The Animation Art of Sailor Moon: Ikuko Itoh – Episode 159

Episode 159Chibiusa’s Little Rhapsody of Love

       

Observations:

  • I’m gonna be rather opinionated today. I am not a fan of the Chibiusa/Pegasus pairing. I’m fine with it if you like it. Watch out for falling rant bombs.
  • My, my, who’s this Pegasus guy? Tells a kid to keep his secrets but he never says why. And poor old Jet has got a tear in her eye, Saying, “I am going to kill this horse guy. I am going to kill this horse guy.”
  • We’re getting close to the end! Itoh directed only one more episode after this one, but before I get to it I’ll be posting some quick analyses of the opening and ending sequences she’s directed.
  • This episode, unfortunately, is a far cry from episode 152. The animation quality is still wonderful (as they both got an “important” episode budget as opposed to a “filler” episode budget) but I feel much less enthusiastic about it. I don’t really blame Itoh for this episode’s failures – it’s a writing failure, not an art one.
  • This episode’s biggest failure is that it assumes the audience is emotionally invested in the Chibiusa/Pegasus romance. I am not. At all. And I find it alarming that a full third of this episode is devoted just to gooshy romance stuff where nothing actually happens. It’d be like the Silver Millennium episode where Serenity and Endymion just dance with each other for 10 minutes, not saying a word to each other, and “Moonlight Densetsu” is played on repeat.
  • So the episode opens with Pegasus telling Chibiusa about his home, Elysion, and how the Dead Moon’s destruction is now poisoning Earth. Why did he keep the information about Elysion secret for so long? He always gives the excuse that he can’t give Chibiusa information yet, and that just screams “padding” to me. He’s literally using her dreams as a safe house, putting her in mortal danger, but he can’t trust her to know that he comes from a destroyed kingdom? Ugh. I do not like Pegasus.
  • Chibiusa’s sad little eyes when she realizes that once again, Pegasus is keeping a secret from her, and she has to force herself to believe in him again, just break my heart. The anime tries desperately to make us forget that Chibiusa is all but 10, but I can’t. This is WAY too much for one little girl to handle. And it’s disgusting that Pegasus is forcing her to accept his secrecy, and she even has to keep this info from her fellow Senshi.
  • Honestly, the whole “Keep our relationship a secret” thing really, REALLY bugs me. It sends a dangerous message. Children who are being exploited are always instructed to keep secrets, and here are the children of Japan learning that they should just trust and believe in this controlling bullshit. It’s “fortunate” in that Pegasus is actually a teen humanoid boy and not a predatory adult, but he still has absolutely no right to make these sickening, manipulative demands on a trusting little girl.
  • So yeah, the animation of Chibiusa transforming into Small Lady Serenity is very pretty. Major error though – she doesn’t have her crescent moon symbol on her forehead for the entire sequence.
  • I like the sparkling lake, the falling stars, and the Aurora Borealis behind Small Lady Serenity, but it’s just…boring. She’s just walking towards him, smiling, and then they hug, and then they fly, and then she flies, and…ugh. Snoooore. Like…this does not further the plot any. It’s just “Hey, little girls! You like Princesses and Ponies, right? HERE IS A PRINCESS AND A PONY!” It’s a beautiful, beautiful sequence, but it is just fluff. 1/3rd of the episode is fluff.
  • One thing I need to comment on is the sequence where Small Lady Serenity is backlit and we can basically see through her dress. Was that necessary? I know it’s been previously established that the material for the Princess dresses is very thin, but I really don’t like knowing that the 10 year old is entirely nude under her dress. And I don’t want to think that maybe Pegasus can see through her dress too. It looks pretty, but, again. 10 year old.
