanwhile, Usagi is trying to cure Mamoru of his evil-ness using various tools, from the Power of her Love to Moon Healing Escalation (which is also, essentially, the power of her love); all of them fail and she ends up strangled by his very long arm (seriously, Mamoru’s arm in this episode is as long as a tree in some shots). So all that is left is for her to kill Mamoru and save the world…and then kill herself, Romeo and Juliet style, even though Usagi had vowed to never be a tragic princess again. It’s not a surprising outcome: all incarnations of „Sailor Moon” have been very explicit about the fact that fate is fate and cannot be avoided. I understand what the show is going for, I know this is how Naoko Takeuchi initially wrote it, and I think this is probably quite impactful if it’s your first time watching Sailor Moon. But the finale of this arc in the 90’s anime was so amazing, and so emotional, that „Crystal” has to live up to some very high standards for a longtime fan like me.
Anyway, there is only one episode left of this arc. At the end of episode 12, Usagi and Mamoru are dead and the other girls are easily defeated (of course), but we must wait for the next chapter to bring us hope again.