Sailor Neptune & Sailor Uranus. They steal the spotlight and steal it HARD.
SAILOR MOON S
In many ways, Sailor Moon S (the “S” is for “Super”- the commercial ditty says “Say-rah Moon SUUUUU-PAAAAAHHH!”) took the Sailor Moon formula and ran with the same general theme: A Faceless Energy Being From Beyond set out to destroy the world; its minions, a bunch of conniving Generals named after minerals, all of whom were scheming against each other to be the top General. Their missions involved a lot of “Formula” episodes of “Friend of the Week”-types and “New Fads As a Lure”. Sailor Moon got a new power, and each Sailor got a pair of “central” episodes.
BUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUT then they managed to give the show its biggest shot in the arm since the first season, turning this into possibly its most beloved one ever.
For starters, it introduced NEW SAILORS. Sailor Moon R, the preceding season, gave us Sailor Pluto, but she was a noncombatant who was more of an enigmatic aide than a warrior. This season, we were introduced to Sailors URANUS AND NEPTUNE, who would become iconic characters in their own right, and stand out as some of anime’s most iconic characters (there is no better or more famous example of Yuri- ie. lesbianism- in anime, PERIOD). Oh, and there’s a whole crap-ton of apocalyptic imagery and references to The Messiah and The Holy Grail, giving this season a lot of Biblical imagery that wasn’t usually something you saw from this show.
A new enemy group called The Death Busters have arrived, and are searching for the Three Talismans, which will combine to form The Holy Grail, which the Messiah may use to save the universe. Or the Messiah of Silence may use to destroy it. The Busters wish to cause the Silence and control the Messiah, while two new Sailors, the mysterious and aloof Uranus & Neptune, also seek out the Talismans.
The original Sailors are curious about these new fuku-wearing allies, but things grow uncomfortable quickly- Uranus & Neptune have no patience for the younger Sailors, and appear completely ruthless and uncaring about the fact that grabbing the Talismans will kill whoever holds them. Things turn adversarial quickly, and it’s made worse because Uranus in particular is a much better fighter than any other Sailor.
Things get another wrinkle with Haruka & Michiru, who are TOTALLY NOT URANUS & NEPTUNE YOU GUYS, show up… in every single episode. Seriously, they get a big “oooohh… oooooooohh…. OOOOOOOH-LAAAAAAAAA…” sing-songy motif every time they show up. The younger girls are entranced- Michiru is the perfect picture of graceful femininity and artistic talent, while Haruka is devastatingly handsome (resembling a boy), a scandalous flirt, and relentlessly tough. The girls idolize and envy them completely (Makoto follows Haruka around like a lovesick puppy, while Usagi tries to absorb Michiru’s confident femininity by proxy), which becomes a running thread in every episode for the first half of the season.
And the directors & writers just fall in LOVE with these two- I mean, they get more characterization and “Good Showings” in 20 episodes than any of the Sailors but Usagi have had thus far. The show, in fact, all but becomes The Uranus & Neptune Show, as they steal the spotlight. We find out their origins, their interactions with most of the other Sailors, what their hobbies are, and how they feel about each other… well, it’s more than almost anyone else in the series gets!
The show gets a bit weird when the anime “catches up” to the manga (which was written concurrently; they had to use Naoko Takeuchi’s planning stuff), as a lot of the ground work in the Talisman search is revealed to be pointless. The ENTIRE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON! But we’ll get there when we get there. Basically, it looks like the writers were slaves to Takeuchi’s writing, and often got caught with their pants down over it.
The second half of the season sees the focus shift to Chibi-Usa, who’s returned from the future in order to get “training”… and also make friends with the impossibly-innocent, sad little girl Hotaru Tomoe. Hotaru is weak and sickly, but TERRIBLY alone and desperate for friendship. They do such a good job of making her seem endearing and needing help that you can’t HELP but take the side of Usagi when we realize that she’s the Dark Messiah we’ve been fearing all along, and that Sailors Uranus & Neptune want to KILL HER! So it becomes a morality play- the practicality of preventing the Silence good and early versus the dark task of slaughtering a nice little girl.
