Sailor Moon Crystal Recap, Act 7: “Mamoru Chiba — Tuxedo Mask”
Awwwww yeah, it's Minako time.
This week on Sailor Moon Crystal, we have a return to form after last time’s disappointing episode—meaning that some stuff works fantastically, other stuff doesn’t, all the animation is predictably and adorably terrible, and none of it matters anyway because VEEEENUUUUUUS. Let’s dig in!
As always, I’d like to point out that I tend not to shut up about previous iterations of the Sailor Moon story in these recaps, so if you’d prefer not to get spoiled, go check out Susana Polo’s newbie recaps instead. Actually, just check them out anyway if you’re an OG anime fan, because they’re delightful.
We start where we left off in the last episode: Usagi wakes up in Mamoru’s room to discover that he’s Tuxedo Mask and chides herself for not recognizing him earlier. Well, you’re already doing a lot better than your anime counterpart on that front, at least, because it took her something like 30 episodes before she figured it out. Mamoru explains his tragic bishounen backstory of losing his parents and all his memories at the age of six and taking to the streets in full formalwear on the behest of a mysterious dream princess in search of the Legendary Silver Crystal with the hopes that he’ll remember who he is. In the manga this is a particularly poignant scene, but something about the pacing of it feels a little off to me this time around; it certainly doesn’t help that the characters’ eyes aren’t exactly full of expression and life. Still, it’s pretty refreshing to see Usagi and Mamoru actually express their attraction to one another, particularly their physical attraction. No, literally, their attraction, because apparently Mamo’s eyes are “magnetizing.” Also, remember his abs?
(It’s worth noting that in the manga, Usagi wakes up in her uniform as Sailor Moon and de-transforms before Mamoru announces his presence; here it appears she’s done that already, and her shoes and socks have been removed. It’s an odd change that I assume was meant to paint Mamoru as more caring—aw, look, he took off her shoes!—but instead leaves me asking a lot more questions. How long does Usagi have to be passed out before she de-transforms? Was it because of the amount of power she used in her last attack in particular, or is it something that happens every time she’s that weak? This isn’t the first time that Crystal‘s made a small, unnecessary change in details from the original story that confuses me more than anything else, and I’m concerned that it won’t be the last.)
“So why do you want the Legendary Silver Crystal?” Mamoru asks. “Uh, because a cat told me?” she answers. She uses this as her cue to exit, but not before she and Mamoru deliberately do not look at each other and he gives her a nickname, “Usako.” The “ko” at the end is a suffix that ends a lot of Japanese names. It translates to “girl” or “child.” Since Usagi’s name translates to “Rabbit,” he’s basically calling her Bunny Girl. Which, actually? Is kind of adorable when you look at it that way. I still pine for the days of Meatball Head, though.
Speaking of that cat, Luna is underneath the Crown Game Center speaking to Central Command and OH HEY SHE LOOKS FAMILIAR
Anime fans will remember that the reveal of Luna’s mysterious boss is played for laughs as Artemis, Minako’s feline partner-in-crime. In the manga it’s a little more serious, because it’s actually Minako pulling the strings. Here they’ve made it much more obvious by sharpening her silhouette (in the manga all we get is something that looks like a bow), which is perfect for immediately and powerfully demonstrating Sailor Venus’ status as the elusive veteran senshi to viewers.
Meanwhile, Queen Beryl is also reporting to her superior officer, Queen Metallia of the Dark Kingdom. I still maintain that this would be a much more powerful scene if Beryl hadn’t just Doctor Clawed her way out of an encounter with the senshi in the last episode, but whatever. Metallia wants the LSC so she can destroy the whole planet, and in another delicious bit of backstory-plus-villain-monolouging, it’s revealed that Beryl is actually planning to take the crystal for herself to wield its power over the Earth as its ruler. She sends Zoisite, whom she seems to like more than any of the other Shitennou so far (it’s probably because they can share haircare tips), back out to find Sailor Moon and get rid of her once and for all.
Naturally, his fiendish plan takes the form of… a DVD rental store! Which makes sense. The only way one of those things could still be in business is if it were being financed by evil magic.
Rei knows something’s up, of course (because she can read). But she doesn’t go to the same school as the other girls, so she doesn’t get to join in on the CUTEST PART OF THE WHOLE EPISODE.
(Speaking of which, when is “Casablanca Memory” supposed to take place? I was kind of hoping they’d do it this week that so we’d get the chance to see the show expand a little more on the character development front—particularly with Rei, who hasn’t had much to do other than sense evil and be mysterious. Makoto’s in the side story but Minako is not, so unless they’re hoping to do it later in the series with the full senshi line-up (which YES PLEASE let’s get Minako in there oh my gosh), it should have happened already. I very much hope they don’t skip it due to it not being important to the main Silver Millennium plot. Sigh. I miss character-heavy filler episodes.)
