Jab’s Reviews: Sailor Moon (Episodes 23-29)
Welcome back! When last we let off, three Sailors had been assembled (the whiny Sailor Moon, smart Sailor Mercury, and grouchy Sailor Mars) by the talking cat, Luna, and sent against the Dark Kingdom. One general was now dead, but Nephrite was now in charge of the invasion. However, he was opposed by the scheming Zoisite (and her lover, Kunzite), and also befuddled by the love of Sailor Moon’s BEST FRIEND, Naru! The search for the “Moon Princess” continues being an off-and-on thing (ie. they had to fill space while the manga moved ahead in the story), but Queen Beryl, seemingly in charge of the Dark Kingdom, grows impatient.
Overall, it’s fun to re-watch the old series. But… it’s really hard to get around the fact that they take ALL GODDAMN YEAR to get to the POINT, and the show suffers greatly for it in the early going. The parts where it’s JUST Sailor Moon as the only main character are pretty painful, and it’s ten episodes until they get the trio that makes up the early part of the show. And we don’t even get Sailors Jupiter & Venus in the DVD set at all! It’s kind of weird, because if one of those was your favorite, you’d essentially miss out on them for a full TV show season (22 episodes is the American norm). And given that even 23 episodes in, we’re only getting vague bits about the backstory, and tiny hints about “oh hey there’s some Princess we’re searching for”, it comes off a bit like clumsy storytelling. I forget how much the manga explained early on, but it was definitely more-quickly paced (often to its detriment- it plowed through the villains like they weren’t even there).
The music is AMAZINGLY-bad almost all the way through. Apparently the early ’90s in Japan were like America’s 1970s, with weird synth-noise going on all the time. For someone who recalls reading ENDLESS diatribes online about how awful the American Dub was, it’s quite amusing to see how bad some of the original stuff could be like that.
I do like the villains, though. The Voice Acting is okay- nothing mind-blowing, and I miss some of the originals (Brooklyn Molly/Naru and Rei’s old VA, mostly). I’d complain about how whiny Stephanie Sheh is as Sailor Moon, but watching the “un-dubbed” version makes it clear that she’s LESS annoying than the JAPANESE V.A. Queen Beryl also sounds very young in the original. That’s pretty common for anime though- Japan is notorious for favoring youth super-heavily, thus ensuring that most actresses sound young.
On to the show!
The last on the big redubbed DVD set, and it’s an odd one to end it (basically, since the first season is 46 episodes, it makes sense to split it in twain). Nephrite basically bails on Queen Beryl in order to bogart Zoisite’s attempt at gaining the Silver Crystal, creating the Dark Crystal (with some of the show’s best effects so far) in order to do so. Zoisite & Kunzite plot to murder him and steal the Crystal, and Usagi finally warns Naru about Masato Sanjoin (ie. Nephrite in disguise) being evil… by spurting all of the information out rapid-fire, then running off. Luna of course points out how stupid this is, and Naru ends up running off with Masato/Nephrite. Things turn into a massive fight, with the Sailors versus Nephrite, and they damn near kill him (he gets distracted by Naru), but NARU JUMPS IN THE WAY, saving his life! Sailor Moon has to pull back her Tiara in order to avoid skewering her poor, lovesick friend. Nephrite returns the favor when Zoisite’s Monster attacks- throwing her into the air, allowing Sailor Moon to vaporize her.
(First Appearance: The Dark Crystal)
This is really how they kill him off- they shove a TREE through him. They even aired this, uncut, on YTV in Canada, and on whatever networks in the States! Even the BLOOD was left it! Did it not count because it was green? Because holy balls, it was the most violent thing ever seen on children’s programming at the time.
The final episode featuring Nephrite starts off the new DVD set (kind of a weird point in the story, actually. I know it’s the half-way point, but you’d think using it for the last set would be smarter). Nephrite “confesses” to Naru that he feels her love, and wants to join Sailor Moon against The Dark Kingdom, which leads Usagi right into a trap. Unfortunately, Zoisite has set a trap of his own for NEPHRITE, and three of his agents kidnap Naru. This causes him to abandon the fight against Sailor Moon & Tuxedo Mask (he tears up half the street trying to get her).
