Sailor Moon Newbie Reviews: Episodes 172-173

Do you wanna build a redemption arc?

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Villains come and villains go. And sometimes villains come and friends go. And sometimes villains come and friends go and more villains come and maybe some new friends come, too, but we’re not really sure yet because it’s early in the arc?

What I’m trying to say is, it’s a week of endings and beginnings on Sailor Moon, some more surprising than others. Hit the jump to say goodbye, how-do-you-do, and the occasional “WHOA WAIT WUT.” Yep. That sounds like a new SM arc, all right.

The Recaps

Episode 172 – Sailor Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Good Guy

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Chibiusa and Hotaru continue their stand-off with Nehelenia, but it ain’t going so hot, ’cause they can’t lift Mamoru’s curse no matter how unfortunately suggestive the animation gets.

Chibiusa is fading fast, so Hotaru’s all “Eff it. I’ll just end you,” and Nehelenia’s all “I double-dog dare you to end me ’cause you’ll die too!” and Hotaru’s all “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt,” and then while Nehelenia’s struggling to come up with another snappy ’90s comeback, Chibiusa throws herself around Hotaru and begs her not to kill herself. Oh, good! I wanted to keep her around for a while this time.

Nehelenia can’t deal with all this FRIENDSHIP, though, so she traps Hotaru in a mirror-prison, too. Boo. Usagi arrives just in time to hold Chibiusa in her arms as she fades from the world.

As it says in the Book of Shojob: "For you are sparkles, and to sparkles you shall return."

As it says in the Book of Shojob: “For you are sparkles, and to sparkles you shall return.”

I joke, but Mitsuishi Kotono acts the crap out of this scene, and it’s surprisingly moving because of it, even though we all know Chibiusa is gonna be just fine.

As Usagi FINALLY notices the guardians frozen behind her like an army of sailor suit-wearing Han Solos (there’s a mental image for ya), Nehelenia figures she’s got this one in the bag, so now is a good time to exposit about her back story some more. They only got, like, halfway through it the last time, after all. (I’m starting to wonder if this wasn’t all just an elaborate scheme so Nehelenia could vent to someone. Queen of the Tsundere, right here.)

"I-i-i-it's not like I WANTED to hang out with you or anything, baka!"

“I-i-i-it’s not like I WANTED to hang out with you or anything, baka!”

It comes out that Nehelenia’s jealous of Usagi because Usa has always been surrounded by friends while Li’l Princess Nehel had none. She saw the mirror (her reflection) as something that “freed her” from her loneliness, but in reality it was just a prison: She became obsessed with her own mortality because she had no one else to love, and eventually destroyed her kingdom to maintain the one thing she could believe in.

Usagi of course weeps for her, and it is a sad story, but I can’t help feel like it undercuts—maybe even contradicts—the story we heard at the end of SuperS about the woman who chose loneliness, intentionally isolating herself, rather than face age and death. That story contrasted so nicely with Usagi’s story, forming a mirror between the two princesses and tying a strong thematic bow on that season. So, despite my eternal fondness for redemption arcs, I think I preferred Nehelenia as a sympathetic but unrepentant villain.

Igarashi disagrees with me, though, and does so in fabulous Sailor Moon fashion, as Usagi sympathizes SO HARD that she not only frees the scouts from their mirror-prisons, but also awakens Mamoru’s own latent Moon Disco Power to shatter the shard and break the curse!

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“Oh yes it’s llllladies night, and the feeeel is right…”

The scouts decide to use their power to save Nehelenia, so they combine their energy (they let Mamoru join the circle so he can feel like he’s done something this arc) and throw it at her. She tries to fight back, but they urge her to open her heart and remember her own childhood dreams, the ones she had before they became warped by self-obsession.

And it turns out all she really wanted… was friends.

aww - shrek

So the Moonies, uh… send her back in time? or revive her entire kingdom? or trap her in a Dreamatorium for all eternity? Whatever voodoo they go do, they do it so well, because Nehelenia wakes up a child back in her kingdom, and this time she’s brave enough to ask someone to spend time with her.

