2:39 – Saphir Dies! Wiseman’s Trap
Alternative Title: Guys, You Gave Away the Ending Again
First Aired: 19th February 1994
Saphir’s snooping has finally paid off. After hearing Wiseman monologuing about “Death Phantom” and “stupid Dimande” and “eradicating all life”, he decides to remove the control mechanism of the Evil Black Crystal. Wiseman, however, catches him, and although he is severely injured, Saphir makes it to the 20th Century, and to the worried Phantom Sisters. Despite Petz’s pleas, Saphir is determined to seek out his brother and tell him the truth about Wiseman’s ulterior motives.
I really like this episode a lot. While Saphir hasn’t been the most developed of characters, his motivations have been interestingly honest and, one might argue, justifiable. Add to this the return of the Phantom Sisters, a sudden but believable relationship and a rather touching death, and you have a brilliantly dramatic episode.
It also looks fantastic too.
The episode opens, understandably, with the news going bat-shit crazy about a giant black crystal growing in the middle of the street. Well, when I say crazy, I mean restrained and oddly apathetic about the whole thing.
The Senshi are watching the news report, subdued. As it is, they can apparently do nothing to stop the Jakokusuishou (Evil Black Crystal), until they “gather more data” (thanks Ami, you’re always so helpful.)
The people they’ve sent to investigate further is Mamoru and Artemis. Between those two you’ll be luckily if they come back with a bag of popcorn, let alone crucial info on how to defeat an evil from the future.
Usagi isn’t taking part in the discussions. We finally see the tragedy of Chibi-Usa’s brainwashing actually affecting her, something that was curiously absent from the last episode when Black Lady made her entrance.
Her worry seems compounded when her mother, Ikuko, arrives with tea for the group, carrying an extra order for Chibi-Usa in her favourite mug. Ikuko is acting on instinct – without the hypnotic powers of Luna-P, Usagi’s entire family have completely forgotten Chibi-Usa.
It’s a good moment, one that underlines the impact that Chibi-Usa had on others in her life, and the absence she left. it would have been more powerful if this cup had been established in a previous episode, but hey, with 3 or 4 writing teams splitting up episodes, stuff like this can fall through the foreshadowing cracks.
It’s funny how guilty all the Senshi look at Ikuko’s confusing – it’s like they killed the kid and hid her body.
Usagi has one of her great character moments, thinking about how she resented Chibi-Usa when she was there, but now feels bereft without her. This grief looks even more palpable than earlier on in the series, when she decided to protect Chibi-Usa over her friends.
Once again, Rei is the one to offer the best comfort to Usagi. In times like these, they really underscore their relationship. It’s nice, and reminds me of that incredibly powerful moment in the first series (although I don’t like to think of that one too much).
Oh yeah, it totally looks like they’re going to make-out too, which is always a bonus.
We switch over to Wiseman, who is fully embracing his creepy demonic cultist vibe:
“O Nothingness. O Silence. Obey me. Swear your allegiance to the all-knowing, almighty Death Phantom. Know that the one who will rule this universe is not Dimande, who dreams an ephemeral dream, but Death Phantom, who possesses absolute power.”
See, the problem with monologuing your ulterior motives is that any bastard could be listening in. As it is, just as Wiseman is muttering about eradicating impure things such as life from the universe, Saphir is just chilling out behind a pillar.
Before we go any further, let’s note that this is the first mention of “Death Phantom”. This is a cool-ass name for a cool-ass villain. I wish that they brought this in earlier in the series for continuity, but it still works brilliantly.
This whole scene is perfectly eerie and spooky. Real props for this one. I imagine if I were a little kid in the mid 1990s, I’d be terrified of this.
Then, like a complete doofus, Wiseman finally realises that he’s being spied upon. Maybe next time lock the door, dude?
Saphir, now vindicated by the knowledge that Wiseman plans to double-cross Dimande (we’ve established that Saphir harbours an incest-boner for his older brother), heads not directly to rat on the old creepy bastard, but straight to the Jakokusuishou.
He removes some kind of control chip from the base of the crystal, and it immediately stops pulsing. It seems that Saphir has decided to sabotage Wiseman’s master plan. Clever!
Also, you’re totally fucked. Wiseman gives up any pretence with Saphir, and immediately starts referring to himself in the third person as “Death Phantom” like a jackass. I’ve never seen him this pissed off.
Death Phantom loves silence and death, you guys. He starts off with Sahpir with an incredible-looking attack. It’s totally awesome.
