With the Outer Senshi united, some of the secrecy finally gets pulled away in this week’s episode. But Hotaru’s situation is getting worse and worse, and the tension between the Outers and Inners is rising. Also, cyborgs.
The last episode ended with Sailor Pluto making her big entrance after saving everyone from Tellu, the second to last member of the Witches 5. Chibimoon can’t believe what she’s seeing - the last time she saw Pluto, she was dead. It was the impetus for her awakening as a Senshi, actually. And yet here she is... very, very not dead.
As Sailor Pluto explains to Chibimoon that she was reborn thanks to the power of Neo Queen Serenity, Sailor Moon suddenly transforms into her Princess persona - except she’s wearing Neo Queen Serenity’s crown. I think this was an extra addition from the manga, but I like it. It’s like Usagi is slowly becoming the queen-elect!
The three Outer Senshi bow before her, which is pretty odd considering they were running away in the previous episode, and apologize for their “rudeness.” I guess now that Pluto is here, they can be honest instead of aloof and secretive? The Outers explain that their role is to watch over the Earth from afar and defend it from outside threats. They watched over the Silver Millennium too and were granted rebirth after its downfall. However, the current villains - who are aliens from the Tau Star System, which was the name of the “mini-galaxy” Ami saw in Mugen Academy - managed to invade Earth before they had awakened. Haruka and Michiru had posed as Mugen students to try to investigate them, but ever since they helped Ami a few episodes ago, the school has caught on to their refusal to join the hivemind.
Neptune apologizes to Sailor Moon for getting them “involved.” But when Sailor Moon answers that it’s fine and they’re willing to help, the offer is rebuked. The Outers see this problem as theirs to solve and don’t want help. Uranus even blunty says they’re “in the way,” which Jupiter in particular does not seem to like.
And then, well... this is an interesting moment. If you’ve been wondering “what” exactly Uranus/Haruka is, the show just comes out and says it... sort of. Crunchyroll’s day one subtitles are extremely awkward and not entire accurate, but Neptune explains that Uranus is “both a man and a woman” and possesses the strengths of both genders. Some people have interpreted this (and its identical line from the manga) as meaning that Haruka is bigender or genderqueer. Others have scrambled to explain it away, arguing that such concepts did not exist in Japan in the 90's when Naoko Takeuchi wrote the manga and that Neptune might’ve meant it figuratively, especially with the comment about “strengths.” I think she’s obviously not entirely cisgender - she intentionally dresses and poses as a boy, and does not correct others when they mistake her as male, while intentionally dressing and posing as a female other times. But for the most part, I don’t really care about the exact label that should be applied to her. Conversations like this - Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 comes to mind - always distract from what makes the character so great and boils things down into words and labels. I’ll pass.
Tuxedo Mask calls them out and asks if the special, powerful items they have are the Talismans they’ve been hearing about. Sailor Mars points out that they’ve been told not to collect them together. But without addressing that, Neptune curtly explains that the Talismans are for fulfilling their mission: defeating the Deity of Destruction, the Outer Senshi’s greatest enemy.
This episode already feels so much smoother than the last one. We’ve been on this one scene for the entire episode so far!
The next day, Usagi is late for school, as usual. Mugen Academy is on the news again, and this time, it’s being blamed for a series of missing person reports, as students have disappeared. The Academy’s facility has been closed to the public as a result. The Tsukino dad explains that Professor Tomoe used to be a famous genetic engineer, but he was shunned from the scientific community after engaging in unethical experiments. Later, Luna and Artemis do their own research on him in the Crown headquarters. Tomoe sold his research to shady overseas companies and bought the Mugen district property with the money, but a fire accident killed his wive and gravely injured Hotaru.
Gently, Luna and Usagi ask Chibiusa to keep an eye on Hotaru as part of their investigation. The girl seems conflicted about her friend potentially being involved in all this, but it doesn’t take her so long to agree. Sniff... Chibiusa’s getting so mature... I’m really so proud of her in this season! She’s not a helpless, scared little girl anymore like when she first arrived.
At Mugen, Professor Tomoe is getting bored with Kaolinite and the Witches 5, who have failed to get rid of the Sailor Senshi. Their source of life, the Taioron Crystal, is wasting away and they need to secure a similar power soon. Kaolinite calls on the last member of the Witches 5, Cyprine, and tells her to investigate two Mugen students who had defected and gone missing: Haruka Ten’oh and Michiru Kaioh.
Back at the Tsukino household, Chibiusa is planning on going to the movies with Hotaru. Hotaru is the one who invited her, so Chibiusa wonders if Hotaru has something she wants to talk about - maybe her father?
But meanwhile, Hotaru is undergoing some kind of creepy surgery by her father. Sure enough, she doesn’t show up to meet Chibiusa for the movie. An hour goes by and Chibiusa decides to call Hotaru using a public phone, but there’s no answer. Fearing the worst - that she’d collapsed somewhere without anyone to help her - Chibiusa decides to rush to the laboratory at Mugen to check on her.
