Ami introduces Usagi and Rei to Mr. Kunitachi, an aging gardener/groundskeeper whose park is scheduled for demolition. Full of distress over the loss of a beautiful park as well as his livelihood, his anxiety makes him the perfect target for Nephrite. Suddenly, a kindly old man is commanding all the animals to attack the construction crew or anyone else who should sully the park. Beware, Humans! Beware the… killer… butterflies? Whatever. Anime. I’ll go with it.
This eco-friendly episode is a rare example of Sailor Moon delivering a “message” episode. Which is not to say that the message isn’t worthy or that the story isn’t well executed. It’s just worth noting that lacing entertainment with morals or directives isn’t the kind of thing that the Japanese tends to worry all that much about — it’s a largely western, especially American, obsession — so when it actually happens, it stands out. Not in a bad way. It just does.
That said, Sailor Moon’s token environmentalism episode is still light years beyond of the best Captain Planet episode you can find. It delivers its message without being preachy. Hamfisted, sure, but not preachy. What really sells it is that the environmetalism issue is really just the backdrop for a story about an aging man, almost a senior citizen, whose life’s work is not only being taken from him but destroyed before his very eyes. That is some dark shit right there.
It’s a strong A-story in terms of motivation and execution, and the Petasos is one of the better designed youma in the series, but let’s face it. There’s a reason this episode title doesn’t mention anything about the fury of nature or Ami’s friend in crisis, and that reason is that the B-story completely steals the show.
On the surface, we’re getting an episode about Rei in her pursuit of Mamoru and Usagi’s ensuing horror at the idea that the two people who give her more shit than anyone else in the world might form a power couple. A simple premise, so what makes it sing? The twin angels, Humor and Character Development.
First off, this episode is funny as hell. The lengths to which Usagi goes to spy on Rei includes one of the funniest readings of another character’s name — “Umino? Uminoooooo!” — that I’ve ever heard. You’re at once appalled that Usagi would blatantly use someone’s feelings for her to her advantage, and yet at the same time love that she does. And girl deserves everything she gets in this episode. Lady Karma is just waiting in the wings the entire time to smack her bitch up, and it’s the best. Her behavior is wacky, selfish, and totally inappropriate, and I love it!
You expect that shit from Usagi, who is a fairly ridiculous person. What makes this episode great is that Rei, who has spent several episodes showcasing how different she is from Usagi, resorts to the same kind of immature junior high shenanigans Usagi does. She sees a guy she likes, then goes through these ridiculous scenarios in her head to get his attention, preposterous fantasies that only a fourteen-year-old would have. And what’s better, she goes for it. And what’s best, it goes wrong in like every fucking way possible. The girl literally falls flat on her face, and then apologizes to the guy for “making” him step on her head.
That shit is priceless and while it’s certainly good for a laugh, it also serves to not only develop Rei’s character, but establish a recurring leitmotif that no person is any one thing, especially who they appear to be at first glance. While people may have a predominant aspect to their personality, we’ve all complete people. Rei may be serious, intense, and perfectly justified in taking Usagi to task for being such a slacker crybaby. And Rei is also capable of losing every bit of cool she has around a boy she likes. Conversely, Usagi may be shallow and ridiculous in the day-to-day, but when it really matters, she has depths of courage and compassion that are unmatched. And that’s a huge part of Sailor Moon’s appeal, the multifaceted nature of the characters. They’re not just the stereotypes they appear to be. They’re whole people with virtues and flaws.
Aside from Rei, the character to really get development here is Mamoru, who until now has only been the jerk-ass guy who gives Usagi crap. Here we learn that Mamoru and Motoki know each other, being students at the same college. Not quite sure why Usagi is so surprised Mamoru is a college student. Being an asshole might get in the way of you being nice, but not smart. Why wouldn’t he be a college student? This relationship for Mamoru is great. It gives him someone to play off of, a reason for him to keep running into Usagi if he’s visiting Motoki at work, and a reliable source of exposition for Rei’s sake. Usagi wouldn’t give the first shit about Mamoru’s life. As far as she’s concerned, he’s just some dick that teases her. But Rei would want to know about Mamoru, and Motoki would have no reason not to tell her, and so we get to learn that Mamoru comes from money. He lives in an expensive condo and he lives there alone, because he was orphaned as a child. This was always something that bothered me about Sailor Moon, more so retroactively in later seasons once the Outers are introduced.
There are just way too many filthy rich kids with no parents on this show. Like, WAY too many. And I get that the more parents you have around, the more it limits the characters’ freedom and the more people you have to design and animate, but for crying out loud! If Sailor Moon is any indication, Tokyo is just lousy with orphaned only children who conveniently don’t need to get jobs or anything because of all their loads and loads of money. Forget being unrealistic, it’s just repetitive after a while. And while it’s fair that Mamoru is the first and doesn’t deserve blame for what came later, it’s hard not to lump him in as at least symptomatic of the problem. I mean, Mamoru, Haruka, Michiru, Setsuna. I’d count Makoto too, but she only half counts, being an orphaned teenager who lives on her own but not one resting on an embarrassment of riches. Seriously. Where the fuck is Social Services in this show?
Mamoru gets another bit of development in that we see him suffer some sort of mild fit, much the way that Tuxedo Mask did in the previous episode, furthering the revelation of his identity, this time from the other side. It’s pretty clear at this point that even if you didn’t know that Mamoru was Tuxedo Mask… for some reason… you knew that something was up with him and the revelation would not be far off, and I tip my hat to the writers for how gradually and consistently they build to that plot point.
Altogether, a strong episode. It was smart, it was funny, it utilized all the characters well, and most importantly, everything made sense. Definitely one of the better Nephrite eps.
What is with Rei’s “kiss my ass” pose? I mean, I’ll be the first to say that the people who claim this show sexualizes young girls are a little off the deep end, but in this case, I think they have a point. She’s practically serving her ass up on a platter and hand modeling it.
Hey, Mamoru saved the cat. I wonder if this was before “saving the cat” was, like, a thing. And, oh God. Oh God. Mamoru… what is that jogging outfit? What is that? Why is that? Who wears that? Who has ever worn that?
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