  • If I had my way, one major change I would make to the writing of SuperS would be to establish that Chibiusa and Helios’ relationship will happen in the FUTURE. Not now. SOMEDAY. Because this whole sequence suggests a level of emotional investment that a child just shouldn’t have. Love in this series is very firmly set as a “brought together by destiny,” “together forever,” “tied by the red string” type of deal. A child should not be choosing her “forever” mate. Hell, even Helios, regardless of chronological age, shouldn’t be committing to “forever” either. Usagi and the rest are at least sexually mature, and didn’t have to go through the creepy “Let’s keep it a secret” thing. This plot is just so caught up in creating emotional wish fulfillment for the younger audience it tried (and failed) to court, it’s lost all sense of reality.
  • I was so very glad when this dream sequence ended and we got to the Senshi. Then I was so very disappointed in them. Their behaviour in this episode is an uncomfortable reminder that they’re immature teenagers, and that Chibiusa’s safety isn’t exactly guaranteed by them.
  • Usagi expresses concern about how Chibiusa is keeping secrets from her, and how she heard a male voice in her room. She’s naive, and clearly doesn’t have the maternal instinct yet, so she’s only wondering what’s going on instead of listening to the deafening alarm bells. Unfortunately, none of the others question Chibiusa’s behaviour. It’s just, “Oh, she has a boyfriend. Let’s find out about him.” But they only want to know about him because they’re nosy gossips. Not because they’re concerned for the safety of a TEN. YEAR. OLD. There’s a reference to age differences later in the episode, but not even once does someone say, “Hey, maybe she’s too young for a boyfriend.” Ugh.
  • Anyway, I like the recurring joke where Mako makes Rei spit out her tea by insisting that Chibiusa’s beau is her “sempai.” One aspect where this episode excels is playing with different pairings. Mako and Rei rarely hang out together on their own, and Minako and Ami rarely do so either. It’s mostly because each pair doesn’t really “get” each other, which helps comedy-wise because each one is going to be thrown off by their partner’s reaction to Chibiusa’s situation.
  • Usagi and Mamoru react rather badly to the thought that Chibiusa has a boyfriend. I wonder what’s going on in their heads? Is it a parental want to protect and shield her from relationships? Are they feeling old? Is the realization prematurely hitting them that their future daughter is already starting puberty?
  • The shot of Queen Nehelenia looking over her shoulder is beautiful, but seems off-model. She looks even less human than usual, with all of her features (eyes, nose, head, ears) elongated. Compared to the screenshot of her just above, they almost don’t even look like the same person.
  • Love the details of the Amazon Quartet’s beds, sleeping positions, and possessions. Their personalities really shine through in these shots even though they’re not doing anything. Ves-Ves, exuberant and cheerful, is halfway off the bed. Cere-Cere, who is reserved and ladylike, is curled up next to an elegant lamp. Palla-Palla, who is the ultimate Creepy Child, is dressed in pajamas instead of a nightgown, and is surrounded by plushies. And Jun-Jun, the athletic tomboy, looks like she wants to tussle with someone. Also, I wonder how many of those plushies are going to survive Palla-Palla “playing” with them?
  • Both pairs of Senshi think that bribing Chibiusa with food will get her to spill the details. This is a major tactical error on their part – Chibiusa likes sweets, but she’s NOT the glutton that Usagi is, and she has Mamoru’s perceptive abilities so she’s not so easily tricked. Each pair seems to forget that they’re not coaxing details out of a smaller version of Usagi, but of a child that is only HALF Usagi.
  • The brief, sad scene where Chibiusa laments that she “can’t do anything” to help Pegasus is painful. It hits me once again that this is way, way, way too much for a child her age to have to hold secret within her heart. A 10 year old shouldn’t have this kind of heartache or helplessness. Emotionally, this scene works, but for all the wrong reasons.
  • Ami’s very good with children, and had the right idea of telling Chibiusa that if there was something bothering her, she could talk to them. Too bad her gossip partner was Minako, who couldn’t have ruined Ami’s efforts harder. I still can’t follow how she managed to twist the tiny bits of details Chibiusa mentioned into her two-timing. But…Minako is insane.
