The cards may have gotten shuffled, but Sailor Moon is still as entertaining a game as ever.
While my heart still aches from the losses of both Zoisite (ZOISIIIIITE!) and Mamoru, I have to admit the series has managed to move into its next arc without skipping a beat. There’s an almost effortless chemistry among the Moonies nowadays, to the point where the creators pretty much just have to plunk them down in a story line and I know I’m going to enjoy whatever happens next. It also helps that we’ve been gradually developing a group of likable side characters, so if the story DOES need an extra spice, lovable dorks like Yuichirou Teddy are around to add to the mix.
We’re also seeing the number (and intensity) of the conflicts rising to the boiling point. The death of poor Zoisite (ZOISIIIIITE!) has really done a number on Kunzite: This fight has become intensely personal, and he’s misdirecting all of his anger at the Moonies and a heaping helping of his scorn at Endymion. And meanwhile the scouts struggle with their roles as sailors (Usagi most of all), and meanwhile Usagi struggles with her feelings for The Tux, and meanwhile Endymion struggles with Kunzite, the Moonies, AND himself… It’s a surprisingly complicated web for a show that on the surface feels quite simple, and I’m curious to see what happens when all these warring factions inevitably clash.
But before all that happens, we need to go to Princess Camp.
Episode 37 – My Fair Senshi
Late as always, Usagi meets up with Naru outside school just in time to watch a small squadron of Proper Ladies pop out of a limousine and stride demurely inside (they look super happy about it, too). Exposition Bear Naru informs us that they’ve been going to Countess Rose’s Princess Seminar at her Rose Mansion, and I’m just about positive we’re about to enter a Sailor Moon/Utena crossover fanfic. I hope you’ve brushed up on your swordplay, Usagi!
But no, Countess Rose is not affiliated with Ohtori Academy. She’s just a wealthy English aristocrat who’s giving “princess lessons” to the well-to-do girls in town. Cue Obligatory Usagi Princess Dream, complete with Tuxedo Mask (but no Motoki this time, tellingly) and a romantic dance. It motivates her to become a “proper Moon princess” so she can save the world from PFFFT no, I’m kidding, it’s so she can make sure she doesn’t stomp all over The Tux’s toes when they have their next Disney Ballroom Moment.
Meanwhile, Beryl continues to deal with a bunch of insubordinate little shits, as she orders Kunzite and “Endymion” to team up and they both tell her to take a flying leap at the Moon Kingdom. ‘Cause, like, they wouldn’t be caught DEAD working with this guy. He’s so LAME. And SMELLY. SHYEAH. Fortunately Beryl’s got a thing for dissension AND minion rivalry, so she tells them to go have fun. I’m sure they won’t step all over each other’s toes in the process.
Onwards, to Princess Camp! Usagi gets caught spying oh-so-gracefully from the trees, but before one of the butlers can buttle her off the premises, Countess Rose shows up and offers to let Usagi join on one condition: She must… play Frisbee! Huh. Are we sure this isn’t Bro Camp?
All those months of Tiara slingin’ pay off and Usagi passes the test with flying colors. Granted, that’s because it’s a trap designed by Kunzite to determine Sailor Moon’s true identity, since he figures the clumsy, outspoken Moon will pass the Frisbee Test but fail all the others. So they just have to see which of their princesses-in-training sucks the most, and voila! Sailor Moon! Damn, Kunzite. You make Jadeite’s schemes look positively vanilla in comparison. And HE once built an entire THEME PARK just to collect energy.
While Usagi gets to wear corsets and serve people coffee, the other Moonies convene at Hikawa Shrine. Artemis is over the Moon Kingdom (yes, I’m going to keep making these puns, so get used to them) about Usagi becoming a “proper princess,” to which Minako responds with perhaps my favorite line of the episode: “What exactly is a proper princess?” Artemis’s answer? Uh, um, er… Silver Crystal Power, dammit! Not shut up and scratch my ears, human servant!
I’m not sure what Artemis thought he’d accomplish with this conversation, but all he really manages to do is get the rest of the scouts to go join Princess Camp, too. They meet up with Usagi just in time for the Dance Off.
Turns out Ami and Makoto are ballroom dancing fools. The rest of the scouts? Not so much. Usa, Rei, and Mina get left behind while the graduated girls go to celebrate in a shadowy room filled with lifelike wax statues of girls and come ON, Ami, surely you can deduce faster than this.
By the time the girls figure out it’s a trap, they’re already caught in it. Countess Rose transforms into the eeeevil mermaid Shakokai, who…
She… lactates… wax?…I guess?… and turns the girls into statues. Then she heads out to deal with the three PrincessFails, one of whom MUST be Sailor Moon. Luna and Artemis fly out of absolutely nowhere (like cats do) and facehug Shako long enough for the girls to run outside and transform. BUT THEY ALL LOOK SO DIFFERENT YOU GUYS. HOW WILL SHAKOKAI EVER KNOW WHICH ONE WAS SAILOR MOON.
