Tuesday, June 17, 2014

11 - Usagi vs. Rei: Nightmare in Dream Land

Last week's episodes weren't so great, eh? Never mind, because things start to improve for a bit starting with this latest episode.

The team are at Rei's shrine, where Luna is trying to conduct a meeting, but Usagi and Ami are more preoccupied with going through Rei's stuff. Ami's reading her encyclopedias while Usagi's reading her manga. By the way, this episode subtly kicks off the running theme that Rei is a bit of a closet nerd. It's never a huge thing, but it's always there, just another little element of her character.

Luna gets frustrated that nobody's listening to her lecture about how they need to find the moon princess. But as Usagi and Rei point out, they don't know how to find her, and Luna hasn't exactly been forthcoming with a description. Ami helps Luna save face by changing the subject and suggesting they focus on their other mission: dealing with these monsters that have been showing up recently. She points out a recent incident at the nearby amusement park, Dream Land, where fifty visitors apparently disappeared. Fortunately for us, there was no mention of flying buses in the vicinity.

This is the first episode with Masahiro Ando as art director. He has the infamous round-faced style, and a lot of fans aren't keen. For me, it really depends on the episode. The style is jarring in more serious episodes, but frankly, it sort of works in more whimsical episodes like this one.

But it's not all fun and games: in the Dark Kingdom, Jadeite is getting a right old bollocking for having screwed up another plan, and letting yet another Sailor Guardian show up. Beryl is now openly threatening him, and he nervously insists that he has another energy-gathering plan in place; a really, really good one this time.

The gang visit Dream Land, where Jadeite is posing as the park's PR guy and taking questions from reporters. Well, kind of: he insists the park has nothing to do with the disappearances, then ejects the press from the building. Literally ejects them.
Jadeite might have his failings as an evil general, but he's definitely someone you'd want on your side at a press conference.

Ami and Rei debate what could have happened to the visitors who disappeared, then realize they've lost Usagi somewhere. Usagi, of course, is trying out the rides. One scolding from Luna later, I'm reminded why I sometimes like Ando's art style: you get priceless scenes like this.
It's the combination of Rei's pose and Ami's expression that makes it perfect, I think. And it's quickly followed by this...
Which is Usagi's response to a friggin' lion showing up in front of them. Well, it turns out that the lion is animatronic, and is one of many animatronic animals operated by the park's mascot, Princess Dream. Because what amusement park experience isn't enhanced by realistic apex predators wandering the grounds? Princess Dream demonstrates how she can control the park's animals using a weird apple she carries around with her. Man, I knew those Disney princesses had to have a secret. I'm onto you, Snow White.

Rei is thoroughly creeped out by Princess Dream, and thinks something's up. Usagi is unconvinced. Come on, Usagi, listen to the psychic girl. Princess Dream further ingratiates herself with Usagi by inviting her to a show at the House of Sweets. The House of Sweets? That's like Usagi's heaven. The only way it could be better is if it was called the House of Sweets, Hot Guys and No Homework.

We get a closeup of the House of Sweets, but... hey, isn't that the Dark Kingdom music playing? Yep, Jadeite is inside, surrounded by unconscious bodies, talking about how he intends to lure the Sailor Guardians inside. Which does at least show that the Dark Kingdom have finally started gathering intel on their enemies. Their data for Sailor Moon probably consists of "likes sweets".

Our heroes search the park for suspicious activity, but aren't finding anything, so Luna decides they'll split up. She'll go with Ami, who's the least likely to call her out on having no idea what she's doing, which means Usagi and Rei are stuck with each other. They investigate Princess Dream again. Rei is still suspicious of her, and unnerved by the crowd of children forming around her and her fake animals. She tries to get a small boy away from her, but Usagi insists that it's fine, and this dispute can only escalate into one thing...
Childhood trauma. One day years from now this kid will be telling a therapist about the time two amazingly strong women tried to pull his legs off.

Usagi and Rei switch to patrolling the park... on a tiny train driven by a panda. The train stops suddenly, and Usagi collides with the guy in front, who is... Mamoru! Mamoru tells Usagi off as usual, and Rei, who's spent the last few hours being massively irritated by Usagi, hits it off with him. Well, after so many episodes being on the receiving end of Mamoru's inexplicable ire, Usagi tells him off, pointing out that a grown man riding the kiddie train isn't in a position to be judging others.
It's really great to see Usagi giving as good as she gets. This is probably my favorite scene in the episode. Rei thinks Mamoru looks like Tuxedo Mask, while Usagi is unimpressed with the comparison.
Usagi and Rei meet up with Luna outside the House of Sweets. Rei senses evil, and Ami has already gone in. Inside, Princess Dream shows up and breathes a strange hypnotic gas on the crowd, causing them to fall into a dream-like state. She then uses her apple to start absorbing their energy. Ami is aware of what's happening, but also starts to succumb to the energy draining.

