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4:12 – Try for the Best of Japan! The Worries of a Beautiful Girl Swordsman

Alternative Title: Samurai Bridge Troll

First Aired: 17th June 1995

Tigers-Ete Toei logo

Miharu is training to become Japan’s best swordsman, and to that end she’s living under a bridge with the goal of one day defeating her abusive mother in combat. After Tigers-Eye convinces her to become his student, Usagi and Chibi-Usa step in to save Miharu’s life, and her strained relationship with her mother. Also Tigers-Eye is totally a paedophile you guys.

Spoiler alert for child abuse, sexual assault and… paedophilia? Are you fucking kidding me, Sailor Moon?

P-R-O-B-L-E-M-A-T-I-C.

I remember hating this episode. Indeed, hot on the heels of the last one, I can see why my lasting memory of Sailor Moon SuperS has always been boredom tinged with minor revulsion. Such is the case here. This is a hackneyed plot that feels ripped off other anime. Indeed Miharu’s design looks completely alien to Sailor Moon. I’m so used to this show setting a tone of originality in mid-90s anime that this is, to say the least, disappointing.

There’s also a very confused narrative in here, with the message that no matter how abusive your mother is to you, they love you really and it’s for your own good. That’s… not healthy at all.

All that would be fine enough if it weren’t for the frankly disturbing line they take with Tigers-Eye. So he’s not just a chauvinist rapist idiot. He’s flat out a paedophile… fantastic.

There may be an explanation to all this, by and by. The Sailor Moon wiki informs me that the writer of this episode is one Mutsu Nakano, and this is the only episode she ever wrote for the show. Probably goes some way to explain why it feels completely alien to Sailor Moon.

I should warn you, I’m going to criticise the hell out of this episode because I love Sailor Moon. You’ve got to hold everything up to account at the same standard, especially the things you love the most. This is a fuck-up and I’m going to call them out on it.

Anyway, the episode opens up like an old samurai movie. Except, of course, for the presence of the ultra-moe Hatsune Miku prototype Miharu. I actually rather enjoyed this opening, as it happens. The animation is actually rather decent throughout, and I love the muted 1960s-film style quality to the colouring. Seems especially contradictory to the big-eyes small-mouth style of our Sailor Senshi.

The unexpected beginnings of a vocaloid idol

The unexpected beginnings of a vocaloid idol

So yeah, little girl obviously wins because this is anime. Rei and Makoto kindly explain in an exposition dump that this little girl has been sleeping under a goddamn bridge taking on all challengers to test her swordsmanship. She’s apparently beaten 10 men so far.

Question 1: Who the fuck are these roaming ronin in 1995 Tokyo coming up to a 7-year-old who lives under a bridge and challenges her to a goddamn kendo fight in a field? How about taking her to a shelter?

"Stab him, little girl! STAB THE PATRIARCHY"

“Stab him, little girl! STAB THE PATRIARCHY”

Enter Chibi-Usa, naturally, who wishes to become Miharu’s disciple to learn the ways of the Force etc etc. As Miharu begins to explain that she cannot possibly take on a pupil since she is not yet the strongest swordsperson in Japan, I actually begin to rather like her. Sure she looks like a complete alien to the Sailor Moon aesthetic, and I’m saying this as she’s standing next to a girl with pink hair and red eyes from the future, but she’s rather adorable nevertheless.

Either way, Miharu is won over by the offer of 3 meals a day and a nap. Which tells me that she’s probably been eating out of a dumpster. So it’s off to Usagi’s house, where her room is turned into a dojo. it’s rather funny how quickly this happened, but it seems to me that Usagi’s bedroom is twice or three times as large as it was previously.

Usagi moans briefly, but is won over by Miharu’s earnest honesty and integrity. As am I, really.

GOSH SHE'S ADORABLE but seriously how bad does she smell right now after living under a bridge am I right?

GOSH SHE’S ADORABLE but seriously how bad does she smell right now after living under a bridge am I right?

