Sailor Moon R Essential Viewing Guide

Sailor Moon's second season gave us a disturbing vision of the future. Here's a list of its must-see episodes!

At long last, we’ve finally compiled the must-see episode guide for Sailor Moon R, the second season of the classic ’90s anime. Now that all the episodes are on Hulu, here’s a neat, handy guide that outlines which episodes you absolutely need to watch.

Now, there are episodes on this list that the main plot would make sense without, but they’re relatively few and are there mainly because while the plot doesn’t require them, the arcs of the characters do. Episodes that are pure comedy, while jewels in their own right, don’t make the cut. Hence, this is a list of the episodes you absolutely need to see. For my money, any dedicated Sailor Moon fan should watch every episode at least once, but maybe not on their first run-through.

This list is longer than the last one. Sailor Moon R has a lower overall episode count than the first season, but more episodes that are of a higher quality. Simply put, there’s just less bullshit. It’s certainly there; there’s just less of it, fewer episodes that make very little sense and are clearly just filler. This, of course, leads us to the most infamous case of Sailor Moon filler, the Makai Tree arc.

For those who don’t know, the manga and anime were more or less produced concurrently. By the time the animators were ready to get to work on a second season, Naoko Takeuchi hadn’t finished the Black Moon arc of the manga, so the anime team came up with a short arc that has absolutely nothing to do with the manga and serves little purpose beyond undoing the closure from the end of the first season and buying the animators a little time. It has very few lasting consequences to the mythology as a whole and, aside from an aesthetic tie-in in the first movie, doesn’t really matter… and I. Don’t. Care.

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However it came into being, and for whatever reasons, The Makai Tree arc is now part of this franchise and has some really good episodes and themes, so even though the arc itself is the literal definition of filler, something created to pad out the story and buy time, some episodes are really good, and the beginning of the Black Moon arc doesn’t make much sense without it, so we’re going to cover it. Starting with…

EPISODE 47. Moon Returns: The Mysterious Aliens Appear

It looks like the peace Usagi wished for was destined to be short-lived. The arrival of sexy/evil alien lovers Ail and An, disguised as brother-sister duo Seijuurou and Natsumi, forces Luna to restore Usagi’s memories and powers. Sailor Moon returns to action to fight Ail and An’s Cardians, tarot-esque foot soldiers who steal energy for the Makai Tree, which in turn nourishes Ail and An.

There was much laid on the shoulders of this premiere, given that last season’s finale had so much closure, but it managed to do it all. It brought Usagi back into the fold and managed to reference all the other girls, if only for one shot, without shoehorning in reintroductions for all of them. Even Mamoru got a brief scene.

As premieres go, it gave us what we needed and spared us any moments that would slow the story down, while effectively introducing and establishing a new enemy.

EPISODE 48. For Love and Justice: Sailor Guardians Once Again

Usagi’s in for a world of disappointment when she realizes that Mamoru’s memories haven’t been returned to him. In fact, none of the other Sailors’ memories have returned either, but that changes when they and Naru are invited to audition for a role in a movie. Of course, the audition is hijacked by Ail and An, whose Cardian attacks our girls (Naru first, as tradition dictates), forcing them to step up and save themselves.

Seeing that they’ll always be senshi, memories or no, Luna restores their memories and powers, and the Sailor Senshi are back in the game. True, it was rather contrived to have all four girls be called down for that audition (which makes no sense at all) just so they could be reawakened simultaneously, but it did serve to get the team back together without much ado.

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EPISODE 49. For Whom is the White Rose? The Moonlight Knight Appears

Mako-chan’s friend Shinozaki gets caught in the crossfire when the latest Cardian strikes, and our girl donates her own blood to help save his life. She reveals to the others just how deep their bond runs, which makes it all the more surprising that it’s completely platonic, leading Usagi to question whether or not a boy and girl can really be just friends.

Meanwhile, while Mamoru is still without his memories and his alter-ego, Tuxedo Mask, is nowhere to be found, a mysterious new masked stranger appears, bearing white roses. Just who is the Moonlight Knight? This ep is a must-see not just for its excellent story, but for our first and only look at Mako-chan’s now infamous senpai (sadly, via silent flashback only).

EPISODE 51. A New Transformation: Usagi’s Power-Up

It’s spring in Tokyo, which means it’s time for Hanami, the cherry blossom festival. While the Juuban Junior High kids, along with Rei and Minako, head to the park for some cherry blossom goodness under the supervision of Hot Mess Haruna, Ail and An set loose possibly the coolest Cardian in the deck, who manages to shatter Usagi’s brooch.

