Wait, you mean the villains of kids entertainment can actually fire their incompetent henchmen?
Girls Unite: The End of Jadeite
We pick up where we left off last week, with Jadeite getting a royal talking to from Queen Beryl. He’s got one more chance to take out the Sailor Senshi, or it’s the Eternal Sleep for him, where he’ll join what I like to imagine are at least five of Queen Beryl’s ex-husbands. So it’s a good thing that Jadeite has the best plan ever: run them over with an airplane.
I don’t know man, I just recap ’em. I’ll get to that in a bit. Back in Juban, Luna’s trying to teach Usagi some basic stuff about constellations, probably useful considering the zodiacal nature of the Sailor Senshi, but Usagi’s only thinking about the two boys she has a crush on: Motoki and Tuxedo Mask. If only they were the same person, she muses, but I mean come on Usagi they don’t even have the same hair color. Lessons are interrupted by GIANT ILLUSORY JADEITE, who appears above all of Juban to offer this ultimatum: If the Sailor Senshi don’t
give him a ride to the airport meet him at the airport the next night at 1am, Tokyo will burn.
Pretty scary, Jadeite. You’d really think this guy could come up with something better than trying to run over a human being with an airplane. The Sailor Senshi are divided on what to do, since it’s obviously a trap, and are so divided along their typical lines. Passionate Rei wants to march right in there and blow up the place, cerebral Ami thinks they should come up with a good plan first, and Usagi is just scared and doesn’t want to do it. Who’s not scared of the big bad
wolf fire breathing dude in the sky? Pretty much everybody else.
Turns out it’s hard not to notice a giant sky man who appears over Tokyo, and Jadeite’s message is all anyone’s talking about the next day. The police are posting special watch on the airport, and Usagi’s classmates are all wondering whether or not they should sneak out to the airport to see what happens. When Usagi tells them that they should stay home and study instead, her teacher asks her if she has a fever. Next are more of your typical beats of a Sailor Moon episode. Motoki says something nice, and Mamoru makes Usagi cry for no reason. Except this time, there are a bunch of other adults around to be all “What the hell is that guy’s problem?”
But the day is over far too quickly, and it’s time for the Sailor Senshi’s ultimate showdown of ultimate Jadeitestiny. He’s even arranged for a late hours tram to take them out to the runway. Which they ride forever. Seriously, there are several shots that I guess are supposed to be about the girls being nervous about walking into a trap, but it’s just kinda… repeat footage-y. To be completely honest with you, this episode was just not working for me, and I’m super interested to talk about the next one with its haunted tennis rackets and sassy floating dudes and Tuxedo Mask actually being even the least bit interesting.
But FIRST, the Sailor Senshi have to get to the airport, get chased by cops, realize they’re cop-golems because Jadeite put all the real cops into an enchanted sleep, transform, destroy them, and then listen to Jadeite give his Big Speech. And it’s actually pretty good. “The joys of life are short lived, and its ordeals many… Your lives will end today!” I guess if it’s going to be your last episode, Jadeite, you deserve to go out on a rhetorical high note. But Usagi and Rei kinda ruin the moment by arguing over who’s prettier, so he tries to run them over with an airplane.
And the Senshi are all “OH SHIT RUN” and I’m all, “Really? It only touches the ground in three small places and has a turning radius of dozens of feet just STAND UNDERNEATH IT, but no, everybody’s running. Running away from the incredibly ungainly passenger jet in a straight line. Luna orders them not to destroy the airplanes, because… they’re expensive. And it looks like the Senshi are gonna run out of runway, instead of, you know, turning, when Tuxedo Mask shows up to defend his regional title of Most Grandstanding for Smallest Effort from the efforts of Jadeite. They… fight?
I dunno, man, the airplane stops and then they both fall into the ocean, and the only thing that comes out of it is a single rose and a levitating Jadeite, who taunts the Sailor Senshi for needing a man to do everything for them.
Oh. Oh no you didn’t. United under the banner of showing this asshole what’s what about female achievements, the girls ignore the airplanes and combine all their powers to send him back to the Dark Kingdom.
He immediately appears before Queen Beryl, stammering that at least he’s discovered the secret identities of the Sailor Senshi, but I dunno man, it’s not like the scouts have been super tight with their identities. I mean, they showed Tuxedo Mask Ami-out-of-costume a few episodes ago, and even more recently than that, Usagi and Rei transformed in the middle of a theme park, and they’ve transformed repeatedly in front of youma. It seems like if their secret identities had been a priority for you, you coulda just expended a little effort and figured it out before? Queen Beryl seems to feel the same way, i.e., like she could not give a shit, and encases him in a giant crystal, presumably forever. We get a little sneak peek of our next antagonist, Nephrite.
Meanwhile, everybody’s still kinda wondering what happened to Tuxedo Mask, but the good news is that he didn’t drown, somehow. “What the hell is your deal, anyway,” asks Ami, and his answer is “I can’t tell you right now, so, just, like, be friends with each other, I guess?” UGH, TUXEDO MASK. Let’s move on.
A New Enemy Appears: Nephrite’s Evil Crest
We meet Nephrite, who likes to keep things more personal with his energy stealing. Instead of thieving the stuff from hundreds at a time, he prefers to find one person about to hit a peak of energy and steal from them instead. I bet he likes artisanal furniture, too. Also there’s this levitating blonde guy busting his chops and laughing off Nephrite’s threats to harm his person, and I have no idea who he is or what his later role in the series is.
Nephrite retires to his Forest That’s Totally Always Been Here in Juban, or more specifically to his Haunted House That’s Always Been in this Forest That’s Totally Always Been Here, to consult his magical planetarium, so that the stars can tell him whose energy is about to peak. The stars say: Rui Saionji.