Hey holy shit it’s Shingo and Ikuko. Don’t worry, Shingo only has like 2 lines, which makes me wonder why the hell the Seiyuu bothered to turn up at the studio. Ikuko is very motherly to little Miharu, and asks about her parents, obviously worried that she’s harbouring a run-away at best or a kidnapping victim at worst.

As if to ensure that we know how tragic Miharu is as a figure, we discover that her father is totes dead and her mother is a traumatic stuttering flashback. Quite a condition. So yes, let’s lay the groundwork: Miharu is an emotionally and physically abused child. The job of moving Miharu’s mother into a flattering light at this point would be nigh-on impossible you might think.

Aaaaand you’d be right.

"Mihaaaaruuu... Mihaaaruuu... turn on the light, Miharu, Mother can't see shiiiiiiit"

“Mihaaaaruuu… Mihaaaruuu… turn on the light, Miharu, Mother can’t see shiiiiiiit”

Note: Luna is smiling vacantly in Usagi’s arms like a stuffed doll. She says nothing. She has no lines. Please, someone, if you’re nearby, check that cat is still breathing.

Ok, some BIG problems coming up next.

Tigers-Eye is a paedophile. I say this with confidence because he’s sitting at a bar, sipping whisky, looking at a picture of an 8 year old girl, complimenting her “pointy nose” and “small mouth”, calling her cute as he taps slowly on her face, saying he wants to “harass” her because of her strong will, then strongly intimating that he’s going to seduce her.

Also, look at his fucking face.

Nope. Nope. Nopety nope nope. Nope. Nope. Nuh-uh. Nope.

Nope. Nope. Nopety nope nope. Nope. Nope. Nuh-uh. Nope.

The other two are completely fine with this, by the way. I should note that in several episodes time it will be shown that Fish-Eye is also a paedophile, so yeah. What I’m trying to say is what-the-fuckity-fuck-is-wrong-with-you-Sailor-Moon. Who the hell do I blame? The one-time writer? The episode director? The series director? Who the hell signed this episode off? The term “filler” episode does not mean “fill with sexually deviant and horrifying implications”. GOOD LORD, PEOPLE.

Ok, so the awkward part is all done. Right? Right?

Naww Miharu about to get beaten by her mother in a field with a stick. Awesome.

"JESUS CHRIST MA, PUT ON SOME UNDERWEAR"

“JESUS CHRIST MA, PUT ON SOME UNDERWEAR”

I should point out that Super-Dick-Mum’s voice actor comes back in Sailor Stars as Sailor Star Fighter, so yeah, one extra reason to hate that dipshit.

I’ve so turned against this episode but gotta keep truckin’. I will say that I love every moment of animation for Usagi. The animator is Ikuko Itoh, one of the best animators for the show, and you can tell she’s a veteran at drawing Usagi at this point. She looks effortlessly perfect as she stands in to defend Miharu from getting beaten up by her dick mother.

"Lady, I don't know who you are, but could you please stop beating your kid and put your vagina away, I really don't mind which order you do that in."

“Lady, I don’t know who you are, but could you please stop beating your kid and put on some underwear, I really don’t mind which order you do that in.”

Miharu explains to Usagi and Chibi-Usa (I still don’t know how they relate to this story whatsoever, they feel so removed from the narrative at this point) that her mother dislikes her dream of becoming the strongest swordsperson in Japan. Hence why she beats her with a stick and laughs at her pain in front of strangers. Miharu is so traumatised at telling Usagi and Chibi-Usa this that she remembers when she was even smaller (if it were possible) of her mother comforting her while crying.

This is legit child abuse, guys. This woman needs a jail sentence or something. This entire plot feels… naive in the extreme.

"Miharu, one day Mommy is going to go crazy from all the syphilis in her brain and she'll try to beat you with a stick, so you've got to put me down. There's a good girl."

