Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 22 (Romance Under the Moon: Usagi’s First Kiss)

Sailor Moon and all the images you see in this recap are owned by Toei Animation and licensed by Viz Media

Episode directed by Yuji Endo

We’re back with another episode of Great Moon-spectations!  After eleven episodes straight of filler, we get to another episode that’s part of the manga and was also remade in Sailor Moon Crystal!  Will this one manage to be the better of the two, or did Crystal manage to improve on whatever shortcomings this episode might have?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Usagi; late as always and running her ass to school before the bell rings.  On her way there, she runs into Naru who’s recalling the events of episode nineteen where Masato Sanjoin (Nephrite’s secret identity) started stringing her along because he thought she was Sailor Moon.  Naru already had a crush on the guy, but her last interaction with him left things a bit awkward to say the least.

“On the one hand, he tried to murder me.  On the other hand, he has AMAZING hair…”

Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the focus here because this is the episode where the Scouts go to PAR-TAY!!  Usagi finds out there’s a ball being thrown by Princess Diamond of the Diamond kingdom whose country’s main export is diamonds, and they will be presenting a secret treasure at the event (probably a diamond).  A bit on the nose, don’t you think?  The king of Belgium isn’t King of Waffles and their economy isn’t based on manufacturing waffle makers.   Also, I’m guessing this is one of those fantasy kingdoms where diamond mining isn’t rife with human rights violations and child labor.

“It says here that the number one cause of death is state sponsored executions.”     “Well maybe they just have a REALLY kick ass health system!”

This event has not gone unnoticed by Evil Corp (I guess they get the local newspaper there) and Queen Beryl wants someone to go and investigate.  Now normally this would be a job for Zoisite considering he’s the one tasked with finding the Crystal, but Nephrite butts his head in and demands the assignment for himself.  Not only that, but he refuses to work with Zoisite or even tell Queen Beryl what his plan is!  I can only assume she’s letting him do this so that once he fails (again), she’ll have an excuse to banish him to the Shadow Realm or whatever.

“I can picture it now!”     “Him all bloody and bruised; on his knees and begging for his life!  I’ll just sit there as he starts to break down and cry, and then…”     “Uh… Queen Beryl?”     “LEAVE MY CHAMBERS AT ONCE!!”

Despite the possibility of Nephrite getting axed, Zoisite still isn’t very happy about this and runs off to Kunzite to air his grievances to a sympathetic ear.  They SEEM to be involved (and considering this was made in the early nineties, the imagery is pretty overt), but I’m curious if they’ll actually pull the trigger on them being a couple or not.  Sure we’ve got a female gay couple showing up at some point, but does this show have the guts to portray a male gay couple?

“Can I kill him yet?”     “Don’t do that.  You heard Queen Beryl.  She’s got this.”     “But I REALLY want to kill him!”     “I know sweetie.  I know.”

Back in the human world, Team Moon is trying to come up with a plan to crash the party; hoping that Princess Diamond is actually the Moon Princess they’ve been looking for.  Now I always figured Luna knew Usagi was the princess from the very beginning, so this could all be a ruse to get them to search for the Silver Crystal which I THINK she’s mentioned to the Scouts before, but my memory’s a bit hazy on that detail.  No one comes up with a good idea (naturally) so they just kind of part ways and plan to meet up at the gates to see if inspiration strikes them then.  Okay…  I mean Usagi has her transformation pen so SHE probably isn’t gonna have a problem getting in, but what are the other two gonna do?  Is Ami gonna use her rarely seen supercomputer to find a secret passage or something?  Well we’ll find out soon enough, but first we need to catch up with Mamoru who’s having dreams about a princess telling him to find the Silver Crystal which means he’ll probably crash the ball too.  Geez!  There are so many people here ready to steal the damn jewel you’d think it was an infinity gem or something!  Ok, it basically IS that in this universe, but the fact that some princess from a fake kingdom is showing off some overly expensive rock doesn’t mean that’s gonna be the ONE ROCK IN THE UNIVERSE that has the power everyone seeks!  All I’m saying is that a lot of people are banking on this being the Crystal when there is so little information here to go on.  What’s next?  Will they start storming Taco Bell when they announce their next mystery item!?

“You must find the Quesalupa!  That much cheese is just not safe in the hands of man!”

