Yep. Sailor Moon definitely works better as an ensemble show.
Man, but I like this series so much more when it shifts the focus even just a little bit away from Usagi. When it comes to favorite episodes, they all seem to be the ones where she helps other people out (both episodes with her brother have been great), or the rare times when the show becomes a true ensemble, either balancing the screen time for the scouts equally or focusing on a different Moonie altogether. Usagi’s good qualities are easier to see when we aren’t also constantly seeing her falling down, crying, getting scared, or mooning over Tuxedo Mask. (And yes, pun intended. Pun ALWAYS intended.)
Plus, you know. Ami is wonderful and Rei is a badass, and Luna is adorable and Tuxedo Mask is the funniest man on television. We have a great cast here. It’s a shame the show doesn’t utilize them more.
Anyway, all of this is to say that the first episode this week was full of pertinent story lines but kind of annoyed me, while the second episode was pure filler and I freaking adored it. SM has a lot of love stories, but its most compelling have nothing to do with boys in masks and everything to do with friends, families, and the scouts’ simple, earnest desire to help people as best they can.
…That said, Episode 19 DOES feature a scene that is damn near Whedonesque in its perfect blend of relevance and irreverence, and for that it has my praise. So let’s enjoy that in the recaps, shall we?
Episode 19 – Love is an Open Elevator Door
Nephy has decided to take a break from energy-collecting so he can focus on beating up a teenager. He asks his Stellapedia to look up Sailor Moon’s weakness and it sends him to the Tuxedo Mask entry (not slippery floors or math homework as you might have expected).
Nephy sets his plan in motion, though not before first getting chewed out by Beryl for sucking at his job. He’s got about two failed schemes left before she sends him to Minion Jail with Jadeite, and I cannot WAIT for her to do it. Zoisite is more interesting. Hell, a potted plant is more interesting. Nephy, you are boring beyond words.
He does have a halfway decent plan this time, though: Send love letters to all the junior high girls. If one of them responds, then she is the one named Sailor Moon! Usagi receives a letter, of course, and at first she’s on Cloud 9 (Shut UP, Luna, it doesn’t MATTER how The Tux knew Usagi and Sailor Moon were the same person, GAWD), but Usa’s joy quickly turns to heartbreak when she discovers that all of the other girls have a letter, too.
The next part of the story is brought to you by a huge, gaping plot hole, because Tuxedo Mask is apparently popular enough to have his own UFO doll, but none of the girls seem to know who “Tuxedo Mask” is. Neither does Mamoru, who is TRYING TO FISH THE TUXEDO MASK DOLL OUT OF THE CLAW MACHINE. I guess it’s possible someone spotted him traveling with the Moonies and made a doll without ever actually knowing his name, but… no. No. I can’t save this one. It’s a big ol’ plot hole.
Anyway, Naru has decided that The Tux might be her beloved tennis coach (apparently Nephy has decided to maintain this alter ego because, hey, everyone needs a hobby). When she approaches “Coach Sanjoin” about the love letter, this train of thought happens:
Nephy’s Inner Monologue: She suspects I wrote the letter which must mean she thinks I’m Tuxedo Mask which must mean she knows I’m an impostor WHICH MUST MEAN SHE’S SAILOR MOON!
So Nephy, the new reigning champion of Jump to Conclusions, flirts with her to encourage her to meet up with the mysterious “Tuxedo Mask” at the mall that night. Naru does just that (dammit, Japan, if your country had more crime then your school children wouldn’t think this was a good idea!), and when she gets there she runs into…
…Heyyy, Nephy heard me complaining and finally got his cosplay on! Dressed to the nines as the Rose of Versailles version of Tuxedo Mask (just look at those flowing locks!), he proceeds to suck some sweet, succulent energy out of the lovestruck Naru.
And shock and awe–it’s the most powerful energy he’s found yet! You’d think after all the other times Naru has been attacked by these guys that she’d be running low, but apparently this stuff is a renewable resource. Naru is the Hoover Dam of feelings!
As our little emo vampire gets to work, the camera cuts to Mamoru on a Random Street suddenly falling to the ground and grasping his head. “Not again,” he groans as rainbows shoot out of his skull. Then everything gets real Disco Ball-y and… TUXEDO MASK APPEARS?!
