Sailor Moon Crystal Recap, Act 5: “Makoto—Sailor Jupiter”
Rock you like a Flower Hurricane
I gotta say, this episode was worth the extra week of waiting—not only was it one of the best looking of the series so far, but it also brought us the fourth member of the team, Sailor Jupiter! I had a lot of feelings about it. Let’s discuss them meticulously.
As always, this recap is going to throw down some spoilers for the original anime and manga, so if you’re a newbie who wants to experience the series for the first time, check out Susana Polo’s Newbie recaps!
Usagi and Luna are talking about the ~mission~ on their way to school (and by the way, how come Luna is just hanging out at school all the time?), and Luna tells her she “lacks awareness.” C’mon, Luna, that is like asking for your protagonist to unknowingly step into oncoming traffic. Luckily Makoto is there to save the day in glorious slow motion, as both their thematically appropriate umbrellas go flying.
While true to the original manga, this is substantially different than Makoto’s first anime appearance, where she takes down a bunch of jerks who antagonize Usagi. I honestly do think the anime does a better job of setting up Makoto’s distaste for bullies in that opening scene, as well as her reputation for fighting, but let’s be honest—who can say no to a good “saving someone from a getting hit by a car” trope? Even the ’90s show did that a couple of times.
Anyway, Usagi is immediately smitten, as evidenced by the usual rose-covered frame and her frazzled declaration that this new girl smells really nice. What do you think Makoto smells like? Rosewater and cookies and maybe just a little bit of bully-stomping sweat, I bet. Just sayin’ I’d wear that cologne, Premium Bandai.
After our bi-weekly dose of Moon Pride we return to the Dark Kingdom, where Beryl is pretty goddamned pissed at those Sailor Guardians. Nephrite promises he has a surefire way to make up for last time’s failure by preying on humans’ ability to love, as it’s their biggest weakness. If only Crystal Nephrite could see his OG anime counterpart, man. He’d be so embarrassed.
Speaking of which, they then immediately cut to this:
Naru explains to the exposition gang that she tried on the
$3000 ham napkin dress for both her cousin and her fiancé, neither of whom could make it to the fitting. Uhhhh, then who was having this fitting? Umino pops in with his regular shtick of “knowing more about the supernatural goings on of the town then the actual characters with supernatural powers” and adds that a lot of men who’ve visited that particular bridal shop have gone missing. Surprisingly, no one makes a single cold feet joke.
While gushing about her dream of becoming a bride, Usagi bumps into Makoto in the hallway. Once again we get a sparkly close-up of her earrings, because OH HEY THE STRONG GIRL IS SUPER FEMININE DID WE MENTION YOU GUYS? And she’s so strong, in fact, she can get away with wearing a completely different school uniform because she’s hella tall and nothing else will fit her. (a bit of trivia: Naoko Takeuchi loosely based Mako’s outfit on a cultural stereotype called the Sukeban, meaning a girl gang leader who usually wore a longer skirt and rolled-up sleeves.)
Later Makoto goes in search of someone to eat lunch with, but everyone is afraid of her because they are big dumb jerks. Usagi comes across her outside alone on a bench Ben Wyatt-style, only instead of eating sad nerd soup, she’s got the cutest bento box filled with the most delicious looking food Usagi has ever seen (and that’s saying a lot, because to Usagi everything is the most delicious). She stealthily makes her approach:
And then pops up and demands food from Makoto, who also has to save her from getting hit in the face with a baseball by catching it with her bare hand oh my god girl WHAT. Which is cool and all, but Usagi is singularly focused on that food, to the point where she starts whimpering like a puppy when Makoto goes to take a bite.
Once she gets her rice ball, she comes down on Mako like a brick of solid gold friendship. “This is so delicious YOU MADE IT THAT’S SO COOL I love your lunchbox you’re so impressive your earrings are pretty LET’S BE BEST FRIENDS!” Makoto, trying to be practical, asks Usagi to give her a tour of the town because no one else wants to talk to her, and Usagi laughs it off in disbelief that anywould could possibly be scared of her.
Then Makoto makes this face an oh my gosh my feelings
They end up at the arcade, where both Ami and Luna notice Makoto’s preternatural ability to play their favorite Sailor V game. Motoki notices too, causing Makoto to develop a big ol’ crush on him. Somehow this leads to Usagi decreeing that from now on Makoto should be called Mako-chan, and Ami remarking on Usagi’s uncanny ability to make friends; honestly, it’s an odd moment of telling instead of showing, and one of the weaker parts of the episode. Fortunately, it quickly ends when Motoki starts in on those bridal shop rumors, and the gang heads over to investigate. And also look at pretty dresses. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive, you know.
Armed with the newfound knowledge that a ghost mannequin might be seducing men at night, they head over to resident ghost expert Rei to bring her up to speed. Makoto gets the distinct impression they’re talking about something she isn’t involved in and leaves, while Rei and Luna get the distinct impression Makoto is probably magic. And Rei’s instincts are always right.
