Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 23 (Wish Upon a Star: Naru’s First Love)

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 with another episode of The Naru Diaries!  Before we ran off to the beach, visited an animation studio, and attended a fancy ball, there was a subplot brewing about Naru loving Masato Sanjoin and Nephrite planning to use that to his nefarious advantage!  While it was brought up a bit in the last episode, this is the first time that that will be the focus of its own episode!  Will the fact that Usagi has to protect someone she cares about change up the formula and give us a fresh look at the series, or was this story dead on arrival three episodes ago?  Let’s find out!!

The episode begins with Naru who is still pining for Masato Sanjoin and is not in the least bit deterred that, in her short time knowing him, he accused her of being Sailor Moon while wearing a stupid outfit and then following that up with possessing her to assault an international figure head.  It MUST be true love!

“Who DOESN’T love a bad boy?”

If you couldn’t tell by the REALLY OVER THE TOP AND SUPER CHEESY HARP MUSIC THAT PLAYS WHENEVER SHE SPEAKS, she is completely smitten which puts Usagi in a panic when she finds out it’s none other than Nephrite who she wants to hook up with.  Usagi brings this matter to the attention of the Moon Council which is now trying to determine the best way to micromanage Naru’s life.  Okay fine!  In this ONE CASE it makes sense for them to have a problem with who someone else wants to date.  I’m pretty sure we can make a onetime exception for a demonic tyrant who’s at least twice her age.  Ami wants to let things play out, Rei wants to tell her straight up, and Usagi… actually agrees with Rei for once!  Imagine that!  She also takes charge of the situation and promises to tell Naru herself which I’m SURE is the going to go well.  Then again, I don’t know if Naru even knows Ami or Rei.  Has that been established yet?  Usagi probably is the best choice which just shows how dire the situation is.

“Coughing?  What kind of loser coughs?”     “I’ll cough on YOU if you don’t shut up!”

While the Moon Crew is working out its strategy to burst Naru’s bubble, Hell Corp is going through its own problems, what with the repeated failings of Nephrite causing some serious downturns for their quarterly report.  Needless to say that Queen Beryl is pissed; doubly so considering that Nephrite is hiding from her and refuses to show up for his performance review.

“I will claw that bastard’s eyes out and shove hot coals down his neck!”     “HR isn’t gonna like that.”     “THEN HAVE THEM ALL KILLED!”

Zoisite by the way is absolutely giddy at the prospect of Nephrite being on the wrong end of a Beryl ass whooping and goes off to his foe’s not-so-secret hideout in the church to gloat in his face.  Wait, Nephrite is in the ONE PLACE you’d expect him to be in, but Queen Beryl doesn’t know about it!?  For an unholy queen of darkness with a MAGIC BALL, she doesn’t seem to have much control or knowledge of what her underlings are up to.  No wonder they’re gonna lose to the Scouts!  Say what you will about Luna, but she runs a tight ship!  Zoisite’s gloating is cut short because Nephrite swears to find the Silver Crystal before him which puts a huge damper on this name calling session and he leaves in a huff.  I don’t know why he’s so upset considering this is clearly an empty threat from a desperate man, but it’s enough to drive him back into Kunzite’s waiting arms.  Now that Nephrite is alone once again, he reveals his latest plan which I guess is a last ditch effort considering the pomp and circumstance afforded to this scene.  He’s calling forth some sort of item that will… do something.  I’m not sure what it does exactly, but I guess it’s what he needs to fix the shit storm he’s found himself in.  What’s this key to his success called by the way?  The Dark Crystal.  Well what the hell else would you use to help you find the Silver Crystal!?

“By the power of Jim Henson!  I SUMMON THEE!!”

The Crystal itself, once he gets through the long and complicated summoning process, seems to only be a portable version of the astrology power he already had considering all it does is point him in a specific direction.  Of course, it points directly to Naru who Nephrite now believes is the owner of the Silver Crystal and so we now know how much danger she’s about to be in.  Not only that, but we also cut to Zoisite and Kunzite who are cuddling and discussing how they will deal with Nephrite if he really does find the Crystal.  Basically they’ll just send a monster to tail him and spring an attack if he really does find it.  Zoisite couldn’t have thought of this?  He had to go to Kunzite to get the most obvious plan imaginable?  Oh who am I kidding!?  He just wanted an excuse to spend the day with him!

