Sailor Moon and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Toei Animation and licensed by Viz Media
Episode directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara
We’re back with another episode of Scouts and the City! For once, the focus isn’t on Usagi this time (the Carrie Bradshaw of the group) and is instead a chance for Rei to get some screen time (DEFINITELY our Miranda) as this one seems to focus on her relationship to someone else OTHER than Usagi. Seriously, until now I’m pretty sure the only time the other Scouts got any character development was in reflection of their interactions with Usagi, so maybe this will be a chance for Rei and even Ami (Charlotte maybe?) to take a step outside of Sailor Moon’s massive shadow. Oh, and uh… Luna is Samantha. I guess. Will this episode give everyone else a chance to shine, or will they be lost without their fearless leader guiding the ship? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with a very rare sight in this series which is the three Sailor Scouts getting along. It probably has something to do with the beautiful park that Ami has brought them to for reasons that I’m sure many of you have already thought of and written forty pages of fan fiction about.
Unfortunately, those feelings will have to wait until Neptune and Uranus show up which means that they instead start to contemplate the possibilities of bringing a dude around here for a date. Those plans incidentally will have to be formulated rather quickly as we meet the groundskeeper of the park named Mr. Kokuritsu (I choose to believe his first name is Willy just for my own amusement) and he tells the three of them that a redevelopment company has recently purchased this park and are in the processes of tearing it down for a Pink Berry or a Starbucks or something.
It’s not clear what Ami and Usagi’s feelings are about the park closing (other than sad) but luckily we get some insight into Rei’s psyche and find out that her top priority to snag a date and bring them here before the park is completely decimated by the ceaseless war that mankind is waging against nature. I’m not always the biggest fan of Rei, especially when she’s being EXTRA nasty, but I like that she’s not the killjoy that a lesser show would portray her to be. She’s high and mighty, but she’s also flawed which is an endearing quality where a less well-rounded version of this character would be completely impossible to relate to. So what if she’s selfish every once in a while or hypocritical about living up to the standards she’s constantly judging Usagi by? I guarantee you she’d be chastising her if SHE suddenly blurted out her intent to get a boyfriend before the park closes, and yet that ends up being part of her charm. After that, we cut to the arcade where Luna is searching vainly for the girls (they didn’t tell her where they were going?) and makes the mistake of WALKING INTO TRAFFIC!!
Before Luna is able to flashback through all of her nine lives, she gets scooped up in the nick of time by Mamoru in his masculine (and notably bare) arms, and the Scouts JUST SO HAPPEN to show up immediately afterward which I can only conclude means they were bumper jumping the unobservant truck that didn’t even bother to slow down after almost hitting a dude. Usagi goes straight into defensive mode and starts demanding an explanation for Mamoru cradling Luna like a fuzzy baby; not even aware that she’d be roadkill if not for his nimble reflexes and ripped forearms. Seriously, what’s with this outfit he’s wearing!? Tensions are escalating fast despite the efforts of Ami and Rei to ease the situation, but the mood finally breaks when Motoki comes out of the arcade and greets Mamoru which reveals that the two of them are good friends; thoroughly shattering Usagi’s worldview and her faith in humanity.
While Usagi is recovering from this sense of betrayal, we finally get a chance to catch up with Nephrite and his latest plot. Sadly, we don’t get to see any Queen Beryl, but we do find out that his next target is going to be Groundskeeper Willy. I’m curious if Dark Kingdom is going to have the same overarching presence that it did when Jadeite was in charge, seeing as Nephrite has set up camp in what appears to be an abandoned church (though I am reminded of the castle from Deception IV). That would be disappointing if we didn’t get as much of Queen Beryl, but at least it’s a way to keep her from repeating the exact same dialogue with Nephrite as she did with Jadeite. After that small tidbit of knowledge, we cut back to the arcade where Usagi is playing her troubles away (Ami watching over of course, being the sympathetic enabler) while Rei is chatting up Motoki to try and get a bead on who Mamoru is and if he has a thing for under-aged girls. It looks like she isn’t wasting any time to find a date for the park, though she probably should be taking things a LITTLE bit slower. After all, haste makes waste… and can also cause concussions when you don’t pay attention and slip out of your chair.
