A run-in with a cardian lands Mako-chan’s friend Shinozaki in the hospital, and having Type O blood, she volunteers to donate, leaving her weak. Doesn’t stop her, however, from royally frying the ass of the cardian the next time she sees it. In the midst of the battle, Sailor Moon is shocked by the appearance of a white rose. Since it’s not the first time Tuxedo Mask’s signature move has been palette swapped, she assumes it’s him, but the white rose turns out to be the calling card of someone else entirely, the Moonlight Knight.
There’s a tender spot in my heart for this episode for a few reasons. For one, it’s a really strong Mako-chan episode. After something like 25 episodes of her referencing this senpai with whom she may or may not have actually been involved (the term “rejected” tends to often get mistranslated in anime and manga as “dumped,” which I chagrin, because those are two different things), we finally get to see him. Now, I don’t know whether Mako-chan had one senpai with whom she randomly associates every hot guy she sees or a whole harem of them, enough to cover a wide range of guys, but either way the black-haired dude in this flashback is on the list.
Mako-chan’s boy craziness is one of the defining aspects of her character in the anime, and its roots are in this negative romantic experience, so tying Shinozaki into that defining moment was a really great shorthand way to assign him some emotional significance. When she says he’s more precious to her than any boyfriend, it’s very telling, considering how much of her character hinges on chasing romantic prospects. It also makes a lot of sense. Though it’s never really explored in the anime, Mako-chan is an orphan and lives on her own. She has no family, so the idea of a brotherly figure in her life would likely be something very precious to her.
For me personally, that comment hit very close to home. At the time I first saw this episode in the DiC dub, I was in the thick of a platonic love affair with a girl who is to this day my best friend. To see a story on TV about a platonic relationship placed above romance was very validating, and I think it’s very important that kids be shown that love isn’t some linear progression with a romantic love set at the top of the ladder.
Love is complicated and comes in many forms, and the love between friends can be incredibly powerful, sustaining you in scenarios where romantic and familial relationships fall short. This sentiment is mirrored in that quick little scene where Sailor Moon pleads with Sailor Jupiter to take care of herself, especially poignant considering the events of last season’s finale. So, yeah, I love Mako-chan and Shinozaki’s bond immensely. All the more reason I’m supremely pissed we neither see nor hear from Shinozaki EVER AGAIN. Oh, no. That is some bullshit.
Going back to the topic of love lost, I’ll admit I’d forgotten about the little Crayola slide show Usagi puts on to jog Mamoru’s memory. It is pretty darn cute. The thing is, Queen Beryl’s only been dead for two episodes, and I’m already a little nostalgic for her. You know, I get that you want a different type of villain, one not as strong as their predecessors so that our heroes can build themselves back up to par, but next to the epic scope of the Dark Kingdom, Ail and An had some pretty big shoes to fill.
The only thing that saved them as villains, really, was the writers not attempting to make them the next Dark Kingdom, which they never could be. Their only road to success lay in embracing how small a story theirs was, how intimate the scope and personal the stakes were. Ail and An are not the dual monarchs of a grand kingdom. They’re not even the heads of a gang. They’re the last two members of a dead species and they’re on the run.
They have no grand agenda, no Machiavellian designs. They’re just doing their best not to die. Sure, they’re sociopathic assholes about it, but what’s their option? Starving to death for the greater good? Fuck that. If I were in their shoes and my choice came down to metabolizing food in the only way I’m physically capable or slowly wasting away, I’d probably be down for a schoolgirl enchilada myself.
I’ll give a little tip of my hat to An for choosing a good cardian this time. It was successful in retrieving energy and bringing it back to its masters, and it’s the only occasion I can think of offhand where a cardian, once released, is returned to the deck. Right on. On the matter of the cardians… Tarot has long been a hobby of mine, and it is mildly irritating when a writer employs a theme and proceeds to fuck it up. Most of the cardians don’t actually employ any kind of Tarot imagery, so it’s nice here that this one does. It directly references The Wheel of Fortune, and the use of a lion hints at Strength. Nice work there.
And now, the man of the hour… The Moonlight Knight. I am so of two minds about this character, because I love everything he could have been and hate everything he actually is.
One of the things that always bothered me about Mamoru as a character was his dwindling relevance over the course of the series. After Sailor Moon R, he fails to inspire any kind of excitement or interest as a romantic lead or even just a character. He’s just some generically nice, hot guy who fulfills some laundry list of qualities that supposedly make him the perfect man. Any semblance of a personality he had is gone. He has no flaws, no idiosyncrasies. He’s perfectly handsome, perfectly responsible, perfectly patient, perfectly… well, perfect. Which is to say boring.
That’s right. I said it. Tuxedo Mask becomes boring. I hope you all appreciate him in Sailor Moon R, because this is his last shout. Past this season, he becomes basically irrelevant to the plot. He never even gets any power-ups or new moves. He’s got the Endymion form, but he only pulls that out as a Hail Mary. And that’s where the Moonlight Knight held immense potential.
Once we learned the basis of the Tuxedo Mask persona, that it was the outfit Endymion wore the last time he and Serenity were happy together, that circuit was closed. It would have been a great time to retire what was, however stylish, a rather ridiculous superhero costume for something more practical and kick-ass. Everyone else gets power-ups this season. Why not Mamoru?
The Moonlight Knight could have been an amazing symbolic rebirth for the character, leaving behind his darkest hour and assuming a new form, his loyalty pledged to the Moon Princess. But no. It’s just a detour for more Tuxedo bullshit. And on a purely design level… I hate his outfit. The fact that they wanted to go with an Arabian motif is fine, but they didn’t pick some cool design. That outfit is puffy and simplistic, with very few lines or accents. There are no gauntlets, no gloves, no tunic hanging below the belt. He doesn’t even have those pointed Arabian boots. He just looks like some dude running around in his pajamas and a bedsheet. Fail.
This episode is named for the Moonlight Knight, and yet I always forget it’s the one in which he debuts. The Jupiter storyline is by a landslide the stronger of the two. Beyond being merely stronger by comparison, it’s just a good character story framed by some kick-ass action. The Moonlight Knight may have claimed the title, but it’s our girl Jupiter that makes this episode memorable.