“Why don’t you have someone follow him?”     “Wow Kunzite!  That is SUCH a good idea!  You’re so smart!”     “Well, I do what I can.”

Before any of them can put his sinister plots into motion though, we cut back to Usagi who’s trying to work up the nerve to knock on Naru’s door and tell her how much of a bastard Mr. Sanjoin really is.  Like most great procrastinators, she comes up with an almost reasonable excuse for not doing her assigned task which in this case is to go to Motoki and ask for advice on the situation; presumably acting on that advice MUCH later.  Unfortunately for her, there’s a small roadblock in her plan because Mamoru JUST SO HAPPENS to be hanging at the arcade at the time (does this guy do ANY schoolwork?) and insists on becoming a third wheel… for some reason.  I don’t THINK he knows Usagi is Sailor Moon or the girl at the party last episode, but even if that’s not the case he seems to have been warming up to her a tad in the last few episodes.

“Did you try unplugging it and then plugging it back in?”     “What?  No!  This is a question about my friend!”     “You have friends?”     “Hey!  At least I’M not wasting all my time negging middle schoolers!”     “…fuck it.  You win.”

Of the two, he’s actually the only one to give some useful advice which is to woman up and tell Naru what’s what!  Reinvigorated in her goal (and after reenergizing from eating a stack of sweets), she runs straight to Naru’s apartment and gives a very impassioned speech about what a dick Masato Sanjoin is and how he’s no good for her!  Having finished the speech, she strides off into the sunset; secure that her mission is now complete and only bothering to look so she can wave goodbye!  Good job Usagi!

“Hope I didn’t crush your hopes and dreams too much!  See ya!”

Yeah… that doesn’t really work out.  Nephrite calls the apartment later that night (apparently Naru’s mother doesn’t have a problem with her fourteen year old daughter receiving phone calls from an older man) and he requests that she meet him at the park.  Not sensing the LEAST bit of danger, she heads off to meet him… all alone… at night.  THANKFULLY he doesn’t have any specific plans for her as he thinks she’s just a means to an end, and so he starts giving her a sob story about how he must leave forever and that this is goodbye; not so subtly including the fact that he’s looking for a crystal.  Taking the bait, Naru remembers that her mother recently got a new crystal for the jewelry shop and vows to bring it to Masato Sanjoin on the off chance that it could help him.

“What, this?  It’s just a… gumball.  A REALLY shiny gumball…”     “Okay.  Eat it.”     “What?”     “Go ahead!  If you’re REALLY holding a gumball next to the open safe, then prove it!”     “… Okay.”     “NO!  I WAS KIDDING!!”

She gets caught by her mother in the act of burglary but manages to evade her and runs back to the park.  Her mother bumps into Usagi while searching for her, which now means the Sailor Guardians are on the case!  Not only that, but Usagi is SUPER pissed right now and is itching to use her decapitation tiara the moment they find the bastard!  Said bastard by the way is still in the park and checks the crystal to see if it’s the Legendary Silver Crystal he’s been looking for.  The jewel isn’t getting a reaction from The Dark Crystal, but it is starting to point back to Naru once again who’s feeling really good about helping Mr. Sanjoin (you can tell because the cheesy harp music starts playing again).  He figures that she may be useful in some sort of way, so he offers to take her away with him (presumably to his unmarked van) but is THANKFULLY stopped by the sudden appearance of Sailor Moon!  Well THAT was certainly a close one!

“Stranger Danger, Naru!  Is ANYONE watching Sailor Says!?”     “Sailor what?”

Sailor Moon reveals the bastard’s true identity to Naru and the two begin to battle.  Nephrite has the upper hand at first, but his fortune changes once Mars and Mercury enter the scene.  It isn’t long before Sailor Moon has just the opening she was looking for to throw her decapitating tiara and end this madness!  Except not really!  Naru jumps in the way of the tiara of death to protect Masato Sanjoin and THANKFULLY Sailor Moon quickly learns she has the ability to stop the tiara mid-attack; otherwise her friend would have lost their head.