Nephrite comes to rescue Naru, and in a great scene, he just ANNIHILATES the three girls holding her captive, dropping two with punches to the gut, while another nearly gets her throat cut by a sword he can apparently just create from nothing. He & Naru have a chat, and her head-over-heels crush on him is SOOOOOOOOO WRONG yet so perfectly-innocent here, where she’s all confessing that she’ll be happy to be with him, even after he confesses he’s just a liar and will always lie to her. And then the bitches arrive and SHOVE A TREE THROUGH HIS TORSO, in a move I’m still shocked passed the American censors the first time around. Seriously, he’s blood’s green, but it’s spraying everywhere! Then Naru tries to yank the giant thorns out, causing her no end of pain.
The Sailors arrive and kill all three girls at once with a Triple-Attack, but that’s not enough for Nephrite, who slowly fades away into nothing, leaving only the bandage Naru made for him. Her anguished cries are pretty good in every version (even the original dub).
Sailor Jupiter arrives!
This episode basically starts off a whole new era in the show- the last General is dead, Zoisite takes over, we get a new “Maguffin Hunt” going, and we’re introduced to more of the greater story, as the ruler of the Dark Kingdom is revealed.
Finally, we get to Sailor Jupiter! The girls meet Makoto Kino, and Usagi shows her one good quality- her ability to make friends with unpopular outsiders, as this “Giant Schoolgirl” (a titanic, amazonian… 5’7″ Oh, Asia…) was kicked out of her last school for fighting, has curly hair (a sign of hooliganism in girls, don’t you know), and is stuck in her old school uniform. Usagi still makes friends, and we discover that this big, tough chick also has a feminine side- she’s an amazing cook, and she develops crushes quickly. And she’s so kick-ass that she KICKS ASS while in her CIVILIAN form, punching Zoisite square in his stupid face! Awesome! Losing Susan Roman as her Voice Actress sucks, though the new chick seems to be trying to sound like a more naturalistic version of that.
We also get our first sight of Queen Metalia, the ACTUAL ruler of The Dark Kingdom- a malevolent giant head-thing, she’s awakened with an influx of energy. And we get more backstory- there are Seven Legendary Monsters trapped in the bodies of humans with the Seven Rainbow Crystals inside of them- it’s these CRYSTALS that will form the Legendary Silver Crystal. And Beryl acts like she’s known this the entire time! Even though everyone had been searching for ONE Crystal before! Like… that is some clumsy retcon “ah shit we have to fill some time” nonsense.
Huh- “Joe the Crane Game Troll” is just a hoarder of stuffed dolls from the crane games here- in the original dub, there was dialogue that pointed out “he gives them to POOR kids!” And naturally Mako is all ga-ga for him (“he’s just like him… my first love…”- her official Running Gag, which is a one-off joke in the manga but her most famous recurring element in the show). Joe is WAY more of a dick that he was in the first dub (and this is a proper translation), going on about how “Giant girls like her aren’t my type!”, which is what Mako’s first love said to her all that time ago! Joe gets his Crystal taken out, turning him into “Gamecen”, but Makoto starts kicking his ass ANYWAYS (and even manages to slug vain Zoisite, deking him out with a thrown earring of all things, then cracking him in the mouth), letting Luna realize that she’s Sailor Jupiter! One transformation later (with all the boob and butt outlines intact), and she Supreme Thunders Gamecen, and Luna yanks ANOTHER thing out of her ass, giving Sailor Moon the “Moon Stick” that lets her use “Moon Healing Escalation” on the enemy, turning him back to a human. I love how Sailor Jupiter is so devoted to kicking ass, that she resolves to kick ass in her untransformed form, as well.
(First Appearance: Makoto Kino, Sailor Jupiter, The Seven Rainbow Crystals, Queen Metalia, The Moon Stick, Moon Healing Escalation)
Hell of a pair of episodes, really. Nephrite dies a hero, we get one of the first “oh crap, this is actually pretty damn serious” moments, and then there’s a fourth Sailor Guardian in Jupiter the Giantess Ass-Kicker.
