Sailor Moon R Wrap-Up
Let’s finish off Sailor Moon R in style, with a look-back at what made the series so good. With all the best, all the worst, all the totally freakin’ weird moments. With aliens, robots, time-travel and dystopian futures, we’ve got a lot to get through. Let’s get to it.
With the best will in the world, I can’t say that Sailor Moon R is better than the first season of the show. It would be almost impossible to have met the standard set by that epic series. What it did, however, was to begin expanding the Sailor Moon universe, bending what we should come to expect from the show.
There were some absolutely amazing moments, of course, but as a complete narrative, it didn’t quite match up to Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom. That being said, the Black Moon, Wiseman, Crystal Tokyo, Black Lady and the dark future all added up to being a development on the themes of the first season.
It’s a shame, but the Ali & En mini-saga in the first 13 episodes of the season did not amount to much. These episodes were, in fact, only there as filler to allow manga author Naoko Takeuchi enough time to finish writing the Black Moon arc, and it shows.
Nearly all of the Ali & En episodes feel like clock-watching, slowly watching the clock until the season proper started. As such, the Black Moon arc was somewhat less developed than the Dark Kingdom arc, but it carried the shorter length well – I certainly don’t think 13 extra episodes with the Black Moon would have done much to add to the story.
While the first season’s themes included the cost of being a hero, the reluctant Sailor Moon, tragic love and genuinely-haunting death, the second series did a good job in not reading the same grounds. Usagi’s reluctance to be a Sailor Senshi is touched upon in the first few episodes of Sailor Moon R, but thankfully this is resolved in the rather brilliant episode 2:5 – A New Transformation! Usagi Powers Up.
As much as I enjoyed the internal struggle Usagi went through in season 1 with her alter ego, it would have been maudlin and repetitive to have lingered on this again.
The major theme of Sailor Moon R is, of course, parental love. Usagi’s relationship with Chibi-Usa is central to the series. It’s fraught with petty fights, mistrust and a deep bond that develops over time, that is earned. The love between a parent and child is often given as a presumption in fiction, whereas Sailor Moon R showed a relationship that had to be grown.
By the time they both realise their relationship, this bond appears far more complex, and stronger, than most other parent-child relationships depicted in anime.
Aside from the touchy-feely stuff, we also got some amazing scenes which pushed the edges of what we’ve ever seen in an action sequence in Sailor Moon. The episode 2:21 – Protect Chibi-Usa! Clash of the Ten Warriors was so brilliantly written, acted and animated, that it set a high standard for what we could see out of this show.
I can’t say that I enjoyed the majority of Usagi and Mamoru’s relationship in this season. In the Ali & En saga, it was vexing to have him still ignorant of the deep bond they forged last season. It was gratifying seeing him slowly redevelop feelings for the girl he just dismissed before, however. That final scene of Sailor Moon and Mamoru embracing once more made that all worth it.
…Which is why it was so annoying to have to deal with Mamoru promptly giving Usagi the cold-shoulder for the next 20 episodes. The whole premise behind their estrangement, a garbled premonition from the future, didn’t play off well, especially how Mamoru decided to act on it: as though Usagi wasn’t a person who could be trusted with his fears, with whom he couldn’t discuss any of this.
In the end, their rift just felt manufactured, and Mamoru didn’t come out of it looking great.
On the other hand, the healing of their relationship, damn the consequences, was a really beautiful moment.
While the other Senshi, Ami, Rei, Makoto and Minako, got some excellent moments, I felt there were less brilliant character developments with them than last series. Its as though they were in limbo this time. There were great episodes for them to be sure, 2:23 – Battle of the Flames of Love! Mars Vs Koan, 2:31 – Venus Minako’s Nurse Mayhem and 2:33 – Terrifying Illusion! Ami All Alone being 3 of the highlights, by the concluding episodes of the series, they were little more than background dressing.
Thankfully I feel that they’re all given real development in the next season.
As for Usagi’s personal character development? It couldn’t have been anywhere near as extreme or momentous as in season 1, where she went from the clumsy cry-baby teenage girl into a person with the weight of the world on her shoulders, but it was certainly decent.
After resolving her hesitancy to become Sailor Moon once more, her slow but entirely convincing relationship with Chibi-Usa brought out the best in her. The fulcrum point for her during this season came before she knew she was Chibi-Usa’s mother, and Queen of the World, but in 2:27 – Defeat Rubeus! The Final Battle in Space.
