Sailor Moon – Death of the Sailor Guardians: The Tragic Final Battle Review

The Sailor Guardians put their lives on the line in the penultimate episode of Sailor Moon's first season. Check out our review!

Do I need to even bother with a summary, given that title? *sigh* Might as well. The Sailor Guardians travel to the Arctic via the completely ass-pulled “Sailor Teleport.” In their journey to the D-Point, where lies the entrance to the Dark Kingdom, they encounter the DD Girls, who pick them off one by one until Sailor Moon is all alone. Ready to give up, the spirits of her fallen comrades encourage her to carry on (see what I did there?) and take the fight to Beryl. Just as Sailor Moon runs toward her final battle, newly inspired, Evil Endymion wakes from his double-down brainwashing, eyes aglow.

You’re kidding me with this episode title, right? I mean, it’s not like I’m affected per se. By the time I got to this episode, I’d already seen the dub. I knew what had happened despite how DiC tried to mitigate it as some kind of “capture.” I knew… but not everyone did. People coming to Sailor Moon for the first time through this medium, this version… why punish them like this? Why deny them the dramatic effect, the emotional gut-punch of the surprise deaths of four major characters? I just don’t…

This is something about anime in general I will never understand, even anime based on a well-known manga. I get not fussing over guarding your plot points, but just putting them right there in the title or the previews? Weaksauce.

I’m very torn on the pacing of this episode. On the one hand, I appreciate how it gets straight to the point. We get a quick scene with Usagi essentially saying goodbye to her family (though they don’t know it), and after that the narrative wastes no time in getting our girls transformed and ready for battle. This was a good move, because at this point in the plot we know what the stakes are. We don’t need a reminder. We know our characters, we love them, and we are invested in both their fates and the success of their mission. That’s why I was actually a little disappointed upon rewatching this episode.

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Now, like many people, I first came to Sailor Moon through DiC. That was my original point of reference. To learn that “Day of Destiny” was actually two episodes that had been gutted and cobbled together was both horrific and fantastic, because it meant that I had twice the finale to enjoy. And, as I mentioned in my last review, the final three episodes of this season were the first episodes of Sailor Moon that I saw in Japanese with subtitles. So when I first saw this episode in high school, I was so jazzed by all the extra content, I never stopped to notice the problems with the episode itself.

Let’s start with the setting. While it made sense to have the entrance to the Dark Kingdom be at the North Pole (and thus go undetected by humans), it’s not very distinctive visually. Which is not to say that a winterscape can’t be scenic, but this one isn’t. After an entire season of breathtaking cityscapes, parks, piers, cruise ships, caverns, even the ruins of ancient Greco-Romanesque paradise, our grand finale takes place against one of the blandest, most monotonously colorless backdrops they could possibly have come up with. I mean, ESPECIALLY after the eye candy of the previous episode, you’re going to follow that up with this? A flat, frozen wasteland with an extremely limited color palette? No.

I, for one, would have loved to see the Sailor Guardians actually enter the Dark Kingdom, to walk through those caverns with their marble floors and creepy rainbow chandeliers. We see a little of this in the next episode when Sailor Moon comes face to face with Beryl. There’s a reason that scene is so satisfying. Because this world that spawned all the challenges our hero has faced, this hell where her death was plotted countless times, the place that stole her love from her, that has remained “other” for the entire series so far, now surrounds her.

That was with just one of the Sailor Guardians in one room. To have our girls behind enemy lines, right in the heart of darkness, maybe walking through Queen Beryl’s eerily empty throne room or past Metalia’s chamber, would have been spectacular. Especially if they had foes worth fighting in that setting.

To their credit, the DD Girls were formidable. They did some bad-ass shit, but if they were that effective, where has Beryl been hiding them all this time? As far as youma go, the DD Girls could do a lot worse. They have striking character designs, they’re strong, they’re brutal, and they have a variety of attacks at their disposal. Most importantly, they clearly get shit done. It’s not that they’re sucky youma. They’re fine. They just didn’t deserve to be the characters who take the Sailors out. See, this would be the perfect time to show what a bad-ass Kunzite was.

Kunzite’s last stand always rubbed me the wrong way. It always struck me as out of place where it was, shoehorned into the end of the previous episode without much fanfare or significance. It was just one more attempt of his to kill the Sailor Guardians, only instead of merely failing that time, he got killed. I always felt it was kind of a waste really, especially since the plot could seriously have used him. What if he had lived and then, having the home court advantage in the caverns of the Dark Kingdom, proceeded to pick the Sailor Guardians off one by one until Sailor Moon wasted him.

