This week, the “this is the real, non-shitty ending of SuperS” arc that opens Sailor Stars continues. It turns out it’s actually a lot shorter than I thought it was, wrapping up in the first episode next week. Not that I can complain, because then we’ll get to the meat of Stars proper! But in the meantime, this week we have two more good episodes, even if they’re technically filler.
Anyway, here we go. If you missed my recap of episodes 1-3, you can find it here! Also, I have been informed that Stars is not available for streaming on Hulu for Canada, because Viz Media sucks. If you’re in Canada, I suggest watching it by “other means”... mostly because that’s your only option until Viz releases it on Blu-ray a year from now or whenever.
This episode picks up right where the last one left off, with Usagi watching Nehelenia kidnap Mamoru. It repeats some animation to help remind you of where we are in the story, so we see Nehelenia pull Mamoru into the mirror again. But as soon as that passes...
Oh noooo, this episode is animated by THAT guy. If you’ve watched Sailor Moon before, you know exactly who I’m talking about. The Tezuka-like, off model eyes. The pudgy, fat fingers. The rounded faces and edges. This is the work of Masahiro Ando, the Rob Liefeld of Sailor Moon. If you hate how his episodes look like I do, take solace in the fact that this is the last and only episode he does for Stars.
But if you do like him, well... you’ll get a big dose of his signature Boob Wrinkles™ in this episode, as his final gift to you.
Just to be clear, that isn’t cloth - her chest is bare. This is how he’s drawn cleavage since season 1.
Anyway, back to the episode. All of a sudden Chibimoon starts to flash and fade away, right before the other Senshi’s eyes. Her dad has been cursed to devote his heart to Nehelenia - unless the curse can be broken before the upcoming dawn - and that’s not really a good situation to be in when you’re from the future and your existence depends on him and your mom hooking up later. She detransforms and collapses, and the Senshi go back to Hikawa Shrine to regroup and try to deal with the situation.
Setsuna explains that Chibiusa is suffering from the effects of a potential time paradox, and the only way they can save her is by saving Mamoru. Makoto observes that Nehelenia’s curse must be very powerful to cause this - Chibiusa has never been in danger of fading away at any previous time Usagi and Mamoru have been in danger - but Haruka points out that it’s an obvious trap. Her real target is Sailor Moon.
But, Setsuna makes the unfortunate suggestion that Usagi and Chibiusa stay at Hikawa Shrine while the others rescue Mamoru. Pluto, girl, you really gotta hang out with the others more, because this is the exact kinda statement that will make Usagi do something stupid and emotional.
Which is exactly what happens.
Sweetie, we know you don’t want a future without Mamoru and Chibiusa, that’s what everyone has been talking about for the past five minutes... that doesn’t mean you gotta go flying off by yourself.
Ah, but she must, Rei.
The other Senshi are now in a position where their one job - to protect the Princess - is in jeopardy, mostly thanks to the Princess’ own hastiness. Hotaru suggests they follow her (as if they had any other option) and then Chibiusa of all people decides to come along too. I thought she was unconscious?? Oh well. The girls transform and use Sailor Teleport to follow Sailor Moon, knowing they have to save them both before dawn, or their happy future will be changed.
Meanwhile, Usagi has detransformed and is laying unconscious in a black void somewhere. I guess things went south for her pretty quickly, almost as if this was a trap! Nehelenia appears above her to taunt her some more, and the black void becomes a blizzard, blowing through a frozen, empty field.
Nehelenia sits back in her lair with Mamoru to watch Usagi freeze to death from afar. Her wine-sipping is interrupted when she realizes the other Senshi are on their way to stop her, so she hurls her glass at her viewing mirror, and the shards appear in space to disrupt their Sailor Teleport, sending the girls flying off in different directions.
This begins my favorite part of this arc, where we get to see some unusual pairs of Senshi work with each other to outsmart Nehelenia’s traps. It’s great because we’ve seen so little interaction between the Outers and Inners up to this point - so, while it’s filler, it’s actually good filler, because it provides some very necessary characterization among the supporting characters.
Sailor Uranus and Sailor Mercury crash into some grassy, ancient ruins. They don’t see the others and they have no idea where they’ve landed. Immediately, the two of them formulate completely different plans: Uranus is ready to charge head-on into the unknown setting around them, while Mercury takes out her handheld computer to try to gather data first. Uranus’ athleticism makes Mercury think back on her missed opportunities to play sports, with so much of her time since childhood devoted to studying; Uranus realizes she is slowing her pace for Mercury’s sake after being so accustomed to running alongside Neptune.
The two of them realize that they’re in a place that probably doesn’t really exist - some kind of space-time warp - and that it’s another trap of Nehelenia’s. Just as Uranus is insisting they continue onwards, Nehelenia appears. Attacks do nothing to her, and she eventually reflects a World Shaking from Uranus to send her crashing to the floor.
