Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon The Manga: The Black Moon Arc, Pt. 2
Let’s continue with the Black Moon arc of the Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon manga. Today we’re covering Act 17 & Act 18. If you haven’t checked it already, you may want to pop on over to Part 1, featuring Acts 15 & 16.
To recap, Chibi-Usa has turned up, Usagi has realised that she’s a horrible human being, Mamoru has developed healing powers, Koan murdered a child, a nun exploded and both Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury have been abducted by the Dark Moon. That about sums it up.
It really is rather different to the anime, isn’t it?
Act 17 – Secrecy – Sailor Jupiter
You can imagine Usagi’s sense of loss and guilt. The anime’s Usagi is, of course, effusive, benevolent and deeply sensitive, but the manga’s Usagi has one more quality that I think really separates them as characters: brittleness.
Whereas Manga Usagi was near paralysed when Mamoru was turned over to the Dark Kingdom, and eventually attempted to kill herself with grief (that was messed up), Show Usagi fought through these emotions and came out stronger. It’s one of the reasons that she was able to reject the idea of death and fought back against Evil Endymion – she has tremendous inner strength (a strong inner locus of identity, if you want to get all psychological).
So Manga Usagi has some catching up to do in terms of character development in my opinion. Let’s see how she does.
Usagi starts off completely depressed (well there’s your answer), but Chibi-Usa, displaying a level of empathy that Usagi has not yet given Chibi-Usa, tries to cheer her up. All Usagi does in return is to accuse her of spending too much time with Mamoru, then resent her company.
Nice one, Usagi.
They do try to draw comparisons between the two girls here, and it’s quite effective, but at the moment I’m actually preferring Chibi-Usa’s character to Usagi’s. Isn’t that mental? It’s completely inverted in the anime.
When Chibi-Usa starts hammering through the Sailor V game, Minako comes running in. You may remember that the game is a training programme of sorts, to test the innate abilities of potential Senshi (and enemies, as it may be). Apparently Chibi-Usa is brilliantly adept at the game…
I sort of preferred the anime Chibi-Usa, who was just about shit at everything.
The remaining Senshi finally put two and two together, and realise that when Koan and Berthier mentioned “The Rabbit”, they were talking about capturing Chibi-Usa. There’s this on-going question over whether to trust her or not. This doesn’t play out too well for me – she’s so obviously an innocent target in all this thus far.
The kitschy 90’s sci-fi references return here with talk about crop circles. I sort of hate it when obvious bullshit is presented as credible in fiction, and crop circles are no exception. Last Act had dowsing, too, which was rather annoying. A personal hang-up I dare say.
There’s a rather touching scene in which Chibi-Usa is startled by a lightning strike. She has a sudden horrible flashback of Crystal Tokyo being obliterated, when Mamoru comes to her aid. When he embraces her, of course, his touch-based powers of aura-reading kick in, and he gets glimpses of the same future.
It’s a moment that makes Chibi-Usa seem utterly vulnerable, and seems to secure Mamoru’s devotion to her. It’s rather sweet, and makes more sense than in the anime.
Dimande, meanwhile, is conversing with Wiseman on Nemesis about the captured Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus. It’s interesting to note how much less verbose Wiseman is here. You lose that theatrical performance, those slow, measured and bizarre soliloquises of his. He’s not so interesting yet.
Petz, meanwhile, vows to take the Black Moon’s plan to the next level, by replacing as many humans as they can with Droids that take on human appearance. Again, she’s colder and more cruel than her anime form, and in all likelihood will soon be dead.
I like her line, “There is no need to act with caution.” Gives a good sense of dread for what is about to happen.
This is also the scene where we see fully Dimande’s creepy-ass lust for Neo Queen Serenity, although we’re not sure who the floating hologram is of yet. (It’s sort of obvious though).
This is just as worrying as the anime. Out of all the things they changed, I wish they had chucked this storyline too.
Next is a rather nice scene of Usagi, Mamoru and Luna in a restaurant, with Mamoru wondering how to fix Luna-P, who has gone all swirly.
Mamoru is describing his deepening affection for Chibi-Usa, and his desire to protect her, wondering if this has to do with his touch-powers being able to sense her emotions.
Asanuma, continuing to be a creepy bastard, is eavesdropping on all of this.
I like how the scene ends, with Luna batting Luna-P on the forehead nonchalantly, which causes the ball to begin emitting large amounts of smoke everywhere.
We switch over to Makoto, who is rather ill. She’s coughing, has a fever, and is generally in a bad way. On the way home, she…
Well… shit. She bumps into none other than Asanuma, my sworn enemy
He walks her home, they discuss her status as an orphan (her parents died in a plane crash, something never touched upon in the show), and then start going on about crop circles again (rolls eyes).
Then Asanuma goes for it, revealing that he knows about Luna being able to talk (because he’s a stalker) and Rei and Ami being missing (because he’s a stalker) and Mamoru’s powers (because he’s a fucking stalker.)
