This week’s episodes brought to you by: Ferris wheels!
Well, Ferris wheels and misguided martyrdom, anyway. Man, sometimes Sailor Moon just so perfectly captures adolescence, and all the flavors of adolescence, too. Our characters are often dealing with new-found responsibilities—Usagi’s story arc is almost entirely about that—but they’re also learning about empathy and altruism as they struggle to understand and help other people.
Which is great. Except, you know, when it isn’t. Because sometimes during adolescence (and on into adulthood, honestly) we overcompensate, completely ignoring our own wants and needs in an attempt to do what is “right” or what we feel will make someone else happy. We decide that selflessness means we shouldn’t value ourselves at all, and that sacrificing our own happiness makes us mature or “adult.” We romanticize martyrdom. And in the process we make just about everyone miserable, ourselves included.
Which is why SM’s take on martyrs in both episodes this week is so, so important to its intended audience, and why Ami’s revelation (shared with Ryo) is just as important as any lesson Usagi has learned about responsibility or Rei has learned about compassion:
“Sacrificing yourself is certainly noble, but be honest: Wouldn’t you want to keep on living instead?”
It’s as much a rejection of martyrdom as it is a rejection of traditional superhero tales, which are all about self-denial and -sacrifice. And in its own way it’s pointing its audience to a happy medium, suggesting that true maturity is as much about valuing oneself (and understanding that other people value us, too) as it is about valuing others.
Well, that’s my bit of over-analysis for the day. It’s possible I went through a martyr phase in high school, can you tell? Where were you when I needed you, Sailor Moon?! *shakes fist at sky*
Also, still trying to tie that whole Ferris wheel thing into this whole martyrdom thing. Something about spinning in circles and going nowhere, trapped between what we want and what we think we’re “supposed” to do? Or maybe watching Utena and Evangelion as a 14-year-old permanently broke the part of my brain that interprets metaphors, and the Ferris wheels are nothing more than an easy symbol for romance.
And hey, speaking of romance, I do believe it’s time we moved past this retrospective and into…
Episode 41 – Mercury Magnetism
Remember that one stretch of episodes that was amazing and Zoisite (ZOISIII—okay, okay, I’ll stop) was alive and everything was awesome? Well SM is bringin’ it back, starting with a shot of Reika on her archeology trip. But Endymion puts a damper on things when he shows up with our old friend The Dark Crystal and sucks Reika straight into it. The crystal flashes with a few faces we don’t particularly care about, finishing with RHETT BUTLER?!
But fear not, Seven Monsters, for The Adorable Ryo is on the case! He calls up Ami to let her know that Yumeno (the painter) has gone missing, making her the fifth of the Seven Monsters who’s dropped off the map (geez, poor Motoki must be out of his mind with worry about Reika). Ryo used his fading precog powers to determine that the enemy was going to come after him next—but instead of asking Ami to be the Kevin Costner to his Whitney Houston, he tells her to guard Rei’s grandpa, because if the Dark Kingdom captures all of the Seven Monsters, “bad stuff” will happen.
Just how bad? Why, I’m glad you asked! Beryl and Kunzite are here to throw down some random plot information: Apparently if you combine the dark energy of the reborn monsters with the power of the Dark Crystal, you can turn them back into monsters and then Voltron them into an UBERMonster, which will then, uh… make bad stuff happen. So unless the Moonies have a Megazord tucked away somewhere, it’s in their best interests to prevent this.
Ami rounds up the gang over at Hikawa Shrine, where the team (okay, Makoto) decides that Ami and Mako should find and protect Ryo (who conveniently happens to be back in Tokyo now, I guess?) while the others keep an eye on Grandpa. And meanwhile Ryo wanders the city, as does…
Oh dear God.
Endymion meets Ryo in the street and suggests that he quietly accept his fate, but “Do Not Go Gentle” has become Ryo’s catchphrase, so causes a ruckus and escapes.
Elsewhere in the city, Ami and Mako aren’t having any luck, and Ami suggests they return to the others and focus on keeping Grandpa safe. Mako, who is very much a “be true to your heart” kinda girl, can’t believe Ami would ditch her boyfriend like that. Except, as Ami explains, he’s not her boyfriend—she’s a Sailor Guardian and has a duty (teehee…doody) to uphold. She doesn’t have time for love. “Even heroes are entitled to fall in love!” Makoto cries, and accuses Ami of being scared and using her responsibilities as an excuse to avoid facing her feelings. And then:
“Oh, look!” Ami cries. “An excuse to avoid facing my feelings!” And they take off after Ryo, transforming along the way and rendezvousing with him in a dark alley just as Endymion finds them, too. At Jupiter’s urging, “Sailor Mercury” and Ryo take off while Jupiter faces off against Endymion—sorry, Tuxedo Mask now.
