During a week badly in need of a little Moon Healing Escalation, Sailor Moon delivers two of its best–and warmest–episodes to date.
Given that Sailor Moon is both a superhero and coming-of-age story (as so many superhero stories are), it seems fitting that the focus of the show (outside of being crazy-awesome-fun-times) is on identity, and who people “really” are. I think these ideas have always been floating around the edges of the story, but it’s become more prominent with this arc, and especially with these episodes.
Both of our “Rainbow Crystal Monsters” this week are sympathetic, fleshed-out characters, people working hard to overcome their weaknesses and achieve their goals. Yet despite all the good within them, there is a “shard” of darkness as well, which manifests as a perversion of their most admirable trait. It turns creation into destruction, love into possessiveness, peace into violence (and whoa I JUST got why the priest turned into a boxer now! It actually makes sense if you look at it from a metaphorical perspective! HA. Way to go, Sailor Moon!).
It’s Zoisite’s job to dredge up that darkness and the Moonies’ job to defeat it. But the Moonies don’t just bury the evil again–they remove it altogether, purifying the “monsters” so they’re even better than they were before. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen our scouts not just working damage control but actually making people better, and I suspect it will go a long way towards their growth both as heroes and as humans.
Of course, it’s hard to talk about identity without discussing Tuxedo Mamoru and his fractured memories. It’s fitting that, while Zoisite has his Dark Crystal and Sailor Moon has her Moon Stick, The Tux has no easy way of finding the Rainbow Crystals. After all, he’s the character with the flimsiest sense of self, as torn between his halves as the “monsters” we meet each episode. Simultaneously the most driven and the most directionless, he is caught between the warring factions, and watching that struggle has made him a much more fascinating character as the series has progressed.
Granted, while all of this is increasingly intriguing, it absolutely cannot compete with the UNBELIEVABLE CUTENESS that was this week’s first episode. So enough with this serious retrospective stuff! Let’s all go flail over Episode 27 together.
Episode 27 – Mon Ami, Mon Amour
After Beryl quickly recaps the premise for us, we check in with Ami (always a good sign in any episode). A male classmate stops her on the sidewalk just long enough to prevent her from being crushed by a falling steel beam, which would have put a serious damper on the episode. Between the Dark Kingdom, Godzilla, and inattentive construction workers, it’s a wonder anyone in Japan makes it to adulthood, really.
Once we get to school we find out that the boy is Urawa Ryo, a brilliant student who landed a perfect score on the recent test, besting Ami by a single point. Ami takes it in stride because she knows life isn’t a competition, and also because in addition to homework she’s also got that little part-time job called Saving The Damn World, so if life WAS a competition, she’d totally be kicking its ass.
Usagi quickly realizes that Ryo has a crush on Ami (because who wouldn’t?). Turns out that Ami inspired him to work harder in school as well, and he promised himself he’d confess his feelings once he’d beaten her test scores and thereby proven himself worthy of her love. It’s a misguided sentiment, but there’s something adorably chivalric about it as well, like a knight on a quest to earn his lady’s favor, except that the “lady” is also a knight and she keeps slaying more dragons than he does (my favorite kind of chivalric romance, that). Point is, I kinda ship it. Usagi does, too, and offers to meet up with Ryo after school so they can talk more about it.
Meanwhile, Rei is on a date with Mamoru. So, uh… THAT subplot is happening, I guess. Mamoru continues to look as confused about it as I feel.
On to more important matters: Fuzzy love-love! Usagi meets up with Ryo and (since the only photo he has of Ami is from a newspaper clipping) gives him a goofy and adorable picture of Ami about to bite into a hamburger. Usagi, well-intended but overly excitable bestie that she is, decides Ryo needs to tell Ami how he feels RIGHT THE EFF NOW, so she runs off to snag Ami from cram school. Luna tries to point out that the Moon Stick is beeping, but Usagi has love on the brain, and that’s never a good time to bring up Moonie business. They should’ve called her Sailor Venus, amirite?
