The Animation Art of Sailor Moon: Ikuko Itoh – Episode 152

Episode 152Burning Passion! Mars’ Furious Deadly Attack

             

Observations:

  • I took so many screenshots for this episode, I originally had to split them into two parts. (They’ve been combined into one post here.) Not only is the writing great in this episode, but the visuals are just so much fun. The core “look” of this episode is based on how the characters’ expressions and actions change so quickly (and some of the expressions are priceless) so I felt it would be misrepresenting the episode if I didn’t show off these transitions.
  • Way back when I was analyzing the first season, I expressed my suspicions that Rei is Ikuko Itoh’s favourite character, mainly because she is drawn with such expressive detail, and usually given a fun or compelling narrative role. I think this episode confirms my suspicions, because this is just about the ultimate Rei episode. We see every side of her, and it actually conveys her dreams and how she approaches them better than her own Dream Mirror episode.
  • First…let’s talk about those outfits. Chibiusa definitely looks like an average little girl. But Usagi’s outfit, I can’t decide if I like or not. Brown and orange jersey with khaki shorts and suspenders? Well, at least those ribbons in her hair look utterly adorable. She should do that more often. More on the other outfits in a bit.
  • Usagi’s odango pop off when she’s shocked, apparently. The flying odango bit is a recurring gag when Itoh does comedic episodes. It flashes by so quickly, though, that you don’t always notice it. She does like doing the squash-and-stretch animation stuff when she can get away with it.
  • It’s hilarious when Rei puts on her “Poor little Rei-chan” bit. It’s a callback to the R episode where she put on a cutesy persona for her pop idol performance. She seems to be able to switch off the sharp-tongued aspect of herself when she’s “performing.”
  • One of the things I love most about this episode is that the Inners take the piss out of each other during it. It is such an accurate depiction of friendship. It’s totally normal to tease your friends – friendship is not a “MUST RESPECT EACH OTHER AT ALL TIMES” Barney and Friends kinda thing. And the way Usagi imitates Rei’s fake modesty is hilarious. For once, Usagi gets to be the one to lightheartedly call Rei out on her BS.
  • So, the other outfits. Ami’s little beret and turquoise dress couldn’t look cuter. Venus also looks sweet with the ruffled red blouse and tartan skirt. Mako’s outfit though, sort of looks like a boys’ school uniform for a private school. I feel about as ambivalent about it as I do about Usagi’s outfit. They’re cute, but…I dunno. Maybe they’re too 90s for me?
  • I really wanted to emphasize the way Rei’s expressions change from second to second, and they’re all her. And that she is completely unashamed of taking advantage of her extraordinary beauty and using whatever means she can to bring income to the temple. And the comedic timing of her capping off her ambitions with “AND THEN I CAN RELEASE A CD!” is just perfect. It’s another callback to the R episode – one aspect of Rei’s character that I wish the writers had explored more often. They talk about Minako’s dreams to be an idol, but they keep forgetting that Rei is the more talented musician.
  • I wish I could see the layers of the cel for all the different dream careers of Rei, especially since Explorer Rei is mostly obscured. These dreams are so varied and reveal so much of Rei’s endless ambition, but it’s kind of funny that a few of them (i.e. the Racing Queen Rei) aren’t exactly notable careers, especially in comparison to Astronaut Rei. But altogether, they reveal so much about her. She wants to be notable, she wants to show off her talents, she wants to travel the world, she wants to be admired for her beauty, and she wants something high-energy. The Beauty Queen Rei that we see at the end just kind of brings all that together.
  • I enjoy the fourth-wall breaking joke of Usagi physically pushing herself into the visual of Rei’s dreams and ambitions. She’s the only character who could/would do that. Minako might interrupt, but she’d just try to force herself into the dream to share the stage with Rei. This of course inevitably degenerates into the usual argument since Usagi is not going to let Rei get away with pretending to be sweet and modest. (Nor is she going to let Rei get away with saying that she’s more beautiful.)
  • Nanako is every bit as adorable and sympathetic as Miharu was, though with a distinctly unusual character design. Her huge starry eyes give an immediate visual indication that she is more hopeful and ambitious than she lets on.
  • I wish Queen Nehelenia had some lines in this episode rather than the dreadfully boring Zirconia. And, even though it’s been over a decade, I still can’t get used to the Amazon Quartet’s outfits and bodies. They’re just so sexualized for outfits meant for characters barely into their teens. But they’re tame compared to the sexualized character design of this episode’s Monster of the Day.
  • Using the romantic “Doooo dooooo dooooo” music that is associated with Haruka and Michiru for scenes where Nanako is admiring Rei (complete with sparkles and bubbles!) makes things just a tad sapphic. Fortunately, they make it clear that their relationship is sisterly, and that Nanako’s admiration of Rei is because she is everything that Nanako wants to be.
  • More hilarious trolling of Rei by her friends. Ami is just so embarrassed that she suggested that Rei’s love charms might be effective, and Usagi, Minako and Mako just love being able to gloat that Rei hasn’t found a boyfriend yet. And then they completely turn this gloating around by deciding that they want to be Miko as well…so they can have more luck with relationships? Um, Usagi? Remember Mamoru? Pretty sure you two are doing fine. But yeah, these girls can be such assholes to each other, and it just adds to the realism of their friendship.
  • Meanwhile, Chibiusa just doesn’t know how to react to this shit, and we don’t have to sit through a “HOW DO I RELATIONSHIP” discussion with Pegasus. Maybe that’s why I like this episode.
  • I am very curious about this Juuban Hawaiian Centre that the handsome guy was looking for. (When I first saw an out-of-context screenshot of that character, I thought it was a woman.) I know at least that there’s a huge Japanese population in Hawaii. What is the Juuban Hawaiian Centre? What’s it for? Also, does this suggest that the guy they were admiring was American/Hawaiian?
