Saturday, May 24, 2014

3 - The Mysterious Sleeping Sickness, Protect the Girls in Love

One thing I've already noticed about these subs is how they won't always go to pains to directly translate a joke that can't be made in English. Last episode, there was a brief reference to a nineties sumo wrestling duo that I assume had some meaning to the Japanese audience in 1992, but they don't get mentioned by name in the translation (Now that I think about it, the ADV subs didn't include this reference either). This time around, some of Usagi's wordplay in the episode, also used in the preview, got changed. The original had her punning about the abominable snowman, and this version...

That's actually pretty funny, and exactly the kind of "Wait... what?" line you'd expect from a Sailor Moon speech. I mean, there's a debate to be had about whether you should stick as best you can to literal translations in the sub version, and if this is any indication of the path that future translations will be taking, some fans are going to be pissed off. Though my only real beef with the subtitles so far is that they left out a couple of question marks in episode one.

So, the episode proper starts in the Dark Kingdom, where Queen Beryl is asking Jadeite about his energy harvesting plans, and there's just the tiniest hint of impatience there. It's funny, you get the impression that their plans have been mostly going well up until this point, and now they've hit a few snags one after the other but are still thinking it was just a run of really bad luck.

Next we see Usagi and Naru, in their respective homes, listening to a late-night radio show where a guy is reading out a love letter from "Haruna the Dreamer" in Juban. And yep, there's Haruna, dancing around her bedroom in glee. Usagi wonders for a moment if it could really be that Haruna... but nah, there's no way it could be her teacher. She's old, probably almost thirty. The show's host says they're accepting submissions of love letters from listeners, with the prize of a flower brooch for those that are chosen. And as the host, who has the totally-not-suspicious name of J Daito, signs off, Usagi wishes she had someone to write a love letter to, while Luna chastises her for staying up so late. No wonder she always oversleeps!

The next morning... Usagi has overslept. That's three for three so far! Her dad is reading a newspaper article about an epidemic of people falling asleep, unable to be woken up, and says he wouldn't mind catching it if it meant he could have a break. Then he's lovey-dovey with Usagi's mom and says that of course, he'd miss her great cooking (which looks to be toast in this case, but hey, maybe she makes amazing toast). Usagi comes charging downstairs in a panic.
 It's Usagi's lucky day, though, because even though she's late for school, Haruna is even later. An exhausted Haruna eventually staggers in, her new flower brooch clearly sapping her energy, then falls asleep at her desk. I have to give the artists credit; some of the facial expressions during this section are great.

Luna is walking along, muttering to herself about how she doesn't get any respect. She runs into Motoki, and panics for a moment, thinking he heard her talk, but he doesn't seem suspicious of her, so she does her "I'm a regular cat" act. Motoki goes to get Luna some milk, and Luna goes starry-eyed, but then a passing ambulance draws her attention. Ambulances can't be that uncommon a sight in the area, but Luna is concerned anyway, because this ambulance is plot-relevant. At school, the still-sleeping Haruna is taken away on a stretcher. Naru speculates that this might be the sleeping sickness that's been spreading recently. Usagi says she wouldn't mind catching it and being able to stay in her dreams forever. Ah, Usagi,  you're really your father's daughter, aren't you?

At the local radio station, FM No. 10, the staff are perplexed by the large quantities of mail for some show called Midnight Zero, which they don't run. An employee wearing a flower brooch offers to take care of the letters. She makes an evil smile and her eyes flash red. I think this lady might be suspicious, guys.

On the way home, Naru tells Usagi how she's sent a lot of letters to Midnight Zero, and that you don't actually need to have someone in mind; she's just writing to "future boyfriends". Usagi ponders this for a moment and then collides with Mamoru. She gets up and then apologizes profusely, but in her haste she's actually bowing to the telephone pole. Mamoru takes the piss out of her for trying to be polite, calls her stupid and walks off. Naru, being the stalwart friend she is, immediately asks who the hot guy was, instead of saying anything like "Hey, that was rude." Friendship!

At home, Usagi tries to work on a love letter of her own, despite Luna's objection that love letters are meaningless unless they're actually given to someone. Inspiration fails to strike, and then there are some more great, or at least weird, facial expressions as Usagi wallows in her failure.
But then she has an idea: She'll go to the radio station and ask that nice Mr J Daito for advice on writing a love letter. This plan cannot fail!

