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Act.23 – COVERT MANOEUVRES – WISEMAN

First Aired: 6th June 2015

Sailor Moon Crystal - Black Lady

Making his ambitions clear to both the Black Moon and the Sailor Senshi, Wiseman turns the captured Chibi-Usa into Black Lady, her older self corrupted by dark magic. With Mamoru and the Silver Crystal of the future under her control, Black Lady now moves to capture both the past Silver Crystal and her own mother, Neo Queen Serenity.

While hitting all the necessary notes, this episode sticks to the mildly enjoyable. There’s more setting up for the big finale here than anything truly enrapturing, which is something of a shame considering the brevity of this series in terms of episodes, as well as the three week gap between this and the last episode.

That being said, I can’t really find too much at fault on a technical level here. This is a good looking episode, Black Lady especially coming to life. Every moment she’s on screen she steals the show. While there isn’t much threat from her at this point, she is fun to watch. If there is a criticism to be had here, it’s that her brain-washing by Wiseman has none of the subtlety, pathos or brilliance of what we’ve seen in the original adaptation, but this is all accurate to the manga it’s based off.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Black Lady

Indeed, some of the niggles in the story telling, such as Sailor Moon conveniently passing out in a way to suggest that the writer wasn’t entirely sure where she was going, are all the problem of the manga. Naoko Takeuchi wrote the Black Moon arc hurriedly, since she thought she would stop after one arc. It’s beginning to show a little here. People will just turn up in unexpected places, having no reason to be there, then suddenly turn up somewhere else. Exposition is thrown in that doesn’t really add to the story, nor world-build in any meaningful way.

These moments are only small, but they do add up.

Meanwhile, Wiseman is becoming more obviously a threat. The Black Moon by this point really seem little more than a joke (Dimande is almost a complete non-entity at this point in the show), but that’s not to say Wiseman is a fantastic villain yet. He continues to leave a lot to be desired, his voice acting so hilariously stupid that it sucks all sense of threat from him, at least for me.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Wiseman

I’m glad to see that Usagi has finally moved past her depressingly selfish and awkward malaise. There are a couple of moments that really go some way to developing her into more of a levelled, likeable character. Unfortunately the story has moved in a way that almost justifies her previous paranoia, and a moment that is, frankly, rather disturbing in a Freudian kind of way that I feel doesn’t really add to the story they’ve been telling up to this point. Saying that, this might just be the ick-factor coming through. I have to commend Naoko Takeuchi for sticking with the themes she landed upon to the bitter end, as well as the Crystal producers for sticking with it too.

If you are so inclined, I go into this in more depth in the spoiler section. There’s a number of issues at play here.

By the end of the episode, it might be argued that not a whole lot has actually transpired. If anything it feels like set-up for a confrontation that we’ll see next time. Saying that, this is a good deal better than how I felt about episodes earlier on in the Black Moon arc, so more power to ya, Crystal.


 

 

The spoiler section begins here.

Don’t scroll down if you don’t want to get a blow-by-blow analysis!

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Still here? Glad you could join me.

SO. Tuxedo Kamen has gone missing chasing after Chibi-Usa in the “Space-Time Storm” (puh-lease). This exchange is all a bit pointless, but I actually like Sailor Moon coming to terms with the idea that Tuxedo Kamen loves Chibi-Usa as their daughter and seemingly to trust in this. We’re finally seeing a resolution to her feelings over the past few episodes, and she’s starting to sound like, you know, a hero again.

"Pluto we wanna walk into that place you said we couldn't." "No." "Please?" "...OK." -The entire scene

“Pluto we wanna walk into that place you said we couldn’t.”
“No.”
“Please?”
“…OK.”
-The entire scene

As if to underline why all of this is pointless, about 30 seconds of walking later and Pluto announces that they can’t go any further… at which point Sailor Moon promptly passes out. I’m pretty sick of this. They need to stop making her unconscious at times when it’s convenient to the plot. If you weren’t going to do anything by taking the Senshi out into this storm, then why bother doing it? That she then wakes up in an entire different location says to me that they just weren’t sure how transition from one scene to the next.