Mercury - who seems to get to play the hero disproportionately in situations like this, being the most popular Senshi in Japan - decides she’ll do it her way, and starts to gather data again on her computer. Nehelenia tries to zap her with her magic, but Uranus steps in the way, giving her enough time to discover that the trap is an illusion and its weak point is the moon in the sky. We even get a little flashback of Ami as a child, helping the basketball team by setting up plays instead of playing herself.
With the trap’s illusion dispersed, the two find themselves in a black void similar to the one Usagi was in when she first woke up. But... they are quickly encased in mirrors by Nehelenia and trapped anyway. Why she didn’t just do that from the beginning, I can’t tell ya.
Meanwhile, as Usagi continues to wander a frozen wasteland, another odd pair have found themselves crash-landed in a forest - Sailor Mars and Sailor Neptune. This is an interesting combination, because both of them have clairvoyant abilities, and they’re both a sassy and elegant. Of course, Neptune is more mature and genuinely elegant, whereas Mars frets about appearances and can be full of herself. Basically, Neptune is the person Mars tries to be.
Mars laments that she couldn’t immediately convince Neptune to go the way she wanted to go, saying to herself that Usagi would have agreed without a second thought. “You’re really close, aren’t you? Like Uranus and I,” Neptune says in response. Hur hur, more lesbian jokes. :^)
The episode ends with Nehelenia appearing before them, and the pair being surrounded by a ring of fire. Overall, this was mostly a filler episode, with Usagi running off by herself and getting trapped giving us some padding before she beats Nehelenia anyway. Still, as I mentioned above, this is pretty good filler because it helps us understand the characters and see them interact in ways we haven’t seen before! And I’ve got an Outer Senshi itch that always needs scratching. On to the next one.
An animator who knew what he or she was doing did this episode. Oh, thank God.
Neptune and Mars, who were trapped by fire as the last episode ends, start to get burned by the purple flames. Mars watches the bottom of her skirt start to singe and begins to panic, but Neptune fires a Deep Submerge at Nehelenia’s image, and the fire dissipates - it was just another illusion.
Neptune says it’ll take more than an illusion to fool them, and turns around teasingly for a confirmation from Mars. It’s a cute little moment - Mars is a fiery sass master, but she just can’t compete with Neptune’s calm, collected, expert sass. She wonders if a difference in experience between them is the reason her visions can’t compete with Neptunes, which Neptune overhears and confirms. But wait, a difference in experience? Hasn’t Mars had psychic powers her whole life? Although we don’t technically know how or when Neptune became a Sailor Senshi, so maybe she’s been doing that before Mars had any powers...?
Nehelenia decides she’s not gonna fuck around with these two, so she simply takes down the forest barrier and grabs Neptune from behind with her hair. Mars immediately readies a Flame Sniper, but Nehelenia has pulled Neptune in front of her like a shield, and dares Mars to fire and kill her friend.
Naturally, Neptune encourages her to do it. The Outer Senshi, especially Neptune and Uranus, have always been willing - maybe even eager - to sacrifice themselves for the sake of whatever goal they have at the moment. But as one of the Inner Senshi, more closely affiliated with Sailor Moon and her unfailing desire to have a perfect outcome without cutting corners, Sailor Mars can’t help but hesitate, and Nehelenia takes her chance and fires at her first.
Neptune tries again. Just shoot her! Don’t forget the mission: protect the Princess! Mars realizes that, wait, I’m totally willing to shoot Neptune if it’s for the sake of Usagi, but she really agonizes over it. This is the drama that was missing from SuperS. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the SuperS bashing...
Mars fires, and would you look at that, it misses Neptune and hits Nehelenia in the stomach instead! That was convenient. Nehelenia’s gotta sharpen her human shield skills. Her image reveals itself as an illusion, nothing more than one of the glass monsters, and they’re suddenly back in the forest. But Neptune and Mars are exhausted and collapse, and the real Nehelenia swoops in to encase them in the same mirrors she locked Uranus and Mercury into.
Usagi is still alone in that frozen wasteland, and she’s clearly not doing well. Her bare feet are turning red and tender from the cold, and she’s hugging herself to stay warm. Nehelenia watches her collapse from her lair, and decides to up the ante. (Mamoru is slumped beside her with a hilarious, but still creepy, grin on his face.) The expanse of snow around Usagi transforms into a vast, beautiful field of flowers.
You know, if Nehelenia could do all this magic and mind control, why didn’t she do it during SuperS? I understand that Nehelenia’s powers only work in this dark/shadow world of hers, and that she wanted to leave her dark world during SuperS, but there were several key scenes towards the end that took place in that dark world (remember, Helios was trapped inside her lair, within her mirror). Could the Amazoness Quartet really have stolen Chibiusa and the Golden Crystal out from under her nose if she had this kind of power? Eh, whatever. SuperS is trash. Whoops, I’m bashing it again.
Now for my favorite pairing, Sailor Pluto and Sailor Venus!! Two of my top 3 favorite characters! The leader of the Outer Senshi plus the leader of the Inner Senshi. They’re being chased by dozens of glass monsters, and eventually find themselves at a decrepit rope bridge across a valley - their only path to take as the monsters close in.