Makoto explains a bit about Mamoru’s powers, and finally gives it a name: psychometry. This is actually a terrible name for it, since this actually means the process of measuring internal states of participants in a psychology study, but hey, it’s a word. He can heal, sense auras through touch and even use it to blast enemies. Fun!
Makoto goes the whole hog and explains her and her friends’ mission, and we’re led into the most tongue-swallowingly worst romantic scene of my life. Asanuma, who has shown no emotional attachment to anyone but Mamoru, suddenly seems to get turned on by how strong Makoto is.
She seems touched, and kisses him on the forehead. Ugh. Please Makoto, have some standards.
I hate everything about this. I don’t mind seeing characters other than Usagi enter into relationships, it’s actually rather interesting since it never made it onto the show, but I hate this soppy douche Asanuma so very much, and these emotions came out of nowhere.
Anyway, he sods off, thank god.
Meanwhile, A UFO has appeared, They’re much less interesting than in the anime, which was all spikes and dark greens and mirrors – they’re just discs in the sky. Petz has apparently been using it to spread an evil disease, the same one that Makoto contracted.
This plot was lightly used in an Esmeraude episode.
The plan is to replace these weakened inflicted with Droids taking on the form of the person. For what reason, I actually have no idea, but it’s creepy and a clever idea.
Makoto being attacked suddenly, while she’s sick, by herself, is actually a pretty awesome moment. I’m glad to see Makoto defend herself well!
As with Mercury and Mars, Sailor Jupiter is trapped by a vortex by Petz. The action, like last time, isn’t very clear or well drawn.
So this time Petz and an army of Droids are killed by Sailor Moon’s Moon Princess Halation. So long Petz, I guess that brilliant redemption arc and complex relationship with Saphir from the TV show isn’t going to happen after all.
Act 18 – Invasion – Sailor Venus
Considering that the previous three acts have all focussed around one of the Senshi before their capture, you’d be forgiven in thinking that you know what’s about to go down in this act.
Alas, it’s interesting to see that it avoids the formula. The Sailor Moon manga is fine with an asynchronous plot – that is to say, it won’t try and give equal roles and page time to Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus, which works towards it not feeling predictable and forced.
So, Jupiter has just been kidnapped. She’s fairing slightly better than Petz, however, who has rather a different fate from the sweet and sad love story she was given in the anime. The smouldering crater where Petz once stood now has only one of the Black Moon’s crystal earrings in its place.
Luna takes it back to their HQ for analysis. I don’t think it really goes anywhere though…
Usagi can’t understand why the Black Moon is kidnapping the Senshi one by one when their mission appears to be inquisition of the Ginzuishou and the death of the Rabbit. I actually like this – there’s an actual answer to this instead of it just being a plot contrivance.
Minako, being previously a star of a manga herself as Sailor V, begins to be the driving force once again. I like her getting pissed off and insisting they go grill Chibi-Usa for information. At this point, however, Chibi-Usa hasn’t really done much except move in with Usagi. She’s not been nearly as central as she was in the show.
Usagi, Minako and Mamoru all go to question Chibi-Usa (I’m guessing waterboarding will be involved) but their determination is quashed slightly by how happy Chibi-Usa us after coming home from work.
Her utter joy, her childishness, her closeness to her new friend Momo, it speaks of a lonely and damaged child finally experiencing a warm home. It makes Usagi’s attitude to her that much more uncomfortable.
Chibi-Usa completely freaks out when she sees the Black Moon crystal earring, however. Her fear is so disabling that it’s quite alarming to see. Another example of how utterly defenceless she is here.
On Nemesis, we get a scene between Saphir, Rubeus and Esmeraude, a trio we never see all interact in the show. It’s pretty cool, actually. I wish they had included some of this tripartite arguing.
Esmeraude in particular shows none of the traits that made her such an annoying character in the anime. She’s calm, witty, snarky, and without a hint of that stupid laugh. On the other hand, I feel like she has almost no personality whatsoever. She’s in the manga for even less time than she was in the anime.
I like the balance between gung-ho Rubeus and cautious Saphir, too. This is also the first time we see Wiseman really pushing Dimande into an action. Before he was merely a quiet advisor, but he’s insistent that they continue to hunt down the Ginzuishou.
As before, however, he lacks the verbal flourishes he had in the anime.
Meanwhile, we get an entire page of what the fuckness as Calaveras, the final living Strange Sister (I’ll never get used to that name), appears to be.. conducting a seance with her dead sisters via the medium of three Droids…?
Wha? And then Rubeus kisses her on the neck? Wha? This goes nowhere just so you know.
I sort of like the idea of Calaveras having more interesting powers than just a whip, as in the show, but they really have to do something interesting with her, more than the other Strange Sisters.
They don’t, really.
Meanwhile, Minako and Usagi are shouting at a clearly terrified and traumatised little girl while shoving the object of her fear into her face. This is creepy shit. Takeuchi really isn’t making me fond of these guys whatsoever.
There’s a moment when Usagi make’s Chibi-Usa swear that she’s not their enemy. Chibi-Usa, tearful and scared, yells that’s she’s not. The anime Usagi would have the compassion and naive belief in others that’s such a strong, if flawed, part of her personality.
