Act.16 – ABDUCTION – SAILOR MERCURY
First aired: 21st February 2015
As Usagi becomes increasingly suspicious and paranoid about Chibi-Usa, the Black Moon continue their assault. Berthier, with powers of water, decides to remove Sailor Mercury, who. with her intelligence, she perceives as the biggest threat against them. Challenging Ami to a televised chess match, Berthier forces Ami into a corner.
Continuing the Black Moon arc precisely where we left off, we find the Sailor Senshi in the position of having had Sailor Mars abducted. It’s an interesting position to find the series in, and creates a level of anxiety.
That being said, this episode is somewhat less enjoyable than the previous one. There are a myriad of issues here that dull what may have been a great episode. It’s not terrible, certainly not the worst in Sailor Moon Crystal, but between a dull climax, questionable character developments and an attempt to make a chess match look fast-paced and life-threatening, I won’t be looking back at this episode too fondly.
A large part of annoyance is born from Usagi’s character development. As with the anime, Usagi takes somewhat of an unlikeable turn here. The loss of Rei, Sailor Mars, understandably drives her despair, but Usagi becomes paranoid and downright unpleasant where Chibi-Usa is concerned.
This is a real issue because the show is doing all in its power to show Chibi-Usa as a young, frightened, parentless and innocent girl caught up in a battle she isn’t equipped to deal with. Her utter fragility and naivety when with Mamoru is then followed by sheer hostility by Usagi, who appears to withdraw into a sullen and rather reprehensible judgement of Mamoru when he shows kindness to her.
Is this interesting character development? Well it’s certainly development, but it’s not one I like to see in a character I should be looking up to. Character flaws maketh the character, but they should serve to make them more relatable and understandable, rather than detestable.
They do not spend to much time on this personality shift, either, leaving the entire issue hanging like an unpleasant thought. This will be resolved over many episodes if Sailor Moon Crystal adheres to the manga (as if there were any doubt by now), but it will be a rough few episodes.
Aside from Usagi, the artwork also took a tumble here. There are moments that look especially ugly, and the Black Moon’s Droids, initially deeply creepy and threatening, look pathetic and laughably jerky in the light of day.
Ami’s arc is interesting, but ultimately doesn’t make me see her in a different light. Her associations between her distant father and the chess match against Berthier feel clumsily put together, and while I appreciate that they tried to flesh out her character a bit more, there wasn’t enough her to make me feel as though it were a central plot point.
As for the chess match itself… it’s pretty boring. They tried their best to make it seem exciting, but just as the original adaptation couldn’t make a chess match into an exciting climax, Crystal serves us an evil plot by Berthier that makes no sense whatsoever, which also ends entirely predictably.
All in all, some moments were good, some moments were very good, most were just dull and the worst moments had me recoil from Usagi’s personality as though it were flame.
The spoiler section begins here.
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The episode picks off immediately where the last one left off, with Sailor Moon looking seriously pissed off and ready to blame anyone else for Sailor Mars’ abduction but herself. She lands upon a little girl peeking around a corner looking small and frightened. Strike one for Sailor Moon.
Oh it turns out she has a crystal that looks exactly like the Silver Crystal!? WHAT COULD THAT MEAN? They keep focussing on this thing, really hammering home the point.
Usagi runs home and her mother asks where Chibi-Usa is, to which Usagi yells “SHE’S STAYING AT A FRIEND’S PLACE” before running to her room. She could be out on the streets dead by now for all you know. Usagi is, in her own words, “the worst.” Simply recognising this fact does not absolve her, however.
Chibi-Usa had it coming though, right? She threatened Usagi with a toy gun, then hypnotised her family, right? Yeeeah Usagi’s totally justified for… oh…
Chibi-Usa is carried into Mamoru’s bed, and she has horrible dreams of… some city… in ruins. The most heart-wrenching moment is when her mother, just a voice off-screen, telling Chibi-Usa that Sailor Moon could be trusted absolutely.
That’s… that’s really… not on the money. At all.
Mamoru cheering her up, looking tender, massively endears me to him here. He’s fulfilling everything that I’m lacking from Usagi. This is such a contrast from Sailor Moon R, where Mamoru was a total bag of dicks.