There, she realised that she could never hand over Chibi-Usa to save her friends, that she couldn’t keep relying on others to save her. She walked into Rubeus’ UFO head held high and ready to sacrifice herself. It didn’t quite turn out that way, obviously, but the circumstances also developed Chibi-Usa.
And Chibi-Usa had brilliant development in this series. From creepy gun-wielding hypnotist into a fragile and lonely child and then into a mass of complexes, I believed every turn she took. Black Lady was probably a little underwhelming by the end, but I really bought into her as a character, despite her frequent lapses into being annoying.
As far as enemies go, I feel that I’ve covered Ali & En effectively. They weren’t the greatest antagonists, but looking back I can appreciate their style, even if they were entirely ineffectual and pathetic bad guys. They stand, at least, as a good contrast to the Black Moon.
I like the Black Moon’s roster of characters. The Phantom Sisters and Rubeus had the best episodes of the series, and were entertaining and threatening simultaneously.
Dimande and Saphir were mildly interesting, Saphir more so, but again, Dimande is irredeemable as a character in my eyes, thus making his “arc” redundant.
The Droids, as a collection, were a great bunch. Nearly all were pretty darn entertaining, if not balls-out crazy as it gets in Sailor Moon S. There really aren’t that many of them in the series, they make an exit fairly far from the finishing line, and while I think I preferred the Dark Kingdom’s monsters, Droids weren’t nearly as overwhelmingly naff as Ali & En’s Cardians.
All in all, I loved Sailor Moon R. It has some of my favourite episodes and moments from all of the show, even if overall it doesn’t quite as hold together as season 1. It made me love the central characters all the more, and introduced some really cool ideas, some of which is set-up for season 3, such as the enigmatically awesome Sailor Pluto.
Time for some lists!
Top 5 Episodes, in no particular order
I like this episode a whole bunch. It’s interesting to see Rei’s life from an outside perspective. Koan becomes an incredibly interesting character as she’s emotionally manipulated by Rubeus, and her breakdown is convincing and moving. Rei, too, is really cool here.
Such a brilliant episode. The animation was gorgeous, the music (Ai No Senshi) was pumped, seeing all the Senshi let loose against the Phantom Sisters was a demonstration of how darn cool Sailor Moon could be. Throw in some brilliant character development between Usagi and Chibi-Usa and you’ve got yourself an absolute winner.
This is the only truly stand-out episode of the Ali & En arc. There’s so much to like here,. from the slice-of-life feeling from the Sakura-watching party in the park, to the horror-vibe of the disturbing tree-spirit monster, to Usagi finally resolving her reluctance of being Sailor Moon. A very cool episode.
This episode still tears me up inside. While I hate Mamoru’s actions and confused weak-ass justification for breaking up with Usagi, the episode is still written brilliantly. Sailor Moon does drama extremely well on occasion, as with the tense & emotional scene where Mamoru breaks Usagi’s heart. The following scene, of her breaking down in tears in a random phone booth on the way home, is even more moving.
The fight between Sailor Moon and the crazy make-up Droid is brilliant too, and balances out the morbid pathos nicely.
I love this episode. It looks great, it sounds great, it’s got so much darn mystery to everything. They really tried to create a unique feeling to time-travel specific to this show, and they succeeded. Sailor Pluto is so very cool, and it sets up a heck of a lot for Sailor Moon S. The scene of Chibi-Usa meeting the Droid pretending to be her mother was so freaky, too.
Top 5 Monsters, in no particular order
Creepy-Ass Tree Spirit
Crazy Make-Up Lady
Impressively Muscled Wrestler Woman
Bottom 5 Moments, in no particular order
Top 5 Moments, in no particular order
Top 5 Comedic Moments, in no particular order
Black Lady’s sleek evil dress
Best New Attack
Moon Princess Halation
Best Moments for the Central Characters
I love Sailor Moon R. It has its fair share of failings, but the things they get right are just brilliant. This was proof that the first season wasn’t just a flash in the pan. It has a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.
I love seeing things I’ve never seen before, and this season brings that. The destroyed future city has inspiring vistas. Forming a relationship with your future child is so wonderfully unique.
In the ways that this season dropped the ball (other Senshi falling to the side, less than stellar antagonists) is remedied in the next season, too, which shows that the writers are learning as they go.
And I’ll never quite get over how moving that very final scene of the series is. It’s been a real pleasure reviewing it for you all. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too!
Only 113 episodes, 3 movies and 1 Super Nintendo RPG left to go…