Act.26 – REPLAY – NEVER ENDING
First Aired: 18th July 2015
Sailor Moon continues to battle the true Death Phantom while Neo Queen Serenity finally awakens from her slumber. Using the powers of their familial love, Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Chibi-Moon must overcome insurmountable odds to save the Earth.
So here we are at last. The final episode of Sailor Moon Crystal… at this point in time at least. The conclusion of the Black Moon arc is… pretty much what we’ve come to expect from Sailor Moon Crystal, plus a little more pathos and nuance than I would have expected. As end of seasons go, I can’t say that this was completely satisfying, but hey, I’ve been in a good mood, and I’m happy with the level of effort shown here.
The episode is split fairly evenly down the middle between the typical final bad-guy showdown and actual character-building emotion. The battle is mediocre in the extreme. By this point Death Phantom is even less interesting than he was previously, spurting out half a dozen words before his inevitable doom. He’s taken down with such casual ease that one rather wonders at the point of it all. This story arc has sacrificed a lot of character development in favour of the Black Moon, and looking back after their destruction, I’m sad to say it hasn’t been a great trade off.
And the poor Senshi. Not content with having several of them absent from the majority of the arc, they do -absolutely nothing- here, not just in the way of action, but anything else. They appear purposely excluded from any kind of emotional connection. If I were their voice actors, I would seriously reconsider my contract if all I’m getting is a couple of gasps every now and again for 4 months.
Neo Queen Serenity does finally become a force here, and while it’s rather lovely to have her on screen and actually participating in events, instead of being an icicle, everything see says and does is mired behind a thick film of Deus Ex Machina. I could theorise why exactly it was impossible for her to have risen before now, but the truth is she stayed asleep exactly long enough for the plot to require it. I’ve always liked one particular interaction she has here since the manga, but there’s something oddly flat about it that I was not expecting.
I suspect this is all down to the music. If emotional scenes such as these were backed with a rousing string score to throw some pathos in here, I think these scenes could have been quite beautiful. The biggest offender for me is the battle music against Death Phantom, which is a tuneless wall of thrumming guitars that gives no sense of urgency to the occasion. Once again this moment butts heads with the original anime. As regretful as I am to compare the two adaptations, the final battle of Sailor Moon R, set to La Soldier, is so much more dramatic as to make Sailor Moon Crystal quiver in terror.
So much for the action, but the episode’s strengths lie in its emotional moments, of which there are two of note. Finally realising that the relationship that has really mattered in this season, Crystal takes care to get a scene between Chibi-Usa and Usagi right, and they succeed. It’s a touching, gratifying moment that, while it doesn’t quite make up for the cack-handling in previous episodes in their relationship, does at least resolve the weird Freudian funk the show revolved around previously.
And, with the acting between the two voice actresses, I really do believe the performances. Now don’t think I’ve gotten carried away, I merely mean the moment is brilliant for the standards of Sailor Moon Crystal, this year alone I’ve seen moments in anime that has driven me to tears in majestic, sad beauty (even Shirobako had me sobbing). I find that Sailor Moon Crystal suffers in comparison to many of its competitors, let alone the original adaptation. But at the very least, fans who have held on with Sailor Moon Crystal even when the suffered through the bum episodes, should at least find some comfort with how this season ends.
And, hey, there’s always the Infinity 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.
Naoko Takeuchi, I’ve said this before, cannot write action scenes. It always gets needlessly confused, as it is here in the beginning of the episode, where -deep breath- Sailor Moon blasts Death Phantom, everyone appears back in Crystal Tokyo, discovers that the Death Phantom they attacked was an illusion, notices that Sailor Moon hasn’t reappeared with them, then Tuxedo Kamen’s hands begin to glow, then he disappears without explanation either.]
This is not a great climax, it must be said. There’s no parsimony here, no attempt to streamline the rather rushed manga plot. Moments like these you’ve just to roll your eyes and let the episode get on with it.
As to why Neo Queen Serenity awakens… who knows? It’s probably to do with the, you know, love between Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Moon reaching its peak again, but that doesn’t feel satisfactory. It just happens. It’s also not as… momentous as I would have liked. It’s feels like its a mandatory appearance, as opposed to being a -woah holy shit- moment that it really could have been. I’ve always been a an of keeping her as distant as possible. While I love the idea of her, and have longed for an exploration into her character, NQS works best for the audience as an ethereal goddess, kept distant by the passage of time and divinity.
Seeing her walk around is just a bit too ordinary for me, would have liked something much more grand. But hey, this isn’t bad either.
She does look rather good with that silver hair though, doesn’t she?
The emotional reunion between Chibi-Moon and Neo Queen Serenity is… fine. It’s nice. It’s cute. It’s not overly moving, but it gets the job done. The animation drops in a couple places in terms of frame-rate, guess the animators cut a couple of corners again, but I like everything I’m seeing here. I like Chibi-Moon here, I think pleading look she gives for her mother to understand what she’s done, to understand her guilt, is very well done. Again, however, it just feels a shade too perfunctory to be moving.
The scene of Neo Queen Serenity thanking Pluto and moving her body inside the palace I think was meant to be moving, but it kinda felt like she was taking out the trash a bit. Rather pointed foreshadowing that Pluto’s role in Sailor Moon Crystal is not over yet.
You know what I hate? Inexplicable teleportation that only serves to advance the plot. You know what I also hate? Random-ass flying bubbles. Guys I hate this. It feels so… uninspired to see Sailor Moon floating towards Death Phantom in a bubble. Why is she here? Why is Death Phantom only sucking her towards him? How did Tuxedo Kamen magically warp there? What does this serve in the narrative? Why any of this? We could have had a much more involved and interesting battle elsewhere. I’m not saying this is bad, only that this irritates the heck out of me for reasons I can’t adequately explain.
