3:11 – Retire from the Sailor Senshi!? Minako’s Concerns
Alternative Title: I Could Have Been A Contender
First Aired: 25th June 1994
Minako begins to have serious doubts about her future as a Sailor Senshi, as the simple joys of her past life, and a crush, begin to seem out of her grasp. Confused and out of sorts, Minako considers leaving the Sailor Senshi. As Kaorinite attacks someone close to her, Minako’s past and present lives begin to blur into one.
First of all, a special announcement: this is the 100th episode of Sailor Moon! Aside from being an important milestone in the anime, this marks the half-way point in my (mis)adventures in Sailor Moon…
Considering that this is the 100th episode, you would think that the show would have a particularly excellent show to celebrate the occasion. Well, in fact, you’d be right. This is a fantastic episode.
Here we have the continuing theme thus far in Sailor Moon S of really examining what makes the Inner Senshi tick, while also juggling the introduction of the Outer Senshi. Minako, who has given less-than-brilliant episodes in the past, gets an exploration into her psychology that is not only interesting, but highly entertaining.
This is a quiet, thoughtful and artistically beautiful entry into the show. In fact, this is one of the best animated episodes of all series, and I’m fairly certain it’s from the same animation team who handled one of the best from last series.
We start out with one of my favourite Sailor Moon openings of the entire show. Minako is finishing up at school while her classmates are being sickenly lovey-dovey, a couple discussing getting matching clothing from Shibuya.
First of all, gross. Second of all, Minako’s reaction is perfect since she agrees that it’s gross.
I’m very much enjoying her today. All of this is nicely done, we’re already seeing her frustration and dissatisfaction with her situation without any of it being explicit. This is good writing, guys.
As Minako leaves, we see just how good this episode is looking. Not just in the animation, mind you, but in the filter that they’ve used. It’s slightly washed out, the colours are faded. It gives everything a dream-like quality. While this may just be an unconnected aesthetic choice, I’d like to interpret this as Minako seeking nostalgia: namely the nostalgia of her life before Sailor V.
I’m probably just full of it again.
Minako walks home, strolls, really, as more couples pass her. She seems completely impassive… and then explodes, yelling about their impropriety in a jealous rage.
I love this. I laugh every time. There’s no backing music here, which makes all these events, as humorous as they are, seem oddly meaningful and important. Which, in fact, they are.
In the middle of her irrational and public breakdown, Artemis turns up, spouting something completely irrelevant about having analysed the Death Busters’ data to arrive at… nothing.
That was worth running to Minako for?
Minako is, obviously, unmoved. her thoughts are very much on her dramatically lamentable situation. We’ve seen this side of Minako before, her tendency to trivialise her perceived life-struggles with flair. We’ll see if that keeps up as the episode goes on.
As Minako is spouting complete nonsense about the lack of her lovelife back at Artemis, I can’t help but be completely swept off my feet by her this episode. When she’s given the reins for an episode, she’s witty, funny, a day-dreamer and drawn beguilingly.
Yeah, I’m being overly forward about an anime character, but why else would you be reading a Sailor Moon blog if you couldn’t sympathise?
Minako loudly laments the fact that no handsome man has yet come to her offering a bouquet of flowers, asking “Young lady, will you spend an evening with me?”
Minako’s dream of meeting someone special is humorous… but there’s something slightly desperate about it today. It’s a very interesting shift of her character.
Just then, a convenient plot device rolls towards her out of the gym, and a gross, sweaty, generic-looking kid comes to fetch it.
This is Asai-kun, and by their greeting we can tell that he and Minako have history of some kind. After some usual banter, Asai gives an obvious pause, looks all awkward and asks Minako why she gave up volleyball when she came back from England.
Let’s see… this would have been about the time she was masquerading as Sailor V to take down international crime syndicates and the Dark Kingdom until the man she adored and the woman she loved like a sister totally hooked up? I can see why volleyball would lose its allure after all that.
