If only all growing pains could be as entertaining as these.
No one will be surprised to learn that I loved these two episodes, and not just because they featured my favorite characters (although that’s a huge plus, too). Sailor Moon is just really coming together as a full ensemble show again, using its new characters to help create new dynamics, explore new relationships, and develop new and old characters alike—and I ain’t just talkin’ about Sailor Duo, either. Yes, it may have taken them 90-odd episodes, but Sailor Moon has finally, finallyfigured out how to integrate Mamoru into the story as a natural (and likeable!) member of the group. I never thought I’d say it, but he’s winning me over, you guys. I may just ‘ship him and Usagi yet.
Keeping up with this arc’s themes about growing up, this week’s episodes are all about who our gals hope to become, and all the anxieties that come with that. From Makoto’s new admiration for Haruka (not as a romantic partner, but rather as a role model of sorts) to Ami’s doubt about her value as both a person and friend outside of her studies, everyone is looking to their futures and trying to figure out how they’re going to shape them.
Episode 96 – Stealing the Thunder
Setting the tone for both episodes this week, Mako is having a case of the insecurities, as she explains to Usagi that the main reason she learned how to cook is because she’s a “big, boyish girl” who basically didn’t feel “feminine” enough. Usagi and everyone at home assures Mako that’s she’s a beautiful snowflake just the way she is, which cheers her up right before some jerk-face tries to run her over with their motorcycle.
Heyyyy, we know that jerk-face!
Haruka is Unreasonably Cool even after narrowly avoiding charges of manslaughter, apologizing to Mako and bandaging her hand with a stylish scarf. All is forgiven, Mako is smitten, and Kaolinite just found her next pure heart. Dammit, girls, if you’d just go rob a liquor store or something these monsters wouldn’t keep targeting you!
The next day, Mako wonders if Usa knows where Haruka lives so they can return the scarf to her, but a stray wind snatches the scarf out of her hand and blows it into a nearby parking lot. The Daimon plants itself inside and hatches as soon as Mako touches it, turning into the most cleverly named minion yet.
Sailors Moon and Mercury chase off the Daimon while Sailor Duo watch from the shadows. Michiru wonders why they don’t just work WITH Sailor Moon to find the talismans and save the universe, but Haruka doesn’t believe the other scouts would be willing to sacrifice others to do it. No arguments here. That’s what makes them the superheroes and you guys the antiheroes.
The next day Mako goes searching for the scarf (guess she blinked during the part where it turned into a monster and tried to kill her), and stumbles across HaruMi in their car, because of COURSE they have a sexy yellow sports car, too. Mako, blinded by the Unreasonable Coolness, hops in for a spin, despite Usagi’s protests.
As Mako has herself a ladies’ day out, Usa heads to the gals’ study session and everyone (sans Ami) wonders if Mako gave up on guys and switched to girls instead. (Nuts, you guys, the conservatives were right! Sexuality really IS a choice!) This scene would be borderline annoying if HaruMi weren’t so obviously a couple, but because they are, it reads more like Cultural Norms As Understood By Teenagers, and is actually pretty amusing.
Ami puts the brakes on the gossip train by reminding everyone that Mako is kinda being targeted by a heart-stealing monster and should prooobably have a sailor detail on her, so the gals contact Mako and head her way. And, despite all the blushing and sparkles, Mako would like them to know that she just “admires Haruka’s coolness.” (Because who DOESN’T want to drive their motorcycle recklessly around corners and almost mow down junior high kids?) Scarf backs this up when she says she’s after Mako’s pure heart that admires “her ideal woman.”
Oh, and BT-dubs, Scarf is back. Surprise! She knocks HaruMi into a convenient shrubbery, which allows them to transform and then… just kinda stand there as Scarf rips Mako’s heart out of her chest.
But there’s no talisman here, either. In the meantime the rest of the scouts also arrive, the groups team up to take out Scarf, and Usagi and Ami help get Mako’s heart back where it belongs. She transforms despite the near-death experience, not only so she can electrocute the crap out of Scarf, but ALSO so she can call Sailor Duo out on their bullshit and give them the bludgeoning they deserve.
Whereupon Sailor Uranus… one-hit KOs her. Womp womp. But hey, at least Jupiter drew blood! Uranus even admits that she couldn’t go easy on her. Mako, you a rock star.
Sailor Duo dash back into the bushes and play possum so that Makoto can “wake them up” from their “concussions.” Somehow nobody saw anybody else transform, so Mako can use the recovered scarf to bind the injury she JUST gave Haruka with no one the wiser.
The episode wraps up with the Moonies (sans Ami) STILL arguing about how Mako feels about Haruka, and Ami spotting Mako through a shop window, trying on a neckerchief of her own. Aww, someone’s got an idol! It’s nice to see Makoto episodes exploring kinds of love besides romance, from her childhood friend back in R to her admiration of Haruka. Just… nobody tell her about Haru’s part-time gig as an antihero. I get the feeling it would NOT go over well.
