Thought-Controlled Universe

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"Sometimes a girl can’t stop loving, even if she knows better. She’ll find a love that she wants to believe in, no matter how painful it is. A girl always wants to believe that love conquers all."

Hmm.

My usual approach to social justice issues is to find out what the marginalized group in question thinks of a thing and then support that position, because I know that the vast majority of the time I don’t understand the issue well enough to form an opinion more complicated than “people shouldn’t be marginalized”.

However, I’ve done a lot of reading today- about intersectionality, about confirmation bias, about entitlement, about intents and consequences, all kinds of stuff. (I recommend N K Jemisin’s blog to anyone who wants to learn more- it certainly helped me!) So this is one of those rare occasions when I feel like I can develop my own position.

In a perfect world, this narration wouldn’t be gendered. “You can’t always control your feelings”, “love is a good thing to believe in”, and “sometimes reality doesn’t live up to an optimistic model” are all messages that are equally true for boys, girls, and nonbinary individuals, so ideally they would be presented without specifying a target audience.

But.

That point I made just now? I made it because I’ve internalized problematic aspects of the culture all around me- specifically, the idea that male is default and female is specific. (“Boy toys are for everyone; girl toys are for girls”, for instance. There are a lot of analogous problems regarding race, sexuality, etc.) If the narration had said the same thing about boys… well, that would be notable in a different way, but I probably wouldn’t have reacted with “this shouldn’t be gendered” first, because I might not even have thought of it as gendered. That’s a problem with me, not the show, and it’s one I need to watch for and work on solving.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t matter if this narration were gendered, because viewers would understand its content and accept it as intended for them regardless of which third-person singular pronoun it used. This is already an option for writers today- think about how many of the stories you read as kids gave you moral messages by defining them as the way People Like The Protagonist behaved, whether the protagonist was a girl, a boy, a Power Ranger, or a Berenstein Bear. The “she” in this narration can easily be read the same way- the message can be taken as Usagi’s description of People Like Her, not necessarily of just girls.

It’s also important to acknowledge that because of problematic trends in our culture like imposed gender roles, girls are a marginalized group. So even if Usagi is sending a message of approval and affirmation to them specifically… great! They have a relative shortage of those, compared to boys, and even fewer which approve of the things they’ve been trained to value (traditionally feminine attributes like empathy, romance, etc.) and don’t just reward them for shunning what’s been pushed on them all their lives. This is a step toward shrinking that disparity, and that’s a positive change.

I hadn’t watched the credits on any of these episodes all the way through before, but after this one I really wanted to know what Naru’s mom’s name is, so I did.

Here’s what I found out.

Naru’s mom doesn’t have a name. In fact her voice isn’t credited at all, putting her on the same character tier as Random Youma #1 and #2.

The files I’m watching aren’t fansubs- they’re ripped from DVDs. “English Subtitled Version Presented By A.D.V. Films.”

The credits overall are incredibly sparse, particularly when it comes to the Japanese creative staff. According to A.D.V.’s credits, it took seventeen people and two additional companies to translate the series and add the subtitles, but creating the series from scratch required only sixteen people. :-/ Naoko Takeuchi isn’t even listed among them- her name doesn’t come up until the copyright notice at the very end.

Seriously, this is how bad these credits are:

Yeah.

I know animation doesn’t get a lot of respect in the entertainment industry, and I know stuff made in languages other than English gets even less, but… crediting one person for “Art”? That is a new low.

One day when I have a job and a steady income, I’m going to save up and buy this series, because it’s great and I think the people who worked hard on it should be rewarded.

But I’m sure as hell not going to buy it from A.D.V.

So after the Senshi have driven Nephrite away by being complete jerks, Usagi sees a shooting star and makes a wish.

"Oh, shooting star… if Nephrite really cares about Naru, don’t let him do any more bad things!"

Looks that way, doesn’t it.

Looks that way, doesn’t it.

Nephrite distracts Yasha long enough for Usagi to take her out without much effort, but in the meantime Naru has passed out.

Being a group of heroes in an uncertain truce with a demonstrably more powerful adversary who’s recently shown signs of interest in altruism, the Senshi naturally proceed to antagonize the crap out of him.

*facepalm*

Considering that Yasha’s job this episode was to keep an eye on Nephrite, her choices of moment and target to attack are really incredibly poor.

The audio on the episode came back just after Naru’s big moment, and Nephrite’s tone in this part isn’t just shock or surprise. It’s awe. He sounds like he’s really encountering this phenomenon for the first time, and rather than deriding it as weakness he’s amazed by its strength. Somehow, even when he was counting on Naru’s desire to see him again to help him acquire what he was really after, he never imagined that that same desire could also be the fuel for something like this.

I think the denizens of the Dark Kingdom must really be different from humans, either psychologically, socially, or both. Nephrite knows words like “care” and “love” and “kind” and “sacrifice”, but until now I don’t think he’s ever experienced those things- he just regarded them as weaknesses in his enemies, like Lex Luthor thinking about kryptonite.