It’s… fine. It’s cute. It’s more pat than I’ve come to expect from SM arc finales in recent seasons, and I would’ve liked it a lot more if they’d brought in a different antagonist entirely and given them this arc rather than try to rewrite a character who was interesting precisely because she didn’t want to be saved, not to mention I have no idea what the Moonies even did to her in the end, but all in all, I…

Huh. Yeah, I guess I didn’t care for it very much after all, did I? Ah, well. Sometimes that happens. There were fun parts along the way, at least. Anyhoo. On to the next arc!

Episode 173 – Sailor Starstruck

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I blinked between episodes and suddenly Chibiusa had returned to the future, the outer guardians had ninja’d off again, a pop idol trio of pretty-boys(?) called “Three Lights” had topped the Juuban charts, and Mamoru finally got sick of getting stabbed and kidnapped all the time and decided to study abroad in America for a year. Aww, yeah! Suck it, Mooniverse! Try to kill him now, why doncha?! Aaaaahahaha—

"Fuck."

“Shit.”

…Sorry, that comes later. First Usagi and Luna get to have a sweet little conversation about how Usa really doesn’t want Mamoru to leave but knows it’s selfish to ask him to stay, and Luna reminds her that she’s more mature and stronger now and can handle being on her own. Sailor Moon hasn’t had a lot of cat time recently, and this just reminded me of how much I used to enjoy it. More cat time, Sailor Moon.

At the airport, Usagi briefly crosses paths with Seiya, the leader of that pop trio, and they have a whole MEETING OF DESTINY moment. But, nah, I’m sure it’s nothing. Byyyye, Mamoru! Have fun in America, where surely nothing terrible can possibly happen to y—

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And he was just one day from retirement, too!

Mamoru’s life(?) continues to be suffering thanks to that creepy disembodied voice who woke up Nehelenia. She’s after “true” star seeds, so she sends her minions (also calling themselves “sailors,” interestingly enough) to Juuban to track the seeds down. Their mission takes them oh-so-conveniently to the set of a drama starring Three Lights and Alice Itsuki, which the Moonies just so happened to have crashed as well.

But before the inevitable clash of good and evil, Usagi and Seiya need to get their banter on. Seiya’s tickled that Usagi has no idea who he is (even Ami knows who he is! AMI, PEOPLE!) and she’s peeved that he calls her “bunhead.” Peeved, or…?

Dang, Mamo, you been exploded for barely five minutes and there's already another ship ready to launch from Moon Harbor. COLD.

Dang, Mamo, you been exploded for barely five minutes and there’s already another ‘ship ready to launch from Moon Harbor. That’s COLD.

After they part ways, Usagi runs into “Sailor Iron Mouse” right as she snatches a star seed from actress Alice Itsuki. The seed (a.k.a. “crystal of life,” so, that can’t be good) promptly shrivels up, meaning it isn’t a TRUE seed. Iron Mouse peaces out and leaves Usagi to fight the seedless Alice, who’s turned into the Phage “Sailor Buri.”

Usagi wants to help Alice, not fight her, so she’s at a loss… But wait! Do I hear snapping?!

snap - westside

Folks, we’ve got ourselves some newcomers: The Sailor Star Jets Lights! They are clearly the Three Lights team, except that now they have boobs. And I… am uncertain what pronoun to use. “They”? Are we all good with “they”? Hey, Star Lights, y’all good with “they”?

You know what? You're busy. We'll talk later.

You know what? You’re busy. We’ll talk later.

