Sailor Moon and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Toei Animation and licensed by Viz Media
Episode directed by Kazuhisa Takenouchi
We’re back with another episode of Sailor Moon: The Early Years! It hasn’t been that long since Ami became a member of the team, but now we’re moving ahead to the next scout, Sailor Mars! Once again, this is a story that was covered in Sailor Moon Crystal, so that begs the question; is this a better interpretation of Rei Hino’s introduction, or will this be an example of Crystal improving on what had already been done before? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins as most episodes do with Queen Beryl giving Jadeite the business end of her sharp tongue as she berates him for his continued failures to stop the Scouts.
As usual, Beryl boots his ass out to the human world to get more energy, but before we can find out what his latest plan is we cut straight to the moon crew who are discussing the day’s itinerary while Ami is waiting for the bus. Apparently the cram school from episode 8 was the only one in the city and therefore Ami now has to go WAY outside of town just to get more studying done. Still, it’s all worth it so long as she gains more knowledge which she can use to fight the forces of evil and eventually protect the moon princess once they are found. Naturally, Luna uses this opportunity to work her manipulative magic and make snide remarks at Usagi.
The two are joined by Naru and another girl (I’m guessing she won’t be making that many appearances in future episodes), who informs them about a recent event that happened in their fair city. Apparently a bus filled with about fifty people has up and disappeared off the face of the Earth, and since Keanu Reeves isn’t among those missing, we can assume that the bus is not simply driving out into the country going fifty miles per hour at the behest of Dennis Hopper. Nah, it’s most likely Jadeite’s doing which seems to be a pretty bold move on his part. Normally the guy’s schemes involve twisting the hearts of men (and women) to suit his purposes, but this is straight-up kidnapping and presumably using them like cattle to harvest energy. Everyone’s gonna notice when a lot of people aren’t coming back home is all I’m saying! At least it has the side effect of getting the kids all superstitious about the bus (superstition being a very easy thing to exploit) and the group heads over to a nearby shrine to buy good luck charms. All of them except for Ami who still has to go to cram school but is requesting that they get a charm for her as well. Now here’s where things get a bit confusing as certain details are WAY different than they were in Crystal and by extension the manga. In both this episode and the Crystal version of it, Rei Hino is a maiden at the shrine Usagi visits and will soon be revealed to be Sailor Mars. In Crystal however, they didn’t get into Rei’s family at all and kept the focus mainly on her meeting Usagi and becoming friends. Now that episode suffered from some pacing issues as events would just wiz by too quickly, but I think that one at least had a consistent tone and didn’t stray into random asides at the drop of a hat. In THIS episode, Rei has a pervy grandpa who stops the episode dead in its tracks whenever he appears to do his Master Roshi shtick.
He’s not the only thing about this episode that makes it overly comedic though, and I think the not so great humor here just continues to reinforce what Crystal did improve upon. That entire episode of Crystal has a strange and foreboding atmosphere as the rumors begin to weigh heavier and heavier on Rei and the people who frequented her shrine. People are starting vicious rumors about the shrine’s possible involvement in the disappearances and you can feel the air getting thicker as more and more time goes by without any trace of the missing bus. In this one though, things are much lighter so that tense atmosphere never really gets a chance to develop which is a shame because that was something that could have helped this episode stand out. Instead, Rei’s role is somewhat diminished as her struggle to deal with the situation is undercut by Goofy Gramps and Usagi shenanigans.
On top of that, the plot is just overcomplicated with way too many elements fighting for screen time. This is easily Jadeite’s most complicated and risky scheme yet, which involves him getting a job at the shrine and handing love amulets that are infused with his evil power. Those amulets by the way do NOT drain the victim’s energy like so many other cursed items he’s used in the past, but instead they hypnotize the people who buy them long enough so that they can get on the bus and then get drained elsewhere. I don’t even know why he has to put himself out there like that when he could have gotten one of his lackey’s to hand out he charms, and the fact that he’s KIDNAPPING them instead of subtly draining them of life means that this plot of his is going to get A LOT of unwanted attention. Oh, and for some reason, Jadeite is able to block Rei’s psychic powers (which apparently she has), though they never explain how. It’s a lot to throw at us in such quick succession and unnecessary for an episode that’s already trying to introduce us to another Sailor Scout. Anyway, Usagi and Company’s visit to the shrine is less than ideal as they get harassed by Pervy Gramps and then Usagi gets assaulted by Rei who smacks her in the face with a paper charm.
Despite that shaky start, Usagi falls madly in love with the lovely Rei (who wouldn’t?) and Luna not only seems to be picking up on her Sailor Scout potential but believes she might be the princess that they are looking for (spoiler alert: she’s not). Her musings are cut short however as the mother of one of the missing girls bursts in uninvited, starts to berate Rei, and then claims that Shrine is responsible for the kidnappings. Now I will say that this is something I did prefer in this episode. Unlike in Crystal, this version of Rei does not take that nonsense for even a moment and boots the lady’s ass out of her home for wasting time there instead of talking to the police. In Crystal, Rei just kind of took the abuse being hurled at her which I guess made a bit of sense considering that a friend of hers was last seen at the shrine before disappearing, but I honestly prefer this no-nonsense version of the character. Usagi eventually leaves the shrine and she and Ami meet up at the bus stop to see if something nefarious happens. They notice that every person waiting at the stop has a love amulet which points the finger squarely at the shrine, or at least someone working there (try and guess who). Luna and Ami need to investigate further, but unfortunately Usagi is just way too chicken to get on the doom bus (I can’t really blame her), so the bus leaves without any of them. It’s not like they NEED to get the bus to determine it’s evil though considering that it just starts hovering in plain view of everyone who happens to be in the area before disappearing into a wormhole that’s just suddenly there.