Alas, Ryo is the next of the Seven Monsters, so on his way to the rendezvous point he’s intercepted by Zoisite. To Zoi’s surprise, Ryo already knows who he is and what he’s there for. In fact Ryo’s ability to see the future has made him a self-aware monster (by far the most tragic of all Pokemon types), and he’d rather die than lose his humanity. Zoisite seems about ready to grant that wish, but Sailors Moon and Mercury show up, interrupting the back alley beat down. Mercury escapes with the unconscious Ryo while Moon goes to hunt down Zoisite.
While he’s out, Ryo has an unpleasantly creepy dream/premonition about turning into a monster and ripping off Ami’s clothes (suuuuper subtle there, Sailor Moon). He awakens, horrified, and admits everything to Sailor Mercury, beginning with the fact that he knows she’s Ami (“HAHAHA WHO’S THAT, NEVER HEARD OF HER,” Ami replies).
Ryo explains that his future sight is the reason he earned the the perfect score on the test (normally I’d call him out for being a cheating cheater-pants, but since it doesn’t seem like he has any CONTROL over his power, the kid gets a free pass, here). And, thanks to his future sight, he also knows he’s going to become a monster, no matter what they do to stop it. His only request is that, when he DOES turn, Ami should “kill him without hesitation.”
I think it’s safe to say that everybody loves this kid now, Ami included, and if Zoisite does anything to hurt him I will rip that ponytail right out of his scalp. But even as Ryo snuggles his way into our hearts, Ami once again reminds us that, if Life WAS a competition, she’d be kicking its ass, because she quickly points out that he’s giving up WAY too easily, here. She thinks they can work to change the future, and basically gives him the magical girl version of “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.”
Then they smile adorably at each other and agree to keep fighting right to the end and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH, I JUST WANT THEM TO SPEND THE ENTIRE REST OF THE EPISODE HOLDING HANDS AND WATCHING THE MOON AND SOLVING ALGEBRA PROBLEMS.
But they can’t do that because STUPID ZOISITE and his STUPID CRYSTAL have to go and RUIN EVERYTHING. He shows up and yanks the Rainbow Crystal out of Ryo, turning him into Bunboo, the Pocket Knife Monster, who attacks Sailor Mercury retains his memories and tackles the shit out of Zoisite?!
I. LOVE. THIS. KID.
Zoisite drops the crystal straight into Ami’s hands, which is awesome, but then he uses his powers to essentially override Ryo/Bunboo’s free will, which is emphatically NOT awesome. Our tragic monster gets pushed into Berserker Mode, and Usagi and Ami are so reluctant to hurt him that they end up just running around flustered for a while.
Fortunately neither Rei nor Makoto have any such reservations. They show up from… somewhere… and beat the ever-loving snot out of Bunboo, weakening him enough so that Usagi can use Moon Healing Escalation. He transforms back into an unconscious Ryo just in time for Ami to catch him in her arms, for me to flail wildly on my couch, and for Tuxedo Mask to photobomb the Precious Moment.
Unwilling or perhaps physically incapable of interrupting such cuteness, The Tux opts to steal the Rainbow Crystal from the Moonies on some other enchanted evening, and disappears in a billow of cape. Don’t fret, buddy. You’ll have plenty of time next episode to get your antihero on.
I’m convinced that this scene is going to cut immediately to a scene of Ami and Ryo adorably eating anything-but-chocolate parfaits, but instead we’re taken to a train station, a terrible, parfait-less train station, where Ryo is saying his goodbyes. Apparently he has to transfer schools again because his STUPID DAD and his STUPID JOB had to go and RUIN EVERYTHING. He returns the hamburger photo to Ami, saying he’ll ask for it back once his grades are up to snuff, at which point Sailor Moon does an amazing job of conveying emotion without words, because:
In return, Ami gives Ryo a much less silly (but slightly less adorable) photo to take with him. They share another meaningful look and then the door closes. But just when you thought it couldn’t get cuter, Ami RUNS ALONG the platform, watches the train vanish into the distance, and thinks: “Don’t be so concerned with grades. Come visit me at any time, Ryo!”