Anyway, Ami, Makoto, and Usagi are researching Sailor V (on Ami’s iPad, no less!) while eating sandwiches together, and I want it to never ever end. But it must, when the evil brainwashed Pokémon demon that is Umino arrives to proudly proclaim that he will be the first to capture Sailor Moon. “Hey, that’s weird as hell,” Luna says. “Sailor V has the same moon on her forehead as you do—you don’t know anything about that, do you, Luna?,” Ami asks. “NO I DEFINITELY DON’T SHE’S TOTALLY NOT MY BOSS HEY LET’S INVESTIGATE UMINO’S THING,” Luna replies. Oh, also, Usagi gets ketchup (?? Mako what the eff kind of sandwiches are these) on herself and can’t find her handkerchief, which is because Mamoru is currently rubbing his face all up on it for love reasons. She’s basically doing the same thing with his broken watch, though, so it’s fine. Miracle romance, am I right, guys?
You know what’s not fine, though? The entire town, again. At lunch Usagi discovers that all her classmates are singularly focused on capturing Sailor Moon and brings a rented DVD to the game center to analyze it in… the Sailor V game console? Okay, but isn’t that what your laptop is for? The Deus-V-machina console immediately spits it out, and vidya-Minako berates Usagi for not figuring out that A-DOI, this is the Dark Kingdom we’re talking about, go and fight them or something. Yeah, I know this is in the manga and all, but it really detracts from the momentum of the story this time around. It would have made a lot more sense for Ami to just head underground with the disc and do her smart person thing from the get-go.
Outside in Sunnydale District, Tokyo, the townspeople are starting to mindlessly break stuff again (what do you think happens when they return to normal? Do they remember wrecking all that property or do they just shrug their shoulders and assume a wizard did it?), so Makoto, Ami, and Rei transform in a fantastic split screen. Even though she’s scared, Sailor Moon also transforms as a way to lure everyone to her and cure them with her Moon Healing Escalation. It’s pretty much exactly the scene I wanted from last week’s episode—and honestly, it’s made even better when Zoisite arrives and puts her in a headlock, because for just a brief moment the stakes are raised in a believable way.
‘Course, all that gets thrown out the window when Zoisite blocks the attacks of Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter, and they all pass out in crumpled heaps on the ground again (remember in the first episode of the anime when Makoto held her own against Zoisite and she wasn’t even awakened as a senshi yet? Good times), so Tuxedo Mask can try to save the day instead. I get that they need the senshi to be out for the count somehow for the big climax moment, but considering that they already used up their “senshi on the ground” quota in the last episode, I’m annoyed that they’re going for it again.
Tuxedo Mask punching Zoisite in the face was pretty special, though. I’ll give ’em that.
But Zoisite regains his composure and re-captures Sailor Moon, and Tuxedo Mask breaks into a heartfelt speech about how he doesn’t want to obtain the Legendary Silver Crystal anymore: he just wants to protect his Usako. Let me make this clear: it’s adorable. Mamo-chan in love is the best kind of Mamo-chan. But. I’m a little miffed that once again, they’re giving Mamoru an ungodly amount of screentime at the expense of our girls, who are still on the ground passed out—especially since this speech does not happen in the manga at all (in that version, Mamoru can’t even get near Zoisite and has to feebly watch from the sidelines), so you can’t even blame its presence on a manga-to-TV pacing problem like I just did with their last lovey-dovey scene. We get it. You love her. What happened to the whole “we don’t need the prince to save us” Moon Pride thing? Is that coming later?
Of course, it’s not like Mamoru’s doing that good a job of the rescuing thing anyway. Guess somebody who’s just prettier and better than him at literally everything is going to have to swoop in and save the day for him, right? You know, somebody with a crescent moon on their forehead and glorious, flowing… uh, fur?
Now here’s a detail change that I can get behind 100%. I’d forgotten this until I went and looked, but the manga does show Artemis diverting Zoisite before Sailor Venus steps in to deliver the final blow. However, this scene makes a much bigger deal out of it, which is great in two ways: it subverts what the viewer is expecting and delays the inevitable Venus reveal (which, by the way, is fantastic. She gets a violin-soaked Batman-style fanfare, for Christ’s sake!), and it very viscerally sets the tone for the Minako/Artemis relationship. Unlike Luna and Usagi, they’ve been doing this for a while without anyone else to support them, so they are real comrades in a way that the other two never really get to be.
Oh, and speaking of Sailor Venus not having a whole lot of support, I live for the moment when Sailor Moon recognizes her and her eyes crinkle just a little when she smiles. It’s the most subtle, smallest gesture, but it lines up exactly with my expectations for the character: she’s finally getting to do her duty in a way that actually lets her communicate with her fellow senshi, and that Sailor Moon is already reaching out to her has got to be tugging on some battle-hardened heartstrings.
So to wrap up: I’m a it torn on this episode overall, which I guess is a good thing considering how annoyed I was with the last one. All the same problems I’ve had with the series as a whole are here—too much of the romance, too many places where deviating from the original source material hurts the story instead of enhancing it—but we also got some very cute friendship moments and our first real look at Sailor Venus, which excites me against my better judgement. I mean, that’s only fair. Minako would want us to be excited by her ineffable presence, of course.