The Animation Art of Sailor Moon: Ikuko Itoh – Episode 116

Episode 116Sunny Skies After a Storm! A Friendship Dedicated to Hotaru

       

Observations:

  • I discovered quite by accident that there was an episode featuring Ikuko Itoh’s animation that I missed. Episode 116 does not credit Ikuko Itoh as its animation director, but instead someone named Jouji Yanase, who, curiously enough, doesn’t have any other episodes to his credit.
  • I’d long suspected this episode was (at least partly) her work, and got the confirmation when I flipped through three-lights.net’s scans of the douga (the term for animation pencil sketches) art book “Small Soldier: Unmei No Deai.” Itoh has her own section in the book, and this page features sketches that are definitely from episode 116. I am not sure whether all of this episode is Itoh’s work (which would explain the credit issue). The dramatic scenes are definitely in her style, but the comedic ones look quite a bit different. However, this is a filler episode, and the filler episodes don’t have as high an animation budget, nor do they show off the animation style quite as distinctly.
  • This episode is very unusual simply because of its cast. We have no Inner Senshi at all, just the Moon Family, Luna, and the four Outers. It’s also a bit of a change for the S season to have Mamoru in a relatively major role (there is a longstanding rumour that Kunihiko Ikuhara hated him, but as the R Movie was directed by Ikuhara, I don’t give much credence to the rumour). However, Yuji Endo was the episode director this time, not Ikuhara, and quite a few of his episodes have Mamoru in a major role.
  • I like to think that this store, which is full of cutesy plush things, is the same store where Usagi spent hours debating whether to buy a blue hippo or pink donkey. This intro definitely supports my theory that most of the dates with Mamoru are more about the two Usagis getting him to buy them stuff. Eh, he’s a bachelor with an Alfa Romeo and a Yamaha motorcycle, he can handle paying for a bunny backpack or two.
  • Hotaru’s seeing the Moon Family and thinking about how it reminds her of how her family used to be was the anime’s only depiction of Keiko Tomoe. The scene is definitely foreshadowing how Hotaru’s happy memories of her father are part of what anchors her to the world and allows her to feel love and hope. I suspect Hotaru’s avoiding of Chibiusa wasn’t completely about her fears of hurting Chibiusa, but because seeing a happy family that she no longer has would have caused her a lot of grief.
  • Where did all those stuffed animals next to Mistress 9’s throne come from? And why are they there? It’s such an odd thing to have surrounding her (never mind the weird outfit). Hotaru is shown to be relatively elegant in her hobbies (since she has a lamp collection, not a stuffed toys collection), and Mistress 9 is an adult alien, so…does she just like ripping the things apart?
  • Chibiusa’s method of delivering the picnic invite to Hotaru is rather unusual. I am guessing she hid the invite in the backpack’s pocket so that Kaori wouldn’t discover it, but handing her the entire backpack was taking a big chance that Kaori would actually deliver it to Hotaru. She also didn’t indicate whether the backpack was a gift or not, but since Hotaru brought it with her I guess she concluded that it was just a method of delivering the message.
  • Prof. Tomoe’s enthusiastic encouragement that Hotaru should have fun with her friend makes me wonder if Germatoid’s influence over him waxes and wanes like Mistress 9’s possession over Hotaru. Kaori seemed to want to try to use Hotaru’s illness to force her to stay home, which would conflate with the Death Busters’ attempt to control Hotaru as much as possible. It does seem to be contradictory that Prof. Tomoe would deliberately target a botanist working at the exact botanical garden where his daughter would be going.
  • I am rather sorry I couldn’t get a good screenshot of Usagi and Mamoru trying to force the picnic basket into his trunk, but it’s a background event that is hard to see unless they’re in motion. At least I got Mamoru’s hilarious nervous expression once Usagi starts trying to stuff in the basket.
  • Chibiusa seems a little bit too quick to doubt whether Hotaru would be joining them at the picnic, but she is a child who just saw her best friend try to avoid her. What I find interesting is her body language. By SuperS, Chibiusa doesn’t need Luna-P anymore, but she still needed it back in S, and she’s clinging to it here. She’s saddened by doubts that her friend may let her down, so she’s clinging to Luna-P, who was loyal to her even while she was Black Lady.
  • I will refrain from making Prince jokes in reference to Hotaru’s attire. (It is adorable though.)
  • Although the chronology of the series is wonky (we see the seasons change as the storyline continues, and yet after 5 years of episodes only 2 years have actually passed), for the most part the backrground aesthetics of the episodes were timed to coincide to when the episode was first aired. This episode first aired on December 3, 1994. And, I gotta say, even though Japan has a generally warmer climate than my area, nothing about this episode looks like it takes place in late fall/early winter. The flowers, trees and grass all look like mid-spring, if anything. (Hell, the characters are photographed with cherry blossoms!) I have to wonder if perhaps the crew decided that even though it wouldn’t be warm enough for the group to go to a botanical garden, no one would really notice. If I compare it to another episode that aired in December, episode 78 (which people will know as the Nurse Minako episode), it was snowy, freezing cold, everyone was bundled up, and they were playing Christmas music in the background. …I don’t get it.
  • I wonder what the “6 12 3” numbers in the viewfinder of Mamoru’s camera mean?
  • You can tell Hotaru’s an Outer Senshi because it is impossible to photograph her without her looking graceful, elegant and impossibly beautiful. However, only a moment later, when Usagi falls over and lets go of the two younger girls, the screenshot I took may be the first and only time where Hotaru was pictured in an undignified manner.
