Sailor Moon – Restore Naru’s Smile: Usagi’s Friendship

A new member of the team adds a different perspective to this episode of Sailor Moon.

In the wake of Nephrite’s death, Naru has sunk into a deep depression, going so far as to miss school. Usagi and Umino do their best to cheer her up with a day trip to Yokohama, but they end up crossing paths with Zoisite, who is after the next Rainbow Crystal carrier. Meanwhile, Rei has gotten a little complacent with how easily she takes charge of the team, but newcomer Makoto end up throwing a wrench into that dynamic by having a backbone.

Finally, we come back around to Naru-chan and her grief over the death of Nephrite. I have to say, all of Naru’s behavior is very realistic, and though her grieving process is resolved a little too neatly here, Sailor Moon does a pretty good job of handling the subject of loss and grief for a kids’ show. Sure, I would have liked to spend more time with Naru, but the writers made it very clear that this is the Sailor Senshi’s show, and not even all of them get their fair share of development, so I guess I should be happy I’m getting this much.

Usagi really shines here, showing what a compassionate person and all-around good friend she is. She drops everything to take care of her broken-hearted friend, and it’s incredibly sweet. And this is the core of who Usagi is: her empathy. Sure, she can be lazy and immature on the day-to-day, but when it really counts, she can empathize with pretty much anyone and show them kindness. If there’s a theme at play in this episode, it’s that people aren’t always what you expect, a theme that points not only to Usagi, but also to Umino and Tuxedo Mask.

Poor Umino. He has no clue just how clueless he is. That said, he does show a heroic side we’ve never seen before. Umino is easy to dismiss as mere comic relief, and to a large extent he is, but it’s nice that he’s being fleshed out into a complete character. At this point in the story, he’s likely over his crush on Usagi but hasn’t yet become infatuated with Naru. There’s no reason for him to come along to cheer her up, but he does.

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Not only that, he ends up saving her from, at the very least, injury. And while this does lay the groundwork for their eventual romance, it isn’t fast-tracked. The point here isn’t that he’s a viable love interest (which I love that he is), but that just because he’s socially awkward and clueless doesn’t mean that he isn’t noble. In heart, if not ability, he’s as much a hero as any of the superpowered peeps on this show.

As for Tuxedo Mask, it’s in this episode that Mamoru’s subconscious finally leads him to play a unique part in the plot. As of now, his agenda is bringing him into conflict with both the villains and our heroes. Tuxedo Mask scooping up the Rainbow Crystal was a twist I didn’t see coming, and it now appears the race for the Rainbow Crystal has three interested parties. Tuxedo Mask’s acquisition of a mystic artifact finally knits his two identities together. He realizes he is Tuxedo Mask, it’s implied his ability to transform is now voluntary, and he has a renewed conviction to uncovering his past.

So, good on him for that…but oh, that hideous locket music box. It’s just so bulbous and clunky. It looks like a baby’s toy. You’d think Princess Serenity would have had classier shit lying around to give to her beloved. It’s like… Duplo jewelry.

Some note should be made about the Senshi’s awareness of the Rainbow Crystals and the seven great youma, namely how lazy a plot device it is to have Luna’s memory always kick in at a time that is narratively convenient. God, this shit is honestly ridiculous. I get that they want to reinforce the new status quo for viewers who missed the previous episode, but come on.

Back to Mako-chan, it’s awesome how she has wasted no time in immersing herself in her new life, and she speaks openly and with authority, feeling she has just as much right to be there and throw in her two cents as any of the others. And here’s something I wish had been further touched upon (and actually was briefly in the live action series). Rei has gotten pretty used to being bossy and running the show despite Usagi’s nominal leadership. Even in this episode, Rei bullies Ami into going along with her, which she knows she can because Ami isn’t assertive enough to make waves. Mako-chan doesn’t have that problem, and Rei finds that kind of threatening. I would like to have seen more of this dynamic.

Mako-chan also provides the value of a fresh perspective. Her view of Usagi isn’t colored by who Usagi was fifteen episodes ago. She’s going solely on her experience of Usagi, and where Rei is ready to assume the worst when Usagi says she’s going off to spend time with Naru-chan, Mako-chan gives her the benefit of the doubt and turns out to be right. Usagi might be ditching her teammates to hang out with her friends, but she’s doing it to take care of Naru-chan, once again underlining what an exceptional friend she is. This is also wise from a story standpoint, giving a narrative reason for Jupiter, whom we’ve just met, to get some spotlight time fighting with Sailor Moon, while Mercury and Mars sit this one out.

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Lastly, a word on the villains. Zoisite was in rare form for a general of Beryl, as the episode starts with him being praised for his success, which only sets him up for his stumbling here all the better. It’s also nice that Naru just took him on, recognizing him from the night Nephrite died. Consequences, bitch.

As for this episode’s henchman, again, I run into my problem with the inherent anachronisms of the youma. You can tell me it’s just a kids’ show until you’re blue in the face, but at the end of the day, stuff needs to make sense, and unless we’re going to start talking about time travel, I just can’t buy a monster from the ancient world who dressed and behaved like a modern boxer. The incredibly cheesy and lame boxing monster is pardoned only slightly by the clever pun in his name. “Bokushi” is Japanese for pastor, which differs only a shade in pronunciation from Bokushii, or “Boxy.” And his audience being the graves… mildly creepy.

That said, I now want to run around with my fist cocked, shouting, “I am a champion! Lovely punch!”

I’ve noticed that like most superhero works, they never talk about collateral damage on this show. Anyone else feel really bad for the people whose loved ones’ graves were desecrated if not completely destroyed? Damn.

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3.5 out of 5