This week on Sailor Moon Crystal: Sailor Jupiter and Plot Conveniences

Illustration for article titled This week on iSailor Moon Crystal/i: Sailor Jupiter and Plot Conveniences

After a slightly extended absence, Sailor Moon Crystal returns with a new Sailor Senshi in tow, and a whole lot of contrivance as the team investigates a ghostly bridal shop. Moon Prism Power, Re-cap!

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Act 5 Makoto - Sailor Jupiter - isn't really Sailor Moon Crystal's finest hour (well, 22 minutes but you catch my drift) so far. Whilst it's nice to see this version of the series getting its Sailor team together pretty rapidly, this was perhaps the most disjointed episode we've seen - things don't seem to flow organically and tend to happen 'just because', and what consistency that is there is overtly formulaic way we're introduced to every one of these new Senshi. There is, at least however, a slow (very, very slow, but it's there!) but steady reintroduction of an element that made the original anime so beloved: a sense of humour.

Spoilers ahead...

Illustration for article titled This week on iSailor Moon Crystal/i: Sailor Jupiter and Plot Conveniences
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The episode opens, naturally, with Usagi being klutzy and Luna reminding her that she should be more aware of her responsibilities as Sailor Moon. And as if to prove the cat's point, Usagi almost gets run over crossing the road, only to be saved by none other than Makoto herself.

Once again there's the odd subtle homo-eroticism coming in when Usagi meets these soon-to-be-allies for the first time, this time instead of thanking the girl for saving her life, Usagi's more interested in how nicely she smells and what pretty earrings she's wearing. It's an interesting choice to have Usagi latently attracted to her compatriots, but with it obvious it's not going anywhere thanks to Tuxedo Mask's, it seems like an strange thing to bring up every time it happens.

It turns out that Makoto is just the occasional pedestrian-saver, she's a new transfer student at Usagi and Ami's school - and one with a bit of bad rep. As Ami was ostracised for her intelligence, Makoto is a bit of a loner because everyone thinks she's aggressive, with rumours swirling that she was kicked out of her old school for getting in a fight (also that she has superhuman strength - I guess in a world where teenage girls in Sailor Suits are running around at night fighting weird monsters, such a rumour might make more sense, but really school students? All of you think she's got superpowers? Not one one of you stops to think what a dumbass rumour that is? Ah, never mind). Usagi doesn't really care though: the new girl has pretty earrings, therefore SHE MUST BOND WITH HER IMMEDIATELY.

Illustration for article titled This week on iSailor Moon Crystal/i: Sailor Jupiter and Plot Conveniences
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It's here where finally, Sailor Moon Crystal starts allowing some humour in, when Usagi engages in a bit of slapstick to enamour herself to Makoto. One of the big hangups a lot of fans of the old Sailor Moon anime had going into this new series was that this would be a bit more of a 'serious' adaptation of Takeuchi's story, and a lot of the more goofy, light-hearted elements of the first anime would be toned down or gone all together. SMC is still nowhere near as humorous as the first (if anything, it feels more sedate than even the original manga) anime, but it's nice to see it at least starting to let itself be funnier.

Having bonded with Makoto, Usagi takes her to the local arcade to meet Ami and play the Sailor V game - and of course, like everyone else, she's much better at it than Usagi is, even if her run is cut short by the appearance of Motoki, who's heard a rumour about a local bridal shop from one of his customers. The girls go to check it out (dragging Makoto along for some reason), and things get a little err... weird for a moment.

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Illustration for article titled This week on iSailor Moon Crystal/i: Sailor Jupiter and Plot Conveniences

It's hard to reconcile the critical image of Sailor Moon as a force for feminist ideals sometimes when you remember how conservative Naoko Takeuchi's manga could be - and lines like this one stand out. It's not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but it brought out a huge contrast between the shows premise (hell, the opening song Moon Pride is all about the girls standing on their own and not needing princes to save them, so having Makoto suddenly be so subservient is jarring). Would it stand out so much without the critical re-appropriation of Sailor Moon we've had for years? Maybe not, and I'm probably reading too much into it but still, it felt like an odd comment.

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But anyway, the girls overhear that the Bride shop is in fact cursed, a mysterious ghostly mannequin is going around seducing men for nefarious purposes. The girls take this information to resident ghostly expert Rei, and decide to investigate further - and hoo boy, this is where the plot becomes convenience-a-palooza.

Ghost Bride just so happens to prey upon poor Motoki of all the people in Tokyo, putting him under some sort of mind control. Possessed Motoki then just so happens to go out searching for Makoto to drain her of her energy as she walks home (wasn't this Youma meant to be seducing men and stealing their energy? Why is it suddenly going after Makoto?) - and when he attacks her, Mamoru just so happens to be walking by. Then instead of actually doing something about it, in true Tuxedo Mask style, he runs off to find Sailor Moon instead. At least we have confirmation now that Mamoru definitely knows that Usagi is Sailor Moon, considering he breaks into her bedroom to come fetch her (NOT CREEPY AT ALL, TUXEDO MASK).