The next day, we see Groundskeeper Willy being all sad while standing on a hill; watching the environmental devastation befalling his precious park. While contemplating his utter helplessness in the face of corporate development, Nephrite shows up like an evil guardian angel (his Fairy God Mother F**ker if you will) who grants him the power to stop these construction workers from bulldozing those trees. Unlike the last episode, Nephrite’s plot here has some thematic resonance as the person he’s trying to manipulate actually is facing a crisis and looking for a solution. The tennis player from last time really wasn’t sweating her career as a player and all Nephrite did was possess her racket. Here, Groundskeeper Willy wants to stop the workers and believes he can do some good once it’s clear that Nephrite has given him the power to do something. Of course, it’s still a bit undercut because Nephrite still has to jinx something (the guy’s hat in this case) which takes a bit of the choice out of Groundskeeper Willy’s hands, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. What powers DID Groundskeeper Willy get anyway? The power of… BUTTERFLIES!!
Yeah. Butterflies. Okay… They can apparently chase off a dozen grown-ass men as well as short out all of their equipment, so I guess it’s a USEFUL power, but seriously. Butterflies? Even The Monarch can’t make that nonsense work! Anyway, before things get TOO interesting at the nature preserve of the damned, we cut to the next day where Rei is trying to make her move on Mamoru that goes surprisingly poorly considering Rei is supposed to be the competent one, but then again I guess that’s the joke here.
Despite failing harder than Keanu Reeves performing Shakespeare, Rei manages to cajole a date from the unsuspecting Mamoru who just seems to be acting polite and hopes this ends before the cops see them. All is not well with Rei’s scheme however as Usagi JUST SO HAPPENED to see all of this and is now in full-on stalker mode. She follows the two of them to a local coffee shop and plans to use her transformation pen to don a super sneaky disguise, but through a combination of Luna’s protestations against using the pen for evil purposes and there being witnesses nearby, Usagi thinks better of it. Speaking of which, one such witness turns out to be Umino and so she now has a perfect excuse to go inside and watch the date surreptitiously by convincing him to buy her something (she’s out of money and can’t just sit at a booth without ordering).
The best part about all of this is that Luna just says Screw That Noise and leaves Usagi to her own devices, hoping that she might learn a lesson if she’s allowed to follow through on one of her silly plans without someone to bail her out. Luna instead decides that now would be a good time to hang with someone much more stable like Ami, though even with her she’s unable to escape needless drama. Ami has just gotten back from the park where Groundskeeper Willy has successfully stalled the redevelopment plans, but is already in full-on tyrant mode and is refusing to let anyone into the park so as to keep its natural beauty intact. Oh, and we find out that the guy’s powers extend far beyond that of mere butterflies.
You know, I’m pretty sure I saw this somewhere. Where was it? Oh, I know! THE OMEN!! Seriously, this is some straight-up Damien nonsense going down right now what with the animals going all glowy eyed and attacking people. I half expect to see Miss Haruna standing in a tree shouting “It’s all for you, Willy! IT’S ALL FOR YOU!!” before this episode is over. Naturally, this doesn’t escape the watchful eyes of Ami and Luna who’ve returned to the park and are now on the hunt for PURE EVIL!! We can’t focus on that right now though, because we have more scenes of Mamoru and Rei not having chemistry! Oh well. At least she got her date in the park.
Usagi’s not too far behind them but that’s not all that surprising. What IS surprising is that she’s dragging Umino along for the ride for no discernable reason, especially considering that she ditches him by the end of the scene. This whole ‘Rei’s first date’ thing is pretty underwhelming and doesn’t feel as developed as it should be. Maybe if it didn’t have to share screen time with a monster of the week (who also feels underdeveloped) then it could have had more room to expand the premise, but here it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Usagi’s ditching of Umino by the way has her run smack dab into Ami and the two manage to find Groundskeeper Willy who starts ranting about murdering humans in the name of preserving nature or some bullspit like that that I got enough of in that unfathomably awful Point Break remake. With this declaration of human genocide, Nephrite’s target has finally reached their peak power and so he orders the monster in his hat (who looks like a Poison Ivy knock off) to suck out all his energy and… I guess kill the girls there? Honestly, I don’t know why the monsters that Nephrite employees in his schemes don’t just high tail it for Evil Corp as soon as their done draining the sacrificial lamb, especially considering how poorly the monsters under Jadeite’s command fared against the Scouts. Then again, if the bad guys actually learned their lessons, there wouldn’t be two hundred episodes of this, so I guess it’s time for the requisite Sailor Scout Smack Down!
