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Sailor Moon S Wrap-Up, Part 2

Haruka

This is the second in a multi-part retrospective blog on Sailor Moon S. Today we discuss the second phase of the series, from the introduction of Eugeal, to Chibi-Usa’s return, and the mid-season climax of the Talismans finally being revealed.

You may also want to check out Part 1 of the Sailor Moon S wrap-up.

Part 2: Talismans

Today’s post will focus on the second phase of Sailor Moon S, beginning with the introduction of Eugeal and ending in her outrageous and unfortunate offing by competitor Mimett.

Phase 2, Episodes 14 – 22: of Daughters, Talismans and Even More Senshi

While I said in the previous wrap-up blog that the first 13 episodes of Sailor Moon S contained some of my favourite episodes, Phase 2 is by no means lesser. In fact, some might argue that these 9 episodes are even better in terms of plot and character development. To be honest, it’s splitting hairs and defeating the point by comparing the first two phases.

At the very least, we can all agree that nearly every episode in Sailor Moon S thus far has been exemplary.

Usagi carrying Chibi-Usa

We do lose a bit of focus on the Inner Senshi after their magnificent character developing episodes, but this is purely because of the high bar that episodes such as Ami’s crisis of confidence set. As a matter of fact, while I joke about the Inner Senshi becoming redundant by the end of the series, up to episode 22 they are all relevant, central and dynamic characters.

We can see this in the writers continuing to spend time with the main characters just shooting the breeze, displaying strong bonds of friendship, or else devoting entire episodes exploring their internal machinations, such as in Episode 16 – Wanting More Power! Mako-Chan’s Lost Path.

Makoto under a waterfall

Saying that, the writers have begun to develop other characters and themes.

Sailor Chibi-Moon

Chibi-Moon

Obviously the big change to swoop in from episode 14 is Chibi-Usa, who now returns as a pint-sized Sailor Senshi. I’ve found that a lot of people are not overly fond of Chibi-Usa, especially when she has the presumption to turn up as Sailor Chibi-Moon.

I’ll lay all my cards on the table: I think she’s fine. I think she’s good, in fact. She adds a level of depth to Usagi’s character, giving her an excuse to bring out her more admirable qualities, rather than trying to get some cheap laughs by keeping her pathetic. More than that, I like her personality. While she’s frequently annoying, perhaps displaying questionable decision-making at times, mostly she’s clever, sweet and brave. All good things.

Chibi-Usa stalking tea master

Saying that, they really screwed her over in this phase: she’s the central character in one of the worst episodes of Sailor Moon there is, Episode 18. You’ll be shocked (SHOCKED) to discover it was written and animated by the same team who produced the abysmal Episode 9 earlier in the series.

Chibi-Usa's heart breaks

I’m glad to say, however, that Episode 18 is the only terrible episode in Phase 2, and no episode in the rest of the series ever comes as close to its level of pure unadulterated shiteness.

I think the best of Chibi-Usa in Phase 2 was not to overuse her here. There are episodes in which she hardly, or never appears. The series isn’t high-jacked by her, although it certainly could have been (here’s looking at you, Sailor Moon SuperS). We are, however, seeing Chibi-Usa and Usagi’s relationship deepen further, especially in Episode 15.

I’m absolutely fascinated by their weird time-spanning sisterly-mother-daughter relationship. It’s such an alien, mystical, impossible set-up, befriending your future daughter, that the scenario itself is enough to captivate, but seeing it play out is always great to see.

Chibi-Usa skeptical

Chibi-Usa, naturally, loves her parents unconditionally. But she doesn’t love their past selves unconditionally. They’re different people. We saw, and continue to see, Chibi-Usa getting to know Usagi and Mamoru and growing to love them. This makes their moments of connection all the more poignant for me.

Mamoru carrying Chibi-Usa

As for Sailor Chibi-Moon… I’ve never been overly fond of this whole thing. The design is fine, I like the nods to Sailor Moon’s design, but there’s just so much pink. Along with her hair it all looks a bit alarming.

I like the humour they get out of her being completely shit. Pink Sugar Heart Attack is another great reference to her mother’s abilities, and I always chuckle when enemies just choose to ignore her because she’s so obviously rubbish.

I think she’s fine as Sailor Chibi-Moon… but it does annoy me when she gets headstrong and runs into trouble. While she’s entertaining as one of the Senshi, she’s never interesting, never captivating. It also looks as though they’re playing to their younger audience with her too.