Pluto tells Venus to run, because she has to be the leader, and let her hold off the glass monsters. You know, out of all of them it makes the most sense for Pluto to be willing to sacrifice herself - while she has to wait to get reborn like all the others, she can time travel and essentially go back to the moment she died if she really needed to, which pretty much makes her immortal. Of course, just like with Neptune and Mars, Venus has a hard time abandoning Pluto even if it’s the wisest thing to do. (She also doesn’t really believe she’s a leader, which makes sense, since her role as the leader is heavily downplayed in the anime to the point of being non-existent.) But Venus agrees to leave Pluto relatively quickly, and she begins to warily cross the rope bridge.
Meanwhile, Usagi calls out for Mamoru in the field of flowers. She hears a voice ask if she’s looking for someone, and....... oh God, creepy flowers with anime faces.
Usagi tries to get information out of the flowers, but they insist that the only important person is Usagi herself, and that she should stop looking and just stay there and play with them. It doesn’t take long for Usagi to succumb; suddenly she realizes she has no idea where she’s going... and then, doesn’t remember who it was she was looking for... and maybe she should just forget all the bad things. It’s been years since I watched Stars, but I remembered this scene very very clearly, which is a testament to how dire and unnerving it is.
Back at the rope bridge, Venus’ foot breaks through the wood and she grabs onto the rope to stop herself from falling. The rope begins to fray and break as she pulls herself to safety, and she can’t help but look back and see Pluto fighting the monsters. Every time I see the animation for Pluto’s Dead Scream attack, it gets more awesome. Maybe Venus thinks so too (and also realizes that a true leader probably wouldn’t leave someone behind to die), because she caves in and runs back to get Pluto so they can cross the bridge together.
But alas, that frayed rope breaks completely with the weight of them both and all the monsters on the bridge, and soon they are dangling from a cliff by a Love-Me Chain. Venus and Pluto share a laugh over their situation (CUTE) but Nehelenia arrives to trap them in two more mirrors like the others. I know that her aim here is to make them all suffer, but I wonder if she realizes that all these illusions she’s putting them through before trapping them in mirrors are actually helping them become stronger, closer friends.
(Look! Nehelenia’s tits are back to normal!)
Usagi has completely given in to the flowers and is now staring at them with a blank smile, not unlike the one Mamoru has. Nehelenia’s image appears before her and she raises a hand to strike her, but BOOM, she’s grabbed from behind by Jupiter! Don’t fuck with Jupiter’s friends, bitch.
Jupiter throws Nehelenia over her shoulder with a judo move and runs to Usagi’s side to try to get her to come to her senses, but Usagi is completely zoned out. Nehelenia says she must have given up because normally, a person can wake themselves from a bad dream; the fact that Usagi can’t rouse herself must mean that she’s perfectly content here. Jupiter doesn’t buy it, of course, and tries to attack Nehelenia again, but the only thing that comes of it is an egregious panty shot.
Nehelenia brags about her power within the Darkness and attacks Jupiter, sending her flying back to Usagi’s side. Jupiter protects Usagi as Nehelenia blasts her again with dark energy, until she finally collapses. One of her rose earrings falls off and stays in the grass after she’s encased in another mirror.
Wait a second... rose earring? Rose? Like, throwing rose? A throwing rose thrown by a silly guy in a top hat and tuxedo? Tuxedo Mask? MAMO-CHAN???? o fuck!! you were supposed to be finding mamo-chan, girl!!!!!!
The sight of the rose earring, and Jupiter enduring so much pain for her sake, finally brings Usagi back to her senses. Wowwwww, is that entire scene awesome. I feel like Jupiter is the one Inner Senshi that gets the least attention outside of her character-specific episodes, so to get a little more development for her relationship with Usagi is awesome. And she’s definitely the mama hen of the group, probably the most willing and capable of taking a hit for others. I love how it’s her rose earring falling off that wakes Usagi up - her efforts to protect her are actually what saves both Jupiter, and by extension, Mamoru and all the other trapped Senshi.
This basically spells Nehelenia’s doom, as the flower illusion around Usagi breaks and she finds herself outside of Nehelenia’s castle/lair. Nehelenia tries to cover the steps with vines, but Usagi plunges right into them, determined to get to Mamoru.
Back in her lair, Nehelenia predicts Usagi will die in her thorns, but let’s be real, those vines really aren’t gonna stop her, Nehelenia. And at any rate, she has a surprise: Sailor Saturn and Sailor Chibimoon have made their way there, which you would think would really be the end of all this, considering Sailor Saturn is basically the personification of the nuclear option.
And the episode ends on that cliffhanger. This episode was pretty damn good, benefitting from the set-up in the previous, somewhat more boring episode. Sailor Moon is at its best when Things are actually happening, and here it’s at its best, with perfect pacing, high drama and lots of great character moments. Overall, really great episode, and I’m looking forward to next week where it wraps up and we get to meet the Sailor Starlights!
I think I’ll be sticking to Friday evenings to post these, as it hopefully gives everyone enough time to watch the new episodes during the week (and enough time for me to write after watching them myself). Until next time, and Happy New Year!