Archive for October, 2014

Fighting Evil By Moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Episode 3

October 17, 2014

Act 3 – Sailor Mars

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Stop drop and roll Jadeite cuz you just got BURNED (hey, foreshadowing!)

Open to Jadeite getting chewed out because he’s failed twice in a row so far to obtain the Legendary Silver Crystal, and the other Dark Generals are seeing this as an opportunity to perform. Nephrite and Zoicite both offer their services. Here, we learn something interesting – Beryl has not told them what the crystal is or what it does. She replies that it’s an immensely powerful energy source…but the fact she says “not to worry about it” makes me think there’s something else to it.

Actually, given that they world for the “Dark Kingdom” and summon daemons as a normal thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up sacrificing all four of them to give the thing its initial charge.

Anyway, Jadeite gets another chance, and we cut to a girl on fire.

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No, not that one. Or that other one.

Something ominous is coming, she says.

Cut to school, where there’s a rumor about a devil bus, route 66, that if you take it at 6PM, you’re never seen again. Usagi sleeps through the gossip, and through Luna reminding her that she and Ami have a meeting…until Luna mentions it’s at the arcade at which point she’s all up on that like a marine on a stimpack. We see Ami standing next to a Sailor V poster, which makes me wonder about their Sailor Guardian powers – what exactly is it that makes them all end up in the sailor suits? Is it just that Sailor V is a popular game series, so their powers manifest as the sailor suit that V wears? And in the AU where it’s, like feudal Japan, they’d all be running around in differently colored samurai armor? Or would they always wear the sailor suits? Anyways, while Usagi’s busy gaming, Ami asks Luna what their next move is, to which the kitty replies, “protect our Princess and the Legendary Silver Crystal”. Ami’s perplexed expression indicates she doesn’t know what that is either, although she also doesn’t ask.

They leave the arcade, and Ami’s still going to cram school, which I’m going to assume is better now that the teacher from hell is gone. She mentions to Usagi that a really pretty girl is on the bus at that time, which catches her attention. As Ami gets on, Usagi notices that the route i the same one as the “devil bus”, so she hops on and-

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Now there’s a girl worth fighting for

Usagi’s is hella smitten.

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“Time to break out the L-word, Usagi.” “Lesbian?” “The other L-word.” “Lesbians?”

Meanwhile, the girl gets a vision, and Usagi is still smitten.

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She could be a part…time…MODEL!

Anyway, Hot Chick gets off, and Usagi follows her. They end up in a Shinto shrine, trying to find her. Meanwhile, cut to Hot Chick, who turns out to be a shrine maiden. She feels a great disturbance in the Force, so she operates up, exorcism spell in hand…and smacks Usagi in the face with it.

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Yu Mo Gui Gwai Fai Di Zao!

Hot Chick explains that she felt a demonic energy earlier, and mistook Usagi for the source, which is why one of the Four Rules is “always be aware of your target and what’s behind it before you shoot.” We also learn that she has two ravens named Phobos and Deimos which are pretty badass names for a pair of pets/animal familiars. Cut to people praying at the shrine. Mii-chan, one of their daughters, has gone missing. They suspect it’s the Devil Bus before running off. Here we find that Hot Chick’s name is Rei Hino. Mii-chan is a little girl that always plays at the shrine while waiting for the bus. There’s a local folklore that says there’s five hills around the area, but there’s like a sixth secret hill, and the Devil Bus vanishes there at 6PM. Locals call it being “spirited away” (no, not that one).

The next day, Usagi and Ami get matching watches. Usagi wants to visit Rei again, and Luna agrees, noting that she’s beautiful, has spiritual powers, and is a shrine maiden, so she may be the Princess.

Hold on.

So, Luna doesn’t know who the princess is either? Her, Beryl, and Tuxedo Mask are all running around blind? This is actually pretty intriguing, and I kind of want to see where they go with this.

Anyway, Ami’s gotta go to cram school, so Usagi’s on a bus by herself. Luna informs her that the watch is also a communicator (seriously where does she get these fancy toys?) and is about to say more when suddenly a wild bishounen appears! We finally find out his name, Mamoru Chiba, a high school sophomore at a private school.

Awkward silence ensues.

Cut to the shrine, and Mii-chan’s mom wants Rei to find her with magic, but Rei’s all like, “uh, my powers don’t quite do that.” She suggests calling the police, but some other bitchy lady is like “her daughter’s missing! y u no help!”

