The Animation Art of Sailor Moon: Ikuko Itoh – Episode 166

Episode 166: Dreams Forever! Light Throughout The Sky

Observations:

  • So uh, I kinda gave up on trying to keep the number of screenshots under 150. But in comparison, I took over 1000 for this gifset and ended up using only 200 or so, so 15 screenshot collages is restrained for me.
  • That said, I did skip screencapping most of the shots that weren’t key animation character poses (so most of the shots of the art direction/backgrounds aren’t present here).
  • Let’s not mince words here – the 6-part finale to SuperS is absolutely terrible. It’s inconsistent and underwhelming, and pales in comparison to every other season’s finales. I’m still trying to decide if the “Nehelenia Arc” in Stars was an intentional way to tie up Queen Nehelenia’s story arc (mostly) neatly and actually having some fun with character pairings and interactions. My utter adoration for those episodes makes up for my disappointment with the SuperS finale.
  • But holy crap does this finale suck, which is especially painful since it was Ikuko Itoh’s swan song for the series. She would go on to do character designs for Magic Users’ Club & was the creator of Princess Tutu, both of which are not coincidentally also Magical Girl series. Most of the crew for the first four seasons would depart the series after this – 166 was also the final episode directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara.
  • I can only speculate, but even though 166 is supposed to have a boosted budget since it’s not a filler, there are so many corners cut here, both with the writing and animation, that I have to wonder if there was just nothing left in the budget to give the SuperS season a proper sendoff. A lot of the animation is looped, and several scenes are repeated multiple times (especially the animation of the debris rising towards the New Moon – it was repeated so many times it was embarrassing!). Most of the other looped & repeated animation was of Sailor Moon climbing the stairs, and falling through the sky.
  • The cold open is repeated footage from episode 165. The animation director for that episode was Takayuki Gorai, who also did episodes 171 and 175 (and has been rightly criticized for 171’s fanservice/male gaze scenes). I don’t think I mentioned this before, but the “cold open” bits are unique to the 2nd half of Supers – the rest of the series just started right with the theme song.
  • One really, really big problem with this episode is that Sailor Moon is basically the only main character who does anything. The others just spend 90% of the episode unconscious while Queen Nehelenia does her monologuing. And even then, Usagi’s still frustratingly passive… (More ranting on that later)
  • One thing I wish that was elaborated on more was Queen Nehelenia’s past as the ruler of the Kingdom of the New Moon. Her people look humanoid, and their dress looks rather Baroque, which is rather funny when you consider that this would have been contemporary with the medieval-esque Moon Kingdom dress.
  • I really do like the watercolour look of Nehelenia’s memories, and how she appeared before her own mirror corrupted her. (Love the blue eyes!)
  • The Dream Arc has a strong fairy tale allusion to Sleeping Beauty through Nehelenia’s cursing Princess Serenity at her christening. In SuperS’ case, the fairy tale allusion is to Snow White instead – she asks her mirror if she is still the fairest one of all, and being told that someday she will no longer be as beautiful is what drives the beautiful Wicked Queen mad.
  • Another missed opportunity was to explain the connection between Queen Nehelenia and Zirconia. You can infer from the scenes that Zirconia is how Nehelenia truly looks (and that Nehelenia can only appear young within her mirror), but the rules for her existence seem to be really vague. For one thing, although Nehelenia has aged here, her voice hasn’t become that hag-like croak that Zirconia had.
  • Nehelenia’s eventual Happy Ending Finale in Stars seems to have been an overly forgiving resolution for her. She openly admits to have committed genocide on her entire kingdom and then further used the Living Corpse Lemures monsters to seek out Pegasus. Usagi barely reacts at all to what Nehelenia confesses to beyond commenting on her loneliness. Yeah, um, Nehelenia caused her own loneliness…
  • When Zirconia chokes Sailor Moon, she looks at Nehelenia with pity, which causes her to freak out about the look in Sailor Moon’s eyes. This same event would repeat later on in Stars.
  • Another missed opportunity/gigantic goddamn plot hole: What is going on with that really brief flashback of a winged Princess Serenity using the Golden Crystal?! Nehelenia’s probably an unreliable narrator, but that’s an explosively significant image that we’re shown here, and it’s never explained at all.
  • The sequence of Nehelenia throwing Chibi-Moon off the floating debris is repeated again in episode 167 when Nehelenia finds out that her enemies didn’t perish after all.
  • It’s really a good thing that the Nehelenia arc was written, because her getting exactly what she wanted (eternal youth) and being sealed away automatically with no action from the Senshi is no resolution at all.
  • The “Chibi-Moon and Sailor Moon falling through the sky” sequence is what sinks this episode, because Chibs is entirely passive, and it takes up almost 1/3rd of the entire episode of them just…falling. It’s pretty, but… Falling, falling, falling. Really, really, boring.
  • HUGE GODDAMN PLOT HOLE IMMINENT.
  • So when Sailor Moon transforms into Princess Serenity, what power is she using here? The New Moon becomes the Full Moon, and her brooch glows, so is she using the Silver Crystal to thwart the laws of terminal velocity? And if she is using the Silver Crystal, why is it not enough power to bring herself and her daughter to safety? We’ve seen that it can move a goddamn asteroid, let’s not pretend it’s not powerful enough to teleport them safely.
  • Instead, it’s the Golden Crystal and Helios that save the day. Because apparently the series didn’t emphasize enough that he’s the true hero of this story arc, I guess? The Silver Crystal isn’t even mentioned. And while the animation of Princess Serenity is absolutely lovely, it’s the only time she appears in the entire season, so it’s a letdown that we don’t even get to see her use her Silver Crystal here.
  • Ugh. Anyway, I do like the dialogue that Usagi and Chibiusa have here, about how they’re going to grow up to be adults and achieve their dreams together. (Just try not to think about the time travel thing, that gets a little mind-bending)
  • I also really do like the pan shot of the two Princesses floating down to the ground with angel wings, that’s a really beautiful scene. (Even if I am a little disappointed that we never got to see Small Lady’s unique pink dress in the anime)
  • Seeing the others appear to give Helios a sendoff is also frustrating, because it emphasizes how little they actually had to do with the end of the story. The Inners have maybe 3 lines each? (Diana doesn’t even say anything, poor kitty)
  • The bit where they grumble about how even Chibiusa is ahead of them in the dating game is sort of amusing in a “We know this is kind of ridiculous” way.
  • The Amazon Quartet’s ambiguous goodbye is an intriguing scene, particularly the part where they wonder if they’re ever going to see the others again. Did the crew plan to include them as the Sailor Quartet, and maybe scrapped it when the writers went off in their own direction for Stars? There’s so much of Manga Stars that was left on the “cutting room floor,” I can’t help but wonder if it was all intentional. I’m certain that Chibiusa’s complete lack of a decent sendoff when she was written out of the series wasn’t originally planned.
  • I’m glad that Pegasus apologized to Chibiusa for giving her so much trouble, at least. Ya jerk.
  • Finally: I’ve mentioned before that the Aurora Borealis animation is meant to symbolize the otherworldliness of Elysion. Is its appearance in the sky in the final scene meant to show that Pegasus is entering his world, or is it just “Hey look at the pretty sky?” (Probably the latter)
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