Anyway, as I said, she’s most definitely not the focus of Phase 2. No no, that fine distinction belongs to Haruka and Michiru. While I did not discuss this in the last blog, there has been a growing theme between this two, a surprisingly mature and serious philosophical question, and I’m not even referring to their sexuality.

…Yet.

Convictions & Conflicts

fight

If you had to simmer Sailor Moon S down to a single motif, it would be on the question over utilitarianism: whether it’s worth sacrificing a life for the greater good. We’re made aware by Uranus and Neptune that the Talismans must be found to save the Earth from Silence, and that this will result in the death of the wielder, in the first phase.

While this did manifest itself in a rather great discussion between Haruka, Michiru and Usagi (without knowing each other’s identity) in episode 13, it’s Phase 2 where this really becomes a complex and dominating schism between the two parties.

The conflict between Inner and Outer Senshi is the principle reason why Sailor Moon S is, in my opinion, the greatest season. It truly is brilliantly done. Despite the fact that the Senshi are evidently natural allies, from the start Uranus and Neptune distance themselves from the Inner Senshi. At first this seemed like stand-offish paranoia, but the series soon progresses to the point where this seems advisable.

Uranus and Usagi struggle over the gun

I love the idea that you have two sets of protagonists, fighting against evil, yet with completely different philosophies & motivations that drive them. “Good” isn’t objective. Morality isn’t a priori. Haruka and Michiru understand that it’s impossible to expect victory without sacrifice. In some ways, their realism is a demonstration that they value life greater than Sailor Moon, who would be eternally unwilling to risk the life of innocent people.

Yet on the other hand, Usagi’s convictions are so beautifully admirable. While the realist, the pragmatist, the utilitarian in me understands Haruka and Michiru, and would in fact do exactly the same as they did throughout the series, it’s Usagi’s idealism that I truly aspire to.

Usagi getting drunk

The writers know this too. The writers took both side’s ethical positions to the extreme in Episodes 21 & 22. We saw how far Haruka and Michiru were willing to take their convictions, to the point of Haruka giving herself a death sentence for the chance that the Messiah would be found. It was truly a beautiful, horrifying moment.

As was Usagi’s drive to save them. The scene of her rushing into the cathedral to shoulder-tackle Eugeal, despite not being able to transform, is one of her most heroic, fool-hardy moments, and shows the extent she is willing to to in order to save someone’s life.

And there you have it: a microcosm of the series’ themes and ultimate conclusion, right there, foreshadowed beautifully in Episode 21.

The healthy relationship

hands

One of the most perfect beats Sailor Moon has ever hit is the relationship between Haruka and Michiru. I have harped on about this in the past, but it continues to astound me that what is essentially a kid’s cartoon managed to portray a healthy, loving, dedicated, passionate, physical and entirely normal relationship. What’s more, it’s a relationship between two women. That’s just bloody marvellous.

The show dangled this notion from when were were first introduced to Haruka and Michiru in Episode 3, but while it was suggested, it was also denied… at first.

As time went on and the relationship between the women became more obviously more than just camaraderie, the characters of Haruka and Michiru also became more complex. Indeed, it’s their devotion towards one another, their complete trust and understanding for one another, that gives them their humanity. I suspect they would not be nearly so sympathetic if their ability to connect with other humans wasn’t nearly so obvious.

Haruka and Michiru close together

This depiction met its climax (a term used with careful precision), again in Episode 21. That really was a perfect episode wasn’t it? The scene in which Haruka and Michiru perform a sort of hand-dance is so intimate, and so foreboding, that I really think it’s once of the best scenes in the entire show. Ever. It’s restrained, it’s subtle, it’s beautiful. Pathos drips out the screen.

Add to this the equally brilliant Episode 17, where we flash back to Haruka meeting Michiru for the first time, and you get… well… my OTP. What can I say? This to me is the most beautiful love story I’ve ever seen. I’m a big old softy that way.

It sort of makes Usagi and Mamoru look like jokes, though. You guys just can’t compare I’m afraid.

Bullseye

Eugeal Fire Buster

I couldn’t write a section on these episodes without a nod to Eugeal, one of my favourite antagonists in Sailor Moon. She’s smart, she’s efficient, she’s stylish, she gets things done, she’s a perfect straight-man for the Professor’s antics, even more so than Kaorinite who just sort of accepts his weirdness. I love how… well… autistic she can be, for lack of a better term.

