Friday, November 7, 2014

Secrets and Sealed Memory

Review/Recap of Sailor Moon Crystal, Act 8 - "Minako, Sailor V" - Spoilers!

Oh boy. Sailor Moon Crystal. You do NOT skimp on the feels, do you?

It’s strange - I've known the basics of the Sailor Moon story for a long time. I first read the manga (which is what Crystal is very much based on) years ago. It’s the version of Sailor Moon that, if it comes right down to choosing one version, I prefer over all the others. But maybe it’s seeing the manga brought to life with animation and voices and music - it gets to me. Right in the squishy, emotional center.

Let me start with the last episode a little bit. Sailor V has appeared and distracted Zoicite enough that he decides to book it out of there. Also, V-chan drops the “bombshell” that she is the lost moon princess the other Sailor Guardians have been searching for. So, that’s potentially why Zoicite gets spooked and takes off. The Sailor Guardians are in awe of this new revelation - the princess that they've searched for is finally here! And she certainly knows how to do this whole “Saving the World from the Dark Kingdom” business. She’s been doing it quite a bit up to this point. In fact, she was the first Sailor Guardian to be awakened! (even got her own video game franchise - which, that’s how you know you've made it!)

I’m going to talk a little bit about the live-action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (more often referred to as PGSM) in talking about Sailor V - only for comparison purposes and what I think they did right with Crystal’s take on V-chan. There will be some spoilers for that, and a little bit in general. So, fair warning there.

First off - Sailor V is actually Sailor Venus (that... wasn't actually a spoiler for anyone, was it?) And one thing that I continually did not understand from the manga or even the original anime (and somewhat in PGSM) is that Venus was purported to be the Moon Princess. Like, what does Venus have to do with anything related to the Silver Millennium or the Moon Kingdom? I mean, that just screams “I’m really the decoy! I’m not who you’re looking for!” And we might possibly be able to buy it, if the opening and closing credit sequences didn't spoil the crap out of who the Moon Princess really is (and the fact that Usagi wears her hair in odangos - I’m just sayin’).  So yeah, the identity of Princess Serenity of the Moon Kingdom - worst kept secret EVER (not just to spoilerphobes - it’s actually a problem IN STORY).

Yeah... no.
That’s the easy thing to discuss. This next thing deals with Sailor V directly (Minako Aino, in her civilian form) and will bring in other Sailor Moon versions, particularly PGSM. And it delves into Unpopular Opinion Territory, so let me get my riot gear out...Okay - ready. When I saw PGSM Minako - I really did not like her. Episode after episode, she. Just. Would. Not. Join. The. Team. I kept waiting for her to have her huge epiphany that she may be the leader of the Sailor Guardians, but a leader needs to actually, you know, lead. And not do this half-assed show up at the last minute and berate the others for being crappy Sailor Senshi! And a little trust toward your compatriots wouldn't go amiss either! I get it if you wanted that her be her Big Issue and what isolates her from others, but it just went on too long and I never got the feeling that this group of Senshi were ever very cohesive and I never fully felt like it was a group of girls that I could cheer for. I certainly could cheer for certain individuals, but not the whole team and Minako’s attitude toward the other girls was a big part of that turn-off. So, yeah, PGSM Venus - no bueno for me.

In some respects, it seems like Crystal Venus has a lot of those same hang-ups as in PGSM, but they are toned down so much more. Part of that has to do with how she and Artemis have been guiding the other Guardians via the Arcade command center and through the Sailor V game. Establishing that relationship from the get-go helps when Minako and Artemis are there going “Hey, we’ve been doing this for so long, please learn from our experience, and trust us.” Also, the condescension that bugged me about PGSM Minako and Artemis isn’t here at all. It’s less about “We know better than you” and more “we want to help lead the team.” And that goes a long way toward fixing my current fan relationship with Minako.

