Monday, September 29, 2014

There's Beauty and There's Danger Here

Recap/Review of Once Upon A Time, Episode 4.01 "A Tale of Two Sisters" - Spoilers!

I was kind of on the fence of whether I wanted to do actual reviews of Once Upon a Time like I do some of my other favorite shows - mostly because my reaction to Once often falls somewhere between "OMG - THEY DID NOT!" and frantic fangirl keysmashing on Tumblr. And I tend to ramble on where Once is concerned (that's an understatement...) But... I figured if I can't do that frantic fangirling on my own blog, then where can I do it? Plus, Tumblr seems to be the place where I just agree with the stuff that I agree with and ignore the crap that I don't. And that leaves little room for my own reactions and interpretations. So, we're going to see how this goes.

Before I really get into the meat of my review, I've got to talk Frozen a little bit. I've made little secret about how much I adore Frozen. Not since the Disney movies of my youth (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King - just to name the main ones) have I been this excited about any Disney movie. That's not to say things like Tangled and The Princess and the Frog haven't been good. But Frozen - man, that one made me think about the story. I was thinking about it for days afterward! It was one of those things that me think that, yeah hundreds and thousands of people have seen it and loved it, but it felt like it was made just for me. Especially Elsa. I was just so drawn to her story and her challenges and I wanted to know more about her (which, I've also been honest about the fact that I feel like the movie didn't give enough time over to her personal backstory - even though Elsa's problems are what start the story of the movie going forward). Hell, I even wrote a little drabbly fanfiction about Elsa after I came home from the movie! As time went on and I got thinking more - maybe Elsa's internal fight with herself is a little too dark for a Disney animated movie. Which is a shame, because there is some great storytelling potential here.

Then Once Upon a Time came out with the idea of putting Frozen in their universe. And I was all "Well OF COURSE they'd do that!" Because if there's one thing that Once excels at (okay, there are several things, but we'll get there), it's giving all these classic fairy tale characters depth. And while the Frozen story already had a great deal of depth - there was so much room for more. But Once already had a great springboard to start from with this story, so why not do it?

I talked about this in my last Doctor Who review - some of my favorite storytelling involves taking madcap fantastical stories about aliens and wizards and fairies and pirates and making those characters feel like they could be real people. I suppose it's a no-brainer (at least, it ought to be), but that's the kind of stuff I simply adore. And it's what Once does so well

And with this being a season premiere, there was a LOT that this episode had to accomplish. Fans have spent four months wondering and theorizing what was going to happen next - there's the question of how Frozen fits in so you have to account for that. But also - what about the regular main characters? (hold onto that thought for a minute). It felt like this episode had to be all things to all people - and maybe possibly bring in an audience that before now had only a passing interest in the show - maybe if there wasn't anything else on. Tall order for one episode.

So... how did they do? Speaking as a fan (and if there are any first-timers who want to comment, feel free to do so) - I think they did a damn good job!

First off - the burning question everyone wants to know (heh - "burning") - How did they do with translating Frozen into the Once-verse? In a word - Spot-on (okay, that might actually be two words). And it starts at the very beginning. With a scene that, quite honestly, I didn't know I wanted until I actually saw it. With Elsa and Anna's parents on the ship in the storm that killed them. Setting up a plot thread that (we later find out) is going to go through the entire story arc - the queen is frantically trying to send a message in hopes that it'll get back to Arendelle, telling the girls why they left in the first place. Given what happens later on, I could probably spend and entire blog post screaming WHY DIDN'T YOU DO THAT BEFORE YOU LEFT??? at these two (look, I know they love their daughters and want them to be happy and stuff - but sometimes, I question their parenting choices. And I realize I'm saying this speaking as not being a parent in any way, but whatever). And there's one shot that actually shocked me - the moment when the ship actually goes down looks EXACTLY like the shot in the animated movie. And this wasn't the first time that happened - because the next scene is Arendelle five years later and Anna and Elsa are visiting their parents' gravestones. Which also look just like they did in the movie. And the costumes look just like the did in the movie. And the casting - holy cow - the casting! I mean, you're never going to make real life people look like animated characters. But as a real life interpretation of animated characters? Um - yeah. Georgina Haig and Elizabeth Lail. Elsa and Anna. They got it. Perfectly spot-on (I'm going to be using that a lot, aren't I?)

Well - as much as the marketing has advertised it, this isn't the Frozen show. And we need to see the scene that we've all been anxious to see since May - the fallout from Hook and Emma's Back to the Future homage (still my favorite thing ever, by the way). Emma saved Maid Marian when she should have been killed by Regina in the Enchanted Forest, Regina is now dating Robin Hood except now Robin's heretofore dead wife is no longer dead - and, yeah, this is a sticky situation for all involved (even those involved only tangentially). And, honestly, I could probably write an entire blog post about this single 2-3 minute scene. I mean, people were worried that Regina was suddenly going to revert back to Evil Queen Out For Revenge - Henry (dear Henry) even voiced his own worries about that. Emma tries to apologize for what her actions did to Regina - but NOT for saving someone's life (that's an important distinction to make). Marian (understandably) is confused as hell about why everyone is treating Regina like a friend - or at least an ally - and yelling about how Regina is this terrible monster and how can Robin be involved with Regina.

And Regina - oh boy - there is one small moment that encapsulates Regina's mindset just perfectly. It's when Marian is calling Regina a monster - Regina takes a tiny step forward and her hand moves as though she's going to perform some incineration spell. Her face is twisted in anger and you actually think for a moment that she's going to do it. But then... she steps back. And she doesn't give in to that temptation to fry Marian on the spot. And that one tiny moment, I think, sets the tone for the kind of Regina we're going to get this season. She's not the vengeful Evil Queen anymore. She is certainly no less powerful or cunning - but the anger that fuels her power has been softened by the experiences she's had in being a good guy. She's learned how to love - she's learned how to love her son, she's learned how to love Robin, she's even learned how to care about the people she once hated (that heart-to-heart she and Mary Margaret had in Season 3 about Cora - yeah, that made an impact. Don't try to tell me it didn't). Good grief - she used light magic to beat Zelena when by all accounts there was no way that she could ever do that! And as the episode progresses, you really see that this is a different side of Regina. She's still so much the same character, but she is in a place that she's never been. And she's going to react to this situation in a very unique way (as least, compared to how she's done in the past).

(Wow. Not even ten minutes in. Told you this would be long and involved).

What other fallout do we have to deal with? (I'm saving the best for last - since the episode did that too). Rumple and Belle are on their honeymoon - but before they can get started, they take a short detour to Neal's grave. If you think about it, Rumple never got to pay his respects after his son's death (which is really heartbreaking) - but that gives us a chance for this very tender scene. But it's not just yet another chance for Once to kill us with feels. Because one of the Big Questions the finale left us with is - Rumple gave Belle a fake dagger and what's going to happen when she finds out about that? Well, turns out that Rumple only switched the daggers in order to avenge Neal's death. Which... doesn't make his actions any less problematic. But the fact that he wants to give the real one back and the fact that he intended to hang onto it only for that one thing... yeah, it's still a problem. But not as bad as we initially thought it was (still a problem - I will never say that it's not!) So, when they get to this ~*~mysterious mansion~*~ out in the forest that no one seems to live in (but it's fully furnished and looks rather well-cared for - hmmmm... okay, we'll go with it for now) - Rumple switches back the daggers when Belle is temporarily time-locked (okay, fine - this is life with the Dark One. We're just going to have to get used to it). After sparing a moment to look at this mysterious ornate and obviously magical object sitting on an end table - Belle and Rumple get their first dance as a married couple. In the most nostalgic and beautiful scene that Once has given us (and how many of those has this show had?) - we get a straight-up tribute to the famous ballroom scene from Beauty and the Beast. For no other reason than they could do it. Costumes, music, everything! And, lemme tell you, seven-year-old me was giggling with joy at that (oh hell, twenty-nine-year-old me was giggling with joy at that - it's one of the best Disney moments ever! If you can do something like that - why wouldn't you??)