Unfortunately, The Tux threw, like, all his points into his Dex. He ducks and dodges Mako’s attacks and then bests her in hand-to-hand combat, which is kinda hard to swallow given that Mako landed a punch on Zoisite when she was OUT of costume and Zoisite nearly killed The Tux a couple times, but whatevs, SM, you do what you gotta for the plot. Tuxedo Mask stops just shy of actually punching her, though, and pulls another of his Antihero “Come back when your stronger” lines before disappearing into the night, chasing his actual target.
The ever-resourceful Ami has the presence of mind to call for backup before she and Ryo hide out in the 10ban Land amusement park. He’d always dreamed of bringing her here, he says (and the Josei “D’AWWWWS” audibly), but then Ryo ruins the mood by going all Martyr on us again. And once again it’s Ami’s job to call him out on it, delivering that lovely line from earlier and reminding Ryo that, yes, his life ALSO matters because “there are people who would be sad if you died.”
And I’m sorry, you guys, I can’t hold back any longer, THEY’RE SO ADORABLE AND HERE ARE SOME GIFS OF ME REACTING TO THEM BEING ADORABLE.
(Okay, I’m better now.)
Ami also realizes that she’s basically doing the same thing—denying herself happiness out of some misguided idea about selflessness—and the two both agree to stop running.
Uh, you guys? Tuxedo Mask is here. And that dude just bested JUPITER in a one-on-one fight, so, uh… RUN. RUN, RUN, RUN.
Spoiler alert: They don’t run. Ami tries to stop him with bubbles. It works about as well as you’d expect, and The Tux ignores her and traps Ryo in his Dark Crystal, which is getting pretty darn crowded now what with all the cats and priests and Skeksises (Skekses? Skeksi?). But Tuxedo Mask kinda sucks at this whole Bad Guy schtick, and promptly tells Ami EXACTLY what she needs to do to thwart him: Steal the Dark Crystal and smash it.
So she does, in what may be my favorite fight scene of the season, because it involves distraction by BUBBLES…
…Followed by TWIRLY!CANE…
…Followed by Ami avoiding the whole “battle” thing altogether and just straight-up stealing from The Tux. She shatters the Crystal, freeing Ryo and the rest of the reborn monsters just as Sailors Moon and Jupiter appear. Ami pleads with Usagi to Moon Heal “Mamoru,” and after a little water-lightning combo attack, she does just that.
And it actually works! Endymion regains his memories, sparkles majestically, and “Refreshes” before collapsing. But Beryl teleports him to the Skulltryoshka before the girls can retrieve him, so I wouldn’t exactly call this a “win.” It’s back to Evil ICU for you, Mamoru!
Naturally we wrap up the episode with Epic Cuteness as Ami and Ryo get to go to the amusement park on an adorable date and ride the Ferris wheel adorably. It’s adorable. The rest of the girls look on happily, except Usagi, who’s worried that if Ami has a life then she won’t have time to do all the Moonie work. Remember that stuff I was saying earlier about adolescence and selfishness? Yeah, Usagi might… still have a little ways to go with that one…
Episode 42 – Men are from London, Women are from Venus
Sick of fighting random monsters all the time, the Moonies have decided to comb the city for entrances to the Dark Kingdom. Ami is using Google Maps Beta! And Usagi and Minako are… searching dumpling shops and bath houses? Surrre you are, girls. They’re lucky their bosses are cats, ‘cause those kinds of business expenses would never get cleared at my office.
Down in the Skulltryoshka, Queen Metalia wants to pass her energy into Mamoru (gross), and Kunzite has found a female police officer in England who knows Sailor V. He thinks he can use her to find the rest of the sailors. In other news, the Dark Kingdom managed to find the ONE person who knew Sailor V’s secret identity, but they STILL haven’t figured out that Sailor V = Sailor Venus. I have no words to explain how ridiculous that is.
And in other ridiculous facts, Usagi sleeps with a small mountain of dumplings in her bed.
As she wakes from a bad dream and comforts herself with food (I know that feel), Artemis comes leaping through the window, crams a dumpling down Usagi’s throat, and delivers urgent news: Minako has vanished! And by “vanished” he means “She willingly went to visit someone named Katarina and I haven’t seen her in 10 minutes, WHICH MEANS SHE MUST BE DEAD.” And they say cats aren’t as needy as dogs.
Cut to Minako and Katarina in a hotel, reminiscing about the good(?) ol’ days. There’s a lot of unexplained chatter here—Kat is glad Mina isn’t dead, Mina asks about Allan, Kat is still wearing the locket Mina gave her—but what it comes down is that Kat wants to help “Sailor V and the Sailor scouts.” But Mina doesn’t want to endanger her, so she flees into the night.