“Miharu, one day Mommy is going to go crazy from all the syphilis in her brain and she’ll try to beat you with a stick, so you’ve got to put me down for my own good. There’s a good girl, here’s an onion.”

Usagi, deciding to butt-in because of course she does, goes to Stick Queen’s mansion with Chibi-Usa, cue a solid 4 minutes of the two screaming “EXCUSE ME” at the door trying to get her attention. At first it’s funny, then it’s annoying, then it goes on so long that it’s funny again. I did chuckle when the mother turned up behind them, having been out shopping anyway.

Yeah it's total padding to flesh out the run time, but my word these Seiyuu were dedicated to those screams

Yeah it’s total padding to flesh out the run time, but my word these Seiyuu were dedicated to those screams

Sooooooo their reprimands are less based on the fact that beat the shit out of her daughter with a bokken and more just generally on her being a dick. As much as dislike her, I have to admire the way she just slammed the door in their faces.

Right, so, Tigers-Eye turns up looking like…

"Fuck it I quit" - character designer

“Fuck it I quit” – character designer

…what.

Where are you going with this, dude? So, he begins by hitting on her (WHYYYY), before immediately deciding to try and bind her to the table (IT’S NEVER SEEMED MORE WROOOONG). I did like that Miharu sensed an evil presence and turned around. It was a nice spin on the usual shtick, and it really helped make Miharu a proactive character. Even amongst all this mess.

So Tigers-Eye’s next plan is to defeat her in battle. By cheating, of course. His stupid tiger-striped bokken has an extendable end. Miharu doesn’t realise the deception and begs to be allowed to become this stranger who is probably-not-a-paedophile’s student.

There's an extended joke about Tigers-Eye not knowing his Japanese history and generally being a twat, but it's not that interesting

There’s an extended joke about Tigers-Eye not knowing his Japanese history and generally being a twat, but it’s not that interesting

Like something out of a crime re-enactment (shudder), Tigers-Eye leads Miharu away from the river up to a secluded park. Good lord.

Meanwhile Usagi wonders if Miharu’s mother might be a good person after all. Usagi, I’ll not mess about, you’re not the best judge of character. Remember that one time you hit on Jadeite? I did like that as Usagi ponders, Chibi-Usa is having none of it.

Again, super cute animation on a really dodgy subject.

"What if-" "No. "But-" "No." "Look girl, I need a happy resolution to this story, ok?"

“What if-“
“No.
“But-“
“No.”
“Look girl, I need a happy resolution to this story, ok?”

I will say though, if there’s one person who could understand being cruel to your children in a misplaced attempt to make them stronger, it’s Usagi. This is the woman who distanced herself from her kid, Chibi-Usa, to make her a “strong independent Princess”. This is a common position to take in Japanese parenting. Research shows they have a high incidence of Insecure-Resistant attachments between children and their mother, stemming from an emotionally inconsistent approach to mothering, giving affection then withholding it because you think you’ll make them needy.

I can’t blame cultural differences for what I perceive as a a chronicle failure in parenting, but I have to call this as I see it, and I see this as messed up and confused, especially when Usagi says that there’s not a mother out there that doesn’t love her child. Hey, you know what, there are. Excusing abuse as a form of love is highly destructive.

That was depressing wasn't it? Here's a picture of Usagi looking frustrated but flushed to help you smile again.

That was depressing wasn’t it? Here’s a picture of Usagi looking frustrated but flushed to help you smile again.

Meanwhile, Makoto and Rei spot Tigers-Eye abducting Miharu in the park. What a missed opportunity, I would have liked to see so much more of them in this episode. What do these guys talk about when it’s just those two hanging out? That’s what I really want to see.

Tigers-Eye gets Miharu onto his Binding Table of Horror by telling her to close her eyes for her training, and not to open them until he says, and that she should trust him. I can’t… I can’t handle this any more you guys… make it stop… please…

Preeeetty sure posting this will somehow get me onto a government watch list of some kind

Preeeetty sure posting this will somehow get me onto a government watch list of some kind

Oh yeah, just to twist the blade right at the end, Tigers-Eye then victim-blames, telling Miharu that it was her stupidity and trust that made her blind to the deception. Naw dude, it’s because you an evil-undead-space-circus-human-animal-hybrid-magic-paedophile-rapist.

