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In Memoriam: Wiseman, The Brilliant Poker Face

Wiseman's true face

Wiseman was the master manipulator, the guiding hand that used everything around him for his own purpose. More than just excellent planning lay underneath that filthy old cloak – he was an opportunist, one who managed to bring the future Crystal Tokyo to its knees.

Completely devoid of any real humanity, Wiseman was nevertheless a perfect antagonist: malice, intelligence and competence all wrapped up into one lazy dude who never bothered to walk anywhere. Here’s a toast, buddy.

I love Wiseman. I love him because he’s so utterly evil, in a way that’s completely devoid of any humanity. He’s been a constant presence in Sailor Moon R, sporadically at first, but with increasing regularity and threat.

It’s clear from first glance that he’s completely untrustworthy. Never trust a person when you can’t see their face, and trust them even less than that when that face happens to be a fucking skull. Yet despite this handicap, Wiseman has evidently enough skill in manipulation to have wormed his way right to the top of the Black Moon.

"These are my assisted living nurses. They help me to the toilet."

“These are my assisted living nurses. They help me to the toilet.”

In fact, he is the Black Moon, although they don’t know it. You have to admire (albeit ruefully) the kind of brilliant antagonist tactician who can rule from the back. Wiseman has set everything up in the chess game, and it’s playing out how he wanted it to.

Yet that’s not to say he’s not adaptable. In fact, his flexibility, to use any situation to his advantage, is what makes him such a threat. Take the episode where he warned Rubeus that Koan was going to fail against the Sailor Senshi – he slyly suggested that Rubeus use Koan as a trap, to which the idiot wholeheartedly agreed.

"Come on dude, hurry up and kill her so we can go play Call of Duty."

“Come on dude, hurry up and kill her so we can go play Call of Duty.”

At this point in the series, he seemed relatively benign, prophesying when and where The Rabbit would appear. He answered summons, pretending to be made for servitude, while in actuality allowing the members of the Black Moon to hang themselves

By the time Esmeraude played so willingly, and stupidly, into his hands, Wiseman had upped his game. By this point he had already kidnapped Chibi-Usa and was in the process of brainwashing her by using her own repressed memories against her.

"I can't believe she's actually buying this. "Uh, I can hear you." "Yeah, and you'll STILL wear this stupid tiara."

“I can’t believe she’s actually buying this.
“Uh, I can hear you.”
“Yeah, and you’ll STILL wear this stupid tiara.”

If that isn’t opportunistic I don’t know what is.

The scene in which Wiseman tricks Esmeraude into wearing his ugly spiky tiara is one of my favourites of him at work. He knows exactly what to say, “foreseeing” the realisation of all of Esmeraude’s passions and ambitions. I like a clever bad guy.

"Well I thought it was a pretty bitchin' design to be honest. I mean, check out that mullet"

“Well I thought it was a pretty bitchin’ design to be honest. I mean, just check out that mullet. I’d kill for some hair.”

Too bad the effects of his stupid tiara were just so rubbish.

Wiseman’s manipulation of Chibi-Usa was also a fantastic scene. Dredging up haunting memories, enhancing them, embellishing them, it was all very convincing.

Wiseman’s performance made these moments. With so little to work with – he was a pair of hands and, only occasionally, a couple of glowing LEDs for eyes, so the voice acting did most of the work. It was excellently done, all raspy menace. I love it when he screams, “NO ONE EVER LOVED YOU!

"ALSO YOU HAVE AWFUL TASTE IN MUSIC. Are you evil yet?"

“ALSO YOU HAVE AWFUL TASTE IN MUSIC. Are you evil yet?”

As soon as Black Lady turns up, a bit of a change comes over Wiseman: or as much of a change as you can get when you don’t have skin. He begins to strut.

"Oh yes, I'm big pimpin' now."

“Oh yes, I’m big pimpin’ now.”

It starts as soon as he introduces her to Dimande. After that, he just doesn’t seem to give a shit any more whether the Black Moon clan knows he’s just using them or not. This is such arrogance that he kills Saphir, right in front of his own brother, and there’s absolutely no consequences for him. It’s crazy. He’s Tony Montana, guys.

As Wiseman gets more daring, and dangerous, we little glimpses of the true personality that has been under tight control over the entire series. He begins sneaking in some rather maniacal laughter that puts Esmeraude to shame, and the little flashes of an empty skull underneath his robe are just brilliant.

Great scene

Great scene

Even better – we never get a complete look at Wiseman. For all we know, he really is just a skull and some crappy cloth, the real identity lying within his crystal ball. I like that ambiguity.

His true identity, Death Phantom, is whipped out at the last minute. Might have been more effective to build this up over the series, but it works well nevertheless. I love this idea that Wiseman is the avatar of some malevolent god, that all these machinations are nothing more than the preamble to, say, summoning Cthulhu.

His final battle with Neo Queen Serenity is a brilliant one, but he takes something of a backseat in the awesome scene. Wiseman gets little more to do than blast a bit of dark energy about, but at least he does it looking more menacing than he has ever been.

"Yeah, I look so awesome right now. There's absolutely no way I could lose, unless they cheat and flip out a 2nd Ginzuishou"

“Yeah, I look so awesome right now. There’s absolutely no way I could lose, unless they cheat and flip out a 2nd Ginzuishou”

His final few moments, a vehement denial that Serenity and Chibi-Usa could defeat him, is pretty great. His voice gets all messed-up and slowed-down, as if he’s melting, and we get one last shot of his rather lovely skull.