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Luckily nothing too bad has happened to Makoto in the time it takes Tuxedo Mask and Usagi to get back to her - and he runs off again, instead of, ya know, actually helping. It's a good job then, that Ami, Rei and Luna just so happen to know where Usagi ran off to, joining her literally seconds after Tuxedo Mask scarpers, and after a hasty transformation, the girls are almost immediately complete incapacitated by the Youma and Nephrite. At least Sailor Mars got to let off a pretty kickass fire spell first. After a little lesson from Sailor Moon on the power of true love (it turns out that Makoto left her old school because the Senior student she fancied had a girlfriend.), Makoto's power as Sailor Jupiter awakens, and she transforms into the Guardian of Strength and Courage!

Even though they're all CG transformations, in a way it's kind of a shame that Sailor Moon's transformation was the first one revealed out of necessity - it's not as elaborate or as interesting as the ones for Ami, Rei and now Makoto.

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Illustration for article titled This week on iSailor Moon Crystal/i: Sailor Jupiter and Plot Conveniences

A quick zap of lightning later - which Nephrite manages to quickly teleport away from, escaping his fate from the manga just like Jadeite with Rei in episode 3 - and the ghost bride is vanquished, her thrall over Motoki and the other men gone. The girls have a new addition to the team, and Luna announces that Usagi must become their leader, presenting a familiar looking wand to her...

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Next time though, it seems the Sailor Scouts are going to try and get to the bottom of just who the mysterious Tuxedo Mask is, and whether he's friend or foe in the quest for the legendary Silver Crystal. Who knows, maybe he'll have to do something other than run away for once?


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DISCUSSION

STELLASTAR42
stellastar42

Great review. I hope you continue for every episode.

However, the stickler in me would like to point out that many of your criticisms of the episode stem from the culture and time period in which the original story was written.

I've been to Asabu Juuban (Sailor Moon's neighborhood), and the entrance to the shopping district (the stated location of the bridal shop) is like a block away from the supposed real-world location of Crown Game Center. Arcades are still a thing in Japan, and they tend to close late as they also have gambling games like Pachinko and slots. Motoki was attacked because he was the only guy around. I don't know what Mako-chan was doing out so late, though.

I am still unsure if the writers are necessarily writing Usagi as queer. Her words and actions may seem homoerotic to westerners, but not to a Japanese audience. In Japanese culture, it is much more socially acceptable for women to openly admire the beauty of other women. There is a marked cultural separation of the sexes, and friendships between boys and between girls can be very touchy-feely. Intense and almost romantic friendships among teenage girls are common. It can also be argued that Usagi's personality directs her to enthusiastically fawn over prospective friends, and the intense bond that forms between the Inner Senshi and Usagi is indicative of that kind of friendship. The series, as a whole, is extremely queer-positive, given its vintage and intended demographic, so I'm not saying there is not a homoerotic aspect to their relationships. It's just not as overt to Japanese audiences as it seems to us. In other words, what we read as gay may not be the intention of the producers. Or it may be intentional to titillate the fans and their years and years of yuri fanfiction. Who knows?

The other students ostracize Mako-chan not only because she is super strong but because her physical appearance broadcasts her as an outsider to be shunned. ("The nail that sticks out must be hammered down" and all that.) Not only is she tall and strong, her long uniform skirt, rolled-up sleeves, noticeably pierced ears, and curly brown hair are cultural signifiers of girl-gang juvenile delinquents. A Japanese viewer would take one look at Mako and make that connection.

Which brings up Mako's troubling line about wedding dresses. Ask young Japanese girls what they want to be when they grow up, and the most popular responses are things like "nurse," "beautician," "flight attendant," and "bride". Although it is changing, women are still expected to give up their careers once they get married and have kids. (2nd wave feminism didn't really catch on in Japan.) This episode is highlighting the difference between Mako's tough-girl exterior and her traditionally feminine personality, thus her rose accessories and interest in the domestic arts and getting married. Since the writers seem to be playing up the idea that the Senshi were lonely people before they met Usagi (a theme that became more prominent as the series progressed), they have to make Mako's status as a misunderstood outcast very apparent within limits of the 25 minute episode. However, the line is still troubling given the way she is normally depicted and it is NOT from the manga, so I don't know what the hell the writers are thinking.

And, to me, that's one of the major problems with Sailor Moon Crystal, the producers can't seem to balance out how to make it for a world-wide audience and a domestic one, for new, younger viewers* and older, nostalgic ones. I don't know what they hell they're thinking in many of their choices.

*The CGI opening and transformation are what lead me to believe this because many shows aimed at young girls these days are cell-shaded CG monstrosities.