3:8 – The Labyrinth of Water! Ami the Targeted
Alternative Title: But I’m Only A Genius Super Hero
First Aired: 21st May 1994
Ami faces an internal crisis, worrying that she has nothing to her except for her studies. After an impromptu race with Michiru at a public swimming pool ends with Ami even more upset, she feels completely lost, until the offer of a rematch from Haruka galvanises her in an entirely new way. Little does she know that she’s also the target of the Death Busters’ attention…
It would be near impossible for Sailor Moon to top the incredibly interesting and entertaining character exploration of Makoto last episode, but they gave it a darn good run for its money – this episode is a truly excellent treatment of Ami.
It many ways, it bears similarities to last season’s Ami-centric episode, but while I loved that one, it was almost like a practice run for this, where Ami feels like an interesting, deep, empathetic and admirable human being. Some very good writing going on again.
Without further ado…
First of all, this entire episode looks fantastic. It’s the primary animation & writing team, and this is one of the high-quality productions.
We start off, where else with an Ami episode, at school, with probably one of the worst teachers in the world.
Actually, come to think about it, there are plenty of worse teachers, but they’re not legally allowed to teach.
Anyway, this obnoxious prick decides to lecture Ami (who is clearly smarter than him) on the dangers of spending time around “delinquent” students, such as Usagi and Makoto, lest it drag her grades down too.
What a knob. To be honest, this guy’s behaviour isn’t far removed from the behaviour of Japanese teachers that I myself have witnessed.
What makes it even worse, of course, is that poor Usagi is eavesdropping from around the corner.
Thankfully, Ami totally calls him on his bullshit. She’s not the quiet, demure girl she once was, and questions whether he should be using the term “dragging down” to describe students.
Interesting camera shots here by the way. The teacher (vice-principal, actually), remains faceless and tall. This allows the character to be representative of an idea, rather than just being an individual prick. It’s the establishment who is unfairly biased, and he represents her own self-doubts, as we shall see.
Or maybe I’m making shit up again.
Poor admonished Usagi, now devastated, is quickly dragged off by Naru (yaaay she’s back!), who demands pizza from her for letting Usagi copy her homework. And Umino’s share too. It’s a nice little school vignette which we don’t often see with Usagi anymore.
Ami, meanwhile, is left alone, and looking resentful at the teacher’s words that she should “only focus on her studies“. And thus the theme of the episode is born.
Another lovely shot, just of some boots. We get a sense of idleness, of worry, simply from the way she moves her foot. Clever establishing.
Ami (looking lovely – great animation) is surprised in her reverie by Mamoru. So weird seeing these two interact. They really need Mamoru to have more of a relationship with other Senshi.
Mamoru lends an ear to Ami’s self-doubts. I like this scene tremendously, especially since Mamoru is being concerned and a decent guy, which is a relatively new aspect to his character in this show, if I’m honest.
Ami asks “What do you think is left of me if you took academics away?” which is sort of like the thesis statement of the episode.
My response would be “kick ass Senshi who saved the Earth at least a couple of times“, but I understand her self-conciousness. I realise she’s a super-genius and everything, but even the most talented of people worry about self-identity.
Ami, being rather open, begins questioning whether her dream to become a doctor like her mother is really her dream, whether there isn’t more to being bookish.
“I’ve been feeling that I really have no dream at all.” – such a universal worry, but seeing it so convincingly felt makes Ami an infinitely empathetic character. This isn’t some trivial problem viewers can scoff at, like Minako being worried that she hasn’t got any fans.
Ami even shows a bit of envy for Usagi, who has no brains, but wonderful dreams. Her character is being beautifully fleshed out here.
Mamoru’s face when he admits that Usagi has many ambitions is priceless.
His way of cheering her up is rather nice, commenting that it’s a shame, since a cute doctor like her could convince him to get a shot or two. Is it condescending? Yes… but it’s a very sweet moment, and you sort of think that these two might be a better match than him and Usagi.
Mamoru is also extremely smart, you may remember. They have a lot in common.
As Ami runs off cheered up, Mamoru thinks to himself that she shines enough the way she is, which is just fucking lovely, innit?
So all sorted right? Ami’s all happy again right? Episode over?
Not as long as Kaorinite is floating around. Her target is, naturally, Ami. She speculates that Ami has a Pure Heart full of confidence, which, as we know, is bollocks. You’re so bad at your job, Kaorinite.
We’re at a public pool. It’s completely empty, except for Ami. As we know, there are never any people in Tokyo except for the Sailor Senshi and whoever they’re saving that week, so she has the run of the place.
We’ve never seen Ami swim before, although we have seen her in a bathing suit and next to the sea, which is almost swimming. The point is that the show introduces a sudden new accomplishment, which traditionally I revile.
Today, this isn’t as annoying – Ami’s element is water after all – but it would have been nice to have this be an established part of her skill set before, even in some small way.
