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 Where in the World is Sailor V! The enigmatic vigilante looming of this series really hasn’t had an appearance outside of video games and merchandising, yet she’s still a very important part of the Sailor Moon universe once the series really gets going. Until then though, I guess we’ll have to live with filler episodes that use her likeness instead of… you know; ACTUALLY showing her. Still, this episode is all about an animation studio, so maybe it’ll be a fun look at the anime production world with a lot of in-jokes and lampshade hanging! Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with the news that Sailor V is getting adapted into an anime movie to the chagrin of Usagi who I guess is jealous that SHE’S not getting one. I would be curious how that actually came about. Did the animation have to contact Sailor V to get a licensing contract written up? Then again, I guess she doesn’t have much legal recourse considering she’s supposed to have a secret identity.
Thankfully it seems that Usagi’s whining will NOT be the focus of the episode as we leave her to follow two animators who are working on the Sailor V movie. Despite trailers already being released, they still seem to be in the storyboarding stage (all the art they do is pencil sketches), but I guess they want to generate some buzz early on. Don’t forget to watch it when it comes out three years from now! The two animators are Hiromi and Kazuko, and the former has been getting a lot of crap from the animation director who likes to use vague and completely unhelpful buzzwords on how to improve the art for the movie.
To add on top of her troubles, she accidentally drops a folder of sketches and doesn’t even realize it which will probably come to bite her in the ass. Fortunately, IT JUST SO HAPPENS that Ami was exiting a nearby bookstore and saw the envelope get dropped and she plans on returning it to the listed address once her next class (presumably at cram school) is finished. Nephrite meanwhile is putting his next plan into motion (cursing Hiromi) and heads to the studio in his bitchin’ Camaro; passing by Ami on the way there which alerts her to the fact that he’s up to no good! Back at the studio, Hiromi is starting to fall to pieces over the stress of having to get these sketches done to the director’s liking which is doing no favors to the quality of her drawings. They seem fine to me, but I guess she would know better, being an animator and all. Not only that, but she sneaks a peek at Kazuko’s work while she’s out grabbing dinner, and is shocked to find out that her friend is ACTUALLY talented! They don’t look any different from Hirmoi’s but apparently they’re amazing and this plays like Solieri gazing upon the work of Mozart for the first time in that one movie that’s probably total fiction.
Clearly desperate times call for desperate measures, and so Hiromi decides to pull out her secret weapon; albeit with great hesitation. She has this pack of special pencils that she purchased with Kazuko (each got half of the set) and these will probably give her the inspiration to come up with better material… I guess. I’ll go along with it. After all, a morale boost doesn’t have to make sense as long as it has the desired effect. The only problem is that both she and Kazuko promised each other that they would only use these pencils once they begin working on their own anime together; not for everyday stuff. Hiromi needs to make a decision. Will she use these pencils to get her work done, or will she keep the promise she made to her friend?
So far, this is the best set up ANY of Nephrite’s victims have gotten. We’re not spending a WHOLE lot of time here (maybe five minutes), but they manage to fit in so much into every frame here; from the visual motifs and symbolism, to the body language and solid voice acting for Hiromi. It’s very easy to get her struggle considering she’s feeling outdone by her best friend which is something many people can relate to and something we’ve seen in other media, such as the aforementioned F Murray Abraham movie. While still contemplating the repercussions of her continued betrayal and lack of talent, Nephrite comes strolling into the studio, curses Hiromi’s pencil, and goes on about his business. No wait! Ami was tailing his ass (or she was already heading to the animation studio to drop off the envelope and just so happened to see his car there) and has transformed into Sailor Mercury to confront the dastardly villain!
Clearly Nephrite isn’t about to let her mess up the paint job, so he knocks her ass off the roof and she tumbles down the back. Nephrite jets off to get his detailing touched up, but not before providing Sailor Mercury with some foreshadowing about the next villain they will be facing. Either Nephrite actually thinks this latest monster has a chance against the Scouts (in which case, why didn’t he send them out once he realized they were a threat like five episodes ago?) or he’s an egomaniacal fool. Considering what kind of impractical sports car he drives around in, I’m guessing the latter. Ami… um… de-transforms I guess? Does the transformation from her to Sailor Mercury give her the powers as well, or do the Scouts have them at all times? If it’s the former, then I guess it’s more than just a costume change when going from Sailor Mercury to Ami. Whatever you’d call it, she does it and goes into the studio to return the envelope and to see what kind of shenanigans Nephrite has been up to there. Kazuko had just gotten back and thanks Ami for the envelope, but Hiromi has gone full-on jerk-wad and therefore just ignores Ami as she continues with her drawings. Clearly something is not kosher here, and thankfully Kazuko tells Ami she can come back later for a tour which gives the Scouts a chance to do a proper investigation. Ami informs Usagi and Rei about them visiting the animation studio later; the former being over the moon about it, and the latter unsuccessfully pretending not to be (despite bringing along half a dozen autograph books).
