It’s time for another “Oh no, Mamoru might be cheating!” episode! Don’t we just love those?
This time, Ami is the one to jump to conclusions when she observes a woman, Natsumi, handing a key to Mamoru. Ami immediately confronts the pair and learns that Natsumi is a car mechanic, and she was simply returning the key for Mamoru’s car as he’d brought it to her shop for repairs. This ultimately leads to Ami getting involved with helping Natsumi in her efforts to restore an old car which Natsumi’s now-deceased husband had planned to restore with her. In due course, Natsumi appears on the radar of the Amazon Trio, and Hawk’s Eye happily seizes the chance. He approaches her in a guise meant to make her think of her dead husband, but is stymied when Natsumi faints from overwork. While in the hospital, he attempts to convince her to give up her business and come along with him. Chibiusa intervenes, and the three end up back at the repair shop, where Ami and the others are working on the old car. In a feeble last bid, Hawk’s Eye kidnaps Natsumi, a car chase ensues, and it’s time for the transformations to be broken out and the day saved. The episode closes with Natsumi re-dedicating herself to her dream of restoring the old car.
Despite the incredibly unpromising opening scene (anime!Mamoru is a bit of a waste of space, but even I feel sorry for how frequently he is suspected of being unfaithful on incredibly spurious grounds), this is a fairly decent episode. It mixes up the formula a little bit, which is more than I can say for any of the more recent Tiger’s Eye episodes. Ami gets some time to shine, and, mercifully gets to do so in an episode in which we’re *not* contemplating potential romance or a sense of romantic desires unfulfilled, which is a relief in a show where that is often the means by which our non-Usagi heroines are developed. (It’s also, I might add, a bit depressing that this is the method employed considering that the Inner Senshi will all ultimately forgo any personal romantic relationships in favor of protecting Usagi/Neo-Queen Serenity despite themselves expressing a desire for that sort of relationship quite frequently in the anime.) There is, too, something I like in the idea of Ami as a car mechanic, but I think more largely this is part of me appreciating a depiction of women and girls taking part in an activity generally deemed masculine.
Speaking of the car repair aspect of the episode, I liked the way in which Natsumi’s dream was developed. Natsumi’s dream is, as I said above, to restore the old car which she and her husband had intended to do together. But Natsumi’s husband has been dead a few years when this episode takes place. She still misses him, of course, but we’re looking at a portrait of a woman who has had to overcome a personal loss and whose dream had to change as a result of it. We’re starting to get a little bit more depth to the theme of dreams with this, and it’s furthered when Chibiusa has a conversation with Pegasus in which she wonders at Ami doing car repair work despite Ami’s intent to be a doctor. Pegasus points out that a person can have more than one dream, and that one’s dream can involve helping another person pursue their own dream. This whole bit isn’t quite quantum physics, but it nevertheless contributes to granting more dimension to the theme.
Hawk’s Eye brings back the comparisons of women to food again – this time he uses tuna for his simile of choice (paging Bill Parcells). Previously, in Hawk’s Eye’s only other targeting, he pretended to be in poor health, and claimed that Ikuko, Usagi’s mother, looked just like his own, so I’ll note at this point that his preferred technique seems creepier than Tiger’s Eye’s typically does (although TE did pretend to be terminally ill when he went after Naru). Here, Hawk’s Eye not only tries to resemble Natsumi’s husband, he also comes up with a sob story about having lost his parents at a young age, and declares that with Natsumi he’s finally found someone who can share his sorrow. Not only, of course, is the notion of sharing sorrow as a basis for a romantic relationship questionable, but the whole thing is a gross attempt at emotional blackmail. Natsumi knows the pain of losing a loved one, and HE is trying to leverage her intimate knowledge of that against her, trapping her into agreeing to forsake her career, business, and dream by setting her up to feel guilty for turning him down. More generally, he’s trying to utilize social expectations against Natsumi – after all, how could a woman turn down a man when he tells her that she’s the only one who can understand his pain? Societies often have an unspoken assumption that women owe men affection and emotional support when men express attraction for them, and HE is definitely playing into this. Even if Natsumi herself doesn’t feel guilt personally about it, that doesn’t mean that those around her won’t pressure her about it.
Unluckily for HE, not only does Natsumi not feel she owes him anything, the people around her don’t think she does either! Chibiusa might not immediately get why Ami’s pulling mechanic duties, but she’s got the guts to burst into the hospital room where HE is pressuring Natsumi to implore her to not give up her dream. I am eagerly awaiting this girl’s teen years when she discovers bell hooks, Gloria Steinem, and Audre Lorde, although, then again, hailing from the 30th century as she does, she is hopefully in a society that already has overcome sexism. (Given that Sailor Moon reads as a fairly feminist narrative, I’d assume that the future has kicked sexism to the curb, but I do wonder/worry about the seeming lack of consideration of socio-economic class within the feminist bent of Sailor Moon. After all, Usagi gets to “have it all” but for the most part none of the other girls apparently do.)
Finally, this episode deserves some credit for being rather funny at points. SuperS is viewed as being a lot goofier than other seasons, but not often is it given credit for being funny (I also dispute that it’s truly that much goofier than any other season – S is, yes, ‘darker’, but S also involves a lot of Ikuhara-style comedy that tends to be overlooked in favoring of arguments for its being a Very Serious show). There’s some silliness at Tuxedo Mask’s and the Lemures’s expense during the battle, but the ultimate resolution of the episode is the funniest bit. Natsumi and Ami are seated in the all-important car, the repairs having been completed by the other Inners; they look very focused, and the music swells into triumphant tones in the background as Natsumi turns the key the the engine catches. The car pulls forward, and everyone starts cheering… and then the music cuts, there’s a terrible clanging, and smoke belches forth from under the hood as the car shudders to a stop. It isn’t the kind of end to an episode one expects of this franchise, is it?
Next episode looks like it’ll go for the fairly humorous as well, as it involves Chibiusa deciding she wants to become a swordswoman and becoming a student of another girl who herself looks about ten years old. On the downer side, this also means our next episode involves Tiger’s Eye going full lolicon. Let’s hope the funny bits carry the day!