A brief but profound communion with her past life mama returns to Silver Crystal to Usagi’s possession, transforming and upgrading her brooch. She also get as new scepter to replace to Moon Stick, and she uses it to kick some Cardian ass!

Notable for the first appearance of Moon Crystal Power and all its accoutrements, as well as fabulous design and animation, a sick as hell Cardian, and some truly sharp comedy.

EPISODE 57. After-School Trouble: Usagi Is a Target

Usagi gets a run of the mill detention, but has some company for once in Natsumi, who’s pretty much running on empty. She decides to use this opportunity to siphon Usagi’s energy, but gets distracted by a rogue Cardian who is completely batshit and funny as hell. Also, while it’s not Haruna’s final appearance, it’s the final time she’s featured prominently, and the Sailor Moon writers sends her off in style.

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Up to this point, Haruna’s underlying immaturity, romantic desperation, and all around train wreck personality have been a running gag, but here we finally get an episode that hinges on it. This rogue nature of the Cardian is also a hint that something very wrong is going on with The Makai Tree.

EPISODE 58. Disconnecting Love: The Raging Makai Tree

The Makai Tree is pissed big time, and Ail and An are clueless as to what they can do. When they skip school one day too many, Usagi swings by to check on them and see if they’re okay, but it only ends badly when An tries to feed her to the Makai Tree. Things take a turn for the even worse when the Makai Tree takes over the entire roof of the Juuban Odyssey building.

EPISODE 59. True Love Awakens: The Makai Tree’s Secret

Usagi and Mamoru become Ail and An’s prisoners atop the Juuban Odyssey building, but the Makai Tree ain’t getting any happier. Ail and An’s jealousy and selfishness finally results in the Tree getting too pissed to deal with it anymore, and it finally speaks. Yes. It speaks. Only just now… for some reason.

The true origins of the tree are revealed, and Ail and An realize they’ve been going about things all wrong. Sailor Moon purges the Makai Tree of all the negative energy it’s absorbed over the years, and Ail and An leave Earth with the sapling to start over. The Moonlight Knight finally reveals himself to be Mamoru’s unsconscious will to protect Sailor Moon, his existence no longer necessary now that Mamoru has regained his memories. At last, Usagi and Mamoru finally get together… for now.

EPISODE 60. Angel or Devil? The Mysterious Girl from the Sky

Just when everything has calmed down and Usagi and Mamoru finally get a day in the sun, a new problem falls into their laps, or rather onto their heads, in the form of a little girl, who is being pursued by a ruthless crew called the Black Moon Clan. Come on.

Love her or hate her, Chibi-Usa is a major part of this mythology, and skipping her first appearance also means skipping a fun, odd episode. At this point we really know our characters, they know each other, and all the pieces are in place. It’s the perfect time for some x-factor to pop in and turn everything upside down.

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EPISODE 61. Usagi Devastated: Mamoru Declares a Break-Up

Mamoru starts acting really aloof and distant, and while those qualities are part of what made Usagi dig Tuxedo Mask in the first place, getting promptly dumped by her boyfriend without an explanation is not one of them. Mamoru makes a good point that their choices shouldn’t be dictated by their past lives, but it’s really just a way of pushing Usagi away for her own good, a trope I hate but is nonetheless narratively effective.

This episode sets the tone for much of the season and puts a few different storylines into play. It’s also, without a doubt, one of the most painful episodes of the series to watch, and anything that evocative makes the cut.

EPISODE 62. A Guardian’s Friendship: Goodbye, Ami

Ami is offered an amazing scholastic opportunity to study abroad, and while the girls don’t want to see her go, they do their best to be supportive. Ami comes close to leaving but doesn’t, and makes a U-turn just in time to save the others with her new power up. Also, the other girls get new licensed merchandise… er, powered up items.

Come on, we all knew Ami wasn’t going anywhere, but it was a great question to ask. What about these girls’ dreams, their ambitions? Is there room for such things so long as they carry this responsibility? And Ami has more real world potential than any of them, so it was perfect for her to be the one whom the writers chose to address this question.

Of all the non-Usagi power up episodes this season, this is really the only one you need.

