We’ve got some pretty great episodes this week, which makes sense as we get closer and closer to the ending. After these two, there are only seven episodes left!

I do want to talk about various elements of the ending of Stars, including an important development that happened this week, but I’m not sure how to talk about them yet. Most are differences from the manga, but in order to discuss them, I kinda have to wait until the story is done to avoid spoiling things. But how many people are reading these articles of mine without having seen Stars before, or without watching along on Hulu at least? If you have any objections to me potentially hinting at or revealing spoilers over my next few articles, please drop a comment!

Go for Your Dream: Minako Becomes an Idol (S5E26/192)

This is filler - maybe the last real filler episode of the series. Thankfully it’s pretty good filler, and it actually addresses a couple complaints I’ve voiced in previous weeks. First, it’s another Minako/Venus episode, and a WAAAAY better one than what we got earlier this season. While it might’ve been better to do a Makoto/Jupiter episode - she never really got one in all of Stars - I can’t complain that they did right by my favorite character right before the end. Second, this is a Yaten episode! HOORAY! One more chance at fleshing out his personality beyond cardboard cutout status.

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Minako, in her room, opens a letter informing her that she’s made it to the “final rounds.” This fills her with glee, and then misery, and then wistfulness, all of which cute little Artemis mimics along with her. Minako folds up the letter, places it in her desk drawer, and shuts it. Are you sure about that, Artemis asks? Minako asserts that it’s fine and grabs her bag for school, but she sighs on the way out.

At Crown after school, Usagi flips through a magazine article about the Three Lights, happy to see that they’re still working hard. The boys still haven’t been to school since that big awkward reveal on the plane, with the official reason being that they’re taking a break to satisfy celebrity responsibilities. Then, out of nowhere, Minako voices disapproval of this: school is really important! You have to study when you’re young! The others are shocked to hear her saying this, and even Ami is reluctant to back her up on an opinion she’s voiced herself several times during the series. Minako leaves Crown early, announcing her intention to do her homework, leaving everyone at a loss of what to think. Remember, Minako’s grades are just as bad as Usagi’s!

Artemis reluctantly spills the truth. Minako was auditioning for a talent search for future idols, and she managed to past the second to last round of selections. There’s only one round left, and it could be the huge break she’s always wanted, the chance to pursue her dream of being an idol. On top of that, her debut single would be written by a famous songwriter known for creating hits, so this talent search is definitely the real deal.

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But... she knows that now isn’t the time for such a thing. They’re dealing with a lot right now as Sailor Senshi, and Minako can’t (and won’t) prioritize herself over what’s going on with Galaxia and the Starlights. This is what I was talking about a few weeks ago with that really bad Minako filler episode: as silly, boy-crazy and petty Minako can be, she’s the most stalwart and responsible of the Inner Senshi. She didn’t have to think for even a second about what was more important to her. This part of her personality goes all the way back to season 1, when she saved a woman who had “stolen” her first crush from her - while Sailor Moon was telling her not to save her! (Usagi is a pretty jealous and spiteful person prior to the end of R.)

Elsewhere, the Three Lights are brooding in their studio. All of them sense that the Princess is nearby, and they’ve received their biggest clue yet: Taiki smelled her distinct perfume coming from Chibi Chibi in the last episode. Could there be some reason she hasn’t appeared before them yet?

At school, the girls confront Minako about the talent search. They all tell her to go for it because they know it’s something important to her, but she just can’t accept their support that readily. Usagi tells her that the recent conflict is exactly the reason why she shouldn’t give up - no matter what difficulties there might be at any given moment, she can’t abandon her dream. Dreams, hope, friendship, these are the things that make them strong and help them fight. Minako can’t resist the power of magical girl reasoning like that, and she eventually accepts their blessing.

Down at Galaxy TV, the cover for the Sailor Animamates’ search for the true star seed, Tin Nyanko waltzes in to continue her insensitive teasing of Lead Crow. Crow swiftly shuts her file and storms off, but Nyanko takes a peek at her next target once she’s gone: it’s the very same songwriter judging the final round of Minako’s auditions.

As an aside, there’s a nice touch here with the interactions between Crow and Nyanko. My dear readers are probably aware of the Japanese tradition of putting bells on the collars of cats to prevent them from sneaking up on birds and killing them. Likewise here, there’s always a bell sound announcing Nyanko’s presence before she approaches Crow to agitate her. Hah - not so subtle, but still great.

