This may come as a surprise to you, but Sailor Moon takes place in Japan.
Sailor Moon has its roots deep in the shoujo genre, which historically tends to draw on European fairy tales and romances, so most of the time there’s a universal (or at least “Euro-friendly”) quality to its characters and stories that makes it easily accessible to a western audience. But this week saw us diving deep into Japanese historical and cultural practices, to the point where I was half-tempted to turn my end-of-post bullet points into one big “Sensei Next Door” section.
I didn’t, because it’s not like you need to know the ins and outs of tea ceremonies or the doctrine of Nichiren Buddhism to follow the central story lines this week (I sorta doubt the target audience did, actually); and while I know a few things about both, I’m not an expert on either subject and the Internet is full of articles by more knowledgeable folk. So while I’d encourage you to go fall down those rabbit holes and learn neat things about neat stuff, I won’t be writing about them myself. But it does make me happy and hopeful that Viz will do the dub justice, and that kids being introduced to Sailor Moon for the first time will have the chance to get some exposure to another culture in ways the dubs of my childhood (lookin’ at you and your damn “doughnuts,” Pokemon) never did.
These episodes also quietly highlight a social concern (common in many places, but definitely in Japan) about the rise of modern/western culture and the possible disappearance of historical/traditional practices. Usagi’s idea of “tea time” contrasts sharply with the ceremony she encounters, and Makoto approaches the Buddhist temple with a rather Hollywood-ish mindset, acting like she’s about to go through a Martial Arts Training Montage instead of spending time with an actual priest (who is so not the Enigmatic Master she expects).
I’m not sure if Sailor Moon is making a point or just reflecting reality here, but I’ll be curious to see if this trend continues (we did have the taiko drummer last week) and if I develop any unnecessarily complicated theories about it along the way. In the meantime, though, these opening remarks have gone on for far too long. Quickly, Mooninites! Escape to the Recaps before I ramble again!
Episode 104 – Suiting Each Other to a Tea
Chibiusa has returned to the twentieth century with the Sailor Moon-iest secret mission of them all: MAKING FRIENDS. Chibs kinda confuses “friend” with “boyfriend” and goes out searching for cute faces, and she finds one… until he opens his mouth, anyway. And busts his moves. And drops his trou. He’s basically every obnoxious elementary school kid you’ve ever met rolled up into one person. And his puns are the WORST.
Amidst the after-tea parfait party, Chibiusa reveals her Friend-Finding Mission, and Usagi offers to help. So the two head back to Tamasaburo’s place—but lo! A wild hatchback appears, and Usagi’d recognize that “Daimon On Board” car magnet anywhere! Time to suit up!
Er… just as soon as Usagi can squeeze through the bushes, anyway. In the meantime, Chibi Moon arrives at the scene of the crime, and Eudial’s level of damn-giving reaches absolute zero, as she drives through fences, blasts a hole through Tamasaburo, and interrupts Chibi Moon’s catchphrases to unleash her new Daimon, Chagaama. I love our new minion, you guys.
No talisman again, so Eudial (and Sailor Duo, who show up for all of 30 seconds) peels out again and leaves Chagaama to handle the Chibi. Go Go Pink Sugar Heart Attack!
Chibi Moon’s superpower is that no one takes her seriously, so she does get in a few decent heart-smacks before Sailor Moon and The Tux (sadly lacking a tall structure to climb) can show up to finish the Daimon off. Half-Moon grudgingly thanks Full Moon for her help, and Tamasaburo looks on, admiring them both.
Cut to the next day, when Chibs returns for another tea ceremony, only to learn that Tama has given up his Refined Air for a sailor suit and a magic rod. I thought it was pretty cute, but I guess Chibs isn’t into role-play, so she’s out. Looks like we’ll be finding our tiny friends elsewhere.
