Sailor Moon: Memories Return – Usagi and Mamoru’s Past review

A major character meets their shocking demise in this excellent episode of classic Sailor Moon. Here's our review.

It turns out Usagi was the Moon Princess all along, or at least she was in her past life. Those latent powers of Princess Serenity are enough to flatten Zoisite, who only manages to escape with Kunzite’s help, but the strain knocks Sailor Moon out. Back in the Dark Kingdom, Beryl fatally wounds Zoisite for disobeying her orders to not harm Tuxedo Mask, then seeks Metalia’s aid in healing “Endymion,” as Mamoru was known in his past life.

Meanwhile, the Sailor Guardians are still trapped in the bizarro Starlight Tower and can’t get out, so to pass the time, Luna and Artemis give them the broad strokes of their past life backstory. Sailor Moon wakes up just in time to freak out about everything, when Kunzite shows up to exact revenge for Zoisite, who just died in his arms. The Sailor Guardians pull it together to kick his ass and find the motivation to carry on and get Tuxedo Mask back.

If the previous two episodes defied the standard formula, this one flipped it the bird, and while we’ll be jumping straight into another batch of formulaic episodes, they are all undoubtedly more intense from here on out. The arrival of Jupiter and the onset of the Rainbow Crystal Saga finally got us into the meat of the story. This episode is where we finally come to its heart, the story behind the story: the downfall of the Silver Millennium.

The Silver Millennium was a kingdom on Earth’s moon, a utopian, matriarchal paradise ruled by a line of queens named “Serenity.” And it’s really freakin’ beautiful. It employs design aspects of Greco-Roman and Arabian architecture, Western European topiary, French fashion, and the music… the Silver Millennium background music. It’s got a very airy, Pure Moods-y, “Early Babylon 5” feel to it and really helps sell the New Age tone of that civilization. I love it.

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So, the princess of the Silver Millennium fell in love with Prince Endymion of Earth, but both perished in a cataclysmic war with the Dark Kingdom. Queen Serenity sent the souls of her daughter, her court/bodyguards (the Sailor Guardians), and the prince to the future, a peaceful era where they could be reborn and live normal, happy lives, which they would have if the Dark Kingdom hadn’t returned. But they did, thus Sailor Moon and the others were called to action.

A detail I’ve always hated is that the Sailor Guardians were not only the princess’s personal guard but also princesses of their own planets, an idea that fails to make sense on multiple levels. Sure, the castles in which these princesses lived were spaceworthy and orbited the uninhabitable planets each girl represented, but… why? Did the Silver Millennium have some kind of ambitious space program, settling outposts along other planets? And why establish new monarchies? Why weren’t they ladies or duchesses of some kind? I could certainly digest an Arthurian court of queens ruled by a high queen, but this is never discussed. For that matter, why would the Sailor Guardians be guarding the princess? Why not the queen? I mean, let’s say Queen Venus is busy ruling Magellan Castle. She has shit to do, so she sends her daughter to go serve the high queen. Sounds legit to me. But Princess Venus is not serving the high queen. She’s serving the crown princess. Well, who’s guarding the high queen? I guess in all fairness she can take of herself, but if that’s the custom, how come the Sailor Guardians don’t get transferred to Chibiusa’s detail when Usagi become Neo-Queen Serenity? And yes, I’m aware of the Asteroid Guardians, but I’m talking before they show up.

Naturally, Naoko didn’t think about any of this shit, because things like logic and details were never really high on her list of priorities. A consistent, airtight mythology was not exactly in her mission statement. Sailor Moon is mainly about some good action and some good romance, following both an astrological and mineralogical motif. And that’s fine. Never kept me from enjoying the show. It still doesn’t. But if we’re going to be looking at this through a comprehensive analysis, you just gotta call this shit out.

The revelation that Usagi was actually the princess surprised no one except maybe me, but again that was mainly because I just assumed that it was too obvious to be the actual case. I seriously thought it was all going to be part of some brilliant misdirect, and I suppose in a roundabout way it worked, because I was completely prepared for Usagi to be a red herring… and that was the red herring. She was the Moon Princess after all. And I can’t say I’m terribly disappointed by that. It makes plenty of sense and it’s good for the story. And, well… check out Usagi in her princess form, flattening Zoisite like a boss.

