Act.20 – CRYSTAL TOKYO – KING ENDYMION
First aired: 19th April 2015
King Endymion reveals many truths to Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen. Armed with the knowledge of their true relationship to Chibi-Usa, the group returns home with the promise that they’ll protect the young Princess of Crystal Tokyo, but Chibi-Usa may not be the true object of Prince Dimande’s ambitions…
An episode gravid with exposition and revelation, Act 20 is rather enjoyable. For anyone familiar with the manga or the original series, this episode really doesn’t have much to offer, and fails to sell the big emotional turns it relies upon, but the discovery over Usagi and Chibi-Usa’s true relationship and the nature of the future helped the episode chug along nicely.
That being said, Usagi’s continued failure to connect with me as a viewer over her recent personality developments are a problem with emotional investment. The decision to exorcise a couple of scenes and plot points from the manga also feel a little unfortunate. Esmeraude, in particular, feels almost entirely empty as a character, and remains as ill-served as her original anime iteration, perhaps even more so.
Roughly half the episode is King Endymion, looking resplendent in his white gear, explaining vaguely about a thousand years of history. His descriptions of Crystal Tokyo, the longevity of those from the Silver Millennium and the truth behind Neo Queen Serenity, are all captivating as they were back in 1993.
King Endymion is an interesting character. I stick by my first impression of him, that he’s neither as mysterious or wise in appearance that the disembodied spirit of a 1,000 year old man should really be, but the content is still fantastic. We’ve yet to see any of the characters really process any of the information given here whatsoever, but the information is captivating, inventive and fantastical.
The city of Crystal Tokyo itself remains one of the strongest features of the Black Moon arc, at least in concept. In design, I admit myself disappointed. In these flashback we get a couple of still scenes of streets and a long shot of the area surrounding Crystal Tokyo, and it really is unimaginative. While the Crystal Palace itself looks great, having been taken from the manga, the rest of the city really was a chance for the Sailor Moon Crystal animators to shine, giving us an extraordinary and mystical future to look ahead to.
The result looks like just a rather dull park. There’s nothing that feels distant from today, nothing that suggests 1,000 years of development. This, for me, is emblematic of the producer’s continuing lack of imagination and vision.
This continues to the exterior shots of the ruined Crystal Tokyo, which while initially offering a suppressive atmosphere, has by this point devolved into a homogeneous green funk that makes every shot look curiously boring.
I had expected the episodes by now to feel the absence of Mars, Mercury and Jupiter, but as it happens this hasn’t really been the case. Whether they were given enough focus in their abduction episodes or whether the plot developments on screen are enough to keep the story chugging along I am not sure. What I am sure of is that Sailor Venus, the last remaining protector of Sailor Moon, really hasn’t been given much to do despite her increased screen presence. It’s mostly reaction shots and one poorly animated joke in this episode. This is a real shame, as we know her the least out of all the Senshi given her late introduction.
By this point in the Black Moon arc, in both the manga and the Crystal adaptation, I am quietly tolerating the story until something spectacular happens. A problem arises when you adapt source material that felt rushed and confused in the first place. Thankfully, if the manga is anything to go by, many of my problems with the pacing and Usagi’s characterisation are finally about to progress, almost 3 months after the start of the story 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.
Well SHIT King Endymion is a ghost. How about that? This is an extension of Mamoru’s “aura powers”, he’s able to astral project. This fits well with his developing powers, kinda like it. I wish I could have seen more pathos from Chibi-Usa here. She’s just rather stoic. There are a couple insert shots of her looking sad or worried, but she’s essentially a cardboard cut out for the whole of this first scene – which was precisely my problem with the manga.
King Endymion first explains that he is, in fact, future Tuxedo Kamen, forever trapped in the body of a 25-year-old that inexplicably looks like a 14-year-old. It’s a bit stilted, in that as Endymion talks all we get are blank amazed faces of Venus, Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Moon. There’s no processing of the truth bombs he’s about to drop at all.