And, finally, we come to the fallout from that other huge thing that happened at the end of Season 3. Yes, friends - the episode FINALLY gets around to checking in on how the good ship Captain Swan is faring. And... okay, yeah - it's not the typical Happily Ever After that we're used to seeing (and, really, if you look back at Snow and Charming during Season 1 - it took them a while to get there too. Now, they're the most stable couple on the show! So - don't worry about it). Emma is, understandably, not doing well with the idea that she ruined Regina's life with Robin. Plus, she's not really sure how to do a romantic relationship. But she can do the Savior of Storybrooke thing - so that's where she's going to bury herself until she figures out what exactly what this whole thing with Hook is. Thing is... she clearly wants to try to figure it out by herself. And Hook, being the tenacious and determined guy he is (especially where Emma is concerned) - yeah, there ain't no way that's going to happen. And he's right behind her - just like he was all of last season - to remind her that he's definitely not going to leave her to do any of this alone. And if there are any quiet moments to be had in the meantime - well, take them while they're there. It's almost a direct repeat of the scene last year after the team got back from Neverland and Charming tells Emma that she can't just live her life looking for the next fight - that she has to take advantage of the good moments and live in them because what else are you even fighting for? (and even in this, Hook and Charming are in accord. And you can't help but love that).

Sure enough - the town crier, Grumpy, comes running in to alert the Savior that there's a new threat to Storybrooke. Emma's back in Savior Mode - and Hook's right there with her (*fangirl squee*) - following this strange trail of ice that's just randomly wandering through the town. Because Elsa - who Hook inadvertently let out of Rumple's vault (so, Emma's not the only one that brought back an unexpected visitor - wonder how long it'll take them to figure that out) - has been taking in her new surroundings and she is scared out of her mind. And what happens when Elsa gets scared? She reacts with her magic. She's already frozen Grumpy and Sleepy's truck out on the road, there's an ice trail following her around (and I love the attention to detail about that - even in the background when it's somewhat out of focus behind Elsa, you can see this shiny strip of where the ice is supposed to be). And, mirroring what happened in Arendelle when Elsa's powers were revealed, Utter Chaos ensues in Storybrooke. Emma and Hook follow the ice trail to a fenced-off vacant lot (at least, that's what I thought it was) (and here I must pause to fangirl flail over those two pretty much working in tandem together because - YES I AM HERE FOR THAT!) - they look around a little bit, trying to figure out who's back there. And Elsa, hiding behind a pile of random stuff, creates a giant snow monster akin to Marshmallow from the movie. And here - I was cheering out loud. You know the love that most people have for Olaf? That's the kind of love I have for Marshmallow (I would buy plushies of Marshmallow if I knew where to get them). And when set reports started coming out from filming that there was a scene with a snow monster in Storybrooke, I wanted it so much to be Marshmallow. And yup - it was Marshmallow! Who looked amazing in CGI - and you all know how much (or little, actually) I care about CGI in anything. But I really loved it here!

Speaking of CGI - Grand Pabbie back in Arendelle. Oh wow - just - yes! They actually did it! they made the animated Rock Troll character look like the character from the movie and it still fit in with the rest of the visuals. And having John Rhys-Davies and the voice of Grand Pabbie does not hurt in the slightest (oh no indeed!) But that brings me to why Grand Pabbie is here at all - Anna and Elsa, it turns out, discover that there might be more to their parents' voyage that killed them. They might have found something to do with Elsa's magic and a way to help her cope with it (and why they didn't tell her BEFORE they left... ugh. Seriously - HISHE had the right of it with these two. Once has a long way to go toward redeeming them in my eyes. Which they may still do - not counting anything out at this point). So, the day before Anna and Kristoff's wedding - Anna treks out (in her mother's wedding dress - oh Anna, what are we going to do with you?) to the Rock Trolls to ask Grand Pabbie what he knows about their parents' journey. All Pabbie knows, sadly, is that they were heading out to a place called Mist Haven (all right - new fairy tale locations! Except it's not new - it's actually the Enchanted Forest. Well... fine then). Anna gets it in her head that she just has to go to Mist Haven to find out what this is all about. On her own. Without anybody's help. ON THE DAY BEFORE HER WEDDING!!

Though that probably isn't as bad as
Anna wearing her wedding dress out in the forest
(gif source)
Elsa gets the truth of Anna's plans out of Kristoff, but by that time, Anna's long gone. And Kristoff, bless him, he's so awkward and loving and earnest in his affections toward Anna that he happily stays behind because Anna doesn't want Elsa to be alone while Anna's gone (even though Anna has a lot of problems in her logic - leaving the day before her wedding?? I ask you...) But that's just like Anna from the movie - doing things that don't make a whole lot of sense to everyone else, but because it means her sister's happiness - yeah, she's off and running!

Back in Storybrooke, Marshmallow's headed out to the forest and Emma, Hook, and Charming are after the creature as well. They've already figured out that the creature only attacks if it's threatened (perfect extension of Elsa, of course). Thing is - nobody has any way to calm the creature down. All anyone can do is attack it. Emma even tries her magic and that doesn't work. Marshmallow knocks everyone out and they are down for the count.

Except Marian. And Regina. Who kind of materialized out of the forest like the badass queen she is. After having spent a good deal of the episode plotting with Sidney Glass - her old magic mirror/propaganda peddler in Storybrooke who is clearly still enamored of his old flame (oh man, this isn't going to bring all that back is it? Hopefully Regina's look of distaste as Sidney's suggested methods for dealing with Marian means that it's not), Regina seems to have decided that it would be better if she was seen being kind of Marian, rather than antagonistic. Especially since Robin, who clearly still loves Regina, also still feels an obligation to be faithful to his not-dead-wife (that sounds like she's a zombie. Once Upon a Time, everyone) - and can Regina be anything less than honorable in this situation? So - rather than let Marshmallow stomp Marian flat, Regina steps in and destroys the snow monster (RIP Marshmallow) and saves everyone. Emma tries to go after Regina, just to talk and try to explain things, but Regina poofs out of there.

