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Sailor Moon Newbie Recap: “Friendship Through Anime,” “Usagi’s First Kiss”

This Week: Jazz Hands Youma
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Subtlety, thy name is Sailor Moon.

This week: probably a lot of inside jokes that I don’t entirely understand but am still amused by, and then everybody in the show has face blindness and Tuxedo Mask smooches all up on an underage drunk girl.

Protect the Children’s Dreams: Friendship Through Anime

This probably just betrays my infatuation with Batman, but sometimes I wonder what Batman would be like as a character if he existed in the world of Sailor Moon. You know, one where a domino mask or a change of clothes was sufficient to protect your identity from even your closest loved ones, and where vigilantes of unknown identity and motive got major television shows and video games made after them only months after their existence becomes apparent.

[Editor's note: Not to digress, but remember that one time the Martian Manhunter used Rei Hino's name and likeness as a disguise and Batman saw through him immediately? THAT'S RIGHT BATMAN READS SAILOR MOON IT HAPPENED -Victoria]

But I digress: Sailor V is getting her own anime, and the artists behind it are having some issues with the director. Drawn with a baby slung over his back who has a tendency to parrot his words in baby-speak, I’m going to assume he’s a fond reference to someone on the actual production of the show. He dances around the issue with vague phrases about lines and passion, and when the two female animators bald-facedly ask him if he wants them to draw their teen heroine sexier, he erupts with the first refuge of every internet misogynist:

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Dudes, if having a female blood relative prevented people from being sexist, there would be no sexism. There would have been no sexism.

Our animators, Kazuko and Hiromi (Hiromi’s the wonderfully androgynous one) trudge back to their studio in foul spirits. They were art students together, and resolved that together they would make anime that would become beloved by children everywhere, sealing the pact by dividing a set of expensive pencils between them and vowing not to use them until they landed that special job together. Unbeknownst to Kazuko, Hiromi has almost entirely used the pencils already: she’s grown intimidated by Kazuko’s talents and fears being left behind, and when she uses the pencils she feels inspired.

Kazuko and Hiromi accidentally drop an envelope of drawings, which is found by Ami. She considers bringing it back to them right away, but as always she has cram school, so it’ll have to wait until later. Fortunately this gets her to the studio right in time to watch as Masato Sanjoin (who she recognizes as Nephrite) drives past to deliver a Cursed-Item-O-Gram right to Hiromi. Posing as a fan (an adult male fan of an unreleased OVA about a teenage superheroine? I mean nevermind, nevermind; that’s depressingly plausible) he barges his way right into the animation cubicles and curses Hiromi’s pencil stub with his “most powerful” monsters.

Ami confronts him outside, but he just karate chops her off his car and drives off laughing maniacally. She returns the drawings to an overjoyed Kazuko and a suspiciously non-plussed Hiromi, and Kazuko offers Ami and her friends a tour of the studio the next day by way of thanks. Obviously this is good news for investigating Nephrite’s dirty dealings, but Usagi’s totally down because she wants an anime souvenir and Rei is totally down because she’s secretly a total anime fangirl.

Meanwhile, Hiromi’s gone all cursed: producing way more animation cells than she otherwise would be capable of, to an alarming degree. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Zoisite shows up on the… balcony of Nephrite’s planescarium? To sass him? While Nephrite sips a freaking whiskey on the rocks???? I’m pretty sure that’s what happens, guys. It’s pretty great. Nephrite just wanted to have a fucking drink in peace, guys. These meddling teenage girls are driving him to drink.

At the animation studio, Ami tries to make inquiries as to whether anything supernatural has happened there lately, while Usagi and Rei geek out over the animators. At least, they do until Hiromi comes over to yell at them for disturbing the work environment (legit, honestly), and also to take a call from the director where she tells him in no uncertain terms that she plans to kill off Sailor V in the final scene. Who cares about the feelings of fans, after all… it’s just anime. Our heroes (and Kazuko) follow Hiromi to the roof (yay rooftop fights!) where she accuses Kazuko of lording her artistic talent over her, and hits peak energy.

Related: Fittingly, this does happen to be one of the episodes where the animation team on Sailor Moon really goes the extra mile with facial expressions and creature effects. The way in which Hiromi’s pencil transforms into the youma Castor and Pollux is a lovely bit of work. Conveniently, the transformation is so spectacular that Kazuko faints dead away.