EPISODE 64. In Search of the Silver Crystal: Chibi-Usa’s Secret

When a thunderstorm scares an already lonely and on edge Chibi-Usa to the point of panic, she uses the key around her neck to summon a portal back to where she came from… or at least fail in the attempt. But she altered the laws of physics just enough to screw with gravity and draw the attention of the Black Moon.

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It’s in this episode we finally get some decent hints as to where Chibi-Usa is from: the future. We also get the sense that the Luna-P might just be more than a mere toy. And if nothing else, how many episodes of any show do you get where half of it is spent with the entire principal cast stuck in zero-gravity?

EPISODE 68. Protect Chibi-Usa: Clash of the Ten Warriors

It’s the all-out clash of good and evil we’ve been waiting for as the Sailor Senshi square off against Rubeus and the Spectre Sisters! This episode is a jewel from top to bottom. The story is great, the character development (Usagi realizing she genuinely cares about Chibi-Usa and would die to protect her), the animation is stellar, and the music… someone *try* to tell me “Ai no Senshi” isn’t one of the greatest battle anthems of all time.

We also finally get a view, though not a revealing one, of “Puu”, the person Chibi-Usa is communicating with through Luna-P. This episode packs some serious punch.

EPISODE 70. Battle of the Flames of Love: Mars vs. Koan

It turns out that not only is Rubeus aware that Koan has a big ol’ yen for him, he’s totally using it to manipulate her. When she “fails” him and is rejected, she goes ape shit, thinking she has nothing left to lose. What a game changer! First of all, it shows how much Rei has developed as a character. Considering she’s the most hot-tempered and stubborn of the Sailors, showing the kind of patience and empathy that she does here signifies tremendous growth.

This episode marks the first time a Sailor Moon villain has been redeemed, lived to tell the tale, and stuck around to hang out. It’s also a surprisingly true-to-life depiction of emotional manipulation and abusive relationships. Rei might push Yuuichirou around a little, but not to the point of abuse, and she genuinely cares about his happiness and well-being, as opposed to Rubeus, who will fuck with Koan’s emotions any which way in order to get the desired results. It’s hardly a how-to guide, but it is a handy lesson for kids in regard to what kind of treatment not to take from people.

EPISODE 71. For Friendship: Ami vs. Berthier

Berthier insinuates herself into a chess competition and of course comes up against Ami. Of course, in light of Koan’s recent defection, Berthier also carries the added pressure of punishing her sister on Rubeus’ behalf. This season’s Mercury episodes have been consistently good, and this one is no exception. Ami-chan is at her best when she’s using her head to outsmart her opponents, and what better shorthand is there for that in the world of fiction than chess? Was it an inspired choice? Not particularly, but the execution is fantastic.

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We also get to see no time wasted in dealing with the consequences of Koan’s choice, namely that it’s starting to slowly tear her family apart. Damn.

EPISODE 72. Rubeus the Heartless: The Tragic Sisters

Rubeus uses a darkly magical MacGuffin to compel Calaveras and Petz to competition over who can kill the Sailors first. Of course, it makes them both drunk with power, which leads to some interdimensional complications. A battle on a bridge (an amazing setpiece!), two Silver Crystal healings, plus Chibi-Usa finally learns that Usagi and her friends are the Sailor Senshi.

What?!? If nothing else, it’s worth it to see all four sisters going into business together, selling their own line of cosmetics. Lord only know where they got the start-up money, but who cares?

EPISODE 73. A UFO Appears: The Sailor Guardians Abducted

Now aware that Usagi is Sailor Moon, Chibi-Usa yoinks her brooch to bring the Silver Crystal back with her to the future. However, she exposes herself to some real danger, and Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus get abducted protecting her. Riding on the momentum of the previous episode, we get Chibi-Usa asking some fair questions about Usagi’s worthiness to be Sailor Moon.

This episode also, with the appearance of Esmeraude, is the first inkling we get that Rubeus not only answers to superiors of his own, but it pretty far down on the chain of command, hinting at the upper echelon of the Black Moon Clan. And the removal of all four Sailor Senshi? Last season, something of that magnitude was saved for the season finale. Here’s it merely the midpoint, which ups the stakes in a major way.

This one is a must-see.

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EPISODE 74. Defeat Rubeus: The Battle in Space

Sailor Moon and Chibi-Usa allow themselves to be taken up into Rubeus’ UFO in order to rescue the others. Chibi-Usa manages for the first time to not only cease being a liability, but actually displays courage and resilience as she works in tandem with Sailor Moon to save the others, hinting at her role in later seasons. This episode is also one of the rare occasions on which we get to see special attacks outside of stock footage.