And here we go, Captain Swan fans - because this is what we've been teased for all these long months! That Emma has a long way to go until she can truly feel like she deserves a happy relationship, even though, yes, this is something she wants. But she's just not quite sure how to go about having it (she's had plenty of experience with unhappy relationships, though). And while we're used to seeing her push away the people who care about her - including Hook - it's so refreshing to see Emma reach out and be honest with how she feels (with a little coaxing, but that's all right. Right?). Emma's the one who initiates the really soft, tender kiss (though she did initiate the one at the end of last season, come to think of it) before she asks Hook to "be patient" and leaves to go take care of something. And if there's anything that Killian Jones knows how to do, it's be patient (you have to feel for the guy - at some point, his patience is going to run out. But maybe it's that 300 years in Neverland that does something - heck, I don't know!) Anyway - it's a sweet and short little scene - but it definitely promises at great things (and likely painful things, let's be honest here) to come for my favorite ship. And I would be lying if I said I hadn't watched that one scene at the end at least four or five times (probably up to ten by the time I finally post this).

The heartwrenching continues. Because if we still weren't convinced that Once Upon a Time parallels with Frozen - we get the moment where Emma goes to see Regina at the mayor's office. Regina is curled up against the door, not letting anyone in - Emma is on the other side, promising that, as the Savior, she is going to bring back everyone's happy endings. Including Regina's. This, paired with the final flashback scene of Arendelle with Elsa and Kristoff watching Anna's ship sail away to Mist Haven (the Enchanted Forest - to-may-toe, to-mah-toe) - and the promised theme of "Never giving up on the ones you love," I'm pretty sure we've got the running theme of Season 4 down pretty well.

Also - Regina wants to find the writer of Henry's fairy tale book. Because she believes that because she's a villain in the book, she's always going to be the villain and she's never going to have a happy ending (which kind of begs the question - we've got three anti-villains in Once: the Evil Queen, Rumplestiltskin, and Captain Hook. All three have shown both heroic and villainous tendencies, all three are working toward happy endings to one degree or another - does that mean that Regina wants to chuck all that out the window? I mean, I know she's hurting... but if anything - and I mean anything - derails Hook and Emma right now, I'm going to go apeshit on somebody. But perhaps that's another discussion for another day). So, Regina - she wants to find the person who wrote the book that, she thinks, forces her to lose out on her happiness - that she is simply a static character without any agency or autonomy of her own. When, honestly, nothing could be further from the truth! (look, I know Regina's hurting right now. I'm hurting for her too. And at least she's backed off the the of screwing around with time travel. I mean, we saw how much of a bad idea that was).

(Though the question of who wrote the book is a really cool one - something I thought we'd never see. At least, not at this point in the story. But let's go with it).

Just for one more mystery (that may or may not be connected to the book) - the scene cuts to Rumple at the mansion in the middle of the night checking out that odd little trinket box he was so interested in earlier. He steals back the dagger (all for a good cause, right Rumple?) and activates the box to reveal - a pretty good live-action rendition of the wizard's hat from The Sorcerer's Apprentice as seen in Fantasia.

Well, if you ever wondered how they'd work Mickey Mouse into Once Upon a Time...
To close out, Elsa's discovered that Rumplestiltskin is in this strange new place she's found herself in (wedding announcements on the front page? Eh, it's Mr. Gold. He still owns the town, I guess) and he tracks him down to the pawn shop. That, wonder of wonders, also has Anna's necklace that Elsa gave her. Which could mean several things - Anna got swept up in the Curse (first or second - doesn't really matter), she's being kept prisoner by Rumple, or... something else I haven't thought of yet. And, judging by the "Next Week" promo - yeah, Elsa's going to be more than a little pissed. She already didn't take too kindly to being called a monster (granted, that was Grumpy's big mouth - and he was talking about Marshmallow) - and now she thinks someone's got her beloved baby sister captured? Gold, you get your dagger-swapping backside

Other Things I Liked -  (as if this wasn't long enough)

- "Maybe we should have named him Baelfire." Too late Charming, you already got your graduation certificate in the mail.

- I didn't talk a whole lot about it, but Robin coming to talk to Regina - very obviously torn up about what's happened. And... maybe we're getting a Robin Hood episode this season? *crosses fingers and toes*

- Give the reindeer playing Sven a Emmy - his reactions were perfectly hilarious!

- Of all the dwarves to make the designated driver, the one notorious for falling asleep at random times would NOT be my first choice (but that's just me).

- New Drinking Game - Take a drink every time Hook and/or Emma roll their eyes at something stupid someone else does (even if it's directed at the other).

- Elsa's snow flurries that appeared when she was scared or upset. Nice touch.

- Henry wasn't in the episode much (there was a lot to cover, kid!) But I love that he hung back to call Regina when she wasn't answering Emma's calls. Wonder if he ever got through...

- The entire Netflix scene. Hook - you're a lovesick dork and I love you for it!

And before I totally lose my audience (bless you for sticking around this long) here's the "Next Week" promo (I'm not going to make it) -

I'm off to see if Fantasia's on Netflix. It's been forever since I've seen it...

('s not. Well, fine then...)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hey! Teacher! Leave Those Kids Alone!

Recap/Review of Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 6: "The Caretaker" - SPOILERS!

Well... I didn't get that Ian Chesterton cameo (rats!) Other than that - this was a lovely episode.

One thing that I've noticed people getting a bit miffed about in recent Doctor Who is that the monsters seem to be taking a back seat to the characters and their stories. To me, that's actually one of the great strengths of the show, particularly in the Steven Moffat-era. Not that I wasn't interested in the characters in the Russell T Davies years, but Moffat's characters seem to be even more real. Especially juxtaposed next to the utterly bonkers adventures that they find themselves in. It's one of the things that I adore about fantasy and science fiction in general - when the stories are so steeped in the fantastical, but the characters still feel like they could be real people (even when one is an alien with two hearts and eyebrows that are threatening to declare independence from the rest of his face. Sorry, Scotland - I had to throw that in there).

By design, "The Caretaker" is meant to show us Clara trying to balance her real life with her Doctor life. Even more than Amy and Rory got the chance to do in "The Power of Three" (which, that is one of my all-time favorite episodes with the Ponds) - because we are essentially in the middle of Clara's story with the Doctor (at least, I hope so *not saying nothing - stupid rumor mill*). She is going on all these madcap adventures, but in the meantime she's got a job and a guy that she really likes and a life that she is still figuring out at this stage. And this episode's opening sequence shows that really well - also shows that Danny Pink is most certainly twigging to the fact that this girl that he really likes is also a bit strange. But he goes along with it because, dammit, he really likes her! (and she likes him too).

I enjoy these slice-of-life stories for the companions. I love delving into what traveling with the Doctor does to them and to their loved ones. And I love how creative these kinds of stories have gotten since the 2005 revival. It's not just "my daughter has been missing for a year" anymore. It's "here's my ordinary life - oh, the TARDIS is here! Doctor Time!" and feeling like you have to keep that a secret from the people you care about. Either because it's too weird to try to explain, or because it's too dangerous.

So when the danger invades Clara's very ordinary and safe life at school, what does she do? How does she keep her secrets without alienating Danny or the Doctor. This story is quite unique in that not only has Clara been keeping her Doctor life secret from Danny, but she's also kept the fact that she has a boyfriend secret from the Doctor. I love that aspect of the story - that Clara has these two people that she cares about in very different, but still meaningful, ways and she's essentially had to lie to both of them about various things. And it turns out that those secrets and lies were very unnecessary because both the Doctor and Danny care about her and are willing to listen to her when it comes time for those secrets to be revealed. Not saying that they're particularly happy that she lied, but once the truth is out, it's out. And it's time to deal with it, instead of being angry about Clara having hidden it.

