Just as the show was starting to feel a little fillery, some big changes are heralded in this episode. And worry not, because this episode is solid anyway. And the animation is only getting better somehow? I wasn’t expecting that!

What do I mean by fillery? Well... I guess oddly-paced might be a better way to put it. It’s a problem that the manga has in general, but this chapter in particular is both too slow in some places and too fast in others. Plus, there’s not been much progression of what’s going on with Hotaru, for example. We haven’t learned anything new about the villains, and we’re at the point where Uranus and Neptune are just running away from the other Senshi in order to keep their story from progressing too quickly. It’s definitely a weakness in the manga story.

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But this chapter of the manga brings back Sailor Pluto, which I was looking forward to! (Friendly reminder that making “Pluto isn’t a planet” jokes about Sailor Pluto makes you an unfunny casual.) Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see either her transformation sequence or any attack animations, despite both being present in manga form. I’ll try not to be too disappointed, because I’m sure there will be lots of Pluto following this episode.

The episode starts with our college freshman Setsuna Meioh, talking to her professor in her lab about how the space around Mugenzu seems distorted for some reason. When her professor points out that such a hypothesis is outlandish, she agrees and wonders why something so sensationalist popped into her head. IT’S CAUSE YOU’RE BASICALLY THE GOD OF TIME, GIRL. Reika and Motoki (the arcade guy) pop in to invite her out for food, but Setsuna declines. On the train, they talk about Mugenzu and all the good restaurants there, but suddenly Reika doesn’t want to go anymore - she gets a creepy feeling from it, and there are bizarre clouds around its three skyscrapers.

The girl has good intuition, because as it happens, Professor Tomoe is in his lab conducting more Daimon experiments. He’s pissed about yet another “failure” when Kaolinite walks in and reminds him that they have an upcoming Skype call with the Evil Overlord soon. Out at Kaolinite’s water pool room, Pharaoh 90 is anxious. The Taioron Crystal, their source of life, is weakening. He asks how “vessel-making” is progressing, and Professor Tomoe explains that he’s trying to implant eggs into bodies that had their “Hostes” removed, but they keep turning into Daimon instead, so they’re not close to being as “perfect” as “we are.” Hmm, invasion of the body snatchers, anyone? That would explain why Tomoe is so incredibly creepy. Anyway, Pharaoh 90 tells them to get rid of the Senshi, steal Sailor Moon’s power, and make sure that pesky destruction stuff doesn’t get them. Once the Skype call is over, Tomoe wanders off, having not taken the conversation very seriously.

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This manga chapter is extremely dense with dialogue, and this scene is longer in the original. But, I’m glad this is one that got cut down a little bit, even if it deprives us of another sympathetic, humanizing moment for Kaolinite, because there are more important character moments in this chapter that survived the cutting board as a result. Anyway, Kaolinite tells the next member of the Witches 5, Tellu, to do her thing and get Hostes.

At Chibiusa’s school, her teacher announces to the class that their next assignment is to give their clay project from the previous week to a special person, like a parent or friend. This, here, is a scene that could have been cut for the sake of including more of the important stuff later, or for fleshing things out when the pace is moving too quickly. I mean, do we care about Momo and Kyusuke?? Why waste precious seconds in this episode including their dialogue? Chibiusa gets plenty of development and screen time, so this could have been trimmed down.

The point is that Chibiusa decides to give the clay Holy Grail to Hotaru as a token of their friendship. At Mugen, the other students are gossiping about her - how she’s sickly, always dressing in black and long sleeves, and has a creepy dad. Hotaru trips and drops all her books and pencils, but instead of helping her up, two bully girls make fun of her... until she crushes a metal pencil holder with one hand and glares directly at them, before calmly walking away. Whoa, yeah, maybe don’t bully Incredible Hulk here.

At Juuban, Usagi is still torn up about the situation with Haruka and Michiru. She can’t get over her desire to fight alongside them, instead of acting like they’re enemies for some reason. Makoto and Ami try to comfort her as much as they can, but all they can really do for the time being is focus on the present and see how things go. Besides, doesn’t Usagi have make-up classes to go to? Wait... wait a second, was that an Ikuhara-style visual joke?!