The big truth bomb is, of course, that Chibi-Usa is Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen’s daughter. I’ve always loved this twist for being to bat-shit crazy. It plays out rather flat here. There’s the rather funny moment where the two look at each other at the implications of having a child in the future, but the humour doesn’t work as nearly as well as, say from a random example, the original anime adaptation. I felt they were rather coy here considering they had a lascivious moment between the two of them only last episode.
Also, there is zero *zero* exploration of what Chibi-Usa thinks of all this. She appears to have known that Usagi was her mother all along. There’s no discussion of this. Even in the manga they have a throwaway line of how she thought it was funny. As a matter of fact they’ve also removed the discussion of Chibi-Usa being 1,000 years old, which is probably for the best because that opens up a whole barrel of worms.
The original anime writers realised (I do harp on about that) that this was a problem in the manga, and they solved it in two ways: one, making Chibi-Usa unaware of who Usagi was, that she was Sailor Moon and her mother. Two: by knocking Chibi-Usa out and keeping her away from Usagi until the end of the series. This way you have the one beautiful moment of the two coming to terms with their relationship and overcoming all their friction in a single heart-breaking moment.
In the manga, in in Crystal, Sailor Moon is now aware that Chibi-Usa is her daughter and the two of them have *no emotional connection* even though they’re in the same room. Wow that’s awkward writing.
My point is this: I don’t blame Sailor Moon Crystal. It’s adapting the source material directly, which Naoko Takeuchi admits was written in a hurry, after she thought the series would end after the Dark Kingdom arc. But, the original anime realised these writing flaws and adapted.
Diana’s cute. You may have noticed that her eye colour has completely changed since, oh, two weeks ago. They are literally making these episodes as they go along, huh? The art director must spend most of the working day playing Angry Birds.
Luna and Artemis’ reaction to Diana being their daughter is pretty hilarious, actually. Some humour that worked for me! On the other hand, they don’t go into this either, and I think the inclusion downplays the revelation over the Usagi/Chibi-Usa relationship a bit. It makes it feel a shade less momentous.
The small bits on info on Neo Queen Serenity are infuriatingly enticing. We’ll never see the hundreds of years of her lifespan as reigning monarch, her struggles to purify the Earth, the fight against the criminal she sentenced to Planet Nemesis, but gosh wouldn’t that be cool? I like the choice to go with the silver hair, to make her look more like the old Queen Serenity. It makes her look as mysterious, wise and ancient as King Endymion does not. I hope that when she awakens she has a more complex expression, one fitting for Queen of the World.
When Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen start fading away for no fucking reason I face-palmed. This was an awful device in the manga, and it’s an awful device here. It adds no tension, it doesn’t go anywhere, it doesn’t make sense, it’s hand-waving and vague. It seems only here to ensure that the Senshi go back to the 20th Century. It feels ripped off a Doctor Who episode from the 70s.
I don’t have too many compliments left for the episode at this point, so if you dislike my negative out-look on poor old Sailor Moon Crystal, now might be a good time to jump ship.
OK. So. Tuxedo Kamen promises to King Endymion to look after his daughter. Their daughter. He gets on board with this whole father thing. I get it. Sailor Moon, meanwhile, continues to look appalled as Tuxedo Kamen tries to actually connect with their future daughter. I understand that this is a continuation of the creepy negative feelings she’s had over Chibi-Usa lately, but it takes on an even more disreputable tone after she realises she’s actively resenting her own daughter.
Endymion gets the group through the gate back to the past, and we get a pretty heavy-handed intimation that Pluto has the hots for him. I remembered this as a bit more subtle in the manga, but I don’t mind this. It does humanise her more than I’d like, in the sense that Pluto is best mysterious, aloof and violent.
Saying that, this isn’t unwelcome. Knowing the manga, this will actually lead to one of the most affecting moments in the story arc if I recall… and this throws fuel on the pathos fire that his her isolation and loneliness.
Worst animated legs of all time.
Sailor Moon gets super pissed off when Tuxedo Kamen offers to take Chibi-Usa himself, telling Sailor Moon to go home. I actually understand her resentment at this. Saying that, she’s not been… the most motherly to Chibi-Usa. But with this version of Sailor Moon I buy her huffiness.
