In Memoriam: Esmeraude, Laughing in the Face of Defeat
Esmeraude is probably the most ineffectual enemy Sailor Moon has ever faced. More undeservedly arrogant than Rubeus, with a criminal lack of social skills, obsessed with the unobtainable and as green with envy has her hair, Esmeraude never really stood much of a chance.
Even being turned into a Kaiju-sized dragon did nothing to improve her competence. Let’s bury Esmeraude in the only way I know how: by relentlessly mocking her.
Esmeraude is a bit of an oddity as far as antagonists go thus far in the Sailor Moon anime. She’s the first female antagonist to be out-and-out reprehensible from start to finish.
The Phantom Sisters, although built around a general moral lesson not to become obsessed with appearance, make-up and, um, killing children, seemed to learn the value of friendship, family and love (that old chestnut), settled down and embraced the cold hard capitalism at the core of Japanese society.
Even Queen Beryl was a sympathetic character in many ways. Sure, she was an evil magical psychopath who seemed more determined to enslave the man she loved then the whole ruling-the-world thing, but her easy authority over her male employees, her interesting motivations, her strong but brittle character and her general malevolent aura were magnificent to behold. She held a dark charisma that it was impossible not to appreciate.
Esmeraude, on the other hand, is clearly an example of how not to act from beginning to end. She has no redeemable features whatsoever. Rubeus, who is arguably portrayed as perhaps even more two-dimensional in his motivations (a vague generalised ambition to, I dunno, get his own office with a view?), was at least threatening and dignified.
He even got close to defeating the Sailor Senshi.
Esmeraude has the one ambition: Prince Dimande. Her entire character is diminished by this slavish desire to be validated by a (rather horrid) man. It’s not a good motivation, and she repeats it constantly. It’s as if the writers are afraid that we’ll forget how pathetic she is.
And believe me, there’s no way you can forget how pathetic she is. From the first episode she took charge, she’s been used relentlessly as the butt of merciless mocking. The point of poking fun at your antagonists is to juxtapose the danger they present.
For instance, Zoisite being swallowed by a sea of sewer rats was an amazing moment, because he had so much pride. He was a legitimately powerful foe, one that had another major character killed and one who continued to have success episode by episode. The comedy, therefore, went against our perception of the character, thus making it hilarious.
Seeing Esmeraude on her first outing lose her shit over “cute cakes“ was disturbing. That was our starting point with her. She was never anything more then pathetic, as well as an unnerving caricature of a socialite woman – obsessed with her looks to the point of narcissism and a complete hypocrite.
That episode is the worst in the entire run of Sailor Moon. I think that’s true, there might be a few that might compete (we’ll find out as I review them), but seeing Esmeraude develop an eating disorder for a few cheap laughs (alongside poor Usagi) has remained insurmountably terrible for me.
Another moment of abject mockery was when she was repeatably pissed on by a dog. I’m not saying it wasn’t a funny moment – I certain laugh every time I see it – but taken in consideration with the rest of her arc, it feels somewhat like bullying.
There’s the merest sliver of an interesting character development in Esmeraude when she attacks Prince Dimande with Dark Power to give Usagi time to escape his unwarranted sexual advances. I would have liked to have seen how far Esmeraude was willing to go to get what she wanted, even at the price of her or Dimande’s safety.
What we got instead was her being played like a fiddle by Wiseman. Her motivation for approaching him for more power was based on ambition, and she was tricked like a complete idiot. Now, if Esmeraude had been aware of the curse on the tiara, if she had made the concious decision to undergo a horrific and painful transformation in the name of destroying the object of Dimande’s affections, then it may have been a very interesting plot point.
As it is, she’s almost a footnote, and after-thought that the writers used to inject some danger into the episode. As it was, even the animation was terrible. Her fat-ass dragon had freeze-frame shots of attacking… something, walls maybe.
I joked that Esmeraude-Dragon’s design came from Disney’s Pete’s Dragon or Space Harrier, but the truth is she probably owed more to Maleficent from Sleep Beauty (not the Angelina Jolie one) in her all-consuming envy and the look of her dragon metamorphosis.
I haven’t even had a chance to talk about that repugnant laugh of hers. Well done to that voice actress for being able to produce such a sound, but good lord that was tough to sit through.
Esmeraude was never given a chance. Her story arc was set up in such a way that if she succeeded in even the slightest way, it would mean the destruction of Tokyo and, thus, she could never succeed. She was set up straight away as some bumbling clown who never got an opportunity to show why she should be taken seriously.
This is a real shame, because I think she could have been brilliantly malevolent, superbly confident and unforgivably murderous, like we saw in her first appearances mocking Rubeus and the mercilessly leaving him for dead.
Thankfully, with Saphir, Dimande and Wiseman left, the concluding episodes of Sailor Moon R is in safe hands. Safe, creepy hands.
Number of Episodes Survived: 9 (That’s the least so far)
Final Score: 1/5