Manga Usagi is just cold. Jesus. I really am not on this character arc that Usagi is on right now.
At school, Naru and Umino pretty much force Usagi into watching a VHS on spirit mediums. This felt so unnatural to me, but hey, it’s a manga. People are weird in manga.
Calaveras, of course, is the medium on the show. How she got on there, why she thought this would be a good idea… this is the third time a Sailor Moon enemy has made an appearance on national TV in an attempt to piss Usagi off. It’s so weird.
Anyway, Calaveras pretends to be channelling Rubeus, giving a pronouncement of doom, but Usagi just sprints off, leaving a rather confused Naru. Interesting to see Naru’s concern for her friend, and her suspicion that something is going on. Well everyone else seems to know the identity of Sailor Moon, Naru may as well know too.
I’m still annoyed about Asanuma in the last act, by the way.
Minako is also watching Calaveras on TV, claiming that her Black Moon contact has told her about the evil “White Moon” people destroying the Earth in the future. We get a completely pointless cutaway to Asanuma worried about Makoto’s disappearance, too. I don’t think Takeuchi is very good at using panels to tell a story effectively. There’s a lot of sudden cutaways and events that aren’t clear.
We then get an absolutely awesome scene that I’m rather sore that they didn’t bring into the anime. This is a rollercoaster ride for my opinions, isn’t it?
You may remember that when the Great Four of the Dark Kingdom died, they reverted back into a gem form. They had been, in a past life, been the sworn guards of Endymion, but Beryl had corrupted their minds and powers.
Mamoru still has the four gemstones, apparently, and uses his aura powers to activate them, creating four ghostly apparitions before him. This is very cool. I understand that it would have been unreasonable for the anime to have been able to get back these voice actors, but it would have been so worth it for even a single short scene.
The Great Four admit that they cannot help with this new enemy that Mamoru is facing, but promise to lend their powers to him to help protect the Princess. It’s interesting to see depth to Mamoru’s character that we don’t see in the show – he feels powerless to fight these enemies, and to protect Usagi.
He realises that she’s far more capable and powerful than he anyway. I like that admission a lot, as you can imagine.
And then Usagi realises that the Ginzuishou has been stolen. Well that was quick wasn’t it? No fanfare, no set-up, nothing. Just gone. While in the anime they showed the scene from Chibi-Usa’s position, and her moral quandary and guilt, I sort of feel here that Chibi-Usa is entirely justified in taking it, since Usagi has been a complete dick to her.
At Calaveras’ medium show, who should be sat together but Naru, Asanuma and that bland forgettable girl who is obsessed with Rei? And who cares? These characters suck (well, not Naru).
Some crazy stuff then happens… Sailor Venus turns up… and Naru, Asanuma and Bland Girl are used to channel the three dead Strange Sisters. It’s all very, very confusing. All I know is it looks as though Venus is captured.
Seeing Tuxedo Kamen rescue the two of them works here in a way it didn’t work in the anime. The two girls really are powerless, Usagi not being able to transform. He’s also been feeling completely impotent, so as he faces off against Rubeus and feels a surge of latent energy within him, it’s enormously satisfying to see this pay off.
Tuxedo Kamen’s first real attack, the Tuxedo La Smoking Bomber, is pretty cool. First, the name is delightfully weird yet cool at the same time. Second, I felt that he really earned this new attack.
While Tuxedo Kamen looks cool while blasting this attack, the actual attack itself just looks like some blurry lines, which is a bit of a shame.
The next few slides are ridiculously poorly thought out. Rubeus retreats (I think? He certainly turns up alive later, but the only thing to suggest he escapes Tuxedo Kamen is the word “flicker”), Usagi grabs the Ginzuishou and transforms.
It’s hard to tell, but she seems to run straight into the TV station (no transition whatsoever, she’s just suddenly there) and then I think Calaveras dies.
It’s hard to tell because all you see is a blurry corpse without it ever being put into context. It took me 5 or 6 times to make sense of this. What all that channelling stuff was about I’ll never know. Sailor Moon killed her in 2 seconds.
The only reason I’m sure that was Calaveras dying is because she’s never seen ever again. WTF was the point of her!?
It’s nice to see that Venus has escaped capture, however.
Sailor Moon finally asks Chibi-Usa nicely, and gets an answer. It’s gratifying to see the moment when she reveals that the Tokyo from the 30th Century is under attack. This is actually quite a great cliffhanger. It’s a shame most of what preceded it wasn’t very good.
I feel like I’m laying into the manga quite hard today. It’s because it’s such a drop in storytelling quality from the first story arc. I really feel like Naoko Takeuchi was rushed when writing this, which is precisely the case as it happens.
It’s been really messy thus far, but with Crystal Tokyo looming ahead of us, I’m still excited to see what the manga vision of the dreadful future looks like.
Check back soon as I continue to work my way through the Black Moon manga arc.
Next time, Act 19: in which I’m pretty sure Usagi and Mamoru have sex for the first time…