Of course, Kunzite has possessed and monsterfied Katarina into Papillon the Butterfly (oh, the horror?), so that whole “fleeing” thing doesn’t work out so well. When she intercepts Minako, Mina just figures it’s another DK Monster, so she transforms into Sailor Venus (“Sailor V and Sailor Venus were the same person?!” cries Papillon, very stupidly). In the ensuing fight Venus realizes that Papillon = Katarina, and also that butterflies are actually kinda scary after all.
Usagi to the rescue! Luna has an escape plan involving a nearby speedboat, which Usagi can totally drive if she uses her Transformation Pen to turn herself into a sailor. So wait—that pen not only changes her outer appearance, but also fills her brain with valuable life skills?! Then why the hell isn’t she using it ALL THE FREAKING TIME to turn into useful things like, I don’t know, a detective or a soldier or a katana-wielding Uma Thurman or something? I think you asspulled that one, SM. I think you asspulled that one right proper.
The plan works because Cats! and Magic!, and the gang make their escape to a nearby luxury liner (unmanned, I assume, since no luxury liner worth its salt would leave the bar closed after dark. Or before dark, for that matter).
Once there, Mina uses the downtime to flash us back to six months ago, when she was investigating the Dark Kingdom in London. Along the way she fell in love with a man named Allan and befriended Katarina. Mina revealed her secret identity to Kat, she thought of Kat as a sister, she introduced her to Allan, the three of them rode on a Ferris wheel together, and uh oh, I’ve seen this episode of Every Teen Drama Ever before.
While hunting bad guys in an abandoned building, Venus ran into someone who brought a grenade to a crescent beam fight (it’s kind of hilarious how many weapons they manage to cram into the London flashbacks). She escaped, because Magic!, but when she came ‘round the corner she spotted Kat and Allan locked in an embrace. Actually they were comforting each other because they thought Minako was dead, but Mina is 14 and so all she could think was OMG THEY’RE IN LURVE EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE.
Mina disappeared back to Japan without letting the people who loved her know that she was alive, convinced that her being dead would make their lives easier. Who wants to play Spot the Misguided Martyr in THIS episode? I want to hug her and also shake her. Can I do both at once?
Usagi’s reaction is understandable but equally misguided: She’s upset for Mina and pissed off at Katarina, and when Papillon reappears she transforms into Sailor Moon and Tiaras the crap out of her. During the battle, Papillon’s locket falls into Mina’s hands and she sees that the photo inside is of the THREE of them, Minako included. I admit it. I “D’awww”’d at that one. I D’aww surprisingly easily.
Mina tearfully begs Usagi to save Katarina because she loves her and, despite Usagi’s protest that Kat “stole” Allan from her, Mina acknowledges that Allan is a human person with human feelings who fell in love with Katarina all on his own. YES, PERFECT, THANK YOU, MINAKO. THAT IS HOW RELATIONSHIPS WORK. Have an approving gif.
Usa doesn’t really get it but she cares about her friends, so she Moon Heals Papillon back into a paperson. Kat apologizes (she honestly didn’t know that Mina had a thing for Allan), but Mina holds no ill will towards her, and the two part ways with their friendship mended. As Mina stands by the docks, wishes her friends happiness, and allows the wind to take the photo of Allan from her hands (oo, symbology), Usagi remarks to the other sailors that “Minako is more grown-up than any of us.”
And that, my friends, is how you convey the pain and messiness of a love triangle without vilifying any of the involved parties. Good on you, Sailor Moon!
This, That, and the Other
- Usagi on the series rehashing its Seven Monsters story line: “Unforgivable! This isn’t like recycling some empty cans!” Dammit, Sailor Moon. When you hang such a frilly lampshade on it, how can I possibly be annoyed?
- I enjoyed Episode 40 an awful lot, but… no Luna/Rhett reunion? :(
- It’s a little hilarious how hard Sailor Moon teases the Ami/Makoto femslash. I swear they blush or look lovingly at each other AT LEAST every other episode.
- So apparently there are DK monsters all over the world (or at least in London), but only Japan gets a squadron of magical teenagers to fight them? One assumes the rest of the world has its own superladies to take down the bad guys. Oh man, now I really wanna see a Sailor Moon/Wonder Woman crossover.
- “No lagging!” “Says the cat who rode on my head!”
- My Monday watch list now looks like this: Sailor Moon after work, Boardwalk Empire during dinner, and then Monday Night Football while I’m working on the draft of the SM post. It’s… a really weird series of tonal shifts.
- Hark! A plot point! The sun is having a bad case of shadowpox. When darkness covers it completely, it means Queen Metalia will awaken. I’ve heard of foreshadowing, but this is ridiculous! *waggles Groucho Marx eyebrows*