While that’s going on, we cut to Nephrite who’s taking a celebratory drink at his own presumed success despite no real reason to think THIS plan is going to succeed. Then again, it’s five o’clock somewhere. It’s too bad Zoisite has to drop by to talk smack and harsh his buzz which seems to be the ONLY thing he’s good for around here. I guess it makes sense to have another one of the Kings around for Nephrite to bounce off of (else he’d have even less to do than Jadeite), but I wish they’d give the guy something to do other than be snarky and condescending. Maybe have them work together on a scheme at least once before Nephrite gets axed. Back at the studio, Rei has dropped her cool façade and is geeking out with Usagi over every detail they’re seeing of the Sailor V movie; all the while Ami is trying to find out what Nephrite’s dark influence has corrupted here. I’m PRETTY sure it’s not that hard to figure out, especially when Hiromi puts on her murder face in front of everyone.
She berates the two of them for being obnoxious fan girls and shameless swag seekers which is not an unfair characterization to be honest, but Kazuko isn’t happy with the new Grumpy Hiromi and gets all up in her grill about her attitude problem. The tension is broken however when Hiromi gets a call from the director to get an update on the finale of the movie. Now here’s where things get a bit weird. Hiromi informs him that she’s going to change the ending to one where Sailor V dies because… evil I guess. Yeah, no. Just… no. I’d like to see what an animator looks like after telling their director that they’ve taken over the script and are animating something else entirely because I’m guessing it doesn’t end well for them. By the time the animators get a chance to draw, not only is the script finished but the actors have already recorded the audio so there’s no way in HELL an animator’s just gonna hijack the movie. You could argue that they’re still at the storyboarding stage (we’ve only seen pencil drawings so far) but even then an animator is not going to be able to change the script. They can have ideas about how to draw certain scenes, the timing, staging, etc, but declaring that they will kill off a character and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it is gonna be the last thing they say before they’re booted out the door and replaced.
She goes on to tell the rest of her fellow animators (who for some reason haven’t bum-rushed her) that teamwork is DEAD and that anime is STUPID! Blasphemy! Does her evil know no bounds!? After that, she just kind of wanders up to the roof for no particular reason and just waits there for the Scouts and Kazuko to arrive. Hiromi finally confronts Kazuko about her insecurities of her being a better artist, but it honestly just feels like lip service as Kazuko passes out from shock immediately; leaving the Scouts able to transform and Jadeites monsters (there’s two of them this time) able to reveal themselves.
The Scouts transform so they can battle their new foes, but the bad guys are so in sync with each other that they hand them their asses on a silver platter. Will the Scouts survive this onslaught? Yes, but for very silly reasons. The Scouts are on the damn ground and ready to be put out of their misery, but the two monsters have an argument and are killed immediately with a very impractical looking attack.
This whole fight seems more rushed than usual which I guess is due to the fact that they actually wanted to give these villains personalities instead of just being another generic foe to be immediately destroyed. They had something here that they could have worked with (teamwork and friendship conquers all or something), but because this show doesn’t do two-part episodes, they only had about a three-minute window to set up the villains, show their skills, have them lose their edge, and then get the Scouts to overcome them. Seems like a waste considering they were talked up by Nephrite throughout the episode and they had a gimmick that could have worked. Oh well. At least Hiromi is now safe and we can get to the big emotional apology scene which, while still feeling a bit rushed, at least hits on all the important points that it needs to. Hiromi comes clean about being jealous of Kazuko and about using the special pencils, but then Kazuko reveals that she felt the same way which is why she used HER special pencils too! They BOTH suck! Okay, not really. Even Kazuko points out that feeling guilty over using the proper equipment is pretty foolish and that they should be working hard on ANY project they do. And so the episode ends, with Nephrite’s plans getting foiled yet again, the two animators making up, and the Scouts staring at them from an open window like a bunch of creepers!
This was one of the better Nephrite episodes, but it also highlights the problem that his arc has had and the problems with trying to fix it. The fact that Nephrite zeroes in on an individual to corrupt is perfect for building some strong characters that fall under his influence. The problem is that the show ALSO has to fit that in with a monster fight at the end which should be exciting and against a villain who doesn’t feel completely disposable. I think this episode tried the hardest to give us both, and it absolutely succeeding in giving Hiromi and Kazuka some fantastic characterization which means we care what happens to them. They ALSO tried to give the monsters this time some personality and menace, what with there being two of them and their flawless team working being an obstacle the scouts need to overcome. The problem is that when they finally get to the monsters, there simply isn’t enough time to flesh out that aspect because of how well they did the character building. Nephrite’s reign of terror will be coming to an end soon, and we also have the Naru storyline that they still have to build off of from episode 19. Hopefully these final episodes will give him a chance to shine as we transition into the next set of villains who will hopefully have a different gimmick that’s easier to pull off than what Nephrite was given to do.