Sometimes I worry that Sailor Moon will run out of episodic plot lines—then I remember that Cheers ran for 11 years, and they never had any aliens to battle, and I know we’ll be okay.
Man, I wasn’t kidding when I called Sailor Moon a “magical girl sitcom” way back in Episode 11. Toss in a laugh track and some flannel and there are days when this show would fit right in with the live-action teen sitcoms airing back in the early ‘90s. This week we’ve got the Babysitting Episode and the School Recital Episode—okay, more accurately the “School Festival Episode,” a long-time staple of school-based anime and manga. But it’s the same concept, really: An episode centered around a performance and one character’s dedication to it.
Nevertheless, SM manages to put its own (thoroughly ridiculous) twist on these tales, as the baby drama is less about the baby and more about Usagi struggling to connect with Amnesiac Mamoru, and the recital reveals some facets of Rei’s character we haven’t seen before. Also, Clow cards. Relatively few of those U.S. school sitcoms had Clow cards.
But even entertaining filler is still filler, and I’m struggling to come up with anything particularly profound to say about these episodes. Mostly I’m just annoyed ‘cause Ami got totally gypped on her “power-up episode.” And hey, speaking of that power-up episode…
Episode 53 – The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Mamoru’s Great Idea
The Ailiens liked that elementary school energy so much that they’ve decided to go even YOUNGER this time, seeking out toddlers and infants, and no, there is no way to write that sentence without it sounding creepy. They send Cardian Amaderasu (a play on Amaterasu, kami of the sun/heavens) over to a daycare, but Ail and An have yet to realize that if they’d just go, like, two suburbs over they’d have a much easier time of it, because OF COURSE a pair of sailors walk by the Daycare right as the Cardian is doing its thang. Man, our aliens have the worst luck.
Usagi and Ami are taken by surprise, though, so all they can do is watch in shock as an entire daycare gets its energy sucked. Well, an entire daycare except Baby Manami, whose mother protects him from the Cardian’s evil, evil threads. While the girls are gaping, Mamoru plays the role of Frantic Wailing Bystander by popping into the frame and shouting “MY HEAVENS, SOMEBODY CALL AN AMBULANCE!” The EMTs are so grateful for the quick response that they let the trio ride in the ambulance with them.
At the hospital, the gang wander around the ER unattended. Manami’s mother is unconscious and her father is overseas, so Mamoru decides to take a random child back to his house and babysit her for a few days without contacting the family or asking the hospital for permission. So, basically, this is the episode where Mamoru steals a baby.
And Usagi is going to help him! After all, he’s gonna need some assistance, especially when the cops come sniffing around with their “probable cause” and their “Amber Alerts.” Ami will be staying out of this, because she doesn’t want to play third wheel to this happy family, and also because she can’t risk getting abduction charges on her permanent record.
Then most of the episode is Usagi and Mamoru taking care of the kid, who is occasionally granted weird internal voice over monologues (none of which involve the phrases “who are these people?” and “help!”) and is actually a boy (surprise penis!). Mamoru is actually pretty good at this stuff, Usagi slightly less so, and the two end up squabbling over just about everything, up to and including whether Manami is old enough to walk or say real words yet. After she leaves, Usagi worries that they’re just “incompatible” as a couple. And meanwhile Mamoru is off somewhere like:
Hey, you know who else likes babies? Aliens. “Natsumi” waltzes uninvited into Mamoru’s house and tries to get on his good side by helping out. Of course babies can sense alien horniness from a mile away, so Manami pees on Natsumi to cool her down. Like, repeatedly. She flees just as Usagi arrives, which gets Usagi all flustered because “Oh, I guess that means you’ll let just ANY old middle schooler off the street help you raise your stolen baby, YOU CAD!”
But before she and Mamoru can have another not-a-couple’s spat, something terrible happens: While Dad is away and Mom is in the hospital, Baby Manami takes his very first steps with NOBODY TO WITNESS IT but the strangers who lifted him from his hospital bed. And neither of them even has a camcorder so they can show it off to the parents later! Rudest. Kidnappers. Ever.
On the plus side, Usagi and Mamoru are too excited to be angry anymore, which is good because Ami is here (seriously Mamoru, LOCK YOUR DOOR) to retrieve Usagi for important Moonie Business. Rei has divined the Cardian and the location of its next attack, and there’s monster ass to kick! No, no, you stay here and mind the child, Mamoru—the girls have got this one. And besides, you wouldn’t want him to get kidnapped, now, would you?
At the nearby nursery, Amaderasu has decided to use babies as a shield, which is seriously uncool. While the girls debate how to handle this latest snag, The Sheik appears, breaks through the baby-shield, and baffles us with more of his increasingly incomprehensible speeches. At this point Ami, whose role this episode has basically been to hover around Usagi and act as Queen of the Wingwomen, gets SO ANGRY at how little attention this season has given her the child abuse that she spontaneously levels up and unlocks the new move “Bubble Spray Freezing.”