And on top of all that, we get to see a smug, manipulative asshole like Rubeus get what’s coming to him when Esmeraude disregards his life as casually as he did with his own subordinates. This is followed up with the introduction of Prince Demande and his promotion of Esmeraude as the new field operative in 20th Century Tokyo.

EPISODE 75. The Mysterious New Guardian: Sailor Pluto Appears

When Chibi-Usa falls into a deep sleep, Usagi and the others are clueless as to how they might help her until they get a clue… from Puu. The mysterious figure who has been communicating with Chibi-Usa through Luna-P is none other than Sailor Pluto, Guardian of the Door of Time. Pluto informs the Senshi that they must enter Chibi-Usa’s subconscious to save her.

In addition to the first appearance of Pluto, this is also the first we see of Saphir, Prince Demande’s younger brother. Though, honestly, the debut of Sailor Pluto is reason enough to watch this one. It had been about forty episode since the introduction of Sailor Venus, and were long overdue for some fresh blood added to the Sailor Team. Not to mention that this opened the door to there being a Sailor for the outer planets as well, which would form the bedrock of the following season.

EPISODE 77. Shared Feelings: Usagi and Mamoru in Love Once Again

A love token fad (obviously a Black Moon plot) makes Usagi’s separation from Mamoru sting afresh. When pressed, he finally tells her of his vision of her death, and she rejects the notion that the future is immutable. Few episodes of Sailor Moon R tackle the season’s central theme so directly and so well, and while the entire break-up subplot was a ridiculous mess that made no sense and should never have happened, this commentary on the season’s theme is the best possible way it could have ended.

In addition, Usagi confronting Mamoru and insisting that what she does or doesn’t risk is her choice, one that he doesn’t get to make for her, is fantastic. Though one could easily dismiss it as the recklessness of a lovestruck teenager, it’s actually an incredibly feminist statement: a man doesn’t get to decide what’s best for any woman, even the woman he loves. And best of all, Mamoru accepts it, drops the bullshit, and they get back together, ending one of the most excruciatingly pointless subplots in the entire series.

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EPISODE 82. Journey to the Future: Battle in the Space-Time Corridor

The Sailor Senshi and Tuxedo Mask journey with Chibi-Usa to the Space-Time Door where Sailor Pluto, in her first in-person appearance, nearly flattens them all before realizing who they are. She sends them through the Space-Time Corridor so that they may enter the 30th Century, but the road is far more perilous than they anticipated. This journey could have easily been skipped by having the characters pass directly into the future through the gate, but the show is better for not doing so.

Most time-travel stories focus almost entirely on the danger of the consequences, the effect on the past, changing history, etc. Few actually consider the process itself to be perilous, which makes for a refreshing spin on the subject matter. Plus… Sailor Freakin’ Pluto! And considering how little she is utilized in Sailor Moon R, especially compared to how essential she was to the manga’s Black Moon Arc, we’d best take all of her that we can get.

EPISODE 83. The Shocking Future: Demande’s Dark Ambition

Our heroes arrive in the 30th Century to find it completely decimated by war. They are greeted upon their arrival by a holographic projection of King Endymion, Mamoru’s own future self, who turns out to be the one who sent Mamoru all those gnarly visions. Meanwhile, Demande, now aware that the Senshi are now in the future, abducts Sailor Moon and gets all rapey with her, stopped in the nick of time by Tuxedo Mask.

This episode confirms what we all knew by this point: that Usagi will become the queen of Crystal Tokyo (and ostensibly the world), take Mamoru to husband, and have a child with him: Chibi-Usa. It’s a solid episode, and if you can get past the fact that King Endymion’s rationale for all the shit he put Usagi and Mamoru through makes absolutely no logical sense whatsoever, it’s a very satisfying watch.

EPISODE 84. Wiseman’s Evil Hand: Chibi-Usa Disappears

Things gets super-crazy in Crystal Tokyo when Wiseman screws with Chibi-Usa’s head and abducts her. So much abduction in this season. I know it’s got this whole UFO thing going on, but Jesus! Meanwhile, some conflicts arise between Prince Demande and his inner circle.

An intensely psychological episode, we see a lot of focus on the characters’ motivations and interpersonal issues. Not only do we get a look inside Chibi-Usa’s head, we get to see some of the dynamics of the Black Moon Clan.