Saphir calls Wiseman a bastard (he is), before teleporting away. The guy knows when he’s beat. Seeing Wiseman overpower Saphir with such little effort, and his creepy mannerisms and monotone voice, really ramps up the threat level from Wiseman. He’s proving to be a fantastic main antagonist.
Wiseman isn’t sweating Saphir’s disappearance (although I imagine he’s constantly sweating underneath that cloak) because he knows exactly where he’s going. Actually, a 4 year old could tell you exactly where he’s going.
Back in 20th Century Tokyo, another Black Moon UFO is circling the growing Jakokusuishou. I missed these things. We haven’t seen one since Rubeus went and got himself exploded in one.
Inside is Dimande sitting on a throne and… uh… Black Lady. I really don’t like how this shot is composed, you guys. Considering Dimande’s obsession with Neo Queen Serenity, and his willingness to settle for younger versions of her, I’ve always been slightly grossed out by this pose…
ANYWAY. Moving on.
Down on the ground, a serious evacuation has begun. Those Tokyo police sure are ineffectual, aren’t they? We see someone watching these proceedings, and it turns out to be…
Koan! Wow, haven’t seen her in a while. And the other Phantom Sisters too. Very impressed that they went back to these guys, a great opportunity to link the earlier part of the series forward.
They all ask Petz if they should evacuate, and she begins to agree, but then she spots a dark blue jacket and white trousers that look like they were stolen off a sailor…
Well what are the odds of this? I try not to ask questions about coincidence, but honestly…
Saphir didn’t escape Wiseman without a scratch. He seems pretty beat up… so he decides to go to the same fucking park where everything ever happens in Sailor Moon. He could be in the exact same spot where Nephrite died for all I know.
Luckily for him, he passes out. At least he wasn’t mugged first. The smell of grass hits him and he falls into a dream.
Apparently he’s so rarely smelled this before, having grown up on an absolute shit hole that is Nemesis. It’s an important flashback that underlines the two driving factors for Saphir – his adoration for his older brother and his desire to get revenge on those who drove out his ancestors and forced him to grow up on that smelly little rock out in space.
The most interesting antagonists are the ones whose motivations aren’t objectively evil.
Saphir, screaming like an absolute freak (“NIIISAAAAAAAN!“), wakes up in a bed, all nicely bandaged. I… assume he’s wearing pants…?
Petz comes in, and by her curiously subservient tone we are to understand that they have history. I like this scene a lot.
Saphir, still drowsy, comments that Petz betrayed the Black Moon to come and live in 20th Century Tokyo, and Petz doesn’t deny this. In fact, she’s prepared to face the consequences if it meant saving her sisters. Well she certainly has changed since the last time we saw her, hasn’t she?
This whole scene plays like a day time drama, but I still like it heaps. By Petz’s anguished gaze and Saphir’s quiet assurances, these two characters have become instantly that much more fleshed out.
I also like Petz’s sisters outside gossiping about the situation. Everything is pregnant with suggestion. Nothing is overtly dissected, they merely create these links and drop them. At the same time, you get the impression that this reconnection between Saphir and Petz will not end happily…
Dimande, meanwhile, has been informed by Wiseman that his younger brother has “gone mad” and needs to be killed. Yeah, you’re super convincing.
Dimande actually sticks up for Saphir for once, refusing to accept that he could have betrayed him (but obviously not smart enough to realise that Wiseman is trying to mess with him).
Black Lady offers to go murder Saphir instead. Thing is, the way she is right now, she would totally do it. It would be so so interesting to see the effect of Chibi-Usa having killed someone, but hey, this is a kids’ show you know.
I should write a Black Lady Is A Serial Murderer fanfiction. Bet it’s been done though.
Once again, we’re not seeing much of the Senshi today. I wish they had more agency as the series climaxes – in the first season they actively walked into the Dark Kingdom by their own volition. This time, stuff just keeps happening around them without their involvement.
Back at the Phantom Sisters’ place, Saphir is gently hitting on Petz, commenting on how she’s changed – I guess in that she’s not a power-mad psychopath trying to kill her sisters any more.
Petz is looking rather adorable as she talks about how Sailor Moon changed her life, filling her sisters with warmth and saving their souls. It’s a really nice moment – this is the wrap-up with the Phantom Sisters that was missing from earlier on in the series.
And then Saphir totally realises that he’s a complete dick. He questions whether or not it was a good idea to bomb the hell out of Earth after all, that their revenge was only ever Wiseman’s manipulations. Bravo! You’re the smartest person ever on this show!
