Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon the Manga: The Black Moon Arc, Pt. 4
Continuing the coverage of the Black Moon arc of the Sailor Moon manga, today we’re reading Acts 21 & 22. You may want to catch up by reading the previous write-ups, quite a lot has happened thus far, and it’s only vaguely related to the anime.
In the previous 2 acts, we learnt that Usagi and Mamoru were Chibi-Usa’s parents, that Usagi was a callous demon-mother who continues to suspect her future-husband of fancying their daughter, that Esmeraude has nasty fingernails, and that Dimande is just as perverted and inappropriate in the manga as he was in the anime.
So yeah, let’s see what happens when Dimande decides to force himself on Usagi again. My prediction: I will rage-puke.
Act 21 – Complication – Nemesis
First of all, what a great title for an act. Sometimes the manga act titles are a wee bit uninspired. Tite Kubo’s titles in Bleach may have set the bar too high for me – they were always off-the-wall crazy-good.
So we start at the end of the previous act with Sailor Moon being captured by Dimande, with Tuxedo Kamen looking rather upset, for obvious reasons. At this point in the Black Moon arc, I’m really not liking Usagi’s character very much. She’s not been as useful, has had zero initiative, has been petty and callous and whiny, without her usual charm. I’m hoping that this is the start of an experience which will give her the upswing in this arc’s character development.
Oh, she does leave behind the Moon Rod that she and Tuxedo Kamen created “out of their love”. This will… well it goes nowhere to be honest.
Usagi, unconscious, has a weird-ass dream of Mamoru and a grown-up Chibi-Usa running away together. This is foreshadowing of the appearance of Black Lady and her, well, misplaced affections. This is interesting – there was no such foreshadowing of Black Lady in the show. It always seemed a little sudden and inexplicable.
When Usagi wakes up, she’s a hell of a lot more exposed than she was in the anime. This is so fucking creepy. Her dress is so revealing, and considering what’s about to happen, this is clearly Naoko Takeuchi trying to handle the subject of sexual assault.
In Sailor Moon. Aiyaiyai.
Dimande appears and begins giving the spiel of the Black Moon’s motivations. A couple of interesting twists here: he gives much more flavour to the Black Moon clan. They found the idea of infinite life and power and happiness empty and weak, so as young revolutionaries they used the power of Nemesis to destroy the paradise they seemed to both hate yet be obsessed by.
They also view the immortality of the Silver Millenium unnatural – “blasphemous to God” – that’s super interesting.
And then we see that there will be no redemption for Dimande. Like Koan before him, Dimande is shown murdering a fucking child. This is so disturbing. I think I like how terrible he is here – better than that middle-ground malarkey in the anime.
Alas, As he kills a little girl by holding her by the throat and blasting her apart, Neo Queen Serenity sees him while she’s out looking for Chibi-Usa.
His reaction is so disturbingly psychotic and rapey. Serenity looks at him with hatred – he thinks as if he were subhuman – and seems to take this as a slight against him. And he likes it. This is total psychopath behaviour.
She looked at you like you were subhuman because you just killed a child you fucking moron. I actually find this simultaneously repulsive and interesting. A weird combo.
And then he forcibly kisses Usagi.
Urghhhhhhhhh no I don’t want to talk about this at all. It’s wrong, it isn’t explored as an actual exploration of the topic of sexual assault, it’s so so much worse than the anime…
The slap, the complete helplessness… the leering of Rubeus and Saphir who also happen to be in the room, as if egging on Dimande’s sexual assault, it’s also horrid and really feels alien to Sailor Moon.
Usagi understandably loses it slightly here. She thinks to herself “These people aren’t humans. They’re devils” and she’s completely justified. We now see the vast divide between Manga Black Moon and Anime Black Moon. The latter is led astray, humans seduced by dark power and strong passions. The former is this masculine, aggressive, psychopathic group of complete assholes.
I just want them all dead.
Usagi’s intense emotions here appear to trigger something in Neo Queen Serenity, who seems less omni-benevolent when she says things like “WHO IS DISTURBING MY SLUMBER!?” which is something a Minotaur might say.
We switch back to Tuxedo Kamen, Venus and King Endymion for a long boring text-filled exposition scene, again about nothing important, but we do get the information that Chibi-Usa A) has no power whatsoever and B) she’s 900 years old.
