2:5 – A New Transformation! Usagi Powers Up
Alternative Title: Sailor Moon’s BACK. For Serious, This Time
First Aired: 17th April 1993
It’s Hanami time in Tokyo – all the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and it’s all fun and games for Usagi et al. as they enjoy Spring in all its glory. Ali and En have different plans, however, and set a most dangerous Cardian upon their school mates. With the Sailor Senshi defeated, and Sailor Moon unable to fight back, it’s up to an old return face to give her the will to fight back.
Great episode! It’s a return to form this time around. The previous episodes have felt lacklustre, but this one gets you excited for this new season.
The writing and art are top notch, of course, but what really makes this episode feel right is the voice talent. I haven’t mentioned it in the previous 4 episodes, but the voice of Usagi as continued to be Kae Araki, who took over at the end of season 1. This is because Kotono Mitsuishi, the regular talent, left to spew forth her brood into the world.
Well, no longer! She’s back from maternity leave. Kae Araki did an admirable job, but you don’t realise how much you miss Kotono Mitsuishi until she’s absent for a few episodes. It’s felt like a lifetime.
On with the episode.
The episode begins with Ali and En discussing Hanami, the two-week period in Japan where all the cherry blossoms burst forth in all their pink glory.
It’s really interestingly shot in what is really just a exposition/scene setting conversation. It flicks between close-ups of Ali and En, who are really interesting just to look at anyway, but their similarities are highlighted. Bit creepy when you remember they’re a couple.
We move onto the Hanami event itself – everyone takes work and school off to sit in the park and stare at all the cherry blossoms while getting drunk. That’s how this guy did it anyway.
The establishing shots are beautifully animated, more like an exercise in drawing petals and canopies of pink than anything else. Very arty, and you get a sense of the noise and the crowds that Hanami bring.
Into this marches Usagi, cheerfully leading an assorted pack of literally anyone who is currently a reoccurring character. It’s meant to be a school outing, but this is a rather loose term.
The group has a prime location in the park saved for them by poor suffering douche Umino. This is actually a thing in Japan, by the way, where the most junior and least-respected member of a group will be sent to save a spot hours in advanced. Room comes at a premium in Japan.
Umino, who is nervously muttering “Naru… Naru… Naru, Naru, NARU, NARUNARU” like a goddamn pervert murderer, reveals that he’s been saving the spot all night.
His secret weapon is his sleeping bag, as if this would have made this ridiculous self-sacrifice all worth while.
His real motivation is, of course, Naru, and proudly announces so. It’s gross it’s soppy… and Naru has the perfect response to it.
Great comic timing.
The gang eat lunch, and this scene is shot very interestingly. Rather than the usual exchange, the episode opts for unique style. The music cuts out, the ambient noise of the crowd rises. The shot takes place a few feet away from the gang and focuses on the cherry blossom rather than the group.
Actual conversations between members of the group pop up like sketch paste-overs.
All this is to create the feeling of the ordinary, of the slice-of-life that the writers were going for. They feel like just ordinary people as a busy world goes on around them. The material is just as pedestrian. while being heart-warmingly comic and familiar.
This scene is the perfect marriage between writing, animation, direction and performance. Bravo! I’ve always loved this essentially throw-away scene, and it’s stuck with me over the years.
The scene ends brilliantly with Usagi slipping some super-hot sauce into Rei’s sandwich. There’s a pause of a bout half a minute with no dialogue before she finally explodes with a “FIREEEE… soul…”.
Again, perfect comic timing.
Someone is hanging out in the trees like a goddamn stalker, and this time it’s not Mamoru – it’s Seijuro, perving on Usagi. Natsumi catches him, but rather than her usual rage, she just seems rather sad.
It’s actually a rather affecting moment, especially when he deflects as usual. A depressing, destructive relationship.
En prefers to move onto the task of collecting energy for the Doom Tree rather than discuss Ali’s romantic transgressions (classic passive-aggressive play, there), and she picks today’s Cardian.
Appropriately, it’s a freaking fucking tree ghost.
Naru and Umino are hanging out by themselves in the park. Umino keeps up a relentless flow of soggy compliments, which Naru finds initially pathetic, but seems to warm to them.
This is about it for the character development of these two. Naru will have a moment near the end of this series, but from here on out they’re just this overbearing bland couple. A happy, if uninteresting end for these two.
OH WELL LET’S SCREW WITH THEM THEN.
The very very very creepy tree monster (she’s a classic Japanese yokai that you’ll often find the folklore, pops out and steals their energy. Nicely done, like a classic horror moment, even in the middle of a park on a spring day.
Haruna, the teacher, comes waltzing into the same clearing – I don’t know what she intended to do, prying into the private time of a teenage couple (maybe they invited her. Kinky stuff). Either way, she runs to the couple’s aid.
A creepy horrible person in a kimono creeps up behind Haruna and, instead of immediately screaming and stabbing the thing with a pencil, she asks for help.
And she too gets wiped or energy. Another classic horror moment. Liking this episode a LOT so far.
The three victims end up in the caretakers office – Heeey it’s the dirty old man from episode 15! What a random callback. Maybe the voice actor was in the office that day or something.
It’s fairly clear to Usagi and the cats that a Cardian is behind these attacks, and 7 others that happened off-screen apparently, and the Senshi all being patrolling the park looking for the monster.