"This is the worst intervention ever. Someone get some coffee."

“This is the worst intervention ever. Someone get some coffee.”

Dimande and Saphir, after having been swallowed up the the light of the Silver Crystal in the last episode, awake to find themselves in the Chamber of Darkness.  You know, that room they stuffed all those dead bodies? Rather than screaming for all eternity at the horror of what they’ve wrought they see their saviour: Black Lady. Her design and performance is awesome. Great job here… although saying that the original series did all the heavy lifting for them here. I’m glad she gets the focus of the screen time here, she’s great to watch.

I maintain that the original series did a masterful job with Wiseman’s manipulation of her. She wasn’t just brainwashed, there was convincing too, they actually showed him cherry-picking her memories and emotionally torturing this child. As much as I like Crystal’s portrayal of her, Black Lady really just comes out of nowhere with little to no resemblance to the girl she was.

I love all the sass she gives to Dimande and Saphir here

I love all the sass she gives to Dimande and Saphir here

We get some of Wiseman’s true intentions here. He and Black Lady  bully Dimande and Saphir to the point of him blasting the two of them and forcing them under his will. Apparently it’s not a complete brainwash, because Dimande gives shade to Black Lady immediately afterwards. I’m -still- not getting the threat from Wiseman. Despite us getting more information on Death Phantom and his backstory, he feels somehow empty as an antagonist.

"Empty as an antagonist you say? Of course I'm fucking empty, I'm just a dirty bar cloth over a skull"

“Empty as an antagonist you say? Of course I’m fucking empty, I’m just a dirty bar cloth over a skull. Way to rub it in.”

And this is where we get the creep factor… So just like the manga, Mamoru has been turned into Black Lady’s sex doll…

"Dude, I shouldn't have eaten those mushrooms I found in the Space-Time Corridor."

“Dude, I shouldn’t have eaten those mushrooms I found in the Space-Time Corridor.”

You think sex doll is too strong a description? Well she calls him her lover, squeezes up against him and, well, uh… makes out with him.

Why yes, this is the creepiest goddamn thing you’ve ever seen, that is correct. So, the original adaptation chose to deal with this by preying upon Sailor Moon’s paranoia, having this be in her head, a vision from Wiseman. It wasn’t the best scene as it happens, she displays belief in both Mamoru and Chibi-Usa and fights back. It’s a heroic scene, but perhaps did not necessitate the inclusion of a woman kissing her enslaved father. I mention this simply to frame its inclusion in Crystal.

I find it odd. I’m not sure it advances much except to say that Black Lady is now so evil that the bounds of blood and law totally don’t apply to her any more. In a way I’m actually impressed that they went through with it. Incest as a taboo is a curious one – we have the gut reaction of disgust, then ad hoc seek to justify that emotional response. And we learn what to be disgusted by, it’s not a priori. This is based on Haidt’s Social Learning Theory.

My point is that Naoko Takeuchi was trying to be provocative and morally explorative here. So often we see the exploitation of women by men in power, as we saw with Dimande earlier in the series. This is essentially along the same lines in terms of abuse, yet our disgust lies in their genetic relationship rather than the non-consensual kiss. I don’t think this is played off just for shock value, I accept that Takeuchi, and thus Crystal, is trying to make a point, and that this requires discussion.

The real problem with this is that this justifies Sailor Moon’s paranoia from earlier in the series in a way. After all her accusations against Mamoru of feeling attracted towards his 8 year old daughter (ICK), and then her coming to terms with her petty sniping, this undoes quite a bit of that. Knowing the manga, this doesn’t result in a resurgence of those old feelings as I recall, it’s just a way to make Black Lady seem totally over the edge.

I’d rather see her just, I dunno, murder Dimande in the goddamn smug face with a brick than her making out with her dad.

The word of the day is “ick”. Let me know what you think about this in the comments, I’d like to think this through a little more.

