Forget Freytag pyramids—this dramatic structure is all about Amazon arcs.
Redemption arcs, that is, and wouldn’t you know it, Sailor Moon pulled off another magnificent one. If I had to name the single, primary element of anime that got me to fall in love with it, it’d be its interest in telling stories like these: about sympathetic antagonists and all-too-human villains, and the underlying belief that even those of us who seem the most hateful or hopeless can and often do learn, grow, and improve.
It was just so different from the all-good and all-bad morality of the Disney films and most of the cartoons I watched growing up, and that interest in nuance for both heroes and villains struck a chord of truth in Preteen Me that’s resonated ever since. There’s value in creating ideal characters for audiences to seek to emulate, to be sure. But for my money, the stories about flawed, selfish people nevertheless learning how to move towards empathy and altruism are the really uplifting ones.
That was a long way of saying these episodes were great and I loved them. The even longer way of saying that is below the jump.
Episode 148 – Animalcontents
The Trio are doing my favorite thing: Hanging out at Leers! and complaining about their jobs. Zirconia chewed them out again, and Fish is worried there might actually be, like, consequences for their failures. Tiger and Hawk remind Fish that they haven’t technically failed—they’ve peered into lots of dreams, there’s just never an Alicorn inside—so they’re fine, right? …Right?
You know what you need, Fish? A hawt dude, that’s what. And lo! Zirconia’s Fly-By Eye Spy drops a new photo in their laps! And it’s everyone’s favorite unmasked gentleman, no less! Fish is all set to seduce him, but Mamoru charms them with basic human compassion, and the woo-er because the woo-ee, which isn’t a word but should be ‘cause it’s really fun to say.
When Usagi storms over to shatter these soft focus shenanigans, Fish declares themselves Usagi’s “rival.” Later, they corner Mamoru on the street and go for their tried-and… well, their tried method of throwing themselves at people, but Mamoru wastes no time in turning them down. He loves Usagi because she’s “full of dreams,” which gives Fish pause because y’know, come to think of it, where have the TRIO’S beautiful dreams been hiding?
Meanwhile, back at Cirque du Ombre, Zirconia is catching up with the Shadow Girls.
The Girls are ready to take over the minion game, but Zirc figures she owes the Trio a proper ultimatum at least. Fish has just enough time to try to yank Tiger’s Dream Mirror out his chest FOR SCIENCE! (there isn’t one) before Zirconia calls them into her office to look at their figures for this quarter. The numbers ain’t good, team. Not good at all. They HAVE to find Pegward this time, otherwise the magic she’s put on them will wear off by the next full moon.
To which the Trio reply:
Oh, right. Surprise! Y’all aren’t actually human! You’re animals given human form through magic! And unless you wanna go back to a life in the zoo tent, you need to capture Pegward and use the power in his Golden Horn to turn yourselves human for realsies! K thx enjoy your existential crisis now buh-bye.
While the boys quietly freak out, Fish struggles with their desire to remain in human form and their worry that it’s all an illusion anyway, since they don’t actually have any dreams. Coupled with their genuine affection for Mamoru, Fish is in one massive glass case of emotion here. Desperate, they approach Mamoru with an offer: I’ll protect you from the people who are trying to hurt you, and in return, stay with me until the next full moon.
And if this face doesn’t just MELT YOU
Then you should probably close this tab ‘CAUSE IT’S ALL FISHFEELS FROM HERE TO END, FOLKS.
Mamoru turns Fish down because “there’s no dream” in a fake relationship, so Fish gives up on a week of pretend happiness and goes for the Dream Mirror instead. But Fish’s heart isn’t in it, and neither is Pegward, making this pretty much their worst day ever. The Moons arrive to play with a trampoline Lemures, and while they do Fish… sigh. They pull a Season One Tuxedo Mask and kiss an unconscious person.
Although, to be totally honest, I feel so bad for Fish at this point that I barely have the strength to disapprove. The Moons Stage Out the Lemures without any trouble, but the day ain’t over yet. On her way home in the rain, Usagi stumbles across Sad Fish, who is SO SAD. Usagi reminds us all of the kind, thoughtful human being she can be as she offers up her umbrella, gently chastises “her rival” for not taking care of themself, and…
Episode 149 – Highway to the Amazone
…AWWWW, takes Fish home to dry off! Usagi, I’m remembering why I like you again! She still gives Fish grief for mack(erel)in’ on Mamoru, but the two bond because Fish admires Usagi’s love for him and her dream of their future together. As they chat, Usagi accidentally reveals her secret identity when she describes Mamoru the same way Sailor Moon did earlier that day. Gasp!
