This week on Sailor Moon: Tuxedo Mask actually does something useful, and I get to meet another Sailor Senshi! SO EXCITE.
Usagi Learns Her Lesson: Becoming a Star is Hard Work
In this week, everybody is obsessed with teen idol Mikan Shiratori, including Jadite, who decides that preying on humanity’s desire to become famous is his latest scheme. He decides this while standing in plain sight, in a trenchcoat, hat, and glasses, watching Mikan sign autographs for a group of giggling girls, because he takes his life as a creepy villain very seriously. But it’s not just the bad guys: After a suggestion from Usagi’s-biggest-fan-Umino, she and Naru decide to try their own hands at becoming famous performers. Cue the most adorable thing ever:
But all is not well in the Usagi/Naru friendship kingdom, as Usagi’s characteristic clumsiness messes up the dance steps, triggering an argument that ends in the two deciding to break up the band before they’ve even finished their first song. Without Naru, Usagi’s a bit lost as to what to do for an act, until she remembers that she has a secretly sentient cat, and starts putting together an animal tricks routine with Luna. For her part, Naru ropes a patsy Umino into dressing in drag for her because they’ll sing songs together and that’s an act, I guess?
Meanwhile, Youma of the week, Derela, is off messing with Mikan in the shower, wrapping her up in some kind of glass rope she shoots from her mouth, and then shapeshifting into her evil double. I wonder if this is what happened to Naru’s mom? Derela!Mikan and Jadite start a talent contest, in the guise of grooming performers for stardom, when in reality they’re hypnotizing them into obsession and branding them with handstamps so they can suck out their energy. Most of Usagi’s classmates, including Naru and Umino, get brainwashed. What’s keeping Usagi from the team?
Well, some cats are just straight divas. …Or Luna was just going along with Usagi because she thought our heroine needed to cut back from crimefighting for a bit: she never expected that Usagi would actually follow through and now she’s definitely not cooperating for a cat and pony show. Which is… fair. Usagi’s not real good at follow through. What it might behoove Luna to remember, however, is that Usagi’s real good at following through if she’s got a chance to accomplish a task by putting in less work than it would otherwise require. Like doing an animal act with a secretly magical cat. Still, Luna’s speech about the responsibilities that prevent Usagi from seeking a life of fame is solid. Naturally, Usagi runs away from it in tears. She is found by Mamoru (GO INVESTIGATE SOME CRIME, MAMORU) who doesn’t even have the time to be mean to her before she stomps away in a huff. Then we get to watch him staring after her like a creep.
The next day at school, everybody’s gone star crazy, convinced that they’re already famous, except for Usagi, of course. She and Luna put it together that maybe the Dark Kingdom is involved in this, so they follow everybody to the theater where the Dark Kingdom is making all these foolish mortals dance monkey dance for the illusion of an audience made up of Heartless so they can suck out their energy.
When confronted, Derela is so scary that Usagi has to go take refuge in the bathroom for a bit before turning into Sailor Moon. And by the way, the men’s bathroom at this theater is FOR TUXEDO MASKS ONLY. He’s probably in there right now, changing his costume, too. But even after transforming, Derela still gets the upper hand, encasing Sailor Moon in glass from her… glass breath weapon? But wait. Something momentous is about to happen.
A rose hits the glass and shatters it, freeing Sailor Moon.
Ladies and gentlemen, Tuxedo Mask has actually done something.
Then he nopes out of there, the Moon Tiara does its work, and everybody wakes up and goes back to their lives, confused about how they got there, including Mikan, who is hopefully none the worse for wear for spending nearly two days immobilized in her bathtub. So that was a pretty formulaic episode, without much in the way of supporting Usagi’s trend of character development. The next episode doesn’t even resolve Usagi and Naru’s rivalry in this one. Ah well, they can’t all be either awesome or spectacular duds, so lets go meet Sailor Mercury!
The Girl Genius Is a Monster: The Brainwashing Cram School of Horror
We begin with Queen Beryl and Jadite discussing their next plan, which, they digress, is, like, way, way less devious and harmful to children than parents who browbeat their kids into becoming academic overachievers. Kids, if your parents are all up in your grill about school, they’re worse than monsters. Keep watching TV! All that school work is so they can get into a good college, says Queen Beryl, “So what do they do after they leave a first-rate university?” Jadite responds: “I have no idea.” Stay in school, kids!
Meanwhile, Usagi’s mom is turning on the guilt trip hardcore about our heroine’s poor grades, and I mean, like, this is an actual line: “Usagi, I’m not asking for much from you when it comes to school. Just please try not to fail, okay?” Which had me pretty prepared to feel sympathetic to Usagi, I mean it’s gotta be hard to work when even your own mother is just hoping for at least a D minus. But instead of telling her mother that maybe a little support would be helpful, Usagi petulantly whines that “If there’s a top of the class, there has to be a bottom too.” Yeah, mom, come on, SOMEBODY’s got to get failing grades, it’s not my fault literally everyone else in my class is smarter than me at all times, and it certainly isn’t a situation that could be changed with a better work ethic.
Usagi, you’re a bright young girl and you’re better than that. But you haven’t figured that out yet because you’re a fourteen year old. Luna is also getting on Usagi’s butt to work harder at her ultimate destiny: finding this mysterious princess and fighting monsters. “Hey, speaking of monsters,” says Usagi, “you’ve never actually told me what the heck is up with these jerks I’ve been fighting. What is their deal, anyway?” Aww yiss, backstory! I didn’t even know this show came with backstory!
