We’re approaching the climactic ending of the first season with Sailor Moon, Season 1, Part 2, Disk 3. So, of course, you’d expect the story to get right into saving Mamoru/Endymion from Beryl’s clutches. I know I expected that, at least.
Instead, we take a quick side trip to give both Ami a boyfriend (a good choice, at the very least and one that will be completely forgotten after this season concludes) and Minako a sort-of boyfriend, but really an onee-sama, story. This is followed by an mostly pretty good onsen episode and a very silly tabloid episode that indicates to the viewers that Mamoru is not quite as brainwashed as the Dark Kingdom might want.
Which brings us to the final three episodes. Join me as I rewatch them for the first time in almost ten years.
The animation is better in many ways. The watercolor-wash backgrounds have more depth, and the figure art is more heavily outlined and finished than we’ve seen yet in the series.
Plot wise, we finally have all the holes filled in. The Senshi now remember their past lives. Kunzite does his level best to be a genuinely bad guy, but the more I think about it, the less it makes sense to me.
And as the Senshi hand their power over to Sailor Moon and you’re ready from her to be amazing, she’s still given dialogue that made the viewers in this room cringe.
Kunzite gets a decent death, with Zoisite’s name on his lips, rather than mooning (no pun intended) over Endymion. At least in the manga, Mamoru gets a vision of the boys after death. There is no connection in the anime between the generals and the Earth Prince. Lost opportunity, particularly when you think how many crappy filler episodes there were, we could have had one about the boys.
The pentultimate episode is subtitled “Death of the Senshi”, so no suspense here. You know what you’re in for. Lots of screaming and crying and death at the end of it. But no stress, no one stays dead.
In the meantime, we’re assured that the Senshi are all deeply committed to their path. Which is good, because we have another monster of the day before we deal with any of the actual bad guys! And, one at a time, we lose the Senshi. We know why, of course. It’s because Usagi can’t be strong until she’s lost everything, but dammit, I really hate these bits. It’s annoying to watch Usagi whining and complaining when people are dying for her. Argh.
Of note, Sailor Moon can tell that Ami is dead. I’ve always felt that they ought to be able to feel each other’s transformations. Also interesting that they don’t die in the order they appeared, which seems to be standard for series like this. Rei cheerfully heading off to her death is horrible. Far worse than the manga. But it takes her death to give Usagi any strength. For the first time, but not the last.
Oh yes, now I remember why I loathe Mamoru. He’s a tool. Beryl, dump him and renaimate Jadeite. Seriously, he is twice the man Mamoru is. This whole series is a war of obsession with a complete tool. Ugh.
Usagi’s switch from “Mamo-chan” to “Mamoru-san” is jarring and distressing. It’s one of those rare flashes her parents (ironically, to us) comment on, where she seems suddenly much more mature and competent. And, again, it’s loss that strikes a spark in Usagi, and allows her to release her true power.
I’m a sucker for the use of the OP in a final battle scene.
I like Beryl, despite the fact that she’s a terrible evil queen. I found myself wondering this morning what she did while her generals were spawning their awful ideas for gathering energy. Evil CEOs in the real world go on TV and do cringe-making interviews with TV “journalists,” but Beryl wasn’t even collecting energy for herself. My wife suggests that she spent her time plotting.
A miracle occurs, as Usagi loves everyone right back into life. And the season comes to a somewhat banal end.
The thing that occurs to me is that those brief flashes of maturity and strength are what I watch for. I know they’ll come and they have inordinate power to soothe me. But then, I think of people I know and it works pretty much the same way – it’s those moments, when everything aligns and all the energy is focused that makes it all worthwhile. In the end, maybe we’re all Senshi, trying to carve out lives while surrounded by forces beyond our control. Or maybe not, but I might just have occasion tonight to pick up one of my henshin stick pens and mention casually to the universe, “Planet Power, make up.” Maybe.
Art – 8 -Noticeably better this disk
Story – 8 Death of the Senshi
Characters – 8 Death of the Senshi
Yuri – 2 Because Minako
Service – 3 Some actual service, mild by today’s standards but enough to make this a massive popular series with the college crowd in pre-Internet days, when you had to sneak Dad’s Playboy.
Overall – 8
The preview for ‘R’ starts right off with much better art, which is interesting to me. It clearly had a bigger investment. I’m not looking forward to Chibi-Usa, but I am looking forward to the dinosaur episode and Emeraude for reasons that make sense in my own mind.
And that, in the end is how we love Sailor Moon, for reasons that make sense in our own mind. We’ve built this structure of things we love and decorated it with Senshi goods, and call it Sailor Moon. A fascinating idea for study – loving the characters in a series that is massively influential, but not actually a masterpiece. I guess that’s most of anime, huh? ^_^
Many thanks to Viz Media for the review copy and thanks to everyone who made a decent release of the series possible!