We cut to that night where, sure enough, Usagi uses her pen to transform into a convincing party guest.  What’s odd though is that Rei and Ami don’t have ANY plan and just stand outside, presumably for the WHOLE evening!  Crystal’s version of this episode managed to sneak them both in which is something I wish they did here.  Even though they made it into the ball in the Crystal episode, it was still almost entirely Usagi’s episode, but since this series does a better job of integrating the other Scouts into the story, I would have liked to see what shenanigan the two could get up to at such a fancy event.  Instead, Usagi just ignores them as she strolls to through the gate (walk with confidence and you can get in anywhere) which is a pretty big jerk move on her part.

“Usagi!  You’re gonna get us in, right?”     “Don’t talk to me you filthy peasants!”     “Oh that’s it!  I’m gonna kick her skinny ass into next week!”     “My ass is PERFECT I’ll have you know!”

The ball here isn’t too dissimilar from what we saw in Crystal with the only major difference being that the Naru subplot is brought up and actually plays a role in Nephrite’s plan.  Apparently she’s there alone to take the place of her mother who couldn’t make it to the ball for whatever reason.  That seems like a PERFECT idea and I’m SURE there’s no one here ready to take advantage of her!

“Hey girl!  Do you remember that whole… trying to kill you thing?”     “Kinda…”     “Good enough for me!  Let’s boogie!”

Okay sure, he MAY have revealed himself to be a super-villain while wearing a stupid costume the last time they met (Mamoru’s the only dude who can pull that look off), but that’s no reason not to take him up on his offer to dance!  What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

“MWA HA HA HA HA!!”     “Eh… not bad.  It could still use some work though.”     “Oh, like you could do better?”

Well darn!  I guess that’s something Usagi is gonna have to deal with at some point (hopefully not with her decapitating tiara).  Speaking of which, the party crashing Sailor Scout who has presumably forgotten about the mission by this point is starting to feel a bit blue as she doesn’t have a dance partner at the fancy party.  Now would be a perfect time for you know who to show up and whisk her onto the dancefloor!  Oh look!  That’s exactly what happens!

“Slide to the left!  Slide to the right!  CRISS CROSS!!”

The guy’s costume is toned down a tad (no cape and no hat) but he’s still wearing the same silly mask that does very little to hide his identity.  Like in the Crystal version, it’s not clear exactly how much each one knows about the other; or more specifically how much Tuxedo Mask knows about Usagi.  She’s in disguise (I guess no one can recognize her) but she’s not in costume as Sailor Moon.  Mamoru sensed that she was someone he knows, but was it just that she looks like the princess in her dreams, or has he connected the dots yet?  Whatever the dynamic is, both of them continue to waltz the night away while a bad guy is about to steal the mystery treasure right out from under them!  See, this is why Usagi should have gotten Rei and Ami into the party!  THEY could have been scoping the place out while she was having her way with this hunk in fancy clothes!  Evil Naru, whom I will henceforth refer to as Naruku (MAN is that a tortured pun!), seems to be doing Usagi’s job for her as she’s trying to get close to the Diamond Princess and the treasure she has in her room.  Despite the fact that she’s TURNED PURPLE, Naruku actually manages surprisingly well and smooth talks her way past the guards into the princesses room.

“I’m TOTALLY the Princess’s best friend!”     “Should we believe her?”     “Why not?  Have you met a purple person you HAVEN’T trusted?”

Now despite how incredibly easy it was for someone as obviously evil as Naruku to end up alone in the same room with international royalty,  this still manages to make a BIT more sense than what they did in Crystal where the role Naru is playing now was simply done by Nephrite in drag.  I mean, I guess it accomplishes the same goal (get close enough to the Princess to curse her) but there’s no real context for WHY the dude was pretending to be a woman or how he even managed to get close enough with the family so that he could be alone in a room with the her.  At least here, they bothered to show the steps of Nephrites plan instead of just jumping to the end of it.  Anyway, whatever demon was cursing Naruku jumps into the body of Princess Diamond and she runs off with the treasure; not even bothering to open the box to see what’s inside and if it’s ACTUALLY what they’re looking for.  The Princess runs to the highest balcony and is about to throw the box down to a waiting Nephrite below when Usagi jumps her from behind!  It’s too bad she doesn’t have strong coordination though because it takes barely a shrug from the Princess to send her ass flying over the balcony.  Except not really, as Tuxedo Mask jumps in at the last second to grab her before she falls to her death!  Alright, so things aren’t looking TOO good right now considering that the two heroes on hand are about a stiff breeze from death by gravity (leaving Luna as the only means of offense as she tries to scratch up the Princess’s face) but they’ve made it through tougher situations before!  Of course, Nephrite wasn’t directly below and about to blast them with some sort of beam attack on those other occasions, but that’s why we have backup Scouts!  Before Nephrite can finish Tuxedo Mask and Usagi off, Mercury and Mars intervene and keep him on the defensive.  Damn!  EVERYONE’S joining the party now!  It’s at the point where if Mercury trips over, I’m sure Sailor V would swoop in to pick her up!  Despite the valiant efforts of all parties involved, the two hanging from a ledge inevitably tumble downwards and are only saved because… I think Luna throws them an umbrella?  You’d think they’d have hit the ground before Luna had a chance to get it to them, but whatever.

