We’re back with another episode of The M Word! Now the last episode was a cluster fuck of poorly conveyed information and confusing plot points that was just spewed out on screen, presumably in a way that was INTENDED to make sense. That said, it did end on one HELL of a cliffhanger with Haruka planting a kiss on Usagi to her (and the audience’s) surprise! Now that they’ve painfully force fed us the exposition LAST episode, will this one build off of the interesting ending and give us an episode that we can actually enjoy, or was it too much to hope that the series had gotten its act together after trying to retool it for season three? Let’s find out!!
The episode begins with Usagi debriefing the Scouts about what had happened between her and the mysterious Sailor Guardian (Uranus) she was chasing down in the forest. She didn’t get much from her considering how annoyingly vague Haruka has been so far, so all she CAN tell the others is that the mystery Scout requested that they leave her and the other mystery Scout (Neptune) alone to do whatever it is they plan to do; tactfully forgetting to mention the kiss she was given.
Obviously the main Scouts aren’t about to let these unknown agents run wild as they have no idea what those two wish to accomplish. Maybe if Uranus had opened her mouth for purpose other than getting Usagi to question her own sexuality, she MIGHT have actually gotten them to leave her and Neptune alone by giving a rational explanation of what they hope to accomplish with the main Scouts interfering. Instead, the main Scouts are gonna continue their investigations into Mugen Academy and the identities of these new Guardians. Maybe Haruka can try kissing all five of them to see if that will keep them all distracted. That would be… interesting. ANYWAY! The group parts ways for the night and Usagi ends up dreaming about both the mystery Scout and Haruka; finally putting two and two together which is impressive considering she’s the first one to do so and she did it without a supercomputer. Take THAT Luna and Artemis! The dream in question (which includes some interesting gender fluidity imagery) eventually turns into a premonition as Haruka starts mentioning the three talismans that must be collected for the Deity of Destruction… or something like that. Whatever it is it involves the apocalypse, so no good can come from that. We also find out that the dream is being shared by every relevant player in this story (The main Scouts, Mamoru, and Hotaru) so now I’m wondering just how much they saw of Usagi’s sexual explorations with an ambiguously gendered Sailor Scout.
Speaking of which, how does Haruko identify herself, and I guess to a bigger point… who is the one that gets to decide that? The original author (Naoko Takeuchi)? Well Haruka’s a fictional character that’s in a brand new series, and while we ARE watching an adaptation, things can change between interpretations. Even taking that into consideration, do we take what the directors and writers of this series intended, or how the text can be read? I’m not familiar with how the character is portrayed in other versions but as I said earlier, she seems to embody gender fluidity in that she kind of goes back and forth between Male and Female on the gender spectrum, and doesn’t seem to have too strong of an attachment to either one. Still, we haven’t spent all that much time with her to get an idea of how SHE sees herself and it’s mostly through Usagi’s eyes that we’re getting a lot of this ambiguous imagery (shown in a positive and loving light I might add which is a HUGE thumbs up from me). For now, I’m gonna stick with female pronouns to describe Haruka, but that might change in the future depending on where the story and her character end up going. ANYWAY! The next day is a bit awkward to say the least, particularly between Mamoru and Usagi. It doesn’t seem like Mamoru (or anyone else for that matter) saw the make out part of the dream, and instead just saw the part about the Talismans and the apocalypse so thankfully Usagi doesn’t have to start explaining that to him. Who the hell wants their dirty thoughts broadcasted to their closest friends anyway? Instead, she’s worried about what she saw in the last episode which was Mamoru and Michiru being all chummy. Throwing that mental image on top of everything else that’s going on doesn’t bode well for Usagi’s current state of mind, and clearly she’s going through enough stuff right now as it is! Whatever new threat is on the horizon could string their trap at any minute, and so much of the weight of that is on her shoulders while at the same time she’s questioning who she is and what she wants; not to mention she has the Sarah Connor problem of having to give birth to save humanity at some point. Clearly she needs some time to think about things and maybe get some time alone. Too bad she keeps running into Haruka! Seriously, this person’s going from aloof badass to Edward from Twilight.