Fish barely has time to process this shocking development before they stumble straight into another one:
Unsurprisingly, Chibiusa immediately goes missing, and Fish returns to the Circus to tell Zirconia they’ve found Pegward. What IS surprising is that, rather than reveal Peg’s location, Fish demands answers first. Unsatisfied with “pretend humanity,” they want to know if the Golden Horn will turn the Trio into real humans, complete with their own dreams, or if they’ll continue to be animals in human skin.
Zirconia responds with a Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, almost killing Fish and scaring the living hell out of Tiger and Hawk along the way. Zirc had her Fly-Spy watching Fish anyway, so she uses the footage to (incorrectly) deduce that Usagi’s the one hiding Pegward. Fish makes an honest effort to defend Usagi, but Zirconia sends Hawk after her anyway, and he’s too terrified to say no.
Tiger tries to take care of Fish, but they push him away and run off to help Usagi. Zirconia’s had it up to HERE with their insubordination, so she gives the Shadow Girls carte blanche to handle things. They giggle creepily. It does not bode well.
Fish stops Hawk before he has the chance to look in Usagi’s mirror—and accidentally calls her “Sailor Moon” in the process—but before the Trio can have a proper sit-down over a cocktail and hash this whole thing out, the Shadow Girls’ creepy-ass clown, Mr. Magic Pierrot, shows up to “get rid of what’s unneeded.” He chucks some flying spades at the Trio, which they manage to dodge nicely except OH HELL that can’t be good.
Then while Fish is freaking out about their new and now possibly dead friend, the clown attacks again, and OH HELL this is even worse.
Hawk says he took the shot meant for Fish because “we’re expendable” and “the way things are now… our lives are pathetic,” WHICH IS SO… Look, I’m not entirely sure when it happened, but at some point over the past 22 episodes this trio of bumbling, insecure, self-centered, predatory alcoholics burrowed their way into my heart and I am NOT HAVING A GOOD TIME RIGHT NOW, YOU GUYS. Not one bit.
Fish and Tiger realize they can’t defeat the clown on their own, but they don’t want to die meaninglessly, without even avenging their fallen comrade. So they decide to release Chibiusa, use the magic in their orb to fix Usagi’s Dream Mirror, and let Sailor Moon and her Pegasus Powers take care of the rest.
So they do. Because that’s how much they love each other.
Usagi and Chibiusa both revive and transform as the rest of the scouts arrive to help Stage Out the creepy clown. Usagi realizes with a start that Fish was the girl she befriended earlier—just in time for the Trio to turn back into their animal forms (“Quick, get Fish a tank!” your blogger may have shouted from her couch). And then…
…the Amazon Trio…
They actually die?!
But wait! Pegward’s got his glitter wand out!? And he’s turning them back into their human forms?! And he’s—OH PEGWARD, YOU BEAUTIFUL ANIMAL.
The Trio dissolve in a shower of sparkles, transforming into what I’ve decided to call will-o-the-wisps. Peg assures us they’ll be all right because they possess dreams, and he takes them back with him to live in his forest.
Then the end credits rolled and I sort of oozed back into my seat and applauded for a while. Sailor Moon is firing on all cylinders again, team! Let’s hope it can last, even without the Trio around to trick me into falling in love with them.
This, That, and the Other
- Fish wonders why Mamoru keeps pet fish, seeing as how they’re so “boring,” which may be the saddest thing anyone on Sailor Moon has ever said.
- Oh SURRRE, it’s fine when Usagi shares HER umbrella with someone else, but when MAMORU tries to do it…
- At the bottom of my notes for Episode 149 I just wrote “Tiger ❤s Fish,” and I believe that covers my opinions on the matter quite neatly.
- I considered the possibility that Fish’s strong desire to be “fully” human could (given their own gender-flexibility) be read as a metaphor for gender dysphoria or SRS, but I don’t feel like I’m properly qualified to lead that discussion, so I’m just going to set it down in this bullet point if anyone else wants to pick it up some time.
