Sailor Moon Crystal: "Act 4 -- Masquerade Dance Party" Review
Note: Full spoilers for the episode follow. (Sorry for the vacation-caused delay on this one!)
This week’s episode of Sailor Moon Crystal is called "Masquerade Dance Party", and the title is an apt one. Everyone is masquerading as somebody else in Act 4: Sailor Moon and her friends and pretending to be royalty, their new enemy Nephrite is pretending to be a lady’s maid, and Tuxedo Mask is pretending to be an ally to the Sailor Guardians. (Or is he pretending to be their enemy? Even he doesn’t seem to know.) It’s all in the hopes of obtaining the Legendary Silver Crystal, an object that has the power to control the universe.
The crystal disappeared long ago (as did the princess guarding it), so when a foreign dignitary named Princess D holds a masquerade ball to unveil a mysterious treasure, everyone assumes the treasure must be the Legendary Silver Crystal. This leads to a confrontation between the Sailor Guardians and Nephrite, who proves to be a more formidable opponent than his predecessor Jadeite.
Though the premise of Masquerade is about the search for the Legendary Silver Crystal, most of the episode focuses on the continuing evolution of Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship. It’s pretty clear the two are smitten with each other: they follow each other around the ball, dance a waltz together while gazing longingly into each other’s eyes, and exchange sweet nothings. Tuxedo Mask (Mamoru\'s alter ego) even kisses a sleeping Usagi at one point, completely mesmerized by her beauty. Watching them together produced more than one romantic sigh from me; if nothing else the dapper Mamoru certainly knows his way around the ladies. In battle however, he continues to underwhelm as the pedantic prince of men’s formal wear.
Case in point: when the Sailor Guardians corner Nephrite at the ball (who conjures a shadow of himself to possess Princess D and swipe her treasure), Tuxedo Mask is more interested in being a spectator than an active participant in battle. Not only does he do very little to assist Sailor Moon outside of a single helpful suggestion about how to use her new tiara (and it’s entirely unclear how HE knows how to use it), but it’s Sailor Moon who has to save him when an earlier rescue attempt goes awry.
In short, his blithe ineptitude makes Tuxedo Mask look incredibly weak, though the upside is that it makes Sailor Moon look strong. In fact, her new tiara (which has a mirror that can cast a powerful beam of moonlight at an enemy) is pretty darn cool, and I loved watching her use it to utterly obliterate Nephrite’s shadow self. This is also the first battle where Usagi
burst into tears, signaling that she’s getting better at this whole “fighting evil by moonlight” thing.
Sailors Mercury and Mars are somewhat incidental this week, though I like how they bond over arcade games (something not found in the manga), and then team up to try and protect Princess D from Nephrite’s powers. It’s clear that Toei has jettisoned Mars’ snarky attitude from the original anime and replaced it with a much more amicable persona, which I really rather like. I also enjoyed seeing the four kings (yes,
--Jadeite\'s alive!) interact more; they even appear together at the end of the episode so they can formally introduce themselves and warn the Guardians that they will succeed in getting the Legendary Silver Crystal. (For those wondering, the mysterious treasure ends up being nothing more than a diamond statue of the goofy-looking Princess D.)
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Masquerade Dance Party is a fairly entertaining episode, though I’m sorry to report its also the cheapest looking entry in the series so far. It feels like the studio cut corners everywhere in order to save a few yen: facial features look completely misaligned, backgrounds look hazy, and the framerate seems uneven at times. That’s really a shame, because with all the glitz and glamour of a formal ball, Toei had the perfect excuse to show off its art direction skills. Hopefully next week’s episode (which introduces a new Sailor Guardian) will look a lot better.
This week’s Sailor Moon Crystal features a fancy ball and cool new powers. RT