  • I have joked before that the most embarrassing thing about Sailor Moon to try to explain to a non-fan is the Chibiusa/Pegasus relationship. I still stand by this. Because here, the writers chose a comedic bent to the scene that doesn’t have very good implications. When asked to describe her boyfriend, she says he’s “pale” and has an “oblong face.” When she thinks of her boyfriend, she’s thinking of him as a horse. And, let’s face it. When she had her first kiss, she wasn’t kissing Helios, she was kissing a horse. We can explain the relationship somewhat by pointing out that Helios is humanoid, but there is just no way to explain away that Chibiusa is in love with an animal.
  • And now getting to the fancy restaurant scene, Mamoru acts in a way that really disgusts me. He’s the adult, and yet he’s STILL only interested in Chibiusa’s boyfriend just so he knows who it is. Where are your protective instincts, Mr. Protector-Right-In-Your-Given-Name? Kenji is being a better father than you are right now! And uuugggh, he refers to this outing with Chibiusa as a date. Don’t encourage her Electra Complex, geez!
  • Sigh. I guess I better discuss the animation a bit.  I do like the many varied comedic expressions the characters have, particularly Rei’s bad attempt at being nonchalant, Usagi’s stinkeye, and Ami’s horror at Minako’s summary of what Chibiusa has been telling her. I also really enjoy the quick sequences showing the Inners moving furniture (and hiding behind it) to try to hear what Chibiusa’s saying. And I LOVE the detail that Mako apparently moved an entire Grand Piano on her own. The waiter’s expression is priceless too.
  • The backgrounds are also really lovely in this episode. Lots of soft pinks, greens and reds, and the autumn foliage looks really nice.
  • And oh god Itoh was having fun designing the Victim of the Day. He’s probably the strangest human character design the series has ever featured.
  • I also love the speeches at the beginning of the battle, and how Chibi-Moon’s expressions change once she realizes what her friends are insinuating. But one thing is really weird about that scene – what is it with Mars’ pose? Why is she dangling her foot off the pier to the point where she has to lean on Mercury for support? Mercury’s supposed to be the bad one at posing, not Mars! …looking closer, Venus has her leg way off the port and it doesn’t look like ANYTHING is supporting her. Maybe don’t have them standing on a pier if there isn’t a way to pose them without defying gravity, hmm?
  • Oh yeah, there were a bunch of scenes where the camera would randomly linger on Koi fish (the big colourful fish you often see in Chinese restaurants), either in aquariums or ponds. This is a reaaaaally lame pun. “Koi,” meaning “carp,” is a homonym for one of the words meaning “love.” It would have been clever once, but then it just…kinda kept happening. The Monster of the Day itself is a Koi, with the name “PakuPaku Yarou.” PakuPaku is Japanese onomatopoeia referring to a mouth opening and closing repeatedly. Pac-Man was originally known as “Puck Man” in Japan, which is a reference/pun on this word.
  • SuperS is at its best when it’s self-aware of how silly Sailor Moon really is sometimes. There is a brief moment of self-awareness where Mamoru expresses discomfort with how much older the VotD (who they think is Chibiusa’s boyfriend) is than Chibiusa. Usagi then points out that she and Mamoru have an age difference too. Sometimes Usagi can be astoundingly stupid. Aaand then the series swerves right back into insanity again, because they don’t acknowledge that any guy is too old for Chibiusa right now.
  • I can somewhat sympathize with Chibiusa losing it at her friends at the end. Their behaviour is pretty disgusting. They’re not showing real concern for her, they’re just immature gossips. This episode REALLY does not show the main cast in a very good light.
  • Okay, time to make myself say something positive again. I really like the clothing designs, even the ridiculously ruffled blouse Usagi is wearing. And Ami looks very elegant in the fur-trimmed blouse. It’s also nice to see Mamoru wearing something besides the green blazer, too. Itoh has a lot of fun with putting the characters in unusual or rarely seen clothing.
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