1:8 – Is the Genius Girl a Monster? Brainwashing School of Terror
Alternative Title: Is the Genius Girl from the Opening Credits a Monster? Probably Not
First Aired: 2nd May 1992
The latest test results are in at school and while Usagi hovers somewhere near the bottom, Mizuno Ami, the supposed genius girl, is not only top of the school but one of the smartest kids in the country. Luna suspects Ami of being an agent of the Dark Kingdom (maybe it’s the way she’s really nice to everyone). In truth, the cram school that Ami attends in the evenings is actually the latest facade of Jadeite’s. While Sailor Moon demonstrates that she is no smarter when transformed, Ami must don her skimpy outfit and save the day as Sailor Mercury. OMG NOW THERE’S TWO OF ‘EM.
As with any episode that has a major plot development for the overall series of Sailor Moon, this one is outstanding. The social commentary on cram schools and overbearing parental expectations is approached amusingly, there are some great comedic moments and, hey, I love me some Sailor Mercury.
The opening to this episode is AMAZING. It looks much the same as many other scenes – Jadeite is obsequiously explaining his latest ridiculous plot to Queen Beryl. This time it’s a short, bemused lecture on the Japanese school system. “They are suffering” is a great line, not least because the school kids of Japan in 1992 were undoubtedly cheering in enthusiasm at the show’s take-down education.
My favourite part is after Jadeite lists the school progression. Kindergarten to Junior School to Junior High to High School to College.
“And? What about after graduating from the best college?” Queen Beryl asks inquisitively.
“I am not quite certain,” Jadeite replies. TOO BLOODY RIGHT MATE. Queen Beryl responds with a creepy and lascivious “MMmmmm…” – What a weird start to a great episode.
Cut to Usagi reading manga and being an idiot. After getting chewed out by her mother (remember, this is the same mother who locked Usagi out of the house after she got a 35 on a test), Usagi retreats to her room to study, only to be chewed out by Luna too. Poor girl can’t catch a break.
We get a really interesting development next, where Luna breaks into the Game Centre Crown arcade in the middle of the night. She communicates with an unknown contact through one of the arcade cabinets (genius). After complaining about Usagi’s inability to walk in a straight line because she lacks the brain power, Luna reveals that she suspects a mysterious blue-haired girl. MYSTERIOUS!
In a complete coincidence (or rather a plot contrivance) Usagi and her classmates are gossiping about Mizuno Ami, the smartest girl in school. Usagi’s fat little friend is a complete bitch about Ami WITHIN HEARING DISTANCE (she’s probably trying to take away focus from her weight by being horrible to other students) and Ami walks off looking hurt.
Kids are mean wherever you grow up, eh?
Usagi immediately decides to befriend Ami, not because she was feeling guilty about gossiping about her, nor because she looks sad and lonely, but because she hopes Ami will coach her for the next test. That’s my girl, always lookout for what you can get out of others.
Luna is still highly suspicious of Ami, but her investigations are cut short after Ami scratches her under the chin, immediately disabling any higher-cognitive functions. She is a cat after all.
Here we begin to see a side of Usagi that, while understated, actually becomes the most remarkable aspect of her character – she can ingratiate herself with anyone in a genuine and sensitive manner (whatever her ulterior motives may be). Best of all, she sees the best in people. Usagi sees a sweet and caring girl in Ami whereas her contemporaries were content to whisper behind her back.
I might be reading too much into it, of course, but for a girl inept at even the most basic of daily tasks, this side of Usagi seems all the more interesting. This definitely develops as the series goes on.
After trying to teach Ami how to play video games (as it turns out Ami need no instruction and wipes the floor with Usagi’s score in Sailor V: The Video Game), they part – the genius girl has a scholarship at Crystal Cram School, a new institution for the gifted (spoiler: it’s FAKE AND EVIL. EVIL I SAY.)
The topic of Japanese cram schools is an interesting one. An overwhelming number of Japanese school students attend these extra-curricular classes, all with the intent on preparing the students for the notoriously difficult entrance exams for private schools and college. The expectation placed on students can be severe – there’s a definite meritocracy, where one’s worth is judged by grades and, later, a job title. It’s a little scary to my pudgy and hedonistic Western ear holes.
ANYWAY. Usagi and Luna are investigating Crystal Cram School’s entrance when the Mysterious Beefcake Stranger walks by, continuing his habit of turning up wherever the Dark Kingdom is at work, which is not suspicious at all. Before he and Usagi can really get into the swing of trading their usual insults, the Mysterious Awesome Stranger asks nonchalantly “Wasn’t that cat just talking?”
The completely freaked out expressions of Usagi and Luna are magnificent, as are their identical instincts to run away from Mysterious Stranger as fast as they can.
Finally, Usagi decides to deal with Crystal Cram School the only way she knows how – storm in dressed as a beautiful stranger by means of the Transformation Pen and shout till something happens. What happens is that Ami essentially tells the disguised Usagi to shut the fuck up, they’re trying to study dammit! Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon as the REAL monster (it’s the teacher, obviously) holds Ami hostage.
The big red monster has some rather bizarre attacks. Rather than just, you know, murdering Sailor Moon (it would be so easy, guys, she’s so shit at being Sailor Moon), she quizzes the confused heroine, throwing sharp bits of paper at her when she fails to explain what gravity is. It’s bizarre. I love it.
As Sailor Moon is, once again, shivering in the corner at the mercy of a hypnotised army of rapey-looking teenage students, the big red monster is trying to shove Ami’s head into a computer screen. Luna notices a shining mark on Ami’s forehead and realises she must be SAILOR MERCURY, as if we didn’t already know from every single opening credits thus far.
Ami, showing a complete lack of surprise at axe-armed monsters or talking cats, takes up the transformation pen that Luna throws her, and Sailor Moon finally has an ally. Sort of.
Sailor Mercury’s attack, Bubble Spray, is really, really crap. It’s cold bubbles that make a mist. In this situation, it freezes the creepy army of students long enough for Sailor Moon to Moon Tiara Action the monster’s ass to next Tuesday, but Bubble Spray can’t be called the greatest magical power. Might be useful in the summer, I suppose.
So all’s well that ends well – Usagi has a new friend and comrade, and Ami seems to be coming out of her shell. In fact, she’s rather more confident and competant than Usagi is, a thought which Usagi finds rightfully worrying. Thankfully Sailor Mercury will be throwing cold bubbles at monsters for a while yet, so Luna can’t quite dispense with Sailor Moon just yet.
Give it time, Usagi. Give it time.
Episode Score: 4/5
Monster Freakishness Level: 4/5 (Her arm turned into an axe and she threatened to steal Ami’s brain. That’s freaky)
Bubble Spray Effectiveness Rating: 3/5 (It saved the day, I guess…)