Oh hey- new Opening Sequence. VERY NICE- much more dynamic and exciting than the boring first one. Also shows all five Sailors (including Venus, who wasn’t a thing yet), and features animation so fast you’d have to watch it stop-motion style to pick up half of the details.
We deal with the repercussions of Nephrite’s death, as poor Naru has missed a week of school and is unable to come to terms with it. Meanwhile, Luna explains to the Sailors the deal with the Rainbow Crystals and the Seven Deadly Warriors- it’s explained that she’s done research into it. It’s kind of a funny thing with this show- Luna’s meant to give exposition, but even SHE’S clueless as to what’s going on half the time. They keep harping about “The Princess” and there’s barely any explanation as to what she’s supposed to DO.
Also, this one kind of skips over introducing Sailor Jupiter to the others- Ami & Rei met Makoto last episode, but only for like a second. So we never saw Mars & Mercury realize that we had another Sailor- an odd thing to skip, given how much “Filler” this show utilizes (for example, the Seven Rainbow Crystal arc isn’t even a part of the manga at all!). There’s a nice bit with a pastor consoling Naru over Nephrite’s death, but of course he’s our Civilian Victim, and ends up being transformed… into a bird-footed winged Boxer who shouts out “Lovely Punch!” repeatedly? God this show can be weird sometimes (and we’re not even into the REALLY weird seasons yet!). Tuxedo Mask and “Boxii” cancel each other out, UMINO of all people saves Naru (setting us up for their relationship later on), and Sailor Jupiter sets him up for Moon Healing Escalation.
A minor plot point that becomes bigger later on: Sailor Moon picks up a mysterious locket that Tuxedo Mask has dropped. And HE takes the Rainbow Crystal, leaving him and Zoisite with one each, and setting off their future rivalry. And then Tuxedo Mask transforms back to Mamoru, confirming to himself his double life! Jesus, this last batch is CRAZY into keeping the narrative moving along! (Monster Powers: Boxing Glove Blast- Multiattack) (First Appearance: The Star Locket)
Alas, they had the “triangle eyes” director working on the animation for this episode. It’s weird how you can pick these things up when you’re older and you first hear about them, so no how to look.
One that obsessed me a lot as a teen, because it seemed to expand the cast, and give more facets to a major character- Ami gets an admirer in Ryu Urawa (aka “Greg” in the original dub), a boy in her class with the same level of genius, and the ability to see the future! Naturally, he’s also our Civilian Victim and a Crystal Carrier. I REALLY liked the idea that each girl would have this admirer/love interest, and wanted the show to expand on that more (Mars/Yuuichiro & Jupiter’s Platonic Male Best Friend “Ken”), but alas, it was never to be- these were all ANIME-created characters, expanding upon the manga’s story, and so they were never “real” characters. All of the Sailors were more or less sexless, chaste entities after a point in the manga, to the point where I think that’s a big negative. Somewhat to that point, Rei & Mamoru are on a date again, with Rei basically desperate to jump his bones, and the dick ignoring her completely. This subplot is amusing, but also kind of weird.
In any case, Ryo has apparently been stalking Ami for a while now, but believes he’s destined to fight her- he begs her to kill him when he transforms (and GOOD GRAVY!! His future vision shows the monster’s Scissor Attack ripping off all of Mercury’s clothes! The image switches literally an INSTANT before you’d have to increase the rating on the DVD set! Obviously they edited THAT out over here the first time around!), but thanks to her pep-talk, he’s able to control himself in monster form, and attacks Zoisite- he drops his Crystal into Mercury’s hands! The Dark Crystal makes “Bunboo” (dumb name) grow to larger size, and he assaults Mercury, resulting in the first time we see all four Guardians fighting a Monster at once. Thankfully, they stop him.
Poor Ryo has to move away again at the end, but he & Ami make good and promise to meet up in the future. I actually remember a LOT of the animation in this one quite specifically, from the way certain characters smile, to how they react. Keep in mind this is about sixteen years since I last saw it. And hey! We get a new ending sequence (in the original dub, we were stuck with the exact same opening and ending for the entire first run), with a silhouetted Usagi with her distinctive hair & Moon Princess dress still in colour.