Now, we get a series of lines from a moody Usagi here that I punctuated with an esasperated “YEEESSSS” after every one. It was real vindication. I liked how she realised how fucking crazy she’s been, even if I disagree with the show’s decision to explore them.
And now for a dramatic recreation:
The cruellest part of all this hooplah is, of course, that Chibi-Usa is not the cardboard figure she’s pretended to be all episode. She realised that her past-mother resents and hates her, and even realises that Usagi is in some way jealous of her relationship with her father. Gosh that’s icky. So of course this poor kid is going to be utterly wrecked by this. I can at least appreciate that the show went into strange territory that I’ve never seen much of in fiction. It’s a great concept, and they wanted to make a complex enough character for the viewer to disagree as she develops.
But I can’t get rid of that feeling that Usagi is a complete and utter dick, even if she’s aware of it.
The Esmeraude scene was disappointing. We spend no time with her, and I think she could have been a really interesting character. In the end her love for Dimande amounts to nothing. She gets those creepy-ass hands from Wiseman for no particular reason, and she dies for no particular reason. Moreover, by not having Wiseman play a manipulative part in her demise, it makes him seem less of an integral character, relegating him to the final surprise bad guy.
In the end, Esmeraude is just as throwaway as the Phantom Sisters were to the series.
Still, the bit where Rubeus had her in a headlock was as funny as it was in the manga. Almost like subtle revenge for, you know, that time she had him die in a fire.
Why she thought whipping out these bag-lady hands would impress Dimande is beyond me. These things are gross.
The episode has such a sharp cut between Esmeruade promising to capture the Rabbit to -actually catching the rabbit-. The editing and pacing is bad here. There’s no build up to this, no establishment of a creepy atmosphere, it’s literally BAM action scene. I know they have a limited amount of screen time, but I have to think they could have set this up better.
Plus, as I said before, the green funk is so unimaginative. Nothing like fighting in a fart cloud to make you think “future.”
And then purely accidentally, I paused on probably the worst moment in Sailor Moon Crystal history…
To make things worse… and this was completely unnecessary… after Tuxedo Kamen saves her 8 year old future daughter from death by a miraculous catch, Sailor Moon looks… paranoid again. Sailor Venus has a completely normal reaction, Sailor Moon is just like…
…a little pissed off about it.
Esmeraude dies from a double Kamehameha blast from Tuxedo Kamen, which still looks like the animators just turned up the brightness and contrast instead of an actual attack. Still, I like that he’s not just throwing roses around and giving stupid speeches.
By the time Dimande has turned up, I’ve switched off a little. Maybe it’s because I know what’s coming… and goddamn I hate this guy. Every moment he’s talking I watch to scratch my ears off. It’s also a real shame that Wiseman is just silently floating behind him. Knowing how he’s going to play a bigger part in all this, I have to question his lack of agency here.
His hypnotic eye looks… even more vaginal than it did in Sailor Moon R.
It’s actually a rather cool effect seeing Sailor Moon being zapped like this. I actually think this is a pretty decent cliff-hanger for once, we haven’t really had one in a while. I’m also excited to see Sailor Moon getting over her hang-ups over Chibi-Usa relatively soon, and also getting back that ass-kicking side to her I’ve been missing, because frankly she’s been an absolute drip for about 6 months now.
Saying that… we’ve got to get through some creepy-ass stuff next episode first.
I have to say that I didn’t, uh, feel particularly sympathetic towards Sailor Moon here. What she goes through in the manga following this is terrible, but following the story arc thus far I’ve lost a lot of my warm feelings towards her right now.
Hey, it wasn’t the worst episode of Sailor Moon Crystal by far, but I did fight between annoyance and enjoyment a few times. I’ve stopped really expecting anything brilliant out of this anime anymore, I just turn up hoping to not be actively offended. Which is a much better stance, frankly, because the show is now always exceeding expectations.
And I’m actually excited for next episode!