All jokes aside, I genuinely love the design on these Jazz Hands Youma. (Okay, that one joke not aside.) Nephrite thinks they can take down the Senshi because of their superior teamwork and the fact that they use Senshi abilities. Which would probably work, if the two didn’t immediately start bickering. They lose focus and the Senshi easily defeat them with a combo attack. And a new theme song. “That was interesting,” says Zoisite as he disappears in a swirl of fucking rose petals and leaves Nephrite to his sad house and his sad liquor.

But it wouldn’t be a return to status quo if we didn’t fix Hiromi and Kazuko’s friendship: it turns out that Kazuko has been using her pencils too, and for the same reason! She felt intimidated by Hiromi’s talent, and was frightened that her friend would soon surpass her to such an extent that they would no longer work together as equals. The two decide that it wasn’t wrong to break their promise and use the pencils, because they shouldn’t wait to make amazing anime that makes children happy: they should strive to do it with every anime they work on.

I’ll just, uh, be over here for a second having starter artist feels. I’ll be back in a sec.

Romance Under the Moon: Usagi’s First Kiss

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HEY WOW THIS SCREENSHOT CAME OUT WAY PORNIER THAN I ANTICIPATED

If this episode were to have a theme, it would be relationships with older men, from Naru to Usagi to Zoisite. Naru’s still pining over Mr. Sanjoin, Nephrite’s civilian identity. She’s confused because on the one hand he told her that she’s sweet, but on the other he invited her to an empty mall at night and then yelled at her for not being Sailor Moon. As an adult woman, I know that that means he’s crazy and that Naru should DTMFA, but I know that things look different when you’re a lonely teenager. Adults are confusing, crushes are confusing, the opposite sex is confusing and scary and desirable. *sigh* Naru, this is why everybody needs to have someone to talk to. Talk to Usagi so she can tell you your crush is an energy stealing evil… prince general from another dimension? Bad news, he’s bad news.

And speaking of news, we get our first Umino delivered exposition dump in, like, ages. Man, this guy. The First Princess of the Kingdom of Diamonds, the world’s largest producer of gemstones (and can you blame me for hoping against hope that we’d see an African princess?) is visiting Japan, and she is set to reveal one of her country’s most closely guarded treasures, the Legendary Secret Treasure, at a ball that night at the embassy. Naru promises to tell them all about it, since as jewelry store proprietors, her family has been invited to attend.

But news of a secret gem-related treasure is piquing a lot of interest. To Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask, for example, it might mean finally finding out why he’s having vivid recurring dreams where a mysterious woman (with hair buns) tells him to retrieve the Legendary Silver Crystal, which might ultimately uncover the secret of his identity. To Luna, it indicates that Princess Diamond just might be the princess that the Sailor Senshi have been looking for, so it is agreed that they should scope out the event and see if they can get inside to talk to her. To Usagi’s dad, who apparently supports a family of four on a reporter/photographer’s salary, it’s his latest assignment. Frustrated that her best friend and even her dad get to go to a royal ball, Usagi uses her disguise pen to transform into a “beautiful princess” and Bluff Checks her way in magestically.

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Didn’t even need a natural twenty.

And finally, to the Dark Kingdom, it sounds a lot like the Legendary Silver Crystal that could give them the power to revive their “great ruler.”

But for the DK, this represents something of a jurisdictional snafu: it’s Zoisite’s job to find the LSC, but anything on Earth falls under Nephrite’s umbrella. I’m sure this will all be sorted out with a polite discussion that respects the various inter-organizational hierarchies of the Dark Kingdom. NO JUST KIDDING it’s like another two scenes of Dark Kingdom Drama, which I would watch a WHOLE SHOW OF. To Zoisite’s dismay, Queen Beryl gives the job of investigating and retrieving the Legendary Secret Treasure to Nephrite, even though he’s done nothing but screw the pooch for ages now. “So now that I’ve given you a huge assignment that you don’t deserve, tell me how you’re going to accomplish it,” says Queen Beryl. And Nephrite’s answer is, no joke, “I have my own way of doing things. You will just have to watch it unfold.” Nephrite, there is only one queen in this room, and her name is Beryl. Get with the program.

After he leaves, Queen Beryl explains to Zoisite that she gave Nephrite the task because he knows he’s been screwing up: he’s more desperate than Zoisite is. Cut to: Zoisite crying on his boyfriend’s lap, which sounds like an exaggeration of tone that I would make as a joke about the show but NO IT REALLY HAPPENS. Kunzite basically tells him “It’s okay baby, Nephrite’s incompetent and he’s going to take hisownself out at any time.” Oh my god I can’t wait until these guys become main characters. I love them. JUST LOOK AT THEM.

