A Second Look at the Ending of Sailor Moon R
Such was the length my discourse on the final episode of Sailor Moon R that I feel as though I barely scratched the surface on what made the last 2 minutes or so special. Here’s a few more thoughts about those final scenes.
Ever since I first saw the ending of Sailor Moon R, I’ve been utter beguiled at how beautiful it is. Not, you understand, merely from an artistic point of view, or even a narrative one, but I’m in awe about how much it can make me feel.
Quite astonishing when you consider that it is a relatively low-budget anime intended for little Japanese girls.
The series, as a whole, is really about one thing: the relationship between Usagi and Chibi-Usa. It’s an extraordinary relationship because it does not exist in the real world, making it fantastical and intriguing, yet holds in it elements that we can all relate to.
The idea of forming a slow relationship with a girl who causes you nothing but trouble, only to end up loving that girl, and then discovering that you are, in fact, her mother, is a great premise. Sailor Moon doesn’t disappoint in getting the most out of this set-up.
What’s amazing about the farewell between Usagi and her future daughter is that this is the first time either of them has acknowledged this relationship. They’ve teased the audience with the knowledge since Chibi-Usa’s first appearance, and threw in tantalising winks through their undeniable similarities – such as them having the same name, the same haircut, the same thought processes.
What made this process all the better is their friction. It added this brilliant wrinkle to their relationship. Parental relationships are never pure or wholesome, but problems are obviously going to be magnified when you haven’t even given birth to the kid yet.
So this ending scene is a release of all this beautifully complicated familial tension. How on Earth could they possibly give a satisfactory conclusion to the hours of bickering, uneasy truces, complete trust and unintentional love that formed between two characters?
Well they did it perfectly.
The best writing shows, it doesn’t tell. Sailor Moon is a show as subject to long bouts of exposition as any other anime, but here the dialogue takes a backseat to the animators’ ability to create incredibly complex, identifiable and moving emotions simply by what you see.
Usagi’s hesitation, that long stare that Chibi-Usa gives her, the way they awkwardly stand there, unable to give voice to the monumental emotions they’re feeling. That desperate hug. Those final two words from Chibi-Usa that contains with it a thousand more meanings:
Breaks my heart every time. Mother-daughter relationships on the level of the one on display in this ending sequence are so bizarrely rare in TV and film. Not only in anime, you understand, but everywhere, at all times.
Brave, the Pixar film, for all its faults did an incredible job exploring mother-daughter relationships without the need of masculine intervention or influence. This is a scenario ridiculously under-represented in Hollywood, especially considering almost 50% of the human population will have had this experience.
The subsequent scene of Chibi-Usa, returned to the future after an entire series of turmoil, of scenes of her crying and sitting in the rain, utterly distraught at being so terribly alone in another time, are unbelievably jubilant.
Much of this is achieved simply with the colours. The brilliance of the blue sky, the lush grass, the ethereal but now-suddenly-welcoming Crystal Tokyo, all create this wonderful sense of a bright future.
The look on Chibi-Usa’s face as she sets eyes on her mother again, her real mother, but now with this extra dimension of having had a relationship with her teenage self, is exquisitely joyful too. Again, they don’t have to describe the emotions of a child returning to her home after so much trauma. It’s all on display.
What makes both scenes so special is the music, as I discussed before. The orchestral version of Heart Moving is a favourite of mine, always ready for maximum pathos. This isn’t just because of it’s arrangement, although the bitter-sweet piano melody and powerful string crescendo is naturally part of that, but because the writers of Sailor Moon are keenly aware of its associations in the show.
They have previously used the Heart Moving arrangement during scenes of extreme emotion, and perfectly so. Its first appearance was a scene between Naru and Nephrite, shortly before his death, where the two of them talked seriously and truthfully for the first time. It was a marvellous scene, made all the more tragic by how it ended.
The other extremely powerful use of Heart Moving was after the Sailor Senshi died at the North Pole, leaving only Sailor Moon left alive. This monumentally emotional scene, in which Sailor Moon is utterly bereft, without the motivation to go on, only to be encouraged to stand up and continuing onward by the final wishes of her friend’s spirits, is perfectly framed by Heart Moving. One again, it’s bitter-sweet.
But it’s also a hopeful association being built into the music. Sadly, this is the last time Heart Moving is ever played in Sailor Moon. It’s a good thing, really, as it preserves the powerful associations it earned in the first two seasons.
By the time it begins playing at the end of Sailor Moon R, there’s so much emotion already built into the song that it brings all these feelings to the scene. It’s also clearly drawing a parallel between this ending and the one in season 1, and here’s where it gets really interesting:
If you had to boil down the themes and subtext of Sailor Moon season 1, it’s about finding the will to go on even amongst such utter tragedy, of fighting back against grief, of finding hope in the very darkest hour.
Sailor Moon R’s ending takes a mirror to that ending. It’s about joy, looking forward, familial ties that leave you with a overwhelming glow. It is, in fact, almost completely opposite to that scene of Usagi running in the North Pole with all the friends dead behind her. It’s a celebration of life, as opposed to a treatise on death.
Sailor Moon R is all about parallels, mirror images, echoes. Not only with season 1, but within itself, too.
There’s so many parallels running throughout Sailor Moon R: Chibi-Usa is a parallel to Usagi with all their similarities. This is increased ten-fold when she becomes Black Lady – the antithesis of Serenity. Tuxedo Kamen has his future doppelgänger, even the Sailor Senshi have their future selves. The Ginzuishou has its opposite in the Jakokusuishou. Tokyo itself is mirrored in the dark future of Crystal Tokyo, and the Black Moon clan is the inverse of the Silver Millennium.
It’s only fitting that they chose to end the series in a parallel of the most moving scene from the first season. More than that, within the ending itself is another parallel – that hug with Usagi, and then the one with Neo Queen Serenity. The echo serves to strengthen the effect each scene has. It’s a brilliant piece of screenplay writing.
In summary: this ending is the crème de la crème, the bee’s knees, the dog’s bollocks. A brilliant end to a brilliant series.
Expect a final Season In Review post for Sailor Moon R in a couple of days.