They defeat the enemy and Mamoru returns Manami to his mother. Then, because this episode just HAD to be even sadder, the baby’s first words are “Mamoru” and “Usagi.” And he says them RIGHT IN FRONT of the mother who nearly gave her life to protect him. I’m trying to decide who got screwed harder in this episode: Ami, or Manami’s mother. Either way, Usagi and Mamoru win. Congrats, you two! You not only kept a stolen baby alive for a solid weekend, but you robbed his mother of two precious moments that will never happen in her child’s life again! High fives all around!
Episode 54 – The Sailor Moon Reicital Series
(Look upon my title puns, ye mighty, and despair.)
We begin with Makoto and Minako scamming young girls with love charms from Hikawa Shrine—but no, Grandpa isn’t expanding his Miko Operation, he just needs some help around the shrine because Rei is busy with her school’s festival. That’s right, folks: It’s the Obligatory School Festival Episode! Everybody mark your cards!
Flash over to Rei’s school, where teachers don’t exist and everybody looks to Rei to Own It, which she does, furiously. She’s both the chairman and the on-site manager, in charge of pretty much everything, and although she’s a little ill-tempered about it the other girls think she’s the coolest thing in a sailor suit.
But Rei’s motives aren’t all altruistic: When Usagi and Ami show up to lend a hand and provide lunch, they find out that Rei purposely signed up for all the managerial work so she could structure the festival around her own recital, as she’ll be singing a number of songs that she wrote herself. “Wow, that must have been super hard!” the Moonies gush, and Rei replies like any proper artist: By remembering the countless sleepless nights and rough drafts and frustrating failures, and then telling everyone that PSSSH, NO, IT WAS A PIECE OF CAKE, CUZ THAT’S WHAT TALENT DO. The girls are suitably impressed.
The scouts all go to the festival to support Rei, enjoy the class and club events, and make the American audience super jealous that their schools don’t do stuff like this. But all is not shoujo sparkles, because Ail and An have been hanging out in trees, drooling over the promise of festival energy. They infiltrate as Natsumi and Seijurou, but before they can set their nefarious plan into motion, the school’s fashion club kidnaps them and gets them in their fashion show. Of course the theme of the show is “outer space aliens,” and of course our local immigrants are once again having way more fun on our planet than they’ll ever admit.
The audience gets into it, too, raising the energy to prime eatin’ levels, so when the fashion show ends the two sneak off and summon their next Cardian, Siren. Which is as thematically fitting as ever, because it attacks just as Rei is in the middle of her first number. Rei senses the monster’s evil energy a half-second before it showers the auditorium in gold dust and knocks out everyone except the Moonies (who take cover under the seats).
Transformation time! The scouts rescue Rei from the monster’s clutches, but prehensile hair makes this one a tricky kill, and the girls soon find themselves caught in death locks.
But even with her energy sapped, Rei still has the chutzpah to transform and fight. The monster turns its attention on her and, because the scouts have yet to learn how to properly match elements, our resident fire-slinger takes on the water type. This goes about as well as you’d think—in fact it goes so POORLY that The Sheik even has to show up to vaguely encourage her—and the stage gets trashed, including REI’S SHEET MUSIC THAT SHE POURED HER HEART AND FIRESOUL INTO?! And this is 1993, you guys—THERE IS NO DIGITAL BACKUP!
Well. I think we all know what THIS means.
Rei levels up and hits the Siren with a “Fire Soul Bird,” an attack that looks a lot cooler than it sounds, and weakens the monster so that Usagi can halate it back into its card form. The day has been saved—so thoroughly, in fact, that Rei is even able to perform her final song for the sleepy and confused attendees! The Reicital wasn’t a failure after all!
In the end, Usagi once again demonstrates her emotional intelligence by telling Rei that she knows she actually IS a really hard worker, despite her best efforts to pretend otherwise. This quickly devolves into bickering, but as usual, nobody’s fooled. These two would rather die than admit it, but they’re totally the other one’s biggest fan. When Rei’s album drops, Usagi will be the fist in line at the record store, just see if she isn’t.
This, That, and the Other
- Ami’s rage is only matched by my own, because COME ON, Sailor Moon! Mako gets a childhood friend, Minako gets to be Mie’s Big Sister, Rei gets to compose and write her own freaking concert, and Ami gets… crammed into an episode about the difficulties of changing diapers? An episode where she ISN’T EVEN THE STAR? Not cool, SM. Emphatically not cool.
- Woo, Teddy is still a character! He didn’t get any lines, but we SAW him, dammit, and that means he didn’t get swept under the Sailor Moon Rug!
- And speaking of recurring dudes—whatever happened to Motoki, anyway?
- I love that you can take cats absolutely anywhere in this world.
- Another thing I love: Old-school anime that were just stuffed with synth-heavy character (“image”) songs. Hearing Rei up on that stage singing what I’m sure were songs that got packaged onto some OST or another just warmed my anime-lovin’ heart.
- This Week on the Moonlight Knight Poetry Slam:
In a corner of the silent expanse of the universe,
There is a planet that plays a lovely melody…
And that planet is Earth.
If you trample on this romance for the ages,
No matter who you are,
I, the Moonlight Knight,
Will make you pay.