Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 4 (Learn How to Be Skinny from Usagi)

Sailor Moon and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Toei Animation and licensed by Viz Media

Episode directed by Harume Kosaka

Oh good!  I was hoping we’d run into some dated nineties story lines at some point!  We all knew we were going to reach this point eventually.  You can go back to pretty much anything from any time period and find stuff that’s woefully outdated, especially when you think of how fast things have changed with the onset of social media.  Still, we can allow ourselves to overlook some less than ideal moments if everything else in the episode manages to pick up the slack.  Can this episode succeed despite it’s less than precise handing of the subject matter?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Usagi realizing that she gained a few pounds since her last weigh in and she’s having a panic attack over it.  Rather than her parents telling her that it isn’t a big deal or Luna telling her the weight she gained is probably due to the muscle she’s built since starting her career as a warrior for justice, everyone around her gives her shit about it.  Her parents TRY to reassure her but fail miserably at it, and Luna seems intent on giving her Body Dysmorphia!

“I’m thinking Sailor Chubs.  Fatty Moon maybe?  I could really use your input here Usagi!”

“I’m thinking Sailor Chubs.  Fatty Moon maybe?  I could really use your input here Usagi!”

Not only that, but then Usagi does THE WORST thing she can do at that point and that is to stop eating entirely!  Are you fucking kidding me!?  It’s ALL played for laughs buy the way because what’s funnier than watching someone go down the road of Anorexia!?

"Maybe Bulimia is more my speed.  What do you think?"

“Maybe Bulimia is more my speed.  What do you think?”

Well she’s not the only one trying to drop a few pounds as Naru and two other generic student, presumably named A-ko and B-ko (that’s for all you old school anime fans out there), are lamenting their own deplorable physiques… despite ALL of them looking as skinny as rails.  Hell, even the token “chubby” one’s design seems to be a carbon copy of everyone else and only she’s shorter and seems to have a round face.  THE HORROR!!!  Ugh.  I’m not saying it’s BAD for them go lose weight if they want to, but their entire impetus for doing so seems to be to attract more dudes.  I’m sure they’re gonna get punished for this view point by whatever bullshit scheme Jadeite had planned, but there has YET to be a voice of reason here who has the appropriate reactions to the situation.  Normally this is what Luna is supposed to do, but as stated she’s making very light of Usagi’s emotional state.  Oh it gets worse from there.  It seems that Mrs. Haruna (who I still absolutely love) has been going to a nearby gym and Umino has photographic evidence that she lost a good ten percent of her body mass in two days.  No one seems all that concerned that she lost weight that quickly but then maybe the group was too distracted that Umino has these photos in the first place to ask any pertinent questions.  When the atmosphere gets a bit too hostile for Umino, he bolts and Usagi eventually runs his sorry ass down to punish him for being a creeper.  No wait, that’s what SHOULD happen.  Instead, she just forces him to tell her which magical gym that Ms. Haruna is going to where she can lose so much weight.  You know, maybe the first two episodes weren’t the best way to start off this series.  They really do portray Usagi in a very flattering light, and while she wasn’t immune to whatever dark forces are out there to control women (jewelry, fortune telling, etc) she still manages to be compassionate towards others and at least somewhat resistant towards Jadeite’s schemes.  These last two episodes though have her in total denial of there even being a problem, and now she’s not even concerned that one of her friends is leering at women and taking their picture without their consent.  Maybe if that fortune telling episode was pushed up a bit where these early rough patches could be dealt with, then it wouldn’t be so jarring to have her act so different between episodes.  Then again, that’s basically what you run the risk of getting when you end up having so much filler.  Anyway, it turns out that Jadeite has his own fucking gym (not even going to ask how he got celebrity endorsements, let alone another location to house his evil machinations) and the four girls immediately sign up for a free trial.

“Shouldn’t there be a cool down lap!?”     “COOLING DOWN IS FOR THE WEAK!!!!”

“Shouldn’t there be a cool down lap!?”     “COOLING DOWN IS FOR THE WEAK!!!!”

I gotta say that I fucking love Jadeite in this.  He is perfect as the total slime ball and antithesis of the message the show is supposedly trying to get across.  With his hot bod and silky smooth voice, he has the girls hook line and sinker; giving them occasional positive reinforcements to continue working out in the attempt to gain beauty through skinniness.  It’s too bad he didn’t get the same kind of screen time in Sailor Moon Crystal where he ends up barely having any personality.  Usagi ends up bailing fairly early on, preferring to spend her time in the spa, and so she misses out on Jadeite’s masterstroke which is The Fit Ray.


Wait, what?

“You think it’s safe?”     “Oh don’t be a baby.  This is TOTALLY legit!”