In the end, the alien threat (which I don't even remember its name and it really doesn't matter) only serves to bring the weird space stuff into Clara's normal life and give the Doctor a reason to come to Coal Hill School under his version of "deep cover" (*snort* Right....) And these events move Danny and Clara's relationship further, as evidenced by their conversation at the end - where Danny admits that he wants to help Clara with whatever she needs because he cares about her a lot. But he can't help her if he doesn't know what's going on. To me, that is the best way of showing how two people care about each other. Don't get me wrong - I loved Clara's impassioned "I love him!" in the assembly-room-thing. But Danny's comment that he wants Clara to tell him if something in her life with the Doctor goes wrong because, as a soldier, he's used to dealing with officer-type guys and he wants Clara to be safe and happy was just as important and meaningful. And it gave me the warm fuzzy feels and I will never say no to that! :)

Other Things I Liked - 

- Of course, anything with the Doctor and Clara is going to be wonderful (Peter and Jenna are just so good together!) I think my favorite was the whole Jane Austen bit where Clara goes off about how the Doctor must have met Jane while she was writing Pride and Prejudice and they went off on holiday together and met Buddy Holly and whatever else, but then the Doctor just says that he read the bio at the back of the book that said that Jane Austen had written the book in 1796 (or whatever the date was).

- Courtney Woods - I thought she had potential as a companion, but then she really didn't. Do we count her with Adam as a failed companion? (Your Mileage May Vary)

- "I'm a disruptive influence." "Nice to meet you. Now get lost."

- Sooooo... soldiers can't teach math, Doctor? You're just going to ignore Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart teaching math at a boys' school in "Mawdryn Undead," then?

- I've heard people be upset about the new version of the opening theme tune. I admit I hadn't given it much thought, but this week I decided to pay attention to it. Honestly, it's fine. I don't mind it. People just need something to whine about, I guess.

- I love how the Doctor gets all serious when Clara asks him point blank if the kids in the school are safe.

- Do all British schools have a giant chess board? Or is that just Hogwarts and Coal Hill?

- The Doctor assumes Clara's boyfriend is the Matt Smith lookalike with the bowtie. Bless.

That's about all I've got for this week. Great, fun little story. Gave us some wonderful character relationship stuff. Just a very enjoyable episode. I wanna watch it again!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Who Saves the Savior?

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 6: Tuxedo Mask - SPOILERS!

This review is going to be a bit different. Rather than go through and do a blow-by-blow analysis, there is one particular scene I want to focus on because there is so much packed into it (and the rest of the stuff is kind of secondary anyway - no less important to the overall story, but this one bit really stuck out to me. I love it when that happens) -

Actually - the seeds for this were sown at the end of Act 5 where Luna gives Sailor Moon the Moon Stick and says "You - Leader! Act like it!" And it kind of continues throughout this episode with the scenes in the arcade after hours. Luna’s giving the girls the whole “Your mission in life is to fight the Silver Crystal and guard the princess. There’s more to the story, but you’re only going to get bits and pieces of this until a certain unspecified time.” And there’s a secret compartment under the arcade that serves as a secret base and the Sailor V game is part of it (that oughta please the rabid nit-pickers. But of course it won’t so forget I even mentioned it). Ami, Rei, and Makoto are in awe of this random secret base under the thing - but Usagi... well, remember how at the end of Act 5 Luna dropped the whole “Hey, you - Leader!” thing on her? She’s still processing it. She’s still in complete and utter shock of that revelation.

Because the genre deems it so - stop fighting this
And Usagi - bless her - is not doing well with this information.

The idea that Tuxedo Mask could be their enemy doesn't sit well either. I'll get there.
And here I must back up for a bit and discuss my current mindset. For that is the lens through which I am watching Sailor Moon Crystal. At the beginning of this year, I was semi-involved in a business deal that, had it gone through, would have made me the manager (of sorts) of a huge chunk of our family’s business. This is what a lot of people in my age and situation are hankering for, right? This is what women in general have fought and campaigned for - the ability to be leaders in business and make high-powered decisions and be the boss and be over everybody and everything. Right?

The mystery of the pen-dispensing video game revealed!
I should have been excited about the opportunity. I should have been foaming at the mouth to get this thing done. I should have been ready to waltz in there and take charge and be the Head Bitch In Charge. I should aspire to being on the list of Top 100 Women Leaders in Business because that’s what women’s rights groups tell me I should want. This quiet, meek, little bookworm who maybe wants to someday get married and have a family - pffft! That’s weak sauce! That goes against everything women have worked for the past 200 (or so) years! Be a modern, proactive woman! Be the boss! Be intelligent! Be tough! Girl power! (and all that shit).

The reality? I was terrified. I almost didn’t want the deal to go through, even though I knew that it would open up untold opportunities not just for myself, but for our family’s business interests - thus, it would be beneficial to my parents, my siblings, possibly my niece and nephew (and future nieces and nephews). But I wasn’t sure if I could handle being in charge of something so huge and important. I was scared I’d mess it up and make things worse. I was comfortable and happy where I was - why should I want that to change?

Even in the face of all the "evidence,"
Usagi's faith in Tuxedo Mask is unwavering and I love that!
(In the end - there were some outside influences that prevented the deal from happening and our little Brain Trust group ended up parting ways with that particular company. Doesn’t mean that there aren’t other deals that could happen and I’ll end up back in the same situation - hopefully with an organization that wasn’t as messed-up as we later found out that one was. It’s a long story...)

Video Game!Sailor V being helpful in the way that Sailor V can
My point is that I can understand Usagi running away from being a leader. Especially where she’s this happy-go-lucky sweetheart girl who just wants to make friends and make the people around her feel loved. She cares little for school and other serious responsibilities, no matter how many times she’s told she should take more care in these things. Even being Sailor Moon - well, there are three other Sailor Guardians to help her. She can defer to one of them. She just happens to be the first one Luna found. She can depend on one of the others. Right?

And you need to stop being a pain in the ass, cat!
Nope. According to the talking cat - Usagi’s the leader. She’s in charge. She’s the one who had to run point and figure things out. And that scares her to death. She can barely manage to pass math class (if indeed she passes math at all) - how in the world can she lead??

To this point, this is not a side of Usagi we’ve seen. We’ve seen her be the best friend and the fun-loving girl. She pulls people out of their shells and helps them feel loved. She’s the glue that brings this unlikely little family together. Even back in the original anime - Usagi had very little angst or self-doubts. The times we saw a sad Usagi were the times that her friends were in danger and there was nothing she could do about it. She very rarely second-guessed herself. Which is why I’m so glad Crystal is allowing us to see this side of Usagi. Like Rei’s episode where we saw Rei dealing with some very real internal struggles, this episode gave Usagi some much-needed character development and a chance to see what’s under that happy face she puts on for so many people.