Ultimately, this may be the most beloved season of the show. Though every retelling of the Sailor Moon story is just the first season (the Dark Kingdom Arc), this one was REALLY well-thought-of online, especially before most Westerners saw it- mere descriptions of it were all most fans had to go on, and it kind of entered into legend because of the dark imagery and the more chaotic relationship between the Sailors.
Ultimately, some parts of it bothered me, while other parts are definitely high-water-marks for the show. There is some REALLY intense moral questioning brought up here- as the cynical new Sailors have a ruthless gameplan in order to save the universe, and we’re left questioning the more happy/lovey way that Usagi’s gang handles things.
The moral question here is a terrific one- Uranus & Neptune are after the Talismans, and are prepared to sacrifice the lives of people to get them. Does this make them evil, or just practical, in the face of armageddon? And when we discover that they’re out to murder a CHILD, you’re forced to decide whether this cruel act is the more practical one. And they have this thing where Neptune will occasionally be HAPPY they didn’t succeed in some episode or another, because ultimately, we’re all a bit hypocritical about certain things, and she’s no different.
The Daimons are often patently ridiculous. Almost none of them look cool, and many are idiotic things like “person made out of a shoe” or “elephant vacuum cleaner-themed”. Given the seriousness of the subject matter in this season, it’s incongruous.
Sailor Uranus- the bad-ass new Sailor. The most famous lesbian in the history of anime. Patron Saint of tomboys everywhere.
Brand-new opening, with a remix of the title song. Though… this one’s a REAL downgrade- it’s actually got worse animation and sequences than the other two seasons! We get the bad “triangle eye” director here, and Rei immediately has a premonition of The Silence while the girls are talking about going into High School next year, and how their studies suffered because of fighting evil.
Meanwhile, a chuckling, mad professor creates a “Daimon Egg” to seek out people with pure hearts, while his calm, collected assistant Kaolinite (yup- it has to be a villain with a mineral-themed name) looks on. He intends to use them to gain the Holy Grail when three talismans (hidden within these hearts) are joined together. Rei, meanwhile, is so messed up by her premonition that she actually COMPLIMENTS USAGI.
And while this has Usagi worried, the two talk about their plans for the future- Usagi of course has none, but Rei gives a famous declaration: “A singer-songwriter, a model, a voice actress… and the wife of the man I love!”- this got quoted a LOT on the old “Sailor Mars Shrines” you used to see all over the fandom back in the 1990s. Here, she tells it first by blushing, then by trying to laugh it off as she’s saying it, which is a great character moment. Rei ultimately says “Mamoru would be disappointed if he saw your grades, but academics aren’t everything. Stay positive- it’s the one thing you’ve got going!”, which is the great kind of backhanded compliment she always gives. Usagi confesses that Rei “deep-down” cares about everyone, despite her critical nature. So rad.
The Daimon Egg chooses Rei as the first “Pure Heart” victim because of her thoughts for her friends, and implants itself into a tree within the Hikawa Shrine (Rei’s home), turning it into a Daimon. It fires a beam from a star hidden in her cleavage (no, really- she damn near hits an “R” rating) to check Rei’s Pure Heart, which draws in Sailor Moon. Shockingly, she takes down the whole team, then DEFLECTS Moon Princess Halation!! Then she pins Sailor Moon to a tree, rips off her transformation brooch, and de-powers her! This is insane!
The Daimon pulls out Rei’s “Heart Crystal” and brags about defeating everyone, at which point two attacks hit her from behind- World Shaking & Deep Submerge- vaporizing her and returning the tree to normal- the Daimon Egg falls out of it, cracks open, and releases the spirit into the ether. And then the two mysterious Sailor-suited figures in the background check the Heart Crystal out, comment how “we wasted our time”, and return the thing with barely a thought to the innocent victim.
This one’s pretty epic- the monster is damn near unstoppable, the mysterious Sailors debut, and Usagi basically loses her goddamn mind at the thought of Rei dying. Like, begging, screaming and pleading for her friend’s safety and everything. This season starts off with INTENSITY.
(First Appearance: Professor Tomoe, Kaolinite, Daimons, Daimon Egg, Sailor Uranus, Sailor Neptune, World Shaking attack, Deep Submerge attack)