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This is Kunzite’s excuse for a loveseat.

Unfortunately, I have to stop talking about Kunzite and Zoisite now and talk about Nephrite and Naru. Ugh. Nephrite asks Naru for a dance at the Diamond Kingdom embassy’s masquerade ball, and she doesn’t recognize him until he takes his mask off. I thought we established LAST WEEK that Naru can identify Nephrite by his voice COME ON Sailor Moon. She accepts and Nephrite pours on the gross, gross “you’re a grown man and she’s fourteen” charm, so that he can get her alone and take control of her mind by possessing her.

Usagi sees Naru and Nephrite dancing and thinks it’s cute, because even though she knows Masato Sanjoin is Nephrite, and even though she’s seen both of them, and even though she’s also seen Nephrite in basically the same mask before she does not recognize that Naru is dancing with her current primary antagonist. I was genuinely confused at several points in this episode because I had forgotten to remember that in Sailor Moon a change of clothes and/or the tiniest possible mask is enough to completely obscure a person’s identity. And speaking of mistaken identity:

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This is Usagi’s dad, FYI.

Is it any wonder that Usagi has self-esteem problems, when her own father finds the idea that she might look put together and nice and formal and pretty so implausible that he fails to recognize her when she is? Heck, even Mamoru partially recognizes her as he sneaks into the embassy to check out the Legendary Secret Treasure. Feeling like he’s met Usagi before, he asks her to dance, just as Usagi is reflecting that having people think you’re a princess is no fun if you’re all by yourself. Awww, Sailor Moon lady-friendship themes (echoed through Princess Diamond’s unhappyness at being alone elsewhere in the episode). Usagi gets to dance with her beloved Tuxedo Mask, and has her own moment of deja vu.

But meanwhile Evil!Naru is putting Nephrite’s Steal the Legendary Secret Treasure plan to work. The plan is that she walks up to the government security dudes outside Princess Diamond’s room and tell them she’s a friend of Princess Diamond. And… that’s it. That works.

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We didn’t like, check, or anything, because we’re terrible at our jobs.

So… if security is this freakin’ lax at Diamond Kingdom embassy, why did Nephrite need to posses Naru in the first place? It seems like he could have just walked in here himself. “You seem like a fun person,” says Princess Diamond to a purple skinned and evil faced Naru, “How can I help you?” Nephrite’s evil spirit leaves Naru, putting her in a dead faint, and possesses Princess Diamond, who grabs the box containing the Secret Treasure and shoves her way past the guards, dashing to the balcony in the ballroom. Nephrite’s waiting below to catch it, in the most uncomplicated heist in the history of national treasures.

Before she can chuck it over, however, Usagi attempts to stop her and… succeeds only in falling off the balcony. Tuxedo mask catches her by the arm, just like two episodes ago, while Rei and Ami, who’ve been hanging around outside the embassy (because that was the original plan, god, Usagi) confront him. Tuxedo Mask and Usagi float majestically to the ground using Usagi’s princess umbrella

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It’s a thing that happens, yeah.

And, knowing he’s beat, Nephrite nopes out of there. Before Tuxedo Mask can follow, Ami stops him and demands to know who he is. He confesses that he doesn’t know: the Legendary Silver Crystal holds the key to his identity, and if the Sailor Senshi are also searching for it, it may be true that they are enemies. He frankly doesn’t know. He also takes his leave, but things aren’t over yet: Nephrite’s spirit is still possessing Princess Diamond. An exorcism from Rei and a few special abilities later, and it is destroyed. But with the horrified way the Princess reacts to a talking cat, it’s clear that she’s not the droid the Senshi are looking for. Naru wakes up alone in the Princess’ room, the Legendary Secret Treasure turns out to be a statue of a princess cut from a humongous diamond (not the Silver Crystal after all), and then…

Then Usagi gets drunk, thinking all those fancy glasses of stuff were juice. Sleepy, she bumps into Tuxedo Mask unknowingly and he gives her just… the creepiest look.

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GAH.

Then he takes her out on to the balcony where there are less people, sits her drunk, sleepy ass down and kisses her while Usagi voice overs about how this feels familiar. Like… I know what you’re going for here, Sailor Moon, but it’s giving me the heebie jeebies. Cut it out.

Moon Prism Power… Wrap Up!

Judging by the the titles alone, next week promises to be two solid episodes of Naru/Nephrite drama. Is he getting ousted? ARE WE GONNA GET MORE ZOISITE AND KUNZITE? I’m vibrating in anticipation.

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