Jadeite’s latest scheme has a young, sexy tarot reader stealing business from a kindly old fortuneteller whose music cue vaguely reminds me of The Godfather. This gets personal when our pseudo-prophetic vixen corrupts Umino with a kind of “anti-inhibition” spell that prompts him to do things like wear his own clothes to school, read manga and eat snacks in class, and sexually assault both their teacher and Usagi.
Um…hello?!? One of these things is not like the others. Anyway, Usagi seems more concerned about Umino’s odd behavior than the fact that he nearly just forced himself on her, so she transforms into Sailor Moon (following the brief setback of forgetting the magic words) and puts everything right again.
The pacing of these episodes is interesting, and something that definitely sets anime apart from western animation. A lot of time is spent establishing mood and motivation. Roughly the first half of the episode is spent setting up the situation and not only helping us to understand what would get Umino to the fortuneteller in the first place, but helping us to care about him as a character. The next quarter of the episode shows the effects of his corruption, and gives Usagi time to reveal bits of her own character while realizing that there’s trouble afoot and seeking to get the bottom of it. Sailor Moon doesn’t appear until near the end, and the superhero portion of the episode, despite being short, means something because of the context that’s been constructed beneath it.
Like the previous episode, this one is largely introductory, further developing Usagi’s supporting cast, particularly Umino, appropriate considering he’s the designated victim of the week. We also meet Usagi’s dad and Motoki, a college student who works at Crown Game Center and with whom Usagi is infatuated. While Motoki could easily be dismissed as just a placeholder, someone to keep Usagi’s schoolgirl crush circuits warm while she’s not fighting evil, I think he has more value. Usagi’s crush on Motoki is purely a product of her civilian life. It’s innocent, fairly shallow, and contrasts directly with the more involved, layered relationship she develops later with Tuxedo Mask. This crush, like most aspects of Usagi’s civilian life, becomes decreasingly relevant as the series progresses, showing just how much being Sailor Moon has changed her life.
Side note: I’m going to try not to read too far into how Usagi likened her crush to her father. I’m sure it’s simply innocent role model transference and all that, but I’ve never looked at a guy I was crushing on and thought, “Ooh, damn, you know what kicks him right over the edge into dreamy? The resemblance he has to my dad.” No.
This episode is also the first we see of Usagi’s sweet and selfless nature. In the first episode, the only time she acted in someone else’s interest was to save Naru, and that was still her best friend. She has absolutely nothing to gain by being nice to the old fortuneteller, but she does what she can to cheer him up.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be Sailor Moon without some gender-y stuff, like the insistence on how essential a certain pattern of behavior is to securing a man, first from Mamoru to Usagi, who tells her she’ll never get a boyfriend if she’s not more ladylike, then later with Haruna-sensei when Umino flips up her skirt and she breaks down crying about how she can’t get married now that some guy has flipped up her skirt and (possibly) someone saw her panties. And the sad part is, her anxiety is not entirely unfounded. Rape culture in Japan is pretty bad, even worse than here in the U.S., and for Haruna to now be considered less desirable to even a small degree wouldn’t be entirely unrealistic.
As for Umino’s creeping on Usagi while under the influence, I can accept that Usagi gives him a pass for it since she knows his behavior was being affected by supernatural forces, but why would Naru? As far as she knows, her classmate was just sexually harassing her friend? Ah, well. “Boys will be boys,” right? Gag. At least, to Umino’s credit, he is horrified by his own behavior, though it is left unclear how much of this is an acknowledgement of the wrongness of his actions and how much of it is about how abhorrent he finds the thought of breaking rules including social codes.
Lastly, a request to Jadeite. Please never wear a fedora again. It’s not a look you can pull off, dude.
All in all, a decent episode; nothing special but it builds solidly on the foundation laid by the pilot and succeeds in being entertaining.