There’s a pattern, here: two bad episodes, two good episodes, two bad episodes, two good episodes. I can only guess it had to do with the show’s development cycle and who was working on what at any given time. But at any rate, that means this week’s episodes are great!
Calling of the Shining Stars: Enter Haruka and Michiru (S5E14/180)
Hey, I know a way we can make this season instantly better: bring back the two most interesting and entertaining characters in the whole show! Yep, as you can tell from the title, Sailor Stars makes do on its tease from the last episode and finally shows us Uranus and Neptune going up against the Starlights. It is..... mostly well done, but really I’m just happy to have them back.
The episode opens on five pay phones, all in a row. Usagi and the girls approach, insert their phone cards, and repeatedly dial the same number over and over, all to no avail. But suddenly Minako gets through... only to be told that tickets for the Three Lights concert they’re trying to get to are sold out.
It just so happens, though, that there’s another way in. Michiru, a reknowned violinist in her own right, is performing with both the Three Lights and a world-famous conductor at the concert, and she’s got five tickets just for her Inner Senshi friends.
Meanwhile... poor little Iron Mouse is getting her ass beat by Galaxia, who has began to seriously lose her patience with her. I know that 90's Sailor Moon had a very specific and successful formula to stick to, but after four seasons it’s got a bit tiresome to have to go through this. Even Sailor Iron Mouse’s replacements, Sailor Aluminum Siren and Sailor Lead Crow, watch on and cackle evilly, apparently enjoying the sight of her in pain. (These are character traits that will vanish when it’s their turn to be the hokey, likable sub-villains.)
I mean, we all know what’s going to happen, right? Sailor Iron Mouse will continue to target randos who obviously won’t have the True Star Seed, Galaxia will finally give up on her, and she’ll die somehow. I think Sailor Moon R is the only season that didn’t adhere to this as closely, but even then the anime’s usage of the Black Moon characters was very similar.
Anyway, after being told that she’s at the end of her plank, Iron Mouse is moping out in Tokyo and sees a poster for the concert we were talking about earlier in the episode. Looks like the victim of the day will be that world-famous conductor. At the concert hall, the Three Lights are relaxing backstage, talking about their co-star Michiru Kaiou. Yaten complains about having to do a joint concert with someone they’ve apparently never met yet, but Taiki reminds him that they’re performing for the sake of their princess and nobody else.
Outside, the Inner Senshi are waiting in line to get into the concert... without Usagi. Could she have taken the wrong bus, like a lost little kid trying to get to elementary school for the first time? Yes. Yes, that’s exactly what happened.
During the performance, Michiru senses a strange energy from the Three Lights, like they’re trying to send a message to someone. Seiya senses something too - the radiance of a star - meaning, essentially, that he suspects Michiru is a Sailor Senshi. I wonder why he doesn’t have the same radar for any of the others?? Who knows.
Also, they’re playing a violin and two guitars and a keyboard but the song they’re performing is all electronic. I guess Taiki is really carrying the team here with that keyboard of his.
Hours later, when the fans in the concert hall have all gone home and the techies are taking things down, Usagi finally arrives. Heartbroken, Haruka offers to take her backstage to see Michiru, which is gonna set us up for a preeeeetty awkward encounter.
At Michiru’s dressing room, Seiya stops by. After he walks in, he shuts the door behind him, and we all know what that means - Netflix and chill, as the kids say nowadays. He bows and confesses that he’s a fan of hers, and Michiru acts flattered. The two of them actually have pretty good chemistry, mostly because Michiru is clearly on to his shtick. She stands up and asks him to... help her undress. I’m pretty sure she’s making fun of him when she does it, though. Or maybe she’s serious. Michiru is pretty saucy after all and tends to make most of the lesbian sex jokes in this show.
And then... Haruka and Usagi walk in on them. Um... um... hmm... awkward.
Seiya realizes he was being played and just shrugs his shoulders, commenting on what a cool “guy” Haruka is. Usagi is about to correct him to defend Haruka’s GENDER HONOR, but sweetie, I really don’t think that’s why Haruka is mad at the guy. She lets people think she’s male on purpose. Letting some fuckboy hit on her soulmate, not so much.
Seiya attempts to introduce himself out of politeness, but Haruka isn’t interested in shaking his hand. She demands he get out, and he leaves with Usagi. Haruka sternly tells her girlfriend not to let that scrub into her dressing room, but Michiru has never taken her jealousy seriously. When Usagi comes in to apologize for Seiya’s attitude, Haruka seems to feel a little guilty about getting mad, but whatever. She gets to be the one to undress Michiru and that’s really what matters here, eh?
Outside, Seiya is reflecting on what just happened. He felt the same power from Haruka as he did from Michiru - the “radiance of a star.” Usagi shows up and the two immediately start teasing each other, but the conversation is cut short (too bad - Usagi and Seiya are really entertaining to watch) when Usagi runs into that famous old conductor.