Also - that scene where Minako is determined to finish out her mission solo, but Artemis tries to dissuade her was a key thing as well. It helps that it was immediately followed up with the other girls intercepting Minako to invite her to go to dinner with them. Even if Minako blows them off and takes off on her own anyway - that was more effort in trying to help Minako feel like part of the group than ever happened in PGSM.

(I know, I know - I’m making a lot of comparisons with PGSM, but I watched that one over the summer and I kept thinking “I hope this isn't what you guys do with Crystal.” So, in this one episode, at least, I’m glad that my fears were unfounded).

Also - I find it a little bit funny (knowing that Sailor V really isn't the Princess - crescent mark on the forehead be damned) that Sailor Jupiter saved V-chan after Kunzite started blasting the rooftop and Sailor Moon fell. V-chan was concerned about Sailor Moon, but nobody seemed to notice because the Princess was in danger.

Another funny thing - the girls would call her “Sailor V” when she was in her civilian form, then correct themselves and call her “Princess.” As if that concealed her identity any better. I mean - she did give you guys a name to call her by. Why couldn't you call her “Minako”? These weren't enough to bother me too much - I’m just picking up on these things.

There wasn't a whole lot dealing with Minako personally, but that’s because the episode was still surrounding her in so much mystery. The thing about her secret mission, the hints of lost memories for the other girls and Luna, even Usagi’s dreams of a battle where she is Princess Serenity and calling out for someone named Endymion (nope, noooooo whacking huge anvil-sized clues there!) - Minako’s full-on character study is going to come later, because right now, she is deflecting attention from who the real princess is. That’s her mission in-story, it’s her mission to the audience as well. Which is kind of clever, if you think about it.

The other story - which will likely dovetail into the whole Big Reveal of who the Princess really is and where the Silver Crystal is hiding - is Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship. Where last episode they were just starting to fall in love with each other (with a lot more grace and believability than in the original anime, it must be said), the aftermath of this first battle where their identities are known to both of them - it kind of rocks them in different ways. Usagi’s confused as to why Tuxedo Mask would take off right after the battle, especially since the “Princess” appeared. Mamoru is feeling guilty that he couldn't protect Usagi. Not in the way that he thinks he has to in order to be with her. He definitely loves and admires her, but his problem is that he doesn't think he deserves her because of all the things he admires about her. Plus, he’s also been having dreams about Princess Serenity and this new person that comes in and claims to be the Princess... that throws a wrench into everything.
(Huh. That would be a storyline in and of itself with Mamoru trying to get close to Minako, thinking that she’s the Princess that he’s supposed to be finding the Silver Crystal for. None of the incarnations of Sailor Moon have ever dealt with that aspect of the story - that Mamoru loves Usagi, but they both think that Minako’s the Princess and they both think there’s supposed to be something there, but Minako is all “Oh HELL NO” about it. So in that way, it’s not a straight-up love triangle (which I abhor). Might be something for fanfic to explore).

There is a really sweet scene when Usagi randomly meets Mamoru in the park (and he’s studying up on crystals - apparently the whole thing about his priority being Usagi and not the Silver Crystal went out the window when he couldn't do anything to save her. Rats). Usagi tells Mamoru that she has his pocketwatch and he tells her that he has something of hers as well and they’ll trade next time (and it’s damn adorable when she’s all “I never gave you anything!” but the episode flashes back to the Masquerade when she lost her handkerchief). It’s like - they don’t really have to talk about their inequalities regarding their powers and abilities. And that’s totally on Usagi’s part. She has this way (with everyone) of disarming people from their anxieties. Especially as it pertains to the people she cares about - and that is no more apparent than in her feelings for Mamoru. Is she very good at communicating it? Well... not in so many words. But it’s more of her overall attitude toward him that puts him at ease around her. Even though he’s quite possibly the worst person ever when it comes to expressing what’s in his mind and heart (even though he obviously loves her quite deeply and honestly).