Right, the Sailor Senshi are here. Please smash his balls in. Man this is a cool shot, eh? Good on you Itoh, you still got it.

"We've arrived! Look how cool we are! We apologise for the quality of the writing in this episode up to this point."

“We’ve arrived! Look how cool we are! The Sailor Senshi would like to apologise for the quality of the writing in this episode up to this point.”

Today’s Remless is Ayatoriko, mast of strings. That’s a thing? I rather like this one. It’s a cat’s cradle monster! I loved this game as a kid. She chants in a creepy way that’s quite satisfying, although her powers are ill-defined – her strings can pretty much do anything they wish.

It’s rather cool, actually.

"I dropped out of law school for this?"

“I dropped out of law school for this!”

Miharu wakes up at this point and decides to fight, which I really liked. It’s cool to see a human try to fight back against the monster for once, despite her being initially outmatched. Miharu has great initiative. Nice to see after all her power was taken away from her by a creep-zilla.

Also, Sailor Moon Wiki tells me this is the last time Jupiter ever uses Supreme Thunder, so RIP one of my favourite attacks. It’s even useful here, actually hitting the enemy! Rare.

Heeey it's Jupiter-chan looking all cool and shit! First time this season I think? Blimey, Sailor Moon SuperS is a slog

Heeey it’s Jupiter-chan looking all cool and shit! First time this season I think? Blimey, Sailor Moon SuperS is a slog

After some nice bit of action with Jupiter saving Miharu from falling string ladders (very nicely animated, this battle is the highlight of the show for once), Sailor Mars has a cunning plan. Well it’s a bit of a Deus Ex Machina actually. She challenges “Ayatoriko-chan” to make a 6-rung ladder out of strings, which I take is impossible to do anyway. It’s a good bit of humour watching this Remless suffer ego-death.

"I dropped out of law school for THIS?"

“Oh my life really is that empty after all.”

The climax of the climax comes as the Senshi are all tied up (what else is new?) as Miharu has her sword wound up by Ayatoriko with her strings. She refuses to let go of her bokken in a tug of war, before she comes to… some sort of philisophical realisation of something her mother was trying to teach her (?????????) and lets go of her sword, which smashes into the poor Remless’ face.

"GUYS I LEARNED A LESSON I THINK?"

“GUYS I LEARNED A LESSON I THINK?”

Ayatoriko gets Moon Gorgeous Meditation-ed, all’s right with the world. Miharu brightly says that she’s never had such an absurd battle before, which I really rather liked.

The conclusion is… ugh. Miharu calls her mother out for another battle. Now wearing something that doesn’t flash vagina constantly, she rushes towards her daughter and falls into a pit Miharu dug, which gives Miharu time to explain what she learned – that she shouldn’t just be obsessed with kendo, that she needs to try other things too.

…so that’s why you beat her and let her sleep under a bridge, letting her be so vulnerable as to follow a stranger to a secluded park?

…ok?

"Miharu, I appear to have fallen into a plot hole."

“Miharu, I appear to have fallen into a plot hole.”

This last shot looks nice, I do like it when we get these mother-daughter moments between Usagi and Chibi-Usa, but it’s just so mistimed. What a weird episode.

Horrid story, great art, good animation, decent fight, some of the most fucked up concepts ever used in Sailor Moon… a mixed bag to say the least.

*voice over* "Miharu was never seen again

*voice over* “Miharu was never seen again”


 

 

FINAL SCORE: 1/5 (Brief moments of enjoyability were not enough to salvage this. A hot mess)

MONSTER SCORE: 4/5 (Oddly, I loved Ayatoriko and her kid’s game chanting)

FINAL THOUGHT: I want to never again think about this episode

NEXT TIME: MINISKIRTS. Fish-Eye makes things fabulous and weird again.