Time for five minutes of screentime for the daily victim. After talking to Seiya and Usagi for a while, the old man walks out onto the empty stage, is confronted by Iron Mouse, and has his Star Seed pulled out. Usagi hears him screaming and transforms into Sailor Moon. We’ll have some of the standard formula here, but don’t forget: Haruka and Michiru are in this episode. Something new is gonna happen here.
Iron Mouse turns the conductor into a Phage and runs away, and as Sailor Moon is trying to dodge its attacks on her own, the Starlights appear. While Star Fighter attacks the monster, Maker and Healer help Sailor Moon get out of the Phage’s bindings.
I feel like you so rarely see a Sailor Senshi do something as mundane as manually pulling out a peg that’s keeping someone stuck to a wall... it’s an interesting little moment of these characters stopping for a moment to do something relatively normal. On top of that, it wasn’t debated, for even a moment, among the Starlights whether to help Sailor Moon or not. Star Fighter tells her to heal the conductor, Sailor Moon agrees, and everything works out alright.
Looks like everyone’s finally getting along, right? The Starlights have learned that they don’t have to kill everyone who has their Star Seed pulled out, thanks to Sailor Moon’s healing powers. They are starting to support her in battle the same way her own Sailor Senshi would. Sailor Moon, too, finally gets to give them a warm thanks for helping her. Even stuffy, humorless Star Maker (Taiki/Forehead) agrees that it’s smart to work with her because they share the same enemy.
Sailor Moon extends her hand for a handshake, and Star Fighter is about to accept it. But just like in the dressing room, the handshake is refused - and by the same person. A yellow World Shaking orb stops the two of them from shaking hands, and Sailor Uranus and Neptune appear to start shit and make everything go sour.
This is where I feel this episode is a little lazy with trying to foster new drama between these two sides. I understand that Uranus and Neptune don’t have a reason to trust the Starlights yet, but didn’t they just watch them save Sailor Moon from a bad situation? Haven’t the Inner Senshi told them what’s going on with the new enemy that’s appeared recently, and mentioned the fact that there’s suddenly tons of other foreign Sailor Senshi running around? Hasn’t anyone let them know that new three senshi dressed in black leather are friendly ones? Would their first reaction really be so hostile here?
The Starlights take offense to this show of aggression, as they should, and leave despite the pleadings of Sailor Moon. She turns around and demands an explanation from Uranus, but Uranus barely has anything to say to her, simply saying that they’re “invaders” from outside of the Solar System who can’t be trusted, and hey, it’s our job to protect you from outside threats okay?? It’s like the writers knew this was weaksauce and went with it anyway.
The episode ends with Usagi and Seiya, in their civilian forms, having a brief conversation about being able to befriend outsiders. Seiya reminds her that he’s a transfer student from a faraway place and is her friend regardless. This episode was still very very good, despite the fact that its main point is kinda weak. But it works because the characters are just so much fun to watch interact. There’s Usagi and Seiya’s scenes (Seiya really can’t catch a break in this episode), Michiru and Haruka’s scenes, and the mish-mash of those personalities clashing. I wish the first real episode with the Outers was a bit better, but I can’t complain all that much about this episode.
Seiya and Usagi’s Heart-Pounding Date (S5E15/181)
Oh, I remember this episode. I remember it very well. When I watched Sailor Stars in high school with my best friend, we laughed to the point of tears. So I’m looking forward to watching it again, but I wonder if it will be as funny as a 28 year old...?
The episode begins with Minako asking out sour-faced Forehead on his day off. When he denies the offer by saying he has work to do, Minako gleefully offers to help, but is once again rebuked. Usagi and Makoto offer to go to the movies with her instead... until they realize Minako was apparently planning on taking him to some kind of softcore porn erotica movie. (wtf, Minako?!) On her walk home, Usagi passes Seiya on the sidewalk. Without hesitation, he suddenly asks her out on a date the next day and considers it accepted despite Usagi’s laundry list of things to do.
The next day, a lonely phone rings over and over at the Ginga TV headquarters. Galaxia is looking for Sailor Iron Mouse, but she’s on a subway train, doing everything she can to make herself disappear. If she can’t find the True Star Seed by Monday - tomorrow - she’ll be in deep shit. Despite trying to hide, that ringing phone suddenly appears at her feet as she rides the packed train. And appears elsewhere too, no matter where else she tries to stand, to comedic effect. Eventually the train passes a billboard of the Three Lights outside... and Iron Mouse is hit with a stroke of genius. Or maybe a stroke of obviousness. Yes, she’ll go after them next to find the True Star Seed!