Minako evades the answer by just looking away sadly, and Asai relentless continues his pubetic flirting, saying that her “flying spinning receive” was pretty amazing. Oh Asai, you ball-swatting charmer, you.
Minako has some obvious regret here, but it’s not defined yet. We just see that, in her blushing gaze, Asai and volleyball both represent something in her life that she no longer has.
The team manager, a yelling female voice, commands Asai back to practice. As Minako stands there, obviously entranced and a little sad, Artemis begins to say something, looking worried… but decides not to say anything.
While this is Minako’s episode, Artemis’ behaviour as her closest friend is also intriguing. He’s usually such an unlikable wet drip (sorry, Artemis fans), but today he’s something more approaching an actual character.
At home that night, Minako stares at herself in the mirror, looking great with all her hair down. She looks suddenly much younger and more vulnerable like this. She looks meaningfully at a volleyball she inexplicably keeps in her bedroom.
OK, the writing was good up to this point. You don’t need to smash the ball into our faces, we get it. Oh wait, I forgot – this is a kid’s show.
We get a flashback of Minako performing her Flying Spinning Receive, and an unfortunately douchey Asai. I love the joy on Minako’s face – it’s really genuine.
It’s also quite at odds with the pensive look she gives staring up at the stars with Artemis.
SCENE CHANGE. This is a Sailor Moon episode, lest you forget, not some teen drama. There are MONSTERS and stuff. The professor is… sciencing stuff… when Kaorinite brings him some tea and cookies.
It’s so weird to see her… baking. She’s a complete robot around the Professor.
He gets up with his usual brisk lankiness and reminds Kaorinite that she should be looking for the Talisman. Honestly dude, do you think she’s going to find it by going through the population of Tokyo one person at a time?
The Professor seems stern at first, but then, hilariously, sips the tea and comments that he has a crick in his neck. I love the juxtaposition of the creepy stiff boss into this tea-drinking lunatic. The Professor is such an excellent antagonist.
Proving that he’s just as crap at forward planning as Koarinite, the Professor suggests that she go after a young sportsman instead. The strange, stilted conversation between the two continues as Koarinite agrees blankly, before asking him what his favourite sport is.
Yep, that’s spot on, Prof.
The scene lingers for about 5 more seconds in complete silence, as the Professor sips tea and Kaorinite stands there smiles like an under-functioning automaton.
I cracked up at this. This is Sailor Moon at its best – so delightfully, joyously weird, but in a restrained, quiet and altogether more subversive way.
Next day, Minako is walking to school with the ever-stalwart Artemis, when Asai “bumps” into her on the street, and they walk together. Well, I can’t say any of my adolescent tactics to spend time with girls were any better. Still, that’s creepy, Asai.
To his credit, Asai, comes out straight with questioning Minako if she has a boyfriend. Fairly obvious boyo. There’s another of those pregnant pauses. Very good pacing.
Minako decides to go on the offensive in their awkward teenage flirting battle, asking what kind of girls Asai likes.
“I’m pretty clear about that. If I’m going to go out with a girl, it’d be the best if we could do the same extracurricular activities together.”
You’re a douche, Asai. I take back everything nice I said about you. What a weird thing to say, especially as it seemed intended to apply to Minako leaving volleyball directly. What a weird thing to fixate upon.
Just making sure that he’s lost all respect as a human, Asai, blushing furiously, tells Minako that he was planning to ask her out.
Minako, also blushing furiously (this is actually incredibly sweet and embarrassing), tries to play it off as a joke, but tails off.
Asai asks “You’re really not going to play volleyball?” Seriously, what a dipshit. This is a complete non sequitor. This has nothing to do with anything, unless he has the most specific volleyball-related fetish on the planet.
My dislike for this prick becomes a lot more justifiable by the end of the episode, trust me.
We follow Asai back to the gym after school, where’s he’s resolutely hitting a ball over and over again. And they say athletes are boring people.
Kaorinite stands in the doorway as the scene ends. She stands out in these ordinary school grounds like a sore thumb.
