Act.18 – INVASION – SAILOR VENUS
First Aired: 21st March 2014
The only two remaining Senshi left, Usagi and Minako struggle to get answers from Chibi-Usa, who appears increasingly fragile and desperate. As the final Phantom Sister, the medium Calaveras launches an effort to get vengeance for her departed sisters, Chibi-Usa makes a desperate ploy. Tuxedo Kamen must find new powers within himself to be able to protect a defenceless Usagi.
Maintaining a new level of energy and quality, this episode is actively engrossing. It dances around some minor grievances, but thanks to a number of solid scenes it really is one of the better Sailor Moon Crystal episodes out there.Of special note are the moments that begin an active divergence from the original anime over Tuxedo Kamen, who is showing himself to be quite a bit more interesting here.
Usagi’s relationship with Chibi-Usa is still awkward, but by toning down Usagi’s paranoid antagonism in the previous episode, it does a lot to frame her behaviour better here. I’m genuinely intrigued to see where their relationship will go, not so much on Usagi’s part (of who’s character development I’ve still no connection with), but for Chibi-Usa, who’s terror, frustration and strange contradictory relationship with Sailor Moon is quickly taking centre stage here.
Also of exceeding interesting in this episode is Mamoru. I continue to laud and applaud him over the original anime’s adaptation of this character. He’s far less condescending, a better support. He looks up at Sailor Moon in his wish to protect her, and feels his powerlessness next to her, without exhibiting jealousy or bitterness. This is all admirable. Moreover, I really believe it. Seeing his latent powers begin to take form is especially exciting when it was not used in the original anime. A couple of scenes from the manga I felt they really nailed, which is rare enough for me to make a note of it.
With a couple of dramatic moments in this episode, I really would have liked a better score. It’s important to note that we’re working with the same old score that we’ve had for 6 months now, and considering it wasn’t a strong facet of Sailor Moon Crystal anyway, I’m beginning to feel it. There’s no strong motif, not a lick that pumps me up, not a phrase that illicits the pathos that some scenes really could have used. I’m beginning to suspect that much of my inability to connect with this anime, to understand what emotion they’re aiming for, is because the background music is so anaemic.
The art, I’m happy to say, is solid here. It’s patchy at best, but at the very least the animators used the correct attack sequence for Moon Princess Halation this time. There’s a noticeable drop in the fight with Calaveras, there are just bog standard attacking inserts with quick cuts to someone getting injured. Nothing feels physical, like it’s actually hitting home. It feels cheap.
Calaveras is also rather poor as an antagonist. She has vague powers, vague motivations, vague ambitions .The fact that she is a medium has seemingly nothing to do with the plot, and seems thrown in just to continue Naoko Takeuchi’s weird 90s fascination with X-Files-level occult content. This is all directly from the manga, of course, but I would have liked a bit more boldness in making Calaveras more interesting.
…which leads me to her counter-part. By the fact that Minako/Sailor Venus is only being mentioned in the 7th paragraph of this review, you must realise that she plays very little part here, despite her name being in the title. Whereas the other Senshi were all developed, even tangentially, in the previous episodes, Venus really doesn’t get much to do. It’s interesting to see her play more of a leadership role (she technically is superior to the other Senshi), where she shows more of an impulsive, aggressive side of herself, but other than a couple of flashes that’s all we get.
I have a feeling we’re at a tipping point in the series, where the plot is about to get much more interesting. Let’s hope that we don’t lose this quality as we progress the Black Moon arc.
The spoiler section begins here.
Don’t scroll down if you don’t want to get a blow-by-blow analysis!
Still here? Glad you could join me.
Sailor Jupiter has just been taken! You’d think Sailor Moon would come to expect this by now. After something of an absence Artemis makes his return! Well you’ve got to have someone… you know… tapping buttons randomly? Essential job. In the manga, he’s actually wearing little headphones. Would have loved to have seen that.
