A rash of disappearing buses cause Ami and Luna (like Usagi’s paying attention? Come on now!) to suspect something afoot at the temple from which they depart. They’re not the only ones who suspect something is up. Psychic shrine maiden Rei Hino is getting bad vibes off the new guy working there and confronts him. Jadeite, through with his latest disguise, thinks he’s got the upper hand, but the Sign of Mars appears on Rei’s forehead, and she becomes Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury’s new companion, Sailor Mars!
Okay, full disclosure: this episode holds a special place in my heart, being the first episode of Sailor Moon I ever saw, so I might be a little biased in its favor.
It was smart to have Luna’s spider sense go off with Rei like it did with Ami, but have her suspect in the opposite direction. Rather than suspecting Rei is an enemy, Luna thinks she might be the Moon Princess. Nice way to shake things up.
It’s a feast of an episode, establishing Rei’s character and her home, Hikawa Shrine, which will become the central base of ops for the Sailor Senshi for the rest of the series. In addition to that, this week’s scheme is actually one of Jadeite’s better plans, both in concept and execution, and he pulls it off pretty seamlessly. If not for Rei’s psychic abilities, he could have done a lot more damage than he actually did. What he didn’t plan wisely was how much mousse he was using this week, because WOW. Tone down the product, bro. For real.
Rei establishes herself as a strong presence right away, and while she may seem a little hot-tempered and brash to an American audience, her personality is even more refreshing when taken in view of its cultural context. For a girl in Japan to not only be outspoken and assertive, but sassy and rude to anyone, much less an adult, much less AN ADULT SHE DOESN’T KNOW is pretty huge. Rei is mouthy, pushy, and kind of a bitch, and yet you can’t help but love her. I know I do. And yes, it is a departure from her manga counterpart, whose personality was far more stoic and serious, but this is one area in which I prefer the anime. Her element is fire, for crying out loud. Feisty makes sense.
Rei’s other value comes in what she adds to the ensemble. She’s take charge in a way neither the callow Usagi nor the shy and humble Ami are. What’s more, while Ami and Luna tolerate Usagi and try to be constructive and encouraging, Rei has no interest in any of homegirl’s bullshit from day one, and will tell it to her perhaps more harshly than is necessary, but nothing she says is untrue. This antagonistic dynamic becomes the foundation of one of the most complex and satisfying relationships in the show’s run.
I love the addition of Rei and the dynamics she creates, but as I said in the previous review, while I neither support nor appreciate filler for filler’s sake, it would have been nicer to have had a little more time exploring the dynamic of Sailor Moon and Sailor Mercury as a duo. I’m not saying Rei should have come in later, but perhaps Mercury could have come in sooner. As it is, there’s not enough time for Moon and Mercury to develop a status quo for Mars to shake up by joining them. And shake it up she does. Sailor Mars is the first character in the series to dispatch of the youma of the week WITHOUT any help from Sailor Moon.
This episode introduced Grandpa Hino, whom DiC, when making the dub, found to be… shall we say… problematic. In the dub, he’s merely annoying and weird, but here, he is an equal opportunity lecher. It’s interesting that they cut the whole child molester angle out of the dub to protect kids, since I think it would actually do children a service to know that child molesters aren’t always some scary stranger in a white van and can be someone you know and trust. That, to me, would be the more constructive action, but whatever.
On the subject of bullshit, and I suppose shit in general, no magical kitty turds this week. At least not onscreen. And I have to say, considering how surprised and awed Luna was when she saw the Sign of Mars on Rei’s forehead… what the fuck, Luna? What the fuck is wrong with you just leaving magical artifacts around all willy nilly. You don’t even have any confirmation yet. All you know is that Rei possesses a powerful energy. Doesn’t mean she’s a Sailor Senshi. And even if she is, what if you left her the wrong henshin pen? What if she were a freakin’ enemy for Christ’s sake?!? Bad kitty!
Oh, and Tuxedo Mask actually did something useful this week. He gets a cookie.