YOU SEE THAT, RYO, YOU ALREADY EARNED HER LOVE BY BEING SWEET AND COURAGEOUS AND HARD-WORKING AND NOBLE, YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SMARTER THAN HER (because that would be impossible), YOU JUST HAVE TO BE YOU, YOU BEAUTIFUL ANIMAL, YOU.
…Okay. Okay. I’m back. Caps lock off. But dammit, that episode was just about perfect. Such a sweet little love story about two smart, strong, decent human beings connecting emotionally through mutual respect and admiration. You see that, Sailor Moon? You can write a good romance! I always knew you had it in you!
…Now transfer Ryo back to Juuban Junior High, dammit.
Episode 28 – Pretty (Guardian) as a Picture
Warning: This episode is not about Ami and Ryo. :( That said, it is still pretty good.
We begin with a frustrated Usagi, upset because Luna keeps reminding her that The Tux totes took one of the Rainbow Crystals, and how lame is that? (Answer: Super lame.) Thankfully Usagi’s moods last about as long as a goldfish’s memory, so she forgets she’s upset and goes to an art show with her school pals! The featured artist is Yumeno Yumemi, who always paints lovely couples being lovely together, and whose work is said to make you lucky in love. She’s also supposed to be a “mysterious beauty” who never appears in public.
Cue the “secret” entrance of Yumeno, an ordinary-looking young woman with a minor case of artist’s block. She’s searching for new models for her next painting, and lucks out when she literally runs into Mamoru studying a very “Tuxedo Dream-esque” painting in the display window.
Usagi spies the two of them chatting and assumes Mamoru is cheating on Rei (so they’re like, dating dating? Like for realz? Like Mamoru is for realz dating an eighth grader? In the name of the Moon, Mamoru, you really do have zero friends, don’t you?).
Usagi runs outside so she can be all like:
Except–surprise! Usa and Mamoru are the PERFECT models for Yumeno’s next painting! She takes them back to her studio and gets to work. Usagi agrees to do it because yay art! Mamoru agrees because Yumeno has delicious coffee. You’ll remember that the promise of coffee is also how he started dating Rei, proving a fact we’ve known for decades: The quickest way to a college student’s heart is through his caffeinated beverages.
At the studio, we spend a lot of time finding out that Yumeno’s life is kind of sad–she hides her identity because she doesn’t think people would accept her art if they found out she was “ugly,” she doesn’t have any friends despite her kind soul and delicious, delicious coffee, and overall she just seems very isolated and lonely. Yumeno says she doesn’t mind if she’s unhappy as long as she can bring happiness to others, and… oh hell, you guys, I’m writing this after hearing about Robin Williams’ death and I’m… uh… let’s just skip ahead before I make myself cry again.
And look at that! Yumeno has the outline for another beautiful painting! After Mamoru peaces out, Usagi encourages Yumeno to have confidence in herself and trust that people will love her for her inner beauty. ‘Cause Usagi is all about inner beauty. Well, unless she’s choosing a boyfriend. Then it’s all about dat ass.
The two part ways, but not for long, because Usagi’s Moon Stick starts a-beeping and Zoisite shows up in Yumeno’s apartment. Yumeno is confused by this, not because a strange man is floating in her window, but because Zoisite is pretty but scary, and that is CLEARLY not how beauty is supposed to work!
There’s a moral in that, by the way, but it’s so obvious that it feels like a waste of time to discuss it. So I’m just going to move right on to the part where Zoisite drags out the Rainbow Crystal and turns Yumeno into Veena, the Flying Type Pokemon.
Both Moon and Mask show up to handle this one. The Tux is all “Gimme that Crystal!” and Zoisite is all “Make me” and Tux is all “Kay,” leaving Moon to handle Yumeno/Veena. Our latest monster has the power to create objects with her Eeevil Quill Pens, but apparently being eeevil also means being uuuncreative, because all she ever makes are tiny boulders.
