The planets are finally starting to align.
This week Hino Rei stormed onto the scene as Sailor Mars, and her timing couldn’t have been better. While I did warm up to Ami a lot this week, her character seems to be a blend of intelligence, naivete (she’d never played video games OR gone window shopping until she met Usagi), and just plain niceness, which makes her great back-up for Usagi but doesn’t really create much tension.
And as fun as this show is, it’s in desperate need of some tension. Our villains haven’t been a real threat recently, and while Luna and Usagi do squabble some, they’ve gotten so used to each other that it’s all pretty good-natured bickering at this point. We needed Mars to bring some proverbial as well as literal fire to the show, and it looks like she’ll do just that.
While Usagi and Rei are very different girls, they’re both strong-willed and stubborn, which should lead to some conflict–and, hopefully, to character growth both in and out of their scout uniforms. And while I’d rather their entire relationship NOT be built around Tuxedo Mask, I must admit that a little romantic rivalry WOULD be pretty entertaining. Just… keep it as a side dish instead of a main course, please.
Episode 9 – Time Waits for No Bunny
Our villains have decided to harvest energy from stress by making everyone feel like they’re constantly running out the door five minutes late after shotgunning a pot of coffee. This leads to the entire city people dashing about and generally just being jerks to one another. Usagi’s teacher even cancels class so she can get ready for four separate dates. Normally I’d say that’s unprofessional, but given how often her students riot and flee her class, she’s earned this one. You go, girl.
Things are complicated somewhat when Usagi also falls victim to the spell after her mom buys an eeevil clock from this week’s monster, David Bowie. Ami and Luna investigate for a bit until Usagi busts onto the scene, then (still hepped up on time rays) decides SCREW SLEUTHING WE’RE CRASHING THIS DIMENSIONAL PORTAL. In the rush, Luna gets left behind. I figure the girls will probably die without her.
Usa and Ami are transported to a Salvador Dali painting, where David Bowie traps them in his Labyrinth. Usagi dashes brazenly ahead. Ami follows, looking like she wishes Luna were there to share an exasperated glance with her.
Meanwhile, Tuxedo Mask shows up in the clock store, presumably because the wind there makes his cape look awesome. He will do stuff later, but for now he just looks like he took a wrong turn at Albuquerque.
Back on the other side of the dimensional portal, Ami uses her new Lovely Items (scanner glasses and a Palm PC) to conduct some sweet sciency magic and figure out the labyrinth’s pattern. Go go random English phrases on a computer screen!
Ami leads them to the end of the Labyrinth. David Bowie is there, naturally, and things look bleak for our heroes until Usagi uses her ultrasonic crying to send an SOS to Tuxedo Mask. He heard his baby crying hard as babes could cry! What could he do?! Fling a rose into the clock, of course, snapping David Bowie’s spell long enough for Mercury and Moon to take him out. For their will is as strong as his, and their kingdom is as great!
(I really like Jim Henson films, you guys.)
Episode 10 – Mars Attacks!
This one begins with police sirens and doesn’t really let up from there. Usagi and her friends (minus Ami, who has cram school) go to Hikawa Shrine to buy amulets to ward off evil, since there’s a story going around about a “cursed 6 PM bus” whose passengers have been vanishing.
Hikawa shrine is run by a chipper old priest who flirts with absolutely everyone, including shady young men (read: Jadeite) looking for room and board. Jadeite has been living at the shrine and infecting it with crazy-in-love energy, which his minion then harvests by luring the lovestruck girls onto a Bus to Hell–or, as we called it in Chicago, the Wrigley Field Express.
Also at the shrine is the old priest’s granddaughter, Hino Rei, a prophesying, sixth sensing, nusa-waving BAMF who has had it up to HERE with the police hassling her grandpa about all the people who have disappeared at the local bus stop, I mean back off, old lady, who cares about you missing daughter, GAWD!
The missing persons are stacking up pretty impressively, so the Moonies go sleuthing. But Usagi is too afraid to get on the eeevil bus, leaving the gang to stand on the curb and watch the bus disappear into the Hell Dimension.
Usagi thinks this job might be less for Sailor Moon and more for Sailor Shrine Maiden, so she goes to ask Rei for help the next day. But Rei’s hackles get raised every time someone mentions the cursed bus, and she basically tells Usagi to piss off. On their way out, Luna (who thinks Rei might be the moon princess) poops a magical pen to see if it has any effect on Rei. For science!
Ami is late to the bus stop, so Usagi ends up transforming into a flight attendant (“Why a flight attendant?” Luna rightfully asks) to give herself courage to get on the eeevil bus alone. And away we go to the hell dimension!
