Film Talk: Pretty Guardian Sailormoon, Act 21

Posted October 20, 2015 by Lynn E. O'Connacht in Film & TV, Other People's Creations / 0 Comments

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Pretty Guardian Sailormoon: Act 21 (PGSM 21)Plot Recap: Kunzite has targeted Mercury! (And he hasn’t yet usurped Beryl for reasons known only to him. Possibly he doesn’t want the day-to-day managing?) Usagi has learned that Mamoru is engaged! Mamoru is actually being a nice guy! And, yep, that’s pretty much all the plot progression we’ve had in the last episode. Pretty Guardian Sailormoon is nice and slow on things and can I just point out that Usagi and Mamoru are getting to know each other as people and falling for the person rather than the whole magical “Love at first sight” thing that was so prominent in other versions? I can? Good because I just did.

Anyway! That’s it for the plot recap, so let’s get on with the episode.

Gah! Those eyes appeared out of nowhere! LUNA IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE CREEPY, SHOW. *hides*

Makoto is worrying about what to say to Usagi. You could consider not saying anything at all. She doesn’t know you were there and saw her get her heart broken, after all. She doesn’t know you knew he was engaged and didn’t tell her. And it’s not like you lot aren’t already good at keeping secrets anyway.

And Usagi is depressed in bed. Come to think of it, that makes a relatively big change from the Usagi in other versions as well. Somewhat. It depends. I mean, in the manga she was entirely willing to try to kill herself out of grief, though there it was as much because she was driven beyond the point she could handle than anything else. And in the Classic anime, while we’re had several episodes which were particularly bad — she almost dies several times because she’s pining for Mamoru in the earlier seasons — she also spends a lot of time putting on a smile and pretending to be happy so her friends don’t worry. Live action Usagi doesn’t do that.

Makoto is clearly a little intimidated with Usagi’s mother which is understandable. She’s a bit, um, intense. I mentioned earlier in the rewatch, in one of the first episodes, how Usagi’s mother is both more present and a bit of comic relief when she is. You can see that here when her enthusiasm makes Makoto so uncomfortable. It’s an awkward sort of amusement, born from the fact that people often know a person like that and the recognition of being in Makoto’s shoes. But we’ve also seen moments between Usagi and her mother that are geared more towards setting up a mother/daughter relationship, such as the episode where Usagi runs away from home and it ends with her and her mother reconciling. I just wanted to reiterate there because it’s such a nice change from having someone or something be there solely for comic relief.

Hey, I don’t recall that confrontation from the previous episode! I didn’t know Makoto’d figured out his identity. It’s been a few days and yes my memory is genuinely that terrible. That puts a whole other spin on Makoto worrying over what to tell Usagi. That makes much more sense. And she just decked him for suggesting he doesn’t care about Usagi. (Can we go back in time to when I watched the mini-specials and insert her into the one where Mamoru tells Usagi how he became Tuxedo Mask, so she can tell him off for the way he treated Usagi in that special? Please? Pretty please?)

Yes, let’s all only go to Ami when we have a problem with anything. I like the sentiment and I like the fact that Makoto is going to Ami over Rei. To be fair, that’s not a difficult choice to make. Rei wouldn’t be doing much to make Usagi feel better in this instance and she and Makoto still have unresolved issues from the argument they had anyway, but still. To be even fairer, it’s a legitimate request for help in a tricky situation and at least Makoto knows when (and who) to ask for help solving a problem she’s dealing with. That’s important! Not everyone knows how to ask for help and sometimes we grow up thinking knowing when we can’t handle something on our own is a sign of weakness. So for Makoto to know when to ask for help is really big. She’s the most tomboyish of the lot and “Asking for help is a sign of weakness” is more accepted in more feminine characters, isn’t it? Would this one line be as remarkable if it’d been Ami asking for help? But Makoto is the kind of lone teenager who’s mature enough to live on her own and provide for herself. She’s used to solving issues on her own in a way that’s only approached by Rei. (PGSM hasn’t shown us whether she lives with someone who provides for her or whether she’s entirely on her own yet, but in the classic anime it’s Makoto and Minako who live entirely on her own. Rei and Ami might fend for themselves, but they do both have carers.)