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8 Comments »

  1. Oh my god, this episode. This… is a fiasco. Child abuse = never okay. Come on Usagi, knack it off!

    That being said, there were a few random things I noticed…

    First off, mum looks like Kaorinite. Totally adds to her creepy factor, given how horrid she was to Hotaru in the S anime, psychologically torturing her. (On that note, can you really blame Mistress 9 for her first act being to fry Kaorinite to death??)

    Hell yes for the Inner Senshi being useful, but their power upgrade is long overdue.

    No Tux! No Tux! No Tux!

    WHY TIGER’S-EYE NO DON’T EFFING TOUCH THAT CHILD NO UGH AT THIS POINT YOU AREN’T EVEN LOOKING FOR PEGASUS ARE YOU AND WHY DO YOU WANT THAT HORSE ANYWAY UNLESS YOUR BEAUTIFUL DREAM IS TO RUN OFF AND JOIN NAMBLA ON A PAEDOPHILIC HORSE OR SOME CREEPY SHIT LIKE THAT

    You know, the Supers manga isn’t exactly super, ha (the first half is great, but the climactic battle toward the end just doesn’t work for me), but the manga is a zillion times better than *this*. You finally get to know the Senshi, that horse isn’t as significant and is early-on revealed to be a person who is both cursed to look like that and also stuck in an extended adolescence just like Chibi-Usa, and while the Amazon Trio are still creeping on 16-17 year-olds, they’re monsters-of-the-day. In fact the first thing they say is what their dreams are, which renders the first 20 or so episodes of the anime completely moot.

    Finally, unicorns need more bacon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4KQjaYyDSI

      • I’m sure reviewing SuperS is a legit chore. Hell, I’m sure just the act of writing the anime script itself was a chore once the overall plot was drafted. I don’t know how they got what they got from the source material. Naoko’s omission of the Outer Senshi in the first half of the manga was a difficult author’s choice, but she chose to fill the first six or so Acts with what seemed to be her making up for the fact that the readers hardly got to know Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus, providing exposition for each character and some semblance of explanation for their motives along with many lovely group interactions. There’s a lot of meaning written into each page, and the lore of Sailor Moon blossoms (at least until they get to those stupid princess power castles or whatever else Bandai demanded at the time). It’s rather a travesty that the anime direction focuses its attention away from the Sailor Senshi and instead on these rando people of the day.

        It really begs the question of what really motivates the Amazon Trio, and later the Amazones Quartet. The Trio, I can KIND OF get, if only because they hash out the sort of plan that I’d come up with if I were working while intoxicated and given an assignment, although granted I wouldn’t go through the painstakingly tedious procedure of seducing and mentally tormenting random people for the hell of it. Their assignment for something like 30 episodes is to “find Pegasus” and like… Pegasus is pretty much always there, they see Chibi-Moon summoning the stupid horse, and they just don’t seem to get it! The fact that the viewer KNOWS that Chibi-Moon is the keeper of the MacGuffin from practically the very beginning just ruins the suspense; at least in S, when the Death Busters are trying to get the Talismans, the viewer is unaware that Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are the keepers of them. It’s the same problematic feature that, as you pointed out, makes Mimette’s arc so boring; by design, it’s all or nothing for the Death Busters, either they get the Pure Heart or they don’t, and we know that it’s highly unlikely that Mimette will succeed given that there are still three Witches, Kaorinite, Tomoe, Pharaoh 90, and Mistress 9 to contend with. The success of the Amazon Trio, or of the Quartet, would effectively end the series, resulting in the final battle. If filler is defined as episodes which do not expand the plot, then other than the deaths of the Trio and the Super upgrades of the Senshi, SuperS is literally an entire series of watered-down filler. A series of filler can be done well if things change and characters evolve; that’s the way How I Met Your Mother survived as long as it did, although I never cared for the program.