Ami, Minako, Rei and Makoto stumble across the monster just hanging out of a tree like a goddamn dead body (seriously, this imagery is fantastic), and all four are zapped at once.
They didn’t even have time to transform. Already the stakes are higher than normal.
Usagi runs to their aid, transforming into Sailor Moon as she goes, but doesn’t do well against the tree-ghost-thing.
Normally in fights there’s a bit of humour, but they’re definitely going for something dark this time around.
Sailor Moon tries to fire off a Moon Tiara Action, but like last episode, it doesn’t do anything. The monster flies at her and knocks her on the ground. If this wasn’t bad enough, the monster’s power is so great that Sailor Moon’s Transformation Broach actually shatters!
Sailor Moon hasn’t been in this much trouble in a long while. It’s a unique, fascinating occurrence, and it’s drawn fantastically, We’ve never seen Sailor Moon de-transform before.
The monster seems to decide to make a special case for the now unfortunately-ordinary Usagi. It bathes the ground around her light, and begins to pull her into… something? Not entirely sure what it’s going for, but it’s obviously bad.
Usagi’s last few words to her comrades is to apologise she couldn’t do anything more for them. Really feeling it today, guys, they got the pathos down.
Luna seems to feel the same too, she can’t take it any more and runs to try and save Usagi. Of course, she gets sucked into the light too.
The fact that we don’t immediately see what happens to Usagi is a good choice, allows for the tension to remain high. The last shot we see is of Rei yelling after Usagi, sounding far more concerned than normal. I like this moment a lot, really showed the bonds of friendship in a way that had been missing from these two for a few episodes.
When we finally do see Usagi and Luna, they’re falling down into overbearing blank whiteness. They discuss why she failed to fight properly – despite the fact that she got her powers back, she still wants to be just an ordinary girl, and this is sealing her powers.
It might be re-visting an idea thumbed over extensively in the previous series, but this episode feels like a worthy conclusion to that character arc. This is Usagi fully coming to terms with her alter-ego
Usagi seems to fall into another realm again, aaaaaaand she’s naked.
Yep, totally naked, floating in red junk, hugging Luna. It’s a mark of how much anime I’ve seen that this doesn’t seem weird or out of place to me whatsoever.
In this place, Luna is asleep. Usagi has a moment of regret for all the suffering she gives the defenceless poor cat. It’s a sweet moment, even if all you can think about is Luna being smushed against Usagi’s boobs.
The music here, I should point out is an original piece. It’s all flowing strings and twinkly piano motifs, and it’s lovely. There’s a definite sense of a dramatic moment occurring. It shows that the production quality of this episode has shot right up.
Finally, a little tiny Queen Serenity appears before Usagi, to tell her that they are inside her soul.
I understood when Queen Serenity was tiny on the Moon in episode 44 – she was a hologram representation. Why has she got to be all tiny here too? It’s weird, but whatever, a minor quibble.
Usagi begs for the power to save everyone, and Queen Serenity grants it her, bestowing upon her once more the Ginzuishou, the Silver Crystal.
It’s a lovely little scene, even if it’s a total Deus Ex Machina.
Queen Serenity warns that the Ginzuishou isn’t as powerful as it once was, but that the love between Usagi and her friends will one day make it shine.
An important note to think about in the rest of the series.
Her new transformation broach actually contains the Ginzuishou. It’s a little garish in its colour, but hey, they need to see new toys, right?
Thus, we get a BRAND NEW FLIPPIN TRANSFORMATION GUYS!
Moon Crystal Power Make-Up comes with an updated sequence. I like it muuuch better. Music has changed, a little more dramatic (and weird), and Sailor Moon no longer has an awkward head-snap as her tiara forms on her head.
This is all very lovely, but what’s happening in the real world?
Oh. The girls are all stuck inside a fucking tree. Nice.
Artemis isn’t doing so well, he’s apparently been holding the monster at bay. I dislike him, but I have to admit he has balls. Furry little ones.
Sailor Moon reappears from the earth giving it her usual fighting talk. Her attitude, her appearance, and probably the return of her voice actress, all makes this moment very exciting!
Aaaaand then she’s shit. She still can’t do anything but dodge. Sigh.
And then she’s saved by Moonlight Knight. Sigh.
I especially hate this intrusion – this really should have been Sailor Moon’s episode, and he steals her thunder.
Finally, Queen Serenity pulls her thumb out her arse and actually hands Sailor Moon a weapon, the Moon Sceptre!
Let’s kill, Sailor Moon!
Her new attack is Moon Princess Halation, a much more versatile attack than Moon Healing Escalation because it can actually kill monsters. It’s pretty cool.
Ghost Tree Woman Cat thing gets a CLEANSING! and Sailor Moon is the hero!
She brings the girls around (no word of how they got out of that tree) and they all seriously thank Sailor Moon for being competent for once.
Rei has to bring it back down, naturally, wondering why Sailor Moon couldn’t save them sooner, and they bicker as usual.
The episode ends with Sailor Moon looking up at the Moon and thanking Queen Serenity – she is a goddess after all. Better give credit where it’s due or she might flood yo ass and send locusts or something.
Brilliant episode. This is the true start of Sailor Moon R for me – getting back into the high-tension drama!
Episode Score: 5/5 (It’s up there)
Monster Score: 5/5 (Reci is creepy, well designed and a real threat)
Moon Princess Halation Score: 4/5 (Nice sequence, like it a lot)