And so ends the first story arc of Sailor Moon Crystal - not with a bang, but more of a half hearted 'poof!' somehow stretched out over 24 minutes. Oh, Sailor Moon. Where did it all go wrong?
It's actually really difficult to recap Act 14, as so little happens in it - the mainly plot is essentially wrapped up by the half way mark, and the rest is spent dawdling around until we get to the final moments of the episode to tease the next story arc. This is why I argued last time that, despite this being 'truer' to the manga, it's to the detriment of SMC as its own entity. This is essentially the midseason finale, and it's almost excruciatingly boring. That might be the smallest problem with this episode, unfortunately.
Oh! You may wonder why this recap is filled with literally nothing but screenshots of Luna and Artemis with their mouths open instead of the usual ones covering the story. This is because a) I was in such a state of delirium and/or boredom that the first time Luna pulled this face for an extended duration I started uncontrollably guffawing like a madman and b) THIS HAPPENED MORE THAN ANY ACTUAL PLOT DID IN THIS EPISODE. I'm not kidding. Look at all those Cat faces. Look at them and weep for what Sailor Moon Crystal has become.
We pick up where we left off from the last episode, with Sailor Moon now wielding the Silver crystal atop an elongated moon stick (Elongated Moon Stick is the new name of my bohemian House/pop/ska fusion band), ready to seal Metalia away for good. Usagi struggled to do so at first, before encouragement from Mamoru steels her to pray even harder. Joined by the last bit of transformation energy left from the other Senshi, as well as Luna's own prayers from the Crystal Tower on the Moon, which causes it to shine furiously bright. Usagi uses the Silver crystal to shoot out a big Moony kamehameha, hitting Metalia right in her weak point (presumably for massive damage) and defeating her.
This is like, 7 minutes into the episode. I had to stop and check because I was so surprised. This is meant to be everything that the first 13 episodes of the series were building up to, and it's resolved with such an anti-climax? Metalia has felt like such a poor villain anyway, but to have her so unceremoniously offed just speaks to the sort of half-heartedness that SMC has devolved into. The big bad of the story so far has been vanquished, and not even the show really cares. Why should the audience?
Usagi collapses, and oh, also Artemis catches a glimpse of Luna as a human while she was praying to the Crystal Tower. What's up with thaaaaat? Nothing, let us never speak of it again.
Back on earth however, it's time for Mamoru to creep it up some more by kissing the unconscious Usagi to revive her. I guess at this point it's a bit less creepy than when it happened earlier in the series, as they actually know each other at this point and he's not just snogging on an unconscious near-stranger, but still. Anyhoo, Usagi is revived, they share an actual romantic kiss (see, isn't it much better when both parties are actively concious? Take notes, Mamoru) - before Usagi realises the rest of the Senshi are nowhere to be found. Mamoru reveals that he has the power to look anywhere on Earth - PERFECT POWER FOR SUCH A CREEPY DUDE BY THE WAY - and the two use it to locate the prone, lifeless bodies of the rest of the team.
Before they can do anything about it, Luna summons Usagi to the Moon to see Silver Millenium restored to it's former glory - and now that Usagi has awakened as Princess Serenity, she can leave Earth and rule there. I mean, who doesn't want to rule of a kingdom which is literally empty save for two cats? Unsurprisingly, Usagi declines - delivering a nice little speech about how she has her own life on Earth now, to reject her destiny as the Moon's leader and to just live her life with her friends and family. It's a nice character moment (pretty much the only one in the episode) and thankfully she's rewarded by being granted a new Transformation brooch, which she uses to heal the Earth and revive the fallen Senshi.
This is basically where the episode should've ended, but we somehow have like, another 7 minutes of nothing happening to get through. Hang in there!
But it's 7 minutes that can be recapped as thus: The Senshi reunite, hug it out, and go on living their lives on Earth. They're still friends, Minako still has Artemis, Usagi, while not as clumsy as she has been, still forgets to do her homework. Life goes on - oh and Rei detects some sinister presence in the flames at her Shrine. I wonder what that could possibly be? It's almost like they're setting up a new story arc!
Meanwhile, Usagi and Mamoru meet up after school, and finally exchange the items they've been holding onto for each other - Usagi hands over Mamoru's now fixed watch, and Mamoru hands over Usagi's handkerchief (which still seems creepy considering the last we saw of it was him smelling it. Eeeeww!). The sweet moment, however, is interrupted by a weird, Luna-shaped ball falling out of the sky - immediately followed by a big-ass portal from which a young girl tumbles out, planting onto Usagi and inadventently snogging Mamoru in the process. Everyone is understandably freaked out, the young girl included - but things somehow get even weirder when she learn's Usagi's name. Mysterious little pink-haired girl is also called Usagi, and knows that our Usagi has the Silver Crystal. AND SHE STRAIGHT UP PULLS A GUN ON HER.
Cliffhanger! Dun dun dun, etc.
Looking back at this first 14 episodes, it's hard not to feel anything but some sort of disappointment. The Dark Kingdom arc isn't really the most well regarded material in the wider Sailor Moon story, but it's by far from the worst problem to dog the series. The glacial pacing, the at times horrifying animation slip-ups, the refocusing of the arc to make it about Usagi and Mamoru's relationship (despite the fact that Mamoru is creepy as hell) at the expense of the rest of the team's characterisation, the fact that a show built around female empowerment spends more time showing its heroes incapacitated than it does them actually kicking butt, the list goes on. There was a fleeting moment where I thought Crystal had gotten on track after a shaky start, but it's all come crashing down again in the last few episodes. I'd be more optimistic about the next plotline, but considering there's no break for Toei to go away and think about how to improve the show, I'm not exactly hopeful that it'll get any better.
We'll find out in two weeks, I guess.
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