“You dare close your eyes!?  LOOK AT ME!!”

A close call all around I should say, but the fight isn’t over just yet.  The monster that Zoisite had tailing Nephrite is observing the confrontation here, and is in clear view of The Dark Crystal reacting strongly to Naru’s self-sacrificing gesture.  Thinking that it must be The Silver Crystal, the monster pounces and starts fighting Nephrite in what must be one of the more bafflingly conceived action scenes in the series so far.  First of all, the monster is unimaginably lame as they’re just someone dressed in traditional Japanese clothing while wearing a mask.  That’s the best they could come up with?  Even as someone who’s not supposed to be flamboyant or over the top as to be a better spy, they couldn’t have made them a ninja!?  Not only that, the action itself is oddly staged as everything we see here seems to take place in an alternate reality where the backgrounds are all nonspecific blank locations.  If you’ve ever seen The Howling 2, there are several shots in the movie that seem to have been done post production and were filmed in a featureless black room.  That’s what these scenes remind me of, as if the animators knew a fight scene was happening EVENTUALLY, but wasn’t sure where the characters would be at the time.

“Not my wrist!  That’s my one weakness!!”

At some point during the fight, The Black Crystal is knocked away from Nephrite and is picked up by Naru; making her the next target for the monster.  Nephrite reacts swiftly and protects Naru by blasting the monster in the face with an energy attack which surprises everyone (including himself) and the whole situation becomes too much for Naru to handle as she passes out on the spot.  The monster is now REALLY pissed at Nephrite and transforms into their final form which is basically an Oni that has drills where their horns normally would be.  A bit better than the initial design, but still kind of generic as far as monsters go.  The fight resumes, but even after transforming the spy is no match for the combined effort of Nephrite and Sailor Moon; the former tossing the monster into the air and the latter cutting them to shreds with their unstoppable tiara attack!  The fight is over for now, but there are still unanswered questions as to whether Nephrite is truly changing his ways and if he has any feelings for Naru.  Those questions will have to answered later however as the King of Dark Kingdom returns the non-Silver-Crystal crystal that Naru brought to him and walks away into the night, leaving Usagi to ponder what to do next and how best to protect Naru going forward.

“I can’t kill him, but he’s probably not gonna become a good guy.  Maybe he’ll get a heart attack if I wish hard enough.  That MIGHT be one of my powers!”

I actually really liked this episode despite my misgivings about Naru being so in love with someone who’s done very questionable things to her in the past.  That, and the idea that an abusive boyfriend can be changed though the power of your love (which is absolutely being implied here) is not a message we should be sending to young girls.  As a story though, it manages to have the right amount of tension and personal stakes in it that’s not often present in the filler episodes as well as plenty of intrigue about Dark Kingdom and the motivations of the operators within it.  Aside from some odd moments like and the weak monster at the end, my only real problem is that this IS a filler episode which means that it won’t have much impact in the grand scheme of things.  Nephrite may or may not turn good by the end of his arc, but it won’t matter because he’ll be dead or frozen by then.  There’s still at least one more episode of this storyline though, so if nothing else there is enough time for it to really develop and for there to be an interesting conclusion; fruitless as it will most likely be to the overall story.

3 thoughts on “Super Recaps: Sailor Moon Episode 23 (Wish Upon a Star: Naru’s First Love)

  1. I really like this episode for how much is going on. It’s full of life and passion.
    This is a wonderful example of a good 90s anime visuals: the art is the utmost extent of silly, yet the storyboard is the most well-done thing ever. Not a single boring shot.
    That shot of a moth burning in flame, and the super-surrealistic demon fight look like Ikuhara had a hand in this, maybe his start in his style for symbolism and random surrealism?
    There is also this symbolism where the instant Usagi tries to proclaim herself dependable, suddently she has trouble maintaining her very breath.


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