I know the feeling, kid.
And it’s interesting that this character study comes in this particular episode - the one where we’re promised more insight into Tuxedo Mask. Because as well as the bombshell of finding out she’s supposed to be the leader, Usagi also discovers that the one person (besides Luna) that’s been with her on this journey since the beginning might not be everything that she assumed he was. Usagi has taken strength and inspiration from Tuxedo Mask, even though she doesn’t have a clue who he really is. All she knows is that he shows up to help her when she needs it most. As much as Sailor Moon (the series, not the character) is about girls finding the power within themselves and not necessarily needing a man to help them through this (and as the theme song so succinctly puts it every episode) - Usagi does need that encouragement and reassurance from Tuxedo Mask. She relies on him just as much as Ami, Rei, and Makoto rely on Usagi.

And what’s interesting is that we do get that moment of introspection from Tuxedo Mask (which, if you don’t know that Tux is actually Mamoru Chiba at this point, you haven’t been paying attention at all). Because he even says he doesn’t have powers like Sailor Moon does. He admits that she is capable of so much more than he ever could do ([Spoiler Redacted]). And I think if we were allowed to follow Mamoru the way we’ve followed Usagi and the girls, we’d learn a lot more about the things he’s gone through to get to this point (then again - we’re getting the second part of his story in two weeks, so we’re not shutting the book on that line of inquiry just yet. To which I say - Hell Yes! I am here for that!)

I know the manga is its own storyline and it’s clear from the changes that have been made that Some Intense Stuff is going to go down - but I just want to talk about what I love about the manga in terms of Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship. In the original anime, I fell in love with the timeless love story. I thought it was adorable and romantic and so much squee worthy and wouldn’t it be amazing to be the beautiful princess and marry the handsome prince. But at the same time, I felt like it didn’t go far enough. I felt like there was more of their story to tell, but I’d have to fill that in on my own. It wasn’t until years later that I read the manga and I found how just how deep this story runs and that depth was there from the beginning! Because the anime tended to sort of gloss over the love story (and the English dub didn’t do it any favors in some respects, but I’m not here to discuss that) and some lovely details were lost in favor of oddly-placed humor and crass stereotypes (because societal gender wars between men and women are so much more important than finding common ground and realizing how much we actually do need each other, you know).

I think my fangirl senses went from "Okay, good" to "OMG YES!!" right here.
Perhaps it’s because I’m older and I've seen more disappointment and heartbreak - not just in my life, but in others’ lives as well - but I love that we have this moment where Usagi and Tuxedo Mask admit their failings to one another. It pains me to admit it, but that handsome white knight doesn’t exist. Oh, he may put on a good front, but he’s either trying to pull a fast one over on some gullible chicky-poo or he’s faking it because that’s how he knows how to gain approval (but he’s not very good at it, so it goes unnoticed).

You tried and that's all that matters. I think.
I mean, look at this - Mamoru is admitting that he screwed up with this whole “Help Me Find the Silver Crystal” thing. The Dark Kingdom was able to piggy-back off his publicity stunt and brainwash people into looking for the Crystal and then they attacked the entire city. Again, Tux needs Sailor Moon to fix a specific problem and he admits to her that he doesn’t have powers like she does (like I said before). But here’s the thing - he has to tell Usagi this through the guise of Tuxedo Mask (and never has a superhero name been so appropo). He clearly knows that she’s Sailor Moon, but he’s still not ready to reveal himself to her just yet. And I’m sitting here thinking - why? What happened in this guy’s past that he would effectively wall himself away from people like this? I mean, I guess it could be a commentary on how we all have our disguises and masks to keep the people we care about at arms length. But this feels like it’s a more specific instance. This is where I wish we had more insight into what Mamoru’s mindset is and what he’s thinking right here. I know what events happened in his past (the “Next Time” promo even gives it to us), and we can fill in the blanks as an audience. But I’d love to have more details and information - it would be a fascinating character study. I mean, just because it’s a magical girl anime doesn’t mean you need to leave out such a vital component of a vital and interesting character just because he’s a guy, right?

(Oh man, I probably just opened up a huge can of worms with that remark. Still - my point stands. I want to know more about Mamoru Chiba. I want more of his backstory and growing up years and what made him become Tuxedo Mask. Simply because I don’t know what happened to him. I’m already interested in this guy. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be asking for more backstory. He’s just as much a part of this story as Usagi or any of the other girls. In fact - I hope we do get more backstory on all the characters. C’mon, Crystal - you can do this thing!)

Anyway - it’s a tender and poignant moment. One that I hope and wish fandom will appreciate more and more. Not just because it’s “ZOMG - OTP!” (though that is fun and I won’t lie - I got butterflies from it) - but because it’s an example of how to do romantic relationships in fiction and do them well. I don’t care if your story is set on the planet Zog 496 and the people there have spatulas instead of fingers - if you can give me a realistic relationship between two people (romantic or otherwise) and make those characters interesting on their own as well as together, you’ve got me.

Mad props for the fade effect, animators!
I’ve barely touched any of the rest of the episode! We get dream sequences of the Silver Millennium - not just from Usagi, but also from Mamoru (loving the connection these two already have!) Not just that they're having dreams about each other, but also that those dreams take place in the huge battle that destroyed the Silver Millennium - much more dramatic than the princess simply staring out into the distance mewling about the Silver Crystal all the time.

A chance encounter between both of them - but this time Ami and Mako are there to witness it. I love that Mako points out that Usagi’s blushing and that Mako kind of gives her static about it (that’s what best friends do).

The design of the secret base under the arcade is gorgeous and wonderful. Sailor Moon’s new attack is quite well done too. The Dark Kingdom continues to be ominous and threatening - not foppish or cartoony at all (man, they really are scary this time around).

Also, Ikuko playing with Luna as if she were a normal cat brings me life. I love that we got just that one little comic moment and then it was back to the heaviness of the main story. It’s these little details that make Crystal so enjoyable and fun and I’m glad they’re allowing themselves to do things like this.

And for next time... you know - I love how this episode was “Tuxedo Mask” and the next one is called “Mamoru Chiba.” It seems like they two parts of one continuing narrative and that was sorely needed. Especially since Usagi has the two personas separated in her mind - so we had to have one exploring Mamoru as Tuxedo Mask and one exploring Mamoru as himself (so it’s very possible that all that lamenting I did about Mamoru needing more backstory and explanation will be moot in two weeks anyway. I need to go back and refresh my memory of how the manga dealt with this part of the story - it’s been a while).

Crystal continues to promise big things and it continues to deliver! Keep it up, kids!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Hoping for Minimalist. Came Out Magician.

Review/Recap of Doctor Who Series 8, Episode 5: "Time Heist" - SPOILERS

All week, people have all "OMG - Doctor Who's going to o a heist episode! That's awesome!" And maybe it just because I'm not huge in to heist movies - indeed, I didn't even know that was a thing - but I was sort of "Hm. Heist. Yeah. That's nice I guess."

There had to be at least one episode that didn't ring true for me, and I guess this is the one. And it's not like I hated it. It just didn't hit all my buttons the way the previous four did. I'm sure I'll watch it again in the future. Or I won't (Look, I have't rewatched Ocean's Eleven ever. I just don't see a need to do so. I know how it ends. I don't need to watch it again and have all the twists ruined). There was nothing particular bad about it. But it wasn't my cup of tea. That's how these things go. No show is perfect and not everything is going to appeal to everybody. This episode has its fans, I'm sure. But I'm not in a hurry to rewatch it.

