I have been a fan of the Sailor Moon franchise for more than twenty years, but I have to admit I have often wondered why Usagi/Moon remains the centre of the story. Usagi is not the smartest, the bravest, the most competent or hard-working amongst the Sailor Senshi and she was never my favourite. In many ways, she seemed like the classic case of the protagonist who is being handed leadership and attention on a plate because „it’s destiny”, while more deserving supporting characters, who would do a better job, remain on the sidelines. (See also: every other fantasy story ever written. „Matrix”, for example?)
While watching Episode 5 of Sailor Moon Crystal, though, it occurred to me that our heroine does have something very valuable that the other Senshis don’t. Yes, she is not as smart as Mercury or as strong as Jupiter, but without Usagi/Moon, the other girls would have never even spoken to each other. Usagi is not only an exuberant extrovert, but also warm, kind and unprejudiced, and it’s great to watch her welcome the other Senshis, who are labelled by others as social outcasts, amongst her friends, before she even knows they’re meant to be her allies. Usagi is the glue bringing the team together, and maybe, just maybe, that does make her deserving of leadership. (Though I still have to reflect upon it some more.)
In Episode 5, the new unpopular girl on the team is Makoto, a transfer student in Usagi’s school who immediately stands out by being tall, athletic and deep-voiced. Other students are intimidated and make up ugly rumours about her, but not Usagi, who immediately likes her- and, erm, her delicious home-cooked lunch that she is willing to share. Those of you familiar with the story know that Makoto will turn out to be Sailor Jupiter -and it’s hardly a spoiler since you can see her in the opening credits-, but even though I had seen her introduction in other incarnations of the franchise many times before, the „Crystal” version seemed especially poignant, perhaps because of the more restrained tone of this series. Leaving aside the fact that all characters are drawn in a very similar way because, well, it’s anime, Makoto is not a conventionally attractive girl in the world of „Sailor Moon”, but this is in contrast with her conventionally feminine interests, like cooking, and most of all with her romantic personality. Because of her tough appearance, she doesn’t get to enjoy any of the so-called perks of being a „girly” girl, such as fitting in with the crowd and flirting with boys: we find out that her move to another school was triggered by heartbreak and rejection. Western pop culture is full of delicate, beautiful girls who reject „girly” things and act like one of the guys, because we all know that girly things are lame, right? A character like Makoto offers the opposite perspective on restrictive stereotypes. All in all, I thought that Jupiter’s introduction was very well done.
The evil wrongdoings in this episode are appropriately romance-themed and come courtesy of Nephrite and his idea of collecting energy with the help of mannequins from a bridal shop. When the possessed mannequin breaks out of the shop window, bone-cracking sounds and flashing lights and all, I was kind of scared, and it’s the first time I’ve been able to say this about a „Sailor Moon Crystal” episode. So it was either truly creepy, or I must be afraid of weddings or something. There’s not much progress to the plot beyond the monster-of-the-week and Jupiter’s appearance, but things should change up a bit next time, if the series will continue to follow the manga, as in the comics Act 6 is a chapter focusing on Tuxedo Mask being kind of a jerk. So what else is new?
-While Moon, Jupiter and Mercury swoon over wedding dresses and thoughts of marriage, Mars (who was extremely boy-crazy in the 90’s anime) repeatedly reminds them that she has no trust or patience for dudes. I’m liking this version of Mars more and more every time.
-When hearing of a ghost bride haunting the bridal shop, Ami/Mercury remarks that the existence of ghosts has never been proved by science. This would be a very wise thing to say, except it’s coming from a girl who can magically transform into a magical Sailor Fighter after yelling „Make Up” with a pen in her hand. OK then.