Act.12 – ENEMY – METALIA
First Aired: 20th December 2014
With the brainwashed Tuxedo Kamen now in possession of the Silver Crystal, the Senshi are then attacked by Beryl herself. Flushed by her success at obtaining two of her heart’s dearest desires, Beryl faces off against Sailor Moon, who uses the power of the Holy Sword against her. The fight eventually shifts back towards the Dark Kingdom itself, at the North Pole, where the true enemy, Queen Metalia, awaits.
The first part of this review is spoiler free.
Hi guys, apologies this was a couple of days late. Had a hectic few weeks, but it’s time to get back to what really matters in life: blogging about Japanese TV shows.
This episode marked a point in the series thus far: the first episode where I was actively rolling my eyes at the events unfolding. This wasn’t due to surprise – having read the manga and knowing how faithful this adaptation is, I knew what was coming – but more disappointment in the production values and writing.
The screenplay was particularly sub-par in this episode. Sworn enemies would just stand a few feet away from each other and scream their intent and internal machinations, removing any tension or subtlety. Characters would be in dire danger, held by the throat, and carry on a conversation with the person next to them. People and items would disappear in one moment and reappear in the hands of another, in what felt distinctly like trying to save money on animation.
A big part of this is the rather iffy writing near the end of the Dark Kingdom arc of the manga. While both Sailor Moon Crystal and the manga are still enormously enjoyable, with the best will in the world the character development and pathos issues were so masterfully fixed in the original anime that it makes Sailor Moon Crystal feel like a head-bobbing “well this is an alright way to kill half an hour” affair.
Still, it is important to separate the anime adaptations when scrutinising them.
The first half of the episode saw Queen Beryl directly attacking the Senshi. This should have been a monumental battle, with excitement and danger at every moment. Instead, Evil Tuxedo Kamen just sort of stood around grinning inanely like an under-functioning automaton, and Queen Beryl seemed more interested in shouting nasty things more than anything else.
The Senshi, meanwhile, all stood facing her line-abreast, so that it looked like a 16-bit Final Fantasy fight, and not in a good way. The action here just felt so cheap that all the determined Dragon Ball-esque screaming couldn’t make it feel legitimate.
The second half of the episode fares a little better, with events relocating to the North Pole. There’s some mildly disturbing imagery that was close to getting me emotionally involved again, but more ham-fisted story-telling with the Great Four (are these guys still around?) repeatedly pulled me out.
I wanted to like this, I really did, but it just left me disappointed. Here’s hoping that the final episode in the Dark Kingdom arc can resolve many of the issues that have been building up.
I’m about to discuss a couple of points from the episode, so look away if you don’t want to know!
OK this might get a little critical, but remember: we’re always harshest on the things we love most.
The episode picks up right where we left off last time, so you’d think that we’re going to be treated to an awesome battle betwixt good and evil… but Tuxedo Kamen is strangely absent. Beryl just keeps grabbing him and he just stands there and smiles, but not in a particularly interestingly-brainwashed way. Just in a sort of “where’s the bus” kinda way.
So the focus of today’s episode is bringing in Metalia as the TRUE big bad… but because she lacks a personality, motivation, a decent design or even a goddamn face, she really isn’t compelling. Queen Beryl is a much more interesting evil, being so flawed and obsessive, but something tells me her contract is up for renegotiation.
I do like it when Sailor Jupiter swings back in, after spending last week as a wall ornament. She doesn’t get to do too much, though, as Tuxedo Kamen just shoots some bog-standard Force Lightning and she and the other Senshi just shield. This really bugged me, actually. The powers of the Senshi are ill-defined, they just keep whipping new ones out at will, especially Jupiter. It would have been nice to see the Senshi exploring their abilities.
The alternate dimension that Mercury creates to shift the fight away from Headquarters is another example of this out-of-the-blue stuff, but it won’t be the last in this episode. It doesn’t look very imaginative, its was an opportunity to create something really weird and cool… but we just get a plain blue background. Woe is me.
Beryl attacking the Senshi should have been really, really cool, but we just get the one attack out of her, magic sparkly hair. I think it’s really cool, actually, but when the Senshi just hang about while Beryl yells stuff at them, it gets a little absurd. There’s nothing here about her desire to betray Metalia and take the Crystal for herself, which would have been much mroe interesting than what happens…
Still, Beryl looks suitably evil and menacing when she gets to this point. She does, in fact, look very much like Metalia. Not that’s saying much.