WHAAAAT?! YOU MEAN MAMORU AND TUXEDO MASK WERE THE SAME PERSON THIS ENTIRE TIME? Mind. Blown. Not rainbows-shooting-out-of-my-skull blown, but still. Pretty blown.
But enough of that. There’s eeevil afoot! Everybody!
Sailor Moon arrives first. She immediately knows this Tuxedo Mask is a fake. (“How could you tell?” Nephy wonders. “Because the mask doesn’t hide your hair, dipshit,” Armchair Critic Josei retorts). Usagi is reliably helpless against Nephy’s Spirit Lion, but thankfully The Tux is here to pose suggestively in doorways and get our heroine trapped on a Death Elevator. He’s a helper, this one.
Nephy intends to send them to the top of the elevator shaft and then have them plummet to their deaths, but Tuxedo Mask has seen enough action movies to know they need to climb out and make a jump for the doors when the elevator reaches the top floor. Which they do, but the jump is a bit wider than anticipated, and it leaves them both dangling in the elevator shaft.
So what do you do when you’re dangling above a gaping pit of darkness as your gloved hands gradually lose their grip and send you ever closer to the void? Why, have a deep, personal conversation about your motivations and feelings, of course! I feel like the creators sat down and said, “Okay, Moon and Tux are going to have their first real conversation–now where’s the silliest place we can set it?” And after a long night of drinking they settled on “dangling from an elevator shaft.”
And you know what? They were absolutely right.
As Tuxedo Mask tries to pull them both to safety, he talks about how he always helps Moon out because “his blood tells him” to do it. He says he feels they must have a shared past. This all sounds very relevant and quite frankly damn romantic, but Usagi is still preeeeetty sure he’s Motoki and he lurves her and like you guys her boobs are totally touching his back and OMG SHE CAN’T EVEN.
To Usagi’s credit, she DOES realize how silly she sounds, but then she immediately loses that credit when she decides that the best way to make things better is to burst into tears and wail straight into Tuxedo Mask’s ear.
The Tux decides that now would be a good moment to embrace the sweet release of death, and I really don’t blame him. But just as his fingers start to slide, the rest of the Moonies show up, pulling them from the shaft and to the safety of the mall roof. They even collected Naru on their way up! Good sidechicks. Extra EXP for you.
Moon and Mars immediately start fighting over Tuxedo Mask again, and in possibly my favorite moment of the episode, Mercury finally snaps at them both, because in case they hadn’t noticed Naru is kind of DYING and they should probably get her to a hospital before that happens.
The Tux takes this moment to flee the scene, making him the second smartest character on the roof. He’ll probably need to take an episode or two off to recover, too. I imagine brain rainbows (brainbows!) take a while to replenish.
…Oh yeah, and the bad guy got away. So basically what happened this episode is Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask did a really good job of being useless together. They’re MADE for each other!
Episode 20 – Scoobie Moon, Where Are You!
So remember how last episode Usagi came face to face with the mini-boss? And remember how he tried to kill her best friend, but she stopped him before he could finish the job? And remember how he escaped and is still out there somewhere, plotting to use Naru in some future eeevil plot? You think maybe we should do something about that?
Nah, fuck it. Let’s go swimming!
So yeah, the girl’s are on holiday at the beach. Luna says it’s a “Sailor training camp,” but the day this show has a Training Arc is the day Nephy develops a personality, so we all know better. They’re on holiday.
Rei has picked out a place for them to stay, but the girls get lost on the way and caught in a downpour. Thankfully they run into a creepy-cute little girl named Sakiko picking flowers who leads them up the hill and to a terrifying mansion in the middle of the thunderstorm. Oh, and it appears to be run by a family called “Adams.” I, like Usagi, assume they are going to die soon.
Props to this episode for subverting the hell out of all my expectations, though, because it turns out the mansion is the hotel Rei picked, and it’s basically a resort with a “haunted house” theme. (Judging by their reactions, Ami got the memo about this. Usagi and Luna did not.) So all the staff dress like ghosts and monsters, and the owner dresses like…
Oh wait, nope, no, that’s just how he looks normally. He’s also very harsh with his daughter Sakiko, which worries Ami adorably (because Ami can’t NOT be adorable). At this point I’m not sure if he’s connected to the Dark Kingdom, but his goatee tells me I shouldn’t trust him.
