It's time to end the first story arc of Sailor Moon Crystal! Kind of. Sailor Moon stands before Queen Metalia and her plans to consume the Earth, but not without pacing problems getting in the way of the show once more.
Let's get one thing out of the way first - after the dire animation problems in the last episode, Act 13 is at least a bit better (and also clearly what they were saving their money for) in this regard. There's some pretty nice looking stuff in the episode, with minimal noticeable errors. In fact, in general Act 13 is much, much better than the previous episode - admittedly not a high barrier - but even then, it still suffers from Crystal's problems with pacing to the point that the Dark Kingdom arc sort of halfheartedly flickers out instead of ending on a bang. Well, I say ending but we'll get to that later.
We pick up where last week left off, with the Sailor Senshi watching in horror as Sailor Moon kills Mamoru and herself - and in what has to apparently be the longest death sequence ever, Usagi has plenty of time to commemorate her love for Mamoru and comment on how they're destined to be together, even after another reincarnation (she's awfully eloquent for a woman who just literally fell on her own sword). After they finally both collapse and the Senshi rush to their side, the Legendary Silver Crystal reforms - massively expanding and growing around Usagi and Mamoru's bodies and attracting Metalia's attention, as she blasts away the Senshi and chows down on the Crystal, absorbing it and the two starcrossed lovers into her body. Despite their best attempts, Metalia shrugs off any attacks the team can dish out, transporting herself out of the Dark Kingdom, with the Senshi in Hot pursuit.
Err, Somehow. They never really happen to explain how they suddenly have the ability to pop up wherever, it just sort of happens.
While Luna and Artemis transport themselves to the Moon Kingdom, the girls find themselves in the Arctic, which has been transformed into a desolate, stony vista by Metalia, who's grown into a massive cloud thanks to the Crystal's power. Despite it not working mere minutes ago, the Senshi try to attack Metalia again, only to be incapacitated as Metalia spreads herself across all of Earth, transforming people into mindless, aggressive thralls as she did when the Moon Kingdom was destroyed. Good job guys! As all seems lost though, the girls each find themselves reminded by Usagi's kindness to them - one of the very few things that SMC has gotten right over this first arc has been reminding us how Usagi betters the friends around her and inspires them, and this was a pretty neat way of getting the Senshi inspired enough to sacrifice themselves in a bid to reawaken Usagi.
Meanwhile, inside Metalia, the cries of the Senshi awaken Usagi, who conveniently realises she didn't actually stab herself with the Holy sword - she managed to stab Mamoru's old watch instead, saving herself. Which makes their super slo mo dramatic 'death' sequence earlier look even more stupid, but there we go. Metalia shows up inside her own body to taunt Usagi with the darkness of Humanity, but Usagi reaches out to Silver Crystal and uses it to punch a giant hole out of Metalia for her and Mamoru to escape from - not enough somehow to kill Metalia, but enough to conveniently null her expansion over Earth. This Legendary Silver Plot Device is pretty good! On top of that, it even revives Mamoru - seemingly cured of his enthrallment as he embraces Usagi and declares "I'll never let you have the Princess or the Crystal!"...
"Here Usagi, you do the thing." Yup, he's definitely back to the Mamoru we all know and love.
Usagi starts using the Silver Crystal to fight back against Metalia, but it doesn't work - alone, and without the other Senshi, she can't seal her away. Mamoru gets a visit from the spirits of the Shittenou, allowing them to see Endymion for one final time as they tell him to attack Metalia in her blatantly obvious weakpoint (thanks Kunzite!) and say their goodbyes. It's a nice little moment after the Shittenou were so unceremoniously offed in the last episode, but all it really does is serve as a reminder of their wasted potential. Mamoru delivers his usual 'Sailor Moon, do the thing!' speech, inspiring Usagi to use the full power of the Silver Crystal with him to ultimately defeat Metalia for good (who presumably is just watching all this speechery unfold and doing nothing about it because, eh. She's hardly been the brightest villain, if we're honest). Using the crystal, Usagi transforms the Moon Stick into a full on staff with the opened Crystal sitting on top of it, ready to seal Metalia once and for all. Yeah, hooray, it's time to lay the smackdown on Metalia, I can't wai-
Okay, okay, yes, it's as it was in the Manga. But god dammit that does not stop this from still being a really dumb way to drag out the end of the show's first arc. Instead of two separate episodes - especially consider there's a two week wait until the rest of them - it would've made more sense to either smoosh both acts into a single episode (wait am I advocating for rushed pacing in SMC now? I don't know any more. I might be delirious after watching this show), or make this an extended-length special episode just to wrap things up. It feels super awkward, and honestly kind of a bum note on what was otherwise a decent episode.
Still, tune in two weeks for the actual ending of the first story arc! I'm trying very hard not to exasperatedly sigh finally, but... too late.
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