So, this is it! Zoisite wants Nephrite’s black crystal so he can find the Silver Crystal for himself, and recent events have made it clear that Nephrite has a soft spot for Naru-chan, so capture her it is! Zoisite’s abduction plot gets in the way of Nephrite’s latest attempt to manipulate Naru, but completely works. Not even he knows why he saves her. He finally admits that he’s been lying to her and using her from the beginning, and her undimmed affection for him despite this admission makes him wonder about human love and how it works.
Unfortunately, faster than you can say “chocolate parfait,” Zoisite’s minions show up and attack, and the first time Nephrite implements his new theories of behavior is his last. He dies saving Naru’s life in one of the most heart-rending moments of the entire Sailor Moon franchise.
Ooh, the animation quality has just skyrocketed (with the exception of Mars’s over-moussed hair in the final scene; I guess that bubble spray mist really kicked up the humidity), so you know some shit’s going down this episode. You know, if the fucking TITLE didn’t make it clear. I’ve heard before that the whole spoiler title thing is a reaction to most anime being based on manga that the audience is assumed to have read, but this was a deviation from the manga. This entire storyline was new. So then… do anime executives just not give a shit about spoilers? Because what the fuck?!?
There’s not a lot of the Sailor Senshi in this episode (and no Tuxedo Mask at all), and that’s just fine. This episode isn’t about them. They show up as needed to serve their purpose, but they’re not at the center of this story. Naru and Nephrite are. This episode is the culmination of what I would consider the beta love story of this season, and it’s between one of the Senshi’s civilian friends and one of their enemies. I like that the show honors that and doesn’t try to manufacture a way to make this all about Sailor Moon. It lets the spotlight shine elsewhere when it’s warranted.
It’s interesting that Nephrite chooses to set the record straight with Naru. He could have just left her room when she woke up, but he actually bothers to come clean and reveal himself. It really shows how much he’s come to care for her. He feels he owes it to her to at least be honest. Sure, he’s still using her, but he didn’t have to reveal himself to do it.
It’s interesting that Nephrite says there is no love in the Dark Kingdom. Is he unaware of Zoisite and Kunzite’s relationship, does he not consider that to be actual love, or is he just lying to Naru for effect? Either way, he clearly has very little understanding of the concept of love, romantic or otherwise.
I’m not sure Nephrite is attracted to Naru, and if he lived, who’s to say if they would have pursued a relationship. I don’t think it likely, as he’s an adult and her parents would probably have done everything they could to shut that shit down, assuming Nephrite didn’t just kill them. I don’t think it matters though. I get the impression that he certainly cares for her. He’s obviously protective of her, but I don’t know that he looks upon her with desire. If the concept of love is so alien to him, then the nuances of different types of love would definitely be over his head at this point. It’s far more likely that he’s occupied mainly with the concept of affection, emotional support, and sacrifice, and that the concept of romance at this point has nothing to do with it. Or not. Who knows?
It’s significant that Nephrite takes off his jacket in his final scene, when he fully turns and sacrifices his life for Naru-chan. It’s fitting that his uniform jacket, which denotes his rank and symbolizes his allegiance to the Dark Kingdom, has been removed, showing the wounded man underneath.
On the matter of wounds, I wonder why Nephrite’s blood is green. Is it because the mineral nephrite (like jadeite) is a form of jade, and thus the men made from those stones have green blood? Is it just shorthand for inhuman? I know the Shintennou’s backstory as Prince Endymion’s companions is omitted from the anime, so are their human origins just being ignored completely?
I have to say, Naru-chan is pretty hardcore. Holding onto those death roots did not look pleasant. For an ordinary human, she sure took a lot of abuse, and I’m surprised it didn’t kill her. But that’s love for you, especially your first love.
This episode gave me goose bumps the first time I saw it, and in one of the rare instances where I prefer the dub, I find “Molly’s” cry of anguish far superior to Naru’s. Being raised on Marvel comics, where death had no weight, it took some time before I could accept that Nephrite was never coming back. And yeah, I cried, but I was comforted that, going by the imagery, it’s implied that Nephrite went to Heaven.