In Memoriam: Kaorinite, Dead in Red & Back in Black
Kaorinite is a strange beast. Initially dull, increasingly blank, occasionally acting as humorous straight-man for the Professor’s eccentricities, Kaorinite remains the only enemy to have been killed off on-screen only to be revived later.
And that’s when she really began to get interesting.
My opinion of Kaorinite as an antagonist develops drastically over the course of Sailor Moon S. At the start of the series, she’s little more than an objective on-looker, watching as the Daimohn Eggs do their work attacking victims for their Pure Heart. She says and does nothing of importance whatsoever, and yet there is some her design, her initial introduction, that suggests something more than what we’re being given.
I think it might be her eyes. They’re just so dead-looking. Like a fish washed ashore. Or, you know, a goat that wishes you ill and wants you to know it. They’re also this strange colour, too. Sometimes they have this streak of green in them.
I think the thing that disturbed me most about them is how blank they look. She looks completely high, like she’s just swallowed 3 tabs of LSD and think your head is made of cheese and she’s super jonesing for a snack.
Kaorinite is almost impressively ignored in the first dozen episodes of Sailor Moon S. Other than the one terrible, terrible episode where she tried to get a little more hands-on, she spends most of the episodes simply providing something at which the Professor can fire off his insane babble. And it works, too. She’s somehow more threatening because we get precisely nothing about her personality here.
We can’t discuss Kaorinite without bringing up her fashion choices. I’m generally in favour of restraint in the design of female characters. Unrealistic cleavage makes my eyes roll, and it’s such a perennial design choice in anime. Kaorinite is no exception, and yet I have to admire her design.
Now that was a great scene.
Kaorinite’s complete lack of character in the early part of the series is actually rather brilliant when you stop to consider it. The Death Busters were being introduced here, and had enough mystery and flavour through the Daimohns and Professor Tomoe. Kaorinite served as a vector, not dominating episodes with vague misplaced bullshit that no one cares about (eh, Mimett? EH?)
As such, she served perfectly to add elements of danger to the series while allowing time for the Death Busters’ introduction, Haruka and Michiru to develop and become established characters, and the Inner Senshi to get some great air time in this period too.
She doesn’t have too many great moments here. I would say that she began to really gain traction as an antagonist in the two-part story where she targeted Usagi. The first part particularly, where she attacks Usagi, identifies her as Sailor Moon and places her in a no-win situation was actually fantastic. She’s never been as threatening as in that moment, and few bad-guys in Sailor Moon have ever quite achieved such a sense of threat.
The subsequent follow-up was rather dissapointing, but Kaorinite still had some fantastic moments. Her skeptical face upon seeing Sailor Venus dressing up as Sailor Moon will always be particularly fondly remembered by me.
Her “death” was rather disappointing, since it fell in an episode handled by a rubbish animation/writing team, and to top it all off she was just getting interesting. You might be forgiven at this point in thinking that Kaorinite was the most disappointing of all Sailor Moon antagonists to date.
Her reintroduction, as touched upon earlier, was fantastic. Seeing the front door of Hotaru’s house slooowly open, with that mounting dramatic music, and this haunting, menacing face appear in the darkness, is clearly, hands down, the best Kaorinite moment in the entire series.
The moment also was not ruined by any foreshadowing, or vague hints of any kind, beforehand, giving the full effect of the “WTFness” that Usagi herself feels here. For the first-time viewer, this is an extraordinary moment. She was pretty well cemented as being dead. We’ve even moved on, with a new modus operendi of the Death Busters, with new bad-guys. And yet in this one scene she brought something that no one else in the series had: terror.
Yeah, she’s put on a black dress, changed her expression to be 10 times more threatening for no apparent reason, and bam! You’ve got a really cool bad guy.
If only she did a little more with her reinvention then harassing Hotaru or hanging from the ceilings.
As excited as I was for Kaorinite’s return, she really never manages to live up to the promise of her reinvention. I really like the restraint they use at first: no one ever explicitly says that this is the same person killed at Tokyo Tower, although it’s obvious: Tomoe calls her “Kaori” for instance. They keep her quiet here, and that makes her all the more mysterious and suspicious. You get the feeling that they’re saving something great for her as the Witches 5 just run around getting themselves killed.
In the meantime, of course, she’s being a complete fucking psychopath when it comes to Hotaru, and sure it seems petty and pointless, but I can’t help but like these moments.
There’s something about her delivery in these scenes with Hotaru that make you genuinely scared of her. Not in a physical sort of way, but in the way that you fear a bully. As though she knows exactly what’s in your mind and simply needs to tug on a thread to unravel you.
What’s really interesting about Kaorinite’s character here in these episodes where she does even less than before, is her developing attitude. She most definitely does have a personality and motivations, and both are clearly focussed on Professor Tomoe, of whom she seems to love in a really creepy way.
It’s this obsession with Tomoe, who remains indifferent to her, that seems also to be behind Kaorinite’s attitude towards Hotaru. She appears to resent Tomoe’s continued affection for his daughter in a couple of scenes, and it comes off as misplaces jealousy. Yeah, it’s kinda creepy that way, in a “step-mother” vibe.
More then that, we also get the possibility, although it’s never explored, that Kaorinite is jealous that Hotaru is the chosen vessel for the Messiah of Silence. It would have been interesting to explore.
If anything this affection for Tomoe makes her even more terrifying, since it forces Koarinite to be reckless and unpredictable. There’s also something unsettling about seeing her features rearranged into one of dotage, and Tomoe’s completely lack of reaction is even more frightening.
In the end, Kaorinite’s affections are utterly manipulated by Tomoe, which would make her a sympathetic character… if she weren’t so brilliantly unlikable.
Kaorinite had one great achievement in her time in Sailor Moon, and that’s actually out-doing all the Witches, getting Chibi-Usa’s Pure Heart for the Messiah of Silence. Actually, this is one of the few success that Sailor Moon villains have ever actually managed to get.
The scene is well done, with Kaorinite skulking around in the shadows like a vampire. She fits perfectly with a ham-horror vibe, and the black dress she eventually ends up in (always got to admire her fashion) makes her look like Christopher Lee, in an unsettlingly sexy way.
I have always been rather disappointed in Kaorinite’s death. Having the Messiah of Silence just blast her away when she was so ardently staring at the Professor felt less like the reward for hubris and hatred, and more of the writers just quickly wanting to dispense with her without anyone feeling too bad about it.
Still, she looked damn good as she fried. I like how completely helpless she looked, how utterly overpowered by this force she helped unleash. The smoking corpse was a nice touch too.
There’s so much to like about her, but I think Kaorinite represents brilliant potential as opposed to anything fantastic element she brought to the series. Her contribution was subtle, enabling others to reach greater heights, and there probably wasn’t much more room in the series then what we got, but she was a fantastic presence, and I really would have liked more from her.
I doubt Kaorinite often makes it onto people’s radar in terms of antagonists they like. The Professor is so much more attention-grabbing, so much more dramatic. The Witches bring more personality, and Mistress Nine is, frankly, too awesome, but Kaorinite’s role was far more than just a cardboard cut-out bad guy.
Don’t worry, Kaorinite. This is the Pretty Sailor Project, where ever pointless Tom, Dick and Harry gets honoured in their own small way. And that small way is a long blog post acting as little more than an excuse to post animated gifs I ripped off YouTube.
Episodes Survived: 13 the first time around, 11 the second, so technically 24
Effort: C+ (Apart from getting Chibi-Usa’s Pure Heart, she really didn’t do too much.)
Final Score: 4/5