Sailor Moon Newbie Recap: The Finale

End of Sailor Moongelion
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Let me tell you a quick story about Susana’s First Anime.

It was Neon Genesis Evangelion. To this day, seeing the themes of body horror and existentialist crises about the fundamental nature of humanity in anime give me a warm glow of nostalgia. And my favorite anime, Revolutionary Girl Utena, is similarly famous for going entirely off the textual rails in its conclusion and OVA. So, while queuing up the two-part finale of Sailor Moon‘s first season this weekend, I joked:

I joked because I was kind of hoping it would be. The finale of a show has got to pull out of the usual formula to really seem momentous, but I was hoping that Sailor Moon would surprise me with going an extra mile. Let me tell you, I was not expecting to be kind of right.

So, dark spots are covering the sun, global weather is going haywire, and after the events of last episode, the Senshi pledged to immediately assault the lair of the Dark Kingdom and wipe them off the earth forever.

So naturally what happens next is that Usagi goes home to make dinner for her family.

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usagi the world is literally ending

Usagi begins weeping when she starts to eat, but it turns out she just made it way too spicy. I’d like to think of this scene as Usagi doing the best she can to say a real farewell to her family before she goes off to certain death and danger, without revealing her secret life to them. Her tears are real, but she pretends it’s because the curry is so spicy. Buuuttt I’m pretty sure that’s just a headcanon, not an insight into the text as presented.

Later, at the Hikawa shrine, the Senshi prepare emotionally and physically sartorially for their battle, affirming that when this is all over, they’re all going to stop putting off the things they’ve felt too busy to do while crimefighting. Even Ami admits she’d like to get a boyfriend.

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Luna and Artemis explain the mission: get to Point D on the Arctic Circle and defeat Queen Beryl. The cat guardians can’t come, as they were injured last episode. How are they getting there? Turns out that when the Senshi are all present (and the moon is out, it’s implied), they have the ability to teleport, leaving behind a minimum of property damage. CONVENIENT.

Next stop: the Arctic, where Rei tells Usagi that if she would just woman up and stop whining she’d be less cold. The Senshi quickly locate the Dark Kingdom.

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Oh you mean the crater that’s belching foul purple smoke. Yeah, that makes sense.

Sensing the approach of the Senshi before the resurrection of Queen Metalia is complete, and having run into an extreme shortage of Kings of Heaven, Queen Beryl sends out the DD Girls, who I’m guessing can only exist near Point D in the Arctic circle, because this team of five youma do not mess around.

In fact, this is where the finale reached the point where I started to regret my joke. You know, the part where Usagi’s four companions are systematically picked off one by one by a pack of youma, each time taking one or more of their foes with them into the icy grip of screaming, bloody death. We start with a body-horror filled trap in which Usagi is made to believe that her true love has been tortured half to death.

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If you’d read me those last two sentences six months ago, I probably would not have believed you.

The Senshi manage to keep Usagi from dashing to Tuxedo Mask’s side, only to be caught unawares when it’s Makoto who falls hard for an illusion of Motoki. In close quarters, the other Senshi can’t get a power off without hitting Sailor Jupiter, who winds up turning herself into an electric bomb in an attempt to take out all five youma at once. Stunned, the youma back off to regroup, leaving the Senshi to confront the fact that they’re being hunted… and Makoto is dead.

Usagi breaks down, ready to hand over the Silver Crystal immediately, and it’s actually Ami who brings her back to the reality: they can’t allow Makoto to have died in vain. Then she volunteers to delay the youma as Usagi, Rei, and Minako trek towards the Dark Kingdom, as her Senshi power is purely defensive and they’ll need all the firepower they can get in there. Also because Ami has a keen instinct for self-sacrifice.

As Rei, Minako, and Usagi leave, the youma create an illusion of Urawa, in perhaps the most heartwrenching moment of the episode, Ami is just happy that the youma have shown her proof that she can and does harbor strong romantic feelings for a person. But we all know how effective Bubble Spray is without a heavy hitter to back it up, and while Ami does manage to destroy the source of the illusions—smashing the lead youma’s forehead gem with her computer—she is ultimately killed.

