The Animation Art of Sailor Moon: Ikuko Itoh – Episode 125

Episode 125: A Bright Shooting Star! Saturn and the Messiah

       

Observations:

  • This is my absolute favourite episode, so I’m going to discuss a LOT. I took over 200 screenshots, and cutting the extras was HARD.
  • Check out the use of colour in this episode. It goes from dark purples and blues, to greens, reds, and a sickly magenta once Mistress 9 has gotten hold of the Grail.
  • Sailor Moon throws herself in front of Mistress 9 to protect Hotaru from being killed by Uranus and Neptune. Self-sacrifice is a very important theme in this season.
  • Mistress 9 is a very sarcastic and manipulative person. She’s evil not in a bombastic way, but in a calculating one.
  • Yet she is also a vain villain, since she has crafted an enormous statue of herself, which she can manipulate with her own hair.
  • Megumi Ogata’s acting as Haruka is AMAZING in this episode. She pours so much emotion into Haruka’s despair and panic. Kotono Mitsuishi is also absolutely incredible, especially near the end.
  • Mistress 9 calls Prof. Tomoe the “empty shell of Germatoid,” showing she does not even recognize Tomoe’s humanity. And she, too, manipulates him just as much as she manipulates Sailor Moon.
  • Watch Sailor Moon’s eyes and expressions throughout this episode. She shows such a vast range of emotions, and the emotional heart of the episode is anchored in her.
  • Her heartbroken eyes at seeing Mistress 9 attack her own father instantly become eyes of innocent hope when she hears Hotaru’s voice.
  • Her tears practically glisten when Uranus tells her not to be fooled by Mistress 9.
  • The way that the Daimons move is really interesting. They’re semi-transparent, and seem to shift back and forth, emphasizing their numbers and otherworldliness.
  • Neptune has a good point when she tells Sailor Moon that since she is not the Messiah she doesn’t have the right to use the Holy Grail as she wishes. Sailor Moon completely ignores this, as she is single-minded in her belief that Hotaru is still alive and that it’s still possible to save her.
  • Uranus and Neptune shudder with fear after Sailor Moon gives the Grail to Prof. Tomoe, having realized that trying to reason with Sailor Moon is pointless.
  • When the Daimons start to go crazy, one of them bites Jupiter on the chest. It really emphasizes their savagery.
  • Mistress 9 foreshadows the end of the episode by discussing how the Holy Grail contains the ultimate in all human emotions, and that its power could only be matched by producing a pure Heart Crystal with those emotions.
  • Pharaoh 90 is such a mysterious entity. It never speaks, and its only action is to emit enormous amounts of power. It also has such a strange design, resembling a sphere with tendrils. I’ve always wondered why it attacked Mistress 9, but that might just be one last instance of the Death Busters sabotaging each other.
  • The scene where Soichi expresses his regrets for letting Hotaru down, and the flashbacks of Hotaru’s childhood, are so sad and touching. I love that we see the good times, the bad times, and even the times where little Hotaru is exasperated with her father. What I wonder is, are these Soichi’s memories, Hotaru’s, or both?
  • The eyes are another important visual signifier for Hotaru/Mistress 9/Saturn. Note that depending on who is in control, the eyes get wider or thinner. Hotaru’s eyes are wide and innocent, Saturn’s eyes are serious and intelligent, and Mistress 9’s eyes are thin and cold.
  • Hotaru destroys Mistress 9 from within even before she has fully transformed, showing just how powerful she is.
  • We saw in the first season that the spirit of a Senshi is semi-transparent, suggesting that Hotaru is already “gone” and all that remains is Saturn. Thus, she is able to phase where she wants to, and has temporary flying and teleporting powers.
  • Saturn’s final words to Chibiusa, thanking her, have so much meaning. Their friendship not only cured Hotaru’s loneliness, but gave her a reason to keep on living, and to fight back.
  • Uranus lashes out at Sailor Moon, blaming her for what she believes is the end of the world. And y’know, she would have been right if Saturn hadn’t turned out to be benevolent and the world’s saviour instead of destroyer. The series wants us to take Sailor Moon’s idealistic side instead of the Outers’ cynical side, but Sailor Moon IS to blame for Pharaoh 90 being allowed to get to Earth in the first place. Things worked out, but only just barely.
  • Saturn appears in front of a blood red maelstrom, symbolizing her imminent death. Her eyes are so sad when she reveals to Sailor Moon the double-edged sword of her massive powers. When she holds the Glaive up against Moon, it is because this sacrifice is hers alone to make, and she doesn’t want Moon to die for no reason.
  • For the first time, we see Sailor Moon truly lose it. She nearly snapped when she watched her friends die, but here she is hysterical with despair at thinking she can do nothing to save Hotaru. She attempts the double transformation because she subconsciously knows that it wasn’t the Holy Grail that truly granted her that power, it was herself.
  • The other Senshi giving Sailor Moon their powers, combined with the incredible purity of Sailor Moon’s heart, is enough to replicate the powers granted by the Holy Grail. The powers of the others also pass on their emotions. This proves that Sailor Moon is truly the Messiah, because her power is so infinite she doesn’t need the Holy Grail to use it.
  • It would normally be a happy moment when Sailor Moon achieves the Super transformation, but Sailor Moon already knows she will be too late to truly save Hotaru’s life, which is why her tears are streaming.
  • Most of the battle is fought overnight. When Saturn awakens, dawn has broken. The night is death, daybreak is rebirth.
  • After Saturn destroys Pharaoh 90 all is silent. The silence did come as predicted, but it was a sign that the world was saved, not destroyed.
  • The finale is a very bittersweet moment. Hotaru is not dead, but she has to start her whole life over again.
  • Look into Sailor Moon’s eyes one more time. They are blank with exhaustion, grief, and perhaps fear. What did she witness when she went to follow Saturn into Pharaoh 90? What caused her uniform to be damaged so much? And where did she return from? It’s very effective that we are never shown what truly happens, for our own imagination is far more frightening than any visual could be.
  • I strongly dislike episodes 126 and 127 (126 especially), so I look to this episode as the true end of S. If the denouement was on this moment, they would have ended the series on an incredibly emotionally powerful note. Instead, we got poor writing and even more poor animation.
  • I also dislike how SuperS follows up on this scene. Rightfully, Sailor Moon should have permanently kept the Super transformation now that she can do it without the Holy Grail. She earned it. Instead, she’s depowered to the point where Hawk’s Eye can dismiss her attack with one hand, and she has to rely on Pegasus to grant her the upgrade again. They made Pegasus absolutely ludicrously powerful in the anime. Basically, they want us to believe that Pegasus is the equivalent of a combination of all the Senshi’s powers, plus Sailor Moon’s Heart Crystal. And that he’s at least as powerful as Saturn, as she’s the one who grants the Outers their upgrade later. Yeah, no. They diminished the power of the final scene doing that.
  • I am so, so glad that Ikuko Itoh animated/supervised the two climax episodes of S. They wouldn’t have been half as good without her incredible talents. Not all of the animation in this episode is her work (though I would guess that she animated the middle of the episode), but because she served as an art director for this episode, 124 and 125 have one cohesive beautiful mise en scene.
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