When last I left off, eleven episodes had passed- Jadeite was still our villain (working under Queen Beryl, who was getting increasingly pissed-off over his failures), and Sailor Mars had just settled into her role as the third Sailor, and was already arguing with Usagi steadily. Tuxedo Mask was our mysterious helper, who was totally not also Mamoru Chiba, a handsome snarker with the exact same hair and voice. There was some “Moon Princess” they had to find, but nobody was focused on that yet, because we needed filler.
* It’s astonishing how much better the show got with Sailor Mars on it. It’s something I’ve noticed with a lot of shows lately (especially ones centred around female casts)- everyone getting along is boring; you need a real bitch to shake things up. Better still if she’s a raven-tressed sexpot at the same time, too. The jokes get a lot funnier when its about bickering and nastiness instead of Usagi falling down and crying. I dig her Voice Actress in this- distinct from the others (with a more dry, husky voice), but retaining Mars’ arrogance and nasty attitude.
* One thing I’ve noticed is the “lazy” backgrounds- basically they just do sketchy outlines of buildings and even backdrops or items on the scene, and then just do a blotchy “watercolor” over everything, often making the entire background one color. It’s distinctive, but comes off like they just ran out of money.
* Also: The music is much better in the original dub. Even “Subbies” (do they still use that term in anime fandoms now? I’m so out of touch) usually admit that they added some bitchin’ music to the first dub. The washed-out violins and weak guitars are pretty poor here. And I can’t believe we’re gonna miss out on the awesomeness that is Carry On.
The best one yet- Jadeite is losing it over all the failures (maybe if the dumbass STAYED TO FIGHT once in a while, he might be over this already- it’s well-established that Sailor Moon can’t take him), but Queen Beryl’s “Personal Attendant” Thetys arrives with a plot to drain lovers’ energy on a Romantic Cruise. Naturally the Sailors show up- they’re not even genre savvy by this point- they just wanna show up. Rei debuts her Catholic Schoolgirl Outfit, which is INSANELY-pervy for a school uniform. It’s basically a grey top with a TINY miniskirt and knee-length stockings- the thing is a Fetish Bomb and she’s like FOURTEEN.
Something skipped in the original dub is that Thetys is TOTALLY hungry for some of that hot, hunky Jadeite, but he’s all serious and ignores her. Also the part where Rei (annoyed because everyone on board is in a couple) decides that she’s just going to wait for couples to fight and then scoop up the guys who’ve just been dumped. When that fails, she decides to just pig out and clear the buffet table. Rei is awesome. Thetys reveals the best villain design in the series to this point, and then summons Water Monsters (Rei CUTS ONE IN HALF with a folding chair- girl is straight bad-ass). We get some pretty good 1994-era Fight Animation (I always loved that clip of Sailor Moon stumbling when she hits the ground, right as Thetys’s legs frame the screen as she athletically lands), Thetys nearly finishes Sailor Moon by wrecking half the ship with water attacks, and the girls finally form a triple-attack to finish her- the Sailors are really stepping up their fighting skills. Jadeite is ready for a brawl, but he’s Teleported away by a pissed-off Beryl, enraged over the death of Thetys. He’s on borrowed time now…
The end of an era, as Jadeite gets one last chance- and right from the beginning, there’s no scheme- he just calls out the Sailors and it’s go-time. Hey- it’s Usagi’s Fat Friend again! Poor thing doesn’t even have a NAME- she’s just short and squat! Jadeite seemingly-kills Tuxedo Mask under the ocean waters, then animates AIRPLANES to crush the Sailors- using power displays not shown by ANY other General in the show! Only a careful team-up involving the Bubbles (damn things ARE useful, no matter how much fun people make of them), the Death Paper (which draws the planes towards Jadeite) and a dodged Tiara shot can save the girls, and soon Jadeite’s crushed beneath the wheels of a 747 and frozen in “Eternal Sleep” by Queen Beryl for his failure. Also doubles as a Female Empowerment thing as Jadeite decides out of nowhere that he’s a sexist pig who hates girls, and the Sailors start preaching against discrimination (actual Japanese dialogue, too! Neither dub added that in!). Beryl declares Nephrite to be the new General.
All in all, Jadeite was kind of a crap, generic villain. He was an unpleasant person, but didn’t really have much personality beyond “Is Evil”. Given that the original manga character was killed in two issues, I guess it makes sense.