Luna and Tuxedo Kamen notice the rather obvious earring of Petz’s. Has a cool effect, I liked that Luna wanted to run tests on it… even though Mamoru just ends up walking around with it all day scaring the shit out of children. I like that they’re getting in this idea of the Jakokuzuishou (the Evil Black Crystal) in here.
There are a couple of reeeeeeally nice shots in here, which feel all the stranger because this series has a definite paucity of real art. I think it might be because this is all digitally produced, but there aren’t as many simple nice-looking inserts. Not sure why, but this silly shot of a leaf in a puddle really stood out.
Minako gets dark a couple of times in this episode. Her character in the manga is much more of a leader, not always in the positive sense. She doesn’t question her actions morally, she is, in fact, pretty ruthless. And I have no problem with this, this is an interesting aspect to her character that I really want to see more of.
They get to Usagi’s house and it’s genuinely joyful to see Chibi-Usa happy and adjusted going to school and having friends. We see her friend Momo-chan for the first time, not to be confused with MAMO-chan of course. She isn’t… brilliantly designed here, I have to say. And just just kinda disappears from the scene…
The fact that the presence of Petz’s crystal earring sends Chibi-Usa into absolute terror (it’s kinda scary just watching her) is made even worse by the fact that she was just so happy and normal. And that the only one who really seems to care that Chibi-Usa is going into PTSD seizures is Ikuko. Poor lass. Oh, not that Momo has now melted into the floor or something, because she’ just… not there.
We get our necessary Black Moon scene. Same old, same old, I really don’t feel like Rubeus, Esmeraude or Sapphir are getting many interesting lines here, although them plotting to unmask Wiseman (played here by a screechy owl of some sort. Seriously, awful voice actor) ends up being fairly important later on in the manga. Nice to see these guys realising that Wiseman is obviously evil at least.
Calaveras… she seems to be the only Phantom Sister that gives a shit that her sisters have been murdered. She’s also startlingly… well, gifted. More like her manga design of course, but I never found her design in the original anime to be obscene. This is pushing that, mainly because the person drawing her cleavage later on obviously has never seen a boob before.
And don’t get me started on the whole channelling thing. This goes absolutely nowhere. You literally have someone who can talk to the dead and it’s completely pointless.
Chibi-Usa continues to get shouted at by Usagi and Minako, while Mamoru tells them to chill out. Their lack of sympathy for a girl clearly on the verge of an emotional breakdown continues to stagger me. I just don’t think that Usagi is a nice person, which might sound naive, but means a lot to me when I think of Sailor Moon. Still, this sets up -something- of a resolution later this episode. Something else to note is Chibi-Usa’s remarkably bendy neck.
We then get that paranormal-obsessed girl from Rei’s school and Asanuma noting a famous medium, clearly ruminating over the disappearance of Rei and Makoto. Poor Ami gets no one who misses her. Why are these guys in this episode? What do they add? Take them out and give Minako more to do, because despite the title of the episode she doesn’t get much airtime.
Yeeeeeah been waiting for this scene all season. This was in the manga, of course, but completely absent from the original anime. I guess when you have series that long it doesn’t make sense to harken back to old dead characters. You’d have to get the voice-actors back in for one thing. Finally, an advantage of the short season length of Crystal.
So anyway, Mamoru makes a decision to do a bit of channelling of his own…
Heeey it’s the Four Kings. Massively disappointing in the Dark Kingdom arc in the end, but it’s nostalgic to see them again. They don’t serve much purpose, except to show that Mamoru has aura powers enough to consult his dead hencemen. Note he doesn’t tell the other Senshi, who actually apparently had relationships with them in a previous life). They’re his cheerleaders, telling him, hey buddy, you’re not so useless. They also give the vague “dark shit’s on its way, son” talk. Nothing useful naturally, but I loved this.