It’s pretty cool seeing the Sailor Senshi team up to fight back against Beryl, but this sword is really starting to bug me. It has no real backstory or interesting attributes. It’s just sort of there when someone needs to look fancy. The big rush towards Beryl was cool, though.
It’s this next bit that really bugs me. Mercury pumps a few buttons into her computer and voilà, Beryl has a glowing weakspot, her kinda ugly necklace thing which is the source of all her powers. Well that’s handy isn’t it. Hasn’t been set up or referenced in anyway, just somewhere for Sailor Moon to stab, really.
Beryl’s backstory also feels thrown in at the last minute. The very last minute in fact. Seeing her as a human girl, spying on her love Endymion, is an interesting facet to her character, but we’ve spent so little time with her that it feels redundant. This could have been sooo interesting.
Her death looks pretty cool, though. I am checked out by this point, however. Even more so than Tuxedo Kamen, who just stands there looking mildly interested in Beryl getting vaporised. This is all rather unsatisfying. Beryl, in Sailor Moon Crystal, is almost an entirely incidental character who barely affects the plot.
Tuxedo Kamen getting the Holy Sword also had me rolling my eyes. One minute Sailor Moon has it, the next she does a goofy double-take when she realises it’s out of her hands. I told ya, this stupid sword is really getting on my nerves.
Random hole which only Sailor Moon runs through because of course she does…
And then the other Sailor Senshi take about 8 seconds before they fly to the North Pole anyway. I feel like I’m missing about 40 scenes here. I like the look of the outside, but they immediately walk inside a boring and generic looking cave. Gosh, I just cannot help but compare it to the original anime here, it’s impossible…
By this point I’m also tired of the Four Kings. They were getting really interesting… but when Beryl wiped their minds again they became this homogeneous mess. There’s nothing different between them anymore, they’re just cannon fodder. Was really hoping that, by keeping them alive, Sailor Moon Crystal was going to do something exceedingly interesting with these guys, but, alas, no not really.
I did start to get interested when Sailor Moon confronted Tuxedo Kamen. His physical assault on her was disturbing, but frankly after the original anime this is nothing. I’m not feeling the emotional and physical torture that I ought to (as evil as that sounds), but I am seeing the pathos here.
I’m starting to get personally offended by this stupid sword. Look at it, taunting me. That bastard.
The Four Kings get their memories back again. Yay, right!? They’re diverging from the manga! This should be interesting and new!
I have so many problems with this. Why chose to keep them alive, why restore their memories, why draw out this tenuous and anaemic link between the Kings and the Senshi if you’re going to immediately fry them? It’s so, so, so random too. Why doesn’t Metalia chose to also kill the Senshi here too? Why? Just why?
Oh and then the sword switches hands again. Just drop it in the toilet, Sailor Moon.
So Sailor Moon grabs the sword and we totally think she’s going to Buffy this whole situation and just stab Tuxedo Kamen to death after getting a smooch. I am totally pro-kissing someone and stabbing them, just for the record. This seemed rather silly really. So is he still evil at this point,? Because he totally looked like he was into this.
This is a really cool shot, the same one from the manga. I just so, so wish she would have buried the blade here, would have been a million times more interesting…
I had a real problem in the manga with Sailor Moon repeatedly trying to kill herself. I understand the attitudes towards suicide are different between Japanese and Western cultures are different, but this reaction is completely bizarre, and makes her a less admirable character.
Now, I’m not saying that people who attempt suicide are running away, or are less admirable, my point is that as the story goes Sailor Moon in Crystal can’t bring herself to fight Tuxedo Kamen and decides to kill herself rather than try to save him and/or the world.
Understanding that this made Sailor Moon kind of a shitty character, the original anime writers decided to have Sailor Moon brought to the very brink of her senses before she remembers the sacrifice of her friends and that the fate of the world rested on her surviving, and so she sacrifices her personal desires, her love, for the greater good, making her a complex and infinitely admirable character.
Here though… I can’t get on board with this. The world rests on Sailor Moon’s shoulders. Her friends are fighting to save the world, have saved her countless times from death, and she stabs herself. All commentary on suicide aside, this makes her a worse character.
I’ve gotten very critical on Sailor Moon Crystal here haven’t I? I wasn’t trying to be. It erupted forth. I’m perfectly happy that Sailor Moon Crystal exists, but as it is this doesn’t hold a candle to the 1992 adaptation. Good effort though.