2:24 – For Friendship! Ami and Berthier Clash
Alternative Title: Even When the Stakes are Life & Death, Chess is Still Pretty Dull to Watch
First Aired: 16th October 1993
Berthier is eager to prove that she’s not like the traitorous Koan, and sets out to corrupt a new Crystal Point in the aptly named Chess Tower. Ami, Junior Chess Champion of Japan (apparently), walks in on Berthier, transforming in front of her enemy. Chased off, Berthier constructs a new plan to corrupt the Crystal Point once more, torture Sailor Mercury and be done with the Sailor Senshi all in one go. Will Koan be able to help her older sister see the light?
We’re continuing in the series of episodes developing the Phantom Sisters & Rubeus, with the focus now shifting to Berthier. Whereas Koan’s departure from the Black Moon was unexpected – in the previous series, henchmen were killed off almost as a matter of routine – her conversion to a human set something of a precedent.
As such, this episode’s plot comes as no great surprise. It’s always seemed a bit of an oddball episode, requiring a number of leaps of logic. It;s not terrible, but certainly the scenario, writing and art are not on the same level as the last few episodes.
The first thing you’ll notice upon the start of the episode is that the opening has changed! It’s now heavily related to the plot of the second half of Sailor Moon R, with Crystal Tokyo, Chibi-Usa and time itself being principle features.
I’ll go in-depth into looking at it another time, but I must say that this is actually my favourite opening sequence in all 5 seasons.
The episode starts off with a very tense Usagi, and an absolutely collected Ami. They are, in fact, playing chess, something which I think counts as abuse when you ask Usagi to play.
I don’t know who thought this was a good idea. Of course Usagi was going to lose. They start talking about the virtues of chess, and I’m already clocking off. I like chess, I’m not brilliant at it, but I’ve put in a few dozen hours play. I really don’t need a hand-led introduction, but I am not the 8 year old Japanese girl they had in mind for an audience, I suppose.
Makoto casually slips in a bit of random backstory that Ami is “Junior Chess Champion of Japan”. This is a bit silly, really. One of those skills that the characters are magically given from time to time, like Rei’s singing and music-writing abilities.
The exposition is clumpy, but I’m liking the conversation and interacting between these guys.
Usagi and Chibi-Usa seems like a much more even match. They are not.
Next up in the random events list: Chess Tower. Odd that the first we ever hear of her chess abilities is the same day she does professional chessy shit.
Anyway, enough of that, let’s go see how Koan is doing as a human: rather well, in fact. The Phantom Sisters are spying on her from the UFO, and she’s happily selling cosmetics and lies to gullible Japanese consumers. Sooo… she’s meant to be a good guy now?
Her sisters are contemptuous of her defection. Whereas Calaveras and Petz are dismissive and haughty as Rubeus, Berthier seems genuinely curious as to how Koan could have abandoned them.
After a casual aside of promising to deal with “the traitor” later, Rubeus gets back down to business of a new Crystal Point to attack. I like this threat – it’s so casually phrased that Koan feels genuinely in danger. We’ll have to see in a future episode.
Rubeus reveals that the new Crystal Point is a giant stupid-looking building (more on that later) and Berthier runs off immediately. Calaveras and Petz are immediately suspicious of her. Rubeus thinks to himself that the glory will be his, and his alone – he’s already planning to do away with his underlings, apparently.
What a dick.
So. Chess Tower. It’s a giant rook. This whole design is stupid, but what do I know about architecture. Apparently it’s a new building, built by a chess fanatic, and there will soon be a worldwide chess tournament here. There’s so much stuff coming from left field in this episode…
Ami will be entering, but says modestly that she doesn’t mind what the result is, she just likes the game. Before Usagi, Makoto and the audience can call bullshit on her feigned modestly, she’s contradicted by a new voice.
Berthier, in a frankly horrid dress (she looks like the Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland), announces her philosophy that winning is all that’s important. Oh these crazy Black Moon people and their simple ideas on love and chess.
This whole confrontation comes off as really manufactured.
Ami registers for the competition inside, and the owner comes over to welcome her. He looks like a colossal pervert. I suppose you’d have to be to build an entire building simply for the purpose of playing fucking chess.
