Queen Beryl gets seriously pissed when Nephrite repeatedly ignores her summons, but the dude has his reasons. At this point, he’s failed so many times, he’s pretty sure that he’s in for the same fate as Jadeite. His only perceived recourse is to redeem himself by bringing his queen the Silver Crystal. Having learned a thing or two from the masquerade ball, he goes after the next obvious target: Naru-chan. Meanwhile, Zoisite has fucking had it and sends one of his youma after Nephrite. When Naru gets caught in the crossfire, Nephrite suprises everyone, including himself, by saving her life.
Despite the fantasy angle on the story, this is actually a very poignant episode. How many of us had that friend who was completely hung up on someone who might not have been a servant of darkness but was certainly terrible for them or just plain terrible in general? And how hard was it to tell that friend, especially when you knew that they wouldn’t want to hear it and probably wouldn’t take it very well. The risk of alienating someone in the process of delivering a warning they might not even heed is a pretty huge fear at that age, and for my money a rather legit one. This, to me, is one of the more notable sub-plots in the entire series, because it rings so true to life.
It’s interesting to note how when Usagi actually has something important to talk about, Luna and the other senshi totally go with it. Same with Mamoru. I think it says a lot about the characters of Mamoru and Rei specifically that, much as they enjoy teasing Usagi and may not like her very much, they’re compassionate enough to listen to her and take her seriously when there’s a real problem. And it’s a minor touch, but Usagi offering to treat Motoki and Mamoru is not something she would have done twenty or even ten episodes ago. This is not the girl who quibbled with Rei over who got more ice cream on her cone. It’s a subtle note, which is good. Not all character development comes in cataclysmic revelations.
Usagi’s civilian persona is not the only one who is advancing. While they don’t dwell on it, and rightly stay with the emotional core of the moment, it is worth noting that while Sailor Moon has shown the ability to control and alter the trajectory of her tiara, this is the first time she’s been able to straight up halt it at full speed. Someone’s mastering her powers.
I’m pleased that we got 3 ½ solid minutes devoted to the villains and their interpersonal dynamics and intrigue. I didn’t really think about it the first time I watched the show, but it really does add a layer of texture to these episodes and the series overall. Kunzite is still largely in the shadows, but we definitely get a feel for his relationship with Zoisite. They’re lovers, but there’s also definitely a kind of master and apprentice vibe to them as well. And I’m sure there was much Zosite learned from Kunzite, but… I mean, come on, Zoi, I get that you like to ride Kunzite’s cock like a carousel, but his plan was far from genius. It’s actually fairly basic and obvious. Quit embarrassing yourself, dude. Have some self-respect.
This is a very strong episode overall, one of the best in the first season and certainly the first half of the first season. Naru, essentially a glorified extra in the manga, really comes into her own as the dark horse of this ensemble. The whole Naru/Nephrite storyline was one of the major anime inventions that many fans of the franchise consider their preferred canon. I’m one of them.
I always felt that pairing off one of the Senshi with one of the Shitennou made some sense, but to have a perfect four-way pair-off always seemed a little too clean and convenient for me. What, Princess Serenity just so happened to have a personal guard that not only matched Prince Endymion’s personal guard in number but in amorous chemistry as well? No overlap? No competition? No complete dislike of one another? Unlikely. I much prefer the 90’s anime in that it paired two of the Shitennou off and had one of them fall in love with a human civilian. And as for Jadeite, who the hell knows what his deal was? He had a boner for Mars in the manga, of which we saw no evidence in this show, but if we had, I think he and Mars being the only Sailor/General pairing (at least in the past) would have been cool.
This episode’s only real weakness comes from a rather unlikely source: Naru’s mother. In this episode, Naru goes into Osa*P, the family store, steals incredibly expensive merchandise, and runs out with it in the middle of the night. And all her mother does is call after her, her eyes glistening with concern. Wait… what? I mean, sure, if your kid has never broken any rules ever, I could see how this would be a shock and how you might not be used to them defying you or misbehaving, but really? Mixed in with her confusion and concern there wasn’t even a little outrage at her child stealing not just from her, but the family business? Oh, gag me.
I know it seems like a petty gripe, and I’ll admit it is, but in an episode that’s otherwise so strong and emotionally on-point, this idealized, uber-altruistic parent just completely disrupts my suspension of disbelief. And maybe it says something really telling about my upbringing, but while I can totally process demons from the underworld searching for a magic crystal, I simply cannot buy a parent in Mrs. Osaka’s shoes who doesn’t mingle at least a little anger with her concern. Unh-uh. No. Take your filial piety propaganda elsewhere, thank you.