This really bugged me. I can see why they removed this from the anime. Her being 900 is, frankly, a mistake. Her youthfulness, her innocence, her lack of grace and childishness, all are inexplicable if she’s 900 flippin’ years old. She should be a goddamn scientist by now, even if she never matured into adulthood.
Moreover, Chibi-Usa acts completely dead in this scene, like she did when it was revealed that Usagi was her mother. She has zero input or reaction to anything here. SO weird.
The next lot of exposition is very interesting, however, since it revolves around the genesis of Wiseman. Centuries ago, there was a cult leader named Phantom who rose up against Neo Queen Serenity. She couldn’t kill him however (you know Manga Usagi loves her murder), so she exiled him to Nemesis instead.
As it turns out, this was something of a mistake.
Oh, and the Moon Rod cracks in Mamoru’s hand, possibly being a symbol of the deteriorating relationship between him and Usagi, no big whoop.
Usagi, meanwhile, is still horrified that Dimande kissed her. As am I. This is a serious issue, you know? The scene descends into self-pity, before we see some of the old Usagi, the one that stood up against hardship, quashed all this trivial emotion to one side and stepped up to protect the ones she loves.
And this resolve appears to awaken Ami, Rei and Makoto, deep inside their dungeon… Actually a rather cool moment.
This jail cell… is horrific. It’s dark and full of fucking dead bodies. This is like the killing fields of Pol Pot. Again, this manga has spent far longer in the nasty elements than relationship building. Takeuchi has a real gore-streak to her.
The Senshi realise that there’s no way out and that they can’t transform. They also seem to be in pain from the atmosphere too. Maybe they would have been better off asleep?
We finally get a belated scene of Chibi-Usa processing the entire series so far. Her motivations are a bit weird, frankly. She knew Usagi was her mother all along, didn’t have too much respect for her, but liked her anyway.
So why did she hold a fucking gun to her head as soon as she arrived?
We also see that 900 years as a prepubescent child without any grace of power next to a mother who is a god has damaged her ego somewhat.
The anime turned this jealousy into a universal examination of parent-child relationships and their difficulty. The manga makes this much less accessible because of how ancient Chibi-Usa is. Furthermore, Neo Queen Serenity apparently shows her no affection whatsoever, but lavishes attention on her father, thus the crippling Elektra Complex.
Usagi hasn’t shown her kid love in 900 years. In the anime, Serenity was harsh on Small Lady because she wanted her to grow up independent. In the manga, Small Lady has never grown up, so Serenity has just been a neglegent mother for nearly a millennia.
JESUS. CHRIST. I don’t feel like the author realises what a messed up family she’s made here. All the changes in the anime with them were for the better.
We see Chibi-Usa stealing the Ginzuishou in an attempt to be more like her mother. thus causing all of this mess. We also see how Chibi-Usa became friends with Sailor Pluto, because they were both so lonely and Pluto was the only one who gave her any affection.
Oh, just to bum, you out further, we get another heavy implication that Pluto has an unrequited love for King Endymion, since she blushes and acts curiously subservient when talking to him.
Finally, all the flashbacks and exposition ends when Wiseman appears and brainwashes her. As with many moments, it was so much better in the anime.
This act ends with another series of vingettes by Naoko Takeuchi explaining some of her creative processes, and they’re rather illuminating.
1) She has no memory of how she came up with the Outer Senshi.
2) She has no memory of why she made Uranus and Neptune a lesbian couple
3) She calls Pluto a “bit of an adulterous”, obviously confirming her love for King Endymion
I always appreciate these parts.
Act 22 – Expectation – Nemesis
This act, while not as creepy as the previous act, has one fairly extremely creepy moment. I can’t say I dislike that moment… only that I was troubled by it. It features Saphir, if you must know.
Pluto is instantly aware that something terrible has happened to Chibi-Usa, but since she has to stand as a bouncer for all eternity, she can’t do much… I think, I *think* she freaks out so much that she hits her head on the Space-Time Door and knocks herself out, but I can’t be sure.
King Endymion also senses something amiss, but this feeling comes from Neo Queen Serenity’s prostrate body. Looks as though she’s stirring slowly. Endymion and Tuxedo Kamen go to check it out, leaving Venus, in a rather macho sort of way. Poor Venus.
Her reaction is spot on.
Upon finding Pluto awakening from having knocked herself out, Tuxedo Kamen rushes into the depths of Space-Time without a Time Key, meaning that this idiot has just run into a maze that he can’t get out of. Smart move.
Pluto seems really ineffectual here. She can do nothing but yell out at people from the same spot. Forever. What a shit job.