Over at the Hikawa Shrine, Minako is loudly disrupting study group by laughing uproariously at a Sailor V manga. I love how completely manic she is here, shaking a sleeping Usagi awake to show her a joke in the book.
She’s purposefully annoying here. There’s something perfectly brittle about all this, especially in light of recent events.
The other girls (the concious ones) have the most amazing look on their faces as their stare at Minako in complete bewilderment. I really love this moment.
Minako continues her mania as resolutely as Asai was hitting that stupid ball, offering up the many Sailor V-branded snacks she brought with her. This sudden fixation on the public perception of her alternate identity is rather interesting… and alarming.
Makoto, a little scared, takes a chocolate bar, and quietly points out that she won a prize, to which Minako launches into a salesman explanation of the terms and conditions of the contest.
This is great stuff, and again, because of the lack of music and the straight-faced responses of her friends, this comes off as less amusing (although it is still humorous) and more… well, terrifying.
Ami tries to inject a sense of normality back into proceedings, suggesting that Minako isn’t doing so well in her studies.
Minako’s response is cutesy and just as manic as before. Just as you think that she might begin to get on your nerves as she has on the characters in the show…
…she falls back, seemingly exhausted, and mutters sadly, in little more than a whisper, “Should I stop being a Sailor Senshi for a while…?”
This is so heart-breakingly sad and honest, perfectly explaining her manic outbursts just a few moments before. It’s so brilliantly done. What a great character moment. You might call it a selfish thought on her behalf, but seeing the life she gave up gives this internal crisis weight, much as it did for Usagi.
Naturally, everyone heard this quiet voicing of Minako’s deepest worries, and all look appropriately shocked. But not in a judging way, only in a concerned way. This is what I love about these characters, that I believe their reactions to Minako’s problems.
…especially Usagi, who continues to sleep on the table.
Minako brushes the moment off as a joke, before apologising and excusing herself. It’s another rather moving moment, especially because we don’t see her face as she leaves. Her outward emotions are therefore suggested by her tone and body language. Great choice.
Makoto has the presence of mind to distract Artemis so that he can’t follow Minako out, his first inclination, to give her time to herself. Just like in the last episode, Makoto proves to be an exceptionally thoughtful member of the group.
Yes, Makoto is my favourite Senshi and I will continue my campaign to ensure she is YOURS too.
Let’s get baack to Asai. I’m sure we’ve all been wondering what this ace striker has been up to.
Swatting the air. Repeatedly. Is this really what volleyball training is like…?
Kaorinite appears to stuff a Daimohn Egg into a volleyball (what else?) then promptly sods off down the pub for a pint of Guinness. That’s a good day’s work, Kaorinite.
Minako decides to blow off steam by losing terribly at the F1 racing game she played against Haruka earlier in the series. She just hasn’t got her mojo.
Speaking of which… Haruka turns up, and walking together Minako has the chance to express some of her troubles to someone who isn’t a part of her immediate in-group and isn’t a Senshi…
…or so she thinks…
Minako asks pretty much the most hilarious question you could ask Haruka: “Have you got a boyfriend?” Obviously the answer is no. Minako then pesters her with questions such as do you like anyone or what kind of man would attract the genius racer Tenoh Haruka.
These are all beautifully ironic, considering Haruka is obviously the worlds greatest lesbian superhero, and Haruka chooses to say nothing in response. Probably a smart move.
Eventually, we get to the heart of the matter: “Don’t you wish you were a more.. average schoolgirl? Don’t you ever get loneliness because ordinary happiness is so far away?”
I love Haruka’s response to this: “I’m not sure what ordinary happiness would be… but I don’t think of my current self as abnormal. What I am now is what is closest to my true self. I have something more valuable than ordinary happiness. I guess.”
Well I’m sure it’s lovely to be so close to self-actualisation. I think most of us are more close to Minako’s psychological state than Haruka’s. As a goal, however, as an indication of what a healthy state of mind is, this moment of Haruka is brilliant, especially considering that this was going out to an audience of (mostly) young girls (and me).