Oh, Zoisite. Poor, hubristic Zoisite. Sure, it’s an angry Beryl that pulls the trigger so to speak, but it was ultimately Zoisite own flaws that did him in: his pettiness, his impatience, his short temper, his presumption, all characteristics that had been established from the get-go. It’s kind of amazing that the very same qualities that brought him to power were the ones that spelled his downfall. If he’d just followed orders and not let things get personal, he might have lived. He might. Maybe. But once he tried to kill Tuxedo Mask, it was all over.  I mean, he was a crispy critter.

The tenderness of Zoisite’s death scene really humanized him without letting him off the hook for the horrible person that he was. In the end, if his glowy symbolic flower petals are to be believed, he went to Hell. I’m cool with that. His reign was my favorite of the Four Heavenly Kings, and he worked it. Fiercely. But he got what he deserved, he had a satisfying defeat and death. I really can’t ask for more than that.

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There’s always been some conjecture among fans about just how much Kunzite loved Zoisite. He did seem at times to be somewhat cold and manipulative. Zoisite was clearly the more engaged of the two. I tend to think that Kunzite may have started off using Zoisite to carry out his plans and be the scapegoat if they didn’t work, knowing that if they did and he stepped up and took the credit, Zoisite would let him. But somewhere along the line, he did grow to care for Zoisite, not realizing just how much he loved Zoisite until he lay dying. And oh boy, does he come after the Sailors with a fucking vengeance. Ironically, the cold voice of reason who always tried to subdue Zoisite’s temper, he’s now poised as a wrathful, grieving lover bent on revenge. It’s poetic is what it is.

While Sailor Venus did rush into battle with the others in the previous episode, this is the first really battle she’s engaged in as part of the team. She isn’t saving them, she isn’t along for the ride; she is working in tandem with Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter as one of the Sailor Guardians, and it’s pretty awesome. When Kunzite attacks, the four girls fight together as one offensive force, and Venus feels like the missing puzzle piece finally wedged into place. It’s grand.

Lest we forget in all this our heroine. Usagi’s breakdown in this episode has been a long time coming, and it’s not just the kind of frightened whining she exhibited in the first episode. She legit does not want to fight anymore. She’s seen the cost of this war, the toll it’s taken on her and her loved ones personally, and she’s hit her limit. I do appreciate, however, that Mars is taking this hard too. Even if Mamoru is alive and does return to them, he’s no longer a viable option for her romantically and never will be again. So, all this leads to what I have for many years called the Queen Mother Bitchslap. The interaction between Usagi and Rei in this episode is awesome. It goes from manic to angry to defensive, ultimately leading to a breakthrough between these two girls. There’s true friendship there, and loyalty. And, as we’ll see in the following episode, a new understanding between them.

If I have to make one real complaint about an otherwise excellent episode, it would have to be the first offense of an incredibly annoying and lame plot device employed throughout the series, the Swiss cheese memory. All the bullshit about Luna’s convenient memory (why wasn’t Artemis’s memory affected at all?) should come to a close here as she states she remembers everything clearly, but we know that ain’t true, because in the seasons to come, there will be a whole load of shit from the past she just conveniently remembers when everyone else hears of it.

The simple truth Sailor Moon did not initially have a longterm plan. The Dark Kingdom arc of the manga was supposed to be it until both Kodansha and Takeuchi realized they had a cash cow on their hands and she was pressed to continue Sailor Moon’s adventures. There wasn’t a lot of foresight in the construction of this mythos. Takeuchi pretty much laid the tracks down as the train came chugging up behind her, and thus how could she allude to the Outers or Elysion or the Black Moon or any of that stuff when she hadn’t thought it up yet? I understand that, and I’m forgiving. Sometimes that’s just the creative process, but you got to retcon a more satisfactory explanation for never mentioning major aspects of your mythology, something significantly better than “the fucking cats forgot something again.” Forgive me. If you need me, I can be reached at 1-800-FUCKTHATSHIT.

Other than that, this was a good one. It developed the mythos, answered some long held questions, brought a formal close to the Rainbow Crystal arc and Zoisite’s tenure as primary antagonist, developed several characters, and even managed to have some kick-ass action. That, my friends, is a winner.

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4.5 out of 5