Minako follows quickly, probably because since she’s the most recently introduced Senshi and hasn’t had a lot of time for character development and so the writers didn’t really have enough to go on for a meaty death scene. That leaves Rei and Usagi, who have just enough time for Rei to tell Usagi “All we ever did was fight, but it was fun,” and for Usagi to desperately attempt to bluff Rei into going home where she’ll be safe while she fights everyone herself and definitely won’t hand over the Silver Crystal immediately after she’s left alone.

Rei, who actually knows how to make a successful bluff check, reassures Usagi that she’ll have the two remaining youma polished off in just a sec. And then the final two DD Girls just thrash her. I’m not sure what constraints Sailor Moon had on what was acceptable and unacceptable violence to show to kids, but if they were anything like those in the US of the same era, Rei’s death is absolutely a case where showing less means communicating more. After the youma and Rei are swallowed by a maw of ice, all we hear are screams, until a Fire Soul blasts a tunnel through the side of the mound and the screaming stops. The victorious final youma emerges with Rei’s body, but Sailor Mars the Bringer of War is not done, and fries the last DD Girl with fire before expiring herself.

Usagi is left alone, in the arctic, each of her friends having died to keep her safe so that she can accomplish a task that she’s not entirely sure is within her power. In screenwriter language, it’s the second act crisis, where the hero hits their biggest low before continuing on to kick butt anyway, and, yeah Sailor Moon earned this low. The (metaphorical? I mean, they’re magical girls, so who knows) spirits of her friends visit Usagi and urge her to be strong and have hope, because they’re always with her. Queue the badass running loop of the hero surging on to meet their destiny, and we’ve wrapped the first part of the finale.

And, well, it’s the better part of the finale, let’s face it. The show’s always been more about Usagi’s friendships than her romances, and part two is about 50% focused on wrapping up Tuxedo Mask’s plot line. Like, I feel for ya, bro, but this is always gonna be about the Senshi.

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Just in case you weren’t sure if Queen Beryl is cooler than you, she is.

So, Usagi reaches the Dark Kingdom, or, rather she gets close enough that Queen Beryl just gets tired of waiting and teleports her in, only to unleash a fully re-brainwashed Endymion on her, chock full of Queen Metalia’s dark energy. Moon Healing Escalation is useless.

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Though sparklier than it has EVER BEEN.

Then Endymion kicks her ass. Nastily. Magical torture. Plain old kicks in the gut. Choking. Finally, Beryl tells him to quit playing around and just behead her, but she really seals her doom when she makes the mistake of bringing up Usagi’s dead friends.

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This is why you don’t fucking mess with Hufflepuffs.

As Endymion raises his sword for the killing blow, Usagi pulls out his locket, the one given to him in a past life by her past life, and begs him to remember who he really is, and who she really is. Mamoru touches the locket and is cured, in a flood of memories that include a return to his first childhood memories, waking up alone with amnesia after his parents were killed. Except Usagi is there now to comfort him, and as he transforms from kid-Mamoru to adult-Mamoru, she tells him that he’s not alone.


And now I need to be alone.

And just when you think Mamoru’s going to be un-damseled for five fucking minutes, he jumps in front of Queen Beryl’s attack on Usagi and dies.

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And I guess he mortally wounds Beryl with a rose or something, but he she just floats through the floor to go whine to Metalia about how Mamoru could have married her and become king of the Earth AND Moon.

While Usagi has some quality pep talking time with Mamoru’s corpse, Beryl petitions Queen Metalia for a measure of her power. Metalia responds by saying that it’s finally time to “imbue all living creatures in the universe with hatred and greed,” which finally solidifies for me the nature of the Dark Kingdom’s early attempts at gathering energy through material and pseudo-romantic traps, because the opposite of hatred and greed could be considered love and desire. Then she turns Beryl…

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Giant Queen Beryl attempts to smash Usagi with ice, but really only gives her a sweet platform so that they can be eye to eye for the real business: magical beams of power in opposition.

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Meanwhile, in Tokyo, where it really seems like the world is ending, Luna and Artemis stress over the likelihood that Usagi will release the full power of the Silver Crystal, because that will kill her, but since the world is ending anyway the point seems moot. Also A) isn’t that the thing you have been badgering Usagi about all arc? Becoming a true princess so she can fully wield the Silver Crystal? And B) why didn’t you just tell her that before you sent them to the arctic?

