In a stroke of good sense, Nephrite decides to use the Sailor Senshi’s weakness to draw them out, and all experience points to Tuxedo Mask. He sends a love letter to every girl at Juuban Junior High (and probably all of Tokyo) in Tuxedo Mask’s name, hoping that one of them will be Sailor Moon. Meanwhile, Naru bumps into his alter-ego Sanjouin Masato, and he mistakes her innocent adoration for a possible ID on Sailor Moon. While every other girl is successfully dissuaded from showing up to this mystery date, Naru is suckered in by her chance run-in with Masato. Lucky for her, Usagi feels that she owns Tuxedo Mask and also shows up.
There’s a lot going on here. Naru’s whole crush on Masato, which was introduced and then just as quickly dropped for several episodes, comes back into spotlight and in a major way. This episode sets the tone for the rest of the Nephrite arc, which will focus almost exclusively on Naru from here on in. Her role as occasional battery for the Dark Kingdom really reaches its crescendo in this arc, because she’s not just getting sucked dry by a youma of the week. Oh, no. Nephrite is jacking her life force directly by preying on her emotions. That’s some stone cold shit, dude.
This episode also confirms what had been increasingly obvious over the last few episodes: Mamoru is Tuxedo Mask. However, it doesn’t stop there. This is pretty much the first substantial interaction between Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask. They’ve fought together before, but now they’re coming into physical contact, they’re helping each other out of a life-threatening situation. We even get some meaningful conversation out of them, more foreshadowing of their past acquaintance in another life, and a little insight into Tuxedo Mask’s point of view. He doesn’t really know what’s going on either. He doesn’t even know who he is. He just knows he needs to protect Sailor Moon and gets the feeling that they knew each other once long ago. I like how even though we now know that Mamoru and Tuxedo Mask are one and the same, neither personality is aware of the other yet. The development of Mamoru in this first season really offers us several layers of context as the episodes progress.
To be fair, on my first run through, the revelation of Tuxedo Mask’s identity actually did catch me by surprise, only because Mamoru’s character design and haircut are so generic and non-descript I didn’t see how it made any more sense for him to be Tuxedo Mask than some random extra in the background. Ah, Naoko Takeuchi and her completely boring as fuck ideal man. You know, I see this a lot. When these writers create a character in the image of their ideal man, I tend to find their ideal men kind of completely boring. Is it just me?
Also, we finally have an episode where Tuxedo Mask is actually essential to the plot. Only took us nineteen episodes to have him actually interact with Sailor Moon on any kind of significant level. And after it’s all over, he lingers just long enough to spout some sexist bullshit about women. Not hot, dude. Not hot.
So much of this episode is about identity and appearances, and I think this would be an appropriate time to say… what is it with these people? Are they all fucking stupid? I mean, Usagi was already pushing it, pondering whether or not Motoki could be Tuxedo Mask. Hello? Different hair color? But if we’re going on the widely-accepted convention that hair color in anime is just a stylistic device for the purposes of distinction, and that everyone has black hair in actuality, then Mamoru and Motoki’s hairstyles are similar enough that I could buy that, but… come on now! Why would Naru even entertain the thought that Nephrite is Tuxedo Mask? And why would he be surprised that Sailor Moon knows he isn’t? How did she know? I don’t know, dude. Maybe the flowing auburn waves gave you away. For that matter, why would he suspect Naru was Sailor Moon but not even guess about Usagi? It’s not like ass-length ponytails and odango are a style that all the Harajuku girls are sporting. It’s pretty much just the one. I would get on Usagi’s case about telegraphing her secret identity to the masses, but clearly it doesn’t matter. Jesus. And another thing… so, Naru can identify Sanjouin Masato by his voice, but no one else in the show has this ability? I call bullshit.
This is also the episode where Sailor Mars gets sick, and it was a clever choice. One, it illustrates their humanity. All the Shinto exorcism charms and fire scrying and combustive powers don’t immunize Rei against the common cold. It’s pretty insignificant, but this subtle reminder that the Sailor Senshi are at the end of the day only human, serves to remind us of the stakes. Push comes to shove, despite their abilities, they still have fragile human bodies and are mortal. On a narrative level, it also helps to take Mercury and Mars out of the equation in an episode that is designed to focus on Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask (and to a lesser extent, Naru and Nephrite). The interaction between our leads would be a lot less likely if Mercury and Mars were there all along. They do show up at the end, but only after Moon and Mask have gotten the chance to bond a little.
I found Usagi’s “date rules” kind of pointless and obvious, none more so than her urderwear directive. “Wear clean underwear.” Bitch, you are way too young to be worrying about that, since dude should not be getting anywhere near your underwear at this stage. And even if that were cool with you, what’s the alternative? That nasty pair with skidmarks that you’ve been wearing for the last two days? Please, girl.
A side note for Haruna-sensei, who rightfully told all her female students to ignore the love letters, inspiring them to act responsibly and safely, and then secretly got pissed that she didn’t receive a letter. 1) You already know that shit was a scam. 2) If the target recipient for that letter was a fourteen-year-old girl, why are you mad? Because you don’t look fourteen? Because no one would mistake you for a child? Because you were disqualified from some potential pedophile’s mail fraud scam? Bitch… get yourself together. This shit is ridiculous. Ugh, she is such a hot honeyed wreck. I’m starting to think she’s some kind of cautionary tale about female vanity and desperation, because clearly both qualities are driving this attractive twentysomething woman straight off the fucking deep end.
Lastly, a few random questions.
1) What is it with these anime artists who can’t master the *basics* of foreshortening well enough to not make a face look totally flat when tilted back?
2) So, did Nephrite write all those letters himself or magic them up? Or did he just get some youma to do it for him? I could just see that, some bad-ass youma with a flawless service record scribbling away, muttering, “This is some bulllshit.”
This is a rather strong episode, and really where we start into the real meat of this arc. Nephrite’s eye will be on Naru from here on in, Identities have been revealed (at least to the audience), and Zoisite is more of a discord-sowing presence than ever! Next episode will be a hiccup in the pattern, but that aside, let’s do this!