Oh Ami’s a chess master apparently? This is brought up as abruptly as it was in Sailor Moon R. I appreciate the analogy of the Black Moon’s tactics and chess here, individually taking out the members they think will cause them the most trouble.
Then Usagi is a total dick upon seeing Mamoru drop off Chibi-Usa back home. Note that Ikuko doesn’t mind at all that her supposed niece has spent the night at some dude’s house she doesn’t even know. Usagi’s reaction here isn’t comically outraged. It’s weird, and paranoid, and suspicious, and bitter.
AND THEN SHE’S STILL A DICK.
Sapphir and Dimande speak briefly about some amplification device (safe to assume it’s the Jakokuzuishou), before Rubeus pops along to mention that Sailor Mars has been shoved in the Room of Darkness, having been interrogated about the Silver Crystal. I like how all of this looks.
Berthier then begins “Operation Remove”. See, the problem with this is that we already know the ending. The last episode set a certain expectation. Nothing that Berthier does can surprise anymore. That being said, she’s pretty creepy, and not as annoying as her Sailor Moon R incarnation.
Ami reveals a new power: she can water dowse by listening really hard. Pretty sure this is like Sailor Moon’s soundwave power: never brought up again. Probably a good thing, otherwise she’d end up as the world’s greatest plumber.
OK. This bit. Let’s break this down.
1) The art sucks here. This guy’s face is so pooly done.
2) The art doubly sucks here, because the angle makes him look like he has weird pointy limbs. His weird blank face makes him look like a goddamn 15-footer from Attack on Titan.
3) Dowsing isn’t real. It’s the ideomotor effect. I know Ami has magical powers, but this goes along with this strange credulous 90s tone Naoko Takeuchi introduced in the Black Moon arc, along with alien abductions and crop circles. Just… bugs me a little, I guess.
Pool! Why!? Who knows!? Nothing really happens of note here at all, except they swim for a bit and Ami mentions her father. Oh and we see Naru-chan, which is nice and rare.
And then… Berthier calls Ami out on TV. What. The. Fuck. This is a terrible plan. Not least because it works instantaneously. One minute Berthier is challenging Ami, the next she’s on TV playing a chess match against her. This is the worst plan…
So Berthier is super smart and super evil right? Naah she’s just kind of a petty jerk. She goes about how alone Ami is etc etc. What’s most interesting is that she knows Ami is Sailor Mercury immediately. So really Berthier could have taken Ami out in any way she wished, so she chose humiliation on TV? What?
Oh no! Ami is in trouble! Can Ami find the power of friendship and turn the tables!?
Oh see now this is where your plan that made no sense went wrong. Call it hubris or whatever. I call it a tad dull. Berthier literally had no back up plan if she lost this stupid chess match on TV. She went through all this effort and for what?
Oh well this is MUCH more threatening. Berthier runs out into a car park with her gang from Rent the musical. This whole thing looks… pretty bad. There’s no threat here. Mercury’s new attack, Shine Snow Illusion, doesn’t look great. It could have looked awesome, but there’s just no money in the production to make things look good.
Mercury did look cool in a couple of shots, but she mostly spent this climax like Mars did previous: getting her ass kicked.
Remember how I meantioned there was no money to make anything look really good? Moon Princess Halation is a complete joke of a sequence. Bright light, more bright light, Berthier dead (we presume. We don’t actually see more than light.)
The episode ends in another cliffhanger, with Mercury abducted. We can safely assume it’ll happen again next time, eh? Maybe the Senshi should, I dunno, run and hide for a bit?
The cruellest moment of this is seeing Chibi-Usa witness all this, remembering her mother tell her that Sailor Moon is invincible. I get the impression hat Neo Queen Serenity is rather reliving misremembered past glories…
And that’s it. There’s no resolution of Usagi’s bitterness towards a relatively innocent child, Ami fails to make chess interesting and Mamoru comes off looking like the most interesting and likeable character.
Seeing as my favourite episode of Crystal thus far has focussed on Makoto (like, 6 months ago), I really hope that they get next episode right. Unfortunately, from the previews, we can see that they’re continuing with the whole Asanuma thing… and goddamn I hate that guy.