It’s the day of the audition, and Minako’s all dressed in an appropriately tacky idol costume, ready to go. The judges arrive, and one of them is none other than Yaten. “What are you doing here?” “I could say the same to you!” But Yaten grabs her and drags her to the side before the conversation can get any farther, because he’s got a lecture to give. She shouldn’t be doing this; she has other responsibilities; don’t they care what’s going to happen to their planet?! Hey, back the fuck off, Yaten. All of a sudden you give a shit about planet Earth? But he’s sooooo offended that she’d both pursue her dreams and still be a Senshi, and straight-up accuses her of putting herself first.

As the auditions are about to begin, they’re waiting on one more judge - Karasuma, the civilian disguise of Lead Crow. Tin Nyanko, in her own disguise, shows up instead and sits herself next to Mr. Songwriter himself. Poor Crow is all tied up back in the wings. (ha, bird/theater puns.)

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Eventually, it’s Minako’s turn to sing. She walks out to the mic silently and the music for Route Venus begins to play, but it’s clear when she starts to sing that she’s nervous. Thankfully, she recovers and salvages the rest of the song, but as she walks back she knows it was a total mess. Yaten has shattered her confidence about being at the auditions. As the next part of the audition begins - some kind of dance-off that reuses animation from the Seiya/Usagi date episode - Usagi and Chibi Chibi show up at the theater to cheer Minako on. Minako runs into another contestant and they both go crashing to the floor. Trying to regain her composure, she reminds herself of Usagi’s kind words and gets her groove back.

Humorously, Usagi is wandering Galaxy TV looking for the theater, and runs into the supposedly out-of-order elevator that Iron Mouse used to enter Galaxia’s hideout. Good thing she didn’t go in there...

The last part of the audition is a weird mix of swimsuit competition and Q&A with the judges. Yaten immediately asks Minako why she chose to apply for the audition and vaults into accusations of her having more important things to do, reminiscent of Taiki’s episode where he coldly informed five year olds that their dead grandparents don’t become stars. Minako just smiles and says that it doesn’t really matter when she goes after her dreams, and Mr. Songwriter butts in to back her up.

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But Yaten can’t let it go. He approaches her after the auditions are over to ask why she’s trying to hard at this, and Minako tells him she doesn’t want to let down the people who are supporting her, her friends. It’s not just her own dream to be an idol, but her friends’ dreams to see her be happy and doing the things she loves.

Then, in the first real character moment he’s had all season aside from “unfettered harshness and sarcasm,” Yaten smiles and turns away, wondering if maybe being a Sailor Senshi isn’t everything to life. He asks aloud if the Starlights are starting to lose their confidence - is the Princess not appearing because they’re lacking something within themselves? Minako offers her positivity, encouraging him that they aren’t lacking anything.

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Then, the Formula! Tin Nyanko attacks Mr. Songwriter conveniently close to where Usagi and CC are wandering, so she interrupts as Sailor Moon. Venus shows up right behind her, annoying Nyanko further, and Lead Crow shows up right behind her to complain about having her plans sabotaged. The Animamates flee as they continue to argue, leaving a Phage behind for the Senshi to deal with. Yaten transforms after indulging himself with a few seconds of watching Venus and Sailor Moon struggle, and after a few attacks and Sailor Moon’s help, the Phage is turned back to normal.

After the danger has passed, the three of them chat while CC chases the cats around. Yaten is teasing Minako about being a strict judge when an ephemeral pink butterfly flies past him, carrying the Princess’ scent with it. Is that the fragrance Taiki had been talking about?

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The episode ends with Minako receiving the results - she won! - and nevertheless filing them back into her desk anyway. This proves she can be an idol whenever she wants, so for now, she’s fine with sticking with her friends and facing their challenges together.

This episode was pretty good, and I’ll probably recommend it over both Minako’s earlier episode and Yaten’s earlier episode in my viewing guide. Overall it’s a much better presentation of both their characters, although I’m still left wanting more from this episode when it comes to Yaten. If I sit and think back, I can see what they’re trying to depict about him here: that he takes his responsibility as a Senshi seriously, making him similar to Venus in that respect. And perhaps this is why he’s so sarcastic to others and so uninterested in dealing with fans or playing the idol role. But the episode never really comes out and says it, and it really needed to do just a little bit more with him to satisfy me. But it’s better than nothing, and is well-timed as the season inches closer to its end, so I’m glad I finally got to know him a little better before all the plot happens.