Now this show has always worked on a sort of dream logic which has served the series well at points, but there are just things where not even that rationality can keep up the suspension of disbelief. A bus floating two meters off the ground before being absorbed by a dimensional rift? Yeah… no. In a show with talking cats, moon colonies, and deadly tiaras, THAT manages to the one thing that’s too gosh darn ridiculous! Again, Crystal did this marginally better because they put the portal behind a wall so that the bus could just drive through it without causing too much attention. Here though? I just don’t see the benefit of even bothering with all this just to steal some energy, especially when having so many individual elements to the plan (the amulets, the bus, the portal, etc) makes it that much easier to foil in the end. Still, the two Scouts and their cat have all the evidence they need to confirm that the EVIL BUS is more than just a rumor. Usagi goes to see Rei the next day to find out if she knows anything about it, but Rei’s been dealing with jerks and cops all day accusing her and the shrine of everything under the sun so she is DEFINITELY not in the mood to keep answering silly questions. Luna however, the devious mastermind that she is, leaves a pen behind for Rei to find that may or may not transform her into a Sailor Guardian at some point.
Usagi and Luna head back to the bus station so that they can try ONCE AGAIN to get on the bus, and as expected Usagi starts to chicken out. She finds her courage however by… transforming into a flight attendant? Okay… whatever works for her I guess. She finally gets on the bus and finds that everyone on there is already passed out. Usagi demands that the bus driver stop this madness in the name of proper transportation procedure but the appeal for sanity falls on deaf ears as the bus driver guns it to the next dimension. I feel like we’re forgetting something…
While this is going on, Rei’s… psychic fire thing or whatever finally tells her that the creepy new guy handing out mysterious talismans is actually the bad guy. Wait, I thought that Jadeite was blocking her psychic powers? Did she get then back for two minutes just so it can reveal what’s already super obvious? I don’t know what’s going on, but Jadeite certainly knows how to deal with the situation as he chucks Rei through an inter-dimensional portal that apparently he can summon at will. In the alternate dimension, the evil bus driver (whose true form is super lame as it’s just a generic-looking zombie) grabs Rei as she’s coming through the portal and holds her hostage against Sailor Moon who doesn’t seem all that phased at the prospect of killing Rei because she throws her deadly tiara at the bad guy anyway. Actually, Usagi decided to set it to stun instead of kill, so the tiara just kinda grabs hold of the zombie demon and Rei is set free to finally be told of her true potential. Luna commands her to lift high her mighty pen and shout the name of the planet from which she draws her powers so that she can transform into the one and only Sailor Mars!!
Sailor Mars shoots some sort of fire beam to fry the zombie which I guess classifies as a victory for Team Moon, but without the monster, the wormhole is slowly starting to close and they don’t have a way to get through it (unless this is the episode they decide to throw in their inexplicable ability to fly). It seems that all hope is lost to not only escape with their lives but to save all the people trapped inside the buses that are in this dimension. Oh wait, Tuxedo Mask followed them in, chained all the buses together, and is flying them through the wormhole.
I’m sorry, what?
This is literally the first time that the dude has shown up in the episode either as Tuxedo Mask or Mamoru! How the hell did he even GET here? It feels like the writer had written themselves into a corner and were just looking for any excuse to get these characters out of this situation, which I don’t understand why because the manga (and Crystal by the way) didn’t have this problem as Usagi was able to get everyone else safely out of the alternate dimension on her own! They threw in an extraneous crisis so that they could come up with a silly solution. Well done I guess? Thankfully, the episode is almost over so there’s not enough time to have something else completely insane happen out of nowhere. The two Scouts and Luna escape from the bad guy dimension and find Ami on the other side waiting and hoping their safe return. Before anyone can thank Tuxedo Mask for his heroic deed, he pulls a Batman and disappears so that he doesn’t have to talk to anyone, and Rei talks some smack to Usagi to make her cry just as the episode ends!
This was actually a bit of a disappointment, especially when you compare with how they handled Rei’s introduction in Crystal. I know that Crystal had A LOT of problems (I pointed them out myself in my recap of every darn episode), but there were many places where it did excel, and I think the Rei episode was a perfect example of that. There were stylistic choices throughout that worked very well, the story was less complicated which gave more time for character moments, and the third act doesn’t feel like a rushed mess of random ideas and convenient story beats. In this episode, everything that’s different from what was done in Crystal feels like a worse move, such as the over-reliance on humor and the overabundance of ideas that only feel half baked. If there’s one aspect of this episode that still manages to work, it’s Rei who’s actually a lot different than she was in Crystal but is no less compelling. Crystal did a very poor job with the other scouts after their initial episodes, but even at their best, they seemed to have been slightly underdeveloped. Here, Rei has a lot more going for her and while sometimes characters can have a bit too much personality (is Usagi going to cry at the end of EVERY episode from here on out?) it’s better than a lack of personality. Hopefully, future episodes with these characters will cut back on the ridiculous plans and focus more on the great characters they have at their disposal.