Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2 - I Will Punish You! The House of Fortune is the Monster Mansion

I just noticed that the episode names on the title cards are slightly different translations than the names given on the Hulu page. I guess I'll be using the title card versions, then?

This episode is the first of several that got skipped over in DiC's dub. I recall watching this on the ADV sets and realizing one thing: the sound was terrible. I mean, the sound on every episode was terrible, but on this one, it was horrendously bad. Since the masters came from DiC, I assumed that maybe this one had been poorly maintained, since the company wasn't ever planning on using it. But watching this version of the episode... there is still definitely something weird with the sound. Not to anything like the extent of the ADV version, but something. Both the music and the effects seem off somehow, though I didn't notice any issues with the voices. So yeah, maybe the sound was always bad on this episode, and the neglect shown to the aging DiC masters just exacerbated the problem. In this version, it isn't super-distracting, but there are a few parts of the episode where it's noticeable.

Oh, and hey! The little pre-opening intro sequences are present, though shifted to after the opening. The result is a bit weird since these early episodes also have a post-opening but pre-episode title bit explaining the concept of the show, and now all of this expository stuff is crammed together.

This episode starts with Jadeite observing a long line of people waiting to get their fortune told. Hatching a plan, he consults with Queen Beryl, who's starting to warm to this notion of stealing energy from humans until they can find the Silver Crystal.

Usagi wakes up late again, despite Luna's efforts. She sneaks into class during roll call, and is doing a decent job of stealthily crawling to her seat before Umino says hi to her, and ruins her plan. So far, Umino has done nothing in this show except make Usagi's life worse, and if I didn't know better, I'd think it was some kind of vendetta. The truth, as Umino tells Naru, is that he really likes Usagi, and I guess he just keeps expressing it in ways that end up getting her in trouble. Naru is skeptical that Usagi will return Umino's feelings, and tries to lower his expectations gently...
...in her own special way. She suggests he consult a fortune teller in the newly-opened House of Fortune, presumably because to stand any chance with Usagi, he's going to need the aid of supernatural forces. There's also a bit in this scene where Umino has apparently designed and programmed a handheld dating sim game in which he marries Usagi. No further explanation is given. So... yeah.

On her way home from school, Usagi visits the old fortune teller from earlier. The long line is no more, as all of his customers have been snatched up by the flashy House of Fortune across the street.  Usagi asks the old man for a fortune, and he tells her that a boy she regularly sees likes her. Usagi decides that this must be... Motoki, the cute guy who works at the arcade. She goes to the arcade to wait for him, and soon he appears, all soft focus and sparkles.

Usagi is soon in the arcade and playing the new Sailor V game. You know, I actually really like how the game bears almost no resemblance to what Sailor V's actually like, beyond including her likeness. It just has to be an intentional reference to the crappy licensed games of the era. Why is Sailor V fighting pink snakes and the dragons from Bubble Bobble? Why is she using a gun? She's never used a gun. Batman wouldn't put up with this shoddy treatment.
Usagi sucks at the game, but it does look pretty difficult. Motoki comes up to give her some tips on how to play, and suddenly she doesn't care about the game anymore because oh my god he's right next to me oh my god. She's awoken from fantasy dream time by Luna, who despite her super intelligence is still a cat, and thus demands attention now. Outside, Luna reminds Usagi that she should be on her way home, but not before Motoki bids her goodbye in a way that adds further fuel to the "He loves me!" fire. Instead of going home, though, she decides to return to the fortune teller so that she can be absolutely-double-sure that Motoki is the boy who likes her. Unfortunately, he's gone home for the evening. She considers trying out the House of Fortune, but then wonders if using a different fortune teller would produce ambiguous results. I have to say, it is nice to see the scientific method being applied to astrology.

Her strategy for choosing which path to take is that thing where you flip off your shoe and tell your fortune based on how it lands (also seen in Azumanga Daioh, where it was the basis of one of the best sight gags in the history of everything). She kicks off her shoe, and her fortune is... that guy.
Okay, so I guess a flimsy little shoe is heavier than a piece of paper, but for the second time in a row, the mysterious handsome guy is introduced to us by having Usagi accidentally hurt him with a small object. He berates her, and tells her she won't ever have a boyfriend if she doesn't act more ladylike. Because telling your fortune by kicking off your shoe is such a super-manly activity? He puts Usagi in a justifiably bad mood, and she stomps away from the House of Fortune. But inside, strange things are happening...

Yes, if you haven't guessed, the House of Fortune is evil. Inside, a group of customers including Umino and another boy from Usagi's class are mesmerized by the fortune teller's telekinetic control over the cards.
Okay, this episode just got awesome. The fortune teller plants a cursed Devil tarot card on Umino, and instructs him to do whatever he pleases.

Ad break! Dooooo-doo-dee-doooo-doooo-Sai! Lor! Moon!

Usagi bumps into her dad on the way home. He's helping out her mom by doing the grocery shopping. Usagi then starts to daydream, thinking that Motoki is probably a considerate guy like her dad... because what every girl wants in a partner is someone who reminds them of their parents? Dad also gets introduced to Luna, who Usagi claims is her friend. Dad says that Usagi has strange friends, and he's right, but Luna isn't the most glaring example...