“You think it’s safe?”     “Oh don’t be a baby.  This is TOTALLY legit!”

Yeah, apparently Jadeite has these tubes that will make you skinny (presumably by sucking out your internal organs) and convinces all the young ladies who go to his gym to step inside one.  Okay we’re starting to run into another one of those issues that seem to keep cropping up in this episode.  They’re kind of dilutes the message here because they’re take this so over the top.  When you’re villain is so obvious that they have evil glowing green tubes at their disposal, it undermines your message by pulling it so far away from reality.  If they had been a bit more subtle here (maybe Jadeite kept using his vampire charm technique to keep them on the machines) then the message about negative pressures that manipulate people into chasing after unrealistic body types might carry some weight.  It’s harder to sell your message when what ends up harming the characters is so unrealistic instead of making the danger something that people could actually face.  On top of that, the evilness of the Fit Ray is so freaking obvious that it makes the girls here look either preposterously ignorant or profoundly desperate.  Either their too dumb to see how bad of an idea this is, or their so intent on losing weight they don’t care if they get hurt in the process.  Whatever the reason is the girls go into the pod, get their life energies sapped out, and I’m guessing they lose a couple pounds in the process.  Dark Kingdom gets even more energy to feed their evil overlord or whatever, and the ladies in this town resign themselves to an early grave.  Clearly there is one hero who can stop this madness!!  It’s too bad she hasn’t eaten anything in two days because she ends up passing out in front of the arcade on her way home.  When she comes to, she finds herself being tended to by Motoki who’s confused as to why Usagi is taking such extreme measures to lose weight.  Sweet!  We’re actually getting somewhere here!  Sure Motoki is saying this because of his own personal preferences (he’s not a fan of super skinny women apparently) and Usagi is still defining her sense of worth based on what other guys think of her, but at least someone around here said something other than “you’re getting fat and it’s funny”.  Usagi is finally feeling confident enough to start eating again which is when mother fucking Mamoru walks up to her and starts laughing at her for doing so.

“What kind of loser eats!?  I get all MY nutrients through photosynthesis!!”

“What kind of loser eats!?  I get all MY nutrients through photosynthesis!!”

Can we seriously not dwell on their antagonistic relationship for another twenty episodes?  If there’s one thing I’ll praise Sailor Moon Crystal’s ludicrous pacing for, it’s that we got past this shit really quickly.  I’m just not liking this asshole version of Mamoru who continues to be a total jerk to her for seemingly no reason other than that obnoxious trope that boys will pick on girls because they like them.  He thankfully leaves the scene quickly and Luna shows up to once again not be all that helpful.  Usagi sets her up to deliver a REAL message here, but the opportunity is squandered and Luna once again misses the damn point.  Her message here is “Motoki says he doesn’t like girls who are skin and bones, but you can go too far the other way too”.  Look, I’m no fucking expert and maybe trying to retroactively make cartoons from the 90s more sensitive is a losing proposition, but even then shouldn’t they have known better than to frame the entirety of the conversation around how good you look to others?  Shouldn’t it be something like “If you want to lose weight that’s fine, but make sure you do it right and you do it for yourself”?  No?  Was that too hard to grasp back then? Luna tries to then steer the conversation back to the evil gym, but it’s too late now because Usagi is worked up once again and is in no position to actually be useful.  Good job Luna!

“Is the fat finally covering up your ears so you can’t hear me!?”     “WAHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Is the fat finally covering up your ears so you can’t hear me!?”     “WAHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Usagi does head to the gym, though she’s there to work out instead of finding the horrible device that Jadeite is using to suck the life out of their patrons. Luna is now force d to investigate in her stead and finds out that Ms. Haruna (who’s basically a skeleton with skin over it at this point) is heading back to the Fitness Ray (ugh…) and is probably going to die if any more of her energy gets sucked out.  Luna knows exactly what needs to be done and that’s to get Sailor Moon to fuck shit up!  Of course, Usagi is STILL in panic mode so Luna has to do the one thing that will definitely help get her out of her head.  THREATS OF PHYSICAL VIOLENCE!!!

“You wanna lose weight!?  How about I carve out a huge chunk of your face!?!?”

“You wanna lose weight!?  How about I carve out a huge chunk of your face!?!?”