Usagi, meanwhile, begins slinking about the palace on Nemesis. They consider her such a little threat (she can’t transform so close to the Jakokusuishou / Evil Black Crystal) that she’s free to wander about. She starts looking for her kidnapped companions, since she felt them a short time ago.
She overhears Saphir and Rubeus talking about the Room of Darkness that the other Senshi are in. It’s, well, it’s a pit of hell where they stuff dead bodies. Real nice.
In another confusing transition, Usagi is knocked out again (?????), and Dimande appears to be raeching out for her while she’s asleep like a goddamn rapist. This is so disturbing.
Usagi slaps his hand away, shouting “Don’t touch me!“.
I can’t believe that there are Dimande fans out there. You people must not see this horrifying behaviour.
Oh, and since Usagi refuses to have sex with Dimande, he pretty much says that he’s going to kill her soon. Classy.
I’m not sure what to make of all this. I don’t like rape used as a device to generate drama and a situation where a woman needs to be saved, but that’s not really happening here. I think it’s an exploration of how vulnerable, how alone Usagi can become. I think Takeuchi is genuinely trying to approach the dark topic of sexual assault in a manga for young girls.
I also like that in the manga, as opposed to the anime, Usagi actually fights back and gets herself out of this hell hole that is the Black Moon, without the help of Tuxedo Kamen.
At the same time, this is so damn creepy. I’m just not enjoying this scenario as entertainment. I like being challenged, I like seeing unexpected events and reading Sailor Moon where Takeuchi doesn’t treat me like I’m an idiot, but I just can’t say that she’s handled this well for my tastes.
That’s the last you’ll hear on this topic.. until Sailor Moon Super S, that is… That damn Amazon Trio…
Usagi has run away from Dimande and found herself, again (it’s weirdly paced), with Saphir, who is pissing about with the Jakokusuishou.
Saphir is being awfully forthcoming. Maybe he’s just as lovely as he was in the anime? Misled, but passionate and loving of his older brother, with the capacity for change? He certainly suspects the Planet Nemesis of having a conciousness that none of the Black Moon know about, and Wiseman of being an evil manipulative bastard. He eve asks for forgiveness for Dimande having destroyed the Earth.
Oh except for one small thing.
He tries to strangle Usagi to death while she’s completely vulnerable and held down by two of his minions for being the worst influence on his brother’s mind. You don’t see that your brother is the one at fault here? This is textbook victim blaming. What a dick.
Yeah, so Saphir isn’t getting redeemed either, is he?
The Ginzuishou finally kicks in for Uasgi, and she transforms into Sailor Moon! I’m actually so looking forward to seeing her kick all the ass. It’s been SO LONG.
Sailor Moon sense where her fellow Senshi are, smashes the ground into the Room of Darkness (another shot of a dead body because Takeuchi just loves death) and awakens her comrades.
Again, it’s been SO LONG. It’s good to have them back! I can’t believe how long they’ve been away from the story!
We get the first occasion where Sailor Moon and Neo Queen Serenity seem to merge as one mind for a brief moment. It’s rather cool.
Rubeus, the chicken shit, tries to run away, but Wiseman and a shadow we know will be revealed as Black Lady mock him a bit, before Wiseman just straight-up strangles his ass.
Well that was quick. Not at all like that protracted and brilliant battle in space.
With the power of the Ginzuishou collapsing the palace, the Senshi escape with the Time Key… which I did not know Sailor Moon even had…
The act ends with Tuxedo Kamen, lost like an idiot in Space-Time, looking for Chibi-Usa. A very very disturbing giggle is followed by, well, a very disturbing Chibi-Usa. We have our Black Lady, everyone, and she seems to have gone straight for Tuxedo Kamen. That should tell you something.
As Sailor Moon and the other Senshi reunite with Venus, King Endymion and Sailor Pluto (who is quickly becoming background dressing in this manga), they realise that Tuxedo Kamen and Chibi-Usa are missing.
Which means that Sailor Moon has spent this entire fucking arc trying to get her fellow Senshi back, only for Mamoru and Chibi-Usa to have the exact same thing happen to them. Frustrating.
Some genuinely decent moments from these two acts, and some genuinely troubling, diving and disturbing moments too. As we come to the climax of the Black Moon arc, I’m looking forward to the story becoming a little less messy.
Next Time, Acts 23 & 24, in which ACTUAL INCEST, WHAT THE FLYING FUCK!?