Outside, Rei senses that something really bad has happened. The doors are locked, and Usagi starts to freak out that Ami's trapped. There's a little bit between her and Rei where Rei insists that just because she's acting calm, it doesn't mean she isn't concerned. They both transform, and Sailor Mars blows the doors off with Fire Soul. Jadeite senses them as they enter: he intended to lure them in here.

Sailor Moon, Sailor Mars and Luna encounter Princess Dream, who starts working her illusion magic on them. She hands Sailor Moon a garland of flowers, and as Sailor Mars tries to knock it away, it turns into a snake. Mars gets bitten and her arm starts turning to stone. Again, Mars doesn't freak out, but uses an ofuda to expel the evil influence, freeing her. Then she demands Princess Dream show her true form.

Rei, why did you have to ask her that?
Oh god oh god oh god

Thanks to my friend Crayola for providing these gifs; still images just don't do this scene justice. The spinning and the mechanical sound effects and the creepy, creepy music box music just makes this an amazingly scary sequence. Evil dolls are pretty much guaranteed to be scary, but they really nailed this scene. Brrrr.

So, the Youma's name is Moorido. That's a slightly different translation than I'd been expecting, but no matter. In Japanese, her name is an anagram of "dream", but that kind of thing just can't be reproduced in English. You'll be pleased to know that in addition to her freaky appearance, Moorido also speaks in a weird, faux-childlike falsetto.

She sprays more of the hallucinogenic gas their way. Sailor Moon resolves not to fall for another illusion, but the illusion this time is Tuxedo Mask. And both Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars fall for it. Completely.
In their defense, who wouldn't want a man with his own horse? While I'd usually be inclined to criticize the episode for having the characters act like idiots, I think this slightly balances out the running theme of Sailor Mars being way more competent than Sailor Moon: sometimes, Mars can be a huge dork too.

Fortunately, the real Tuxedo Mask shows up just long enough to knock Moorido's apple out of her grasp, disrupting the illusion. Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars look kind of embarrassed, then run for it when the Youma prepares to work the same magic on them again. They meet up with Ami, who's fared better than the room full of unconscious visitors, but is still weakened. She tells them that the source of the Youma's energy-draining power is the apple, and then transforms into Sailor Mercury.

Mercury casts Bubble Spray, leaving the Youma unable to see her surroundings. Mars descends on her with a frankly unnecessary panty shot, and attaches an ofuda to her head, freezing her in place. Then Sailor Moon and Sailor Mars deliver a combined Moon Tiara Action/Fire Soul, turning the Youma to dust. Jadeite watches his plan evaporate and swears revenge, but he's sweating a lot more now that he used to. And... did the whole building just turn to dust? Hmm.

I guess the rest of the park is non-evil, though, because the girls are walking through it afterwards and it looks fine. Then I guess nobody could think of an ending for this episode, because after squabbling with Rei a bit, Usagi falls over. Oh well.

Monster of the day: Moorido. Evil appearance, evil voice, evil transformation. She has some kind of dream-inducing illusion magic. She makes snakes that turn people to stone. She's bad news.

Most valuable person: As the title says, it's Usagi versus Rei! Rei wins, showing she's really on top of things, even if she was a bit mean to Usagi and capable of screwing up herself on occasion.

Least valuable person: It's tempting to go with Usagi, as the episode ramped up her stupidity and childishness, though not nearly as much as the last episode did. I'm going with Mamoru instead, though, because while did get called out on it, his sole purpose this episode was to do his usual being-a-jerk routine.

This episode is a mixed bag, though a bag containing mostly good things. A lot of the interplay between Usagi and Rei is fun, there's some good comedy, and the Youma is scary as balls. On the other hand... Usagi plays it a bit too dumb at times, and I really hate that lazy, lazy ending. This episode is a pretty solid three stars out of five: not amazing, but certainly entertaining.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not gonna lie, Muurido is creepy looking back at her.

    This episode is another great one IMO, that definitely showed one reason why the original anime is so entertaining; Rei and Usagi's banter.

    I feel so bad for that boy though...