Saphir, still seemingly very injured, tries to get up to go warn his brother, but Petz begs him to stay. This is all… very Japanese. Injured man struggling against his injuries, caring powerless woman bringing him food… you know the drill. Sailor Moon is a show with a strong feminist message, especially for the mid 90s, but they can still fall into some old stereotypical gender tropes.
Poor Petz. She knows exactly what will happen if Saphir leaves. It’s a powerful moment. We don’t want him to leave either, right? I actually like Saphir, unlike his horrible 2 dimensional brother.
Saphir’s response, that Petz would be doing exactly the same thing if it were her sisters in Dimande’s position, is an unanswerable one. So… Petz lets him go.
It reminds me a bit of… that episode… where, knowing their fate, the Senshi headed towards the enemy regardless.
Saphir promises to return, and leaves his horrible blue jacket with Petz. He seems to have chosen one of Petz’s gross lilac shirts instead. May as well go face your death in a blouse, right?
Although they’re powerless to help Saphir, being drained of their powers, Koan still helps by calling Usagi to let her know the situation. Weird that no one thought of calling the Senshi as soon as Saphir turned up.
Saphir looks quite a lot like Mamoru as he limps towards the Jakokusuishou. They’re also quite similar in attitude, too. I don’t think any parrallel has ever been drawn between them, though. Perhaps it’s just Naoko Takeuchi’s subconscious idea of what “noble dipstick” looks like.
Saphir is waylaid by Black Lady. I would definitely put my money on her killing him in a couple of seconds, but luckily for him the Sailor Senshi have turned up.
Sailor Moon tries weakly to communicate with Black Lady, but she’s not having any of it today and the lot start fighting. Saphir is surprised to see the Senshi defending him, and asks why.
Jupiter’s response is amazing “We… don’t actually know the details, but Koan and her sisters asked us to help you so…”
Maybe if they were written into the episode a little more…?
I like all of Black Lady’s uses of Luna-P, from her giant fan to blow away Mercury’s Bubble Spray…
To a badminton racket and shuttlecock as a weapon.
Meanwhile, Dimande has found Saphir. He doesn’t look particularly angry or anything. Now’s your chance! Quick tell him Wiseman’s plans!
Dimande is pretty stubborn against Saphir’s *brilliantly* moving speech, but actually seems to come around. Sadly…
DAAAMN. That looked crispy. It’s as cool as an attack as when Wiseman first used it against Saphir, but this time it actually hit home. We haven’t seen violence like this in a while.
As Dimande tries to order Wiseman to stop, the old bastard finishes Saphir off once and for all, before retrieving the Jakosuishou control panel. I don’t know how he thinks he’s going to talk his way out of this one. He’s so obviously evil as shit.
After mumbling stuff about how the Sailor Senshi brainwashed him (like you did with Chibi-Usa?), he runs off with Black Lady, leaving a rather conflicted-looking Dimande.
I mean, I don’t know why he’s conflicted, Wiseman just killed your bro. Go kill him.
Saphir lays dying in… Tuxedo Kamen’s arms, for some reason. He whispers an apology to Petz as he dies. Poor guy. Sailor Moon really is cut up over it. They worked hard to make this death mean something… and I think it worked. Less, perhaps, than if they had built Saphir up more over the series, but for half an episode of development this is pretty moving stuff.
Dimande, wordlessly, picks Saphir up himself, before finally realising that Wiseman is probably going to need to die for this.
Meanwhile, in a scene that is starkly reminiscent of when Nephrite died (is that why he passed out in the park? Was it foreshadowing from the writers?), Petz is hugging Saphir’s jacket as it fades into light, leaving her with nothing.
Petz sadly accepts Saphir’s death, with her sisters unable to offer comfort, as credits roll.
Great stuff. Another episode where the Senshi didn’t get to do a whole lot, but all the material between Saphir, Wiseman and Petz was pure gold. It’s great as a mood-setter for the final two episodes, too, injecting mortality to raise the climax of the story to its peak.
Will Saphir’s death make Dimande realise that he’s an idiot? Will Black Lady realise that being emo is totally uncool? Will Wiseman ever get that old cloak washed? Find out next time on the Pretty Sailor Project!
Episode Score: 4/5
Saphir’s Glorious Death Score: 5/5 (Those white blasts were wicked)
How Many Fucks Does Wiseman Give?: Zero