Old Man Pervert-Whiskers challenges Ami to a friendly match. Apparently they’re old acquaintances – he comments how much she’s changed. Before, he says, she used to play to forget her loneliness (first off, how would he know and second off, that’s sort of rude to bring up), but now she’s all happy and stuff.
Ami’s response, that she’s made some wonderful friends, is genuinely touching. This isn’t the best episode, but this is my favourite part of it. She comes across as really empathetic, you really feel that Ami has developed as a character from when we first met her.
Ami may not be the most interestingly bombastic of the Senshi, but she’s certainly the sweetest of them.
While beating the crap of this old man on the chess board, Ami notices a pair of wobbly cheeks running by. Suspecting something untoward, she excuses herself and goes to investigate. My, isn’t she showing initiative today?
Berthier (it was her cheeks-a-wobbling. Seriously, put a cardigan on or something, you’ll catch a cold) is creeping about, and heads towards the central Crystal Point. It’s a big empty room. Not sure what I was expecting in a tower built exclusively for chess, really.
Berthier starts using Dark Water to fill the place with evil energy. Not sure how this works exactly, they’ve never set out a regular method of corrupting an area. Today she’s just… dowsing the walls, I guess.
Ami, bold as brass, walks in. Considering that she’s the smart one of her group, you would think that she would do what Usagi does every episode – hide out of sight, transform and then make an entrance. Alas, no.
Berthier is rather pleasant towards his interruption, although she does say “I hate goody two-shoes like you,” (I like that line), and begins attacking Ami. Seriously, what was she thinking walking in on Berthier un-transformed?
Well she remedies that by transforming in front of Berthier, thus revealing her identity. Dear oh dear, this could be traouble. Berthier doesn’t seem fussed, to be honest. She just looks a little hungry.
Sailor Mercury’s Shine Aqua Illusion attack is enough to throw off Berthier’s Dark Water attack. After Sailor Jupiter joins the fight with a Sparkling Wide Pressure, she decides that discretion is the better part of valour. Besides, she has the upper hand now that she knows the identity of Sailor Mercury…
Not that Sailor Moon or Sailor Jupiter is particularly worried about this. Seriously, guys, this is a big deal.
In the Black Moon UFO, Berthier is inspecting the wound she received from Sailor Jupiter, when her older sisters thoughtfully intrude to take the piss out of her. “I would be so humiliated that I’d die,” Petz says, demonstrating the power that every older sister exerts on their siblings.
Berthier is rather worried about being thrown in with Koan…
As it happens, Berthier’s next plan is to fuck with Sailor Mercury as much as she can, for no particular reason that can be discerned.
Berthier is, in fact, attending the chess tournament at that stupid tower thing. This competition is —shockingly dull— surprise, surprise. The audience watch from a different room, watching over monitors the progress of the individual matches.
Even Usagi saying blithely “My heart’s pounding!” isn’t enough to make it so. Seriously, it’s astonishing how mundane this is. They don’t even show the matches, they just show Ami’s face getting bigger and bigger as she makes each round of the elimination.
Usagi’s over-the-top cheerleading is, at least, brilliantly out of place. I love the embarrassed looks from Makoto and Minako.
With all the rowdy yelling, Old Man Pervert-Whiskers turns around (who knows what he’s looking at with those shifty eyes), suspecting that these are the wonderful friends Ami was talking about. What gave it away? Usagi’s “HOORAY HOORAY AMI-CHAN. GANBARE GANBARE AMI-CHAN“?
We see the obvious reverence Japanese culture has for anyone with age, and wealth, eccentricities and philanthropy. Qualities we don’t hold in quite as high esteem in the UK I think.
He points out Ami’s rival – it’s Berthier, and Koan recognises her as such. She doesn’t know what to do, and remains silent. Tut tut, Koan. Probably should have pointed out that Ami’s life was in danger. I do like Koan’s worry – she’s a traitor after all. You get all the complex indecision all in her reaction.
Still, I cannot stress this enough, this whole “tournament” is ridiculously dull. It may as well been for, I don’t know, sheep rearing than chess, it wouldn’t have changed anything.
The final, as expected, is between Ami and Berthier. What odds, eh? Ami is as yet ignorant of her true identity. Why does Berthier want to beat her in chess before filling the tower with Dark Energy? Who knows. Just one of those “plot” things.