Episode 105 – Beat, Pray, Love
Reeling from a loss against a recent Daimon, Makoto does what any self-respecting shounen manga hero would do and flees to the mountains to train with the local Buddhists. When she sends Usagi a post card, Usa realizes Mako’s temple is crazy close to Mamoru’s part-time gig at a resort hotel, and figures she can kill two birds with one stone.
So the girls take the train out to the mountains and KITTIES IN BACKPACKS, KITTIES IN BACKPACKS!
…Er. Sorry. Where were we?
Oh yeah—the mountains!
The gals figure out Usa’s plan and drag her away from the hotel and off to Mako’s temple, where they meet both her and her priest friend, a laid-back, youngish fellow named Kakushi Yakushiji who’s been out here training for the last four years or so. He’s that immediately likable blend of good-natured silliness and wisdom that characterizes so many Buddhist priests in fiction (historical and modern), and it’s unsurprising that Mako’s already grown fond of him.
Speaking of Mako, she’s having a crisis of confidence, but hasn’t confided in the other girls about it. She wants to be able to handle these monsters on her own, without having to rely on the other Moonies, and thinks this training will help her do that. The gals don’t pry, but they do remind her that she’s not alone and if she needs to talk to anyone, they’re here to listen.
Just… could you maybe save that conversation for AFTER they get back from crashing the fancy hotel pool for lunch, Mako? ‘Kaaaay thanks.
While poolside antics ensue (guest-starring Mamoru and HaruMi), Makoto is out attempting to meditate with the dozing Kakushi (who never lets his own slip-ups get him down, bless him) when our resident heart surgeon tears onto the scene. Yes, Kakushi is Eudial’s next target! Damn good thing Makoto happened to be on this exact mountain the exact day Eudial found him, innit?
With his heart floating in the air, Kakushi squeaks out one last bit of advice (“a person cannot live alone”) before passing out, which frees Makoto (and Usagi, who spotted Eudial’s car on her way back) to transform and fight the Daruma monster oh-so-cleverly named, uh…
Jupiter tries to fight it one-on-one and gets the rest of the scouts caught in a literal bind, which is when they remind her that We Are Ahab Pretty Guardian, We Are One, and combine their powers to break Daruma’s bonds. And the moral is: Fuck yo’ action heroes! Lone wolves are lame! Ensembles 5eva!
Buuuut now that Jupiter’s remembered the value of friendship, it’s probably important that she be a badass as an individual, too, so she focuses her power and Sparkling Wide Pressures Daruma back into its shell. Huzzah! A scout FINALLY defeated a Daimon without Usagi’s help! I am satisfy.
Feeling more confident in herself and more trusting in her teammates, Makoto waves farewell to her priest friend and trades in her freezing waterfalls for delicious bento boxes. And I really can’t blame her for that one.
This, That, and the Other
- So was The Tux, like, levitating on the other side of that fence, or…?
- ONE THOUSAND YEARS OLD and Neo Queen Usagi still can’t write kanji characters. C’mon, Usa. Kanji is hard, but it’s not that hard.
- PFFT Eudial’s car pops out of different random places every episode, this is totally a running gag now.
- I’d like to believe that at least one other person out there besides the handful of high school/college friends who read these posts got my ridonkulously obscure “We Are Ahab, We Are One” reference, and to that one other person: I salute you.
- The Sensei Next Door (Moon Cosmic Edition): The Three Sacred Treasures of Japan are a trio of quasi-historical, quasi-legendary artifacts—a mirror, a sword, and a jewel—said to have been created by the kami and given to the Emperor Jimmu way back in the 600s BC. They are a symbol of the Japanese imperial house’s divine right to rule and are said to represent the three virtues of “valor (sword), wisdom (mirror), and benevolence (jewel).” I bring this up as a prelude to our next bullet, which is…
- Hark! A plot point! When a talisman gets yanked out of a heart, it will take the form of one of three Sacred Treasures: A mirror, a sword, or a jewel. So, to summarize: Collecting three legendary sacred Japanese artifacts will cause one legendary sacred European artifact to appear. Excuse me while I begin developing an overly complicated critical analysis of this.