In its tenth episode, „Sailor Moon Crystal” takes the girls on a trip to the Moon, or, more precisely, to the ruins of its old kingdom, the Silver Millennium. Here, they receive a hefty dose of backstory from a holographic version of Queen Serenity, as well as a magical sword that needs to be pulled out of a stone, King Arthur-style. It’s Sailor Venus who manages to take the sword out, a nod to her status as Usagi’s First Officer, so to speak (if Sailor Moon is Captain Picard, Venus is definitely her Riker). Venus has a few small moments in this episode where she tries to assert her leadership over the other Senshi, mainly by new offering information or by calling to action first. It’s a nice touch, especially since the Senshi are in desperate need of some development in this version of the story.
Didn’t I ask for more Silver Millennium history? Well, we’ve got it! It appears that Usagi and Mamoru, or should I say, Serenity and Endymion, had a Romeo-and-Juliet kind of love in their past lives, not only going against their own families but also dying in a tragic manner, one beside the other. But Prince Endymion was not the only Earth attraction for Serenity: she was also fascinated with our planet. The Earth/Moon parallel is an important aspect of this episode: after seeing the ruins of the Silver Millennium on the Moon, the Senshi return with renewed affection for the beauties of Earth, which they must protect (both settings are conveyed in lovely background paintings). The duality is also present in Usagi herself: her Moon mother from a previous life is calling her to duty; her Earth parents worry that she’s growing up too fast. The choice between two identities is shaping up to be a dilemma for Usagi eventually, and I hope the show will address it. (In any case, Luna seems to have settled well being the house pet of the Tsukinos, which proves that a mooncat is still a cat).
And now we get to the part where I start grumbling. Why am I still grumbling? Perhaps because I am old and it can’t be helped that, to me, the best incarnation of „Sailor Moon” will always be the one I grew up with: the 1990’s anime. I’m always looking for the kind of storylines and character development that I’ve come to expect from the old show, true. But I do believe „Crystal” legitimately has quite a few problems in terms of characterisation, and that they would be apparent even outside of a comparison with the first anime.
The major issue comes from the show finally tipping its hand in regards to the reason it had kept Jadeite & co alive for so long. Initially, it seems that the four Kings are preparing a rebellion against Beryl, which is a development I would’ve enjoyed seeing very much. But no: what happens is that they are revealed to be former lovers of the Senshi, in much the same way that Serenity and Endymion were lovers. This is a terrible, terrible idea, for various reasons.
First of all, it’s completely unrealistic and way too convenient that five male friends and five female friends would just neatly pair off with each other like this, each of them finding a Love of their Life in the other group (and neither of them falling in love with the same person as someone else, for example). Are these supposed to be people or Barbies? Secondly, it cheapens the Serenity/Endymion storyline. Up to now, it seemed like Serenity was a lone hopeless romantic who fell in love with an Earth guy against the norms of the entire world. But if all the Senshi are foolishly losing their heads for Earth guys, then the entire „love story” angle loses poignancy. Serenity and Endymion become ridiculous, since their love isn’t that unique or daring anymore, and the Senshi are even more ridiculous, once again showing themselves to have no will or opinion of their own, blindly following their Princess in everything, even love trouble.
This plot twist has even worse consequences in present day. As soon as they recover their memories of these events, the Senshi abdicate from duty and refuse to fight the four Kings anymore, even though said Kings are turning Tokyo into a freezer and they were complete strangers five seconds before. So the girls are incapacitated (again) and saved by Usagi, who is again made to look like she’s the most awesome, flawless girl in the Universe, therefore completely whitewashing her personality. A terrible miscalculation from „Crystal” on all fronts, and one that is unique to them, since this development was not present in any of the other versions of the franchise (only hinted at in one cover drawing of the manga).
I’m afraid that by now I’m seriously considering quitting „Crystal” altogether. There is plenty to like about the show – its dark-romantic tone is entirely its own, and shows that the Sailor Moon storyline can be used in several different ways- but I’m frankly not having much fun watching it, and its only original development so far has turned out to be a misfire. I suppose I will wait until this arc is over to make a decision.
Until then, we end with Queen Beryl preparing to release into the world a brainwashed Mamoru, whose mission will be to kill Usagi…in three weeks time, when the next episode arrives.