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Middle schoolers – better than the police for missing children.

So, this is interesting because it indicates that some humans have had magic powers ever since before Luna showed up and turned Usagi into Sailor Moon. Anyway, the adults then accuse her of having Mii-chan spirited away, but Usagi comes to the rescue. She offers to help Rei find the missing girl. Rei thanks her for the offer, but would rather go it alone. Later, she lights a fire and tries to locate Mii-chan with her powers. Instead, she sees someone else, and Usagi in trouble.

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The night is dark and full of terrors…but the fire burns them all away.

So she runs out, trying to find Usagi. A bus stops by, and she gets on, only to see Jadeite as the driver.

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From Dark General to bus driver. Yeah, Hell was hit pretty hard by the economic recession.

Right when recognition hits her, though, Jadeite casts sleep, which is super effective. Fortunately for Rei, he manages to drive right past Usagi, who recognizes Rei from the window. The bus speeds past her, and is about to crash into a wall, but suddenly a portal opens up. So Usagi chases after the bus, and uses the pen to transform…into a flight attendant? She jumps up and catches on the the back, but drops Luna in the process. Good thing Tuxedo Mask is there to catch her. He’s too late to follow Usagi, but is starting to confirm that yes, Usagi can do that transformation thing.

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I’m sure he’s just trying to get to Platform 9 and 3/4

Cut to Ami at the cram school, getting a call on her watch. It’s Luna, telling her Usagi’s in trouble. Oh Luna, is there anything you can’t do? Also cut to the…Hell dimension, I guess? Jadeite’s got a whole bunch of unconscious people, all hostages to lure out the Sailor Guardians. Meanwhile, Usagi’s stumbling around, demoralized because no one’s there to help her, until she gets a call. Ami and Luna are actually smart and know how to do things, and they suggest Usagi transform so they can pinpoint the magical energy. This works, both girls are transformed, and now it’s time to go on the counterattack. Just in time, too, because Jadeite is being a total creeper right now.

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I’ve seen enough hentai to know where this is going

Fortunately for Rei, Usagi is there to cockblock him (I guess…do demons have cocks in this setting?). Mercury opens with a mist, and calls out to Usagi to save the kids while under cover of fog, but Jadeite reveals he has freezing powers. The mist condenses, depriving both Sailor Guardians of cover. Ah well, what did you expect, Sailor Mercury? This is Mars’s highlight episode, so none of you are allowed to be useful. Anyway, Jadeite blasts both of them with ice. By this point, Rei wakes up though, and grapples with him, which given that Jadeite is some kind of super daemon lord thing, only amuses the guy.

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I think you should just…let it go~

Too bad for him, Rei’s powers chooses that point to manifest themselves into sweet burnination. Luna tosses her a pen sceptre thing, and she becomes Sailor Mars. There’s this heavy rock guitars motif going on during her transformation sequence that I like, in contrast to the strings and choir chanting for Moon and Mercury’s transformations.

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Need a light?

Jadeite tries blasting her with ice, dating this show because everyone who grew up in the post-Pokemon era knows that fire is super effective against ice. Mars no-sells the attack, then goes all Sozin’s Comet on his ass, forcing him to run away.

Cut to the police, and all the children being recovered.

Thoughts

I rather liked this episode. Ami’s episode was a tad generic, and even if you didn’t know anything about this series, you would have been able to predict that it was gonna be “down-to-earth everygirl befriends nerdy girl, and nerdy girl is going to save the day, affirming both girls’ friendships”. This one actually is a little less stock; Rei has a bit more self-confidence going on, but there’s some subtle vulnerabilities there too. You can see that she is kind of lonely by herself, and you get hints that it’s because of her powers that 1. alienates other people to her and 2. makes her unsure of where she fits in society. Her status as a shrine maiden gives her a sort of authority, but with that comes responsibilities that, being a teenager, she isn’t really ready for. When people accuse her of shady things, you can see that she’s hurt by it, but she’s too proud and dignified to show it. Push comes to shove, though, she gets right down to it. Seriously, her vs. Jadeite could basically be paraphrased, like-

Jadeite: hahaha silly human your meat-hands cannot harm me

Mars: FUCK YOU I HAVE MAGIC

Anyway, that’s the long version of the characterization front. The short version is…maybe this reminds me just a little bit of another story about a girl with magic powers who feels repressed by them and needed the power of love and friendship to feel accepted and at peace with her powers, eventually saving the day.

