1:7 – Usagi Learns a Lesson! The Road to Stardom is Tough
Alternative Title: Never Shower Alone
First Aired: 25th April 1992
Usagi, inspired by the famous teen idol Mikan and egged on by classmate Naru, wants to become a star! This is unfortunate for two reasons; first, she has no talent, none to speak of whatsoever and second, the Britain’s Got Talent-style contest that she wants to enter has organised by the forces of evil. Yes, that’s right, Mikan has been replaced by an ugly ice-woman! The horror! Usagi must stop Jadeite’s fiendish plot to suck energy from the contestants, which include her friends, and then learn to accept the fact that she will probably die in poverty and obscurity.
I always remembered this episode as being a little lame, my enjoyment of celebrity and the terrible singing in this episode being limited, but watching it now I couldn’t help repeatedly pissing myself laughing at every joke.
The first of these moments happens immediately: Usagi is late for school, but not too late to stop and stare at an advert of the teenage idol Mikan. Naru-chan, also late, punishes Usagi’s distraction by smacking her ’round the head with a school bag. At school, lovable dipstick Umino proudly boasts of his procurement of a brand new poster of Mikan, instead of being rightly ashamed as he should be.
Without being asked, he then whips out a laptop and starts giving statistics about Mikan’s career. Remember – this is 1992 – what a remarkably comfortable use of technology this show had! The use of a laptop is the most fantastical thing in this episode from a Western perspective!
Anyway, setting aside Umino’s insistence on reciting Mikan’s life history (which incidentally includes her monthly salary, a little weird don’t you think?) the obsession of idols in Japan is worth taking a moment to consider.
The strange fascination that Japan holds for its idols – nearly always young, virginal and without a single thought to call her own – is unnerving in in its intensity and its fickle nature. These stars are expected to serve under severe contracts, perform as often as necessary, sing and dance until their public worth has dried up, and sell any piece of garbage shoved under their nose.
The price for breaking these expectations can be extreme. The largest pop group in the world, the legendary (and completely awful) AKB48 (which currently has 88 all-singing all-dancing identical members) saw one idol, Minami Minegishi, punished after she was spotted spending an evening with a man. This outrageous display of individuality resulted in her demotion (yes, they have ranks in AKB48), and poor Minami lost her shit, appearing in a video crying, begging for forgiveness, and shaving her head as an act of penance.
Hatsune Miku is a particularly interesting idol phenomenon because she doesn’t actually exist – she’s a virtual idol, her voice being produced by the Vocaloid 2 program. This allows for her complete co-operation – she’ll never age, never shack up with a man, or run over a pensioner and drive off, or snort a line of coke off Charlie Sheen’s sweaty buttocks – she’ll always be perfect, until she get’s boring, at which point they’ll simply design a new idol.
With that chilling thought, let’s return to Sailor Moon, where the idols may not be controlled, but they certainly are freaky blue monsters who entrap their doppelgangers in turquoise bukakke.
Naru convinces Usagi to practice a song and dance routine with which they plan to become famous. They sing (TERRIBLY) to the opening song Moonlight Densetsu. They are so bad, in fact, that their duo immediately dissolves in shouting, and the promise to be rivals. It’s all incredibly stupid, and hilarious. Luna’s astounded and pained reaction to the whole event is the icing on the cake.
Usagi, realising she has no talent (which really took far too long), gets the idea of forcing Luna to perform acts similar to a chimp she sees on TV. As you can imagine, Luna is none too thrilled with all this. Meanwhile, Naru’s plan is far worse – she convinces a reluctant (but quickly enthusiastic) Umino to cross-dress with the promise that Usagi will find it attractive (he’s a moron, don’t forget), going for what she calls “the beauty and the beast angle”. Needless to say, it’s horrifying beyond all belief.
Jadeite and his transformed-into-Mikan-monster are busy setting up the talent competition, under the bizarre plan of getting people who covet stardom to make fools of themselves and steal their energy. Perhaps this episode is trying to say something about the cruel fate of wannabe-idols.
On the way to the competition, Luna refuses to go any farther, revealing to Usagi that she had just been going along with her stupid ambitions because she felt bad for her. It’s a hard truth, too hard for Usagi, who runs off crying (of course). She runs into the mysteriously attractive asshole stranger. Acting like the shitbag he is, Mysterious Stranger takes the piss out of idols and anyone who wants to become one.
Mysterious Stranger has now appeared in a majority of the episodes, always to dissuade Usagi from getting involved with the stupid evil plots of Jadeite. One might even suggest that he’s doing it on purpose. Our hunky savior stands as a moral bastion for Japanese society!
With everyone at school acting like a fame-obsessed lunatic, it isn’t long before Usagi becomes suspicious of the Mikan-led competition, and displaying a perception and initiative quite unlike her, goes to investigate with Luna.
The competition takes place in an empty theatre. Now so hypnotised by the disco ball (a little retro, don’t you think Jadeite?), the contestants, which include Naru-chan and the transvestite Umino, don’t realise that they are performing to an empty room.
Usagi peeks into the theatre to see the hideous sight of Mikan twisting her head 180 degrees, her face now returned to that of the blue monster, but with the ridiculous orange bow still atop her head. The sight is absurdly disturbing. Usagi, understandably freaked out, runs screaming and hides in a bathroom cubicle, and it’s only Luna convincing her to transform into Sailor Moon that calms her down. It’s really is guffawingly good stuff!
The rest goes as you’d expect – Tuxedo Kamen turns up and saves Sailor Moon, the monster gets killed by a Moon Tiara Action and the victims of the Dark Kingdom come to none the wiser about the events that just took place. Even the naked, and probably by now starving and emaciated, real Mikan comes to, and all is good with the world.
Except that Usagi is still left with the realisation that she is completely bereft of any sort of talent. At least the girl can throw a frisbee like there’ no tomorrow.
Episode Score: 3/5
Monster Freakishness Level: 4/5 (Freaky, until she starts attacking. Then she’s just silly)
Naru-chan Attack Count: 4 (At least she took Umino and his pride with her this time)