*Inside Mamoru's head* "No no no no NO NO NO NO OH GAWD OH GAWD I'M GOING TO HELL FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD"

*Inside Mamoru’s head* “No no no no NO NO NO NO OH GAWD OH GAWD I’M GOING TO HELL FOR THE LOVE OF GAWD”

OH and then Usagi wakes up in her bed in the 20th Century. What was the point of wandering around in Space-Time? What was the point of coming back here? In 8 minutes they’ll be right back at the bloody Space-Time Door again after Black Lady attacks the Crystal Palace. This is such a pointless diversion. There’s some content that I like in here, Usagi displays regret over how she treated Chibi-Usa, and begins seeing her as an innocent kid, her innocent kid, rather than an antagonist. You could totally have done that in the future.

This scene also felt weird. I get that there’s an element of forced geniality, that they’re all anxious and scared but forcing a smile, but I just feel like it’s poorly executed.

I like how they explained away Usagi having been missing for several days by brainwashing her mum with Luna-P

I like how they explained away Usagi having been missing for several days by brainwashing her mum with Luna-P

Now this is really pointless. Usagi feels a weird threat from Space-Time, as though she’s being torn in half. Then it stops. They come to the conclusion that something must’ve happened in the future. So they travel right back. Man, they could have condensed all of this and given us some quality time with some of the other characters, like the other Senshi, who we haven’t really seen deal with the fact they’ve been missing for weeks now.

How about you go home, say hi to your probably-worried families, call off the police search for you. No? All about Usagi poorly in bed again? OK.

This was a cool animated scene, I dug it

This was a cool animated scene, I dug it

Black Lady’s “attack” on Neo Queen Serenity is something of a let down. King Endymion is pretty horrified to see his daughter… coming on to him a little? Seriously, I think she’s flirting a little here, it continues to skeeve me out. Either way, Sailor Moon turns up (it’s SO easy to traverse Space-Time in Crystal, to the point where it dilutes its impact), Black Lady tries attacking her and Neo Queen Serenity kicks her out of the castle.

Another thing in the writing that could be improved: Neo Queen Serenity is interfering way too much. It takes away the impact of her powers, her distant magical alien existence as a thousand year old queen of the Earth. When she does stuff now, it’s become almost expected. It has no impressive bite after last episode’s kick-ass arrival.

That's quite some way to make an entrance. Her hair is even more impressive than Sailor Moon's

That’s quite some way to make an entrance. Her hair is even more impressive than Sailor Moon’s

Black Lady isn’t as impressive when her mum is dumping her outside on the floor after 3 seconds of trying to grab the Silver Crystal from Sailor Moon. I chuckled.

"JEESE MAA this was a NEW DRESS, GAWWWD"

“JEESE MAA this was a NEW DRESS, GAWWWD”

And yeah, the episode ends with the Sailor Senshi facing off against Black Lady and Wiseman. Not a lot happened here, but I’m looking forward to seeing this resolve over the next 3 episodes.


 

 

There you have it. I see a lot of problems in the writing, but they’re not bugging me as much when the characters are acting more likeable and interesting, when the art has improved, when Black Lady is stealing every scene. While Mamoru being turned into a sex slave for two consecutive arcs (remember Beryl?) is annoying, I have to admit that the stereotypical role reversal does at least give Sailor Moon more focus.

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9 Comments »

  1. Well, this episode was extremely boring to me. Black Lady already had a set up episode, the previous one. This episode was just this: “Hi, I’m Black Lady. Prepare to die!” and nothing else. Well, there’s Dimande’s, Saphir’s and Mamoru’s brainwashing, but really, it felt more filler than any of the episodes from the classic anime. Also, Black Lady’s boobs: http://i.imgur.com/r4y7Ypo.jpg

    • Agreed. I love Black Lady’s sass here but there’s little else. The problem with directly adapting a manga into an anime is that it forgoes the typical beginning – middle – climax model of storytelling that a 25 minute show really thrives upon.

      And, yes, they’re ridiculous.

  2. I enjoy Black Lady as an antagonist, but I think more in concept than in execution.

    By now I’ve seen all of the original Sailor Moon R as well as Petite Etrangere, and I’ve seen some VERY interesting and nuanced portrayals of the character. I would argue that the incestuous theme was completely unnecessary to her arc.