Meanwhile, Usagi waits for Seiya at the agreed spot. She ends up running into Haruka and Michiru at the park, who quickly deduce that she’s there for a date, despite her denial. Haruka isn’t too happy that it’s with Seiya of all people, but Michiru shrugs it off teasingly, observing that she doesn’t like “popular guys.” Uh-huh, right...
They wander off, and Seiya finally decides to show up. Meanwhile, Taiki and Yaten are relaxing at their place (? is it a recording studio?). Yaten blows off a phone call from Sailor Iron Mouse, who is trying to set up a meeting with them so she can go after their Star Seeds... But once again, Iron Mouse is confronted with another Mysteriously Appearing from Nowhere Phone of Death. Those phones are getting pretty creepy.
Back to Seiya and Usagi’s date. Here is where I really start to love this episode. So much is conveyed without having to actually say much of anything. The two of them sit far apart on the train; Usagi gets overly excited by the animals at the zoo while Seiya rests his chin in his hands; Usagi eats constantly, to Seiya’s bewilderment. They both scream bloody murder on a roller coaster and cling to one another through a haunted house. Usagi sees a stuffed animal she likes in a capture machine, so Seiya wins it - and claims it for himself.
The whole scene is hilarious and super cute. When did the makers of this show ever bother to give her the same kind of chemistry with Mamoru?
Later, as they ride a ferris wheel, Usagi points out that there’d be a big scandal if someone took a photo of them. Seiya brushes it off, and she teasingly points out that any girl must be okay for his purposes - and that, remember, she isn’t interested in him anyway. But Seiya has really latched onto the fact that her boyfriend is abroad. Usagi confirms, and surprisingly, finally opens up to someone about how she hasn’t received a single reply from Mamoru to any of her letters to him. This is something she hasn’t told any of her friends yet - not even Luna. Usagi reaffirms her faith in Mamoru, but nevertheless seems to be pretty unhappy about it. As Seiya stares at her, he suddenly gets a weird feeling - a reminder of the Princess he’s looking for.
To cheer her up, he takes her to..... a night club, which just so happens to be where both Sailor Iron Mouse and the other two Three Lights are. But Seiya brings her directly into a private room, and Usagi immediately becomes uncomfortable and suspicious of his intentions. Things get, um... awkward... and Seiya starts using a bunch of euphemisms like “first time” and “take the lead”... But, oh-ho, he’s only inviting her to dance. In that case, why take her to the back private room, you dolt?!
But Sailor Iron Mouse has noticed Seiya’s arrival. She cuts the lights to the dance floor, and Seiya grabs Usagi protectively, making her think of Mamoru. When Iron Mouse appears, he tells Usagi to run so they can both have a convenient opportunity to transform outside each other’s view.
Iron Mouse is shocked to see him transform into a Sailor Senshi, and they’re quickly joined by both Maker and Healer and Sailor Moon. They’re about to throw it down, but Sailor Moon sees something on the floor - the little stuffed animal Seiya won from the claw machine earlier that day. Fearing the worst, she demands to know whether Iron Mouse turned him into a Phage... while, as she watches, Star Fighter realizes that Sailor Moon might be Usagi, the girl from school. (Usagi’s civilian form is superimposed over Sailor Moon, to unintentional hilarity. Hmm... you THINK the girl who looks exactly like Sailor Moon could be Sailor Moon?! I know it’s the Clark Kent effect but superimposing the two nearly identical images that way doesn’t help it be less ridiculous.)
Grinning, Iron Mouse threatens to reveal Seiya’s true identity, but Star Fighter attacks her - and she’s confronted with yet another Death Phone. Slowly, terrified, she picks up the phone... and Sailor Galaxia is not fucking happy. The boss-ass bitch herself appears right there, in front of the Starlights and Sailor Moon, and takes back the bracelets around Iron Mouse’s wrists despite her frantic efforts to beg and talk herself out of it - killing her.
She turns to Sailor Moon, introduces herself, and warns her to stay out of the way before disappearing. The Starlights recognize her as the person who destroyed their home. Sailor Moon tries to repair the mistrust planted by Uranus and Neptune in the previous episode, but the Starlights aren’t interested - they tell her to protect her planet herself. It’s not really unreasonable, as they have their own objective on Earth and don’t have the time or resources to worry about this planet, but I can’t help but feel like working together makes more sense regardless, especially after the stuff they’ve already been through together. Oh well.
Later, as she walks home, Usagi meets back up with Seiya. Usagi gets mad at him for making her worry, but Seiya decides to give her the little stuffed animal as thanks. The episode ends on a suspiciously romantic note.
Not only was this episode as funny as I remember, but it moves the plot forward, teaches us about the characters, and sets us up for the next mini-arc of this season. As always, Sailor Moon is wonderful when it isn’t wasting my time with filler.
Next week we’re going to meet one of the most important (albeit a bit silly) characters of the season and the next Sailor Animamates! See you then!