Meanwhile, Rei realizes there’s something eeevil about the new hire. When she goes to confront him (Bird Entourage and all), Jadeite reveals his true nature and casts her into the hell dimension–and right into his minion’s demonic arms! Just like with Ami, mortal peril unlocks Rei’s sailor spirit, and with a little coaching from Luna, she transforms into the fire-slinging Sailor Mars. She makes short work of the monster, but also almost closes the portal.
And then two absolutely magical things happen.
First, Ami uses the power of her FEELINGS (yay, shoujo!) to reopen the portal. And second, Tuxedo Mask appears OUT OF ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE behind the wheel of the bus and offers to drive them all to freedom and it’s just… it’s all so ridiculous, everything Tuxedo Mask does is ridiculous, he’s just this big goofy platitude-spouting dork and the girls in this show freaking LOVE him and hell, I admit it, so do I, because he makes me so damn happy every time he is on screen. Every. Single. Time.
True to his word, Deus ex Maskina flies them out of the portal before disappearing again. Rei thinks he’s pretty cool. Usagi thinks Rei needs to step off. Ami thinks she’d rather be reading that book she bought in the last episode than fighting over who gets to be with the masked bus driver. I’m definitely with you on that one, Ami.
This, That, and the Other
- What do the Sailor Moon creators have against buses? They were swerving, crashing, and sucking people into hell dimensions all over the place this week.
- When time went all wibbly wobbly and Usagi’s voice actor, Mitsuishi Kotono, shifted into lightspeed, I had massive flashbacks to her hyperactive work on Excel Saga. I know she played Excel like seven years after this episode aired and so it shouldn’t really work as a“flashback,” but that’s how wibbly wobbly time works, I s’pose.
- Actual line in my notes: “REI HAS PET CROWS NAMED PHOBOS AND DEIMOS I LOVE YOU REI.” I don’t care if she IS kind of a jerk, she named her murder of birds after the twin gods of fear and panic, and that automatically makes her awesome.
- Hark! A plot point! Queen Beryl hails from the “Dark Kingdom,” and she’s worried the Sailor Guardians will find the Legendary Silver Crystal before she does. Apparently no one has told her that the Sailors aren’t looking for it.
Magic(al Girl) Moments
As Usagi and Ami watch the lovestruck girls waiting for the bus, a puzzled Ami remarks to Usa, “They should be busy with high school entrance exams! Where do [they] find time for all this?! I don’t get it.” Usagi responds by fantasizing about her own crushes–BOTH Motoki and Tuxedo Mask–proving that SHE gets it just fine. Ami is unconvinced.
This scene and the one in Episode 9 where the girls go shopping might be my two favorite moments this week, because they’re both so indicative of what Sailor Moon can and should continue to do: Show us different girls with different interests and lifestyles and opinions, and show how they can all have the ability to be awesome superheroes. And also show how they can work together as friends to be awesome superheroes.
Because Usa and Ami are both absolutely realistic 14-year-olds here, and they’re very different, and they don’t completely understand each other, and THAT IS OKAY. It’s okay for Usagi to read comics and crush on two boys at once and it’s also okay for Ami to read massive tomes and be more interested in school than romance. Because in the end they both have their strengths and weaknesses and they both like each other and they both work together to defeat evil and save people in trouble and HOW GREAT IS THAT, YOU GUYS, I MEAN REALLY, IT’S SO GREAT.
The Sensei Next Door (Moon Prism Edition)
Hikawa Jinja [hee-caw-wa jean-jah]
Rei lives and works as a miko (shrine maiden) at a jinja, or Shinto shrine. (Remember kids: temples are Buddhist, shrines are Shinto!) Shinto is the native religion of Japan, a loosely organized belief system based on nature worship and purification rituals. There’s no way I can discuss it in detail here, but thankfully the Wikipedia article is nice and extensive if you’re interested in learning more.
Hikawa Jinja (literally “Fire River Shrine”) is a bit of a pun on the actual Hikawa shrines in Japan, as these are spelled 氷川 (“Ice River”). The main Hikawa Shrine is located in Saitama, but there are hundreds of smaller “branch shrines” around Japan, including the area where the Moonies live. The anime based their version largely on the Hikawa Shrine in Akasaka, with some influence from the Azabu shrine. (The original manga shrine was based entirely on the Azabu shrine, including that lovely torii archway on Sendai hill).
So yes, if you’re ever in Japan, you can totally go check out Rei’s home. ^_^