So I knew this episode was the introduction of Sailor Mercury, but I didn’t know it was also, finally, the intro of Luna’s secret base in the video game arcade. We get to see it briefly as Luna uses the Sailor V console to report to some kind of superior about how annoying Sailor Moon is and how she’s been sensing this new kind of energy lately. It’s been coming from one of Usagi’s classmates, so she’s probably a monster, is what Luna is saying, even though she’s super adorable.
The next day at school, the results of a school test come back, so Usagi and classmates wind up chatting about the resident overachiever, Ami Mizuno. Then, exposition-boy-Umino literally comes out of no where to tell them all things they didn’t ask to know.
Basically, he tells them all about how she’s probably the smartest student in the whole city, and that while her doctor mother could afford to send her to the new, super expensive cram school (I genuinely never get tired of finding out about regional school differences, so reading a couple manga over the last year has been pretty exciting for me), her grades have gotten her a full scholarship anyway. None of them actually know her, though: anyone that smart has got to be full of themselves to boot.
Cue Ami standing in the hallway, looking out the window, appearing super lonely. GUYS JUST BE FRIENDS WITH HER. Usagi walks home alone, wishing she was smarter, only to notice Ami walking home down another street, where she gets mugged by Luna. Like any good protagonist, Usagi recognizes a meet-cute when she sees one and runs up to introduce herself. She ignores Luna’s warnings that Ami must be a monster, not because she’s so adorable, but because she thinks that if she can make friends with the girl genius, she could get Ami to tutor her. I mean, that’s a little disingenuous, Usagi, but it’s not the worst idea you’ve ever had.
Usagi invites Ami to come play some games at the arcade, and, holy smokes, Ami is so good at the Sailor V game that a crowd forms. But cram school time approaches, so she has to jet out of there, leaving Usagi with an apology and this final statement:
That’s not true, she also accidentally leaves Usagi with a floppy disk. Our heroine and Luna visit the cram school to try and return it, only to flee in terror before the appearance of Mamoru, who may or may not have heard Luna talking out loud. It’s too bad, because they totally miss disguised youma Garoben pressuring Ami into studying with her school-issued floppy disk like all the other students. Luna suggests that they go check out the contents of that disk before they just give it back to suspected-monster Ami and we get our first look at one of my favorite things in Sailor Moon.
Anyway, the disk is full of Dark Kingdom brainwashing, so it’s time for SAILOR MOOOON.
It’s not time for Sailor Moon?
Okay, it’s time for SAILOR DISGUISED AS A DOCTOR. Because I guess Usagi thought it would be difficult to get into a cram school looking like… a fourteen year old student? Security, have that girl removed, she is clearly too stupid to go to cram school. Anyway, the doctor ruse lasts about two seconds, as Usagi dashes into the school room and yells at everybody to stop studying and get out. Brainwashed students don’t have much reaction to this, but Ami somewhat hilariously tells a doctor to user her indoor voice, as all of these zombies are trying to study, jesus.
Now, Usagi’s convinced. A girl her own age who wouldn’t welcome a study distraction? Gotta be a monster. TIME FOR PUNISHMENT IN THE NAME OF THE MOON. Of course, once Sailor Moon has actually appeared, the actual youma reveals herself, taking Ami hostage and rallying the zombie students against Sailor Moon.
Oh also her battle attacks come in pop quiz form, where she punishes Sailor Moon for not knowing basic facts, so essentially now we know how poorly Usagi would do on Legends of the Hidden Temple. While Usagi is dodging her razor sharp exam papers and trying to keep out of reach of a mob of zombies, Garoben gets fed up with not being able to steal Ami’s energy and just tries to shove her head into a computer monitor.
Oh shit, lady, you just woke the dragon. Luna finally figures out that what she’s sensing isn’t a monster, it’s a new Sailor Senshi! She makes Ami her own… wand? Pen? And Ami transforms for the first time into Sailor Mercury!
For those of you following along at home, I am, despite myself, singing and bopping along to each transformation now, even though it’s totally filler footage. And I gotta say, Ami gets with the Sailor Guardian program real fast. A quick Bubble Spray ability shrouds the room in cold fog, and while Garoben is distracted by illusions, Sailor Moon disintegrates her with a Moon Tiara. The day is saved, and look how happy Ami is to be told that she’s a member of a superhero team! Usagi still hopes that having Ami around will help out her grades, but is worried that Ami will be a much better Sailor Senshi than she is. Because that’s super likely. Really super likely.
Moon Prism Power Wrap Up
This week started out with a pretty classically formulated episode, but did not disappoint when it came to introducing our first new senshi. And while I loved Ami (I have this feeling that my favorite senshi is going to change radically depending on which one I happen to be thinking of at any given moment… right now it’s still Mars, but Mercury is pretty freakin’ great), her episode leaves me with some questions. Is Ami immune to youma magic? Or just THIS youma magic? Maybe her energy couldn’t be stolen, because her natural talent for studying allows her to do a lot of it without desiring it strongly?
Or was she just immune for dramatic purposes? My money is on that last one, but you can’t fault me for trying to find complexities. I don’t have a lot experience in watching anime that was explicitly made for young children: my main experiences with the medium have been intricate shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Revolutionary Girl Utena, in which tiny details support entire plot twists.
Speaking of metatext, I wonder what the idea here was with Luna suspecting that Ami was a monster. The show doesn’t make much of an effort to fool the audience, establishing early on that the administrator at the cram school is obviously a youma in disguise, so it probably wasn’t for the purposes of creating a plot twist later on. My memory of the manga is a bit hazy, so maybe it was just something lost in adaptation.
Questions aside, I fortunately won’t have to wait long for another Sailor Senshi to arrive on the scene. Next week I get to watch the introduction of the closest thing Sailor Moon has to a Riot Grrl, Sailor Mars. I can’t wait.
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