It wasn’t supposed to happen like it did. The seal on the Silver Crystal was supposed to last a bit longer. But fate doesn’t sit around and wait for things like “convenience.”
Sailor Moon Crystal Act 9: Serenity – Princess
Director: Kumiko Habara
Writer: Mutsumi Itō
Storyboards: Naotoshi Shida
Animation Directors: Momoko Maki’uchi, Kozue Komatsu
Publisher: Toei Animation, Viz Media
Price: Free on Hulu, included in subscription to CrunchyRoll
Previously on Sailor Moon Crystal: When Kunzite calls out Sailor Venus to demand the Silver Crystal, all the Sailor Guardians rise to fight him. Inspired by Sailor Moon’s bravery, Tuxedo Kamen decides to personify his human namesake (Mamoru = protect) and shield Sailor Moon from what is sure to be a fatal blast.
A LIGHT SHINING LIKE THE SUN
Tuxedo Kamen said once, in a previous episode, that he didn’t really need the Silver Crystal anymore – what he needed was Sailor Moon. And perhaps he was right, because in that moment he’s hit, everything clicks. The woman he’s been looking for, Princess Serenity, has been in front of him the whole time. Usagi is Princess Serenity reborn, just like he is Prince Endymion reborn.
But wait, wasn’t Sailor Venus supposed to be Princess Serenity?
Turns out she acted as a decoy to protect the real princess, and it might have worked, if Sailor Moon weren’t so devoted to protect who she thought was the princess.
In her tears, Sailor Moon’s tiara shatters, and the crescent mark of the Moon’s royal family appears on her forehead. And as Tuxedo Mask lay dying, they both remember their past lives, and how they were once lovers. And as one might have guessed, their love had a tragic end.
I continue to be impressed by the new content added into the story. But sometimes what is even more amazing are the things I wasn’t expecting. While I was wide-eyed at how all four of the Kings looked on Tuxedo Mask’s body and are still around (in the manga the three dead kings were revived from the dead and then their bodies couldn’t handle the energy of the Silver Crystal and transformed into the rocks of their namesake), what I wasn’t expecting was the extended scene in Usagi’s room later in the episode. In the manga, yes, all of Usagi’s allies come to comfort her as a friend, but the scene is very well-fleshed out from ideas hinted at elsewhere in the manga. Usagi is worried about losing herself to her past self, and it’s an interesting concept that within the idea of reincarnation, each lifetime is it’s own and it’s own person. That lives can share a soul but still be different people.
I really admire Usagi’s desire to be her own person, and even if she and her friends have responsibilities inherited from their previous lives, they will fight this battle on their own terms, as themselves. It’s an idea that comes up many times in the original manga series, in a transition from the old ways to the new. And while the Sailor Guardians were assigned to protect the princess in their past life, it feels more like them consciously choosing to protect someone they love.
Usagi is the one who has drawn them together, not Serenity.
NOT A TRAGIC PRINCESS
So, I’ll admit I’m not sure if I’m misremembering from previous episodes, or maybe this animation style has become more dear to me than I realized, but it felt like there was a boost in the quality of the animation in this episode. There are still shortcuts being taken, but I feel like they’re fewer now than before. (Most notably only showing the weapons in the air for a mob instead of the mob itself.)
There is also an artistic technique fairly commonly used in anime that is also used twice in this episode, ranging from success to failure. The technique is to somehow obscure only the eyes/eye region of the face, to represent that a character can’t quite remember who someone is. Playing with eyes is fairly common in anime, and is also often seen with characters who wear glasses have their eyes obscured by light shining on the lenses.
In the first time this happens, as Mamoru is regaining his memories, his dream image of the princess “comes into focus” as her eyes are revealed to be Usagi’s, and then the image changes to her in her Sailor Moon uniform. This works very well and I’m glad they decided to do it. However, the second time they use it to obscure the woman who was Queen Beryl’s past life.
I feel like this was not used well, since it’s so obvious that the person is her, and the shadow used to obscure her eyes really stands out from the way the rest of the faces are drawn in those shots. It feels like a smudge on the screen. And I think part of my bias is because Takeuchi does sometimes use this technique in the manga, but she didn’t use it here.
What this series continues to do incredibly well is getting the gist of what was, originally in the manga, series of panels that might have been confusing in the anime. When the Silver Crystal’s seal is removed, this episode shows flowers blooming in great number. In the manga it showed several shots of life being healed, but here it made the most sense to stick with the flowers.
My favorite parts of the episode, animation-wise, are any point Usagi is in Serenity’s princess dress. One of my favorite dresses in anime, ever.
BOTTOM LINE: STUNNING
I mentioned that I was waiting anxiously for this episode in my last review, and it actually exceeded my expectations, which is a tall order since I was holding it to very high standards. In the original anime, Usagi being revealed as the princess was one of my favorite episodes, and I felt like this episode captured that power and mixed it with the manga storyline wonderfully. And I’m always for new content and improved pacing. I haven’t been this excited about Sailor Moon in a long time.