And here’s where we get to the other weird thing about this episode. Hotaru is back in her room, recovering from the surgery. Her father asks her how the new “parts” feel, and Hotaru says they’re “fitting in” nicely. They’re made from fresh neurons and receptors, he explains, so there shouldn’t be any more “incidents.”
That’s right......... manga/Crystal Hotaru is a CYBORG.
If you think this is silly, I can’t exactly argue with you. It’s just a really weird flimsy sciencey thing to see in a show like this. I guess the idea was to show us just how bad Hotaru’s health is, and how cruel her father is to be applying his taboo research to his daughter, and help explain why she is so isolated from others. But, cyborg?? I feel like maybe you could have just gone with “horrible gene experiment” or something like that. Naoko Takeuchi actually wanted to use this idea earlier - originally, Sailor Mercury was going to be a cyborg, which just goes to show how fearlessly silly Sailor Moon really is - so if there’s one positive, it’s that she used it in a much more appropriate part of the series.
Anyway, at the worst possible moment, Chibiusa has arrived outside the sliding glass doors of Hotaru’s room and sees her with her gross muscle-and-metal new limbs. She’s so shocked by what she sees that she immediately apologizes and runs away. This crushes Hotaru, who flashes back on the horrible fire that killed her mother. She didn’t want anyone to see the real secret of the supposed “scars” all over her body, and now the one and only friend she’s ever had has seen them and ran away.
With such a deformed and inhuman body, what reason could she have for keeping on living? As that miserable thought passes through her mind, she suddenly gets a horrible pain in her forehead. When she looks up, she sees images of Haruka, Michiru and Setsuna reflecting on the glass door, with pity in their eyes.
Chibiusa, meanwhile, realizes she’s done something terrible by running away from Hotaru out of shock. But suddenly, hail starts to fall from the sky, and the people on the street around her suddenly collapse. When they get up, they have the Mugen cult star marks on their foreheads. Time for the action part of the episode!!
Haruka, in her apartment at one of the Mugen high rises, watches the hail stop, and Cyprine appears a second later to attack her, as she’s one of the suspicious AWOL students. She transforms into Sailor Uranus, and Neptune and Pluto join her on the roof.
While the Inner Senshi have noticed the havoc that’s spread across the city (these poor Tokyoites, this kinda thing happens so often) and know that the Outers are fighting the enemy, nobody is in a particular hurry to go help them. They’re all still thinking about their evasive, unfriendly explanations from earlier in the episode. Makoto even says they don’t need to go help. But, of course, shoujo protagonist Usagi Tsukino ain’t having none of that, and she instantly declares that they’re going to go help them.
This next part of the episode is awesome - just like that episode, they really put in the time to properly animate the big fight scene of the week. Cyprine’s attacks are fluid; her magic casts dynamic shadows across her face and body; when the blows hit the Outers they really slam into the ground. The animation has that subtlety to it that makes it really good, nuanced movement. The Outers are getting their butts kicked and you can really see it.
The Inners show up to help, to the disappointment of the Outers. Cyprine takes an opportunity to bind both groups and she casts a spell on them that amplifies their inner dark desires. Everyone’s eyes turn red except for Sailor Moon, who’s protected by the silver crystal. But under Cyprine’s spell, the other Senshi quickly turn on one another. The mistrust and tension has culminated in the two sides fighting for real now, which is the exact opposite of what Usagi has been trying to do since the beginning. Sailor Moon tries to stop the fighting by attacking Cyprine, but she just splits into two people - Cyprine and her double, Ptilol. So now her friends are fighting and there are two super powerful enemies to deal with.
The animation for the senshi-on-senshi battle is great, too, if not a little short. I wish they’d left some more room for them to duke it out, especially when I already know how the next episode will be starting.
Tuxedo Mask and Chibimoon show up late and Chibimoon tries to stop the fighting too with a dinky Pink Sugar Heart Attack. It makes Jupiter, who’s been hot-headed this whole episode, attack Chibimoon in retaliation, but Tux is there to stop the blast with his cape Batman-style.
The good guys are running out of options, and Sailor Moon wonders if what Cyprine said is true - that deep down, they want to fight each other. But then she remembers all the ways the Outers have helped them and proved the goodness in what they’re trying to do. They’ve saved them several times already and have watched over their efforts on other occasions. The Inner and Outer Senshi have the same reasons for fighting - to protect the Earth.
With her faith in her comrades affirmed, Sailor Moon joins hands with Chibimoon and Tuxedo Mask, and a moment later the Legendary Holy Grail appears. Not the clay one, but the real one! And then the episode ends. DAMN IT, THESE CLIFFHANGERS!
Is this a cheap way of getting out of this bad situation? Yes. Is she basically just gonna go Super Saiyan out of nowhere, like a deus ex machina? Basically. Is it gonna be cool anyway? Of course! Haven’t you ever watched anime before?!
The only bad thing about the manga finally getting a loyal anime adaption is that I already know everything that’s going to happen. But, well, it’s a small price to pay. :D
One last small thought, the new ED has totally grown on me. It’s really catchy and cute!
Join me next week for another OH SHIT episode of Crystal!
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