It’s a hectic time in and out of the Moon Kingdom this week.
This would be the week you drop a barrage of plot bombs on me, wouldn’t it, Sailor Moon? It’s not enough that I’ve got Fall anime premiere week, the return of The Legend of Korra, and a mess of family engagements—oh, no, you had to go and add “Moon Kingdom Backstory Episode” to my to-do list, didn’t’cha?
In the interest of getting this sucker out on time (I’ve been trying to make Thursdays my scheduled SM Review day), we’ll be skipping the retrospective and jumping straight into the recaps. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of commentary along the way. Also flashbacks. Sooo many flashbacks.
Episode 43 – Scouts on the Outs
We begin with Usagi fleeing from… the other sailors? Yes, it seems the scouts have revolted against their leader. Topple the monarchy! Fight the power! The solar system does NOT revolve around the Moon!
That’s the way it looks to Spymonster Oniwabandana (Banban!), anyway. Beryl and Kunzite had her investigating some strange energy spikes that Beryl’s crystal onyx ball kept noticing, and Spymonster Banban thinks the spikes are occurring due to the sailor squabbles. Our villains suspect a trap (because obviously), so they send Banban back out into the field to gather more intel.
If Nephrite (who?) did anything worthwhile for his Queen, it was showing her that the quickest way to Sailor Moon is through her damsel in distress. So Banban robs the Naru family jewelry store and ninja-stars Naru and her mom to the wall.
Sailor Moon appears right on cue. What ISN’T so on cue are the other scouts, who show up and start arguing with Moon about which one of them deserves the EXP for this one. And just to be clear, nobody actually believed that the scouts were fighting for realz at this point, right? I know I didn’t. There’s no universe where Ami is this mean and petty to ANYONE, let alone one of her BFFs.
While the gang squabbles, Banban ducks behind the corner and emerges as Asahi Nana, “freelance writer” and photojournalist for a local seedy gossip mag. She snaps photos of the girls and shoves a tape recorder practically up Sailor Moon’s nose, demanding to know if the rumors are true and the band is indeed about to break up.
The other sailors get annoyed and walk out, leaving Moon to clean up the aftermath. The next day, as Naru tells Usagi about the sailor spat, Reporter Asahi appears out of nowhere, attracted to gossip like a shark to blood. The girls flee, but Asahi’s reappearance has Luna and Artemis suspicious.
Cut to that evening, where the scouts are once again beating up on Usagi. Mars even gets in a good kick in the rear, which prompts Usagi to call “time out!” and drop the facade, complaining about how Mars is maybe (read: definitely) enjoying this whole pretending-to-be-enemies thing a little TOO much. And while I’m sure no one is surprised to learn that this was all an act, what may surprise you is that Usagi is the one who came up with the plan.
…Or maybe it WON’T surprise you, seeing as how the full scope of this oh-so-clever scheme is as follows:
Phase One: Pretend to hate each other!
Phase Two: …
Phase Three: Get invited to the Dark Kingdom’s hideout so you can rescue Tuxedo Mask!
Even the Underpants Gnomes think this plan is missing a few phases.
Luna and Artemis return from their own sleuthing mission, where they’ve discovered that Reporter Asahi is about as shady as they suspected, and has probably been monsterfied by the Dark Kingdom. Usagi sees this as the perfect opportunity to get in good with the bad guys, so she goes over to Asahi’s swanky home with a “letter from Sailor Moon” asking to meet Asahi at the cemetery that night. (“Why would Sailor Moon give YOU this letter?” Asahi asks, to which Usagi smoothly replies “HAHA WHO KNOWS. DEFINITELY NOT BECAUSE I AM HER. BECAUSE I AM NOT.”).
Sailor Moon and Asahi/Banban meet as planned, but Kunzite crashes the interview and offers Sailor Moon a trade: “I’ll let you see Endymion if you hand over the Silver Crystal.” The two bargain for a bit, then Kunzite opens a horrifying portal into the Dark Kingdom which shrieks like some kind of Nightmare Muppet Bird, and encourages Sailor Moon to hop on in.
Small snag in the plan, though: Spymonster Banban senses the other sailors lying in wait, and both she and Kunzite now KNOW it’s a trap. So Kunzite goes Full Villain and has Banban strangle Sailor Moon and threaten to steal the Silver Crystal.
Small snag in THAT plan, though: Moon doesn’t actually HAVE the crystal. Sailor Mars does, and she’s refusing to let the other sailors run to Usagi’s aid. For all that they spend every moment bickering when they’re together in this episode, Usa and Rei are (as usual) on a remarkably similar wavelength: They believe this is Kunzite’s test, and that if the girls stay put, Usagi will pass the test and be granted Dark Kingdom citizenship.