The trio want to put Alice “out of her misery” because they say there’s only one person who can turn a Phage back into a human (what with the whole “seed of life” getting removed ‘n’ all), and it ain’t them. Well, if it’s a Chosen One you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place! Usagi FEELINGS herself into a new attack, called…

…and I can’t even type this without laughing…

“Starlight Honeymoon Therapy Kiss.”

applause - tennant

With a shout of “Beautiful!” Alice’s star seed rejuvenates and returns to her via a nice bit of Hindu/Buddhist flower imagery, and she un-monsterfies. Evil vanquished, our new trio Batman outta there, leaving Usagi to sit on a park bench and try to puzzle out all these new sailors. It’s a work in progress.

…So I guess we’re just… not gonna address Mamoru’s plane blowing up AT ALL this week, are we, Sailor Moon…?

This, That, and the Other

  • I tease Mamoru about getting stabbed all the time, but now that I think about it, Usagi gets strangled almost as often, huh? Add that to the drinking game, I s’pose.
  • The music during the big Nehelenia Salvation scene was straight-up “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” for a few bars there. That had to be intentional, right?
  • I haven’t said it yet, but the animation this arc has been super-fun so far. Igarashi doesn’t have Sato’s or Ikuhara’s eye for imagery or absurdity, but he makes up for it with great comedic timing and wonderfully expressive characters.
  • Hark! A plot point! Our new trio call themselves Star Fighter (Seiya), Star Maker (Taiki), and Star Healer (Yaten), but I had Yurikuma on the brain, so I nicknamed them “Life Sexy,” “Life Cool,” and “Life Beauty,” and THEY SO TOTALLY ARE that now I can’t un-think it.
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7 thoughts on “Sailor Moon Newbie Reviews: Episodes 172-173

  1. Eee! You made it to the Starlights arch despite all my pessimism and worry that after SuperS you’d just give up. I mean how many times can you see a man in a formal tuxedo get stabbed before you just drop the whole thing? But you stuck through and I just want you know know no matter how this goes down, I’m just excited to be getting a weekly hit of the Starlights.

    (It’s 5am and with the holidays finally settling out and still a few days before I have to return to the office, I’ve have spent the past four days fitting in six months worth of cleaning and DIY. There is every chance I will come off as rambling and brain fried, but I just caught sight of your new post right as I was comfy-ing up in bed and even though the plan was “watch something pretty on the computer, pass out”) celebrating your arrival to my all time favorite Sailor Moon story lines.

    There is so much I want to share with you because not only is it an interesting story, there are also so many new characters all of them balancing between entertaining and serious, and there are a lot of interesting themes and interpretations.It’s taking what little energy I have not to just start blurting out spoilers, but I’m doing my damnedest to hold on for you.Oooh, just promise me that later, as your better acquainted with them, you’ll so one of those “extra” after the review notes discussion The three Starlights and your opinion on each one, as well as whatever ones of the villains you’re up. I just get a kick out of quick character stories.

    But, really, just wait until you get deeper into the series. You won’t be able to shut me up, even way pass my bedtime.

    [SPOILERS BELOW]
    (About Mamo-Chan, I guess the rest of the flight makes it safely home, since as far as I remember there isn’t any sort of a news story about it. Usagi spends most of Stars trying to contact Mamo, but when he never writes or calls her back everyone else assures her it’s because he’s so busy partying it up American University style! Oooor possible just has his nose buried in every textbook he could find and can’t take the time to write back or even pick up the phone just to let his future wife he been stabbed by some crystal stealing light and kidnapped before they were even to Hawaii. So, yeah, most everyone just assumes he wanted a holiday from UsaI guess.

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  2. [MARKED FOR SPOILERS]

    Regarding the Starlights, they are girls in the manga who merely crossdress as men in their civilian identities, while in the anime they’re physically male when untransformed (some dubs even had two different sets of VAs for them). Naoko Takeuchi was pretty vocal in how she disliked this change because it breaks one of her iron-clads rules that only girls can be Sailor Senshi (some fans on the other hand fell in love with this “loophole”).

    Apparently, they were also the reason Stars was never English dubbed in the past but no one is sure. The Italian dub also changed (midway through the season!) so that they switched places with their identical twin sisters instead of transforming after a “psychologist” named Vera Slepoj claimed that SM “would seriously compromise children’s sexual identity”.

