Act.24 – ATTACK – BLACK LADY
First aired: 20th June 2015
Black Lady begins attacking Sailor Moon and the Senshi, with the goal of obtaining the remaining Silver Crystal. With Dimande, Saphir and her brainwashed father/lover (ick) Tuxedo Kamen, the victory of the Black Moon and Wiseman seems assured.
This was an episode that felt very much like a manga chapter. By that I mean, it appears to all take place in 5 minutes, with people giving long, repetitive exposition and with flat action shots. I wasn’t particularly impressed by anything I saw. Story alone it feels distinctly wobbly, as though all the drama and angst has been reduced to two parties standing opposite at yelling obscenities at each other. While it wasn’t terrible, it’s something of a let-down when you have to wait 2 weeks per episode.
So what happens in this interlude between the start of the battle and the conclusion next week? Not a whole lot.
Black Lady had one hell of a good start lest episode, but she’s rather disappointing here. She feels so two dimensional, cackling evilly in a way that the original anime treated Esmeraude to give me Vietnam-flashbacks. The shots of her didn’t even look as good, which leads me to believe that this episode’s key animator is not the same as previously. Still, she’s far better than Wiseman, who’s voice actor continues to hand in a baffling performance.
Dimande and Saphir, representing the last of the Black Moon clan, also get shafted. This is, of course, all according to the manga, so really I should blame the source material, but both are even less interesting than before. One moment with Dimande in particular had me rolling my eyes hard when I read the manga, and it’s even more pronounced in this anime. I really wish they would adapt the source material rather than just replicate it.
Sailor Moon’s dialogue is actually mildly better than these confused antagonists. While the other Senshi are utterly ignored, being placed on a shelf at the beginning of the episode and permitted only to give mewling sounds of angst and sympathy when called upon, Sailor Moon actually comes off as interestingly mature, handling the reversal of fortune in Black Lady’s arrival well. It is an exceedingly precarious situation, of course, because the arrival of Tuxedo Kamen as Black Lady’s very-own personal sexbot 3000 (he has zero lines, thank god) confirms much of Sailor Moon’s paranoia of previous episodes.
That being said, the traditional mega-power-up part, while pretty, felt pointless. I’m pretty sure that Sailor Moon doesn’t really do anything for 25 minutes.
The only parts I really perked up at were thanks to Sailor Pluto, undergoing a crisis of duty. I understood her frustration and dedication, and it was interesting seeing more of humanity and history than we’ve ever seen before. Personally, I think she serves better as unknowable and alien, but at the very least these moments were diverting. Not that were really see the pay-off to this until next week.
So, in conclusion, why does this episode exist? Because it was a manga chapter. Thankfully the conclusion to all this hooplah should be a shade more busy than this one, but this episode was down there with some of the lowest in quality so far from Sailor Moon 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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The opener sees Sailor Moon trying to grasp what exactly has happened to Chibi-Usa, whom she only very recently stopped regarding as a target to destroy. I… don’t really buy any of this. Maybe because they used corny graphics, or maybe it’s because the dialogue felt more like day-time soap operas than a dramatic moment in an anime, but I just didn’t buy that Sailor Moon processing this information at all. Black Lady’s oblique cackling didn’t help much.
Black Lady’s new “assistants” aren’t much better. Dimande and Saphir turn up chatting proudly about their new gifts from Wiseman. These are… stupid. Announcing the name of something (“Phantom Hands”) does not make it legitimate. They’re both super bland here, and obsolete. The story has moved passed the Black Moon, so having them around is like a bad smell. Neither of them contribute to the story much hence forth.
And just look at the background! The crystal palace looks nice in shots, but everything else is shit-brown or shit-green-brown. There are ways to make something look destroyed, and dire, without making it ugly to look at.
Dimande’s first attack with his third-eye-head-vagina thing is… uhnnnn… so stupid. I seem to be saying that about everything, but I like nothing about what’s going on. I’m trying to find the good here, but the attack that locks the Senshi in place for the rest of the goddamn episode is this stupid half-crescent thing. Surely they could have come up with something that was a bit more clever than this?
I realise that they had worse moments in the original anime, let’s say, but this is 2015 and I feel like they’re dragging their heels on so many design points. It’s not even drawn well.
Why are the other Senshi even here? They haven’t really done anything. Three of them have spent half the series incarcerated off screen. I guess they’re just cannon fodder at this point.
