The Outer Senshi draw a clear line between their duties and those of the Inners, citing their differing responsibilities and approaches as the reason they can’t all work together. They claim they’ve got the Mugenzu situation covered, but when they are attacked by Cyprine, the last and most powerful of the Witches 5, the Inners come to their aid anyway. It’s too bad Cyprine and her twin/shadow-self Ptilol are able to put the whammy on all of them, pitting them against one another in a Senshi vs. Senshi smackdown!
Meanwhile, Chibi-Usa swings by to check up on Hotaru only to learn that she’s a FREAKIN’ CYBORG! Turns out Hotaru surviving that explosion several years ago was far less straightforward than she let on.
I’m going to get this out of the way right up front. This episode’s teaser clocked in at 1:35. There is absolutely no reason room couldn’t have been made for it at the end of last week’s episode. We could easily have ditched that Motoki/Reika scene on the train to make room. It would have made the end of Act 31 far more fulfilling, and the scene here in Act 32 that picks up right after the opening theme would have made an excellent cold open. This would have also meant room at the end of this episode to actually have Usagi transformation into Super Sailor Moon.
The writers clearly know better. They’ve DONE better, flipping off the 1:1 adaptation approach where doing so would (and DID) improve the show. I honestly don’t know what the hell they’re thinking.
That aside, this episode was pretty great. Lots of legitimate conflict based on the character actually using their words and communicating. No misunderstandings, no letting others have the wrong idea because of stubbornness or ego, just two parties understanding each other perfectly and legitimately disagreeing. Oh! It’s like a savory filet mignon, I tell you! Top shelf liquor there!
It’s clear that Sailor Uranus has developed a genuine affection for Sailor Moon and doesn’t want to see her put herself in harm’s way. It’s not just that she thinks the Inners will obstruct the Outers’ progress (though that’s definitely part of it); she genuinely believes that the Inners’ ideals will get them killed. Were she as cold-hearted as she lets on, that would be something of a relief. It would certainly get them out of her way. However, the prospect of their deaths troubles her, making it very clear that Sailor Uranus’s point-of-view isn’t as uncomplicated as it might have been just a few episodes ago.
The differing jurisdictions of the Outers is such a fundamental element to this season, and not just on an interpersonal, character-oriented level. Their duties and the nature of the Death Busters are intertwined so beautiful, it’s impossible to extricate them from each other as story functions.
The Outers were never included in previous Silver Millennium flashbacks because they were abroad, performing their duties on the rim of the solar system and in the Space-Time Corridor, thus for them to factor into this story, the enemy had to be from outside the solar system, and due to their distance from Earth the Death Busters required some additional help to invade, otherwise they would have done it sooner.
The space-time warp in Mugenzu not only facilitates this and gives the Senshi a specific goal — the removal of the warp to cut the Death Busters off — but provides a solid reason for all three Outers to be awakened; Uranus and Neptune to address a threat from outside the solar system, and Pluto to address a violation in space-time. The fact that Sailor Saturn is integral to this entire storyline IN THE FORM OF A THREAT is just icing on the cake. Much as I give Naoko crap for not thinking things through terribly well (and justifiably so), this was one instance where she knocked it out of the freakin’ park.
One quick aside on Sailor Uranus before I move on:
It’s been outright stated by Naoko that Uranus being “both man and woman” was a reference to her gender fluidity and not an indication that she’s physically intersex… but I can see how, given that phrasing, people got a little confused. Of course, Naoko’s staunch position on all the Senshi being 100% female wouldn’t be made explicit until the Sailor Stars anime was released, but that’s a whole other discussion best saved for Sailor Moon Crystal Season 5.
The other major storyline in play this episode had largely to do with Tomoe family, both Hotaru and Souichi. The backstory on them and the loss of Keiko is deliciously dark, fitting considering the tone of this story. The stakes here are high, and the characters’ damage, both physical and psychological, is very real.