And then - there’s poor Luna. Who gets all kinds of flack from fandom for being so single-minded, especially when it comes to Usagi. Luna clearly has expectations of what the leader of the Sailor Guardians should be and Usagi is not it at all. But beyond that, Luna feels guilty for failing to notice that Usagi is in love with Mamoru, who just happens to also be Tuxedo Mask, who Luna isn’t sure they can trust (Luna wasn’t there when the fight with Zoicite went down - dammit. That would have explained so much...) To be fair, Luna’s got a huge job as it is - finding the Sailor Guardians and preparing them to fight the Dark Kingdom, even without expressly knowing why. Which is why I’m glad that Artemis came to talk to Luna - tell her that she’s done a good job, considering she hasn’t had all the information she needed. Turns out her (and the other girls’) memories have been suppressed so as not to put any further undue burden on any of them. But the time is coming (or maybe it’s here - the scene cuts to something else right as is sounds like Artemis is ready to give Luna her memories back) and Stuff’s About To Get Real.

Which brings me to the climax of the episode. Kunzite (who, I presume is the leader of the Shitennou - that’s what I've always been led to believe, anyway) challenges Sailor V (I mean, the Princess) in an attempt to get the Silver Crystal. Minako goes out on her own (and where this is her first episode with the Sailor Guardians, it makes sense for this to happen. But if it happens in further episodes and she keeps thinking she has to be this lone wolf character, I’m going to throw things) and faces down Kunzite. But the other four Guardians come flying in to help. Literally - they use (I think) Sailor Teleport to get to the top of Tokyo Tower where this showdown is happening. And the girls - yeah, everyone’s flying everywhere (to which I say - That’s The Best Thing Ever!) There is one little moment where Sailor V is about to tell Kunzite about his true self - which, again, lends to the idea that Crystal is going to include the Senshi/Shitennou relationships.

I’m going to cut in here with a note about the possibility of Crystal including this storyline:

Personally, I don’t care one way or the other about these four ships - Mercury/Zoicite, Mars/Jadeite, Jupiter/Nephrite, Venus/Kunzite. They are solely based on one piece of artwork from the manga that was just a chapter title page and those often have little bearing on the story beyond looking pretty. Fanfic writers have played around with these characters forever and that’s fine. However, since a lot of the people who've been unduly hating on Crystal also seem to despise the idea that Senshi/Shitennou could happen here (I don't know why there seems to be a correlation between the two and I'm really not interested in finding out why) - and I truly do not care one way or the other - I say Let’s Do This Thing! Because I am so damn tired of all the hate that Crystal has gotten for not simply being the ‘90s anime updated, for not being absolutely 100% perfect animation, for not being All Things to All People, for not coming with a cotton candy dispenser, or whatever else people want to bitch about (where 3-4 years ago the same people were anguished over having no officially licensed Sailor Moon anywhere at all) - you know what? If the haters are going to hate on something anyway, might as well do something to get them out of the clubhouse entirely. That sounds harsh and may be unreasonable to some, but if you don’t like something, don’t come in here and try to ruin the fun of the people who do like it (the number of Sailor Moon Tumblr blogs that I had to unfollow because they just couldn't say anything nice about Crystal...)

Anyway - I’m not here to carp about the Perpetually Malcontented and Those Who Ruin All Our Nice Things. The other Sailor Guardians aren't about to let their Princess take on Kunzite by herself and now we have a full Sailor team and Sailor V doesn't have to do the Lone Wolf thing anymore. Which is awesome and a huge strength to the overall Sailor Moon story - always has been. You have to love the hell out of it (well, I do).

But this episode isn't done yet! Because Tuxedo Mask shows up to catch Sailor Moon when she falls off the top of the tower. In an emotionally-charged moment where she is surprised and elated that he came to save her, she takes the initiative and kisses him. She admonishes him to get away to safety before jumping back into the fray. Well, Tux isn't about to let his girl take all the risks by herself - and he jumps in front of an attack meant for her -

Which leads us directly into the next episode. And all those "Spoilers" I've been not-avoiding because they're 20 years old and I'm too excited to talk about them? Yeah - that's what we're getting. *excited*

All your questions are about to be answered!

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