Sailor Moon: Usagi vs. Rei, Nightmare in Dreamland review

Sailor Moon starts coming into its own in this big episode! Here's our review...

A rash of disappearances at a new theme park, Dream Land, spurs the Sailor Senshi to investigate. While Ami and Luna brace themselves to put up with Usagi’s distractions by the various rides and attractions, newcomer Rei ain’t having any of her bullshit. In fact, the two seem to lock horns at every turn, making the job difficult. Jadeite is, of course, behind all the shady goings-on at Dream Land, and the girls have to pull it together and act as a team to save Tokyo from the clutches of the Dark Kingdom.

For my money, this is where the series really begins. It isn’t until this episode that all the character dynamics fall into place and Sailor Moon really feels like Sailor Moon. In addition to having Moon, Mercury, and Mars established as a power trio in battle, we get to see the dynamic between the three girls: Usagi is, well… Usagi. Rei having no patience for her, and Ami just tries to make peace between them. Hikawa Shrine is established as the group’s de facto headquarters, becoming a major setpiece for the remainder of the series. This episode also marks the first meeting of Rei and Mamoru, Usagi’s to least favorite people, who, much to her chagrin, get along smashingly and bond out of their mutual disdain for the heroine. On paper, we should hate them, but seeing Rei and Mamoru together, you can’t help but think they’d be a great couple, which leads us to not one, but two of the strongest emotional subplots in all five seasons of the show.

The way they took Mercury out of the action to give Moon and Mars a chance to interact and fight together, just the two of them, was not only clever but made a lot of sense story-wise. They did it in the previous episode as well, and we’ll see it again when Jupiter and Venus show up. For all the show’s flaws, there is some great character economy, really sharing the wealth in terms of development (at least in the first season), and giving us a chance to get to know each of the girls as she comes aboard. In this case, Rei establishes herself not just as a member of the team but as someone who is just not going to give Usagi an inch. Ami is interested mainly in keeping things copacetic, and Luna is saddled down with Usagi’s training and can’t afford to be too stern and alienate her. Rei does not have that problem, and she (appropriately enough) lights a fire under Usagi to get her shit together.

The team is now a trio, and we can see that Beryl is not happy about it. She’s starting to really put the heat on Jadeite, making him more desperate and thus more likely to make mistakes. It’s kind of a vicious cycle, but the dude totally brings it upon himself.

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It’s a nice bit of depth for Rei that, despite chiding Usagi for being flighty and irresponsible, she is not above getting hearts in her eyes over Tuxedo Mask. It’s a nice way of saying that teenagers can range from juvenile to wise beyond their years, but on some fundamental level, they’re still dripping with hormones and no teenager, male or female, can rise above that 100% of the time. Even Rei, a thoughtful, focused, responsible, and spiritually aware young woman, blushes around a hot guy. And it may not cripple her, but fighting through it takes some doing. She’s only human, after all.

I’ve noticed that Sailor Mars never receives a bonus gift from Luna like Moon’s disguise pen or Mercury’s computer, but then again, she’s got all her spiritual miko powers like her anti-evil charms and fire scrying, so I think it evens out. Oh, Mars. You gotta love Sailor Mars. Bitch just gets shit done.

And now, of course, a few random thoughts.

You know, Usagi raises a fair point. What the hell is Mamoru doing on that kiddie train? I’m all for nurturing your inner child, but dude, you like ridiculous at best, and pedo at worst.

Who else was totally creeped out by the lightning speed with which the youma’s collar SWALLOWED HER HEAD, only to have her true head rotate into place. Hoooooohmygod. Creeptastic.

And lastly… when the carousel illusion dissolved to reveal that Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars were really just riding brooms… anyone else think the animators made them grind up and down just a wee bit much? Come on, animators. This is a show about fourteen-year-old girls in mini-skirts. That wasn’t enough for you?

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3.5 out of 5