Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Lesser Blogger Would Use a "Phantom of the Opera" Joke Here

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 4: Masquerade Dance Party - SPOILERS!

(though it's been long enough that you've probably seen the episode if you were worried about being spoiled)

I loved this episode when the '90s anime did it, I loved it when I read it in the manga, I... went "Double-You-Tee-Eff" when the live action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon did it (granted, there was a lot of "WTF?" in that series as a whole, but that's another topic) - Friends, I adore the "Masquerade" chapter in Sailor Moon lore. For several reasons that I believe Sailor Moon Crystal hit on with near-perfection - while also add in its own flair to the story that made it even better.

The cold open begins with Luna in her SOOPER SEKRIT high tech Mission Control station (until further details are revealed, that's what I'm calling it - even though I know full-well what this is from the manga. Hold onto that thought for later). Everyone's favorite mother hen cat is musing over the fact that there are now three Sailor Guardians who've been awakened and this is no small thing to be happy about.

2014's verison of Manga Side-Bar Info Dump
However, there is one more rather shady character that is a total and complete mystery to the team (except for those of us who are inclined to glance twice as someone with an affinity for wearing a tuxedo in broad daylight - but this is shojo anime. There's a lot we forgive in the name of shiny).

Childhood crushes never go away. They just get prettier
Usagi isn't terribly bothered by any of this, though. Like any fourteen-year-old, she's more interested in staying up until all hours reading manga (or maybe that was just me), but that makes her late for school. Which leaves Luna to do the introductory voice-over of Who Is Who and What Is What (see? Crystal's already deviating from the manga!) (I only mention this because much of fandom is kind of grumbly because of Crystal's seeming slavish devotion to sticking with the manga. Even though this is what we were initially told was going to happen with this anime revival/reboot/thing. Sigh... well, the definition of a "fan" is someone who loves something so much that they have to complain about everything they hate about it. There's just no pleasing some people...)

Enough kvetching - enjoy Luna's description of the Sailor Team (thus far -)

Some time later (after school), the girls are set to meet at the arcade. Usagi is late (of course), so Ami and Rei are using this time to get to know one another better and become friends. I adore the heck out of this scene for many of the same reasons that I adored the heck out of Rei's introductory episode. I love that Rei and Ami are becoming friends on their own terms - that they are interacting much like regular teenage girls would in their situations. It's been established in both of their intro episodes that neither of them have many friends (for several unique reasons), but now this whole Sailor Guardians thing gives them a purpose and a sense of belonging beyond one is super-intelligent and one has unexplained supernatural powers. They both have vastly different personalities, but they make those personalities blend together to make a coherent team dynamic, which is brilliantly beautiful. The individual girls are still their unique selves on their own - but they also found a place to put their unique selves so that they fit in. Sort of like puzzle pieces, if you like that metaphor.

Also still loving the juxtaposition of the Sailor V posters alongside our girls.
The arcade as a continued central setting for team meetings is great too. It seems that all the girls have to play the Sailor V game as a "rite of passage" of sorts to come into the team. And it's interesting that Rei - who in other Sailor Moon media is traditionally good at everything and always flawlessly perfect (or exudes that attitude even when she's hopelessly wrong) - isn't afraid of voicing frustration and accepting Ami's advice on how to play the game. It's not that her character's been changed from past interpretations because that sass and confidence is still there - but it's blended in with the vulnerability that's always been there as well, but has been overshadowed by the over-the-top "I'M REI AND I'M AWESOME AND YOU MUST LOVE ME AND YOU HAVE ZERO CHOICE IN THE MATTER!" that I think put me off the character for so many years. But this version of Rei feel so much more real to me - confident AND vulnerable at the same time. Like so many girls in real life are at this age. That's something I will be eternally appreciative of Crystal for doing (and I never dreamed that would be the case before this series began! I love all these wonderful surprises!)

Fear not, Rei Fans. The beloved sass is still present in Crystal
So, Usagi finally shows up and Luna gives us the vital Backstory and Mission of the Sailor Guardians, which can be summarized thusly - Mysterious princess must be found and protected, she has the "Legendary Silver Crystal" (look, I'm just going to call it the Silver Crystal without the quotation marks, 'kay?) and it must be kept away from the Dark Kingdom who are also looking for it and who plan to do Terribly Evil But Vague things with it. That's the Mission-With-A-Capital-M (after watching PGSM, I got really tired of hearing about Mission and Previous Lives. But that's all I'm going to say about that right now).

Ami and Rei are all on board because that's what they do. Usagi... well...

Our heroine, ladies and gentlemen
Okay, okay - I jest. but only because the show does as well (Usagi's going to get her SUPER AWESOME moment, don't you fret).

Oh - and just to get to the meat of the episode proper, we must have a special announcement from Captain Exposition himself - Umino -

Never fails. Just without the chalk diagrams this time (Just how short is Umino?)
A princess from some kingdom is in town to show off a SOOPER SEKRIT treasure at a fancy formal ball. The girls and Luna deduce that this could be the Silver Crystal and Princess D could be The Princess they're looking for. Problem is, security is impossible to get through. Even Usagi, who's dad is a journalist and has an invite to the event, can't hitch a ride as Papa Kenji's plus-one (that would have been too convenient). So, what's a magical girl to do?