- Hark! A plot point! The Cirque du Ombre is run not by Madame Zirconia, but by Queen Nehelenia, “the most beautiful person in the universe.” Given the way she treats her minions, I’m gonna go ahead and say that beauty doesn’t go much deeper than the skin.
12 thoughts on “Sailor Moon Newbie Reviews: Episodes 148-149”
FACT: whenever I hear the music from the Trio getting their mirrors (I can hear it right now, in my head, DECADES LATER), the tears start.
I dunno about Fish and dysphoria (though I’d buy that argument for a nickel), but I always rather liked Ikuhara’s change from the trio being three implicitly gay men in the manga to two het(ish, TIGER LOVES FISH INDEED) dudes and adorable queer Fish…who then gets to be the spearheading redemptive voice of the Trio and the one who brings them all together in the end. REASON 8 BILLION WE NEVER NEEDED CRYSTAL.
(These are also the two episodes I still have of the old dub, on tape, so moved was I. This was also when I discovered that ED sequences were a thing).
You know, there’s enough modern media in my life right now with positive queer representation that I sort of took it for granted that Fish led the redemption charge, but you’re so right! I’d heard about that manga change and immediately approved of it because it balanced out the whole sexual predator undertones so the series wasn’t just playing to the awful “gay people/crossdressers are bad guys trying to seduce you” stereotype, but… yeah, with this finale, SM takes it from simply being “not bad representation” to “actively good representation.” Ikuhara, even when you’re half-distracted and fighting with network execs, you still manage to put great things in our anime.
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TRUTH. Although if he could work on a male/nb queer character maybe making it out of his next series alive that would be swell (like DAMN, the tragedy stick comes down on them hard).
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Oh yes oh yes yes
These are some of my all-time favorite Sailor Moon episodes, and I have to admit, I started tearing up all over again when reading your recap. I kind of want to go back and rewatch them now. (Also, +1000 on the “Tiger ❤ s Fish” bit.)
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They’re on Hulu now, so it wouldn’t be too hard to make that rewatch (and those re-feels) happen!
These two episodes are great. The anime has always been great about developing the villains well, whereas in the manga, the Amazon Trio (as well as the Shitennou, Ayakashi Sisters, and Witches 5) were little more than monsters of the day.
And you’ll be glad to know that other than about 4 or 5 upcoming episodes, we’re mostly out of filler county for this season. Nehelenia is probably my favorite big bad, if for nothing else but because she has an incredible VA.
I think the lack of antagonist development is another reason I had a tough time getting into the SM manga, to be honest. Even a lot of the villains who don’t get redemptive arcs (e.g., Zoisite, Kunzite, the Witches Five) are well-developed in the anime, with distinct interests and flaws. And I find series so much more compelling when both sides of the conflict have some humanity to them.
Yeahhhh, Plot County, Population Us! I’m looking forward to seeing what the actual story is this season, other than cool circus motifs and Alicorn dreams. There’s a solid foundation here, at least, so we’ll see where it leads!
Generally speaking, I do think the 90s anime is the strongest adaptation of the story. But, there are times when the manga outshines it. Hell, there are even times when the musicals outshine the others as well. The romance between the Inner Senshi and the Shitennou only felt natural and well portrayed in “La Reconquista.” I’m totally pro Zoisite + Kunzite, but failing that, Zoisite + Ami in La Reconquista is very well-done.
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I’m bothered by how arbitrary the 90s Anime was with what villains can be redeemed and which ones aren’t. In a lot of more recent Magical Girl shows they save all the villain except maybe the faceless manifestation of evil with no personality. Sailor Moon however is the genre not yet fully formed.
For many people the Amazon Trio, or at least Hawk and Tiger are exactly the kinds of villains who they can’t tolerate being redeemed no matter what. My position is anything cna be redeemed, but if a show is gonna redeem some but not others it better have some consistent internal logic to how it makes those decisions. And so these blatant rapist metaphors being considered more worthy of redemption then the Witches 5 who basically Tomoe’s student being manipulated by him is a major problem for me.
“could (given their own gender-flexibility) be read as a metaphor for gender dysphoria or SRS”
Sorry, what does SRS stand for here?
“Sex reassignment surgery,” which was the standard terminology when I wrote these recaps roughly a million years ago. ^^; Nowadays we’d use “gender confirmation/affirmation surgery.”