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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.