  • Also. Usagi. Boyfriend. You already have. Stop that.
  • We see another side of Rei in the sweeping scene. She’s got an ego the size of her planet, and yet when she is personally confronted with open admiration and adoration, she blushes and doesn’t really know how to react to it. I think this is because at T*A Girls Academy, the respect Rei commands is through intimidation, not through love. Yuuchirou is completely smitten by Rei, but also completely intimidated by her. I think this may have been the first time that someone besides Rei’s friends showed genuine adoration and affection for her.
  • I love the little bit where Usagi is gripping onto Chibiusa’s odango while watching Nanako. Why is she doing that? Why is Chibiusa letting her? No idea. But it cracks me up.
  • One thing that solidly differentiates Anime Rei from Manga Rei is Nanako’s conviction that Rei will stay single and devote herself completely to her Miko duties. Manga Rei would be totally fine with that, as she distrusts and has no need for men. Anime Rei, however? Horny as fuck. And her friends all know it – marriage is very much one of Rei’s many dreams, as it’s yet another thing she can pursue with all her heart, instead of running away like Nanako is.
  • That said, how is it Chibiusa got as old as she is (I’m guessing around 10, but who knows) without knowing what “single” means? Or did Nanako use an obscure synonym/phrase that doesn’t quite translate?
  • I don’t even know how she does it, but when Mako and Minako tease Rei (again), Mako changes the shape of her eyes. The resulting expression is just so funny, and you’d think that merely slanting eyes wouldn’t equal “Mako doing an impression of Rei” but it somehow does. And I think Rei’s embarrassed reaction is because Nanako has brought out her tender side, which is in combination with her “Rei-chan” performance. She knows that Mako and Minako are teasing her for acting out of the norm. Also, check out Ami’s expression there. She’s almost completely cut off, but she is side-eyeing the hell out of those two.
  • The animation for Rei’s many dreams of her International Success Life is repeated, but that’s obvious.
  • I really like that it was Ami that Diana chose to alert. She hasn’t been there very long, but Diana knows that Ami-sama is the sensible one. And this scene, cliched as it is, says so much about Rei and Ami’s relationship. When Rei gets angry about Nanako choosing to give up her dreams and run away from them, Ami knows exactly what she’s going to say and that it’s going to hurt Nanako. It’s just a shame that she couldn’t warn her in time.
  • The subsequent scene where Nanako runs away and the others follow her is also very interesting. Rei stays behind, wracked with sadness and guilt, and for once, doesn’t know what to do. She’s one of the most proactive Senshi, but she’s at a loss here. Fortunately, all she needed was time to think of what she needed to do to help Nanako.
  • The scene with Nanako being pestered by VesVes is very unusual. I can’t think of any other Victims of the Day who were specifically confronted by the villain to determine whether they actually have the qualities they’re looking for. Closest thing was maybe Minako trying desperately to prove she had a Pure Heart, and Eudial not really knowing how to describe what makes Minako Pure.
  • There’s comparatively little stock footage used in this episode. The animation of VesVes shooting the Amazon Ball was taken from the first episode featuring the Quartet (and you can see the animation style switch from Itoh’s to the distinctive and stylized Masahiro Ando). There aren’t any transformation sequences for anyone but Mars, and the attacks that Venus and Jupiter used are reanimated beautifully. I wish they’d done that more often, but I imagine the attacks only got reanimated here so that ManeMane Musume could copy them. (And because this episode, since it is not a filler, got a higher animation budget.)
  • ManeMane Musume is just a bizarre and disturbing Lemures. Her design, featuring dark green circles where her nipples would be (reminding me of Petz’s outfit) and a cutout over her butt, is quite sexualized. The first run of the English dub had to skip this episode so that Optimum could do digital “correction.”
  • Check out the corner of the shot where the others are trying to avoid ManeMane’s Love-Me Chain. Sailor Moon appears to be accidentally choking Chibi-Moon in her attempt to get her out of the way, and Chibi-Moon’s expression is priceless.
  • More trolling. Mercury pretends that she’s going to attack, knowing that if she does, ManeMane will copy her, and then stops and says, “Just kidding!” Seriously. Mercury just trolled everyone in the middle of a battle. This episode, man.
  • I really feel for Nanako when ManeMane swallows her Dream Mirror and then starts repeating her insecurities and secrets. Nanako’s conscious through the whole thing, and has to listen to her own thoughts and lack of self-confidence. And I love Rei’s reaction, which is to basically tell Nanako, “Okay, you want to imitate me. Here’s how. You have the power to achieve your own dreams, and nothing is out of reach if you push hard enough for them.” I wish that the scene of Mars challenging ManeMane was fully animated, but the visuals we do get are stunning.
  • I also love the symbolism of Nanako’s eyes clearing and we see the sky reflected in them. It’s then that Nanako has realized that her potential is infinite – as infinite as the sky above us.
  • As Character Designer, Ikuko Itoh did the animation for all of the stock footage used since S (including opening and ending sequences), but like the other new stock animations in SuperS, Flame Sniper goes by so friggin’ fast that I don’t have time to study the art style. But I do like the implication that ManeMane couldn’t replicate an attack that hadn’t been invented yet.
  • Too bad the newfound audience for Rei’s temple were so fickle. I do hope that the Hinos made some kind of money while they were temporarily popular.
  • I like to think that Rei and Nanako continued to see each other on a regular basis, since they seem so much closer than the usual Regular Character + Victim of the Day relationship.
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