This fight with Death Phantom is unnervingly dull for an end-of-season climax. I found the music intolerably crap especially. There is zero tension here. I like everything that’s going on between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen, however. It’s nice to see them not being total dicks to each other, and I genuinely enjoy seeing the romance between them. His assurances that she’s the one with all the power, and her telling him that it’s his love and support that gives her power, is a touching moment. And hey, always like the smoochies, as rare as they are for Japanese TV.
I found the allegory here to be rather funny. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen are pressed up against each other, making out. Sailor Moon is saying “I can feel it…” in reference to HIS LOVE thank you very much, minds out of the gutter…
Or at least I would like to say that, but this is when Sailor Chibi-Moon appears between them in a glow of light. I’m pretty sure this is saying, hey, this is what your love created you filthy teenagers. And I like that a lot. Doesn’t shy away from the fact that these kids are going to have a kid of their own some day. It’s not overt, but the message is clear, that this is a natural and beautiful part of life and love or whatever. I wouldn’t know, I plan to sublimate all my sexual frustration into keeping cats until I’m dead.
Oh, and I know some people don’t like Chibi-Moon, but I like her. Her own “In the name of the future Moon, I will punish you!” was pretty gratifying, and looked excellently animated too.
Now it’s time for Neo Queen Serenity’s magical Deus Ex Machina button. With a wave of her hand, she just undoes all the death and destruction of the Black Moon. Talk about rolling my eyes, this was really depressingly unimaginative, especially just the design of the city. It just looked like a city with a lot of parks and crummy architects. You’re showing me a city a thousand years in the future with infinite energy, and this is all there is? Where’s the flying cars, the neon lights, the dystopian police force?
Hey, we need something for the Senshi to do right? They weren’t allowed to go help Sailor Moon. Neo Queen Serenity literally told them to chill and do nothing, so why don’t we just, I dunno, give them vague new powers? I’ll guarantee right now that the Senshi will feel just as pointless and lame in the Infinity Arc, if they are actually doing it.
This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, the scene that was in the manga but never made it to the original anime. There, they were trying to keep NQS as ethereal and mystical as possible, but hey, why the hell not do it in Crystal? I’ve always wanted to see Sailor Moon and Neo Queen Serenity meet face to face. Aaaand… it’s nice. It’s lovely. I don’t really get the sense of emotion, of things left unsaid, as I did in the manga, but this is ok… again, I suspect it’s the anaemic music than anything else.
Oh hey! The Senshi of the Future are here too! I wonder what awesome moment they’re going to have speaking with their past selves… oh they’re just waving goodbye. Huh.
I sound like I’m complaining too much, aren’t I? Well, a lot annoys me, what can I say? I will say, however, the the remainder of the episode is much better, and accounts for me coming away from this episode with, at least, a small bit of gratification.
Back in Tokyo, Usagi and Chibi-Usa are getting along great. It’s lovely to see, but Chibi-Usa soon reveals that she has to travel back to the future. Usagi does not take this well. While this is a childish reaction, to run away and cry, this is her character her, and I find it honest and moving to see her so deeply affected by something she didn’t expect.
The scene of Chibi-Usa and Usagi reconciling all their differences is, in fact, rather beautiful. I like everything that happens here, they’re finally bringing the pathos. I can’t say it’s anywhere close to that moment in Sailor Moon R, but hey, they’ve done an excellent job here. It brought the feels, if not the tears. I like them both crying, both being extremely similar, both experiencing this sense of loss. Usagi is, for the first time, looking like a mother, understanding what it means to have a child and to see that child leave you.
Chibi-Usa’s farewell to Mamoru isn’t anywhere nearly as touching, of course. It doesn’t need to be, their relationship hasn’t been the crux of this arc… although it has been a source of ickyness. I actually like Chibi-Usa’s line of “You’re my prince!” to Mamoru, it’s touching without being overly gross. I think? Whatever, I’m trying not to think too hard about them making out. Twice.
Then, in the truest, lolliest, random-ass, arbitrary moment, we get freeze-frames of the Senshi coming back after, you know, having been missing for weeks. Rei meets that sobbing weird girl from her school, the head of the supernatural society that felt like a stalker. Makoto meets with that lame wet drip Asanuma and seems a little taken aback by his creepy holding of her arms. And then, because they were given nothing to work with, Minako and Ami randomly wave to Motoki at the arcade. This whole bit was stupid and depressing, but so much so that it looped around to entertainingly bad again.
They couldn’t even be bothered to animate these scenes, they’re just static.
And, finally, because they couldn’t let the beautiful pathos of Chibi-Usa leaving lie in peace, she comes back immediately to stay. I know it was in the manga, but the original adaptation had her leave for a time for a reason: sure they resolved their relationship, but part of what made the resolution so palpable is because the separation that followed was real. This is fine and all, I’m not knocking it, it’s a perfectly ok scene that leads into the start of the Infinity Arc nicely, but at the same time this is punching below is weight.
And so there you have it. Except for the last line of text, “See You Soon!” Hrmm I wonder what that could be referring to…
I liked this episode on the whole. A bunch of stuff annoyed me, but not nearly enough to mar the great emotional bond between Usagi and Chibi-Usa. It’s nice to see our characters acting more developed and mature than where they were at the start of this season, which tells me that their character arcs were real. Let me know what you thought of this episode, and the series as a whole, in the comments below!
Expect a thorough dismantling of Sailor Moon Crystal as a whole fairly soon, I also plan to review the series on my anime podcast Transformation Sequence at some point, will keep you readers abreast of information.