Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask has always been, in many ways, a gender-flipped version of the omnipresent Damsel in Distress stereotype: he constantly gets in trouble, he’s kidnapped, he’s possessed by evil spirits, and Sailor Moon has to save him all the time. Even when he’s not in trouble, he’s completely useless as a fighter, basically just showing up to throw a rose in the general direction of what’s happening (not even at the villain, most of the time), say a ridiculous convoluted speech that makes you think Mamoru secretly wants to be a poet, and then let Sailor Moon continue the fight. When you have a „woman with magical superpowers/regular Joe boyfriend” situation, you would expect the story to attribute some bitterness and feelings of emasculation to the regular Joe (see also: „Buffy, the vampire slayer”), because everybody has been trained to accept helpless women with strong boyfriends easier than the reverse, but in „Sailor Moon”, Tuxedo Mask is not uncomfortable with his position. His role is to support Sailor Moon, to love her and to strengthen her confidence, and he is OK with that.
This is also a plot point in the latest „Sailor Moon Crystal” episode, which focuses mostly on Tuxedo Mask and Usagi/Moon. She is not yet used to the idea of being a superhero, and she is asking herself pretty much the same questions I was asking in the previous recap: why should she be the leader of the Sailor Senshi? Is she really that great? Aren’t the others, in fact, better than her? Tuxedo Mask helps solve this confidence crisis by giving her all the right answers: she deserves to lead because she brings people together. „You are the ideal person to be a leader”, he says, and those are words that men do not say often to women in pop culture (or in real life, for that matter).
Unfortunately, this heartening moment of character development for both of them is severely undermined by the problematic aspects of this episode. The main conflict is caused by Tuxedo Mask announcing publicly that he is looking for the Silver Crystal, which helps Zoisite take advantage of the media hype and brainwash the entirety of Tokyo into a Quest-for-the-Silver-Crystal zombie trance after appearing on TV (if you still had any reasons to doubt that TV was bad for you). This makes Luna and the other Senshi pretty convinced that Tuxedo Mask is a villain, but Usagi yells at them that they’re wrong and storms off. Later in the episode, she reveals her secret identity to him without much hesitation. I mean, I get that Usagi and Mamoru are fated to be together and everything, we know that, but Usagi doesn’t know that yet, and she is acting in a dangerous, stupid manner, rejecting the sound advice of her friends for the sake of some mysterious dude. I wouldn’t really have a problem with this (it’s perfectly in character for a 14-year old girl to do that), except the episode is condoning Usagi’s behaviour. She is right, and the prudent characters are wrong.
Even worse, Tuxedo Mask continues to act like a big creep. To make sure we understand that Tuxedo Mask kissing Usagi while semi-unconscious in episode 5 was not an accident, the writers make him do it again, after which he proceeds to take her to his house. Usagi wakes up in Mamoru’s bed wearing her school uniform, but the last time we saw her, she was Sailor Moon. Does this mean that: 1. She de-transforms automatically in her sleep or after a period of time? But there was no evidence of this ever happening in the Sailor Moon universe. 2. Mamoru de-transformed her by removing her brooch, which we have seen happening in the 90s anime. But how would he know how to do that? or 3. He de-transformed her by undressing her, at which point the clothes she was wearing before she transformed magically appeared again. Out of these options, no 1 is the least creepy but also the least likely. I know most of this was there in the manga, but if „Sailor Moon Crystal” is to be „the ultimate version of Sailor Moon, approved by Naoko Takeuchi”, it has an unique chance to correct the mistake of previous incarnations, and it’s not doing it at all. I can understand Naoko writing some pretty tone-deaf stuff when she initially wrote the manga, since she was not much older than Sailor Moon herself back then, but she should know better by now.
To top it all, this is just simply not a well-executed episode. There are gaping plot holes and inconsistencies all over: Usagi tells Tuxedo Mask that she is Sailor Moon, then asks „How come you know I’m Sailor Moon?”; later, Luna calls Sailor Moon „Usagi” in front of the Big Bad herself, Queen Beryl. The other Senshi, which were proven to be intelligent, strong and resourceful in their introductory episodes, are made to look weak just for the sake of Usagi’s character development. There are huge chunks of exposition through dialogue while everyone just sits around, and the animation is very stiff and inexpressive (especially compared to episode 5 which was a massive improvement in terms of visuals). And the pacing of „Crystal” is overall pretty dismal; maybe the 90’s anime had way too many Monster of the Week episodes, but „Crystal” is simply running through the story and giving us zero time to catch our breath and get to care about the characters.
So far, the best episodes remain Jupiter’s and Mars’s introduction. Come on, „Crystal”, get with the program and stop disappointing.