Berthier requests that they use her own pieces. Another bizarre contrivance. They could have continued with just perfectly normal pieces. It’s all over the place today. Maybe I’m picking at too many threads. I still like this episode. Sort of. It’s perfectly watchable.
The match continues, and although Ami looks in trouble, she gets a check against Berthier. This does not make her a happy bunny. She reveals that she knows Sailor Mercury’s identity, and finally the fight is ON.
Berthier freezes all the cameras. Usagi et al. realise that the match was a trap, and rush off to Ami’s aid. You know there’s a tower full of people around? No worries, they seem happy to let 4 random teenagers deal with their “electrical hitch”.
Sailor Moon’s entrance is rather amusingly specific today. “You’re a million and fifty thousand years ahead of yourself if you think you can challenge Ami in a game of chess!”
Berthier had anticipated all of this, however, and the four are instantly caught in, like, a bubble thing. Now with freezing hostages, Berthier kills Ami and fills the place with Dark Energy and-
Oh no, wait. She orders Sailor Mercury to sit down with another game of chess.
Somehow, Sailor Mercury manages not to just flip the board over and try to strangle this idiot, and agrees to play. This time, however, the odds are rather unsporting.
Berthier moves her pieces forward, and removes a few of Sailor Mercury’s. Well this isn’t playing fair, is it? You’re just cheating, and not in am interesting way – you just look like a douche.
Each piece Sailor Mercury loses freezes a part of her body. I suppose Berthier doesn’t realise that sacrificing your pieces is a part of chess
There’s a moment where Sailor Mercury patiently explains the idea of sacrificing one’s self for one’s friends, and we get the usual “duuuh?” reaction from an enemy that doesn’t understand friendship or love or biscuits or whatever.
Petz and Calaveras finally turn up to take credit for Berthier’s hard work. The two begin mercilessly murdering everyone and- ah nope, Tuxedo Mask turns up instead.
We’d normally expect Sailor Mercury to use all her cunning and wiles to Ron Weasley her way out of this, winning the match, but, alas, she must be saved.
Tuxedo Kamen turns up, because intelligence is nothing when you don’t have a dude in a cape to save you. Tut tut, writers. You could have handled this better.
Now with Sailor Mercury unfrozen, and the other Sailor Senshi free from their bubble-prison, the tides have turned on the Phantom Sisters, and Calaveras and Petz run away rather then help Berthier, whom they order to give her life for the Black Moon clan.
Berthier’s not so happy about this. Looks like she’s been betrayed by those closest to her. Like Koan in the last episode, she goes a bit nuts and starts attacking everything in a bid to take down everything around her as she dies.
Koan finally makes her entrance. She makes her way over to her sister and gets cut up in the process, ending with a MASSIVE chunk of ice to the face. This should have killed her. She’s just a normal human after all.
I can’t deny that it’s funny, but I’m not sure that was the effect they were going for…
Koan begs Berthier to live, explaining the human capacity for deep love. I think she’s been watching some disturbing pornography. Either way, she seems to finally get through to Berthier by talking about love and junk.
Koan’s development in the last episode was convincing, nuanced and interesting. Berthier’s, in comparison, is exactly the opposite. I don’t buy it at all. I just keep waiting for Berthier to begin stabbing everyone again, but alas.
Sailor Moon gets to use her cleansing power once more, and Berthier gets her own revealing REFREEESH scene with the power of the Ginzuishou. gratuitous it may be, but I still like these scenes.
The episode ends with Berthier and Koan playing chess in Usagi’s room. I know they’re “good guys” now, but I still wouldn’t let someone who was trying to kill me a couple of days ago into my goddamn house.
Koan begs for a take-back of her last move, which Bethier refuses, but then a chess piece seems to fall out of Berthier’s boob. Apparently she’s been using… extra pieces…?
Wha…? I’m not convinced these writers know a single goddamn thing about chess.
The episode ends with a schmultzy shot of Koan and Berthier hugging and telling each other how much they love each other. It’s all a bit… Games of Thronesy if I’m honest. What a rubbish end.
This episode is real bumpy, guys. It’s not the worst of the worst… and you can sit through it without wanting to leave… but it’s not one you’ll ever want to revisit. Luckily things are back on track from next episode!
Episode Score: 2/5
Berthier’s Desperation Attack: Power Level 22
Bones Broke in Koan’s Face: All Of Them