Welcome back to the (re)watch of Pretty Guardian Sailormoon and the commenting upon each individual episode as the episode runs. As always, this is commentary provided as the episode plays (with pauses for me to write things down) and all things that entails.
Last time on Pretty Guardian Sailormoon we met Ami, also known as Sailor Mercury, and learned that Ami and Usagi are senshi who will fight to defend
Japan the Earth against evil and also seek a princess and a magical rock.
In this episode, we shall meet Rei, or Sailor Mars. More commentary below the cut! And beware spoilers!
This episode and post comes with content notes of a discussion of bullying and threats of physical violence to bully.
As a note on the pacing, for those of you playing along with the “Compare the live action to the animes and manga”, you’ll notice that so far the pacing is more manga/Crystal than it’s been Classic. This will not remain the case as soon as the big differences hit. (Think about it; Crystal took 14 episodes to tell it’s Dark Kingdom arc. PGSM is going to take about 50 episodes.) Anyway, I just wanted to throw that out there since Crystal’s pacing had such massive issues for me.
And we get a quiz? Well, I suppose that’s one way to make infodump reminders entertaining. I could have done without it, to be honest. I know it’s an important aspect of their mission, but priorities, Luna. Last episode it was all “We must find the other senshi first (and kill youma) and then focus on finding the princess”. Now it’s all “Focus on the princess and the ginzuishou” and the episode isn’t even going to be about that. It could stand not being the focus of the episode’s introduction easily.
Those have got to be some of the worst CG-animated crows in the world. I’m sorry. I wasn’t going to comment on this all the time, was I? (I didn’t say anything about the whirlpool vortex of blue! Except I now kind of did. Moving on!)
Lunch at school! I like how Usagi stays friends with her old friends and things don’t automatically change between them. And the way they tease Usagi. One of the reasons I did like PGSM is scenes like this one: friends teasing one another whilst still being friends. In a different context, this would be extremely cruel to Usagi since it’s clearly making her uncomfortable (and, perhaps, she’s a bit overly dramatic about her fears which makes her friends want to tease her more), but it’s also clearly not intended to be malicious.
And then we get to see the small change with Usagi inviting Ami to lunch and… How hesitant Ami is to join her because of Usagi’s friends being there too. It’s such a sad and heartbreaking little scene, especially since you can see Usagi getting into trouble with her friends over it because she can’t explain why she’s suddenly inviting Ami over and her friends think what she’s doing is… Inappropriate and impolite. (After all, they haven’t seen Usagi spend a whole afternoon with Ami previously and seen them start to form a friendship, so it looks sudden and random and incredibly informal to them and they don’t understand it.)
It’s a big change from the other versions where Usagi’s old friends are largely forgotten (especially post-season 1) or only show up briefly for plot-important reasons. I won’t say this isn’t plot-related, but it’s far more extensive and emotionally involved than in the other shows. In PGSM, you can see Usagi struggle, at least somewhat, with having two different groups of friends and how to balance the two.
PGSM is far more focused on the emotional connection between the characters. It’s more… Power Rangers meets (high school) drama in tone than the animes or the manga were. That’s one of the main reasons I wanted to rewatch it, as I may have mentioned. It’s entirely possible I forgot, though! Anyway, with a stronger focus on the character drama come more scenes like these and the discussion between Ami and Usagi on their sudden friendships. We can also see Ami hold back emotionally since “Your friends don’t like me and I know it” is not part of the reason she gives Usagi. She sticks to the logical reasons (she knows) Usagi can’t refute. And that is partially me reading between the lines for things that may not be there, but presumably this is a deliberate choice on Ami’s part.
*facepalms at Beryl* You’re not a merciful queen, but so far we haven’t seen you actually do anything to punish Jadeite for his failures in capturing energy/dealing with the senshi? Show, you are failing in showing Beryl to be not-a-merciful-queen. Do you think you could maybe step that up a little?
Also, we get to see more of Usagi’s family. Well, of her mother. Who also serves as occasional comic relief, as you can see. Granted, I wasn’t entirely amused by the way she sat on her daughter, but there you are. I would have felt differently had I watched it as a child.
Sailor V, you are still not more aerodynamic if you run that way, I’m pretty sure. (Even if it is, it looks tiring.) It’s an interesting thing to see, though, since I’m used to her being more of a background figure. She’s got a lot more presence in this show.
