The appearance of the Holy Grail and the contribution of all the Senshi allow Usagi to upgrade from Sailor Moon to Super Sailor Moon, and with a little Rainbow Moon Heart Ache, Cyprine and Ptilol are toast. All the Senshi seem to finally be on the same page, enough for the Outers to reveal the truth about the talismans and the nature of Sailor Saturn. However, the declaration that Hotaru will have to die splits them up again. When Chibi Moon goes to warn her friend about the impending attempt on her life, but as soon as Hotaru senses the Silver Crystal, she snatches it away, transforming into Mistress 9 and leaving Chibi-Usa unconscious… and not breathing.
There were some powerful moments in this episode. Usagi’s transformation into Super Sailor Moon was epic. The Outers joining together in the past for the awakening of Sailor Saturn was chilling and even a little disturbing. And to end on Chibi-Usa depowered and not breathing… talk about a sucker punch! And the music all throughout was just superb. The score is just awe-inspiring!
Something should definitely be said about the Senshi’s power up here. The ’90s anime diverged from the manga in a lot of places, but especially in the latter seasons where power ups came way behind schedule. The Senshi don’t attain their “super” forms here, but the shapes of their brooches do change, something that became an essential visual of their super forms in the anime. We see an echo of this response to the supering of Sailor Moon in Sailor Moon S, but only with Sailor Chibi Moon, when her hair pins spontaneously appear in response to Usagi’s upgrade. I find what happens here far more poignant, but not as much as it could be.
Such a point is made of the Outers having stronger powers than the Inners, and in Sailor Moon S, this divide was made clear because the former group had Planet Power, while the latter was stagnating with Star Power. In the manga, they apparently are on the same power level, so what up? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the Inners to upgrade to Planet Power in response to Usagi’s transformation into Super Sailor Moon? It’s easy for the Outers to dismiss the Inners when they’re literally operating at higher level, but it would be a great way to shake up the mid-arc power dynamic between the group, especially after they were forced to fight each other. Just sayin’.
There’s not much to say about the unceremonious eradication of Cyprine and Ptilol. They died as they existed: insignificantly. Besides, they’ll be back next week.
The flashback to the Silver Millennium, finally one that recounts the downfall of the kingdom from the Outers’ perspectives, was wonderfully haunting. It tugged not just Usagi’s heartstrings to hear about this traumatic event in her spiritual past, but out heartstrings as well. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Silver Millennium.
Everything last season was about Crystal Tokyo (and let’s once again praise the design of this version of Crystal Tokyo), but the feeling of antiquity and mythology that came from the Silver Millennium kind of fell out of the picture. Now that imagery is brought back, triggering a lot of emotions attached to it, all so we can see it destroyed, showing us that Sailor Saturn’s entire function is to annihilate civilizations. It’s a powerful sequence, and the only flaw I can find with it is that there wasn’t enough of it, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
It’s great drama that just as soon as the Outers are convinced that they should perhaps work with the Inners, their ideological clash over how to deal with Hotaru splits them up again. It might have been interesting for reactions to be split along a line other than the Inner/Outer divide, for maybe Neptune to fall into the “killing her is going a little too far” camp, while one of the Inners (Mercury would be least expected, but Venus or Mars would make the most sense) to be like, “she’s a sweet girl, but we’re talking the end of the world here.” Not that everyone’s actual reactions don’t make sense. They totally do. It would just have been a sly twist if Naoko had mixed it up a bit.
It was a very smart move to have Pluto pull the time travel card, and explain that since they know what the future is supposed to be, this whole Death Buster problem (as well as the Sailor Saturn problem) must be glitches in history’s natural sequence of events, glitches which require correction. As far as character is concerned, good GOD, was Naoko on her game for this one. I mean, except for that bullshit about the Outers’ supposed patrons.
It’s just a throwaway line to handwave how the Outers afford their expensive lifestyle. I guess they’d have no reason to lie or keep any secrets at this point, but it’s a pretty weak explanation to go on. There’s even a little aside in the manga questioning the legitimacy of this claim. Again, this oversight and challenging of our suspension of disbelief can be chalked up to the manga’s chronic case of N.D.G.A.F. or “Naoko didn’t give a fuck,” which is especially disappointing at a point in the manga when she finally seemed to have a handle on character development. But again, it’s a relatively small objection.
And, of course, we come to the painful ending where friendship and loyalty put Chibi-Usa in critical condition. It’s a special kind of heartbreak when you go to warn your friend that some powerful warriors are coming to fucking kill her, and she repays your loyalty by stealing your life force to become the Anti-Christ. Well, at least Chibi Moon was kind of right. Sailor Saturn was a far less immediate threat than Mistress 9 was. But six of one, a half dozen of the other. Bottom line: Chibi-Usa isn’t breathing.
