Sailor Moon Crystal
by Rebecca Silverman,
Another week, another kidnapping. No, that's not a news headline, but rather what we've come to expect of the Black Moon arc of Sailor Moon Crystal. As we could have guessed from the subtitle of the episode, this week sees the capture of Makoto, Sailor Jupiter. As with Mars and Mercury, she gets a little bit of character development before her battle against Petz, the eldest of the evil sisters, takes her out in her malignant version of Jupiter's lightening/storm power. For Makoto, that development involves a meeting with Asanuma, Mamoru's underclassman who has figured out (unlike pretty much everyone else) that there's something odd going on with Usagi, Mamoru, and their group of friends. His suspicions are solidified when he hears Luna talking at a cafe with Mamoru and Usagi. (What's really remarkable is that he's the only person to notice that they brought a cat into the cafe.) When he bumps into Makoto, suffering from a cold, later, he flat-out confronts her about the strange things he's overheard, and Makoto, honest girl that she is, tells him the basics of what's going on. Asanuma tells her that he wishes he had the ability to help protect her, a line which has a larger affect on Makoto than we might at first have assumed.
That's because when Jupiter fights Petz, she seems to know she's going to lose. Where Mars and Mercury fought to the last breath, Jupiter appears to simply give up, going from holding her own to overwhelmed in a second. It's an interesting statement about her strength, really. Much has been made of her physical abilities (which we see displayed just before she transforms), and it's easy to assume that she's just as strong emotionally. But there's a vulnerability that she tries to hide, a hurt from losing her parents and apparently having no one to really depend upon but herself. She remarks to Asanuma that she was really happy to have “finally” found the friends she was looking for, and that says a lot about the loneliness she must have been coping with prior to her awakening as a pretty guardian. The other guardians all have family lives of some kind – not always good, but at least present. For Makoto, the guardians are all she has. That is what makes her thinking of Asanuma's words just before she is overwhelmed by Petz so poignant. She knows that Moon and Venus can't save her from Petz – she watched them fail (and knows she did herself) with the other two. She knows Asanuma, no matter how much he might want to, can't help her. So maybe the easiest thing to do is to just give up. Maybe she feels that being “the strong one” isn't quite worth it.
This idea of vulnerability permeates the rest of the episode was well, with Chibi-Usa consistently looking sad, depressed, or lonely. Again we have an interesting moment we can interpret, in this case a flashback of Chibi-Usa watching her parents bask in the adulation of their subjects and each other while she hangs back behind a curtain. She isn't dressed up, which indicates that she's not a part of the public appearance, and the look on her face would seem to say that she feels abandoned and left out. She definitely misses her parents; there's no doubt about that. But it also feels like maybe they didn't quite have the time for her, which is why she's so enjoying basking in Mamoru's attention.
On the annoying side, Usagi's jealousy of Chibi-Usa continues to be an irritant, and if the lip gloss is less shiny, Chibi-Usa still spends a lot of time with her lips delicately parted as she gazes up at Mamoru. No matter how you justify it, that's a tad bit creepy. Heads all around seem particularly large and round this episode, and there's also a rash of bow-leggedness going around with the guardians, with Jupiter suffering the most. Petz's costume is another...interesting touch this week, as it sports two large green circles on the breasts. When you see her head-on, they look perfectly normal, but the camera seems to delight in showing her from odd angles that make the circles look very suggestive. It's a little weird.
Sailor Moon Crystal is still foundering in heavy seas of its own making, but increasingly each episode has something that can be seen as more positive than in the first arc. Given how parts of that one played out, I feel like the show is improving...just not quite enough to make it as good as we want it to be. But at least now it feels like there is some hope.
Sailor Moon Crystal is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Rebecca Silverman is ANN's senior manga critic.
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