1:36 – Usagi is Confused! Is Tuxedo Kamen Evil?
Alternative Title: Mamoru Embraces His Inner Bastard
First Aired: 12th December 1992
Usagi is distraught over the abduction of her newly-found love Mamoru. Minako, otherwise known as Sailor Venus, decides to try and cheer Usagi up by convincing her that she needs a haircut (???). Unfortunately, both stumble into Kunzite’s Find-Sailor-Moon-And-Gut-Her operation at a hair salon. With the monster hairdresser convinced that Minako is Sailor Moon, Usagi has to find her courage to save her friend, but all the courage she can muster may not be enough to prepare her for the familiar red rose that soon turns black…
Wow, I’m awesome at this synopsis thing!
After this episode there are only 10 more left in season 1 for me to review! It’s nuts how around 100 hours writing this blog so far has felt. It’s also nuts that I’ve managed to stick with it.
This episode is the start of the final story arc, and it’s also the start of a series of episodes that, taken together, feel far more cohesive and polished than up to this point. Although I very much enjoyed the previous arcs, the “Sailor Moon Assassination Arc”, for lack of a better name (maybe “Tuxedo Mask Is A Dick Arc” might be better), is excellent.
Usagi is having one of those “Silver Millennium” dreams again, which means there’s plenty of fire and and crying and angst. Endymion is running away, grinning like an idiot as he runs towards what is probably his death, if the flames are anything to go by.
This bad dream manifests itself in the real world by Usagi sleep talking. And I don’t mean just mumbling, she’s having an entire goddamn conversation with someone, laying out precisely what her current internal machinations are, i.e. “I don’t want to be the Moon Princess, give me back Tuxedo Kamen” etc etc. It’s clumsy and melodramatic, but I suppose we need to know these things.
Luna saves the scene, being dismayed by Usagi’s unconscious pessimism, then promptly set upon by Usagi’s arm, which pins the poor worried cat down for an indeterminate amount of time. I’d like to think it was several hours.
It’s pretty unnerving seeing her sob in her sleep, especially since the audience ideally feels rather fond and protective of the typically happy-go-lucky Usagi by this point in the series.
In the waking hours at school, Usagi’s outset is no better than when she was asleep. Her apathy is rather alarming – her school friends are rabbiting on about a new hair salon with a famous hairdresser offering free limited-time cuts (there’s no way that’s an evil scheme right?) but Usagi remains unmoved.
Naru is obviously mildly worried about her – their situations are now reversed from earlier on in the series – but doesn’t look into it much. That’s friendship for you.
Usagi’s reaction, a tired stare and a quiet “Hmm…” is simultaneously hilarious and tragic. It’s important to note that her depression doesn’t play as though the character is milking her unfortunate situation – Usagi’s mood generated genuine sympathy from me, which is odd because I’m a heartless bastard.
It’s also interesting to note that the frivolity of the class’ chatter seems completely irrelevent to the monumental and dangerous crisis that Usagi is facing in her “other life”. Whereas she would have been leading the gossip about hair cuts earlier in the series, we see the separation Usagi’s responsibilities have caused, which goes in further in legitimising her bereavement, and shows how much she’s developed as a character.
The episode has only just started and I’m talking shit already. Jesus.
Luna is discussing Usagi with the rest of the team over at the Hikawa Shrine – her inability to focus on anything leads to one of my favourite throwaway jokes in the episode.
Artemis comes off as a colossal prick in this scene, chastising Usagi’s lack of “awareness as a Princess” and saying that they don’t have time to indulge her, which is entirely true, but he’s still a little furry ass.
Rei seems almost as despondent as Usagi here. I like this a lot – we didn’t spend any time on how Mamoru’s true identity as Tuxedo Mask, his past-life love for Usagi or his abduction affected Rei last episode. Quiet moments like these really flesh the characters out. Good on you, writers.
Minako, who we haven’t gotten to know much yet, decides to take it upon herself to see if she can help Usagi in any way. Turning up at her house, Minako finds a weeping Usagi staring at a mirror.
She’s thinking about Mamoru, obviously, but in particular all the shitty things he said about her, namely her “Dumpling Head” hairstyle. It’s nice to know that when Mamoru has gone, all he leaves behind are memories of his dickish nature.