Afterwards, Makoto goes down to the school greenhouse for club activities and gets to talking with one of the underclassmen about the plants. He mentions a new houseplant being sold by the Mugen Botanical Garden known as a Tellun. It’s easy to grow, doesn’t need water, and glows, so naturally it’s become a big fad in Sailor Moon’s Tokyo.

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After school, the Senshi have gathered in the Crown control room. Thanks to Mercury’s investigation in the last episode, Mugen Academy has been confirmed as the main base of the Death Busters. Professor Tomoe is an obvious person of interest, but Usagi is shocked to learn that cute little Hotaru-chan from several episodes ago is his daughter. On the walk home, Makoto passes by some Tellun being sold on the street and buys one. A tag on it says it was “developed” by a student at Mugen Academy. As the girls continue on home, Setsuna stops in front of the same store and gives the plants a concerned look. Her sleeping Senshi senses are tingling!

Usagi returns home to learn that Chibiusa is about to go out into the rain to visit Hotaru, and she invites herself along. When they get to the Mugen Lab, Chibiusa brazenly lets Usagi and herself inside, only to be stopped almost immediately by Kaolinite. But Hotaru shows up to inform her not-mom that they’re her guests, and Kaolinite glares as they escape into her room.

Chibiusa presents the clay Holy Grail to Hotaru. When Usagi points out that it’s the project that her and Mamoru basically did for Chibiusa, she asks if it’s really okay not to give it to Mamoru. Chibiusa, bless her heart, says it wouldn’t be fair to Usagi to give it to him, since she helped make it too. Usagi looks a bit surprised to hear Chibiusa be so considerate - the girl has really come a long way from season 2. But Hotaru refuses the gift, saying she can’t accept something made by people who are so important to Chibiusa, and the girls are taken aback by how deep and mesmerizing Hotaru’s eyes are.

Eventually, Usagi excuses herself to the restroom. As soon as she’s gone, Hotaru has another panic attack. Chibiusa runs to her side, and Hotaru reaches up towards her brooch, the “amulet” that made her feel better earlier. Chibiusa tells her it’s called the Legendary Silver Crystal, and when Hotaru repeats the words, it comes out in a warped voice that doesn’t belong her. She snaps out of whatever it was immediately after. This scene is okay - it comes off as a lot creepier and more concerning in the manga and helps support some of the plot developments later, but whatev. That’s a nitpick, and it works here as it is.

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On the walk back to Hotaru’s room, Usagi runs into Professor Tomoe, who creeps on her and rightfully makes her anxious. Tomoe announces back at Hotaru’s room that it’s time for her “health screening,” and the girls are quickly ushered out. Usagi recalls how cold and uncomfortable Tomoe’s hand was on her shoulder - like it wasn’t a human hand. On the way home, Chibiusa has her own awkward moment, when they pass by Setsuna on the sidewalk. But it couldn’t have been Pluto, right? She’s supposed to be dead! Except for that whole cycle of rebirth thing........ hmm.

The next day, Minako visits Makoto at her apartment. It’s filled with plants, but Makoto says they haven’t been great condition lately, maybe because of the rainy weather. On her shelf is the Tellun plant she bought on the street. The girls get sleepy after some tea, and when they wake up suddenly from a table nap, they realize that the Tellun plant has budded in a manner of minutes and sucked the life out of the other plants on the shelf. Makoto, realizing that the plant is dangerous, cuts its stalk with a knife. It’s not “jump into a pool of water from a 20 story building and do a huge backflip out of the water” levels of badass, but it’s in the same spirit.

By the way, have I mentioned Makoto is reminiscing about her hot sempai during this episode? I’m passing over it because it literally has nothing to do with what’s ultimately going on with the villains. Poor Makoto, she always seems to get shafted in the episodes that focus on her. Rei, Minako, Ami, they all got to do plot-relevant stuff while still being cool and showing off their personalities, but Makoto just gets a bunch of inconsequential flashbacks about some guy we never meet and don’t care about. And stab a flower.