Wax lactation (waxtation?) is a bitch to fight, though, and the girls have a rough time of it until Black Rose Tux shows up to put a stop to this nonsense. And then the Moonies sort of stand around confused while this happens:
Endymion: Llllladies. If you give me the Silver Crystal, I’ll let you go.
Kunzite: *appears* Dude! Da fuq?
Endymion: We don’t need to kill anyone. Just steal the Crystal, Shakokai.
Kunzite: Yes, but I WANT to kill Sailor Moon. Wax on, wax off, Shakokai.
Shakokai: I don’t get paid enough to deal with your middle-management drama, sirs.
Usagi takes advantage of Shakokai’s divided loyalties to cast Heal and turn her back into Countess Rose. Despite possessing WAY more firepower than anyone there, Kunzite skedaddles as well. Usagi tries to cast Heal on Endymion as well, but he Moon(kingdom)walks out of range and disappears. No. Really.
The wax girls turn back into real girls, leaving happy endings for all. And the next morning as Usagi dashes to school, late yet again, she delivers my OTHER favorite line of the episode:
And I can’t even… I just… how do I possibly… Sometimes I just love this show so much, you guys. So very, very much.
Episode 37 – Bunny Slopes
We begin with Usagi showing us a flier for a Moon Princess Contest. Well. Thank God THAT’S not an obvious trap. Cheerfully oblivious, the girls all decide to go on a vacation to the ski resort where the contest is being held. They’ll just tell their cat chaperones (chapurrones!) that it’s for Important Moonie Training. Which it is, if by Moonie Training you mean Walking Into An Obvious Trap and Learning To Not Do That Thing Again.
Teddy (a.k.a. Yuichirou, a.k.a. Padawan, a.k.a. Hot For Priestess) overhears and offers to let them stay at his parents’ place, since they live near the resort. And of course Teddy will come, too! I’m totally on board with this. Teddy reminds me of a big old cuddly sheep dog, and I’m glad he’s a recurring character. Plus the show could use some goofy guys now that The Tux has gone all Dark Side on us. (Man, two Star Wars references in one paragraph. I feel like there’s a drinking game somewhere that requires you to do a shot for that.)
Now that the premise is established, we can pop on down to the Skulltryoshka to listen to Kunzite and Endymion snipe at each other for a while. (Seriously, these two make Nephrite and Zoisite look like besties.) Then, just as I’m FINALLY starting to dig the new Dark Kingdom dynamic, Kunzite pulls out this bastard:
And we’re back to square one. Excuse me while I go cry in the shower while listening to “Candle in the Wind” on repeat.
Oh, right. Skiing! The girls arrive at the resort (the cats stay behind to do cat things) and, after dumping off their stuff at Teddy’s RIDONKULOUS mansion, they all hit the slopes. Teddy and Rei are both skiing fools, which will certainly give Rei a leg up in the Moon Princess Contest, since the contest is one-part beauty pageant, one-part ski race. Usagi’s crippling terror of the mountain is only matched by her burning desire to beat Rei win the contest, so she joins Rei and Teddy on the gondola as they head to the starting line.
Shockingly, the competition is a set up (Whaaaat?! But it sounded so legit, too!). Kunzite has turned the first Moon Princess winner, Yamamoto Saiko, into a monster, and she’s out to hunt down Sailor Moon. For some reason Kunzite has NOW decided that Sailor Moon is coordinated and courageous, so they’re looking for a GOOD skier, not a crappy one. I’m starting to think that Zoisite (ZOISIIIIITE!) might have been the brains of this relationship.
Saiko fires the starting gun, Rei takes off, Teddy gives the terrified Usagi an encouraging push to get her going, and it’s all downhill from here.
The demonized Saiko uses magic to turn the slope into eeevil moguls and take out evey competitor except Rei, who is just that good, and Usagi, who is just that out of control. Usa even ends up zipping past Rei, and at first Rei is all like AWW YEAHH, IT’S ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!!, but she quickly realizes that Usagi is french frying when she should pizza, and she’s gonna have a bad time. Have you learned NOTHING from ‘80s ski movies, Usagi?!
But there’s greater danger ahead, because someone is following them.
Actually, it’s the demonized Saiko, and she wants her two dollars the Silver Crystal, dammit. She transforms into Blizzar, who…
You know, between this and the waxtating monster from the last episode, I’m starting to notice a pattern with Kunzite’s minions. If this is what he considers monstrous, dude must just think lady-bits are TERRIFYING.
Disturbing costumes or no, Blizzar knows her away around a mountain. She traps the girls in a fissure and then causes an avalanche, sending a giant snowball careening after them. Teddy hears the rumble and follows his Rei-dar to the girls. Clearly this is the time to stay calm, consider your options, and… imitate Gandalf?