But unfortunately the Dark Kingdom can sense her magic too, because that night one of the evil mannequins comes to life (in one of the series’ creepier moments so far), ensnares Motoki, and then uses him to get to Makoto. But Mamoru sees them, figures something’s up, and leaps into action…
…to go find Usagi so she can fix it. HAH. I’ll admit that Post-Twilight, the whole him-standing-over-her-when-she-wakes-up thing is just a bit strange, but considering it’s less “Oh hello there significantly younger girl I enjoy watching you sleep” and more “Wake up because YOU HAVE TO SAVE THE DAY WITH YOUR SUPERPOWERS,” I’m 100% willing to buy into it.
Of course, Luna isn’t, and calls Rei and Ami on her comunnicator to warn them that Usagi’s run off. The three converge on the spot (and I love that while Usagi and Ami are wearing pajamas, Rei is still wearing her miko outfit—quite literally burning the midnight oil there, hun?) where Mako’s being attacked and transform together. It’s a pretty rad set-up for a fight, as long as you don’t question the timeline too thoroughly.
Now, here they leave out one thing from the manga that part of me sort of wishes they’d kept—namely, Usagi transforming into a “groom” for three seconds to…infiltrate the bridal shop, or something? (let’s face it, most of Usagi’s disguises were excuses for Naoko to draw her in different outfits) But the fact that they left it out isn’t too weird, considering it doesn’t contribute much to the story and isn’t a nostalgic part of the anime for viewers like the doctor and flight attendant disguises. Still, Usagi in a tux, though.
The team is doing pretty well against the youma (like, really well) until she grabs Makoto to use as a shield, and Nephrite reveals himself as the puppetmaster behind the mannequin, gloating that humans are so easily fooled by appearances. Given that her appearance is so intimidating, Makoto feels this on a deep personal level, and plunges headfirst into a flashback where we learn the senpai she was crushing on back at her old school more or less ditches her (presumably after stringing her along, given that he opens with “Oh, didn’t I tell you?”) for a new girlfriend.
Makoto does not take this flashback well.
So, this deviates pretty drastically from most other adaptations of Makoto’s introduction. Usually what happens is she overcomes her insecurities herself with some very gentle nudging. But this time, she needs Usagi to reach out to her and explicitly tell her “loving someone is not a foolish thing to do.” I’ve seen some people in the fandom who I admire very strongly argue this weakens Makoto’s character in favor of bolstering Usagi’s, and I absolutely respect that, but I interpreted it much differently on first watch.
When you’re the kind of person who cares very strongly and immediately for others, rejection of any kind can often make you feel naive and foolish for not guarding your heart more closely. And I’ll admit, I feel like one of those naive people a lot of the time, so Makoto’s desire to give up and stop feeling anything in this moment really hit home for me in a powerful, visceral way. Having Usagi declare her nihilistic assessment of the world to be false isn’t exactly subtle, and she does hit the romantic love aspect a little too hard when she’s telling Mako to “believe in love,” but I still love the fact that the show so bluntly encourage its characters—and by extension, its audience—not to treat their own emotions as something holding them back. Regardless of how hamfisted it might have been, the exchange was really important to me in the moment.
And it was important to Makoto, too, because she decides to start fighting back and throws the bride youma over her shoulder like it ain’t no thang. Seeing the Jupiter mark on her forehead, Luna throws her a pen, and she knows just what to do with it without even being prompted.
Unlike the rest of the senshi, Jupiter has two attacks: Flower Hurricane, which sends razor sharp petals at Nephrite (somewhere anime Zoisite is laughing his face off), and Jupiter Thunderbolt, which explodes the bride and zaps Nephrite a bit before he disappears, presumably to hang out in failure-land with unburninated Jadeite.
All the disappeared dudes find themselves back in the bridal shop, and Jupiter explains to the senshi that she transferred schools because she couldn’t face going to school with the boy who broke her heart. But, she adds, she also believes fate guided her to Juuban Middle School not for romance, but for their friendship and her new mission. “Damn straight, who has time for men anyway,” Mars says. No, really. There’s the Rei Hino I know and love.
So SPEAKING OF MISSIONS, Luna jumps in to lay some knowledge on the girls: now that there’s four of them, they have to combine their efforts to find their princess, with the help of a brand new fancy Moon Stick. Oh, and Sailor Moon has to lead them. The episode ends here, but I want to believe there was a moment in this conversation where Ami went, “Hey if we’re going in order of the solar system shouldn’t there also be a Sailor Ven—” and Luna interrupted with a “SHHHH HUSH.”
Like many longtime Sailor Moon fans, I often have a hard time pinning down just who is my favorite senshi of the bunch. To be honest, usually it ends up being whichever one of the girls I’m looking at in any particular moment (though as a moody twelve year old I did have a particular fondness for Hotaru). But out of all the introductory episodes, Makoto’s is always my favorite regardless of which adaptation I’m reading or watching. There’s just something about her complete and utter willingness to give into her feelings for people I find so endearing and relatable, as I mentioned above—and while I don’t know that Crystal’s version is my favorite of all time (original anime and PGSM are tied neck and neck, if only because PGSM Mako gets this moment), this has definitely been my favorite episode of Crystal so far. Though, they’ve been doing a manga act per episode, so I’m still curious to see when and if they’ll deviate to do their own thing—hopefully right after Venus shows up so we can get as much girltime as possible!