Holy. Shit. It is, as I said above, a sucker punch, which makes the immediate cut to “The Maiden’s Advice” all the more disrespectful. I got flashbacks to the episode of Degrassi Junior High that ended with the line, “Derek, your mother and father… they’re dead,” and then went straight into the peppy, saccharine ending theme. It fluctuates between hilarious and obscene. Skip to exactly the 21:00 mark in the video below for reference.
So, there was definitely a lot of good to this episode, and yet it felt somewhat unsatisfying. It’s not that it was bad – far from it – but it felt like it over in the blink of an eye, and usually when that happens, it means that there was wasted time. Upon a second viewing, I found that indeed there was.
After this episode, I am officially at a loss to understand the reasoning behind the writing of these episodes. I just don’t understand. I figured if they weren’t going to end the previous episode with Sailor Moon’s upgrade to Super Sailor Moon, it had to do with a literal, 1:1 adaptation requiring every second of screentime to relay the events of the corresponding manga chapter. But no.
The entire teaser is a recap of the previous episode’s climax. Let me ask you all something. How many times has this show, in the name of literal adaptation, begun or ended an episode abruptly and without any fanfare? It’s happened more often than not. No fade in; we just jump in from a black screen to shot that picks up at the exact moment the last episode left off, no explanations, no easing us in. Whoomp, there it is! Go! But yet, this time we need to waste precious seconds (1 minute, 26 seconds; I clocked it!) on rehashing shit? What?
While I’ve been thus far making an argument to push up the events of each episode by a minute or two to make each installment more fulfilling, I actually think this episode ended at just the right place. This central conflict of this episode was really about the ideological clash of the Inners and the Outers over what to do about Hotaru, so ending it with the rise of Mistress 9 and the assault that leaves Chibi-Usa in a code blue is pretty damn perfect. So, for the first time in weeks, I happily and thankfully declare that this episode ended in just the right spot.
So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is where it began.
I’m a firm believer that complaining without proposing a solution is simply whining, so here’s the alternative I propose would have served the episode much better. In these past two episodes, we’ve seen that the “teaser” or “cold open” last about a minute and a half. So…
Cut the Motoki/Reika scene from Act 31, and slide everything up by two minutes, putting Usagi’s upgrade to Super Sailor Moon at the end of Act 32. Combine that extra time with the elimination of recap footage, and you get about three minutes of time to play around with in Act 33. Three whole minutes to do whatever you want.
My vote would go to expanding on the flashback. Rather than just having flashes of images under some narration, let’s see the Silver Millennium Outers reacting to their meeting and the awakening of Saturn in real time. Since the central conflict of this episode is the debate over what to be done about Sailor Saturn, really give it some gravitas. We could really live that moment along with the Outers, share their sense of impending doom, experience their largely unnecessary deaths along with them. This would certainly evoke empathy for their hardline regarding Saturn.
Or perhaps instead of that, you could have the Inner Senshi, upon learning what the Outers intend to do to Hotaru, attempt to stop them, resulting in another Senshi vs. Senshi fight, only this time, instead of the fight being born of mind-control, it’s even more loaded with emotion because the Senshi are in full control of themselves and are choosing to fight each other. Their physical conflict would be the natural consequence of their philosophical argument and would give Chibi Moon the perfect cover under which she could slip away to warn Hotaru. Because honestly? The Outers are bigger, stronger, and faster than she is. They were already at Hotaru’s house when Chibi Moon arrived. If they wanted to kill Hotaru, what the fuck were they waiting for?
I really feel like this episode is a distant cousin of Act 9 in that it contains some fantastic imagery and some poignant moments, but is kind of amorphous and formless, which is especially frustrating because unlike Act 9 (which was just a complete fucking mess of randomness and ad nauseam repetition), this one came so close to being a really strong episode. It had all the requisite elements — a power up, a potent bit of backstory and mythology, a little humor, and a B-story with Hotaru that gets paid off at the end — but failed to really make the most out of them. It just felt so… thin.
When we hit the eyecatcher, and I’m thinking “Shit! It’s already half-over?!”, that’s a problem. It’s like having a wafer bar for lunch. It’s like… sure, I ate something and it tasted good, but it wasn’t very dense, it wasn’t a lot to chew on, and my stomach’s going to be growling again in forty-five minutes. Any satisfaction it offers is fleeting.
This wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t a great episode. I’d rate it on the lower end of good, certainly not as good as it easily could have been. Again, with an action-adventure series, having an episode that it essentially a bunch of people standing around, talking about the plot… I’m not saying it can’t work. I’m just saying it didn’t this time.