Speaking of Umino, the next day at school Naru tips Usagi off about Umino's crush. Usagi is about as appalled as you'd expect, but Naru explains that Umino is just too shy to ever ask her himself. But that was the old Umino, and here comes the new Evil Umino. His first act of evil is... wearing a sharp suit to school. Hey, if you're gonna rebel against the dress code, why not do it with style? He then point-blank asks Usagi on a date, but she likes the new, arrogant Umino even less than the old one. Haruna demands to know why he isn't wearing his uniform, and Umino first taunts her by, uh, eating some bread, and then flipping up the back of her skirt so that her underwear is briefly visible. Later on in class, Umino is reading a comic and laughing noisily, and when Haruna goes to deal with him, she's tripped by another student who's also been turned evil.

Let's just stop for a moment and take a look at Evil Umino, and how his evil manifests. We've had breaching the dress code, eating lunch at the wrong time, being disruptive in class, and, uh, sexual harassment. Umino's someone who usually follows rules to the letter, so I do like the idea that, to him, breaking any rule is an expression of evil, and now that he's trying to be evil he's just being wildly inconsistent in his application of it.

While Umino and his fellow minions of evil start throwing stones at the school's windows, Naru reveals that a number of the boys who are acting weird visited the House of Fortune. Sure enough, the fortune teller and Jadeite start to slowly harvest energy from the possessed boys. Usagi and Naru try to stop Umino and his gang to stop their vandalism spree, and Umino comes onto Usagi again, demanding a kiss this time. Usagi starts crying, and drives Umino and the gang away. I do quite like how the instant they're gone, she's absolutely fine again.

Later, Luna tells Usagi that she felt some evil energy from Umino and the others. Usagi voices her suspicions about the House of Fortune, impressing Luna, but not quite enough to deserve a new item. Apparently Usagi's only going along with this destined protector of mankind thing because she thinks there might be some more jewelry in it for her.

They sneak up to the House of Fortune, and there's a slight snag when Usagi forgets how to transform, but once she's figured that out, she turns into Sailor Moon and busts in on the latest Evil Orientation Meeting, where the fortune teller is instructing Umino and the others to riot. The fortune teller tries to attack Sailor Moon with her tarot cards, then assumes her Youma form, causing the boys present to take on a simliar green-skinned complexion. She sends them after Sailor Moon, and... you know, Umino's voice artist, Keiichi Nanba, does a wonderfully deranged-sounding evil laugh. The minions march towards Sailor Moon (what's up with how they're walking? It looks bizarre) and have her cornered, but then the Youma gets a projectile rose to the face, causing the minions to freeze in place as her control over them is interrupted. Tuxedo Mask appears, and tells Sailor Moon that she should never give up. Then he leaves her to the pissed-off Youma. Hey, might that not be an example of... giving up?

It turns out that the Youma also has prehensile hair powers, but after dodging her attacks a few times, Sailor Moon deploys the tiara. The Youma is struck and turns to dust fairly graphically, and the minions are restored to normal just in time to see Sailor Moon bidding them farewell.

The next day, Umino responds with mounting horror as Naru lists all of the things he did while evil.
He's then especially freaked out to see Usagi after learning how he treated her, but she shrugs it off and tells him not to worry. So Umino tries to pay her a compliment and ends up insulting her instead. Yep, he's back to normal.

Monster of the Day: Baum spends most of the episode disguised as a fortune teller. In her real form she's green, with yellow eyes and long, prehensile hair that can form claws and cut through solid objects. Like Morga, her design falls into the "scary but a bit bland" category.

Most Valuable Person: Usagi! After last week's struggles, Sailor Moon gets to show some competence here, figuring out the location of the enemy base and keeping it together in battle a little more. It's still early days, but it was great to see her show some signs of the hero she'll become.

Least Valuable Person: Mamoru shows up, tells Usagi to be more ladylike, then buggers off. Whatever, Patriarchy Boy.

The score for this episode is four stars out of five. Most of the things I felt were wrong with the first episode are improved upon here. Having episode two center around a character's personality being altered is kind of risky, as we've not got to know them yet, but Umino is such an archetypal nerd, and the changes were so pronounced, that it ended up working well. This is an entertaining episode, certainly one of the strongest of the early, solo Sailor Moon stories.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that people do seek out partners who remind them of their parents, but I thought it was a more subconscious thing.

    Is it true that the episode previews used to come before the opening credits sequence until last year, going all the way back to the original airings? So while the Dic dub put the preview in a psychedelic box with tense music, everybody else heard some jaunty violin tune over Sailor Moon's ranting before even Moonlight Densetsu? I've got to say I've gotten used to the current arrangement, with the preview of what's coming up next after the opening and then backing up to what the show's all about for the first 33 episodes. (And now it feels wrong in the later episodes that the episode title is all alone rather than paired with a recap.) The only thing that annoys me is Hulu puts its ads before that preview, so all we'll have seen before that first ad break is the same opening we've seen many times before.

    I noticed the problem with the soundtrack, yet it sounds fine in the new English dub. They must have gotten better masters of both the music and the sound effects to redo that, but they couldn't redo the mix of the original Japanese dialogue?