The plan fails sooner than expected, when the station's security guard patiently explains that no, we don't have a show by that name, please stop bothering us, bye. But when Usagi returns home, sure enough, the show comes on as usual. Luna checks the newspaper listings and finds that a different show is scheduled to be on. Meanwhile, J Daito reads out a letter from someone called Naru...

At school the next day, Naru unwraps the flower brooch she received from Midnight Zero. As she puts it on, Usagi notices it's the same brooch Haruna was wearing yesterday. Naru falls asleep almost straight away, her energy drained by the brooch. Usagi, trying to revive her, gets close to the brooch and falls asleep as well.

It's Usagi's dream now, and she's flying past the moon in a vaguely Peter Pan pose with a trail of sparkles behind her. Floating above the clouds, she meets Tuxedo Mask, and asks if he's her future boyfriend. He says yes, albeit without moving his lips. Then she asks him to take off his mask. He does, revealing...
Luna! Usagi wakes with a start in the nurse's office, thanks to Luna's yelling. Naru still can't be woken, and they decide to investigate the radio station. Meanwhile, Jadeite is collecting the energy gathered by the flower brooches from their victims so far, accompanied by the mysterious employee from the radio station, actually a Youma called Furau.

That night, Usagi and Luna sneak up to FM No. 10. To get them past the security guard, Luna does her item-summoning somersault and gives Usagi the Disguise Pen. After being given instructions on how to use it, Usagi tells the pen to change her into "a gorgeous newscaster".
The Disguise Pen is Sailor Moon's most obvious throwback to older Magical Girl shows such as Creamy Mami, where one of the key themes was a young girl with the ability to transform into an older girl. All of Usagi's disguises are intended to make her look older, and indeed the animation for the Disguise Pen appears to show her aging. Now with an appearance quite similar in retrospect to a certain Sailor Moon S villain, Usagi is ready to take charge! Oh, wait... high heels. This disguise business might take some getting used to.

Usagi and Luna peer through the glass at J Daito as he starts the show. When they notice the unconscious staff members, that's as much evidence as they need that he's behind this. In probably my favorite part of the episode, Usagi marches right past Jadeite and the Youma, sits in front of a microphone and announces to the audience that the flower brooches are dangerous. I love how she just flat-out ignores the bad guys to get her message out, and they don't respond right away because they didn't expect any resistance, least of all from an angry newscaster in high heels who's somehow figured out their plan. Usagi tells the listeners that the whole concept of the show is silly, and that love letters are meaningless unless they're given to someone. Luna doesn't know whether to be glad that Usagi gets it now or annoyed that she stole her line.

The Youma finally springs into action, breaking through the studio glass and changing into her true form, which is a foot taller with lavender-colored skin. Oh, and she has atomic breath. She Godzillas the studio to pieces, Usagi and Luna barely escaping (some more great expressions in this part). Usagi transforms and confronts the villains, and there's that crosswalk line again...
Jadeite drops his disguise and introduces himself, then sends Furau after Sailor Moon. She and Luna escape through a newly-made hole in the ceiling, and the battle moves to the roof. Though Furau has an advantage over Sailor Moon thanks to her inhuman agility, Sailor Moon beats her by lulling her into complacency, deliberately missing with her tiara, then pulling it back to strike the unsuspecting Youma.

Jadeite, however... Sailor Moon soon discovers that the tiara doesn't work on him, as he's able to block it with his telekinetic powers. He advances on Sailor Moon, but the rose thrown into his path by a mystery assailant gives him pause. Rather than deal with this new variable, Jadeite summons a portal and withdraws. Tuxedo Mask bids Sailor Moon farewell, again without moving his lips...

With the curse broken, Naru, Haruna and the other victims wake up. The next day in school, Usagi has some new inspiration, and enthusiastically writes a love letter to Tuxedo Mask, though not without some interference from Naru and Haruna.

Monster of the Day: Furau is a bit bleh, not uncommon for early Youma. The Godzilla breath is cool, I guess, though I don't really see if/how it fits into her theme.

Most Valuable Person: I'm going with Luna, whose bouts of exasperation with Usagi throughout the episode are a lot of fun.

Least Valuable Person: Mamoru. Just... Mamoru. I don't know what the writers thought they were doing here, but he just comes across as petty and mean.

This episode isn't amazing, but it's actually better than I remembered. The facial expressions are often great, as I mentioned earlier, though the actual animation is sometimes lacking. What was it with Tuxedo Mask's lips not moving? At first I just thought it was because it was a dream, but then the same thing happened in real life. Anyway, in totality, this episode is a solid three out of five.

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