I want to interrupt this recap to say that I love the way this moment between Usa and Rei plays out, and that I love the idea of this scheme actually working. How cool would it be if Rei’s faith and Usagi’s resolve were rewarded, and Kunzite stopped short of strangling Usa and she really DID become a double agent? How great would an Usagi-working-for-Beryl subplot be? How tense would an Endymion prison break play out, and how awesome if Usagi could be the badass mole who let the sailors into the Skulltryoshka, cementing her role as a courageous leader and a fearsome warrior in her own right?
You’ll notice the hypothetical tone of that last paragraph, because the show really whiffs on a great development here, and NONE of those things actually happen. Instead, there are a lot of DRAMATIC VIOLINS, some panning shots of Sailor Moon in pain, and then Rei caves all of 15 seconds after the other Moonies and rushes in to save Usagi.
“Psh, whatevs, I saw through your dumb plot, like, 20 minutes ago,” Kunzite scoffs, and disappears. Usagi Moon Heals the reporter-lady (Refresh ban ban!) and everything goes back to normal, up to and including Usagi and Rei’s Epic Battle of the Tongues.
Bwehhhh indeed, you two. Bwehhhh indeed.
Episode 44 – Silver Millennials
As if to make up for the last episode, this one wastes absolutely no time in getting to the point, as Luna awakens Usagi in the middle of the night to tell her that Minako and Artemis have found the plot an entrance to the Dark Kingdom! And no, girls, you do NOT have time for a transformation sequence!
The girls infiltrate and split up from the cats to explore the hideout, but they get waylaid when Kunzite intercepts them and sends them to the MULTIDIMENSIONAL CHAOS WORLD. (Okay, that’s admittedly his least metal spell yet, but work with me here.) And what is a Multidimensional Chaos World, you ask? Think of it like a Roulette Wheel of Fanfiction: Kunzite spins it, and the girls end up wherever it lands. It strikes me that it might be easier for Kunzite to just, you know, kill them and take the Moon Stick that way, but I guess he’s into AUs.
Usagi loses the Moon Stick and it flies off into the portal with them, presumably serving as the magical trigger for what follows. So no, sorry, you guys, but we will not be getting the World Without Shrimp (or the World With Nothing But Shrimp)—instead, the scouts are dumped straight into the present-day ruins of the Moon Kingdom, where a special someone is waiting for them.
It’s the “incarnation of the Moon Goddess, Selene,” also known as Queen Serenity, Princess Serenity’s mother. (Yes, they’re both named Serenity. Damn royal people.) It’s not totally clear just WHAT this little fairy-version of the queen really is, but near as I can tell she’s sort of like the queen’s Last Will and Testament, waiting to deliver a message when/if Usagi ever appeared. And oh look, here she is!
Usagi’s past-life-ghost-mom (yup) kicks her memories into overdrive and we’re flashed back to the Moon Kingdom in all its glory. It’s the night of a ball and Endymion has come to call on his lady love. But he’s not here just to party (although he will do that, rest assured): He’s here to warn her about a whole lotta impending doom.
Back on Earth, the sorceress Beryl has been possessed by evil Metalia energy and is brainwashing folks left and right. She means to rule Earth AND the Moon, and war is imminent.
“Gee, thanks, I need to relay this vital information to my royal parents and their military council so they can begin planning defensive countermeasures and perhaps save thousands of innocent lives!” Serenity DOESN’T say, and instead she and Endymion rendezvous inside and get their dance on.
Endymion keeps whispering sweet wartime nothings into Serenity’s ear, pledging his fealty to the Moon Kingdom’s cause. But it’s hard to tell the people about an invading army when your tongue is halfway down their Princess’s throat, which I guess would explain how Beryl managed to catch the Moon Kingdom so completely unawares. Are we SURE Endymion wasn’t secretly a double agent? This feels like double agent behavior to me.
Whatever the case, Beryl and her horde show up before the night is even over and gatecrash the shindig. See, you guys, this is what you get for not inviting the evil sorceress to your party.
As Metalia kills the sailor guardians and the Earth forces lay waste to the Moon Kingdom, Beryl goes after our hapless princess. Endymion intervenes, deflecting Beryl’s dark energy with one of his famous roses and stepping between his queen and his lady love. Beryl offers to marry Endymion and let him share in her Infinite Cosmic Power, but he’s more interested in wub (twoo wub!). He pleads for Beryl to come to her senses and shake off the dark energy that’s possessed her.