Moon bounces around screaming for a while until the rest of the Moonies show up, facing off against Veena and leaving Moon to chase after Tuxedo Ma–I MEAN the Rainbow Crystal. That’s totally what she’s chasing after. Because she’s the leader!
The Tux and Zoisite bounce around stylishly for a while until Zoisite switches to long-range magic attacks. Turns out the Tux is only good at dodging when he’s carrying an Usagi in his arms, and Zoisite quickly gains the upper hand. But fear not, hapless hero! For just as things look bleak, who should show up but the one called Sailor Moon! She flings a tiara that dissolves Zoisite’s attack, saving Tuxedo Mask from a sparkly-yet-gruesome fate.
You read that right, folks! TUXEDO MASK just got saved by SAILOR MUTHAFUGGIN MOON.
Things aren’t all sunshine and Rainbow Crystals, though, because Zoisite escapes, leaving our future couple alone and crystal-less. The two try to have their first real conversation outside of an elevator shaft, but The Tux epic fails at using his words, so it’s basically a lot of “I’m takin’ those Rainbow Crystals, see?” and “We’re enemies now, see?” and meanwhile Armchair Critic Josei is shaking her tablet and shouting “Dammit, Tux, tell her WHY you need the Rainbow Crystals! Then you guys could just SHARE the stupid things!” Antiheroes always gotta be makin’ it harder on themselves, I tell ya.
On the bright side, he DOES let Usagi keep his star-shaped pendant. And that pendant plays music, which basically makes it the magical girl version of a mix tape. So see, Usa? The Tux may have just declared himself your enemy, but he also liiiiikes you.
Proving that she just might have some leadership skills after all, Usagi shakes herself from her shock and rushes back to the other Moonies in time to heal Yumeno. And as a nice closing moment to the episode, we learn that Yumeno has decided to have “the courage to be open about herself,” replacing her false self-portrait with a real one and allowing the world to see her for who she really is.
It’s one of those “have faith in each other and yourself” kind of endings that SM does so well when it’s on its game, and this week more than ever I’m reminded of how badly we need those moments in our fiction, to shed a little light even when the world seems unremittingly dark. Sailor Moon picked a good week to be wonderful, and it certainly made my very sad Monday a little less so. Here’s hoping it managed to do the same for you.
This, That, and the Other
- I snagged that fantastic Ami gif from Moon’s Whisper, whose Tumblr is full of awesome SM gifs and artwork. Go check it out!
- We got new opening animation this week, complete with a palace on the moon, an unknown Sailor scout, and a whole lotta shots of that star-shaped pendant. This story-and-character-development thing just got real, you guys.
- I want to cosplay as Zoisite just so I can run around shouting “ZOI!” and pelting people with flower petals.
- Umino’s crush has jumped from Usagi to Naru. This feels simultaneously better and worse, because Naru will probably be nicer to him, but she will also make his life much more dangerous, seeing as how she gets kidnapped by monsters at LEAST twice a month.
- I really wish we’d gotten to see the awkward conversation where both Rei AND Mamoru hastily excuse themselves from their date because “something suddenly came up and oh you’re going this way too well haha fancy that nope just getting on this bus here you go on ahead I’ll see you later and okay phew they’re gone TRANSFORMATION TIME.”
- And speaking of transformations, now that Mamoru knows he’s the Tux, d’you reckon he gets a cool transformation sequence, too?
“Tuxedo Powaaaaa, Suit Up!”
…Okay, yep. That’s a thing now. I’m officially making that A Thing. Tell your friends.
- Hark! A plot point! Between the pendant, the Tuxedo Dreams, and reincarnated monster Yumeno’s paintings, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be dealing with some I-loved-you-in-a-previous-life drama between Moonsagi and Tuxedo Mamoru before too much longer. I’m a sucker for reincarnation romances, so I’m totally on board with this.