Speaking of things that took a nose dive after episode two, Luna and Usagi’s relationship has devolved into an antagonistic standoff between a sadistic teacher and an apathetic student.  I don’t like seeing these two bicker so much, especially when we’ve already seen how well they can work together!  It’d be one thing if they were actually working towards a stronger relationship, but there’s no sense of growth or change as these scenes don’t come around at any point in the episode.  Luna never apologizes for threating to disfigure Usagi’s face, and Usagi never apologizes for being completely oblivious and derelict in her duties. Anyway, she does finally transforms into Sailor Moon (against her will) and heads down to the basement to find her teacher slowly turning into a fleshy raisin.  Jadeite sics his oh so manly personal trainers on her and she immediately turns tail and runs.  WHY ARE YOU RUNNING!?  You can take these American Gladiator knock offs!  Don’t you have magic powers or something!?  Luna, the master manipulator that she is, eventually gets her to fight back by saying that punching dudes burns a lot of calories.  Needless to say that Usagi begins to do so with great gusto.

“No pain, no gain!”     “I THINK YOU JUST BRUISED MY KIDNEY!!”     “I SAID NO PAIN NO GAIN!!!!”

“No pain, no gain!”     “I THINK YOU JUST BRUISED MY KIDNEY!!”     “I SAID NO PAIN NO GAIN!!!!”

Realizing that the episode is about to end, Usagi does her famous Moon Tiara Decapitation technique, only this time she manages to hold back her blood lust and only uses it to destroy the mind control headbands that they are wearing.  So the muscle heads are free from Jadeite’s spell… and then Usagi just leaves.  Wait, wasn’t your teacher about to die!?  You’re not even going to help her get out of the tube!?!?  Hell, what about the fact that she’s completely emaciated and definitely needs to see a fucking doctor at this point!?  Are we going to come back to that at any point?  Actually, it does!  In the next scene, Usagi’s mother asks about Ms. Haruna who ended up taking a week off of school to recover from near starvation, so at least we get a bit of closure there (unlike with Luna’s assault and blackmail of Usagi).  And so we finally reach the end of the episode!  Usagi weighs herself once again and finds out that she is still gaining weight!  That darn Usagi!

“THERE’S A SKINNY PERSON INSIDE OF MY CRYING TO BE FREE!!!!!!”

“THERE’S A SKINNY PERSON INSIDE OF MY CRYING TO BE FREE!!!!!!”

This was a rough one to sit through.  They dealt with something here that affects lots of people and handled it with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer and it just comes off as mean spirited towards Usagi rather than her being silly.  Now it’s not like the show has much in the way of deep messages, but it does have something to say with most episodes.  The premise is basically taking stereotypically girly things and showing their darker aspects.  While they never go too deep with this, it’s definitely a neat angle for the show to have and it’s one of the things that make this show stand out.  It feels like they were trying to go for something like that here, but it’s not handled very well and ended up being a total mess because of it.  It could have been saved pretty easily if they spent a bit more time talking about self-esteem and being healthy versus being skinny, but the moral never comes through the way it should.  It’s interesting though to wonder if Viz Media were thinking about this when they were redubbing it.  It wouldn’t have been too hard to change some of Luna’s lines to be more sensitive to this topic, but then would it be right for them to change the original script in that way?  Does the dubbing crew have a responsibility to make the best show possible, or the most accurate show possible?  Definitely a topic worth exploring and I’m guessing plenty of people already have done that already.  This was easily the weakest episode of the series so far, but I’m confident that things will pick up before long.  We’re still REALLY early in the show and it might take them some time to try the different things they want to do and see what works.  Here’s hoping they hit on something brilliant next time.

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3 thoughts on “Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 4 (Learn How to Be Skinny from Usagi)

  1. Bell Lectar

    “Does the dubbing crew have a responsibility to make the best show possible, or the most accurate show possible?”
    I heard its neither.
    They change the lines all the time, often giving up the original meaning and making completely new lines, often unrelated to what’s happening in a senile way. First translated without context, then kept unchanged anyway for speed. But that was only a quality issue, they didn’t alter things intentionally – they would need to know the context to do that.
    And another thing, I read the translators bragged in an interview, that they take every opportunity to “have fun with the script”, so they tried to insert some original joke wherever they could. That was mostly limited to outdated internet memes from the 00s, but they also weren’t above often breaking character just to say some uncharacteristic thing they thought was funny.
    I suspect this may lead to character alteration, where you’d get the wrong impression by considering a line to be character-defining, while in fact that line was just some random joke never meant to matter.
    I suspect the point is related to the 90s dub, where they wre rewriting everything fully, and thus “had fun with the script”. And so the current dub writers aim to do the same because “if the other dub could do it, no reason we shouldnt try the same”. An attempt to seem hip to the youngsters, I think.
    So in the 90s it’s a mix of outdated slang with made-up slang.
    And in the 2010s, it’s outdated internet memes.
    Dubs match in that way.

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  2. Pingback: Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 5 (Scent of a Monster: Chanela Will Steal Your Love) | The Reviewers Unite!

  3. Pingback: Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 7 (Usagi Learns Her Lesson: Becoming a Star Is Hard Work) | The Reviewers Unite!

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