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Also, Esmeraude becomes a giant fucking dragon. Who saw that shit coming? Trust me, you don’t want to miss that.

EPISODE 85. The Dark Queen: Birth of Black Lady

Wiseman exploits Chibi-Usa’s unpleasant memories, twisting them into resentment. Her body and mind aged to adulthood, she joins the Black Moon Clan as Black Lady. The Sailor Senshi follow her back to the 20th Century only to have her attack them. In most shows, Chibi-Usa would be healed by the end, the revelation of a happier side to her memories being enough to bring her back from the brink, but not here.

Black Lady is going to be around for the rest of the season, and this is one hell of a debut.

EPISODE 86. Saphir Dies: Wiseman’s Trap

Saphir decides that enough is enough and finally digs into what Wiseman’s up to. Fearing for his life when he’s discovered, he flees to the past, seeking refuge with the only other Black Moon turncoats in history, the Spectre Sisters. He even appeals to his brother’s better judgment, but Wiseman murders him before he can succeed. For a swan song, this one was great. It really humanized both Saphir and Demande, plus it had the added bonus of bringing the four sisters back, and we finally learn why Rubeus never had much of a hold on Petz. She was in love with Saphir all along, and only makes it known to him in time to lose him.


EPISODE 87. Believing in Love and the Future: Usagi’s Decision

The Sailor Senshi finally take the fight to Demande, who corners Sailor Moon and tries to mind-rape her AGAIN (seriously, dude?), but she resists his influence this time and convinces him that you can’t force people’s love. He seems to be won over, but Wiseman promptly kills him, proving he’s been pulling the strings the whole time. He is, in reality, Death Phantom.

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This episode is a fairly solid Part 1. It does the job right, but the best bit by far is the opening scene where Naru all but tells Usagi that she knows she’s Sailor Moon, has pretty much known for a while, and can play along with the whole secret identity schtick if it’s what Usagi needs. It’s the most depth we’ve gotten out of Naru since Nephrite’s death, and it’s a scene so powerful that the fact that it’s never really followed up on in any of Naru’s subsequent appearances is a real shame.

EPISODE 88. The Final Battle Between Light and Dark: Pledge of Love for the Future

Shit gets real as Death Phantom moves to destroy all life on Earth. At the last, Usagi and Mamoru appeal to Black Lady and she is healed, reverting the child Chibi-Usa. Sailor Moon goes all princess mode to bust out the Silver Crystal on Death Phantom. It turns out that when the Silver Crystal of the future disappeared, it went into Chibi-Usa’s body, so she finally achieves her princess form, pulls that fucker out, and joins the fray.

It’s the freaking finale. How do you skip the finale? Seriously, though, it’s a good capper to the season. It resolves all the dangling plot threads (except of course Naru-chan knowing who the Senshi are), has some powerful emotional moments, and one hell of a knock-down slugfest final battle… to a fucking bad-ass J-Pop song. Because that’s how we do it here. This is Sailor Moon, bitch! 

*Honorable Mentions*

EPISODE 53. Usagi and Mamoru’s Babysitting Mayhem

When a Cardian attacks a daycare center, and one of the babies’ moms is hospitalized, Mamoru offers to look after the child. Usagi nudges her way into “joint custody” in order to get a little closer to Mamoru, but An/Natsumi has plans of her own. Unfortunately for her, she’s not so good with babies. This episode would be worth it for no other reason than to see a baby piss in An’s face twice, but it also does offer us the sillier side of Mamoru as well as some foreshadowing of his way with children, which will definitely come into play later.

EPISODE 80: Terrifying Illusion: Ami All Alone

Truth be told, all of the Ami-centric episodes this season are really good (I’m not counting the daycare episode as one of them; Ami may get a power-up in that one, but it isn’t really about her), but this one is hands down the best. For a true academic, nothing is worse than being accused of cheating, and this episode rides that insecurity all the way down to its core, to the girl Ami was before Usagi befriended her, before she built up confidence from knowing she helped save the world. Suddenly, she’s just a lonely, maligned nerd. And it’s used to turn her against her friends, if only temporarily. As well as foreshadowing Chibi-Usa’s perversion into Black Lady, this episode almost certainly laid some of the foundation for the now famous “Dark Mercury” storyline in PGSM.

And that should complete anyone’s abridged viewing of Sailor Moon R. Next time, we’ll be going over the Essential Viewing Guide to Sailor Moon S, or given how consistently good that season is, the Non-Essential Veiwing Guide.

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