This is also a continuation of the brilliance of the character of Tenoh Haruka. Self-assured, confident, driven, conflicted, philosophical… the show isn’t telling us that this character is amazing, it’s showing us, with all her flaws too. This series so far has been brilliantly written. Mostly.
Minako takes a second for these words to sink in, but sensing something, Haruka makes an excuse and leaves hurriedly… we can assume this has something to do with out buxom psychopath in a red dress.
The seriousness with which Haruka and Michiru look at each other as they prepare of battle is… rather intimidating. This is a theme of the series too – their approach to battle is far more dedicated and serious than the Inner Senshi’s, and it all builds up throughout, until a fantastic pay-off. Take note of moments like these.
Almost as if the plot demanded it, Minako finds her way to the school gym. I don’t know why, really. I can only presume that she wants to test Haruka’s words, to see if “ordinary happiness” would really work for her.
I really like how shy they made her here, brushing out her bangs.
Minako approaches the gym door… but sees Asai getting kissed by a girl in school uniform, whom we can safely assume is the girl who yelled at him earlier, the team manager.
You. Fucking Creep. We don’t know how long they’ve been going out, but presumably its for a while, since she knows him well enough to peck him on the cheek. Certainly it’s longer than that very morning, when Asai totally hit on Minako, made her confused and feel bad for leaving the volleyball team.
We’re not shown how she takes this, which is a real shame because I think it could have been incredibly moving and interesting, considering how well the episode has been thus far. I know the episodes are short, and you have to get your battle with the Daimohn in, but as entertaining as this fight is, I would have appreciated just a little more time with Minako.
And so the Daimohn Egg-infected volleyball bursts open, revealing this cheerful fella, Hikyun. I actually rather like her, especially since she’s sporting the Japan flag’s big red dot on her face, which doubles as a face-painting show of patriotism at international sporting events for the Japanese… and the mark that would be left after having a volleyball spiked into your face.
Nice touch, designers.
Minako calls the others and transforms into Sailor Venus, without hesitation. I would have like.. I dunno… some hesitation. I know that wouldn’t really be fitting into the super hero vibe, but it would have reflected the character moments in this episode so far.
Oh well, this is still Sailor Moon after all.
Sailor Venus gives her spiel to Hikyon, whacks a ball-based attack with her Venus Love-Me Chain… and then promptly gets trapped in a net. Gotta love how easy it is to disable a Sailor Senshi in combat.
Hikyon moves on to taking Asai’s Pure Heart, and I actually love her Black Star tattoo location: half is on each hand, so that when she moves into the traditional receiving position for volleyball (is that what you call it? I know nothing about volleyball bar what I’ve seen from Top Gun and Saved by The Bell summer specials) it forms the complete star.
Kaorinite is rather pissed off that the Pure Heart isn’t a Talisman. It was your boss who suggested the target, K, go blame him.
Usagi must have run fast because she’s turned up at the school gym just in time. I’m going to point out that she hasn’t said anything intelligible this entire episode up until now. It was a a good move to take Usagi away from an episode about Minako, she might’ve stolen her thunder, as she is wont to do.
Hikyon is advancing on Asai, apparently with the intention of killing him, when only a sodding Moon Tiara Action comes out of nowhere to distract her and free Sailor Venus from the net! We haven’t see one of those since… well, a couple of episodes ago, actually.
As much as I love her, I honestly think they could have finished off this episode without Sailor Moon for once. It would have been an interesting and “experimental” way to write an episode of this, the show that thrives of repetition. It says something about how good the episode was up until the fight that I wanted the drama to go on.
Kaorinite has obviously not finished her pint at the pub from earlier, because she buggers off, leaving Hikyon to get nasty by shoving Asai’s Pure Heart into one of her pink glowing balls.
Now the game is not to break the ball, lest Asai’s heart gets smashed. Not… a big… loss…
The battle gets much more interesting here, as Hikyon throws the ball at Sailor Moon, who panics… but Sailor Jupiter swoops in for the save, passing it to Sailor Mercury, who sets it up for Sailor Mars to grab!