  • Years ago back in the early days of the BSSM fandom, I saw this ridiculous website trying desperately to prove that Haruka & Michiru were not in a relationship, using Haruka’s crucifix necklace as proof. You see, she’s actually a Christian and straight and ahahaha I can’t even finish that sentence
  • Speaking of outfits though, would it have killed them to give Setsuna at least ONE other outfit besides the mauve one? Mamoru’s in the green blazer again, but at least he’s shown wearing other things sometimes. Setsuna, who is established in the manga as a stylish woman with dreams of designing clothes, gets two civilian outfits. TWO. And they even mixed it up a little by having Michiru put her hair in a ponytail (A Senshi changing their hairstyle even a little bit seems to be a cardinal sin) but nope, no variety allowed besides that.
  • I really like that Mamoru instantly comes to Hotaru’s aid when she starts feeling weak – it’s an instinct that goes with his dream of becoming a doctor.
  • Itoh snuck in a single frame of a naked Usagi when Chibiusa hit her in the back while playing leapfrog. I wish the animators did more silly in-jokes like this. For those horndogs trying so desperately to find that frame, thinking it’s probably going to be sexy, THIS IS IT. I hope it was worth all that googling.
  • By now, the accepted way to react to Usagi getting into an argument with Rei or Chibiusa is just to try to ignore it. Hotaru caught on pretty quickly.
  • The animation for Mimete’s typing at the computer is recycled from previous animation with Eudial. I’m pretty sure that even the shot where you’re watching Mimete type from the perspective of the monitor is traced from the same Eudial animation.
  • I love that it’s only Usagi and Mamoru who blush at the sheer number of Takemura’s children. This is probably because they’re the only ones old enough to have figured out how Takemura got those children in the first place. Still, I wonder if at least a few of them were twins/triplets/etc, since none of them appear to be older than 6. He has 6 kids with a 7th on the way, but I suppose he and his wife could be the types who immediately conceive as soon as she’s able to. Also, I suspect that there’s a dual fertility pun going on with him – his plants are fertile and his loins are too.
  • I want the cel of Mimete with gigantic bugged out purple eyes. She seems to have been excessively disturbed by Takemura’s sheer number of children.
  • Usagi pesters both Chibiusa and Mamoru into eating the bell peppers she included in the lunch. This is a cultural joke – green bell peppers are often seen as bitter and/or smelling of grass, and are a shorthand for “food that a child doesn’t like” much like brussels sprouts. So this is not so much a “Usagi is a terrible cook” joke this time. This scene also serves as a signifier that Chibiusa takes after her father in subtle ways. The bell peppers were changed to salad in the English dub, which leaves the implication that, either they don’t eat their vegetables, or Serena can’t even make salad correctly.
  • One thing that this episode (perhaps) unintentionally does is leave a plot hole regarding Mamoru’s Pure Heart. There’s pretty much no doubt he has one, but he’s the only major character (besides Hotaru and Setsuna, for obvious reasons) who was never targeted for his Heart Crystal. We can chalk that up to “Ikuhara hates Mamoru,” but considering his Dream Mirror was targeted in the following season, it’s a major oversight.
  • THERE IS A METAPHOR FOR GREENHOUSE ROSES AND HOTARU’S PREDICAMENT. I HOPE YOU CAUGHT THE METAPHOR. BECAUSE THEY HIT YOU OVER THE HEAD WITH IT.
  • Usagi’s sheer jealousy over absolutely anyone coming between her and Mamoru is an indicator of how immature she is. She knows they’re meant to be, that their love has crossed literally thousands of years, that he’s much too honourable to even look at another woman, and that they’ll be married and have a daughter in the future, but nope, it’s all DON’T TOUCH MAH MAN.
  • Usagi’s eyes go off-centre when Mamoru is pulling her and Chibiusa towards him in order to give the excuse that he’s with his family. (The “They’re my future wife and daughter” bit is a classic scene)
  • One major reason why Hotaru is assisting Takemura with hammering in the board (besides her being a sweet person) is because she wants to feel useful. For much of her storyline, she is insecure and sees herself as a dangerous burden. Here is something that she can do that is both helpful and not an excessive physical exertion.
  • The Daimon Balla/Bara’s name literally means “Rose.”
  • Itoh had some fun with how the characters introduced themselves in the battle, by using unusual angles and lighting. I also like that this battle doesn’t waste time with long transformation sequences – just Chibi-Moon’s truncated one, and the Crisis Make-Up one.
  • “I am troubled by copycats” is another wonderful line from Mamoru. (He’s actually getting some fun things to say this time around) And, I really love that in the process of introducing Sailor Moon, he refers to her as the “main event.” That’s a character trait taken directly from the manga. Tux is no weakling, but he knows who the real hero is, and where the real power comes from. And he loves and admires her all the more for it.
  • I find the scene where Hotaru grabs Balla’s roots so intriguing. On the surface, it seems like it’s the malevolent force possessing her that is giving her this extreme power, but on the other hand, her actions don’t make sense if it’s Mistress 9 performing them. Mistress 9 is shown later to have complete control of the Daimons, and why would she directly interfere with the operation that is in the process of procuring a Heart Crystal for her? No, I don’t think it’s Mistress 9’s powers in control here, I think it’s Sailor Saturn’s. She causes the Daimon to wilt to the point where she’s nearly dead. She literally used the power of Death here.
  • Nice job standing around and watching whilst not doing anything, Outers. You protect the Earth real good.
  • Aaaand a rainbow. We can’t have an animated depiction of a thunderstorm without one.
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