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Act.12 – ENEMY – METALIA

First Aired: 20th December 2014

Sailor Moon Crystal - Senshi arrive at the North Pole

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.


Spoiler Section

I’m about to discuss a couple of points from the episode, so look away if you don’t want to know!

…Still here?

Good.

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.

Blah

“I’ve taken your precious Endymion and filled him with SAWDUST MWAHAHA!”

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.

blah

“Hey, don’t judge me – Metalia offers a great health insurance plan and free gym membership.”

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.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Tuxedo Kamen attacks

“Maybe if we put on a light show they won’t kill us.”

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.

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“This is where I stash my pot. Help yourself to a beer in the fridge and hands off the manga collection.”

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…

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“Yeah this keeps happening. I’ve got to stop washing my hair with the blood of a pregnant serpent.”

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.

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“Finally, I’ll have what I’ve always wanted! A man with a complete lack of emotional involvement and and boss who will kill me as soon as I fuck up! Hahaha! …hrmm…”

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.

blah

This is me when a fly is in the house

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.

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The whole thing even looks kinda shitty. Just look at the expression on Beryl’s face. It does not scream “Ow my one weakness”

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.

blah

“Is that… is that character development I see over there in the bushes!?”

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.

blah

“Oh dammit I think I dropped a contact lens. NO BODY MOVE. Check your feet, please.”

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.

blah

“Mwahaha no no one will be able to cut cheese but my master.”

Random hole which only Sailor Moon runs through because of course she does…

blah

You know he’s probably going to kill you. Maybe pull back for, like, 30 minutes? This was better in the manga, where she and Venus were taken against their will.

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…

Sailor Moon Crystal - Senshi arrive at the North Pole

I hate caves. Name one cave where anything interesting happened. And STAY OUT OF IT, Plato.

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.

blah

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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.

blah

“Hold on two seconds, lemme pop some paracetamol before I get up again.”

I’m starting to get personally offended by this stupid sword. Look at it, taunting me. That bastard.

blah

“You have something sticking out your nose. Hold on, let me get that for you. No seriously, it’s safe.”

The Four Kings get their memories back again. Yay, right!? They’re diverging from the manga! This should be interesting and new!

blah

“Oh hey guys, this is the best I’ve felt in, like, hundreds of years! I feel invinci-“

And then…

blah

“Shit.”

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?

blah

I did not buy any of this for one second. I think I preferred in the manga it when the Senshi each killed the Four Kings then totally found out later that they were their ex-boyfriends and didn’t really care anyway because fuck the patriarchy

Oh and then the sword switches hands again. Just drop it in the toilet, Sailor Moon.

blah

“I knew I shouldn’t have bought this thing from Target.”

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.

Blah

“OK lady I’ll smooch but it’s back to murder after 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…

blah

“PSYCHE. I’m totes going to kill myself instead.”

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.

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9 Comments »

  1. This was really the first time I’ve felt disappointed by Crystal, before this episode I thought things had been going well since it seemed that they weren’t afraid to tweak the original manga. In this episode the things they tweaked were to the detriment. Having the Beryl death scene changed and downplaying Minako’s badassness disappointed me.

    I always, ALWAYS prefer how the original anime made Usagi lose EVERYTHING –all of her friends and her true love– and STILL stand against an impossibly powerful foe and be victorious. In the manga –and ultimately here– Usagi just takes her own life because she can’t bear the harshness of a task, and she does so leaving the burden to her friends. That’s not strength, it’s really pathetic to see our heroine give up and leave all of her friends to fend for themselves.

    Also the necklace thing’s bullshit, in the manga MINAKO straight up stabbed Beryl in the chest. I mean, why wimp out on the violence there? They we’re totally cool showing Usagi stab herself in the same spot. I did kinda like Beryl being shown before she turned into a big evil queen. In the original anime they mention it in passing but don’t show it so it’s always been a part of her and it does show that deep down she was human and let her ambition overpower her and becoming a Queen was just her petty wish-fulfillment. It does make her look just petty and selfish but I sometimes think villains with petty motivations look the most cruel and sadistic to see the lengths they’ll go to get something that isn’t necessary.

    And not only that but if they were going to keep the Shittenou alive as long as they did, I’m disappointed that THIS was how they planned to kill them off. That’s BULLSHIT! Metalia pretty much just squashes them, yet they’re like 10 feet away from the senshi. So along with looking like an uninspired jack-o’-lantern face, she’s too fucking lazy to have dealt with both threats, huh?

    That just frustrates me to no end. They had the potential to do something interesting and maybe make the fact that the Shittenou were their loves in the past mean something but unfortunately they just kill them off to destroy the potential for growth of the senshi and the shittenou.

    Honestly, I was expecting the Shittenou to sacrifice their lives for the senshi; it would have at least made it seem like more than just a waste of time to know that they were in love with the senshi. One of my friends thinks they’ll be resurrected along with the senshi since in the end of the manga everybody gets brought back (death is incredibly cheap in the manga). TBH, I want the senshi to get a break. If just Usagi’s love story has a happy ending, it seems like her friends lives only matter to make hers better and not the other way around. It looks even worse when after Usagi’s suicide the Senshi sacrifice their lives to revive her. They’re pretty much just delegated to her failsafe brigade in that regard and I think it’s more noticeable in Crystal than the manga.

  2. I was expecting you to comment on how Mercury and Jupiter didn’t save Motoki like in the manga. It’s like, “Pshh who cares about him? WE GOTTA SAVE OUR PRINCESS!!!”

  3. My boyfriend says that Sailor Moon Crystal would be infinitely better if it were a once-a-week, 26-episode-per-arc series.

    I…think he’s kinda right.

    I admit there’s no way to fix that now, but imagine if each act had 2 episodes apiece to work itself out. We’d get better characterization, better pacing, and more to do with the original plotlines that Crystal seems to love tossing out there.

    I kind of had no problems with the way Beryl got taken out…except that her staff makes more sense as a source to her powers than her necklace, if they were gonna go that route. And I admit, that flying-Sailor-Senshi-action group charge was kind of nerdgasmic.

    My problem lies in the second half. I can’t help but wish the Senshi had been handled here like they were in the classic series on D-Point. Each of them taking out their respective Shitennou in a magnificent but ultimately self-sacrificial fashion would have been so much more emotionally resonant than just the Shitennou coming to their senses and getting Metalia-Dusted a split second later.

    This and Episode 13 were IMO the low points of the series. I hope Episode 14 marks an upward climb for the show and it doesn’t stay this disappointing. I wanna like this series, I really do.

    • The problem is that they’re try to be a direct adaptation of the manga, art style included, and while the manga might be compelling reading, it’s not compelling viewing. Crystal should have been confident enough to create their own narrative, to improve upon the manga. That’s what screen adaptation should do, but they’ve shot themselves in the foot a little.

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