I fucking love this play. The music comes in right on cue, and I’m actually pumped up again! Too bad Hikyon plays dirty – she starts controlling the ball, making it fly around like crazy. That’s just mean.
The only one who could possibly save Asai now is… you know… the star volleyball player of the Sailor Senshi…? Now that I think about this, it’s pretty hilariously obvious plot mechanics. Oh well, it’s still great.
Sailor Venus challanges the Daimohn to a one-on-one with the Pure Heart ball, and the moment gets all tense as Hikyon throws a power serve.
The animation gets all… sports-anime-ish (oh you get what I mean) for a second.
Sailor Venus miraculously has time to reflect on all she’s learned this episode in an internal monologue, “I’m a Sailor Senshi. There’s something that only I can protect.” It’s schlocky and predictable… but I don’t care, I love this moment, and I love Venus finding her resolve once more.
I should point out that Asai has remained concious even without his Pure Heart. Maybe there’s something to be said for being an athlete after all.
Sailor Venus performs her signiature move, the one she hasn’t practiced in 2 years: The Flying Spinning Receive. You remember, the one that Aino Minako was famous for?
Gross Asai on the floor does what no person in the history of the universe has ever done and puts two and two together to realise that Sailor Venus and Minako are one and the same. Too bad you’re a lascivious cheating bastard, Asai, or I might be complementing you.
Sailor Mars once more gets a hold of the Pure Heart, as Sailor Moon punts her own serve towards Hikyon in the form of the food old Moon Spiral Heart Attack.
Hikyon dies a little differently than all her brethren – instead of a “LOVELY…!“, she gives the far more patriotic “NIPPON, GO GO GO!” A fitting end. I laughed.
Behind the stage curtains are Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune, who have fallen into the habit of not actually doing anything to help anymore. Works for them, I suppose.
Sailor Venus’ final cocky pose is perfect.
The final scene is of Minako, finishing school again, seeing Asai and his girlfriend being all coupley. Asai pauses when he sees Minako, who gives an endearing “hey!” (in adorable English) back.
Asai, in a last ditch effort to not come off like a predatory creep, asks Minako, if she were to somewhere out there meet Sailor Venus, to thank her for saving him. Well I suppose that was a nice gesture. At least you didn’t sell her identity to the newspapers. I would have at least considered it.
Minako looks blankly back at him. We’ll never know if she got the meaning of that or not. I’m inclined to say not.
The music ends happily. In most other episodes, that would be that, and we’d hit the credits feeling good. But not today.
Minako keeps walking along as the music cuts out, when suddenly she’s stopped by a “Young lady…” and a bouquet of flowers that are thrown down to her from a tree.
Artemis asks her, “Will you spend an evening together with me?” and my fucking heart breaks. This is one of the sweetest moments in Sailor Moon, and it’s not in romance, its the friendship, the love between a girl and her talking cat.
Moreover, it came from Artemis, usually obstinate, unqympathetic and block-headed. It makes this that much more sweet.
Minako, looking wonderful, pauses to give a long, meaningful look at Artemis…
…before responding, “well, I’ll consider it.”
Oh, Minako, you absolute gem.
This is one of my favourite endings to any episode of Sailor Moon, as the opening was also one of my favourites. Yes, the episode lost me a little during the fight, and it wasn’t long enough, but that speaks to the strength of the rest of it.
This series so far has been brilliant in quality and writing, and this episode is up there. It’s going to be extraordinarily tough to rank how I feel about these early episodes of this season.
And the excellence doesn’t stop, as next episode ramps up the tension, ramps up the danger, and ramps up the UsagiXMamoru.
NEXT TIME: Usagi learns that love can’t be found at the bottom of a ridiculously-priced, ridiculously-designed and ridiculously-uncomfortable shoe.
Episode Score: 5/5 (With an ending like that, how could it not be?)
Monster Score: 4/5 (Nippon! Go go go!)
Final Thought: I don’t think I made one crude joke about balls in this entire blog. Oh no wait… I think I might have slipped one in somewhere…