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
We’re back once again with another episode of Serenity’s Angels! With Nephrite’s plans failing over and over again (just like Jadeite’s) he’s in a precarious position as his chickens must eventually come home to roost. This episode seems to be heading in that direction, and we’re not that far off from Sailor Jupiter joining the cast, so maybe desperate Nephrite will be a bit more interesting than smug Nephrite. Even though his plots haven’t resonated as well for me as Jadeite’s have, it really doesn’t seem like it would take all that much to get the formula right. Can they pull it off this time, or is this doomed to be another example of them ALMOST but not quite getting it? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins in a place we haven’t seen for some time; the head office of Hell Corp. Nephrite is FINALLY being dragged back before the Mistress of Dark Kingdom to answer for his failings with Zoisite in attendance just to pour some salt in the wound. Not only is this scene great because we finally get to see Queen Beryl again, but also because we get to see Zoisite prove himself to be a mischievous little jerk as he intentionally tries to goad Nephrite into either working with him or sinking his own promising career; both of which seem to help him towards… whatever end goal he’s going for.
Clearly Nephrite needs a nice juicy target to get his account out of the red, so he goes back to his secret abandoned church to ask the stars for advice; a plan that has worked SO well for him thus far. What’s the definition of insanity? Anyway, before we can find out who’s next, we head to the Tsukino household where Usagi has somehow managed to wake up at an appropriate time. The rest of the family is understandably preparing for the oncoming apocalypse. It all starts with Usagi getting a good night’s sleep and ends with Cthulhu rising up out of the sea. Further proving that things are going all topsy-turvy in this world is that this appears to be a Shingo focused episode which hasn’t happened since the furby knockoffs from episode 5. Then again, I’m pretty sure the guy only got three lines tops in Crystal, so I guess ANY attention is better than being a glorified extra.
So what story did they decide was good enough to give Shingo another shot at main character status? Well he has this friend in middle school who totally isn’t his girlfriend (she just so happens to be a friend that’s a girl) and she’s a master doll maker just like her mother. At school that day, she tries to present him with a gift which, due to peer pressure, he is forced to deny on the grounds of a possible cootie infection. However, in doing so he accidentally knocks it out of her hands; breaking it along with… her heart!
This story by the way is conveyed to Usagi by two of Shingo’s female classmates who insist on knowing why Shingo is such a douche bag and to see if Usagi can make him apologize. I would like to remind you that in said story being told to Usagi that it’s CLEARLY shown that peer pressure is the reason. We wouldn’t be able to know that if the storytellers hadn’t described it, therefore they are pretending to be ignorant! I SEE THROUGH YOUR DECEPTION!! Usagi, seeing an opportunity to take the moral high ground, agrees to punish Shingo for his crimes against women!
Speaking of which, we cut to the victim of said crime who’s working on their latest doll that reflects her inner torment… which basically means it has a frowny face. Her mother seems a bit worried about this new doll but decides to give her some space, at least for the time being, to work through whatever it is she’s feeling blue about. If that isn’t devastating enough, we get to see her look at the doll that Shingo broke one more time before she breaks down into tears. Credit where credit is due, this may be the best set up for one of Nephrite’s victims yet, with only Groundskeeper Willy coming to mind as a possible equal. Most of the time, we either get a character who has no real problems in their lives (and aren’t going through any severe emotional turmoil), or the show IMPLIES that they are without actually explaining WHY (*cough* episode 17 *cough*). We’ll have to see what happens once Nephrite actually gets involved, but hopefully they will take advantage of the solid set up here.
Going back to the TRUE star of the episode, we find that Shingo is struggling to write an apology letter to Mika which isn’t really helped once Usagi busts down his door and smacks the mo- fo. Then again, it may have done nothing for his writing but it DID get him to go straight to her house to apologize in person, so all’s well that ends well for the most part, right? Nope. Nephrite JUST SO HAPPENS to drive up to Mika’s house right when Shingo is about to knock on the door to apologize. It looks like Shingo will just piss off to his inner sanctum of guilt and shame for the time being while Nephrite does his thing.
So what exactly does Nephrite have up his sleeves this time? Wanna take a guess that it’s needlessly complicated? Spoiler Alert: it is. Nephrite wants the girl (not her mother who is ALSO a doll maker) to make ten dolls for him to sell and to do it lickety–split. Oh, and in the process he curses the doll she’s currently working on. Honestly, what’s the point of him asking a girl so young to do so many commissions when all he needed to do was curse the doll? THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO IT!! It’s not like they need a reason to build up their energies AFTER getting cursed. Not only that, but why isn’t the mom just the LEAST bit suspicious about the grown-ass man trying to employ her young daughter, especially when she makes the same kind of dolls that her daughter does? These are all very good questions that should be answered… except THIS happens which seems to take precedent over my complaining.