        If you’re going to make filler, then make it good! For example, watching Kunzite try so hard to lure the Senshi with his silly plot contrivances was entertaining, the Senshi really shone, the monsters were original and threatening, and Tuxedo Mask was both out of the picture as the omnipresent savior of the group; his capture and possession motivated the Senshi who were overtly aware that Kunzite and EnDOOMion lured and fought the Senshi specifically to kill them. Watching the squabbles of the Weirdo Sisters from R while they tried to kill Rabbit, disrupted history by corrupting important landmarks in a future city… That was quality filler! (Also, by design, Esmeraude could not succeed, and the Senshi’s lack of cognizance of the 30th Century rendered her whole arc moot. Even then, though, there were some great episodes ABOUT the Senshi, not about random ass strangers with problems, and some of my favorite episodes centered on Venus and Mercury in Esmeraude’s Arc of Bullshit, Ohohohoho, and Awkward Bathing.)

        It’s the same problem with Stars. In the manga, the Sailor Animates specifically hunted the Senshi to kill them; the anime’s failure to adequately explain the connection between “Star Seeds” and Sailor Crystals aka Real!Star Seeds aka Eternal MacGuffin Codswallop Starseed Moon rendered so much of the story completely useless, and only Lead Crow being as kickass as she was, along with the final episodes being heavily focused on each Inner Senshi, really justifies the existence of the remaining arc (prior to Galaxia making everything go boom).

        SuperS is when the anime’s writers decided its viewers were far less intelligent than they were, and its poor ratings and truncated tenure were testament to what a poor mistake the director made. (Stars is when the anime decided to rebrand itself as Super Sailor Star Rapey Ranma 1/2 x 3 and failed hilariously.)

  2. “Research shows….”

    I had good laugh with this one, it was just so random.

    Anyway, I have to agree with this review. This is one of the three most odd – and weak – episodes of the entire season, and one which does not do SuperS justice (the other two being that boy with a flying bike and that boy who wants to jump in sports). This was very lazy writing, they placed no effort into this, and as a result we got an empty filler episode. Also, the mother-daughter relationship in this episode is so distorted you don’t know what to say. If it was done for laughs, or as a parody of some sort, maybe it could have worked – maybe I say – but since it is played straight, it seems misguided. But the next episode is great, and luckily compensates for this one.

    • Oh man, you picked the other two episodes that stand out as particularly awful for me in SuperS. I’m dreading coming to those again. And as you say, the nest episode is rather good, isn’t it? Not least because I love the Remless…

  3. Well, these three – plus that one episode with the cook – are the ‘Four horsemen of the apocalypse’ of SuperS season, and should have been scraped altogether. Luckily, on the upside, there are some genuine classics for all time coming up soon, not least the one involving the final appearance of the Amazon Trio.

  4. This episode was just strange, and bad. We’re supposed to believe some little girl is a master swordsman who lives alone? And that people find her and challenge her? And then the relationship with her mother is so weird. The whole concept here is so bizarre.

    And why is she a tiny little girl? She’s smaller than Chibiusa, and that’s really saying something. Wouldn’t it make a little more sense if she was closer to Usagi’s age and size, or at least Hotaru’s?

    And then Tigerseye, wtf. It’s like… I get the premise that for whatever reason, they need to “seduce” or gain the trust of the target before they can access the Dream Mirror. It makes sense that Tigerseye, in his own weird way, finds a way to gain her trust before attacking her. BUT WHY IS HE CALLING HER CUTE AND ATTRACTIVE AND LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SO MUCH.

    I liked it in other episodes where two of them were like “ugh, I’m not going to enjoy doing this one” and the third one said “I actually might have a good approach for this”, such as Hawkseye taking on the older woman. Why didn’t that happen here? Nope, Tigerseye was all about going after the little kid.

    It wasn’t super uncomfortable because they obviously are never planning anything sexual. But it was super weird and just made no sense. This is probably the least coherent Sailor Moon story ever written.

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