We’ve learned bits and pieces about Souichi, mainly through dialogue, but this episode gives us the goods. In addition to ripe info-dump on him, we actually get some flashbacks as well as a moment alone between him and Kaolinite that contrasts the man he is today with the backstory we’ve just seen. He’s very different. You can just see the coldness in his eyes. It’s not even malice. He just looks like he’s had the soul sucked right out of him, and he more or less has.
Futhermore, up until now, we’ve been given the impression that Kaolinite is running the show and that Tomoe is pretty much working for her or at the very least independently. However, his brief interaction with her in the lab suggests that she might actually be accountable to him in some way, even if it’s merely that she’s afraid he might supplant her by reporting her failures to Pharaoh 90. The plot so deliciously thickens!
As for Hotaru, we really get a look inside her… literally. The girl has cybernetic implants, for God’s sake! It certainly explains how she was able to crush that pencil case. And hey, I think her dad needs to either take a refresher course in anesthesiology or hire a specialist, because when your patient wakes up in the middle of a procedure, you’re doing something very, very wrong… “sued into poverty for malpractice” wrong.
While I don’t think it was at all intentional on Naoko’s part, considering the issue wasn’t really talked about in the early ’90s, there is something very relatable about Hotaru to those who engage in self-harm. She’s a character who has been traumatized, and the lingering effects of that trauma necessitate the wearing of concealing clothing. She’s a loner, she doesn’t have many friends, and she feels distinctly different from everyone around her. Combine all that with her pallor and her penchant for dark clothes (making for a striking resemlance to Lydia Deetz), and it’s no wonder she’s a favorite among goths.
It’s no wonder that Chibi-Usa discovering Hotaru’s secret left Hotaru feeling so vulnerable. Their relationship is sweet and completely genuine, but two kids five years apart in age do not form an equal friendship like theirs under normal circumstances. It just doesn’t happen. Hotaru is befriending a second-grader because, well, what’s the option? Chibi-Usa is probably the first person in years who hasn’t treated Hotaru like a freak, so naturally alienating her would be Hotaru’s greatest fear. And while Chibi-Usa went to Hotaru’s with the intention of sniffing out some secrets, I don’t think she was expecting anything like that!
That Chibi-Usa was even sent on such a mission was pretty awesome. Much as I love the antagonistic relationship between Usagi and Chibi-Usa, it was great having Usagi assign Chibi-Usa this mission without giving it a second thought, knowing that Chibi-Usa’s friendship with Hotaru is the perfect “in” for a mission they need carried out. Not that Chibi-Usa wasn’t well utilized in Sailor Moon S, but she never really felt like part of the team on the action side of things. She was a footnote in that area. Here, Sailor Chibi Moon is actually treated like the Senshi-in-training that she is.
As for the big battle at the climax, it was well-earned. Right up front in this episode, Uranus and Neptune are targeted by the Death Busters. Apparently, before they blew their cover, they were considered prime candidates to be made vessels. I guess they’d be setting off red flags no matter what. Special is special. Ah, the best laid plans, huh, Kaolinite?
Got to give Cyprine credit. She cuts right to the point, which is why she kind of works for me. There’s no pretense, no scheme, and thus nothing to fall short of satisfaction. You can’t half-bake an idea that isn’t even being had. Nope, Cyprine goes right for the throat, and she is brutal. The fight between the Inners and the Outers was hardcore and rather ironic. What had up until this point been a philosphical conflict between the two factions was represented in the physical conflict Cyprine forced them into via mind control, and they didn’t hold back on each other.
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get a transformation sequence for Pluto, and I’m concerned that this late in the game we might not, but at least we got a sweet eyecatcher for her.
Overall, this was a strong, satisfying installment, but the writers need to get their shit together and drop the 1:1 adaptation yoke, because it is needlessly dragging these episodes down. They did it before. They can – and most certainly should – do it again.