(First Appearance: Nephrite)
Episode Fourteen: Nephrite makes his proper debut, lacking the BOSS deep voice he had in the original dub- he sounds a bit like a pretentious, wealthy patrician here, which I’m not sure I like. But he’s definitely a much bigger threat than Jadeite. Nice to see another General show up early, in Zoisite- I kind of like seeing the whole stable out like that. And yes, Zoisite is now clearly an effeminate male. Nephrite’s plan is much better than the usual “Open a new shop that is SECRETLY EVIL” plans Jadeite always came up with- he focuses on the energy of ONE person, which is something the show would come back to again and again in later Seasons- with stuff like Dream Mirrors and Soul Crystals and whatever. It allows for a much more focused story, around one target.
The focus here is on Rui, a girl whom Naru treats like a “big sister” (of course we’ll never see her again- it’s like those sitcoms which introduce “my old friend” who disappears thereafter), and is a tennis expert whose energy is reaching its peak. We also get our first mention of the enemies’ name- The Dark Kingdom. Which is pretty generic, really (the original dub had the hilarious NEGAVERSE be their name). Usagi & Naru investigate, which leads to a solo fight against a monster that houses Sailor Moon, but is taken down by Tuxedo Mask, debuting the fact that his cane can project itself like a Blast, but after a slightly-prolonged battle for the guy, he ends up shaking due to some mysterious force.
(First Appearance: Zoisite, Tuxedo Mask’s Extendable Cane)
We get another major plot upgrade, as we’re FINALLY given the name of Mamoru Chiba (aka the guy who’s been pestering Usagi for weeks), and Rei immediately decides to latch her claws into him, upon discovering he’s a college student from a rich family. Rei’s clumsy and desperate attempts to hit on him, combined with his mortal terror when she starts hanging off of him, is pretty hilarious. Our Civilian Victim is a gardener in a big park that’s been sold to a business developer- using Nephrite’s enhancements, he can control animals to stop the project from demolishing the park. It’s a pretty minor backstory, because the Rei/Mamoru thing is key.
Mercury uses her Bubble Spray to “slow down” all the animals (they pass out), Mamoru goes into convulsions when danger hits (I’d like to think even the really dumb kids had figured it out by this point- Rei actually suspects that he’s Tuxedo Mask here), and a Plant Monster fights the girls.
We actually meet ANOTHER TEACHER AT THE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL OMG!!! Their Home Ec. teacher is getting married, but is obsessing over making her own wedding dress for a contest, thus becoming our Civilian Victim. The monster brawl is like five seconds long, and the main story is about their teacher marrying some dumpy little guy (she’s 35, you see, which is like an old crone by the standards of getting married in Japan).
Our Civilian Victim: A kid photographer who’s now pretty famous because he won a contest. His career means that Usagi is now obsessed with becoming a model, naturally- along with all the other girls in Japan. And Ms. Haruna. And OH MY GOD MS. HARUNA IS WEARING A BIKINI!! That would totally be awesome if I was a giant pervert (which I am totally not). And… woah, they definitely let the male animators go to town on this one. I actually remember the bit where she stands up and snaps her “whale tail” bikini bottom while complaining about her weight. Jeez- bikinis really make it clear just how insanely-long the women’s legs are drawn in this series. Oddly, Usagi transforms RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CIVILIAN (I guess they lose their memory post-defeat, though). The Monster actually kicks some serious ass, trapping Luna, Mars & Mercury in photographs using her creepy “Eye-in-the-Hand Camera”. Sailor Moon is alone and pretty screwed, but she figures out the “Mirror Trick” that’s common with vision-based characters and saves the day. The monster even friggin’ STARTS MELTING, and her eye-hand explodes! Gory stuff, and the Tiara finishes her.
The Moral of the Story: Inner Beauty is more important.
We see Shingo & his girlfriend Mika again- this time she’s our Civilian Victim- she’s a doll-making little girl who soon grows obsessed with making them. We start off with Shingo looking like a MAJOR douche, breaking one of her dolls after the other boys at school make fun of him for being close with her. That’s actually pretty heart-wrenching, and more true-to-life than a lot of the exaggerated gags you see in this show- like, she’s just HEARTBROKEN and he actually feels like a shit for doing it. And yes, now we have EVIL, MIND-CONTROLLING DOLLS to contend with, because that’s not creepy as balls or anything. The monster looks like a huge ventriloquist’s dummy that can control her limbs independently. AGH THE DOLLS NOW HAVE SHARP TEETH AND CAN FLY OH SCREW YOU TO HELL SAILOR MOON WRITERS. Mercury’s Visor hits the Monster’s weak point after a Tuxedo Distraction, killing it.