Minako suggests that Usagi change her hairstyle, noting sagely that a girl’s mood can change a lot with a change of hair. Is that a thing? I think it is. I’ve never come across a psychological study on the issue, but I definitely associate a change in hair with a resolve to change oneself.
ANYWAY, we get a touching and rather awesome scene of Minako brushing out Usagi’s hair, and we even get the bonus of the imagined hairstyles that she could adopt. I’m going to show them all because, in that sort of “action figure has a brand new attachment” sort of way I love this bit;
“How about the appealing mature and stylish bob cut?”
“Or the slightly bold sauvage style?”
“Or how about a nice and modest look with long, straight hair?”
This is a great moment of connection between these two characters, something we had yet to see, and the maternal care from Minako really warms me to her as a character.
The upshot of all this is that Usagi is convinced to visit the hair salon for a change of pace from all the pathetic weeping.
Queen Beryl is still “energying” Mamoru’s flaccid body, and appears rather alarming in how she treats Kunzite. This is probably from her execution of Kunzite’s lover, Zoisite – a chastisement for his affection for the idiot..
Either way, Kunzite informs Beryl that his plan is “already in motion” (we’re going to be hearing that a lot) – he apparently has a single strand of Sailor Moon’s hair, with which he can discover he true identity, kill her and steal the Ginzuishou (Silver Crystal).
Alas, we find out at the Dark Kingdom that the hair salon is a front for Kunzite’s scheme. What a shock. Does it go to plan? Does it heck.
At the salon, Usagi and Minako are greeted by Tokoyama Kariko, the “famous hairdresser” who is offering the free cuts. Usagi is henceforth pinned down by Kariko (who is obviously the monsterfied human this week) over a sink.
We get a shot of Kariko-Monter’s MO: the hair steamers in the salon are checking the DNA of every customer, looking for a match to Sailor Moon. This is really rather clever – back in 1992 DNA profiling had only been used for a few short year. I seem to recall the first conviction using DNA evidence was only in ’86 or ’87, in the UK you might be proud to know. This plot in a kid’s anime in 1992 is therefore rather cutting edge.
Sadly, this plan falls entirely to pieces as soon as Minako is convinced to try the hair steamer herself – you might remember that Minako has just spent an afternoon brushing Usagi’s hair and, as such, the hair steamer machine isolates an alien strand of hair.
Kariko-Monster now thinks that Minako is Sailor Moon! Easy mistake to make, they are rather similar, aren’t they…?
The monster is really rather menacing, which is humourously offset by the oblivious Usagi still having her hair washed.
Kariko-Monster, in her quivering excitement (she really rather sinister in her eagerness) throws subtlety out the window and manhandles Minako. The other salon workers being to pump hairspray into the air, which conveniently knocks out everyone else in the room, saving the monster some embarrassment when it realises its mistake, probably.
Kariko-Monster’s interrogation of Minako is really rather creepy – Minako looks in a lot of pain, and the sharp scissors she’s being threatened with adds a real level of menace to the scene. Add in the fact that this is the closest any of the Sailor Senshi have ever been to being identified (Jadeite and Nephrite both “saw” Sailor Moon transform but it came to nothing) and this is a menacing scene.
When Kariko decides to unveil herself as a monster, something a little different happens – all the other salon workers form a circle around Kariko and begin rotating at high-speed, creating a barbershop pole effect. It’s at this point that you realise that this episode is going to fit in as many references to barbers, the act of cutting hair and the everyday tools they use as much as possible.
It’s worth pointing out that at this point the episode has taken on a formula in terms of mood and theme that will last Sailor Moon in perpetuity – this sort of comic exploration of a theme revolving around a fight has been seen before, but never so pinned down as it is here, and this approach will be used in every season hence forth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Sailor Moon formula has finally been definitively identified in the following 6 episodes or so!
Usagi, having found a nice quiet spot to transform (she still has shampoo everywhere) makes her appearance as Sailor Moon. Understandably, the monster Mitsuami is rather confused and upset, but recovers quick enough, claiming Sailor Moon’s appearance is like a slug jumping into salt.
Sailor Moon is not flattered by this analogy.
Thus begins a series of “barber attacks”. First up, a hairdryer that acts more like a flamethrower.
Next, a cut-throat razor…
Followed up by a scissor-shooting gun…
Sailor Moon’s retaliatory attack is a jar of… something… talcum powder, maybe, I have no idea why this is in a hair salon, but it works unexpectedly well.