Things about Shin that we can see in Kunzite: he still kind of likes flowers. Just black ones instead of white ones.

And thus someone learns that Ami is missing. Though I don’t blame Luna for not noticing something was wrong. Ami could as easily have wanted to go home and not want to wake Luna, after all. Although you know what I just finished saying about carers? We now have a scene where Ami’s mother is a) not noticing her daughter’s unused bed, b) leaving the door unlocked.Maybe the last is a Japanese thing where you can still leave your doors unlocked in expensive apartment blocks because people won’t burgle it? My parents don’t have an alarm because the police told them outright that no burglar was ever going to be stupid enough to break into their house thanks to its location.

Surprise!Ami! Huh, maybe Kunzite made sure her mother saw her that morning. He’s smart enough to think of that, after all, but then Ami’s mother is supposed to be a very succesful doctor, so how did she not notice something was wrong with her daughter? Did he use a youma illusion to fool Ami’s mother? Brainwash her? Inquiring minds want to know! Oooor, she could be on a business trip out of the country. That’s also a possibility. I kind of like mine better, but oh well.

And Makoto immediately jumps in to help Ami, which is sweet and reminds us that friendship is a thing that sticks around even if you end up drifting apart (for a bit) because helping each other out is what friends do. And note that this isn’t coded in a way to suggest that Makoto is only helping Ami because Ami is useful, but because she cares. I know it’s a given for the show and, personally, I’d usually need to be explicitly told the opposite because I’d assume the caring, but since people drifting apart and loneliness are such a big part of Ami’s arc, I really want to stress that point.

And I like that Ami’s request for anything else is to go to the amusement park: to have fun with a friend. It’s an answer that Makoto isn’t expecting and that throws her to the point that I’m not sure she realises what Ami is really asking for, but it’s a sign of their friendship that Makoto’s response is to go to the amusement park with her to spend time together. No worries, no problems, no issues. Just the two of them, having a good time. Look at how happy just that little bit of interaction makes Ami, despite the fact that Makoto is clearly tired and/or not in the mood to hang out at the park (and does it anyway because Ami was doing that badly when she saw her).

MOTOKI! Did you bring Kamekichi to the amusement park? That certainly strengthens my theory that he takes the turtle to work and it doesn’t actually live in the tiny aquarium we’ve seen so far.

And suddenly Ami has fainted. Eep! And I know Motoki showing up may initially look like it’s just a way to get Makoto to look the other way while Ami faints — which isn’t even necessary because she doesn’t have X-ray vision, but is useful visually because it’s more engaging than showing us Ami disappear behind the carousel fine and return into view fainted — but as I recall this is actually a significant little scene between Motoki and Makoto later.

Thematically floating balloon. And Motoki’s car is green. Why am I not surprised that it’s green? Not just any green, but turtle green. And look more meaningful interaction between Makoto and Motoki. I AM TOTALLY NOT SPOILING ANYTHING. Am I? I mean, it’s obvious where the interactions between them are headed, right? Which would make two romances in the same show that are about people getting to know one another before falling in love with one another. TWO ROMANCES. IN THE SAME SHOW!

Poor Makoto, not calling their friends to let them know Ami is in hospital because they’ve been otherwise occupied. Shows how fragile their friendship really is. Could you imagine Classic and manga Makoto not calling them?