Enough of that, we get lovely shots of Ami just swimming, chilling out and finding her calm centre. Along with the relaxing music, you really get a sense that this is where Ami feels she belongs. Nice contrasting moment from the self-doubt of the previous scene.
She isn’t alone as she thought, however. She’s sharing the pool with Michiru. The perfect place for these two to cross paths.
The swimming animations are fantastic, and really could only have been nailed by the lead animation team. Everything is just looking lovely.
The two exchange internal compliments about one another. I liked to see this mutual respect.
They surface, and while Ami gives a friendly “hello“, Michiru decides to freak Ami the fuck out by stating, “You came from a world of water in your past life as well.”
What the heck do you say to that?
Michiru suddenly gets a rather mischievous look in her eyes and challenges Ami to a race. The facial expressions here are fantastic. I love Ami’s reaction. She’s so swept up with being ordered around into something she’s not normally comfortable with, yet at the same time there’s a nice nervous energy about her.
Haruka’s voice calls from… somewhere… to start the race, and we get a full couple minutes of watery racey action. They cut down on the animation by using freeze frames, but with sparkling water effects it’s actually quite effective at creating a sense of drama.
They both finish in a dead-on draw, but while Ami seems cheerful, Michiru wordlessly gets out of the pool looking irritable. Poor Ami looks so lost.
Michiru demands to know why Ami slowed down, if Ami was trying to make her feel better, and this cold accusation is the final push over the edge for Ami’s ego, and she runs off crying.
You might blame Michiru here, but she really wasn’t trying to be mean, as Haruka teasingly suggests from the diving board.
Haruka is dead on in her assessment of Ami – wants to make friends, no self-confidence and unconsciously avoiding confrontation. This makes Michiru feel rather terrible, which is good because you made poor Ami cry.
Poor poor poor poor Ami now feels completely shit, and turns up for study group with the girls anyway. They’re all pretty useless without Ami. It’s simultaneously hilarious and horrifying to see Minako trying to teach Makoto about proverbs.
When Ami turns up, smiling in a strange forced way, Minako, Makoto and Rei instantly leap upon her, asking for help on their various problems.
Usagi, of all people, pushes them back (she’s rather adorably angry) insisting that they “study on your own abilities!”
…to which the reaction is horror at Usagi saying something decent. Great joke.
Ami doesn’t seem to mind being asked, but clearly Usagi has felt terrible at being called a drag upon Ami’s dreams by that feck-faced vice-principal, and insists that Ami should study as much as she can to become a doctor.
“All you need to do is study!” she says cheerfully. Well that was a mistake.
This is a sweet gesture, but on today of all days, this isn’t something that Ami wants to hear. I love this part of Ami’s character – no matter how bad she feels about herself, she doesn’t communicate it to others, she doesn’t want to be a burden on others, she swallows her pain and her emotions for others.
Ami pretends to have forgotten something and runs away, but Usagi notices her tearing up as she left, which freezes her in place. Makoto and Minako are bemused that Ami could have forgotten something, and that Usagi could be so thoughtful, but this is hilariously dispelled when Usagi runs out the door and away from study group.
Usagi’s character, of course, is the complete opposite – she wears her emotions on her sleeves, and is usually completely non-perceptive. Her reaction, to excuse herself and go after Ami alone, is also “extremely like her”. She doesn’t know how she hurt Ami, but it’s bloody torture to her thinking that she harmed her friend in some way.
Ami is being totally emo, hanging over the edge of a bridge and staring at the water, thinking that she really doesn’t having anything other than studying.
It occurs to me that water has a lot to do symbolically in this episode. Water is reflective – it’s used for introspection and self-consideration. It’s also symbolic of the inner self, the soul, in Japanese fiction. It’s linked with an internal state. It’s representative of Ami trying to find her true self, her true purpose.
Just throwing that out there.
Ami comments that she’s sick of being emo (I paraphrased) as Haruka pulls up behind her on her bike. Apparently Haruka has been driving around the whole of Tokyo looking for Ami to deliver a challenge of a rematch.
Haruka offers Ami a lift, but Ami obstinately refuses a lift, insisting that she’s walk there. I love this so much. She’s so headstrong over something so pointless here. Another side to her character, that she has strength enough to stand up against even Haruka when she wants to.
Meanwhile, Ami and Artemis are on patrol.. or something. We haven’t actually seen these guys in aaaaages. Missed ’em, even if they don’t do much here.
Luna notices the weirdest sight… Ami, looking rather haughty, walking along as Haruka shuffles her bike down the street at the same pace. It’s hilarious.
They’re also so worried about Ami, since this is so out of character for her. Hey, they girl deserves some alone time once in a while, cats.
Here comes the rematch. For some reason… Michiru is now wearing a different swimming suit. Maybe the last one had frills that slowed her down? Whatever, it’s a little weird.
Ami is being much more assertive now, and Michiru seems much happier about it.