And more changes to the introduction to Rei. This one is slightly bigger than the ones in Ami’s episode last time as well as Usagi’s. In the manga (and Crystal and Classic) the people accusing Rei of kidnapping children are parents and, while they’re angry and upset, there are only two and they aren’t very violent encounters. That’s… not what we get here at all. There’s a small mob of school girls intent on harassing Rei and threatening to do her bodily harm. They do, in fact, do her harm because they throw her onto the ground (well, pushing in a struggle, but that’s going to hurt all the same) and who knows what they’d have done if Usagi hadn’t intervened. (Plus, they specifically stolen something from Rei.)
Note also that there’s a big difference between the manga and the animes’ “People are scared of me” and… more or less leaving it at that and PGSM’s “It happens all the time” note following directly on a scene wherein a mob threatened to beat Rei up. This show is more explicit about the way that Rei’s differences have set her apart and influence her life and her ability to make friends. (I’ll also note again that Usagi’s ability to make friends is a core part of the storyline as a whole. She brings people together and allows them to grow socially and emotionally.)
The scene between Usagi and Rei where they discuss what the girls stole, however, is one that Western viewers such as myself won’t necessarily grasp the whole importance of since it relies on knowledge we don’t necessarily have. This is not a bad thing! (If nothing else it’s a Japanese show produced for a Japanese audience who doesn’t need the information, after all.) But it does affect the emotional impact the scene can have for a person because that impact relies on knowledge someone may or may not have. I thought that was worth noting since it clearly is important and it’s one of those things that gets lost in translation.
Look! More of the original story! Actually, a lot of this looks like the original introduction, just with slightly different variables. Both narratives have people getting kidnapped near Hikawa shrine, both narratives have people accuse Rei of being behind the disappearances and both narratives have Rei and Usagi getting sucked into a different dimension to fight the evil that had kidnapped them.
Also look! A fight scene that looks vaguely like a fight scene instead of a dance routine! Although how Usagi got captured… We’ll call it Plot Reasons because she totally did not need to put her hands together so the vine-tentacle thing could wrap around both of them at once the way that she did. (Alternatively, we could call it “How acting meets CG” since it was clearly a move that needed to be made to accomodate the CG vines.)
And why is Rei’s bracelet glowing and Ami’s wasn’t? And why does Ami’s bracelet become so much bigger after she’s started to transform? No, actually, it’s not the size that bothers me. It’s the speed at which it changes. One shot it’s a plain bracelet. The next it’s watch-sized.
Wait, didn’t Luna say she would open the portal? Why is Ami doing it? Did I miss Luna asking Ami to do this? Actually, did I miss bits in this whole section? When did Rei go all covered in leaves and then blown them off her with psychic powers of “I am totes not defeated yet”? I get that it’s important to show Usagi getting free (though, again, visually, it looks too easy), but isn’t it equally important to show Rei in these moments?
Also I think Rei’s transformation might be my favourite of the lot. And where did Tuxedo Mask come from? And if they’re jumping out of the hole on the normal world side, how did the other girls just walk out without falling? And why is Ami continuously calling Usagi Tsukino-san? No, I know why she does it, but right now they’re in their senshi form and supposed to be undercover. It might be part of Ami’s politeness, though, in that she can’t bring herself to call Usagi Sailor Moon (yet) because it’s too familiar and intimate a way to address Usagi. But you’d think someone as smart as Ami is supposed to be would at least be making an effort to catch herself doing it. I get why Usagi doesn’t do it because she’d be the kind of person you’d constantly have to remind to not do that.
And the moment Rei has her “This is why I have these powers” moment… I heart that moment because it’s so sad and so hopeful at the same time. This is a massive turning point for Rei and also a large departure from the rest of the series because Rei walks away instead of joining them.
Also did anyone notice how it isn’t Usagi who’s defeating all the monsters all the time?
And… that wraps up this episode. I’m not going to talk about the preview this time, but I will note that Beryl still hasn’t really done anything particularly threatening. And we haven’t seen Mamoru being a jerk all episode! Although that’s largely because the only time he showed up was to save Usagi. Deus-ex-Tuxedo? I know that weren’t not going to have many episodes of this, but it is disappointing. He had no discernible reason to be there and he literally only showed up in the episode to save Usagi from the vine-tentacle thing that miraculously survived Rei toasting the monster-of-the-day.
I am not impressed, Pretty Guardian Sailormoon. But at least most other episodes are a lot better in this regard.