One of my frequent criticisms of Sailor Moon Crystal so far is that some characters have largely felt way too passive to the tepidly paced plot progression - but not this week, when the Sailor Senshi take on a Brainwashing Blockbusters. It takes a while to get going, but shit gets done, and it is fabulous.
Even as someone who's relatively enjoyed this revival of Sailor Moon so far, it's not difficult to acknowledge that it got off to a relatively rocky start - but in the past few weeks since we've got most of the introductions out of the way, Sailor Moon Crystal has gotten much better. Better fight scenes, better characterisation, better pacing - and at the same time, it's good to see this closer adaptation to the manga loosen up every once in a while. It's nice to see the show finding its footing, even if it's taken a few duff episodes to get here.
The episode picks up where we left off last time - Usagi is at Mamoru's place, still reeling from the, err, 'shocking' revelation that he's actually Tuxedo Mask. For an episode named after him, outside of this scene this isn't really Mamoru's episode - but we do get to see his backstory, his parents killed in a car accident on his Sixth Birthday leaving him an amnesiac, and his impetus for seeking out the Legendary Silver Crystal. It's a scene made more interesting by the pair's decision to keep their revelation of their identities to each other a secret - with Usagi's decision to ignore Luna's warning creating an interesting potential for internal strife with the rest of the Senshi later on.
It wouldn't be Sailor Moon Crystal without a bit of sillyness though, so we get Mamoru poking Usagi in the back of the head with her school bag (why is her bag even there? She didn't have it when she transformed last episode, did she? I'm sort of imagining Tuxedo Mask chasing Sailor Moon around carrying all her school stuff for her.) before she heads off.
Meanwhile, there's planning and plotting going on for both the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. Luna communicates with with someone who's clearly not Sailor Venus you guys, acknowledging the team's progress so far (although she still gets a jab in at Usagi not quite being up to scratch yet) - and it's nicely mirrored by a cut to The Dark Kingdom, which decides to change things up a little for once by having the same 'someone reports to the Queen about Dark Kingdom failures, Queen demands the Silver Crystal' scene they've done for the past few months by making it between Queen Beryl and Queen Metalia, the actual big bad of the Dark Kingdom. Say one thing about these guys, they're at least consistent. At least we get to see some strife between the villains as well, with Beryl planning to usurp the currently-an-evil-space-cloud Metalia if she gets her hand on the Crystal.
It's Zoisite's turn once again for the plot of the week, and in true Dark Kingdom style, he's basically rehashing his previous idea - it's more brainwashing, but this time with a DVD rental store! And in true Dark Kingdom style, they can't help but put goddamn 'Dark' in the name of their secret shop. I'm starting to think Rei hasn't really got the power to sense evil, she's just the only one who's smart enough to recognise the word 'Dark' in something's name and put 2 and 2 together.
The following day Usagi, Makoto and Ami get together for lunch and try to parse out just who Sailor V is after her appearance last episode, before they're interrupted by Umino being a bit of a weirdo. But wait, what's this!
Sailor Moon Crystal finally letting its characters pull silly faces and be even slightly over-exaggerated? A big criticism many have about SMC is that it tries to play everything a little too straight-laced, especially compared to the original anime, and even compared to the manga - so it's nice to see the delve into a little more humour here for once. Anyway, the girls notice that Umino's being even weirder than usual, but think nothing of it and get back to discussing Sailor V with Luna - who is just as bad as hiding stuff from the girls as Usagi can be, trying to hide that she has anything to do with their quest. Maybe if they're all so bad at lying, they should try not keeping secrets from each other.
It turns out however, that Tokyo really loves DVD rental - Usagi's whole class, and most of Tokyo, has been visiting Zoisite's Dark Rental Shop, and are now brainless zombies searching for Sailor Moon! Well done Zoisite, this really is basically your plan from the last time, isn't it? Real original. Usagi and the rest of the Sailor Senshi are separated from each other as the brainwashed citizens start their rampant search, deciding to transform and get stuff done. Hooray! Sailor Moon uses her Moon Healing Escalation to cure the crowds of their brainwashing, but gets interrupted by Zoisite, who's really pissed after his defeat in the last episode. And for the next six minutes or so, basically SHIT GETS REAL.
Another pretty good fight scene culminates with the Senshi incapacitated (boo), and as Zoisite's neck-grip on Sailor Moon tightens, all seems lost...
Until Tuxedo Mask intervenes and decks Zoisite real good. Tuxedo Mask, actively participating in the plot again! All those weeks of doing stuff all on the side lines and now there's two episodes in a row where he's actually doing stuff. Watch out Mamoru, you might pull something with all this sudden activity. Unfortunately delivering a mighty thwack to Zoisite's chops isn't enough to stop him, and soon Tuxedo Mask is down for the count - but not before Sailor Moon tells him that he's not alone in his search for the Silver Crystal any more. D'aaw.
Being evil, Zoisite cares not for declarations of love and friendship, so he summons a giant Ice-Crystal to kill off Sailor Moon once and for all - except it's blocked by a mysterious third party, who isn't really that mysterious if you've been paying a modicum of attention:
It's Minako, Sailor Venus! Revealed with a stunning L'Oreal moment. Okay, it's not that surprising as she's been a constant background presence in the episode, but still, what a cliffhanger. The Sailor Senshi are all together, at last - and with the next episode preview showing us that it's time for Sailor Venus to join the gang, it finally feels like Sailor Moon Crystal is finding its footing. It's a shame it's taken 7 episodes, but let's hope the series can keep this current good streak going.
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