"MY SKULL. MY BEAUTIFUL SKULL. Only kidding, death is sweet release from this horrible torturous existence."

“MY SKULL. MY BEAUTIFUL SKULL. Only kidding, death is sweet release from this horrible torturous existence.”

 

Best Moment

Without a doubt, my favourite Wiseman scene is when he has no hesitation in blasting Saphir to death with a giant cool-ass energy ray. It was just so bold. His flippant reaction of “He was totally a traitor” was so obnoxious, and even better was the follow up of ordering his superior, Prince Dimande, to retreat.

"Oh dude, I'm so sorry. You had a wasp flying around you head, I was trying to blast it for you."

“Oh dude, I’m so sorry. You had a wasp flying around you head, I was trying to blast it for you.”

As a close second I would put the scene in which he cornered and captured Chibi-Usa by indelicately ripping through her memories. A great scene.

"Oh. Hey. Could we be friends? I'm, like, super lonely and surrounded by jerks."

“Oh. Hey there, little girl. Could we be friends? I’m, like, super lonely and surrounded by jerks.”

In conclusion, Wiseman was a badass that put Prince Dimande to shame. He didn’t have nearly as much depth as Queen Beryl, or any of her interesting pitiable backstory, but as a supreme bastard that you just want to hate? Brilliant.

 

Number of Episodes Survived: 28 (That’s a damn good run)

Effort: A (This guy has been plotting for centuries)

Final Score: 5/5 (I love me some Wiseman)

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7 Comments »

  1. Wiseman is easily one of my favourite villains, and out of all the final bosses of Sailor Moon, I find him the most sinister and diabolical. The fact that the Black Moon Clan are not a cult of murderous, sadistic terrorists like they were in the manga, but misunderstood, wrongfully persecuted outcasts who are corrupted and abused by Wiseman just makes him far far far worse then he is in the manga. The only way he could have been even worse is if he personally murdered the Ayakashi Sisters for their betrayal whilst they were perfectly powerless, defenceless humans, out of nothing more then spite. If he wasn’t already frying much much much bigger fish then to take out some low ranked underlings who had no vital information, I totally would see him doing that. He is that much of a dick. What makes Wiseman one of the most dangerous villains of all, is that for the most part, he is able to keep his massive hubris under lock and key and play the fool or the servant to both his enemies and to those he is playing like a fiddle. Wiseman also makes Rubeus more interesting: in both manga and anime, Rubeus as the first major “boss” of the Clan has his treatment of the four Ayakashi Sisters as disposable pawns and shamelessly manipulating their emotions to serve his plans, is foreshadowing Wiseman’s treatment of the entire Clan.

    • Agreed 100%. My favourite Wiseman moments are, after nearly the whole season, he begins to get fed up with the facade he keeps with the Black Moon. When that insane chuckle comes in, I get shivers.

      As for the allegory between Rubeus and Wiseman, I totally agree. It’s great foreshadowing, an introduction of a theme that’s reflected in both Dimande and Wiseman.

  2. Between finishing Sailor Moon S, (nearly) all of Sailor Moon Super S, and witnessing the end of Sailor Moon Crystal, my declaration of several months previous still stands:

    At this point in time, Wiseman is still my favorite Sailor Moon villain ever.

    PoppyPicklesticks said it all, and said it well: Wiseman’s manipulations, his eye (socket) for the weaknesses in his opponents’ and allies’ armor and ability to subtly and ruthlessly exploit those weaknesses, and his ability to obfuscate, to sit like a spider weaving his webs and feigning blithe obeisance to whomever would best serve his goals, are really what make him such an effective threat.

    Part of me is a little disappointed that he didn’t confront Sailor Moon or the Senshi directly until he’d already gone off the deep end and given in to his hubris (which, for the record, he wore better than any of the rest of the Black Moon Clan OR the Dark Kingdom). We saw what happened to Mercury when she was psychologically pushed to the edge, but what about Venus, the veteran who hides her pain behind a ditzy, manic facade? Jupiter, who has that strange brittleness to contrast with her incredible strength, both of physicality and personality? Or Mars, who we’ve never seen display even a hint of doubt as to who she is and what she wants out of life? These amazing women deserve to be put to the ultimate test, mentally and emotionally, and Wiseman felt tailor-made to do the job.

    Of course, we get some really great tests of character for each of the Senshi in future episodes of S and Super S, so in a way I get my wish. ^_^

    I really enjoyed Wiseman in his second phase (after Black Lady), the perfect mix of the old manipulativeness and that newfound arrogance and forcefulness. By that time he’s unrepentant, almost flaunting his manipulativeness, and the Clan IS STILL FALLING FOR IT. Even Saphir, the “smart” one of the group, had to overhear him monologuing about “Death Phantom” before he put two and two together and came up with ‘untrustworthy’.

    Such is the brilliance of this show that you don’t even question it until you stop and think — why are the Clan so reliant on this shadowy, vague figure? What purpose does he serve, how did they meet? How could such an obviously untrustworthy figure be so trusted, so relied upon? And Wiseman sells it. He’s THAT good.

    In conclusion, I love Mistress 9 and the Death Busters, and Nehelenia and the Dead Moon, but no one has reached the same levels of malicious, precise manipulation that Wiseman has, and he and his sinister, malevolent chuckle will always occupy a special place in my nightmares.

  3. It’s because of these reasons that I believe Steve Kramer did a good job with Wiseman: His voice isn’t very scary, and that’s the scariest thing, that you could really mistake him for a genuinely considerate old man almost to the end.

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