None of the people possessed by his youma ever showed those qualities- he wanted them to be strong and produce energy, so he gave them the sense of purpose that he regarded as strength, and never understood how Naru, who had no such enhancement, far outperformed any of them.

Perhaps more importantly, while Nephrite understands (or thinks he understands) things like loyalty, this is almost definitely the first time he’s encountered the idea of self-sacrifice- of anything being considered important enough to literally lay down one’s life for. And, impossibly, the thing that’s inspiring that kind of devotion… is him.

A minute ago he didn’t even think this gesture could exist, and now, although he would never have given it to anyone he’s ever met, this girl he barely knows has decided he’s worthy of receiving it.

Awe is really the only appropriate response.

Well. Someone was going to make her say it. It might as well be Ami.

Ho.

Ly.

Shit.

I consider myself fairly genre savvy, but I have to admit I did not see this coming. I was expecting Naru to stick around and try to get the Senshi to stop attacking and/or question why “Sanjoin” was fighting them, not to physically insert herself into a fight between people who can rip up concrete with the correct stance or throw fireballs with a gesture.

This is more than your average shoujo romance worth of crazy, here.

I’m really not clear on why “Sanjoin” attacks Sailor Moon when she confronts him, instead of sticking with the pretense of being a normal human. He’s shown that he’s pretty skilled in both combat and deception so far, but openly attacking is pretty much guaranteed to lose Naru’s trust and the possibility of further investigating her link to the Silver Crystal, whereas continuing to lie wouldn’t impede his ability to change tactics later on.

SM: Nephrite! Taking advantage of this young girl’s affections?! You’re under arrest for romantic fraud!

N: Insolent girl! Mind your own business!

SM: I’m Sailor Moon- Senshi of love and justice! Abuse of love is my business!

Or at least, that’s how it went in my head. (Frankly, I think any English translation that doesn’t use the context of this exchange to connect “mind your own business” with “warrior of love and justice” missed a major opportunity.)

The Black Crystal doesn’t react to the gem Naru brought from her mom’s store… but when Naru watches Nephrite fiddle with it and thinks about how happy she is to be able to help, it reacts to her.

That’s interesting. I have to admit I suspected the Legendary Silver Crystal to be more metaphysical than physical- for one thing, this isn’t like Jackie Chan Adventures, with protagonists and antagonists capable of scouring the globe for MacGuffins- but having that confirmed raises its own questions.

Luna tells Usagi to transform, and she does… and then they just go back to running, and the scene shifts to Nephrite. That’s kind of disappointing- I was hoping that there would be a callback to episode 1, when becoming Sailor Moon actually allowed Usagi to hear Naru calling for help across a great distance… but then, it makes sense that Naru isn’t calling for help right now.

Usagi and the writers seem to agree with me on this point- we go straight from a shot of Usagi asking what’s wrong to a montage of Usagi and Luna running full tilt through Tokyo, with the rest of the conversation only in voiceover. I approve of this decision.

Usagi and Luna are on their way to Naru’s to find out what she thought of what Usagi said earlier. They’re bantering, even- “we have to do this now because you didn’t do it right the first time!”.
And then they look down the street and…
Well.
I don’t know how this bit came across to the actual target audience, who are like twelve, but…
I’m at a point in my life where I don’t identify as a member of my parents’ peer group or anything, but… I’ve started to think of them as people with motivations and thought processes I can comprehend, rather than the fundamentally unknowable authority figures I modeled them as when I was younger.
And I don’t know what it’s like to live with a child who depends on you day after day, or to deal with the loss of that child in the long term… but I do know what it’s like to have a child that you care about and feel responsible for, even temporarily, and to not know where they are or whether they’re okay. It’s fucking horrifying, and it’s so intense that you have no processing power left for other feelings- there are no jokes when you can’t find a kid, there are no little things that make you stop and think about the world, there are no judgments of anything that isn’t immediately relevant. For a long damn time there isn’t even hunger or exhaustion. There’s just “I have to find this kid”.
And this face and this line drive that feeling right the hell home for me.
Humor time is over.
We have to find this kid.

Usagi and Luna are on their way to Naru’s to find out what she thought of what Usagi said earlier. They’re bantering, even- “we have to do this now because you didn’t do it right the first time!”.

And then they look down the street and…

Well.

I don’t know how this bit came across to the actual target audience, who are like twelve, but…

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t identify as a member of my parents’ peer group or anything, but… I’ve started to think of them as people with motivations and thought processes I can comprehend, rather than the fundamentally unknowable authority figures I modeled them as when I was younger.

And I don’t know what it’s like to live with a child who depends on you day after day, or to deal with the loss of that child in the long term… but I do know what it’s like to have a child that you care about and feel responsible for, even temporarily, and to not know where they are or whether they’re okay. It’s fucking horrifying, and it’s so intense that you have no processing power left for other feelings- there are no jokes when you can’t find a kid, there are no little things that make you stop and think about the world, there are no judgments of anything that isn’t immediately relevant. For a long damn time there isn’t even hunger or exhaustion. There’s just “I have to find this kid”.

And this face and this line drive that feeling right the hell home for me.

Humor time is over.

We have to find this kid.