The Stolen Silver Crystal: Princess Kakyuu Appears (S5E27/193)

HOLY SHIT! Look at that title! Silver crystal gets stolen?? The much-hyped Princess finally appears? I guess the title basically spoils the episode, but it kinda gets you hyped too, doesn’t it? Buckle yourselves in, kiddies!

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The episode opens with a letter to Mamoru, narrated by Usagi. It’s almost time for Juuban High’s school festival, and the students are busy hanging up banners and setting up their class’s activity. Usagi’s class, which Makoto and Minako also belong to, is running a cafe, featuring Minako’s maid costumes and Makoto’s delicious snacks. The girls stay late at school helping prepare for the festival, along with the rest of their class. Usagi loves school festivals - they’re fun and everyone is working together and smiling. Working together and feeling as one... the idea reminds her of their feud with the Three Lights. When their music comes on the radio, the entire class has an awkward moment of silence. Will they come to the festival?

Meanwhile, Lead Crow is lingering around Aluminum Siren’s desk. She’s still mourning her old friend and rival, who kept a picture of them next to where she worked. Crow vows to find the true star seed to honor Siren’s memory, but as she’s putting the photograph of them away, she discovers Siren’s diary. Guess what Siren happened to write in it before she was killed?

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Galaxia is also getting anxious. She can feel the “birth of a new star.” No matter how many star seeds she collects, until “she” has been eliminated, she’ll never rule the galaxy. And she’s getting impatient again with her lackey at the moment, berating Tin Nyanko for not finding the true star seed yet. That’s when Lead Crow interrupts that she’s found it herself and will bring it to Galaxia... vowing to do so at risk of her life. But Nyanko knows something must be up.

At the Three Lights’ studio, Seiya’s going off on an excessively long, lazily animated drum solo. Yaten finally tells him to shut up, but he’s doing it to let out his frustration. Where the hell is the Princess?? Is she teasing them? They sing and sing, but she doesn’t appear, even though they know she’s close by. All Yaten and Taiki can do is quietly listen to Seiya vent, unable to answer any of his questions.

Seiya storms out to cool off, and once he’s gone, Taiki slips to Yaten that the Princess is definitely near. They both sensed it - the Princess’ fragrance is coming from that little girl hanging around Usagi. Perhaps she holds the key to this. Creepily, Yaten smirks and observes that it would make things “simple.” Whoa there, guys. She’s, like, two.

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Usagi is getting ready for bed, still listening to Three Lights music. Seiya, still trying to forget his anxiety, wanders all the way to her house, and as he stops outside, a pink butterfly appears for the first time before Usagi. It flutters to her bedroom balcony (your room has a balcony?! damn), and Seiya is forced to awkwardly say hello.

Seiya tries to say something sweet and flattering, but Usagi playfully reminds him that looking into girls’ bedrooms at night makes him a pervert. The two of them are glad to see each other. Usagi invites him to the school festival before he can rush off, showing him her cute maid costume and bragging about Makoto’s cakes. Seiya promises he’ll stop by. But as he’s walking away, another pink butterfly grabs his attention and draws it back up to Usagi’s window. Seiya has sensed it now, too - the Princess’ fragrance.

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The next day, Ami and Rei have come to the festival to see the other girls’ class project. Seiya joins their festivities and Makoto runs off to make him more cake. Outside, CC - yet again unaccompanied by an adult - is wandering around the festival, snacking and enjoying herself. She takes a break underneath a tree and takes out the incense burner. Why she brought that thing with her, or what she expects to do with it at the festival, I have no idea.

But UH OH, STRANGER DANGER. Two ominous shadows appear over the little tyke. It’s none other than Forehead and his sidekick, who’ve come to do things in the most unproductive and unnecessarily harsh way as possible. You know, the usual deal.

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They demand that CC give them the incense burner. Makoto and Rei happen to be walking in the hallway upstairs in the school building at the same time, and they notice the three of them down below in the grass. There’s no doubt, Yaten says - the incense burner is definitely the Princess’. They demand she hand it over, but CC clings to it. Makoto and Rei have realized that something’s not right here, and they run to get the others.