Either she’s stringing Usagi along for shits and giggles, or she’s actually falling for her and should PROBABLY just come clean about what the hell is going on. She doesn’t do the latter, but instead hands Usagi five tickets to Michiru’s upcoming concert for some reason (I guess Mamoru will have to find someone else to be his plus one) and then disappears like Batman. Speaking of which, what does Michiru have to say about all this flirting going on with Usagi? Is this all a part of their overly convoluted plan, or is Haruka deviating from it to mack on some fly honey… who is most DEFINITELY under aged? I guess we’ll find out eventually, but for now Usagi goes to the arcade to meet up with the other Scouts to discuss the dream they had last night. Actually, they barely even cover it as they get distracted pretty quickly when Minkao starts geeking out about a pop star concert at the Mugen Academy that’s (conveniently) happening on the same day of Michiru’s violin recital.
Gee. I wonder if the pop star who we’ve never heard of until now and is having a concert at Evil Academy has anything to do with the Evil Witches that are trying to do evil things to student’s at the Academy? That would NEVER happen, right?
Well darn… or yay? I don’t know. I guess it’s a good thing considering the Scouts will be there to kick her ass if she tries anything. You’d think the Deity of Destruction (if that’s who General Zod really is) would have a bit more power behind him than a pop star trying to hypnotize one school. Wait a minute… why are they trying so hard to take over the school? Don’t they already OWN the damn place? Isn’t this school supposed to be the Bermuda Triangle of dark magic or something!? The episode must have realized my brain was starting to hurt, so we immediately go from there to Chibi-Usa who’s trying to find an excuse to get back in contact with Hotaru for fairly obvious reasons if you saw the last episode. She goes to the Academy, JUST SO HAPPENS to catch her outside the grounds, and offers to return the handkerchief she had used to bandage her wound after the cat attack. Obviously the plan works like a charm!
Alright, so my assumption last episode that Hotaru’s basically isolated from the world and is forced to stay in the basement MIGHT have been a bit off base, but it’s not like we get to see her interact with anyone besides Chibi-Usa, her dad that one time, and his assistant that she hates. Still, she does go to school and she seems to at least have some freedom to go where she wants, she just prefers to be alone and in the dark. I’m guessing that a certain someone is gonna pry her out of her shell over time! We actually learn quite a bit here as the scene clarifies some of the questions raised in the last episode. First off all, that amulet that Hotaru was given in the last episode? I’m like eighty percent certain that that is the Taioron Crystal they kept referencing. Why? Well they made it clear that the Silver Crystal was stronger and when Hotaru starts to have another panic attack, Chibi-Usa gives her the Silver Crystal instead of the Taioron one which turns out to be far more effective at quelling whatever it is that’s causing the pain (I’m guessing a Moon Demon). We also learn that Dr. Frankenstein (also known as Hotaru’s dad) performs messed up experiments that apparently create monsters which is why Hotaru thinks that her dad is responsible for the cat monster that attacked them.
I’m… not so sure about that. The Witches 5 were the ones to infect the cat with that ball of evil thing, but I guess it’s also possible that Dr. Frankenstein was the one to create those evil ball thingies. Either way, at least we’re learning something here! What else… Hotaru was in a bad accident years ago which I guess is the cause of her illness (whatever it may be) and her dad was the one to put her back together as opposed to a trained medical physician. Then again, the accident could have been Moon related, so who knows. Also worth noting about this scene is that there is an interesting parallel an earlier part of the episode with Usagi and Haruka, in that both scenes share some very specific dialogue.
I’m curious what it means (if anything), but I LOVE the idea of the show throwing those kinds of hints out there to be picked up on! See, this is SO much better than last episode which was just a series of exposition dumps that in no way advanced the characters and wasn’t even done in a clever or interesting way. Here, the scene works as a way to give us some exposition but also to establish the relationship between Chibi-Usa and Hotaru, so while we’re learning something we’re ALSO getting some character building! HOW HARD IS THIS TO PULL OFF ON A REGULAR BASIS!? Chibi-Usa and Hotaru make a pinkie swear to not share this conversation with anyone else (who wants to bet she tells Usagi within the next three episodes?) and she heads on home; completely unaware that two people just so happened to be watching… and are in the habit of picking up school children in their helicopter. Okay…
The helicopter ride turns out to be innocuous (thankfully) and we find out that Michiru’s mirror is one of the talismans. Sweet! I’m still not sure what they’re significance is, but I guess we now have an idea of what form they take. The duo manages to land the helicopter in the middle of an intersection (one that wasn’t blocked off ahead of time, so good messing with traffic you jerks!) and they drop Chibi-Usa off to Usagi’s utter bafflement. TRULY THESE TWO WANT NOTHING MORE THAN TO BE FORGOTTEN AND ALLOWED TO OPERATE IN THE SHADOWS AWAY FROM PRYING EYES!! All I’m saying is that there are very few things as un-subtle as a freaking helicopter. We cut to the next day (I assume) where the Moon Crew has gathered at the Mugen theater hall to attend Michiru’s concert and Usagi is surprised to find Mamoru there along with Chibi-Usa. If you recall, the reason Michiru and Mamoru looked chummy in the last episode was because she had given him two tickets to the concert. He was going to take Usagi,but then she got five tickets earlier in THIS episode, so he brought the only other person he knows. Seriously, who the hell else was he gonna take? Motoki? The group takes their seats, and the concert begins which… I guess is nice? I don’t know. Violin music doesn’t really do it for me unless it’s being used to lure Gene Wilder’s monster back to the lab.