    I mean, thinking about it, there are three VERY big factors that could contribute to Wiseman’s manipulation of Chibi-Usa, even here:

    1) Her loneliness. Chibs has been sequestered away from mainstream Crystal Tokyo society for all her life (which seems to be 900+ years according to Neo King Exposition), and the few pieces of interaction we DO see between her and the rest of the world are…unpleasant. Apparently when Neo-Queen Usako decided to eliminate evil from the world she forgot to add ‘bullying’ to that list. Sounds about right. That mixture of isolation and ostracism is a surefire way to create a burning resentment, as any kid who was bullied growing up can tell you.

    2) Her insecurity. This is still a seven-year-old girl, regardless of how long she’s technically been alive. She has never grown up, physically or mentally, nor can she use the 30th century Ginzuishou despite being the destined heir to the kingdom. Those expectations, that burden, is a huge weight to put on a child’s shoulders, regardless of their chronological age. It’s not too big a stretch to see Chibs, with this kind of pressure and the fears of her own failure hanging about her like a cloud, willing to do anything, make any deal with any devil, to break down whatever barrier is keeping her an eternal child.

    3) Her sense of betrayal.

    *First, her mother and father ‘abandon’ her during the attack by sacrificing themselves, NQS to the Zelda-esque crystal cocoon and Endymion and the 30th-century Senshi to their comas. Even the astral projection of Endymion seems like a taunt, a reminder of what she had and what she’s lost.

    *Then she goes back in time to enlist the aid of Sailor Moon and the past Senshi, only to find that Sailor Moon, rather than being the perfect heroine of her father’s stories, is a spoiled, selfish 14-year-old girl who immediately sees her, not as the person in need that she is, but as a potential threat, if not to herself and her friends, then to her relationship with her boyfriend. (A relationship Chibi-Usa, by definition, has a vested interest in keeping intact, because if Usagi and Mamoru do not get together, there will BE no Crystal Tokyo in the future, let alone a Small Lady). Usagi and the Senshi are confrontational and hostile towards her when they aren’t incompetent, getting captured by the LEAST of the 30th Century’s enemies and overall doing exactly jack besides killing off the infantry and ONE of the generals by the time she becomes Black Lady. Impressive, sure, but not enough to save her future world from the devastation that’s befallen it thanks to the Black Moon Clan.

    *Finally, the last and most painful nail in the coffin: Sailor Pluto. Pluto was her only genuine friend for as long as she could remember, the solitary guardian who was as isolated as she was. In the original anime, this friendship was built up a little more solidly with ‘Puu’ giving her guidance and helping her out via Luna-P in the present day, but the Crystal storyline hints at a much farther-reaching friendship between the two. Then Chibs sees Pluto with King Endymion, and she’s happy in a way she’s never seen her, blushing, acting more like a woman in love than the strong, comforting guardian Chibs had come to know and befriend.

    The questions ask themselves: “What else has she hidden from me? Why could I never make her that happy? Was my friendship with her all a lie? Did she even care about me, or was I just a way to get into my Papa’s good books?” Bear in mind, Chibs is still a child, without the emotional awareness of even the teenagers that are Usagi and co.

    Any or all of these things would be more than adequate explanations for Chibs’ turn to The Dark Side. The incest bit was completely unnecessary, other than to push her that extra mile into full-on, Laughing Noblewoman-evil.

    • I agree with you. Excellently crafted argument. The Electra Complex indeed adds nothing to her character. That being said, to the series as a whole, I think it strangely fits. I’m not sure there’s an exploration of Freudian ideas here, but Naoko Takeuchi made it clear that she’s aware of the complex in her narrative her, and how the complex (according to Freud) drives much of the relationship between mother and daughter. I would say, however, that this was already implicit enough without having to carve up all subtext and throw the kiss in our faces.

  3. Ick is the word of the day indeed. I came here specifically to read your take on Black Lady making sexy time with her Dad. I never read the R manga so this is all reverberating quite deeply with the gross.

    Also, the “Space-Time-Storm” screen cap. HAH.

    I’d make a more interesting argument and/or statement but I am tired and my braincells are few tonight. Very good read though. I shall continue to browse your site sir.

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