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If the writers insisted on having Kunzite be dead by this point, there’s always the option of bringing things full circle by having Beryl revive Jadeite from his “eternal sleep” or… hey, why think so small? Why choose? Kunzite could still be alive, Jadeite could be thawed out, and Metalia’s dark power could resurrect Zoisite and Nephrite, who would be more than willing to do whatever Beryl wanted if Naru was taken hostage. That way, the Sailors could get separated and each fight a one of the Four Kings. Those fights could be really personal and intense, each with its own unique backdrop.

Seeing Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite, and Kunzite all standing together as the Silver Millennium fell in the previous episode was an awesome sight. It’s a shame it was the only time we got anything like it. The four of them pitted against the Sailor Guardians? Damn, that would have been great. Having seen such a battle go down in Act 10 of Sailor Moon Crystal only proves that point. Sure, it would have required another episode to cover all that, but so what? Like there aren’t a dozen completely disposable episodes that could have been swapped out for something like this?

But okay, let’s say the writers didn’t know; that this episode was all we were getting and having all four of those guys was simply not on the menu. What about paying off this idea of this mega-youma that would result from merging the Rainbow Crystal carriers. What if Evil Endymion had succeeded in that little venture? That would at least be one-shot enemy that had been sufficiently built up as part of the mythology. But no. No mega-youma, no generals. After 44 episodes of bad-assery, who ends up taking the Sailor Guardians down? A cadre of random demon stripper faeries.

Random. Demon. Stripper. Faeries.

Well, once you get past that — and really, what choice does one have? — the deaths are pretty good. They’re all memorable, and the girls go down swinging. Jupiter’s tendency to project affection onto every hot guy she met led her into a trap. Once bound, she took quite a few hits, but being the bad-ass that she is, she channeled enough electricity to electrocute herself in the process of killing two of the DD Girls. This is a girl who uses her body as a lightning rod on a daily basis, and she electrocuted herself. That is some high voltage. I was impressed.

Mercury really shined and not just in how she died. This episode is where she bookended Mars’ Queen Mother Bitchslap from Episode 35 with what I like to call the Miss Priss Bitchslap. I mean, Usagi, honey, when Sailor Freakin’ Mercury slaps you in the face, you need it. Also, true to form, Mercury is the first to not even be fazed by the illusion of her loved one, rather devising a way to take that power away from the enemy. And I deeply appreciate the dramatic irony of Mercury’s final use of her supercomputer being an act of blunt force. I did get a little twinge in my heart when she told Usagi she should stay behind because the others have stronger attacks. Talk about a sobering dose of reality. Damn.

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As for Sailor Mars, her moment with Usagi where she tells her that she enjoyed bickering with her was incredibly powerful. Because yeah, she found Usagi annoying most of the time, but she loved her in her way. She loved her, cherished her, and was willing to die for her. And, oh how she died. Best. Fire Soul. Ever.  Can I get an amen? And wow, did Mars look fabulous lying on that ice. Death becomes her.

The only death that suffered a little was Minako’s. Sailor Venus’ death, while certainly graphic and noble, wasn’t terribly character-specific. I mean, I guess she took a metaphorical bullet for Sailor Moon, but… so do all of them. Still, it was a very striking death. I kind of wish it had been a little more dynamic. I also wish it had a better build-up. Unlike the others, who had some fanfare, it’s not long after Mercury bites it that Venus is attacked. She doesn’t get emotionally baited by anything, she doesn’t have a specific contribution to the mission that only she could provide, she doesn’t even get a moment with Usagi. She just gets attacked.

Now, sure, there is the logic that in the heat of battle you don’t get a chance to stop and mourn every casualty, and that’s fair. Bodies are going to drop pretty mercilessly, but we’re talking four characters here, four characters we’ve spent 44 episodes getting to know really well. I think Minako deserved a little better than she got.

All that said, though, it’s still a great episode. It punches you right in the gut and it makes you feel, and that’s more than can be said for 99% of the stuff out there. The process of Usagi having everything stripped away is just plain painful and was smart thinking on the part of the writers. Going into the next episode, it’s very important that Usagi doesn’t suffer a lot of physical damage so that every little bit of what she sustains in the final episode of the season knocks her down from near peak condition to complete physical exhaustion. That doesn’t work if she’s already been physically beaten down. It’s not as good a contrast. However, wearing her down emotionally in this episode, bringing her to the edge of despair only to be given an eleventh hour booster shot of inspiration and hope is just perfect. It is smart writing.

So, there it is. Forty-five down, one to go. And on the creepy laugh of a newly awakened and freshly brainwashed Endymion, we brace ourselves for the finale of Season 1 of Sailor Moon.

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4 out of 5