Planetariums, one-on-one competitive school sports, athletic women, mysterious forests, and a character named Saionji? Sailor Moon, you just got real Revolutionary Girl Utena up in here.
Rui is a local tennis champ and childhood friend of Usagi’s BFF Naru. As Naru and Usagi watch Rui’s mad skills on the court, a mysterious attractive man appears, leaps over the fence into the court, and shows Rui a thing or two about tennis serves.
Making her way on to my list of Sailor Moon characters who react appropriately to stimuli, Rui’s response to his behavior is “I’m sorry but who are you?” Nephrite introduces himself as a tennis coach who can help her reach new heights of skill, and, while picking up her racket and handing it back to her, he curses it with a youma spirit, so that Rui’s energy will rise to a peak, upon which time the youma will emerge and steal all of it. The cursed racket now allows Rui to hit tennis balls so hard they dent the ground, which everybody seems to think is pretty cool, except for Naru, who is concerned with her friend’s corresponding personality change to an inconsiderate, driven jerk who won’t stop practicing and in doing so abuses and exhausts all her opponents.
But I’m getting ahead of myself: first Luna makes contact with her superiors at the Game Center, who tell her a bunch of things that the audience had worked out half a dozen episodes ago. Like that the monsters they’re fighting are from the “Dark Kingdom,” and they’re stealing energy. And that nobody really knows what they’re doing with the energy they’ve stolen. She explains this to the Sailor Senshi, encouraging them to remember what they’re training up for, and expresses heavy disappointment in her worst pupil, Usagi. Time for Rei to start in on berating Usagi as well, with Ami as the only character who sticks up for our heroine. Still, nobody thinks Usagi’s idea of training by learning to play tennis is a good idea.
Back home, Naru shares her worries about Rui with Usagi in a scene that captures real well the kind of sibling-like relationships you form with the kids who were always around when you were little but weren’t actually your siblings. Ahhh, platonic girl love. (With option for just girl love, of course.) Usagi tells Naru to cheer up: they can try together to find out what happened to Rui and fix it.
After dark, they visit the court where Rui practices every day after school only to find that she’s still practicing, beaning her opponents with tennis balls left and right without mercy. Sensing the Dark Kingdom at work, Usagi sees this as an opportunity to prove to the rest of the that she’s worthy to be a Sailor Senshi on her own.
Naru confronts Rui, telling her that she’s not acting like herself, and in response an angry Rui winds up with some kind of crazy hurricaine blast from her racket and bowls them both into a bush. Presumably Naru is knocked unconscious, because she doesn’t appear in the following fight scene. Usagi just transforms freely. Nephrite senses that Rui’s energy has hit its peak and orders youma Tesuni to to begin her work. She erupts from Rui’s tennis racket as a horrifying wraith, putting her to sleep and solidifying into her true form. “How dare you use tennis for your evil ends!” shouts Usagi, and I chuckle and pause the video to go rewatch Monty Python’s Science Fiction Sketch.
Then Tesuni winds up her spectral tennis racket and delivers a serve that turns Usagi’s torso into a giant tennis ball. Oh, Sailor Moon, it was only a week’s absence, but I have missed your trippy as shit action sequences. Tesuni takes the opportunity of Sailor Moon not being able to stand up to telekinetically bounce her all over the court, until…
It wouldn’t be a new era of bad guy plans if Tuxedo Mask didn’t also have an upgrade, in the form of a collapsable… wand? Or is it a walking stick? Is Tuxedo Mask going to the opera or performing magic tricks? Is there ever going to be a joke about him pulling Usagi out of his hat? Truly, these are questions for the ages. He bops Tesuni with his phallic symbol, and she goes down momentarily, freeing Sailor Moon from her tennis ball prison. Then, instead of just straight up leaving, he invites Sailor Moon to fight the monster along side him. YES GOOD JOB. Together, they evade Tesuni’s ranged attacks until Tuxedo Mask hits her in the face with a single rose.
I like to think that Tuxedo Mask’s roses aren’t even magical, he’s just really good at throwing them and everyone is just so shocked to have a flower thrown at them that they turn out to be effective distractions. He orders Usagi to finish Tesuni off with a Moon Tiara even though he seems to suddenly be having some kind of unexplained medical emergency. Oh man, is there actually going to be a mystery about Tuxedo Mask other than who he is (which I should think is kinda obvious even if you haven’t been spoiled by cultural osmosis or the show’s blatant hinting)? THANK GOODNESS.
Alerted by ????, the other Sailor Senshi and Luna arrive just in time to watch Sailor Moon save the day, so Usagi’s plan to earn a bit more respect does indeed work. But by the time Tesuni has been vanquished, Tuxedo Mask has already done his disappearing act. Status quo is restored, as Rui has no memory of the days in which she used the cursed tennis racket and has changed back to her usual gracious competitor. More importantly, the episode touchingly takes time to establish that Rui and Naru’s friendship is back to normal and strong as ever.
Moon Prism Power Wrap Up
New enemy! New Dark Kingdom strategy! New episode format! I tell ya, I’m used to the convention that incompetent henchmen stick around forever. I mean, if we consider Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to be my anti-Sailor Moon, I grew up with Goldar never getting fired, not to mention the strength of the trope in other media. Guys, I didn’t know Sailor Moon ever switched up the game.
I don’t expect a show for kids to play to adult needs for complexity, but I was starting to get nervous that I’d lose the ability to get excited and engaged in the show going forward if it was just “new business arrives, turns out it’s a Dark Kingdom plot, oh no Bubble Spray Fire Soul Moon Tiara status quo restored” all the time. Even the animation seemed less repetitive and the writing more willing to invest in new characters and their history in this episode alone. I’m super excited to see how this trend continues. I’m also super excited that next week we’re going to learn a little more about Mamoru.