As far as world-building goes, this episode is alright. We confirm that everyone is stumbling in the dark. Which could work, because that way we’re discovering things at the same pace as the characters, and avoids situations where characters suddenly randomly explain things that should be basic knowledge to them for the benefit of the audience. Also, it raises interesting questions about people who have had magic powers just on their own. Are they all Sailor Guardians? Are there more of them across the world? Are they just candidates but need Luna’s magic touch to make them full-blown Sailors? Is this just kind of going to get skipped over?

Usagi’s relative uselessness is getting annoying, though. Hoping that gets better once the team’s introductory episodes are up.

Until next ep.

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Fighting Evil By Moonlight – Let’s Watch Sailor Moon Crystal, Ep 2

October 11, 2014

Act 2 – Sailor Mercury

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Open to a shot of mild mannered middle school student Ami Mizuno, having a Good Will Hunting moment. Everyone else is in awe at her intelligence. Apparently she has an IQ of 300. Unfortunately, being smart means she has no friends. Also, only 300? That’s wayyyy less than Alakazam’s IQ of 5000. Get it together, Ami.


Yeah, Ami. Get it together.

Cut to Queen Beryl’s lair, where someone’s getting chewed out. It’s Jadeite – one of the Four Dark Kings, or something to that effect. He leaves and calls up a Youma – ok, so like a demon – to gather more soul power.

Cut to Usagi’s house, Luna warns Usagi that there’s going to be more Youma attacks. Usagi is demoralized, because the fight from the previous episode was scary, before realizing something the show forgot and asking exactly is a Youma. Luna confirms that they are, indeed, like demons – things that are not supposed to exist. Alright, so we’re doing the gradual revealing of the worldbuilding thing. I can get behind this.

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Beware the mutant, the alien, the Youma.

Anyways, Luna says to look for allies, and not surprisingly Usagi thinks of boys. Unperturbed, Luna reveals that she’s been browsing Facebook – I mean, uh, scouting out potential allies. She’s got a lead and…the cat knows how to use a computer wut.

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i can haz sailor guardian?

Cut to the class rankings, where we see that Ami’s apparently the highest ranked student in all of Japan. Also, the joys of kanji – her last name is “Water Wild”. Nerdface from the previous episode pops in to tell us that Ami goes to Crystal Academy, which is the top cram school in the nation.

So, cultural tidbit – in Asia, your grades are everything – you take an exam that determines what middle school you can go to, and another to determine what high school, and the most important one after that, to determine what college you go to. You wanna talk about high-stakes testing in the US, it’s got nothing on the bookworm brawl that is Asia’s college entrance exams. Thus, lots of people pay to go to cram school, where they do nothing but review for the exam. Like TestMasters…when TestMasters grows up and eats its wheaties.

And now I must thank my dear mum and dad, for moving to the US and thus sparing me from the horrors of the East Asian education system.


I’ve seen some shit, man. You don’t even know.

Anyway, Ami watches people talk about her from afar…you know, Ami, it wouldn’t kill you to socialize every once in a while. Cut to Usagi, walking home from school with her latest report card…jeez Usagi, how do you get a 52 in Japanese? That’s your native language! Suddenly, though, she happens upon Ami, playing with the kitty, which gives her an in to start making friends.

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Cats, the best wing-people

Anyway, Ami hands Luna back and receives a vision in the meantime. Usagi, meanwhile, asks Ami out on an arcade date.

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Not sempai…but close enough

They play the Sailor V game. Usagi dies early…but Ami is beating the shit out of that game. Heh, awesome by analysis! For her victory, she wins a sparkly pen…but Usagi wants one too so she shakes the machine until it drops one as well. The rest of the day goes pretty good. We learn that Ami wants to be a doctor, so presumably her high-expectations Asian father is satisfied.

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Cut to Ami at the prep school. The teacher hands her a CD and tells her that she needs to work through it if she wants to study hard and become a doctor. Teacher’s a youma, isn’t she? Yep, totally a Youma.

The next day, school’s let out, and Usagi wants to get some ice cream with friends, but one of her friends ignores her, just walking past while muttering numbers. We learn that she goes to Crystal Academy also. Usagi approaches Ami as well, but Ami says she can’t because she has to study.