Awwww. We haven’t seen much of Usagi’s brother, but the times we have seen him have generally put him into an antagonistic situation with his older sister, so it’s nice to see him just stop in and drop off something to make her feel better. It’s just a few seconds of screentime, but it instantly layers their relationship as siblings in a way that none of the other versions have even come close to. (Of course, he was barely in any of the other versions, so that makes sense. He has time to develop here.) And I think it’s sweet that it’s her little brother’s concern that makes her determined to get over her funk. (Yep, we’re calling it that for now because I don’t recall the show well enough to remember if they treat Usagi’s feelings as a form of depression or whether it’s really just the kind of funk people can get into sometimes.)

And Mamoru thinks back on his confrontation with Makoto and what that means for his feelings and how they relate to his actions since he apparently hasn’t done that yet. And we learn that a month from now, Mamoru is going off to university.

And awww Motoki is so sweet. <3 Motoki how the hell did you store all of that in your jacket?

No, Nephrite. You can’t trust him. Not one bit. That’s entirely the wrong question. Here’s the one you should be asking: why are we trusting him as far as we are?

And so it begins! Kunzite’s great plan of… er, world domination? What is his plan anyway?

I like the hints at what’s to come too. We know Ami would fold at simply being addressed that way because she’s too sweet and gentle to stand up for herself in that situation, so for that one tiny little smile and the obvious fear of the guys when Makoto gets there… That’s a very effective set-up of what’ll come next. The petals kind of give more away than I would’ve liked, but it’s a good reminder in case we needed one that Ami is not entirely herself.

And Makoto finally calls the other girls. As a thought exercise: let’s ask whether Kunzite’s plan would have been any more effective if the senshi had rallied around Ami the way they did Usagi when he tried to turn her into a youma. Personally, I’d like to think it’d at least have a slowing effect on whatever it is he did to her.

Another thing about PGSM is that the show is a little more likely to use the senshi’s other abilities. In classic and Crystal we have Ami’s dowsing abilities appear out of the blue and… while the senshi’s abilities dealing with their elements here also mostly come out of the blue — Rei’s ability to see the future in fire is an exception since that was always manifest for her — the fact that it’s Rei, Ami and now Makoto who can use their element to learn things intuitively in PGSM makes Ami and Makoto’s abilities… not less surprising when they show up, but less anomalous. What also helps is that, in PGSM, both Ami and Makoto’s abilities with their elements arose in times of need. With Ami it was the fight against Kunzite when he’d kidnapped Usagi. With Makoto here it’s looking for Ami.

And Ami, being in a combat situation, has to come to terms with it in a few moments. Makoto has a longer time, so we see more of it. This scene has more leaf-rustling footage, but also more of Makoto’s expression as her ability manifests.

And as Makoto faces Kunzite we see her protective instincts again. It’s a really nice episode for Makoto, actually. We haven’t really seen that much of her since her introduction, but this episode centres on her and her struggles as a senshi and a friend as much as it focuses on whatever Kunzite is doing to Ami. After several episodes very heavily focused on Mars and Usagi, this makes a nice change of pace.

Random aside: I really wish I could do my hair up that awesomely just by waving my hand over it and calling out a transformation phrase.

Look at that smug little smile. Just look at it.

Awwww, that’s cheating, Kunzite, making that pillar fall on Ami. Your match with Jupiter was just getting past my initial reaction to fight scenes in this show and starting to get to that point where I just have fun with the choreographed battle scenes. AND YOU CUT IT SHORT. *grumps*

And then, finally, the reveal! Or the start of it, as Ami shakes off Jupiter and Jupiter realises that whatever she’s just said about not letting Kunzite take Ami it’s already too late. She already knew this, of course. Or, rather, she already suspected it because she saw those petals and those guys and she knows Ami. So this moment? It hurts.

And Rei and Usagi coming too late to do anything but watch Ami transform into an evil version of herself? T_T And we also see a completely different person. Dark Mercury certainly has all of Kunzite’s arrogance.

And… that’s it. Ami has now become evil and is set on destroying her (former) friends. Will she succeed? Will the power of friendship be strong enough to break Kunzite’s hold and return Ami to normal? See you next time and perhaps we’ll find out!

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