“What is this, some kind of magic umbrella!?”     “SHUT UP!  IT ONLY WORKS IF YOU BELIEVE!”

Nephrite is starting to feel a tad outnumbered, so he runs away with his tail between his legs; leaving behind the cursed Princess and the treasure she’s still holding up on the balcony.  Tuxedo Mask TRIES to give chase but is stopped by Mercury so that she can find out once and for all if he’s a bad guy or not.  Being amnesia stricken (I think), he really can’t give any answers and manages to get past her to either escape himself or continue his pursuit of Nephrite.  Now’s not the time focus on that though as the Scouts still have a monster to defeat!  They find the Princess again, get the demon to jump out of her (a pretty lame looking demon by the way) and they defeat it in their usual fashion; something to do with bubbles, then a tiara attack.  Hey if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  When the Princess finally comes to, Luna appears and straight up asks her if she’s the Princess their seeking, which doesn’t seem like the BEST idea, unless she’s PRETENDING that she genuinely doesn’t know she’s not the Moon Princess!  I SEE RIGHT THROUGH YOU!!  It really would make much more sense if Luna does know Usagi is the Princess than her not knowing that considering SHE WAS THERE WHEN THE PRINCESS WAS ALIVE!  She’s not a reincarnation like the others!  She was ACTUALLY there and we KNOW that all the reincarnations look just like their ancient counterparts!  She’s just putting up a front for the other Scouts!  If it wasn’t obvious already by the way, Princess Diamond is NOT the one their looking for and ends up falling unconscious AGAIN when she sees a cat talk.

“A talking CAT!?  Say WHAT!?”     “No.  You’re right.  THAT’S the part that’s strange here.  Not that we’re warriors of love and justice with magic powers, but the fact that we have the best cat ever.”

And so the episode ends with the ball getting back on track and the Princess eventually revealing the treasure is NOT the Silver Crystal that everyone has been searching for.  Wait… I think we’re still forgetting something…

“Here comes the smooch train arriving at the station!”     “What are you doing?”     “AH!  NOTHING!!”

Oh right! That. Usagi gets wasted at the end of the ball (apparently NO ONE is watching the damn bar) and Mamoru has come back in the meantime for whatever reason. He finds Usagi is about to pass out (did her friends just abandon her?) and takes her out of the party onto a bench just outside the main hall. While looking at her in the moonlight, he’s overcome with the memories of his past self and plants a small (no tongue) kiss on her lips… while she’s clearly passed out. Well, it’s not the MOST comfortable thing to sit through for a multitude of reasons, but it doesn’t feel intentionally mean spirited or irredeemably out of touch like say the weight loss episode was. The show is undoubtedly a fairy tale that indulges greatly in dream logic, so the whole ‘prince kisses a sleeping princess’ cliché feels almost expected. The trope itself though is something that REALLY needs to die off, and for the most part has, so bitching about a twenty year old cartoon isn’t really going to accomplish all that much. It’s not a good moment because her consent is not clear due to the fact that she’s passed out (or nearing such a state). Still, the show is essentially one big fantasy tale of true love, so I don’t mind the scene TOO much, but I wouldn’t argue with someone who objects to this being in a show targeted to young girls. So with that out of the way, how was the rest of the episode? It was okay. It definitely FEELS different from the filler episodes with less of an emphasis on humor and much more wish fulfillment elements, but the story outside of how much fun Usagi is having at the party falls a bit flat. When compared to Crystal, they’re both at about the same level. Some of the same flaws are present in both versions (animation issues and an uninteresting plot outside of Usagi and Mamoru), but they still manage to feel very different, so it pretty much comes down to personal taste on which you prefer (one has better artwork and designs while the other feels lighter and less portentous). As for what’s next, Nephrite’s reign is coming to a close so we’ll have to see what becomes of Naru and her subplot with Nephrite as well as the arrival of Makoto Kino in just a couple of episodes! Can you feel the HYPE!?


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