Sailor Moon prepares to use a Moon Healing Escalation to revert Mitsuami back into a human, but just then a rather familiar sight strikes the Moon Wand out of her hand…
Yes, that’s right! It’s Tuxedo Kamen, siting in a barber’s chair in the dark like a total fucking nut job!
The red rose turns black, which is a nice touch, and tells us that something is wrong with Top Hat, although Sailor Moon cannot see it at first. Her obvious relief is heartbreaking. I’m not even kidding, it’s really rather cruel to see Sailor Moon’s teary happiness turn to ashes in her mouth (I’m getting poetic up in this bitch.)
Tuxedo Kamen, or as we must call him now Endymion, Dark Kindgom Edition, makes for a pretty rubbish bad guy. The only thing he brings to the table is emotional angst, he really doesn’t seem overly threatening with his stupid hat and his cane.
However, he doesn’t need to be – while Sailor Moon has been distracted, Mitsuami has started up the engine on her next barber-themed attack – petrol-fueled clippers. I actually love how dedicated they are to this motif, especially when Mistuami keeps threatening (in rather polite Japanese) to “SHAVE YOUR HEAD”.
Sailor Moon does what she does best and runs away into the street.
This exit allows Minako to finally transform into Sailor Venus in peace, and she gathers the rest of the Senshi via the communication device.
As Sailor Moon continues to fend off Mitsuami’s giant clippers, Tuxedo Kamen yelling encouragement for her defeat. Poor girl.
The monster, and her ridiculous hair, is stopped from her killing by the appearance of the rest of the Senshi, what a surprise. A combination attack weakens the monster enough for Sailor Moon to use an upgraded Moon Healing Escalation (she now has the Ginzuishou, remember), which comes with fancy new tinkly music.
We get a fantastic “Refresh” scene, which is a nice cap on the barber theme:
Sailor Mars is just as emotional at seeing the man she loves returned good as new (it’s just as tragic as Sailor Moon’s reaction), but Sailor Venus drops a harsh truth bomb on his new villainy.
So what is Endymion’s response to these accusations?
“Roses have thorns. You must know that a red rose turns black when exposed to a wintery blast.” He’s a big a fruit cake as ever, it seems.
He’s about to attack the Senshi for the Ginzuishou when Queen Beryl sends a psychic order for him to retreat – she’s rather irrationally fond of him, remember. To save face in what seems like a cowardly retreat, Endymion reveals himself as a massive sexist too:
“Women’s friendships are fleeting. Just like a fragile flower, they fall apart at the slightest breeze. Be careful.”
What a condescending arse. Just because you’re evil it doesn’t mean you have to be a condescending misogynist, Endymion.
You’d expect Sailor Moon to be crushed once again at finding out that the object of her affections is now trying to murder her ass for some magical glass, but seeing the Refreshed Kariko back to cutting hair seems to bring about a sense of purpose for our Usagi. She doesn’t want innocent people to get involved in their struggle anymore, and it seems this above all else motivates her.
This is a great little arc for Usagi’s character. I really found myself impressed with her attitude for once!
Usagi returns to her “happy-go-lucky” attitude once more as she announces that, now she knows Tuxedo Kamen is alive, she’s going to work especially hard to win him back and punish the Dark Kingdom for brainwashing him.
It seems a little out of place after all this emotional growth, but this happy ending is really rather heartwarming after all the angst bouncing off the walls. I hadn’t realised how much I missed the loud, annoying Usagi until she came back, and her return allows the series to get back to the fun tone.
Makoto also places a hand on Rei’s shoulder and essentially tells her to “get over it” (although much more sensitively than I put it).
The final shot is of Tokyo Tower at night again, because when Japanese animators have no idea how to end an episode, Tokyo Tower.
A great episode! I liked the danger, I liked the fun, I liked the angst, I liked the silliness. Everything was balances and paced brilliantly, and I completely bought into the characters’ reactions to Evil Tuxedo Kamen, which is more evidence of great writing. It’s a fantastic start to the final arc!
Episode Score: 5/5 (Great art, great writing. More please!)
Monster Score: 4/5 (Maybe not the most memorable, but this is what I want from a Sailor Moon monster – threat and fun)
Total Cost of A Free Haircut: Several Tens of Thousands of Pounds in Property Damage from Mitsuami’s Barber Attacks