I have learned two very important lessons rewatching Sailor Moon from the very beginning:
Firstly, most fans of the original anime are fans of the edited versions of the characters they have cobbled together inside their heads, stuffed full of remnants of old fanfic and fanart and internalized identification, sewn together with nostalgia and softened by time.
I know this because Disk 2 primarily consists of Usagi whining, conniving, whining some more, bickering with Rei, whining and crying. She is not, at this point, a likeable character.
The second thing I realized is that, in it’s own way, Sailor Moon is a primeval tap on “girl” things, in the way that The Iliad (which I am re-reading again) is a primer on “boy” things. That is to say, it renders down an entire gender into the most superficial characteristics as if seen by an alien race, labels them essential, and obsesses over them, even if a real person might occasionally take a break from wanting a dress or a gemstone, or a fast racehorse or the most plunder.
However, there are two episodes of note here on Disk Two.
“I Want a Boyfriend: The Luxury Cruise Ship Is a Trap”, episode 12 which was the dub episode that got me interested in the series in the first place and “A New Enemy Appears: Nephrite’s Evil Crest”, episode 15, in which something important and something not important, but damned interesting, happened.
In episode 15, which originally aired in Japan in 1992, Naru had to tell Usagi that her use of “onee-sama” did not indicate that the other girl was a blood sister, but that she was like a sister to her. The idea of onee-sama had fallen enough out of favor, that it had to be explained. This trend would reverse again a few years later when Maria-sama ga Miteru made it not only nerdy cool, but also so much of standard anime trope that no one in, say, PreCure ever needs to have it explained to them. Not important, but kind of interesting.
The important thing, though happens in that same episode. For the very first time, Usagi helps someone out of actual empathy for them. She wants to help Naru, because she wants to help Naru. This one thing may not seem like a huge shift, but it is. It’s the first time we’ve seen Usagi do thing out of pure kindness, because helping her friend to be less sad is a good thing to do. It’s the first time she doesn’t really speak about herself when talking about a “girl’s dream”. It’s the first time we see Sailor Moon, and not Tsukino Usagi in a Senshi costume.
As I reach this part of the anime I brace myself for a number of changes to come. Soon, we and the Senshi will start to understand that there is more to this series than a monster of the day. Soon, but not yet.
For those of you still not convinced to get this series – these episodes will not be the ones to convince you. The original animation is hilariously, painfully, awful, as Toei learned that it was going to get a lot more episodes, but not more budget. The dialogue is execrable and the bickering between Rei and Usagi is enough to make you want to pluck Ami out, set her in a nice quiet library and read a good book together.
Art – 4
Story – 5
Characters – teetering on the cusp of 5
Yuri – 1
Service – 1 on principle
Overall – 5, and I’m being kind.
Sincere and immense thanks to Viz Media for a review copy. Everytime Ami says all she can do is study, my heart breaks. In a just world, she gets to be Queen and Usagi runs cruises.