Episode 97 – Besides Which, You See, I Have Confidence In A-me
This week’s conflict begins when Usagi overhears the Vice Principal speaking to Ami about her grades, her upcoming high school exams, and these nasty rumors that she’s been helping the, ah-hem, “less accomplished students.” Ami of course loves her study buddies and very politely tells the VP to piss off. Even so, he encourages her to focus only on her studies, and Usa wonders if she and the others might be holding Ami back after all.
As Ami mulls over this in the park, my budding brOTP blooms into a beautiful bromance, as Mamoru shows up and Ami sings him her troubles. “Without studying, what would I have?” she wonders, and even begins to doubt her dream of becoming a doctor. Mamoru cheers her up as best he can, and the two share a laugh about how Mamoru is afraid of shots.
Kaolinite assumes Ami must have a pure heart full of confidence on account of her good grades (proving that she knows nothing about people with good grades!), and sends a Daimon out after her. But first, Ami needs to spend some time bonding at the pool with Michiru. The two are all like:
And have a race, but Michiru gets annoyed when Ami slows down at the end, turning what should have been a victory into a tie. As Ami flees the pool, apologizing profusely, Haruka tells Michiru that she probably didn’t do it on consciously—she slowed down so she could avoid conflict and the two could be friends.
The AmiFeels continue as she shows up at the group study session, only to have Usagi scold everyone, saying they should study on their own and not rely on Ami so much. “All you gotta do is study!” Usa tries to reassure her, but to Ami it sounds an awful lot like “Stop hanging out with us and go do the ONLY thing that defines you as a person.” She hurriedly excuses herself, but…
Haruka tracks down Sad Ami and invites her back to the pool for a rematch. Ami accepts, so she and Michiru duke it out in a 100m freestyle—and this time, Ami doesn’t hold back. During a bunch of reused animation and stills that nevertheless manage to be kinda thrilling, Ami realizes that shelikes doing her best and not holding back, and that she wants to be the kind of person who doesn’t “run away.”
Or, as my episode title so lyrically puts it:
The race really is a tie this time, but Michiru’s satisfied. The Duo take their leave just as the Daimon “Doburin” shows up and steals Ami’s heart. UNFORGIVABLE! Lucky for us, Superfriend Usagi had noticed Ami’s tears and chased after her. She and the cats (who I guess were out searching for their relevance in the story, since it’s gone missing as of late) arrive at the pool in time to transform and duke it out with the Daimon.
Along the way, Usagi gives a moving speech about how you had better give that heart back right now, mister, ‘cause Ami is the nicest and smartest person in the world and also Usagi’s FRIEND, dammit! Heartless Ami hears all this and tears up again because she finally realizes that her friends love her for who she is and she can be herself around them without fear of losing them and… it’s just… so…
Not to be outdone, Ami’s Best Bro shows up to deal some EXPANDO!cane damage, cats and roses start ripping apart inner tubes, Doburin almost drowns (I guess she just, like, forgot she had webbed hands and feet?), and it’s kind of the best action sequence ever. It also ends with the Daimon dead and Ami’s heart returned, so even better!
Tuxedo Mask notes that she seems to be feeling better, and she tells him she’s decided not to doubt herself anymore. Usagi’s a liiiittle concerned that Ami might be crushing on The Tux, and Ami teases her about it, but it’s pretty clear she’s just kidding. So not only did Ami gain new confidence in herself and her friendships, but ol’ Zero Friends finally got himself a buddy, too! Best week ever!
This, That, and the Other
- Based on these two diving board screencaps, it looks like Haruka is challenging Tuxedo Mask for his title as Show’s Best Entrance Poser. I… am actually gonna put my money on The Tux. Dude’s got experience. It goes a long way.
- The Moonies really need to level up soon, ‘cause they’re having a hell of a time keeping up with Sailor Duo and Usagi’s new phenomenal moon cosmic power. C’mon, Luna, let’s bust out some new Lovely Items and give those baddies what for!
- On a personal note, Ami episodes tend to ring especially true for me, and this week was no exception, as I remember both holding myself back so I wouldn’t stand out as a “show off” and lose friends (especially in middle school) and also worrying that I didn’t have any talents outside of taking tests and turning in homework. Sailor Moon just gets adolescence—and so many versions of it, too—which I think is why it holds up so well and why I’ve been able to enjoy it as much as I have.
- The Sensei Next Door (Moon Cosmic Edition): Usagi teases Rei this week by busting out a magazine that seems to be related to takarazuka shows. Takarazuka is a type of all-female theater in Japan characterized by musical numbers and a heaping helping of melodrama. If you’ve ever seen Ouran High or Penguindrum, you’ll be somewhat familiar with it. And if not… well, have a number from a recent Rose of Versailles ‘zuka show, and enjoy.
- Hark! A plot point! HaruMi are only in their first year of high school, meaning they’re only a year older than the Moonies. But Haruka can drive because um, um, um… overseas license! Yeah, that’s it! Plot hole: Filled. Nailed it.