Oh, fucking wonderful! An episode about creepy antique dolls! Well, I have to say, if the writing staff was looking to give us an episode that would creep the shit out of us, they succeeded. Oh boy, did they.
So, we get our second Shino-centric episode when his classmate (and debatable love interest) Mika gets targeted by Nephrite, who uses her talent for carving French dolls into a powerful obsession into which she’ll pour all her precious energy.
It’s interesting the patterns, and thus the themes, that arise in the villains’ plots. Jadeite’s plans had to do with largely shallow things, most of them commercial in some way. Whether it was the desire for jewelry or a smoking hot body or any other kind of selfish acquisition, it can be argued that he was using people’s superficiality against them, and thus he targeted a lot of people at once. He was going for quantity, not quality. By contrast, all of Nephrite’s victims have been people with passion. After all, that passion is the source of all the energy they expend. It’s no coincidence, then, that most of his victims are artists of some kind or another. Yui was an athlete, true, but since then, Nephrite has targeted a gardener, a home ec teacher who clearly has design skills, a photographer, and now a sculptress. And he’ll be targeting an animator before he’s done. His choices are specific. Where Jadeite preyed on superficiality, Nephrite targets depth.
So, Mika… poor, poor Mika. When I first saw this episode, my heart legit broke on her behalf, that something she worked so hard on and was so proud of was so carelessly destroyed. And yet, I didn’t lose sympathy for Shingo. He feels terrible. It’s a notably real moment in such a fantastical series. Mika gets pretty depressed, something not often explored in a character so young, and Nephrite totally uses it against her, turning her into a crazed, obsessive little freak.
You know how Mika is possessed by some kind of evil? Lipstick. Now, I’m the first to decry the sexualization of children. Toddlers and Tiaras, much? But this seems a bit weird. Mika’s twelve or so. Sure, wearing lipstick might be a tad premature and inappropriate, but to use it to signify that she’s been corrupted or possessed? It’s a bit much, especially with all the unfortunate implications about female sexuality. There’s a lot about Mika that’s disturbing in this episode. Just ask her mother. On that…
There’s a trend I see in a lot of anime, even within Sailor Moon, of the overly understanding, nigh infinitely patient parents. It reeks of the same kind of child-targeted propaganda of Golden and Silver Age American comics, where parents were idealized and in some cases practically deified (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man) in order to keep the juvenile readers in line and well behaved, fed on a diet of bullshit about how parents are always perfect and loving and how they know what’s best and act only in your best interest. Mika’s mom (and Naru’s, as we’ll soon see) are complete pushovers by American standards, to say nothing of Japanese parents. Alert! Alert! Bullshit alarm going off! In fact, Usagi’s got the most realistic Japanese mother of the lot; loving but with high expectations and not a whole hell of a lot to do but fixate on her kids and put pressure on them.
It’s nice to see Usagi taking the piss out of her brother, getting back at him for being a dick where earlier in the series she just would have cried. She still does, but it takes a lot more. Also refreshing is how well they get along in this episode. It doesn’t negate the fact that they’re usually taking potshots at each other, but when one is in need, the other is there. It gives their dynamic a much more layered quality without it feeling forced. And once again, she needs to obscure her appearance from her brother so he won’t recognize her. Apparently, he has some kind of immunity to the stupid fog in a way that NO ONE ELSE who knows and spends a lot of time with Usagi possesses.
While this episode’s main plot is more or less filler-y, which is not to say unenjoyable, a couple of subplots are given substantial development.
Rei’s date with Mamoru serves to reinforce her crush on him, but he’s about as interested in her as he is in the dolls. You rock those hoop earrings, Rei! Poor girl. She wants him to give a shit so, so badly. I personally feel it was a missed opportunity, having Mamoru be completely uninterested in Rei. It would have made it sting all the more later on if he did have some feelings for Rei but they were immediately trumped by the discovery of his true love, but eh, spilt milk. It’s minor complaint. That said, the non-relationship between the two does open us up to some great narrative opportunities like having Mamoru and Sanjouin Masato get a weird déjà vu as they pass one another. I wonder about this though, as so far in the series, Tuxedo Mask and Nephrite haven’t encountered one another. It seems this would be a reference to the manga backstory, where the four generals were actually Prince Endymion’s guardians and advisors, though sadly this backstory was never utilized in the anime. Lord knows why. It’s not like they didn’t have the time. However, this is another clue that there’s more to Mamoru than meets the eye, a sub-plot that’s been picking up speed since Nephrite’s introduction.
However, the thread really worth noting is that Zoisite is stepping up his efforts to service his own ambitions, and he’s crafty fucker. He knew Nephrite would refuse to work with him, so adamantly in fact that Nephrite risked some rudeness with Beryl. He states quite plainly that he’s not doing this for Queen Beryl (a statement not lost on Beryl, who is not happy with it), but for himself. Though I’m sure the other generals are just as selfish, Nephrite’s outward willingness to act in his own self-interest, rather than the Dark Kingdom’s, does foreshadow his eventual heel-face turn and downfall. All Zoisite had to do was set all the pieces up, push Nephrite’s buttons, and watch him play right into his plans. Zoisite looks more committed to the cause than ever, Nephrite looks like an arrogant, insubordinate tool, and Beryl’s favor starts making a clear shift from the latter to the former. Sweet diva bitchcakes, Zoisite! You are everything I could hate in a person and everything I love in a villain!