Well, for all the fanfare that Minako-as-princess got in the previous episode, it was short-lived, as this week’s „Sailor Moon Crystal” immediately reveals the identity of the real reincarnation of Princess Serenity from the ancient Moon Kingdom: Usagi/Sailor Moon herself. Of course, this comes as little surprise to longtime fans of the franchise (and even new fans may have guessed that Sailor Moon would turn out to be the true MOON princess, duh), but it still feels rushed.
The moment of revelation is not a happy one for Usagi: she recovers memories of her previous life after Tuxedo Mask has been struck down by Kunzite. Her tears materialise into the much-discussed Legendary Silver Crystal and she transforms into Serenity (an utterly useless transformation, sadly, as Serenity does nothing but cry constantly). The other Senshi manage to protect her and the Crystal, but Tuxedo Mask is kidnapped by Kunzite and Queen Beryl, provoking even more tears from Usagi/Serenity, who plunges into a full-blown depression after this event.
All the girls start remembering their past lives in the Silver Millennium Moon Kingdom, and it turns out that Usagi and Mamoru used to have a Romeo+Juliet style romance: he was the prince of Earth and their relationship was forbidden by their religion, apparently. (Although it’s never clear what religion that was). The Moon Kingdom was eventually destroyed by an angry earth mob, seemingly led by Beryl and Metallia. The mythology of all this could be great, compelling stuff, except the show does not go too much into it: what kind of place was the Silver Millennium? What was Earth like? What kind of life did Serenity and the Sailor Senshi have on the Moon? Why was Beryl so angry at the Moon people? It’s hard to get very invested in these bits and pieces- you can tell that they are supposed to be striking and emotional, but we are just working with too little at this point. I hope the next episode (called „Moon”) will manage to make the show’s mythology work.
This is actually a fairly good episode for Usagi development, though. It shines a light on something that has always bugged me about „Sailor Moon”: what is the true relationship between the past Senshi and the current Senshi? Are they one and the same, perfect reincarnations, or are they completely different people? Do they experience these memories as memories of a stranger? When Usagi finds out she’s the daughter of a Moon queen, where does that leave the loving Earth family she grew up with? Usagi is now openly questioning all of this: she feels like she is losing her identity, and she is not very keen on accepting the whole Moon princess business.
I wish she would question more her relationship with Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, too: she is too quick in embracing the idea that he has always been her beloved, and that they are destined to be together. I can, however, understand this somewhat: I remember being 14 and thinking that whoever I had a crush on was destined to be my one and true love. It’s likely that many teenagers experience this kind of extreme emotions and overreactions. Usagi has been crushing on Mamoru for a while now, and suddenly, the Universe itself is offering validation of her feelings: Mamoru IS in fact her destined true love! I can understand and accept that Usagi would react by becoming even more smitten with Mamoru. (It is, however, annoying to think that „Sailor Moon” will probably never question the validity of a lifetime commitment between teenagers motivated only by puppy love and the memories of past incarnations. Mamoru of the 90s anime did express doubts about this at some point in „Sailor Moon R”, but he was mostly faking it, trying to chase Usagi away to protect her.)
Usagi does not accept, however, that she is destined for tragedy and failure: at the end of the episode, she draws new determination and resolve from her pain. This time, in this life, she will not lose her loved ones. This is a great moment for her- sadly, it comes at the expense of every other character in the show. The other Senshi have been virtually interchangeable and lacking in personality completely, apart from their introduction episodes, and here they act as if Usagi is the only light in their life and the only motivation to do anything. Oh, and they comb her hair too. They’re already more like humble servants than friends, and I’m starting to wonder: what is even the point in having four of them? They could all be blended into one character, Sailor Supportive, a girl who adores Usagi and praises her unconditionally and risks her life for her and irons her underwear- and we’re done.
It is not to Usagi’s benefit as a character that she is turned into a perfect girl whom everybody adores and never dares to criticise, and the sooner the writers realise this, the better.