Even better is Mamoru’s malaise at being completely useless next to Sailor Moon (so true). I like that he understands this, and this this shows the show is about girls kicking ass and not having to be saved by guys. He looks up at Usagi. That’s a great healthy balance. It’s also rather wonderfully composed as a scene, too. The dark brooding ambiance really makes this scene feel supernatural and interesting.
Chibi-Usa steals the Silver Crystal, and I’m completely on-board with this decision of hers. I understand it. Usagi was a complete dick to her, and has shown herself, in Chibi-Usa’s eyes, unworthy to wield.Throw in her anxiety and PTSD and bam, I get this. Better motivation that the original anime too, which just saw Chibi-Usa steal it because Usagi didn’t eat her mum’s pancakes.
Calaveras has a rather small crowd for her televised channelling show in the park. She’s not great at the publicity, not like Berthier was. That lady got on national (chess) TV. I don’t get anything Calaveras does, really. My favourite random moment here was when Artemis decided to take out the cameraman to prevent Calaveras hypnotising the city. BAM! You jus’ got catted.
Minako leaps into action! Considering the last 3 episodes you might be forgiven in thinking she’s about to get abducted. She really has no screen-time here, just enough to find out from Usagi that her broach is missing and transform.
OK? So these guys are here… great. I get their motivations for coming, but boy you could have cut them out of this episode and no one would have cared. So they’re hosts for the dead Phantom Sisters? We’re given no clear mechanism for channelling, and this is the last time we’ll ever see it too, so it just feels so meaningless.
Rubeus -somehow- knows exactly where Chibi-Usa is, even though he hasn’t bothered attack her up until this point. We get her for the first time Usagi actually doing something for Chibi-Usa, saving her life. This is the first time Usagi has been noble or heroic in… aaaages. And it felt good. I liked it. Took the edge off her being ruddy nasty to her earlier. Looked great too.
And I’m finally happy to have a Txuedo Kamen rescue. He knows he can’t do anything, but he has this great little introspective moment. Again, actually good art direction. It looks cool as the Great Four give him a quick mental pep-talk.
The Tuxedo La Smoking Bomber attack! We finally get to see that Tuxedo Kamen has powers of his own from being the Earth’s protector… and yeah it’s a bit naff actually. The build up was excellent done, but the attack itself is from the side (very boring angle to work with), and it’s a generic light blast. Jesus, you’ve got a name like that and you give me a Dragbonball Z attack. Too bad.
Calaveras and her dead sisters (great band name) have Venus dead to rights, locked up in the dark version of whatever element Venus is meant to be… speaking of which it’s more like light in the original anime, and light/metal in the manga. Here Calaveras just has generic evil energy hands. They really make it look as though Venus will suffer the same fate as the others, that she’ll get abducted. They do a pretty good job building this tension, buuuut…
Sailor Moon literally has to turn up, get a standard insert-shot of Moon Princess Halation (the correct animation, thank god), and Calaveras is dead. So that’s it for the Phantom Sisters. Pretty anti-climatic actually. Those ghost sisters did absolutely shit all.
Really liked Chibi-Usa giving in and begging Sailor Moon for help. I wonder if that’s all Sailor Moon ever wanted, to be begged for help instead of freely offering it to those in need…? God I’m snide aren’t I? Anyway, got real emotion from her, and the big reveal is, of course, that she’s from the FUTURE. Found in interesting that they kept it as 30th Century Tokyo and not 31st Century Tokyo. Is Crystal meant to be in the 90s still? Or is it moved to today? Not an issue I agree.
Sailor Moon’s final reaction could have been super shocked. It should have been, in fact. She’s just a bit confused. I would be too. Actually a rather good ending to an episode, better than the ones where the Senshi were abducted. We’re actually given shocking information! Well, shocking if you’ve managed to avoid every other version of this story so far over the last 23 years.
This was a good episode. Highly enjoyable. Let’s keep it up as we meet a new Senshi next week… And I already hate her new colour palette so plenty to rip on there, hahaha.