Right from her first episode Eugeal always makes me laugh. She even proved how threatening she could be, managing to obtain Uranus and Michiru’s talismans, looking awesome while she did so.

Like Kaorinite, they didn’t try to inject too much of her personality into the show, because she is, and should be, function enough to allow the central characters the spotlight. I’m never show Eugeal’s motivations, her drive. I know nothing about the hopes and dreams, or backstory. It’s enough that I know she’s evil, but professional, and that counts for a great deal.

Super Saiyan

transform

Finally, let’s talk about how much awesome, awesome lore they added to the Sailor Moon universe by the end of Phase 2.

Just to recap, we’ve had the on-going search for the three Talismans which will supposedly summon the Grail, to be used by the Messiah to save the Earth from Silence. So far it sounds better than a Dan Brown book.

On top of that we’ve expanded the lore behind the Senshi too. With Pluto’s introduction last series, and Uranus and Neptune appearing in Sailor Moon S, it’s clear that there’s something markedly different in the responsibilities, power levels and motivations behind the groups.

Sailor Pluto

In fact, beyond the superficial appearance and nomenclature, there is in fact little that truly ties the Inner and Outer Senshi together. This suggests that being a Sailor Senshi does not carry an indelible definition. As to why the Inner Senshi are bound to protect and fight alongside Sailor Moon, while the Outer Senshi appear to distance themselves from the Princess, is not as of yet evident.

This set-up is fantastic. It’s brilliant to bring in new Senshi that are not apart of the inner cadre. It really flavours the metaphysical definition of our heroes, and shows that Sailor Moon isn’t some pre-ordained leader (as in the manga). By the end of the series, Sailor Moon has won the allegiance of even the Outer Senshi, not because it’s her role to do so, but because she’s worth following.

Other than the expansion of the Senshi, the other big introduction into the Sailorverse (totally just coined that, you owe me £1 every time you use it) is the mythical figure of the Messiah.

Uranus sees the Messiah

Clearly drawing inspiration from Western religious mysticism, the Messiah is ill-defined, but from quick conversations between the Death Busters, as well as the Outer Senshi, the Messiah seems to be the Chosen One, the Saviour, the Redeemer etc etc. Basically, magical rainbow Jesus.

Throw in the idea of three Talismans producing the Grail to give her power, and you’re looking at the Holy Trinity.

I’ve always liked this pseudo-Judeo-Christian mythology. Seeing it from a Japanese perspective really does make it seem foreign and magical stuff. almost as though you’re describing deep and powerful descriptions of higher powers.

Hey, don’t look at me like that, I worship Odin myself.

The motif used for the Messiah, whomever she is, is butterflies and rainbows. We this a couple of times, and the most obvious is pretty heavy-handed foreshadowing in Episode 21. When Uranus actually mistakes Usagi for the Messiah, barging into the room and kicking Eugeal’s ass like a goddamn pro, it’s a tremendous, triumphant, and transcendent moment that ties together all of the religious allegory into a single awesome moment.

So what is the Messiah, exactly? Why is it Sailor Moon, the Princess of the Moon, the future Neo Queen Serenity? We’ll have to explore that in another part, I’m afraid.


Highlights/Lowlights

Clearly the best episode in Phase 2 is Episode 21 by far. It has such amazing pathos, beautiful moments between Haruka and Michiru, an unbelivably kick-ass moment from Usagi, the return of Sailor Pluto as Setsuna, great music, great art, and even great comedy, mostly from Eugeal.

Also of note is Episode 14 (has some fantastic comedy and the return of Chibi-Usa), Episode 16 (Makoto episodes are always good), Episode 17 (Haruka’s past, strange, lonely, horrifying, loving), Episode 20 (Minako goes crazy and tries to drain herself of blood) and Episode 22 (Super Sailor Moon!).

Minako

OK that’s quite a number of highlights, isn’t it? In fact Episode 15 and Episode 19 are merely enjoyable, and only Episode 18 is truly bad, as I have mentioned before.

Seriously, though, it’s super fucking bad.

Looking back, I see that the level of involvement with the characters, the humour, and the story pacing, are excellent across the board. I’ll get into the specific best moments in another entry. Stay tuned…


NEXT TIME: Awkward battle poses, evil glowing children, and YET ANOTHER GODDAMN SENSHI? Stay tuned for the next part of the Sailor Moon S retrospective.

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