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Do you wanna get some ice cream? It doesn’t have to be an ice cream…

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Go away Usagi

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Okay bye…

Ami leaves the CD behind, though, so Usagi pockets it thinking it might make her smarter. As she walks home, she notices the Crystal Academy teacher handing out flyers. It fails to hold her attention, though, and soon she tosses over her shoulder…which hits Bishounen McDreamy in the face, in one of her not-proudest moments. He snarks at her (isn’t it usually the girl who’s supposed to be tsundere?) and then asks the million-dollar-question: did your cat just talk?

Luna freaks out, which now intrigues me – so it seems like she doesn’t know anything about Tuxedo Mask or his civilian identity. I was previously under the impression that she at least knew a little bit. Anyway, they go home, Usagi tries to investigate the CD but finds it’s just a normal prep disc. Frustrated, she hits some random keys…and suddenly subliminal messaging plays.

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Achievement Unlocked: Yvan Eht Nioj

Usagi operators up to the cram school…it’s okay girl, it’s Japan, the guards don’t have guns there. Luna tells her she needs to find a way to get in somehow, so Usagi pulls out the pen and transforms…into a doctor. Wait, is that part of her powerset also? Is that a power the pen has? Or are they part of her Sailor Moon powers? Whatever, I’m just going to roll with it.

Cut to inside the school, where teacher is in full on Tiger mode. Solve the problems, Ami. WHY AREN’T YOU SOLVING THEM FASTER, AMI. Ami, for her part, does what she can, but then her eyes fall on the pen from the arcade, which remind her of friendship. Teacher notices and throws the pen away, but suddenly Sailor Moon and Luna dynamic entry into the room!

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Pictured: Luna dive-tackling a mofo. Not pictured: Luna body-checking her so hard that she gets knocked over. The cat so far has demonstrated far superior combat skills to everyone else in this show.

Usagi continues with the doctor act, saying she’s been investigating what’s going on, and reveals that she knows what’s up and won’t allow the youma-teacher to twist a student’s pure ambition any more, to which teacher responds by transforming into her demonic form. Although I have to say here, this is the first time I’ve ever heard “ambition” described as a “pure” and good emotion in a fictional work. Usually it’s reserved for the bad guys, because it’s their ambition that made them walk the path of evil in the first place, like Commodus from Gladiator or the entirety of Slytherin House bar Slughorn. Being that “ambition is evil” is a trope I actually really dislike, so by averting that…good for you, show!

Anyways, Usagi fails a morale check, but her buns make some kind of sonic waves attack as well. Unfortunately it’s not very effective, and youma-teacher fights back by shooting paper at her. So, Usagi…if you can be defeated by wads of paper…maybe it’s time for some karate classes? Youma-teacher moves in for the kill, but the power of friendship manifests and brings out Ami’s inner guardian potential. A few words from Luna, and Sailor Mercury makes her debut.

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Mmmmmwater! (Alternate caption: “if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it”)

Alright, so Luna’s dialogue confirms that she’s really searching for people who might have the sailor power in them. So..is it like everyone has the potential to be a Sailor Guardian, and they just need supervision and an impetus for the powers to manifest? Or is it like there’s only a couple of slots, and whoever manifests it first, that takes out everyone else’s chances? And most importantly – what exactly happens if we suddenly decide that Mercury is no longer a planet?

Anyway, Mercury wastes no time throwing herself into battle, calling up a mist that shrouds everything. This isn’t a bad idea, and actually fits very well – she’s the brains of the group, so it makes thematic sense that her special attack is a support move that makes the enemy less effective. Youma-teacher can’t see anything…but Usagi’s panicked screaming gives her away. But, Tux saves her in time, and she Moon Tiara Boomerangs the youma-teacher into oblivion.

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Looks like school’s out for the summer.

Cut to Jadeite looking displeased before walking away, and then to Ami and Usagi, friends for life.

Thoughts:

Good introduction to the second of the Sailor Guardians. I like the gradual revealing of worldbuilding aspects. We now know that Sailor Guardians are identified by having the vision of a White-House-looking building, and also that Tuxedo Mask apparently doesn’t really know anything about them either. Seems like he’s searching just like Luna and Beryl are.

Until next ep.