NO! I have seen TOO many damn killer doll movies, and know EXACTLY where this is going. It’s either going to end with the girl in a mad house or a nice fat check for Brad Dourif. How is it that every six or so episodes that we get a SUPER creepy monster!? I know the directors of this show are on rotation, but are they INTENTIONALLY spacing out the really creepy episodes!? Oh, and it looks like I was right about ONE of those theories as it takes no time at all for Mika to go all bad girl on her mother (sorry Mr. Dourif).
Now unfortunately, Mama Mika doesn’t ground the little bastard for shoving her to the floor, so instead Mika stays locked in her room for days on end; missing school in the process. Shingo eventually nuts up long enough to actually visit her house, but she wants nothing to do with him or the outside world. This is about the time you start knocking the door down, hog-tying her, and taking her to the nearest psychologist to hopefully work on her attitude problem… and getting over that whole hog-tying deal. Instead, her mom does nothing (presumably goes off to drink her worries away) and Shingo sulks in his room. Thankfully the sulking does not go unnoticed by the Sailor Scout in the house who surprisingly picks up VERY quickly on Mika probably being controlled by a monster. Either she’s finally getting her act together or she’s seen just as many killer doll movies as I have. Either way, this moment of competence or film geekiness has caused her to rise in my estimation.
Usagi, Luna, and Ami initially try to investigate Mika’s house, but can’t seem to figure out how to get past the gate, so it gets postponed until her mother’s doll show that weekend where Mika will be showing off her latest creations. Now Rei ALSO ends up at the exhibit, but I’m not entirely clear on whether this is coincidence, or if she was there to investigate with the others. I’m leaning towards the former because she brought Mamoru along for a date; one that he desperately wishes to get out of. Interesting that the two of them are still dating considering how little he wanted to go out with her initially; unless of course he KNOWS she’s Sailor Mars which means he’ll always be near the action if he hangs out with her. This is PROBABLY the case because when he passes by Nephrite, the two of them have a moment that is so intense, the world turns blue and speed lines encompass them like a tornado spontaneously forms around them.
Mika meanwhile is in the back putting the final touches on doll ten and completes it right before Shingo and Usagi can find her. Apparently it WAS necessary for Nephrite to have her make ten dolls because this is enough to get her at peak energy numbers, so the monster springs their traps, saps the girl dry, and reveals themselves to the two Tsukino siblings. Honestly, the monster in question here is kinda disappointing. Granted, she’s probably the best-designed monster since Nephrite took over (an ACTUAL monster design rather than an oddly colored anime supermodel with terrible taste in clothing), but it’s just a walking mannequin which is a concept that has already been done to death. It fits considering the killer doll premise, but we got something similar with Princess Dream who was MUCH better designed and incredibly memorable. At least her minions are interesting… and by interesting I mean TERRIFYING!!
Shingo gets knocked out pretty quickly (he came down with a bad case of plot contrivance) which allows Usagi to transform and begin to rain a storm of invectives at the master of puppets! That is, until the little biters chase her out of the room and through a window. Hey, those things are probably doll vampires anyway and will turn her to wood if they bite her! Fortunately, Usagi’s masterful technique of running away gets the monster right where she wants her as Mercury and Mars arrive on the scene mere moments later. It’s the regular song and dance at this point where Rei uses her paper charms to stop the minor threats, Ami uses her mist to cloud everything, and Usagi eventually throws a tiara at the monster after Tuxedo Mask comes by to be their distraction. Another dead monster and another notch in Usagi’s belt!
And so the day is saved once again, just in time for Mika and Shingo to wake up. Sailor Moon even makes an appearance and tells the two of them to make up (I’m PRETTY sure Shingo still owes an apology) which they do because why WOULDN’T you trust the vigilante teenager’s relationship advice? Not only that, Mika also ends up crafting a figurine of Sailor Moon for Shingo that looks DISTRESSINGLY realistic and could not have been easy to make by hand. In fact, it looks SO good that Mika starts getting jealous over Shingo’s admiration for the plastic idol and we end the episode as Shingo contemplating the fickle nature of women, though his time would better spent examining his infatuation with a certain blonde teenager.
This, like many of the Nephrite episodes, is a mixed bag that ends up having more positive elements than negative ones. I like how Mika’s possession was handled at first, but there was no satisfying payoff. She didn’t blow up at someone during the expo or got backed into a corner at any point. Mika “hitting her peak energy level” didn’t feel like she peaked at anything other than hitting an arbitrary number of finished dolls. I guess it’s no surprise then that the monster to pop out didn’t have much going on either which fits very well with no only the anticlimactic ending to Mika’s possession but to Nephrite’s reign as a whole. Still, I liked Usagi a lot in this as she was much more effective as a Scout than she has been in prior episodes, and with this and the last episode, it will hopefully mean that we’re actually seeing Usagi grow as a character and a warrior. Ami and Rei are kind of underused here, but that seems to be the rule rather than the exception, and I was glad that there’s at least some continuity here with Rei and Mamoru still being together. The show isn’t really improving as far as Nephrite’s villainous schemes or the monsters they have to face, but I do see Usagi developing as a character and the Scouts getting some subplots of their own to deal with. Even if it’s still not quite where I want it to be, it still remains good enough for now.