Beryl responds about the way you’d expect: She summons a tornado and tries to suck Endymion into her Dark Kingdom (and oh geez, I think “Dark Kingdom” just became a euphemism. A terrible, terrible euphemism). When Serenity tries to intervene, Beryl goes “Eh, screw it, I can get another husband” and kills them both. Like for realz.
Realizing that the Moon Kingdom and her daughter are lost, Queen Serenity uses the last of her life force to cast Moon Healing Escalation, sealing away Metalia and sending the souls of the princess, the sailor guardians, and the rest of the Mooninites down to Earth to be reborn. She charges Luna and Artemis with the task of contacting and guiding Team Serenity should the Dark Kingdom ever reappear, then she puts them in suspended animation and breathes her last. It’s a selfless act of sacrifice that results in the salvation of countless souls and OH COME, SAILOR MOON, REALLY? REALLY?!
On the other side of the dimensional portal, Luna and Artemis go on a harrowing trek through twisting tunnels and the frigid Arctic until at last discovering the real entrance to the Dark Kingdom. Unfortunately, Kunzite discovers them, too. But it’s fine. I’m sure he’d never hurt an adorable little kitty-cat, right? Villains LOVE kitty-cats, right? …Right?
The sailors emerge from Memory Lane and fall back into Kunzite’s tunnels, where they are greeted by the single saddest image Sailor Moon has ever given us, ever.
Kunzite, the horrible cat abuser, is here too. And VERY confused as to why the sailors are suddenly back in his dimension again. (“They fell in through the plot hole,” Armchair Critic Josei quips.) The girls encourage him (and us) not to worry about it—the important thing is that they’re back and they’ve leveled up, so thanks for that, buddy!
“You impudent little dress-up dolls!” Kunzite roars assholishly, and then busts out his special and most metal power of all: DUAL-WIELDING DARKNESS.
He slashes Usagi’s clothing, and I guess the shock of all that wasted fabric gives her the vapors again, because she passes out. After a few failed attacks, the rest of the scouts then combine their powers to summon Captain Planet Serious Business Sailor Moon. They take some pretty mild damage but their FRIENDSHIP powers work and Usagi revives.
Moon Heal’s not so super effective this time, but the other Moonies must have given Usa some of their hand-eye coordination during that whole Planeteers routine, because she reflects Kunzite’s DOOMERANG right back at him, destroying him with his own weapon. Alas, cruel irony! Kunzite cries out the name of his beloved Zoisite (and once more, with feeling: ZOISIIIITE!) before vanishing into the ether. I assume you’re all writing little Afterlife Reunion fanfics in your head for these two. I know I am.
The last of the mini-bosses is gone, but the Moonies can’t rest just yet. As Usagi cradles her poor battered cat in her arms, Luna tells her about the portal to the Dark Kingdom at “Point D in the Arctic Circle.” She urges the scouts to continue with the mission, and fists clenched and chins raised, they all agree to do just that.
Ladies, the prince IS in this castle. Let’s go save his sorry ass.
This, That, and the Other
- I’ve given Naru a lot of grief over the weeks, but I love that this was how she and her mom responded to a potential burglar:
- Ami’s Special Attack to take out Usagi in a fight? Math problems! She is truly a force to be reckoned with.
- I’m sure Moon Stick Magic is the reason the girls were so conveniently transported to and from the Moon Kingdom without having to do or solve anything themselves, and I know this is a show where roses stop energy blasts and the answer to half the power-ups is basically “FEELINGS,” so bringing logic into it is really ill-advised, but… that was a little weak, even by SM plot device standards.
- “You will never make me yell out ‘Refresh’!” —Kunzite, hilariously rebellious right to the end
- Hark! A plot point! The Moon Kingdom had two missions: (1) to protect the Silver Crystal and (2) to watch over the Earth and “help it advance.” And on that note…
Add This to Your Shoujo Syllabus: All you Moonies out there really ought to check out the hugely influential SF shoujo manga Please Save My Earth (1987-1994), because there is no way Sailor Moon exists without it. Reincarnation, lost memories, people on the moon… I knew Takeuchi Naoko (Sailor Moon’s mangaka) had cited it as an influence, but wow, it’s true that even the tallest of us are still standing on the shoulders of giants. If you’re interested, the PSME manga is available digitally and in print from Viz Media. [Edit: On second thought, maybe don’t. There’s a really awful rape plot halfway through the series; bad enough to make me drop it entirely. So maybe just stick with Sailor Moon.]