There were a few things I did like. Clara and Danny are getting super-close (yes, good). Psi sacrificing himself to save Clara was nice too. Nobody died in this episode (except for the director lady at the end when she's all old and dying anyway, which I already forgot her name so never mind). The Doctor is awesome as always. Though I kind of called that he was the mysterious Architect when the thing about the Architect being from the future came up, so that was a bit of a cheat.

It was light. It was straightforward. It was all right. Just didn't hit that high level of ZOMG - AWESOME that the last four episode have for me. It's about like "Planet of the Ood" or "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" - they're okay, but not instant classics. And I'm okay with that.

Next week looks fabulous, though. The Doctor works at Coal Hill and probably embarrasses Clara in the process. And more Danny/Clara! (yes, this I'm looking forward too).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Mad Genius of Steven Moffat - Review of "Listen"

Review/Recap of Doctor Who, Series 8 Episode 4: "Listen" - SPOILERS

I'm going to go somewhere... not exactly odd, but not necessarily expected in this case. It'll have a point in a minute, I promise.

In the first half of Season 3 of Once Upon a Time (spoilers, if you haven't seen it and care about such things) - there was a definite pattern to how the first seven or so episodes went. The short version is that Henry was kidnapped and taken to Neverland and the six main leads had to team up to rescue him (even had its own hashtag - #SaveHenry. Cute, ABC Marketing. Really cute). This was supposed to be something rather exciting and new and edge-of-your-seat awesome. Well... reality is a different story. Ever read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (or seen Part 1 of the movie?) Remember all those endless camping chapters? Yeah - it was about like that. There were random side quests and pointless angst that had me, at least, going WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GO SOMEWHERE WITH THIS??? It was somewhat painful to watch (read my secondary Twitter feed - @cj_tweets5; search #CJWatchesOUAT - for all that "joy." And then stick around for Season 3B because - AWESOME).

Except - for Episode 5. Now, this episode is helped by having flashbacks to Captain Hook's pre-pirating days, which was actually something brand new and exciting (rather than retreading the same old drama that they've covered for the past two seasons. YES, WE GET IT. RUMPLE AND HIS SON HAVE A VERY POOR RELATIONSHIP! THEY HAVE FOR CENTURIES! YOU CAN MOVE ON FROM THIS!) But also - the random side-quest of Hook and Prince Charming leaving the group to find this navigational thingy was not so side-questy as we thought. Because Charming had been poisoned in a fight with the Lost Boys and he was dying, but Hook knew a way to save him that Charming would never have agreed to unless Hook tricked him into going off on Heroic Side-Quest #589. That, coupled with the Hook backstory AND the lack of Rumple angst AND the inclusion of Queen Regina Finally Getting Crap Done, makes this episode one of my all-time favorites. Because the season had set me up to expect one thing, and it gave me something COMPLETELY Different. And I liked this version of COMPLETELY Different. It was clever and exciting and proved to me that this show still could bring me surprising happy endings and intriguing character moments and they need to do that more often (and I like Once's version of Captain Hook. Yes, please - I am here for that!)

How does this connect to "Listen"? Because this episode is a Steven Moffat episode. And we know - more or less - what to expect from a Steven Moffat episode. Especially one that was advertised as being Creepy As Hell. This was supposed to be in the vein of "Blink" or "The Empty Child" or "The Impossible Astronaut" or any of those other stories where Moffat makes ordinary things pants-wettingly-creepy.

And, strangely enough, it wasn't. Oh sure, it was scary enough - but no moreso than any other episode of Doctor Who. But, in a way, Moffat gave us a character study of the Doctor that we never knew we wanted. Without it actually being a character study. And without realizing that's what we were getting until the very end. Brief mention of the Time War (thank you Miss Oswald), brief landing on Gallifrey in the past (holy crap - not even going to ask how because I freaking don't care at this point), wrap it all together that the Doctor was suddenly obsessed with something from his childhood that was never even there to begin with. And you have a beautiful stand-alone episode of Doctor Who. Something that is going to be a touchstone for the rest of Peter Capaldi's run as the Doctor - especially as we play this long game of Finding Gallifrey.

And while we're exploring the Doctor's character without actually exploring the Doctor's character - how about some mad props for Clara and Danny Pink? First date - yeah, that kind of sucked. But thanks to the Doctor and all his timey-wimey business (except he probably doesn't call it that anymore - the War Doctor made him self-conscious about all that), they get a second and third go at first impressions. Meeting baby!Danny (sorry - Rupert Pink. Look, he's just going to be baby!Danny to me from now on. That's what I wrote in my notes) in the beginning and Clara creating an unintended family heirloom that their great-grandson takes to the end of the universe (kept waiting for Professor Yana to show up - no big deal that he didn't). I mean - there were a lot of great little tricks and misdirections, so you don't see the REAL story until the very ending. Bravo, Moffat.

(And here I realize just how small this cast was. It was just Capaldi, Coleman, and Samuel Anderson - who also played Orson Pink as well as his usual role of Danny Pink - and the kid who was baby!Danny. Nicely done, peeps).

Other Things I Liked -

- The cold open - When the Doctor's on top of the TARDIS, and then he's inside the console room but he isn't at the console. I love that he's walking around that top balcony/level/thing and you can see all around the console room. I continue to love the cozy library motif in the new console room - the chalkboard and the books and the warm lighting scheme. Oh my gosh - it's beautiful. If I had a TARDIS, that would be my console room. No question.

- We finally find out what that one seemingly button-free panel of the TARDIS console does. And this being Moffat, of course it would be something kind of gross. Of course.

- Danny Pink is awkwardly cute and that's endearing to me. More Danny, please!

- Clara's death was alluded to yet again in a Steven Moffat-penned episode (that makes twice this season). I fear for our Impossible Girl (but she has to survive in order to have great-grandchildren, right?)

- Psychic paper makes a return. And I liked the subdued way the Doctor pulled it out of his pocket. He didn't have to flourish or brandish it. Just... "here are my credentials - let's move on with our lives."

- The Doctor's "Dad Skills." Look, I'm a sucker for anytime the Doctor refers to being a parent in any way, shape, or form.

- The Doctor basically ordering Clara back to the TARDIS with a "Do as you're told" and then Clara rounding it back on him later. That's their relationship. I'm good with it.

- Orson Pink (which, I totally thought his name was "Awesome Pink" when they first said it - anyone else get that?) was wearing a suit from the Sanctuary Base clear back from "The Satan Pit." So - was Orson part of the Sanctuary Base at one time, or is this a case of the BBC only having one spacesuit in their costume department?

- The caretaker of the children's home looked very familiar to me, but I can't place the guy for the life of me. Feel like I should recognize the actor... hm... Anyway...

- I was amused at how bad the Doctor is at being a post-date sounding board for Clara. I probably shouldn't, but I haven't had a date in about two years, so I'm allowed to find these things funny.

- The Doctor's sometimes-glittery-sometimes-not sweater under his jacket. That's all.

