Sailor Moon: Enter Venus, The Last Sailor Guardian review

The whole team is together in one of season one's best episodes! Here's our latest classic Sailor Moon review...

With two of the Rainbow Crystals still in Tuxedo Mask’s possession, Zoisite hatches a plan to collect them by posing as Sailor Moon via some exquisite drag to draw the masked man out. And it works. In the process, he also attracts the attention of the Sailor Senshi, Sailor Moon especially peeved at some impostor running around, claiming to be her. Naturally, they all fall into Zoisite and Kunzite’s trap, and between the two baddies, it appears that our heroes have finally met their doom until Sailor V herself, in her true guise as Sailor Venus, shows up to save the day.

Well… finally! Finally the team is all together, and it feels so good. Venus made a hell of a debut, and she did it in style. I have to admit that Venus’s first few appearances had me feeling a little torn, because I’d been waiting so long to see her, thanks to the spoiler-laden opening theme, and she didn’t disappoint. She’s such a go-getter, more experienced than any of the others, and is used to working on her own. She added such a new, interesting flavor to the mix, but Jupiter was so clearly my favorite by a landslide that I was like “Shit. Is Venus going to be my favorite after all?” Of course, time (sadly, not much time) would tell, and Venus would eventually fade into the background as the writers never quite seemed to know what to do with her, but I didn’t know that at the time.

The episode itself is rather strong, even outside of Venus’s appearance, though that is without a doubt what makes the episode. I don’t really have any criticisms about Venus’s intro itself, more about the episode as a whole. While I’m the first person to decry DiC’s horrible chop shop editing, I think they actually improved upon this episode by eliminating the incredibly conspicuous pan and push-in on Minako and Artemis. I mean, yeah, most of the audience had already read the manga and the title itself is one big honkin’ spoiler, but still. It would have been much stronger if Sailor Venus just showed up without any warning.

Not to mention that there was something intriguing and magical about Venus being the only one of team to be introduced as a Sailor Senshi first and a civilian later. In fact, it would have been really awesome if Sailor V arrived on the scene so that she could “Venus Power Make Up” for the first time right in front of us, showing that moment where she goes from being Sailor V to Sailor Venus. But all that is relatively trivial. It was still an amazing entrance and intro to the character.

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With Venus, of course, comes Artemis, a character that I never quite warmed to as much as I probably should have. I’m not sure why. It’s probably because, starting with Sailor Moon R, the cats are featured much less prominently than they were in Season 1, where Artemis receives very little screen time. I lament the fact that the cats never got their own backstory episodes either about their time in the Silver Millennium, their awakening from cold sleep and searches for their respective Senshi, or both.

It’s unfortunate, especially given how much filler there is in Season 1. In fact, that’s the thing that enrages me the most about it. You know, we have all these filler episodes, just stretches of them at a time. We have the screen time to visit the Universal Studios Haunted Bed and Breakfast, to explore some lame talent competition, and to fuck around with Shingo’s interpersonal elementary school drama, but an episode about how Minako became Sailor V, an episode centering on Makoto being orphaned or Rei’s shitty, slimy politician father or Beryl’s origin… nope. Fuck that. Not enough time in the schedule. Really? Ah well, at least we’re at a point in the series where the concentration of filler has dropped significantly.

As I’ve stated many a time, the second half of the season is palpably more dynamic than the first, and that may seem an obvious development of story structure, but the repetitive, formulaic nature of Jadeite and Nephrite’s efforts as well as Beryl’s considerable patience despite their repeated failures make this particularly egregious. Zoisite may be a vain, catty bitch, but to his credit, he gets shit done. When his efforts don’t work, he adapts and takes a different tack, staving off Beryl’s fury by partial if not complete success.

I’m sure having Kunzite around to advise him didn’t hurt, but the lion’s share of credit goes to Zoisite for being mutable in his approach and open to input. After all, pride is counterproductive, and Zoisite is, with one noted exception, a pragmatist. So, he needs to lure Tuxedo Mask out. What’s a surefire way? Put Sailor Moon in danger. What’s an easy way of putting Sailor Moon in danger without expending any energy? Orchestrating a phony capture of a phony Sailor Moon. Which leads us to… oh, here we go.

Okay, so Sailor Pseudo-Moon… we need to talk about this. It is so problematic. I mean, it was a good plan, obviously effective. I don’t really see the point in altering the costume in any way. If they can replicate it that well, why fuck with the color scheme? The audience *knows* it ain’t Usagi. Also, why did Zoisite have to do it? This was nothing beyond the capabilities of any random youma.

And also, while he is admittedly quite effeminate, there is nothing in this character’s dossier about crossdressing. It does bother me that drag is so easily assigned to a character just because he’s gay and effeminate. It bothers me in a way that it never does with Fisheye, who is obviously genderqueer from the word go; that’s part of Fisheye’s gender identity. But the knee-jerk conflation of homosexuality with gender dysmorphia or even just crossdressing is so ignorant it really chafes. Look, I’m not trying to be the PC police here. I’m a chubby, fuzzy gay dude, and I did drag a few times in college for a laugh, but I know plenty of guys who never have and likely never will, many of them far more effeminate than I. But I guess if I’m looking for a nuanced approach at sexuality and gender identity, ’90s era anime is probably not a source I should be expecting much from.

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What I did enjoy about this whole plot was the simple device of Zoisite and Kunzite working together in the field, something we don’t see nearly enough of. They make an amazing team. To their credit, they were nearly successful here. Sailor Venus was an X-factor they couldn’t possibly have anticipated. If not for her, they very likely could have won and the show would be over. Hell, the world would be over. They would have had a decent chance if Beryl hadn’t extracted them.

On that subject, here we finally see some (though not nearly enough) development for Beryl by way of her recognition of Mamoru from somewhere else. Sadly, the “Beryl in love with Endymion” storyline was never as fully cooked here as it was in the manga, and considering it was one of the only bits of depth her character was given in the anime, it really is a shame.

Lastly, while Tuxedo Mask never fell from the status of ally, he has been running into conflict with the Sailor Senshi lately, his drive to retrieve the Rainbow Crystals and discover his own identity becoming stronger and stronger. So, it’s nice to see that when push comes to shove, the Senshi’s lives come first. Good man.

This episode was solidly good. Really, really good. One of the best of Season 1 without a doubt. It was a tight if somewhat problematic story that didn’t rely on the formula, utilized all the characters rather well, and provided a solid intro for Sailor Venus. I have complaints, as I usually do, but this time around they’re few and rather trivial. Overall, this one is a classic and good to the last drop.

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4 out of 5