Makoto rushes down fast enough to intervene first, and an altercation follows when Yaten drops something insufferable about how women are weak and shouldn’t be treated equally, surely helping the audience continue to find him pleasant and likeable. But before too many blows can be traded, Seiya interrupts them. The three of them begin to bicker about Seiya having come to see Usagi, and Usagi makes one more plea for them to all just sit down and talk about what’s going on.

But instead, the Three Lights leave, with Seiya’s apologies. The girls are left wondering what to make of them anymore now that they seemed to have attacked Chibi Chibi, a tiny little girl who can’t even talk yet. Usagi is quick to remind them that they aren’t bad people, but it’s getting more and more strained at this point.

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And then Sailor Lead Crow shows up. She finally found Usagi - no, Sailor Moon - thanks to the information left behind by Aluminum Siren’s diary. The girls prepare themselves for a fight and transform.

In the school parking lot, the Three Lights have stopped to talk. It seems that Yaten and Taiki have explained off-screen why they were going after CC, and Seiya realizes he picked up the Princess’ scent too when at Usagi’s place the night before. Taiki says they need to get the incense burner from the girl because it will show them why the Princess isn’t appearing (how he knows this isn’t clear), but Seiya insists they should just talk to the others girls first instead of bullying a toddler. Remember folks, Taiki is supposed to be the smart one in this trio.

Their discussion is interrupted by another butterfly, fluttering back in the direction of the school. Seiya senses danger and the other two run after him as he rushes to where they left the girls. Sure enough, the Senshi are getting swept by Lead Crow, and when the Starlights appear she announces that she knows their identities, too.

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Then she raises her arm, and out of one of her bracelets comes some kinda weird vial object. Lead Crow announces that it’s a black hole - yes, A GODDAMN BLACK HOLE - and that if Sailor Moon doesn’t let her take her star seed, she’ll smash the vial and unleash the black hole, destroying the school and all the people there for the festival. I’m pretty sure unleashing A GODDAMN BLACK HOLE would do a hell of a lot more damage than that, but in any event, this is a pretty foolproof plan. It doesn’t matter that the black hole would kill Lead Crow too - she knows she’s dead anyway if she doesn’t bring back the true star seed - and she has a countless number of hostages due to the location.

And it works. Sailor Moon concedes and lets her fire her bracelets at her without resistance, despite the protests of all her friends and Star Fighter. Unlike all the prior victims, the gem that rises from Sailor Moon’s head shines brightly, almost overpoweringly bright. It’s not one of those little diamonds anymore, but the Silver Crystal, the mystical item passed down through the Moon Family and the source of all of Sailor Moon’s power since the first season.

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Sailor Moon loses her transformation and stands motionless, but before Lead Crow can take the crystal, something suddenly strikes her. She drops the vial and it shatters, releasing the “black hole.” It’s Tin Nyanko who made her drop it, as she’s shown up to ruin her day and take all the credit. Lead Crow, unable to get away from the black hole, is sucked inside and killed.

The black hole also prevents the Starlights from attacking Nyanko, because it sucks up the energy of their attacks. And with the Inner Senshi beaten up from their fight with Crow, it looks pretty bad. But there’s one person we’re forgetting! THE TODDLER!

Chibi Chibi has put herself between Usagi and Nyanko as if trying to protect her, but the black hole swallows both her and Usagi before Nyanko can do anything. Nyanko is about to leave, figuring it’s a lost cause now, when suddenly the black hole swells and explodes into nothing but brilliant, warm light.

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What is this energy? Could it be? Usagi is in the air, hanging limp, the Silver Crystal still suspended above her forehead. Below her is CC, deliberately holding up the incense burner. Nyanko flees, and as Usagi floats back down to the ground, a woman in flowing red robes appears, carrying her.

ITS DA PRINCESS OHMAHGAD.

And then the episode ends. What a cliffhanger!! I really love Princess Kakyuu (or Princess Fireball, depending on whether you translate her name or leave it as-is), although some of the coolest things about her don’t make it into the anime. But we’ll talk about that next week, when the anime starts to explain what her deal is.

See you then! Thanks for reading!

Vectored logo used in header image is by bleuette on deviantArt. Screencaps are from mooncaps, except where there are Hulu subtitles, which I took myself.