(First Appearance: Ryo Urawa)
Zoisite, our vain, whiny, cowardly new general.
Our Civilian Victim is a famous Painter using a pseudonym to hide her plain appearance- her paintings include various images that resemble the old Moon Kingdom, which causes Usagi to get oddly nostalgic (ie: this one actually matters to the overall plot). Usagi & Mamoru get roped into posing for her, and spend time arguing (Mamoru being particularly-harsh for no reason), but HE feels the same emotions Usagi does about the paintings. Her Monster Form has a good design (an Angel-like girl), and starts tossing rocks at the Sailors, but the real “money” fight is Tuxedo Mask/Zoisite, as they continue their feud. Zoisite throws out Distracting Flowers and a big spike, but Sailor Moon saves TUXEDO MASK for once, and Zoisite flees (man, Nephrite is the only one of the three so far who wasn’t a coward). They both realize they’re searching for the Moon Princess, but TM declares that when it comes to the Rainbow Crystals, he’ll steal the Sailors’ if he has to. Jupiter seems to be the best fighter in these episodes, doing the most damage- she blows off one of “Veena’s” wings!
oh, Motoki. This is the last time you matter to an episode.
Our Crystal Carrier is Reika, the long-term girlfriend of… Motoki! Hah- this whole time, Usagi’s been crushing on him (though he really doesn’t show up as often as I remember him doing), and he had a girlfriend! He’s a pretty bland character anyways. In any case, Reika is a big-time college student, trying to decide on whether or not to study abroad, thus leaving Motoki. The Mamoru/Motoki relationship is actually pretty cool here, as it’s the only time Mamoru acts like a fully-realized person (usually he’s either intense, or bugging Usagi), and they tease each other a lot. Hilariously, Motoki IS aware of how Usagi feels about him, but acknowledges that he wants the girls to come over with a “They’re so cute!” Mamoru calls him out on it while he’s mooning over Reika, but Motoki’s all “No, I think of them as younger sisters” (he actually says “if I had a younger sister”, even though a season later we’d find out he DID) and expects a platonic good time- Mamoru’s like “he can’t possibly be that dense, can he?” Fun stuff.
The girls mutually decide to “attack” Motoki anyways, even after finding out he’s taken, and Mamoru interjects and makes fun of them for it (though calling Mako a “giant”- “Bigfoot” in the dub- is pushing it- all the male characters besides Umino are MUCH taller than Mako is). However, Motoki runs off to meet Reika, who’s decided on leaving (spurred on by Makoto, who somewhat cruelly gets in her face about “you’re not SERIOUS about your education if you’re thinking about staying!”- naturally, she wants Reika to leave). Then we all of a sudden realize this isn’t just a High School Romance Story, because the VILLAINS show up (Kunzite even teases his beloved Zoisite about Reika being beautiful!), Reika becomes a chick with a half-shaved head (more than twenty years before that became the mandatory haircut for all stylish young women), and it’s fight time.
Ya know… for all people make fun of Mercury’s “Bubble Spray” attack, it’s like the 100% most-useful thing in the show. Seriously EVERY TIME SHE DOES IT, it’s unstrumental to the villain being defeated. The distractions always leave them vulnerable. At the episode’s end, Reika leaves, Usagi’s ready to give up on Motoki… but Mako’s all “HAHAH WHAT IF REIKA HOOKS UP IN AFRICA!” and the fight’s back on.
Some interesting stuff: Seeing Mamoru & Motoki acting as pals for an extended conversation is interesting and unique (previously, they just say one or two things to each other). The repeated arguments are funny, the relationship stuff is interesting, and Reika is for some reason drawn as a glamorous woman in her 30s, despite being a college student. I still remember the one major Sailor Moon fan on the ‘net back in the late ’90s, who was upset over the Dub making her name “Rita”, because her main rival in love was named LITA, and that’s something writers should generally avoid.
And that’s it for this set! I’ve shortened the number of episodes reviewed at once, chiefly because I’m VERY long-winded and the reviews are getting much longer as the plot gets more involved.
So far, it’s been fun, and every successive review shows the series improving- the villains are more elaborate, the heroes are more fun, and we’re learning new facets to all of the characters.