One person who seems to share my sentiment is Minako who you may recall was super stoked to see the pop star’s concert but was dragged here instead. That’s not about to stop her though! For some reason, the pop act is on the second floor of this building (I can’t imagine that’s a good idea for the quiet violin solo below) so she heads up there and we find out she has a transformation device as well! So why doesn’t SHE do sneaky stuff with Usagi when they’re trying to infiltrate buildings and stuff!? Is it only for emergencies like bluffing their way into a concert without a ticket!?
The concert goes about as well as you’d expect. She sneaks in, find out that the pop star is a super villain, and then things get all satanic as a pentagram comes down to suck out their souls. The ONE time Satanism didn’t improve a music performance! TYPICAL! Minako is super pissed about this; not just because she nearly got drained of all her life points, but because she now has to find another pop star to idolize! This is a crime that will not go unpunished, as she smashes the giant pentagram of horror!
This is actually a really solid solo fight for Minako who is given some really interesting animation here. She has a very unique way of moving that either they’ve never shown before or I’ve only just noticed now. The pop star (her name is Mimi Hanyu by the way) isn’t about to let this concert end without a fight, so she summons THREE of the massive monsters by throwing those black egg thingies (I think they’re called Daimons) at the students; leaving Minako to fight massive threats on all sides! Well not really. The commotion upstairs didn’t go unnoticed by the other Scouts who come upstairs just in the nick of time to take the monsters out. It’s actually kind of underwhelming considering the three monsters are defeated without much effort. What exactly does it take to raise the stakes in the fight scenes in tripling the number of threats doesn’t even have them break a sweat? The fight’s not over yet though! They kind of forgot about Mim who starts shooting fire balls directly at Chibi-Usa! She only misses because two mysterious Guardians show up at the last minute; one to nullify the attack, and the other to HORRIFICALLY DESTROY THE BAD GUY!! HOLY SHIT!!
And so the episode ends with the day saved once again and Mugen Academy missing one more student. Seriously, is anyone going to wonder whatever happened to Mimi who was a student AND a national pop star? The Scouts are just gonna sweep that under the rug? Oh well, she was evil anyway I guess. The new Scouts by the way FINALLY introduce themselves which seems counterproductive considering they were BEGGING the main Scouts to piss off and leave them alone. I’m getting mixed messages here!! If nothing else, we’ve got another decent cliffhanger here as the next episode will have to deal with fallout of this reveal. I’m hoping at least one punch gets thrown and at least two people get kissed!
There are still some flaws that need to be worked out, but this was SUCH an improvement over the last episode. They figured out how to do exposition right instead of just creating an avalanche of information that’s all over the damn place. It was focused, it was about characters we actually like doing something OTHER than just giving the audience an info dump, and it certainly made things easier to understand, at least somewhat. I still have questions that really need to get answered soon, but considering that this one ends with Neptune and Uranus revealing themselves to the Scouts, we can only hope the story starts to take shape soon. I’m also very interested to see where they go with the relationships forming between Usagi and Haruka as well as Chibi-Usa and Hotaru, though I won’t be surprised if the former is dropped off soon now that secret identities will probably be revealed soon. That, and Mamoru is still around… I guess. It’s episodes like this that get across what Sailor Moon Crystal’s greatest strength is. When it wants to, it can be some high quality drama and has some creative visual touches to get that across which works well with the new animation style. Hopefully they’ll figure out how to keep playing to their strengths as we continue forward with this arc.
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Sailor Moon “Crystal” Set 1 Standard (BD/DVD combo pack) [Blu-ray]