This is definitely one that I'm going to rewatch just for the hell of it. I don't feel like I need to rewatch it to catch up on anything I missed on first viewing, but I certainly want to. It just left me with a great feeling afterward (that will certainly flee away once I foolishly wander onto Tumblr to get their reactions because - sexism? Eh, probably). I loved this unexpected path for Moffat to take. I loved this subtle exploration of the Doctor and Clara and Danny on an individual basis and also their relationships with one another (inasmuch as the Doctor and Danny know each other - but I have a feeling we'll get there). Do I need more of this? Well... probably not. But if it's as well done as "Listen," I won't complain that I got it.

And for all this talk of "Does Clara remember saving the Doctor in his timeline?" Well... I guess she's not done saving him yet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

One With the Wind and Sky

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 5: Makoto - Sailor Jupiter - SPOILERS

You know how sometimes you see something that’s just perfect for the frame of mind you’re in? We Mormons commonly use the term “tender mercies” to describe such things - it’s a moment where you feel like God (or whatever higher power you subscribe to - it doesn't matter) is sending you a message of hope and comfort in something that has meaning only to you because He knows you better than anyone and He knows what is going to help you the best. But I think it goes even beyond simple comfort from a higher power. It’s also a teaching moment - you feel like your mind and soul have been enriched in a way you hadn't thought of before. I don’t know how it is for other people (and the experience can be so intense that you really don’t have the words to describe it), but to me it almost feels like I can physically feel my mind expand. It’s like an itch that’s been there for years but you never realized it was there until something poked at it. And now that that part of your mind being stimulated, it feels really really good.

That’s kind of how I felt about Makoto's episode. It’s similar to Rei’s episode in that I have a new dimension of looking at this character. The difference is, where I was never that excited about Rei (though I still liked her well enough), I’ve always loved Makoto. I love the balance in her personality of a physically strong and mentally tough tomboy with the girlier aspects of her character. This analysis has been well and truly documented by fandom - it’s what people know about her right off the bat. She’s the badass fighter chick who also loves to bake cupcakes and create floral designs. Though her fighter-chick side gets noticed more often by her peers - mostly because it’s an unusual trait for a girl to have and it’s more often remarked upon, whether in a positive or negative light (and I will let the legions of Perpetually Angry Social Justice Fun Police continue to rail about that - I have never made it my priority to do such things myself).

Not sure where to put this, but I have to remark SOMEHOW
on Umino's Drive-By Info Bomb and the increasingly
humorous ways Crystal continues to portray this character.
This is the source of Mako’s loneliness - that people only see half of who she is. She is reduced to a walking stereotype because people (for whatever reason - not necessarily intentional) only see her at a surface level. She’s taller than the other girls, therefore she is strong and she can handle anything. This is even more exacerbated by the fact that Juban Public Middle School doesn’t stock uniforms in her size and she has to wear the uniform from her old school and that makes this trait of hers stand out all the more (such is the plight of the tall girl. Oh, the times I came home from the mall in tears because I could never find clothes that fit me properly! To this day, I HATE clothes shopping. All you short, petite, little things - at least you have JCPenney looking out for you. That’s really why we tall girls poke fun at you. We’re jealous).

The Tall Girls' Lament
This is what I suspect Mako-chan feels: Maybe someday someone will notice that I’m better at things other than fighting. Maybe someday someone will see my cute bento box and my carefully prepared lunches. Maybe someday someone will see the time and effort I take in looking after myself. Maybe someday I won’t be the superhuman freak show that they all come to gawk at.

And this, of course, is where Usagi Tsukino comes in (why do I have the hardest time typing out her surname?) Call it fate or destiny or whatever (it’s magical girl anime - destiny and fate are this genre’s bread and butter) - but Usagi pops up and sees Makoto’s lunch and how good and cute it looks (Usagi loves things that are aesthetically pleasing as well as tummy-pleasing. So, this is a two-fer for her).

Usagi’s enthusiasm for Makoto’s creation kind of takes her by surprise. And I suspect that Makoto would love to have someone to share her lunch with and here is a girl almost ready-made to be Makoto’s friend. Usagi is even willing to show Makoto around town, since she’s new and doesn’t know where all the good markets are. And the arcade. Can’t forget the arcade.

In fact, the next stop is indeed Crown Arcade. Where Makoto is treated to pre-Senshi initiation (it seems that’s what’s going on) - playing the Sailor V game. And doing quite well, Ami is quick to notice. For a moment, I thought that Ami was going to regard Makoto with suspicion, but all she notices is how good Makoto is at the game (not unlike Ami’s first go-round with it). And then, Ami gives the greatest understatement in the history of understatements - (screencap of Ami saying Usagi is good at making friends).

Don’t think I’m finding fault with this at all! Ami is admiring Usagi’s skill at friendship - something that Ami has never been able to do so easily (it’s a skill even in the real world. Like - how do people just do that? They just always have people that click around them? It has to be a superpower). Also, maybe it’s just because I’ve always loved the friendship that develops between Ami and Makoto, but I feel like Crystal went out of its way to subtly create that initial connection between Ami and Mako. Whether or not it was there or even intended, I noticed it and I was glad to see that happening. I always felt like Mako was Ami’s link to the rest of the loud, boisterous, vivacious Sailor Senshi. Don’t misunderstand - all these girls are true and fast friends and they would do anything for each other. But I feel like Ami sometimes gets overwhelmed by the others’ energy and ambition (especially Usagi’s and - when she gets here - Minako’s). And Makoto brings this quiet strength to the group that can sustain Ami in those moments that Usagi, Rei, and Minako are nearly bouncing off the ceiling, while also fueling the other girls’ excitement and enthusiasm. This is what makes this group of characters work so well together - they each have a piece of the puzzle that makes this dynamic just work. That’s a huge strength in this story. Destiny knew what it was doing in this instance.

Oh, and Usagi ceremoniously gives Makoto her nickname of “Mako-chan.” Which fits her perfectly and Mako probably didn't know it did until Usagi said it. Such is the power of our Moon Princess (oops - spoilers. Well... it’s not like you didn't know it was coming. Thank you end credit sequence. And name of the show. And Usagi being Sailor Moon. I will be back to revisit this - if this story goes the way I think it’s going to go. There is one Sailor Moon plot point that I always have a gripe with that I have no idea why no one else doesn't comment on it. Too busy finding fault with the fairy tale aspects of the show, I suppose).

The visual cues for this episode were so good -
this fade between Makoto and Rei was fantastic.
And it wasn't the only one.
By this point, nearly everyone has met and given their approval of Mako - even Rei senses something about Makoto. It’s hard to say whether Crystal!Rei trusts Makoto at this stage of the story or not - they don’t spend too much time on that. Just that she knows Something Is Up with this girl. And that’s about all they need to spend on that. Because this is Mako-chan’s story. And she has a wonderfully heartbreaking story to tell.