Usagi, meanwhile, has met up with Artemis, and is now heading to the sports centre. I don’t really buy the worry here. What do they think Ami is going to do? Just hanging around Haruka isn’t going to make her inject heroine into her eyeballs or anything.
Michiru and Ami are doing the race properly this time, beginning off the… uh… pushing-off platform thing… and we get some great action shots of swimming that we didn’t get before. I guess they were saving the good stuff.
I really like this scene. Makes me feel so happy seeing Ami so focussed on a task, losing all extraneous worries, and realising that she doesn’t want to run away from this challenge.
Corny yes, but fuck it, I like it.
I think my “fuck count” might be a little high today, but I’m trying to allure more creepers looking for Sailor Moon porn only to find my stupid blog discussing “feelings” and “motivations”. Suck it, perverts.
Anyway, the race ends, once again, in a tie, but with all parties exhausted and happy at the result.
It looks like Ami got her mojo back. I like Michiru’s lofty and graceful attitude here too.
Michiru and Haruka exit, leaving Ami alone and happy… but not for much longer, since the Daimohn Egg has just fused itself… to the pool water? What the hell is going to emerge?
Oh dear sweet god. I love it.
This is Dovlin. Like dolphin? Diving? Whatever, this thing is great. It’s also SUPER MEAN, slamming Ami into the window and freezing her in place with, like, goopy water goo. Sort of gross, actually.
Dovlin reveals her Black Star tattoo beneath her… her uh… hair-keeper-dryer… guys I suck at swimming pool parlance… Anyways, she’s completely bald and completely rocking that look. You go, Dovlin!
Oh yeah, she’s evil. Poor Ami is having the Pure Heart ripped out of her, and boy it looks like it hurts.
Her only hope today, it seems, is Sailor Moon, who busts on in all on her own. Ami is in serious trouble.
Sailor Moon is completely immobilised by a, uh… an anti-drowning floatation device (???). Great job, today, Sailor Moon. Ami’s Pure Heart is completely up for grabs.
Ami looks so pathetic up against the window that it’s rather painful to see, especially since she was so happy moments before.
Sailor Moon is naturally deeply upset by this, and yells how much of a friend Ami is. This is completely stupid, since Kaorinite is right there and would totally use this information to get to Sailor Moon.
She totally doesn’t, by the way, making Kaorinite incredibly dumb.
Anyway, Kaorinite realises that Ami’s Pure Heart is not a Talisman, and in her fury her tries to smash it! Now THAT’S cruel. Luckily we’re saved from a Zombie Ami by Tuxedo Kamen, who knocks the heart away from Kaorinite. Thank god he turned up, Sailor Moon was doing shocking bad by herself.
I like his presence here. He had that moment of connection with Ami earlier, so this feels earned.
Even better is his brief fight with Dovlin, dodging her water jet and smacking her upside the head, knocking her into the water.
As it turns out, Dovlin isn’t a strong swimmer, and seems relieved to be wearing her flotation ring (OH THAT’S WHAT THEY’RE CALLED)…
Until Luna and Artemis promptly rip it to shreds. Yaaay the cats did something!
With Dovlin almost drowned (she can’t swim for shit, which is hilarious considering she’s a water monster), Sailor Moon fires off a Moon Spiral Heart Attack, and it’s goodbye Dovlin, poor thing.
Ami slumps to the floor and Sailor Moon returns her Pure Heart. It’s a really nice moment when they make eye contact. What a great episode.
Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, oddly absent from the fight, are shown to have been observing. Neptune comments on what a shame it was that this Pure Heart wasn’t a Talisman, to which Uranus completely calls bullshit. I love these two.
In our final scene, Ami explains that she was just a little depressed earlier, and Tuxedo Kamen comments on how much better she is looking from earlier in the day. Ami comes off as extremely strong here because she overcame her self-doubt and weaknesses. It’s moments like these that make her a deeply interesting character.
The two share this philosophical understand which completely goes over Sailor Moon’s head… and she starts getting rather worried. Even she knows they would be a better couple.
Ami, rather uncharacteristically, teases Usagi, claiming that she “won’t lose” when it comes to Tuxedo Kamen, and grabs his other arm.
I love this stupid scene, of Ami teasing Sailor Moon around a deeply uncomfortable Tuxedo Kamen, before Ami happily suggests they get back to studying. A perfect end.
So yeah. A bloody brilliant episode. This is far more accomplished and polished than Makoto’s episode… but you just can’t beat Makoto questioning her sexuality as a storyline, I’m afraid. The second best episode of the season thus far.
NEXT TIME: An incredibly tremendously ginormously shit episode where Sailor Moon gets chased by poorly-drawn wheels with faces. This is going to be painful.
Episode Score: 5/5
Monster Score: 5/5 (I love Dovlin. She’s super funny)
Final Thought: How many different swimsuits are we going to see Michiru in this season, and are there going to be any which isn’t completely weird?