Alas, sweet, stupid Teddy can’t stop an avalanche with the power of his FEELINGS (Shoujo Magic can only do so much, donchaknow), and he gets Katamari’d right proper. Pretty soon the same thing happens to the girls and they’re trapped in the fissure. Rei thrashes around ineffectively for a while, but she finally calms down when the surprisingly mellow Usagi pulls out her music box pendant.
Safe from the prying eyes of the rest of the world, Usa and Rei have their first honest conversation, where Rei reveals that she’s already given up on Mamoru since he clearly loves Usagi. Her only request (okay, her only demand—this is Rei, after all) is that the two live happily ever after. It’s nice to see Rei let her guard down a little and show some kindness, and it’s equally nice to see Usagi accept her “victory” so gracefully. Yay dynamic character relationships!
The quiet also gives Usa enough time to FINALLY realize that Rei’s literal firepower can melt them out of the ravine. Rei is about to transform when Teddy pops out of the snow (like a Hun!). While the girls were having A Moment, Teddy was digging a tunnel to safety (dude’s got skillz), and now he’s here to rescue them! Or, you know, here to jump in front of them when Blizzar shows up and promptly get turned into a Teddysicle. One of those two.
With Teddy out of the way, the girls are free to transform (Mars promises vengeance for “my Yuichirou,” which made me a squee a little, and Usagi chastises Blizzar because “Young ladies cannot let their tummies get cold,” which… what?), although once again the scouts prove ill-matched for Kunzite’s monsters. Fortunately for them, the best-dressed man on the slopes has finally arrived!
The girls swoon on cue, at least until he fires a Black Rose Missile their way. Appalled, Mars appeals to his former self, reminding him of all those good times he and Usagi had posing dramatically and dangling from tall structures. His rose flashes black to red, and even stays red long enough for him to injure Blizzar and give Moon a chance to bust out her Heal spell.
By the time the fight is over, Endymion’s rose is black again but his heart is clearly not in this fight. He retreats with some half-assed excuse about how they need to level up before they’re worth fighting (typical Bad Guy Logic!), then disappears in time for Teddy to melt and Rei to get in one last moment of D’AWW-ness before retreating back into her Too-Cool-For-School persona.
The girls take Teddy back to the base of the mountain and give him a pep talk about how cool he looks when he jumps ineffectively in front of things, then they all rendezvous with the rest of the scouts. Rei promptly makes Usagi cry again, but we’re not fooled. We all know there’s a soft chocolate center beneath your hard candy shell, Rei-chan. You and Endymion both.
This, That, and the Other
- No, you should NOT ask why Usagi is suddenly a terrible dancer when we totally saw her dancing with Tuxedo Mask like 12 episodes ago. Shhh.
- Usagi’s uber-polite coffee talk is much funnier in Japanese, as she’s attempting to use keigo (respectful speech patterns) and making a bit of a mess of it. Keigo was the one thing I absolutely could not wrap my head around when I was taking Japanese—I could do passives and freaking causative-passives in my sleep, but for whatever reason my brain refused to memorize polite and humble verb forms—so hearing a native Japanese speaker (even a fictional one) struggling with them too gave me a good chuckle.
- I love that Rei dances like she’s about to judo-flip her partner.
- Why does Teddy train at the shrine if his family is so obviously loaded? To “refine himself,” of course! And also because he’s Hot for Priestess. But mostly the first one. Mostly.
- Can we all just appreciate that Ami spent the entire day at the resort not only skiing, but also READING ABOUT SKIIING WHILE SHE SKIED? Such talent. Very coordinate. Wow.
- Hark! A plot point! When Luna goes to report to her Arcade Boss, the screen shuts down, and—surprise! Turns out The Great And Powerful Oz was just a kitty with a tuna problem all along:
Magic(al Girl) Moments
There’s a little east/west cultural commentary at play at Princess Camp, especially during dinner. The butler chides Usagi for slurping her soup, but in Japan this is considered totally acceptable behavior, even polite—sort of like a compliment to the chef. So while this whole episode shows that Usagi’s personality is not fit to the traditional, western image of a “princess,” I think there’s also a slight nod toward Japanese culture as a whole, as if to assure people that they can be “princesses” without giving up their own heritage in the process. (Of course, Usagi also fails at keigo, so the story isn’t exactly advocating for a “traditional Japanese lady,” either.)
A lot of shoujo draw inspiration from western fairy tales (and anime as a whole drew much of its early inspiration from Disney), so it’s kind of nice to see the creators attempting to show that the two cultures can exist side-by-side, without one overshadowing the other. I also think it ties into Mina’s question about exactly what it means to be a “proper princess”—and an insistence that princesses don’t have to be demure little blonde girls locked away in towers. They can also be clumsy Japanese girls who go out and fight evil.
Man, sometimes I feel like, instead of watching Sailor Moon, what I’m REALLY watching is Ikuhara wandering around, collecting the seeds that will one day bloom into Revolutionary Girl Utena (for my money one of the greatest anime ever made, and certainly my favorite). It really is a delight, and just adds one more layer of enjoyment to this series.