Endymion goes around collecting the former Rainbow Crystal carriers for some dark new purpose until the only ones left are Rei’s Grandpa and Urawa, who happens to be in town, visiting. Using what little precognitive power he has retained, Urawa knows what’s coming and urges Ami and the others to protect Grandpa. Not content to leave it at that, Ami finally admits her true feelings for Urawa, and Sailor Mercury sets out to kick some ass, even if it means going up against Endymion himself.
With the end of the season being nigh, it’s time to coda various plot points that have led us here, in this case the Rainbow Crystals and the Seven Great Youma. This is a great episode, not only because it is a logical loose end for the Dark Kingdom to tie up, but it takes it to the next level by proposing the creation of some kind of uber-youma and affords us the opportunity to revisit some characters we’ve met before like Reika and Urawa. Yes! Please! Continuity is awesome! Considering how much of the filler in this show has been, however enjoyable, fairly random in its premises, it is deeply satisfying just how much sense this plot makes. Of the seven Rainbow Crystal carriers, Urawa and Grandpa are the two in which we are the most emotionally invested. So, to split the team up, some safeguarding Grandpa and the rest seeking out Urawa, not only makes sense logistically but helps the plot and affords Ami an opportunity to take the lead. I have to say, though, considering what an awesome threat this uber-Youma would have been, it’s a little disappointing that Beryl’s plan failed, especially given the 11th Hour ass-pull villains we get in Episode 45. But more on that in another review.
Before I saw the actual subtitles for this episode, when all I knew was that the show was originally Japanese and the script was likely changed a great deal by DiC, I assumed that in the scene where Endymion gets all stranger danger with Urawa on the street, Urawa was calling him a pervert or something. “Murderer” was a bit pedestrian and a lot less likely for people to take seriously coming from some kid in the streets. But a fourteen-year-old boy screaming that the older dude who’s getting all handsy with him is a pee-pee toucher… that’ll get results.
How telling is it that the pointedly formal and polite Ami, addressed Urawa by his first name? Mmm hmm. Girl, you go get some. Though, girl, this is the second time this guy seems a little too ready to off himself “for the greater good.” Call me a cynic, but that’s a red flag right there. I do understand there’s a certain cultural value judgment here at work here though. While self-sacrifice is certainly considered noble in many cultures, Japanese culture puts a pretty heavy premium on self-sacrifice to the degree of glorifying suicide as morally responsible in certain contexts. It’s why you get teenagers committing seppuku to spare the parents the shame of having children with sub-standard grades, and then those parents, while grieving the loss of their child, admire the child’s commitment to the family’s honor and reputation.
I do my best to be respectful of other cultures, and I’m particularly fond of many aspects of Japanese culture, but that’s some bullshit. And this is not some ignorant, anecdotal stuff I just pulled out of my ass. That kind of thing, while not particularly common, DOES HAPPEN. Suicide is a very real social problem in Japan due largely in part to how it has been romanticized in their culture. So, bottom line: I can’t help but be a little concerned about Urawa here, because he seems like he’s itching to go out in a heroic blaze of glory. And that’s why I love that Mercury just shuts his bullshit down. She acknowledges that self-sacrifice may be noble, but it isn’t always necessary, and that there will be people who will be saddened by the loss of you. Given their cultural view of suicide, that’s a pretty radical thing for the straight-laced and socially conservative Mercury to say, something she probably wouldn’t have without the surprise star of this episode: Sailor Jupiter.
Mako-chan and Ami don’t get a lot of scenes together where it’s just the two of them, despite the fact that they go to the same school and are both superheroes on the same team. I was really happy to see that friendship get a little attention here with Mako-chan totally calling Ami out on her bullshit. Like many intellectuals, emotional matters are not Ami’s forte, and someone as rawly emotional as Jupiter is the perfect person to bust through all that.
Also, Jupiter taking on Endymion by herself is so bad-ass, and I find it kind of disappointing that when she feels cornered, she just screams and waits for him to hit her. Especially if all Endymion is throwing at her is that weird, chicken arm chop thrusting. What the fuck was that? Jupiter was scared of that? It’s part of that insidious, seemingly benign sexism of “even strong girls are ultimately girls, which means they’re gonna get scared and buckle.” And, look, if Usagi were in her place, she’d have a bitch of a time fighting Endymion. Mercury might also be reluctant. But Jupiter? Jupiter would go down swinging.
Endymion really does give the Sailor Guardians a run for their money here. He’s pretty bad-ass and threatening, but it can’t be said that they were ever in any real danger, because they dude was literally pulling punches. As we’ve seen over the last few episodes, Beryl’s hold on him is getting weaker and weaker, and Mamoru’s true personality is affecting Endymion on at least a subconscious level. This is yet another reason why this episode is so strong. So many things come together for the climax to have the impact it does. You have Mamoru really starting break through the cracks in the Enymion persona, cracks that have been getting bigger and bigger. In addition, the big event that brings us here is a callback to the Rainbow Crystal arc, the tightest part of the entire damn season, which brings Urawa back into the mix, causing Mercury to step up her game in a way she ordinarily might not, which deals yet another blow to the Endymion persona, leaving him vulnerable to something we’ve all been waiting for.
Sailor Moon uses Moon Healing Escalation on Endymion… and it totally works. He shouts “Refresh!” He was Mamoru again. Beaten and unconscious, but Mamoru nonetheless, and if the Dark Kingdom hadn’t nabbed him before Sailor Moon could get to him, he’d be the same old snarky, well dressed, rose wielding guy he always was. Unfortunately, they do get their hands on him, and now he’s out of the game until the finale. Yeah, the Dark Kingdom takes him back to double-down on his brainwashing, but it’s going to take them weeks to do it. Sailor Moon’s near success here is not be dismissed. Nor is Mercury’s.
See, Sailor Mercury, however beloved, often gets dismissed as a lightweight character. She’s sweet, shy, and nerdy… and shoots bubbles at you (SIDE NOTE: I love the real time, non-stock footage depiction of Bubble Spray. It’s always when they play with the stock footage like that). Mercury is intended to be mainly a defensive soldier, and being underestimated is by and large their lot, but you know what? When you actually manage to piss this girl off, when you make it personal she will, I dare say, put you on ice.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about Urawa as a character, someone who had a lot of gravitas despite only appearing in the show twice (technically three times, but that last one is just a cameo). He is a well formed character, has fantastic chemistry with Ami, and is a very believable love interest for her, enough that he can be used as bait to lure her to her death. And then he just disappears. I’m not sure why. I mean, the writers kept Yuuichirou, another anime exclusive character, around at least through (pardon, it’s been a while) Sailor Moon S, and he wasn’t nearly as good a match for Rei as Urawa was for Ami.
Like so many things, it’s really a wasted opportunity, one that becomes particularly egregious in light of all the filler we get in seasons to come. I mean, if you’re going to have dozens of episodes of filler, why not utilize the diverse ensemble of characters you already have? Part of what made Nephrite’s seduction of Naru and the Rainbow Crystal arc so good was that they took background characters and brought them into the foreground to fulfill narrative purposes the heroes themselves could not fulfill.
If you’re going to have 60% of each season be random bullshit, you might as well keep these guys around. I honestly don’t see a reason why the creative team wouldn’t, even from a practical standpoint. Wouldn’t it take less time, energy, and money to NOT constantly be designing and animating new characters every week? Would it not be more practical, as well as narratively cleaner, to have an established supporting cast that you can rotate in and out? It seems like common sense, and yet… wave the fuck goodbye to Urawa, because aside from an illusion used to bait Mercury, we’re neither going to see nor hear of him ever again.