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Act.24 – ATTACK – BLACK LADY

First aired: 20th June 2015

15

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.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Saphir

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.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Sailor Moon powers

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.

Bummer.

Sailor Moon Crystal - Wiseman


 

 

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.

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.

sdfds

Black Lady has this exact bland shit-eating smile the entire episode.

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.

"Bwahaha! I am now the ultimate evil with my bag-lady hands bwahahah!" "Please don't touch me with those."

“Bwahaha! I am now the ultimate evil with my bag-lady hands bwahahah!”
“Please don’t touch me with those.”

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.

"Oh no. I am locked in this poorly-animated purple thing. I guess I have to remain still and useless for another 20 minutes."

“Oh no. I am locked in this poorly-animated purple thing. I guess I have to remain still and useless for another 20 minutes.”

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.

"You know what? I quit. I think there's a job opening at Starbucks."

“You know what? I quit. I think there’s a job opening at Starbucks.”

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.

Hrmm

Sailor Mon Crystal – providing its audience with its own perverted fanfiction

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.

Still, ick.

"I may be brainwashed but as soon as I break free I'm chopping my own tongue off, Chibi-Usa."

*Inside Mamoru’s head: endless screaming*

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.

sdsdf

I’m not really feeling the horror of this moment… just feels like he’s knighting her

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.

This is toooootally an Esmeraude face, right?

This is toooootally an Esmeraude face, right?

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.

I want these cool moments to mean something you know? But so far... not so much

I want these cool moments to mean something you know? But so far… not so much

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.

Didn't think I'd actually see a character more useless than Esmeraude this series, but here ya go

Didn’t think I’d actually see a character more useless than Esmeraude this series, but here ya go

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.

It's little Pluto. It's CHIBI-PLUTO. GUYS, LOOK HOW TITCHY SHE IS!

It’s little Pluto. It’s CHIBI-PLUTO. GUYS, LOOK HOW TITCHY SHE IS!

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…

"Hrmm leaving one of the most important jobs in the universe to a kitten. Well I'm probably going to get fired anyway, so..."

“Hrmm leaving one of the most important jobs in the universe to a kitten. Well I’m probably going to get fired anyway, so…”

Now for the worst part of the episode.

Shot 1.

"NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW HAHAHAHAHAH"

“NOTHING CAN STOP ME NOW HAHAHAHAHAH”

Shot 2.

"Well that was curiously easy."

“Well that was curiously easy.”

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.

Dimande, now looking curiously like James from Pokemon

Dimande, now looking curiously like James from Pokemon

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.

"This episode suuuuucks."

“This episode suuuuucks.”

"They had one of the most famous and successful IPs in anime history and years in development, and this is all they could come  up with?"

“They had one of the most famous and successful IPs in anime history and years in development, and this is all they could come up with?”

And that’s the end of the episode.


 

 

In conclusion, ugh. I’m too severe, right?

 

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16 Comments »

  1. Pluto was everything, as was Diana.

    Absolutely feel so indifferent to everything else, the treatment of the inners just hurts my heart. This is the second time it gets to the near end of an arc and it’s soooooo blah, and it’s all about Usagi and Mamoru.

    Don’t like it.

    Your review was right on the money.

    OG anime for the win.

  2. Kind of a small note, but I really like (that is to say, “thought it was ridiculous that…”) Sailor Mars was trying to appeal to Black Lady to recognize them as her allies. The first thing that came to mind was: “Rei, you were captured from part 1. You hardly know her.”

  3. When your main villainess is compared to one of the most pathetic villainesses in the old show and that villain is coming off WORSE, it’s time to pull the plug.

    As much as I want to see the Infinity arc, I don’t want THIS to be what happens to it. I find myself hoping the show DOESN’T get picked up for the rest of the manga’s run. It’s just not worth it for the complete lack of effort they’re putting into everything.

    • Oh thank goodness someone else said it, I almost feel like a betrayer but I also find myself hoping the same thing for integrity’s sake but my heart refuses to listen. If it doesn’t get picked up I’m afraid relief will outweigh my disappointment.

      • I would agree with you, but I’m an idiot. The Infinity Arc is much better source material… saying that, yeah, it’s not going to be any good is it? But I’m kind of revelling in this crap if that makes sense…

    • Yeah, there’s some great stuff in the Infinity Arc, it’s much more solidly put together than the Black Moon arc, but poor execution will always flavour even the best source material.

  4. Ugh, this episode was the grossest. Watching King Endymion just chill and watch his daughter make out with his prior self totally should have caused some time paradox/faith in good society cosmic implosion. I’ve always felt super uncomfortable with the Electra complex in the show, and *used* to think it was worse in the original anime (it’s more of a gag in the anime, but also always reoccurs). In the manga, the feeling of the strained relationship between Neo Queen Serenity and Small Lady was more present, and really felt like the central pull of tension for Chibi-Usa’s character, which in this adaptation is totally lost. The maternal issues make the electra complex at least a little interesting in addition to squicky. Without it though, my regular ick reaction to this part of plot has just skyrocketed into the stratosphere. I’ve always found it icky, but this rendition I have found to be the most profoundly unsettling.

    • Hit the nail on the head again, Momo. There’s something interesting in their in the approach towards the Electra Complex, but it’s lost in a mire of poor execution and an absurd lack of pathos that makes the whole situation feel exploitative and amateur.

  5. Review is on the mark as always! Can’t wait till the next ep though, I always liked that threat from Dimande to end the world, and Pluto having to interfere :) About the ‘Electra complex’ thing, I guess since I watched the original recently it isn’t quite as weird to me. I mean, I know logically kissing your younger dad would be gross. But when you look at Chibi-usa’s feelings, it does kinda make sense in a weird way. As a little girl she really loves her dad who seems to dote on her more than her mostly distant mother (there are some scenes to disprove this, but for the most part this is the impression I get). So Chibi-usa meets her young dad and mom, and just like with Usagi, the inexplicable paternal/daughter feelings pop up between both parties. I would like to point out at this time that I don’t believe Usagi was accusing Mamoru of being attracted to Chi-usa, just loving her more – he was paying way more attention to her and Usagi was jealous. And Usagi recognized that Chibi-usa loved Mamoru too (That’s where the ‘she’s still a woman!’ comment came from). This is where it gets complicated. Just like a ‘Hot tub time machine’ thing, (if you haven’t seen it, this guy meets his hot young mom and is attracted to her), Chibi-usa’s feelings for her younger dad are a little confusing, he’s handsome and fun, and he’s ‘not quite’ the same person as her father yet. And who wouldn’t fall in love with Mamoru when he is so adoring and patient lol. So in the original series she was always teasing about being his girlfriend instead of Usagi, partly to annoy Usagi, but partly because those feelings were there. So then she becomes corrupted, and those feelings become corrupted too. She loves Mamoru and wants to have him all to herself.. and as an adult that becomes a rather corrupt (and yes creepy) version of those feelings. ^-^

    • Y’know, part of me always did wonder, what exactly would happen if Dimande combined the Silver Crystals of two different time periods? Would it cause a massive explosion? Would it distort time and space such that it is rendered completely meaningless? Would the two energies become so dense that it caves in on itself and forms a black hole? Alas, the world will never know…

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