ULTIMATE HEARTBREAK (yet another staple of magical girl anime)
Something that I’ve always appreciated and loved about Sailor Moon is the amount of time that the story spends establishing the characters’ backstories (which was one of my biggest complaints about the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon - there was nearly nothing of backstory in that at all. I kept waiting for it happen, and it never did. Highly disappointing. Anyway...) Whether it’s the Big Time HUGE Reveal of the Fall of the Silver Millennium or simply what these characters have gone through before becoming Sailor Guardians, these stories are handled lovingly and beautifully. Of all the versions (before Crystal), the manga is my favorite because each of the main characters gets at least one chapter dedicated to her backstory (and as more arcs are added, more backstory gets added as well). I love how the writing and the artwork depicts all this information, so when they said Crystal would follow the manga more faithfully, I wondered how this would translate. And I think, with Makoto’s backstory, they've done a fantastic job. Makoto’s backstory - how she came to be at Juban Middle School - is rather specific. A boy broke her heart, she was in a fight, she got kicked out of her old school. And while I’m being very simplistic about it here, Crystal is not. We see a flashback of Mako meeting the boy she likes and the boy telling her “Oh, I have a girlfriend. Sorry.” We see her heartbreak and how much that hurts. And it doesn’t matter that it was what most people call a “silly schoolgirl crush,” she’s hurting about it. She hurts so much that she had to leave her old school to get away from him.

This dovetails nicely with the Dark Kingdom’s Monster of the Week’s threat - they’re taking over mannequins from a bridal shop which kidnap grooms and steal their energy (here again is the Dark Kingdom’s absolute cluelessness at work - the grooms rarely do a damn thing with the wedding planning. It’s the bride and her mother that usually do all the work and at always stressed out about the whole event. Why not kidnap them? But I digress). Brides across town are missing their fiance’s, which is troublesome for the wedding planning business I’m sure. Oh, and their emotional well-being. I suppose that’s important too.

(Look, as much as I am a fan of love stories and romance and relationships in fiction, I hate weddings with the burning Fire Soul of a thousand Sailor Marses. I have no desire to plan one for myself or subject myself and those around me to such torture. I don’t want a dress, I don’t want decorations, I don’t want fancy pictures, I don’t want announcements, and I only nominally want a cake. If it wasn’t for the gifts-from-total-strangers potential (which, you have to stand in a boring receiving line for hours in uncomfortable shoes order to meet these strangers and get those gifts), I would probably consider eloping to be a perfectly reasonable option.This is why I’m still single).

Pretty for dreamy scenes in magical girl anime. Not so much in real life.
Back to the story - at the arcade, Mako meets Motoki, whom Usagi has had a crush on since Time Immemorial. Mako sees the appeal, of course, citing that he looks just like the guy who broke her heart (one way they add lightness to Mako’s Utter Heartbreak is that every guy she meets reminds her of the guy who broke her heart. There’s a deeper emotional reason for it that (hopefully) gets explored later, but mostly, it’s played for laughs). And somehow, Motoki gets kidnapped by this “ghost bride” mannequin (even though he isn’t a groom but, details) and is used to attempt another kidnapping against Mako because she’s a girl in love and love creates useful energy (look, I've gotta go back and rewatch that bit. I was too enthralled with Mako-chan being amazing and beautiful and precious to me. I don’t have time to quibble about the villains’ half-assed plans all the time). So, the Dark Kingdom uses Mako’s crush on Motoki to attack and threaten her - which is a big-time mistake. Because while Mako is a believer in love and hopes for that for herself one day, she’s also a badass-fighter-chick and she’ll lay the smackdown on anyone that toys with her affections.

And in this turmoil of the heart, Sailor Jupiter is revealed.

Wait - before I get there... speaking of love stories, there’s an important scene between Usagi and Tuxedo Mask (one that I’m sure the “Everything is Rape Culture” doomsayers will have a conniption over in their continued attempt to ruin everyone’s fun) - Usagi is dreaming about running after something or someone. We don’t see what this is (but I can hazard a guess - I’m going to write it in an envelope and see if I’m right later. And if I am, that’s quite the twist, there Crystal. Bravo), but suddenly she’s woken up by someone at her window - which turns out to be Tuxedo Mask

I can hear the anti-Twilighters screaming bloody murder right now.
Usagi's response? "F*** that s***! My dreamboat need me!"
He needs her help - there’s a monster threat out there and the Sailor Guardians need to come take care of it. Now, I’m going to have to go back and find out where identities were revealed in the manga, but I swear Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask found out about each other at the same time there. But in Crystal, Tux clearly knows that Usagi is Sailor Moon and knows to go get her and there’s no time to quibble about the “proper” way to go about doing so. And Usagi, being the hopeless romantic that she is, runs off with this mystery guy that she’s completely in love with but knows next to nothing about (other than he saves her life and she danced with him and they kissed while she was asleep - yeah, I don’t think for a second that she doesn’t know that happened or that she isn’t giddy beyond reason at having that romantic fairy tale moment).

And because it’s important, she wonders again about Tuxedo Mask - until she realizes that he’s led to her the site of this showdown between the monster bride thing and Mako-chan. And also that Ami and Rei have joined her (thanks to Luna’s quick thinking and a forgotten communicator because - who’s got time for accessorizing when The Love of Your Life is asking you to come with him in the middle of the night?) The girls transform and Tuxedo Mask disappears from view - for a little while.

I love how the girls came out in the PJs (except for Rei, because you know, Rei)

In the middle of Mako’s lament about romance and love and how she’s not sure what she believes anymore - Sailor Moon gives an inspirational speech that, were it a TED Talk, could easily be titled “Miracle Romance: I Believe In It” (complete with poignant cut to Tuxedo Mask waiting around the corner right when Sailor Moon mentions that someday she’s going to meet the person she’s destined to be in love with. It certainly gave me the warm fuzzies because I am here for that! Bread and butter of the genre, I’m telling you).

That’s when Sailor Jupiter goes “Hell Hath No Fury” on everyone - but in a way that only Sailor Jupiter can. Between Flower Hurricane and “Let the Storm Rage On,” (which, I see what you did there subtitle translators!) - it was magical. (I have a gif for it... hang on).

Source: here

The cold never bothered me anyway (sorry, I had to)
The lightning rod in the tiara lives! (that was important to me)

And Jupiter handily dispatches Bridezilla and Nephrite (who admits to recognizing the "I'm Gong To Royally Eff YouSailor Jupiter - probably from some Silver Millennium battle. Or possibly from a romantic encounter from back then. Depending on which fandom newsletter you subscribe to. Me, I could go either way - I really don't have a dog in this fandom war. For once) disappears before he can be subjected to manga!Nephrite’s ultimate fate (these Shitennou don’t survive encounters with the Sailor Guardians in the manga as easily as they do in Crystal).

Hm... I wonder...
Luna muses on the mysterious Tuxedo Mask and why he brought Usagi to the battle - does Luna still regard him with suspicion or has he been moved from "Possible Enemy - Avoid At All Costs!" to "Eh - He Might Not Be So Bad..."? (this is Luna we're talking about - she's got enough suspicion for all the cats in the universe. That's probably why cats in general are so laid-back. They know that there's someone out there doing all the worrying for them).

And... we have four Sailor Guardians. Which means Luna’s ready to hand out the next Shiny Object in the Guardians’ Quest for the Princess. It’s the Moon Stick, which looks much more crystal-y than it did in the original anime (as with most of what’s in Crystal, I like it!)

And the plot can only thicken from here on out. Until next time...

*happy fangirl hand-flapping*
Considering the last time we didn't get any new footage from the next episode for the “Next Time...” preview we got “Masquerade” two weeks later, I’m kind of excited about this. And not just because Act 6 is Tuxedo Mask’s episode. Still... like I've said before, childhood crushes never go away. They just get prettier.

This is why I'm still single...