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Anyway, Usagi and Chibiusa are at the Mugenzu train station. (The episode doesn’t tell you where they were exactly, but that’s where they were if you’re confused.) Usagi is looking at a map of the Mugen district and notices that two of the triangle’s points have names similar to Haruka and Michiru’s family names, Ten’oh and Meioh. The other Senshi suddenly show up, having rushed there to tell Usagi that the Tellun plants are the work of the enemy, but at the same moment Haruka and Michiru walk by in the train station.

Usagi chases after them - apparently all the way to Haruka’s apartment building?! - and finds Haruka’s nameplate outside her door. With Haruka listening from inside, Usagi pleads with her to fight together with the rest of the Sailor Senshi. Haruka doesn’t open the door or answer, but she is listening. Usagi wanders back outside to sulk as the sun sets. The others find her and gently remind her that they have a job to do with the Tellun, which helps her refocus.

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This scene kinda encapsulates what I was talking about earlier, with the pacing in this episode being weird. Or maybe it’s not pacing, I’m not sure what to call it. But we just... jump around so much? One second we’re in one place, the next we’re in another, and then another. Everything happens really quickly without much time to chew the scenery or let things sink in. Like, Usagi’s in the train station one second, and then she chases after the duo and she’s in another building the next second. Was it right next to the station or something? I guess she was chasing them the entire time? It feels less jarring in the manga, although not much less, thanks to Naoko including a panel where Usagi is out of breath. We don’t get that here, though.

Anyway, time to deal with the enemy. The girls wander into the Mugen Botanical Gardens and find it full of bloomed Tellun flowers and collapsed people. The flowers start to suck their energy too and they begin to collapse. Tellu, this episode’s Witch, appears and boasts that she’s gonna steal some nice, meaty Senshi souls for the master.

Setsuna has collapsed in her lab at the university too, a Tellun plant blooming on her desk. Elsewhere, Haruka and Michiru are sensing something strange - the feeling of an ally in danger. (Crunchyroll’s subtitles say “allies,” plural, but this is wrong.) Setsuna is beginning to slip away, but then she realizes she cannot die yet - there was a reason she was born, or rather reborn, into this world. When the symbol for Pluto appears on her forehead, Mamoru senses that someone has just awakened.

YEAHHHH

But we’ve got a battle to deal with. The girls transform, and we’re graciously given a short montage instead of a 5 minute chunk of transformation filler. Once they’re done, Venus, Mars and Mercury try to combine their attacks against Tellu, but she easily dodges. When Sailor Moon tries to attack, Tellu just absorbs it. OH SHIT, a villain who knows what she’s doing! Chibimoon, wanting desperately to help everyone, silently prays to her mother in the future for some kind of attack to use - and a new rod appears for her a moment later. But of course, that attack doesn’t work against Tellu either.

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It’s worth noting that the character and effects animation here is fantastic and meshes perfectly with the high quality reused attack animations. Instead of the animators getting lazy and crunched for time as the episodes have gone on, it’s only getting better. The characters themselves seem to have dropped a lot of the excessive modern moe qualities that bothered me at the beginning of the series, like rubbery limbs and teeny tiny hands. Or maybe I got used to it. Either way, this fight looks great.

Not that it helps much, because Tellu is winning. She ensnares the Senshi in thorny vines and transforms herself into a monstrous plant-thing. Tuxedo Mask shows up in time to try to protect Chibimoon, but there’s no need - because Tellu is finally taken care of by a whispered Dead Scream. PLUTO MY GIRL is here!!!! You know, Pluto isn’t even my favorite - I just get irrationally happy whenever she shows up, since she was so underutilized in the 90's anime. I’m sure I will do the same thing, if not even more, when Sailor Saturn becomes a permanent member of the team.

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So, anyway, this episode pretty much ends the second act of this story arc, and the end of the filler-like character-focused episodes. Ami, Rei, Makoto and Minako have all got their focus episodes, and we can finally move on in the story. The next episode is based on Act 42 of the manga, and contains a lot of important information plus some of the manga’s more WTF moments. So, that should be a fun discussion! Join me next week!


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