Things don’t look to good for Moon and Mercury, but then things aren’t going great all around as Mamoru and Rei are attacked by Hitchcock references in their tiny boat. They barely survive the birds attack (though I attribute the near lethalness of it to their attempts at escaping underwater rather than the birds themselves being aggressive) after winding up on shore; Rei realizes that trouble must be a-brewing and that she’s needed by her fellow Scouts. After informing Mamoru that Sistas come before Mistas (I’ll have to wait until Minako shows up before I can use Venus before penis), she rushes off to the battle while Mamoru presumably gets ready for his Tuxedo Mask appearance; neither the wiser to the other’s secret identity. Salvation comes to the Scouts upon Mars’s arrival (accompanied by another gratuitous panty shot) as she uses her fire attack to burn away all the vines that have Mercury and Moon under wraps (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk). Sent Usagi hasn’t been the focus of this episode, so we get an awesome moment of Mercury and Mars giving the hero speech while posing before Tuxedo Mask comes into the picture to make his contractually obliged appearance. He tells Sailor Moon that now would be a good time to finish the villain off (can’t Ami and Rei get to take out the bad guy at least once?), so she throws her tiara which we all know is a one-way ticket to monster explosions.
Now here’s where something interesting happens. When Nephrite (or the monster) sucked out all of Groundskeeper Willy’s energy, he turned gray on the spot which you would THINK would happen to someone without any life energy left. Now this didn’t happen in the last episode but I’ll forgive it if they’re still working out the concepts right now. What’s interesting though is that once the monster is destroyed, he goes back to normal. Does that mean Nephrite didn’t get any energy? Did only SOME of the energy come back? Hopefully, the show will get more into this if Nephrite ends up reporting to Queen Beryl like Jadeite did when he was in charge and unfrozen. Anyway, the day has been saved once again by the Moon Warriors who swiftly change out of their battle attire so that no one discovers their secret identities. Fortunately, Mamoru needed just as much time to change and so they all coincidentally meet back up in the park not long after the monster’s corpse fades away into dust and Groundskeeper Willy wakes up with no memory of the previous events. Well isn’t THAT convenient. All the benefits of being evil (stopped the redevelopment) with none of the guilt! While Ami is assisting Groundskeeper Willy, Rei confides in Usagi that she believes Mamoru to be Tuxedo Mask; a plot point that I do not recall from Crystal and since this is a filler episode is unlikely to come up again in the future. Still, it will be interesting to see if the series does have some legitimate conflict once between the two Scouts once Mamoru reveals himself to Usagi and the two fall in love. That’s a story for another day though as this one is wrapping up, and as always it needs to do so at Usagi’s expense. Umino manages to make his way to the party and reveals that he was on a date with Usagi; humiliating her to no end in front of her friends (and a jerk) because… nerds are gross I guess?
The problem with this episode is that it’s two underdeveloped stories mashed together in the hopes that they will fill the gaps in each other’s plotlines. The groundskeeper wrestling with what he believes (and many people believe as well) to be the right thing is a compelling narrative and the perfect use for someone like Nephrite who doesn’t exploit the lowest common denominator like Jadeite did and instead nurtures the hurt and desire that people are dealing with for his own nefarious ends. Can you say that this park still standing by the end of the episode was not a better outcome than it being bulldozed over for another Walmart? That wouldn’t have happened if Nephrite didn’t give the guy the power to do that. Unfortunately, Groundskeeper Willy’s downfall is too quick to carry much thematic weight, and the monster that pops out of his hat at the end is yet another uninteresting lackey who’s just there to soak up damage. Say what you will about Jadeite, at least HIS minions got a decent amount of screen time. Along those lines, I really liked what they did with Rei this episode, but there’s so much more that could have been explored if the episode was all about her trying to get a date rather than cramming it in as a subplot. Nephrite clearly has the potential to be a fantastic villain what with his more personal approach, but I’m not sure if future episodes will really be able to take advantage of that if the ENTIRE episode isn’t about him and his scheme (and I’d much rather have the monsters be an active part of his plan instead of… whatever the hell they’re doing now). It’s a solid episode that shows what this show can be when it’s firing on all cylinders, but it does leave me a bit skeptical of how often they can pull it off.