Things seem to be calming down until dinnertime, when they’re interrupted by a noise from the other room. They throw open the door to see a g-g-g-ghost! It vanishes quickly, but Rei assures us it’s not a Dark Kingdom Monster, just a being with “incredible power.” On second thought, this is not reassuring at all.
Meanwhile, Goatee Dad swings a watch in front of Sakiko’s face and hypnotizes her. We don’t know why just yet, but if you can name me one story where a dad hypnotizing his daughter turned out to be a good thing, you win a cookie.
But then daytime arrives again, and with it, beach shenanigans! Turns out the resort’s “private beach” is so private that it’s JUST the girls. So much for Usagi’s beach fantasies. Now we’ll NEVER get to see Tuxedo Mask windsurf!
Ami is all prepared to get in a little ocean-side studying, but Usagi reminds her that making memories with your friends is an important part of your school days, too (Usa’s actually very sweet here–you can tell she really just wants to spend time with her friend), so Ami puts aside her book for once and joins them in the water. Ami and Rei have a fun time bludgeoning Usagi with a beachball as little Sakiko watches wistfully from the clifftops.
Nighttime comes! *SpooOOOoooky!* Ami spots Sakiko STILL standing on the cliff and goes out to speak to her. Sensing Sakiko’s loneliness, Ami admits that she used to feel lonely too, and encourages Sakiko to spend time with the girls, especially Usagi. This whole scene is heartfelt and adorable and makes me wish Ami were the protagonist, because there’s a genuinely touching character arc here, and it’s a shame we only get to see it in bits and pieces.
Sadly, Goatee Dad shows up and interrupts the cuteness. He scolds Sakiko for talking to strangers and hustles her back into his creepy parlor. Turns out he’s trying to unlock his daughter’s psychic powers in true Mad Scientist Fashion (“Call me crazy, will they? Laugh at me, will they? Well I’ll show them–I’LL SHOW THEM ALL!”). He hypnotizes her again and commands her to create a ghost and use it to scare away their guests. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
…Well, “kid,” really. Ami sees all this through the window. Rei is busy miko-ing out in the other room. And Usagi is… working on filling a jacuzzi with her tears. Between this episode and the last, you know she’s gotta be getting close.
As the hilariously wimpy hotel staff attempt every exorcism ritual in the book, Ami tries to stop Goatee Dad from performing morally reprehensible experiments on his daughter. She pleads with Sakiko to snap out of it, but her cries just serve to push Sakiko into her rebellious stage. The ghost goes all “You’re not the boss of me!” on her father and rampages across the mansion.
Ami rounds up the other Moonies, but it turns out their powers only work on monsters, not the psychic ghosts of scared little girls. No, there’s only one thing that can stop this being of destruction, and that is…
Sakiko’s father sees the error in his ways (nothing like impending doom to make you reevaluate your life choices) and apologizes to his daughter. She forgives him and banishes the ghost back into the ether. Then they all go to the ocean and bludgeon Usagi with a beach ball together. Happy endings for everyone!
This, That, and the Other
- Usagi’s First Rule of Dating: Wear a clean pair of underwear. It worries me that this isn’t just a First Rule of Day-to-Day Life for her.
- “A monster that toys with the pure hearts of young girls would never look good in a tuxedo!” Clearly Usagi has never watched Mad Men.
- When Beryl decided to let Nephy keep his job, I’m not sure who was more upset: Zoisite or me. But at least the boring old bastard wasn’t in Episode 20. Maybe that’s the real reason why it was so much more interesting.
- I love that Usagi is STILL wearing the moth-hole-filled swimsuit that she covered in bows a couple episodes ago.
- Hark! A plot point! Mamoru’s painful (albeit sparkly) transformation sequence leads me to believe he actually doesn’t know he’s Tuxedo Mask. Which would at least explain why he hasn’t made the connection between Usagi and Sailor Moon, but it opens the door to all kinds of exciting new theories. Split personalities? Spirit possession? Am I watching the shoujo anime version of The Mask? In the name of the moon, I sure hope not.