While their beams of power are arcing, Beryl and Usagi have a conversation about how Beryl sees the world as fundamentally flawed, and Usagi believes in the potential of the world for good. Usagi flashbacks on all of her friends and their strong capacity for love, drawing strength from her memories, as their (metaphorical?) spirits appear around her, and a blast from the Silver Crystal destroys Queen Beryl, kills Usagi, and grows to encompass the entire area, including the bodies of Mamoru and all the other Senshi. In voice over, Usagi describes a wish for a normal life.

And then… we get a memory wipe ending. I’ll get this out of the way up front: not a big fan. The Senshi are all alive again, but they don’t remember each other or that they’re Senshi, we find out from Luna and Artemis’ conversation, who are immune to the memory wipe for reasons. So I guess the next season is just a bunch of retread? All of this season’s character development doesn’t count?

I immediately watched a little of the first episode in the next season just to get a sense of whether it was brought up or just retconned, but ultimately decided that I should probably judge the memory wipe on its own merits as a season closer. Which brings us to… *drum roll*


Let’s be real: the emotional climax of this finale was at the end of the first part. Usagi deciding to continue on after the deaths of all of her friends, in a time when she’s more alone and has more crushing responsibility than at any other point in her life. Sorry Mamoru, but given that you and Usagi have had about FIVE MINUTES to interact with each other on equal footing where you both know each other’s identities and have all your memories, I don’t have too much invested in your relationship, so you’re a close second. And Beryl, I mean… you’ve literally never spoken to Usagi or any of these characters before, so I care even less there. You’re essentially a plot device in this episode.

And the memory wipe… I give it a Marge Simpson Hum on the scale of annoyance vs. not being a big enough deal to get angry about. I’ll admit I’m very easily bored with plots that have easily foreseen or clearly inevitable endings. I’ll probably watch more of Sailor Moon (though I won’t be recapping it. Sorry! They’re a lot of work and I need a break!), since it’s so easily obtainable. And believe season 2 is when the guy who would go on to make Revolutionary Girl Utena joins the production, so I’ve got to see that. AND I still haven’t seen hide nor hair of Sailor Uranus and Neptune, a.k.a. the couple who goes to Korrasami’s PTA meetings. I’ve got to get to them if only to comfort all my patiently waiting queer lady friends who grew up on the show.

So that leaves me with another question, Sailor Moon Newbie fans. Do I like Sailor Moon?

I mean, on the whole, yes, I like Sailor Moon. I think it’s a lovely show with a great overall message (though it stumbles a bit in a very early ’90s kids programming way), and that its central themes of love (of all kinds) and blatant female empowerment are especially valuable because of how scarce they are in kids media, particularly kids action media. But there’s a difference between a show that’s great for kids and a show that’s great for adults. And there’s the third option: a show that’s great for kids and has enough engaging content for adults. And I’m not sure Sailor Moon, or the first season, at least, falls into that category alongside, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Batman: The Animated Series, or Harry Potter, for example.

I’m gonna stress that that’s not a bad thing. If I could come at the show entirely from a kid’s perspective, I would, if only because that’d be some kinda freaky sci-fi mind wipe of it’s own. But as an adult with no specific nostalgia for the series, I felt that I was always viewing it at a bit of a remove. I like the show, and I would recommend it, but I don’t really feel like I can place myself on any spectrum being in the Sailor Moon fandom.

But I can’t be an enthusiastic consumer or educated commentator on Bee and PuppyCat or Steven Universe or Star and the Forces of Evil if I don’t educate myself about the most famous incarnation of the magical girl genre. Watching Sailor Moon has meant that I can directly see how tropes are being repackaged for an audience several decades younger and culturally and geographically removed from Sailor Moon by women who grew up on the show. And I’m looking forward to immersing myself in more of them!

There are no more spoilers, so comments on this post are NOT locked. [Editor’s note: but be cool and tag future season spoilers just in case, y’all.] But you can still talk to Susana on Twitter!

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Image of Susana Polo
Susana Polo
Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.