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  3. I actually really adored the way they ended Nehelenia’s story arc. (I hope this makes sense because I’m kinda tired orz) To me, the stories presented in SuperS and Stars are both true: She is both the lonely, jealous girl who wanted friends as well as the woman who made the choice to embrace solitude and grew obsessed with maintaining her youth. It makes her a more rounded villain to me that she would have multiple motivations for becoming a villain. Also, the new spin on her story also provides a parallel to Usagi’s character – not only in this season, but throughout the whole series. Usagi is the outgoing character who reaches out to lonely and scared people and brings light to their worlds and helps them find their own (The Inner Senshi and Chibiusa most prominently, who then do their part to extend this to other characters as well such as Urawa, the Ayakashi Sisters, Hotaru, etc.) Nehelenia essentially did the opposite, draining the life away from her kingdom as a band-aid for her own suffering and her own selfish desires. In the end, the Senshi remedy this situation and give her the strength and opportunity to change her own destiny (though its ambiguous on what plain of existence this occurs).

    Also, the “voice” bringing back a previous villain or villains is something that presents itself in other adaptions of this arc, though I believe this is the only one to use Nehelenia (likely due to the need to re-introduce the Outer Senshi and there was already all that unused Dream arc material that SuperS ignored.) In some of the musicals I believe Beryl makes a return appearance.

    Also, I’m super excited you’ve made it to the Starlights. Part of the reason this season is so well-liked is that it is excellent in terms of turning the show less into “The Usagi Tsukino Half-Hour” (or “The Chibiusa Show” as last season was) and more into a ensemble with great character writing and how each of the characters interact with one another.

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    • Sorry for the late reply. Premiere week business and winter illness kinda sapped by communication strength. I did enjoy reading this, though, and think you make some valid arguments. I think the main issue for me is that, in SM’s history, we’ve had one-dimensional villains and three-dimensional redeemable antagonists, but we’ve never had a three-dimensional irredeemable antagonist, and I liked that Nehelenia allowed the show to concede that there are fully developed, complicated people in the world who still commit atrocities knowingly and without remorse, and you can’t save them because they don’t WANT to be saved. There’s a level of realism to it that I appreciated, and it made Nehelenia the most fascinating villain in the series by far.

      To find out that she’s not a Macbethian tragic figure who knowingly destroyed the people close to her in exchange for greater power, but instead a lonely woobie who didn’t really lose anything in that “trade” because she was already isolated from everyone in her kingdom… it’s just less interesting to me, and felt like Sailor Moon retreating into idealism rather than acknowledging the difficult truth that the SuperS finale did. Which, I mean, idealism is usually where SM lives, so I can’t really hold that against it, but when you’re going to prod at something so much more difficult and complicated, and then pull back on it and say “no, if she just had friends she’d have been fine!” it kinda–I mean, for me, at least, it over-simplified things in a way I didn’t want or need it to do, I s’pose.

      In the end I think it’s just a personal preference thing. That said, I can definitely see where you’re coming from and why you and others appreciated it, and am glad it worked for you as well as it did! It just didn’t work that way for me, unfortunately.

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  4. Interesting that you mention Buddhist imagery, because the Starlights themselves are also supposedly inspired by Hindu mythology. The theory is that they’re based off the Trimurti, Brahma the creator (Sailor Star Maker), Vishnu, the preserver (Sailor Star Healer), and Shiva, the destroyer (Sailor Star Fighter).

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    • Oh, neat! Don’t think I’d have ever made that connection on my own (my Hindu mythology knowledge is pretty rough, alas), so thanks for the heads-up! Gonna have to read up on that trio now, for sure.

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  5. I was never fond of SuperS, to me this arc is the entire Nehelehna story.

    I watched a Fandub if the first Starlights Episodes years ago. Mamo’s plane blowing up was something I missed till I just last wee watched it legally on Hulu, I guess I blinked.

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