Nephrite, feeling pressure from Beryl & Zoisite to defeat the Sailors, comes up with the plan to use their affection for Tuxedo Mask against them. So he sends love letters to every girl in town to lure them in… and then, when confronted by Naru, he BLATANTLY HITS ON HER IN PUBLIC AHAHAHAHAHAHA HOLY CRAP!!! He’s like twice her freaking age! He mistakes her for Sailor Moon, and lures her into giving up her energy. Sailor Moon attacks anyways, and we get our 100% confirmation that Mamoru IS Tuxedo Mask (he collapses and transforms on-camera). Nephrite summons Leo to fight the two of them, but it disappears after about two seconds, with Sailor Moon & Tuxedo Mask trapped in an Ingenious Supervillainous Deathtrap (a falling elevator shaft). They nearly die, but then Mars & Mercury show up to save them… so did Nephrite just LEAVE? Queen Beryl is pissed at his failure, but decides that the huge Love Energy he drained from Naru is so promising, that he gets a reprieve.
A random “filler” episode, and one of the few I recall specifically being left out of the American translation the first time-around (it was rather infamous on Fansites). It’s a “Beach Episode”, which is/was very common in anime series: basically an excuse for the animators to draw the girls in sexy bikinis (Rei, who is supposed to be fourteen years old, is drawn in such a manner as to make people the prey of Chris Hansen). Here, the girls are supposed to be doing “Sailor Guardian Training”, but instead get roped into a Ghost Story at a beach house way out in the boonies of Japan. Turns out some old douche is forcing his young daughter to practice her psychic powers, which leads to a Psychic Monster getting out of control. Naturally, the father immediately repents as soon as this happens, begs for forgiveness, and the little girl forces the monster back. Obvious filler, with no hint of the show’s enemies.
A classic “Fourth-Wall Breaking” one, as anime production is the focus- a ton of women are working on a Sailor V anime (Usagi: “Why can’t *I* have my own anime?” Luna: “I’d like to meet the character dumb enough to make a show about YOU!”). Two of them are close friends and confidantes, but one is twisted by Nephrite into overdoing it out of a competitive streak. She acts more and more harshly, and finally turns on everyone. The girls reveal their anime nerd streak (Rei is of course “above it all”… until her bag rips open, revealing tons of autograph boards)- the girls at the animation studio are so distinctly-designed that I just HAVE to believe they’re pulling a “Simpsons”, and just drawing themselves as the backgrounders. Nephrite declares the twin monsters Castor & Pollux to be his very best, but after mimicking the girls’ moves, they start fighting over who gets to finish the Guardians off, and declare their friendship “over!”, and the girls just kill them. Well THAT was dumb- the heroes barely even had to DO anything to defeat Nephrite’s supposedly-awesome fighters.
And now we FINALLY get to the “Moon Princess” plot again, as the manga has “caught up” to the anime production, and we have another legitimate manga issue from which to swipe the plot. “The Kingdom of Diamonds” (WTF?) is hosting a ball in Japan, and Luna thinks their Princess might be the mythical Princess they’re looking for (wondered when they were gonna pick that plot thread back up). Zoisite mopes over STILL not being allowed to take charge (giving us our first shot of his male lover, Kunzite), but Nephrite’s been trying Beryl’s patience too much, and is getting desperate. He possesses Naru, who then transfers the possession to Princess Diamond, who nearly throws the “Secret Treasure” to Nephrite- everyone things this Treasure may be the “Silver Crystal”- even Tuxedo Mask, who dances romantically with our heroine for one of the series’ first big “romantic” moments. We get some really big hints as to the characters’ backstory, with Tuxedo Mask & Sailor Moon recalling dancing together and kissing “long ago”. This would become a MAJOR element of the show moving forward.
(First Appearance: Kunzite, Flashbacks to the Moon Kingdom)
And that’s it for now! Next up- eleven more episodes! I’m setting these up so I can hammer out the final two episodes in this season by themselves.