First things first: it’s official now, Jadeite has survived the fight in episode 3, which in the manga was his last appearance. There must be a narrative reason for this, so we can now be sure that „Sailor Moon Crystal” will not follow the manga 100%, and since this is a fairly important change, perhaps Jadeite and company will be taken in a new direction altogether.
„Act 4: Masquerade” takes a break from the introduction of new Senshis by sending the current ones to a big ballroom dance, crinoline dresses and everything- it’s moment like these that make it useless to deny that, yes, Sailor Moon is a very, very girly franchise. Usagi finds out from her school friends (who always seem to know everything) that Princess D of Kingdom D (not a very imaginative kingdom, I guess) is visiting their town to present her most valuable treasure at a fancy reception. Usagi and the other girls make an appearance in some very old-fashioned dresses, courtesy of Usagi’s disguise pen. Luna the Cat thinks that Princess D and her priceless jewel may have something to do with the Princess they are looking for and the Legendary Silver Crystal, although if it did, it would be the most obvious thing in the history of the Universe. In any case, the handsome evil King Nephrite (on his first mission) seems to think the same, since he possesses the Princess and tries to steal the jewel, only to encounter the Sailor Fighters again.
But fighting evil, eh, that’s not what this episode is about. It’s actually about Usagi wearing a princess dress at a princess ball and dancing with Tuxedo Mask (who also thought Princess D might have the Silver Crystal. Sigh), while repeating over and over again that she feels „very warm inside” indeed. It’s the most explicitly „romantic” episode yet, and if you’re a girl who ever had a fantasy of waltzing with a guy in a tuxedo while wearing an uncomfortable dress, you will enjoy this very much. It’s the same „inside warmth” that magically generates a new tiara for Sailor Moon after she lost her first one fighting Jedaite in episode 3, and I have to admit I rolled my eyes a bit at this. Other romantic developments: Usagi loses her embroidered handkerchief (who on Earth still has a handkerchief these days, I wonder? the same kind of person who would swoon over a crinoline dress, I assume), thus revealing her true identity to Tuxedo Mask; they both fall from a balcony and have a Mary Poppins moment being saved by Usagi’s disguise pen turned into an umbrella; then Tuxedo Mask kisses the girl while she’s unconscious. Eeek. In the manga and the first anime, it was even worse, as Usagi was unconscious from being drunk, but thankfully the makers of this anime decided to skip the part where the intoxicated underage girl is being smooched without consent, so now she is just sleepy… because Usagi is sleepy all the time? It’s still creepy, but marginally less so, I suppose. Thankfully, Luna is there to defend Usagi and chase Tuxedo Mask away. Is he a friend or an enemy? „I guess you may call me an enemy”, he smirks and vanishes as usual, but you know we’re supposed to find him irresistible.
This brings us to one of the most problematic aspects of „Sailor Moon”: the way it plays some harmful fantasy-romance conventions absolutely straight. I understand that Mamoru +Usagi is a love literally written in the stars, and I like romance just as much as the next person, but I am giving a serious side-eye to hyping up the idea of „the passive woman who means yes because she didn’t say no” even more than it already is being hyped by society and culture. I was hoping that „Crystal” would find a way to get rid this aspect of the episode altogether- by making Usagi a fully awake and willing participant to the kiss, for example? How’s that? Why not? She certainly is plenty attracted to Tuxedo Mask! But no such luck.
On the bright side, the animation in this episode looked less choppy to me, with fewer strange in-between faces on the characters, although it did have a lot of recapping and re-used footage. I’m still liking very much the „Crystal” take on Rei/Mars, who continues to be reserved, mature and badass, as opposed to the grumpy-pants she tended to be in other incarnations of the story. While Old Rei would’ve mocked the tiara off Usagi for wanting to go off dancing as soon as they enter the ballroom, New Rei wisely remarks that Usagi should enjoy herself while she still can, because eeeviiil is afoot (New Rei is more strongly psychic than Old Rei). The blossoming friendship between the girls is also lovely, although Rei and Ami need to stop finishing each other’s sentences. It’s worth noting that all the four minions of Queen Beryl reveal and introduce themselves to the Sailor Senshi in this episode, an aspect that is, too, different from the manga- what can this mean for Jadeite &co?
Anyway: „Sailor Moon Crystal” is slowly becoming its own story. In the next episode, we’re meeting the girl with the rose earrings, Sailor Jupiter.