Transform into a princess with the Disguise Pen, of course!
Meanwhile, back in hell the Dark Kingdom, we meet all four of the minions of Queen Beryl - which I believe is yet another deviation from the manga storyline.

The Shitennou are basically a boy band made up of Evil and they're all sniping at Jadeite, who somehow managed to survive his encounter with Sailor Mars and we may never know how exactly.

Well, you got me. By all accounts, it doesn't make any sense.
But they too have heard of the Mysterious Treasure of Kingdom D and are sending in their top brass to investigate.

HA HA HAHA HAHA HA! No, they're actually sending in Nephrite.

Back to the party - Our Intrepid Heroes have all scored fancy dresses and color-coded tiaras and are heading in to do reconnaissance in the embassy.

Which means Ami and Rei go looking for the princess and the treasure, Usagi goes in search of drinks, dancing, and cute boys.

Tell me I'm not the only one who started humming "Once Upon a December" from Anastasia.
Well - Usagi found at least one of those. And, people, here is the squishy-insides, feels-inducing, fangirl moment that... well... I have been waiting for (the rest of fandom is too grown-up and sour-faced about it to care).

Yes, I know I cheated and used a fluffy/fuzzy
cap from the end of the episode,
Usagi finally gets her dance with her knight in shining armor. Literally - it's Tuxedo Mask, the guy that she's been starry-eyed over since Episode 1, the guy that she credits with saving her life multiple times (even though he didn't do much but cheer her on from the sidelines - which is still important!) And he's obviously smitten with her too and it's just a lovely sequence - music, animation, dialogue, all of it! (even the translated subtitles keep away from the heavily stilted grammar for once and just let the words flow).

(sigh...  I wanna be a princess...)

Meanwhile, away from the fluttery happy dancing, Ami and Rei have discovered Nephrite possessing Princess D. They transform and take off after the Princess, who's absconded with the Mysterious Treasure that everyone's after.

The princess attacks everyone in the ballroom and runs out to the balcony. Usagi (not transformed at this point, mind you), tries to stop Princess D, but the princess shoves Usagi over the balcony which likely would have meant Unqualified Disaster. 

Usagi, sweetie - the princess probably isn't too interested in Rational Thought right now.
But instead...

that sound i just made wasn't entire human...
Oh yeah - this episode has THAT moment!

*fangirl squee*
Usagi's Disguise Pen turns into an umbrella (shut up - it's magical girl anime) which allows her and Tuxedo Mask to float safely down to the ground. Tuxedo Mask thanks Usagi for saving him and disappears (he does that a lot) and Usagi goes to transform into Sailor Moon.

Except... (and this is something I always liked about the manga) -

Sailor Moon's tiara was lost in the last battle against Jadeite and continuity gives itself a huge high-five. Except she still needs her tiara to fight! Well - she gets one. And it's somewhat implied that her ~*~special moment~*~ with Tuxedo Mask helped her create it.

And, yeah, it kind of kicks ass.

Sailor Moon blows Nephrite away with (what I presume is) Moon Twilight Flash. And, if this were the manga, that would be it for Nephrite. Except... it's not. And herein lies yet another deviation from the manga storyline. And one that I am quite intrigued to see where Crystal takes it.

If they start singing "It's Gonna Be Me," I'm leaving.
So, the Sailor Guardians have been properly introduced to all four of the Shitennou at once - which is interesting to note, since that never happened in the manga or the anime (it did happen in PGSM, though). But there will be time for mulling over that new development, for you see - there is a treasure to reveal!

Oh - and Princess D is actually quite cute without her glasses,
which leads the girls to wonder what Umino would look like without his?
The Mysterious Treasure that everyone and their goldfish's mother-in-law was after. *eye roll*
That's just about all they wrote - except... in true fairy tale fashion... there's one more ~*~special moment~*~ to come. And, given that this is Usagi, I love that this was set up because she stayed up late reading manga and even fell asleep in school earlier in the day.

Tuxedo Mask finds Sailor Moon asleep out on the balcony (she didn't even transform back, she's so tired) and leans over to kiss her while she's dreaming about another (yet not so different) special someone. It's all very fluffy and romantic and peaceful. Except someone has to come out and ruin this tender moment -

(that cat, I swear to all that is good and holy...)

Luna confronts Tuxedo Mask about why he's also after the Silver Crystal and he admits that he might be one of their enemies (*headdesk repeatedly*) and then he jumps away. But Sailor Moon is totally and completely untroubled by such things because...

~*~le sigh~*~

Oh - and guess what! Guess what guess what guess what!!!

Sailor Jupiter! *pterodactyl screech*

(though we have to wait EVEN LONGER than usual because somebody decided that August was going to have FIVE Saturdays this year and Sailor Moon Crystal only airs the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month. As if August wasn't long enough to endure! *whimper*)

But who cares - SAILOR JUPITER! (my other favorite alongside Sailor Mercury! YAY!!)

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