Tuxedo Kamen turns up at Black Lady’s behest. I find the concept of her taunting her mother by, you know, making her father a sex slave deeply uncomfortable, but it’s still rather interesting enough to keep my attention. Far enough, most of that attention is in disgust, but hey, they’re getting me to pay attention. Sailor Moon doesn’t really processes this quite like I expected either… She’s understanding, which I find a decent, if sudden, progression of her character.
She says that Chibi-Usa didn’t know how to process her feelings for her father, and have manifested itself in… this. Not sure this is need, really, being manipulated by Wiseman is surely enough, but the writers are making themselves aware of the Electra Complex here.
And, of course, things peak at the, uh, even more provocative embrace of the two than last week. I continue to be shocked at the animators moxxy here. At this point, I say just go for it, go for the ick factor, make it as creepy and rancid as you can, because the alternative is mediocrity and boredom. This was the most I felt something in the whole episode.
And ah yes, the moment Tuxedo Kamen hits Sailor Moon with the Rod of Love, a true ironic moment. So, I do wonder if they’re trying to touch upon the idea of violence within a relationship, but nothing else really aligns with any analogy they would be trying to make for physical abuse.
It’s a moment that is horrific, of course, but it’s also rather poorly animated. I’m taken out of the moment by how… clinical it all feels. When I compare it, say, to the moment when Endymion was hurting Sailor Moon in the Dark Kingdom arc, this feels perfunctory and, yes, pointless.
I think I can skip over a lot of this episode. There’s some stuff with Black Lady landing another Evil Black Crystal on the Earth… suffice it to say that Black Lady has some… interesting expressions. They’ve kinda reduced her into just another bog-standard bad guy in these scenes, without any of the interesting nuanced motivations from before.
Sailor Moon’s counter-attack looked very, very cool, activating the powers of the Crystal Palace. That being said, where the hell did this come from? She just closes her eyes and starts getting awesome all of a sudden. I don’t feel like she’s earned this moment. Regardless, it’s immaterial since this very cool moment does precisely zilch.
Dimande’s turn is… you know what, I’ve completely checked out by the point. Maybe it’s the 20 second soliloquy Dimande gives when Saphir jumps up to attack him, or maybe it’s the completely flat performance as Dimande turns to kill his brother, or maybe it’s the 2 seconds it takes for Saphir to actually die, but I felt this completely devoid of emotion. Are we meant to feel sympathy for these people? Yes they were manipulated, but goddamn there’s zero room for redemption here.
These antagonists feel no remorse, have no development or interesting motivations or backstory. They just kinda hang about until the series decides to off-them, usually in the same episode they were introduced. The main problem is that I’ve see Dimande and Saphir done better.
I found Pluto’s moments to be the best in the episode. They’re quiet, they look nice (although they do the old super-zoom of her face so the animators don’t have to worry about drawing anything so difficult as a background or the rest of Pluto’s body), and I get everything she’s feeling. I prefer fer with a bit of mystique, frankly, and teen-Pluto looked a bit weird, but these were an enjoyable set-up for… anything that might happen in the next episode…
The whole “3 great taboo” moment was a bit obvious in terms of foreshadowing, of course, but I’ll forgive its lack of subtlety.
I like the moment Diana offers to watch the Door of Time so Pluto can go help Chibi-Usa. It’s super corn-ball I know, but again, it’s making me feel something in a flat landscape of an episode. Diana is admirable, even if she’s a bit annoying. Her eyes are just a bit too big for her head…
Now for the worst part of the episode.
That’s the dumbest thing.
It’s not even animated well. There’s just a cloak swish and bam, the almighty Prince of the Black Moon has swiped the crystals. It’s so monumentally stupid. It was in the manga, it is here. The rapidity of the exchange, how pathetically easy it was, it’s all infuriating.
And so Dimande decides to combine the crystals (WHY?) which Enydmion and Pluto helpfully inform us will destroy the world (WHY? SINCE WHEN? WHY ARE WE LEARNING ABOUT THIS NOW?) and we end on the dumbest cliffhanger I’ve seen in Sailor Moon. At this point, I’m actively cheering him on.
If there’s anything that underscores how ridiculous this whole episode was, we’re given the frozen expressions of shock that act as an embodiment of the reaction of the audience.
And that’s the end of the episode.
In conclusion, ugh. I’m too severe, right?