Title: "The Crybaby: Usagi's Beautiful Transformation" (泣き虫うさぎの華麗なる変身)
Writer: Sukehiro Tomita
Episode Director: Junichi Sato
Animation Director: Hiromi Matsushita
Blurb: A junior high school girl saves a cat and learns she is a magical super hero named Sailor Moon. She must face the forces of evil to save her friend before it's too late.
"My name is Usagi Tsukino. I'm 14 years old and in the second grade of junior high school. I'm kinda clumsy, and a crybaby... I guess."
It's amazing how this line so perfectly sets the stage for the story we're about to watch unfold.
The story starts off with our main protagonist finding out she slept in and running late for school. Downstairs, her mother Ikuko is clearly used to this routine and even reminds Usagi to take a lunch on her way out.
As she rushes to school, Usagi sees a group of kids bullying a defenseless cat, and we see another side of her character. She may be irresponsible and a crybaby, but she won't let injustice stand.
- Trivia: Did you see the sign on the utility pole for Juuban Hospital? In case you were wondering, Ami's mother works at Juuban 2nd General Hospital (十番第二総合病院) in the anime, so unfortunately no connection there.
After sending the kids running, Usagi removes a bandage from the cat's forehead, revealing a moon-shaped mark underneath. Figuring that is the end of their chance encounter, Usagi is back on her way.
Unfortunately, more challenges await Usagi at school, where she's scolded by her homeroom teacher, Haruna Sakurada, for being late and her abysmal 30 points on the last test.
Later that afternoon, Usagi and her friend Naru Osaka, joined by their classmate Gurio Umino, discuss the latest Sailor V gossip.
- Inconsistency: Usagi asks who Sailor V is in this scene, but later in the episode we see that she has a Sailor V manga on her desk in her bedroom. Maybe she just hadn't read it yet?
Finally, Naru brings up the main theme of this episode and mentions that the Osa-P, her mother's jewelry shop and also Naru's home, is holding a sale. Usagi excitedly agrees to go there after school.
- Trivia: Osa-P is named after Naoko's editor, Fumio Osano. He also goes by the nickname "Osabu," which is a play on his last name and "bu" -- the sound pigs make. This is why he's often depicted as a pig in his sketches.
After a scene transition, we finally get our first look at the Dark Kingdom and Queen Beryl, our main antagonist of the season. Out from the darkness steps Jadeite, the first of her minions to go out to collect energy for Queen Metalia and to search for the "Legendary Silver Crystal."
While we're on the subject, it's unclear what Queen Beryl/Metalia intend to do with the Silver Crystal. The Sailor Guardians still aren't around at this point, so why can't they conquer Earth now and not bother with the silly crystal in the first place? Maybe Sailor V has just been doing that good of a job holding them back?
In any case, this brings us to to a crowded Osa-P, filled with excited shoppers. I know that she's marked the prices down to bargain-basement levels, but am I the only one who thinks there are way too many school girls in this scene? Even at these steep discounts, these kids shouldn't be able to afford most of that jewelry!
- Trivia: In this scene you'll see a plump older woman covered in costume jewelry. Though never named, she's a recurring background character throughout the first season. Might've been a favorite of one of the episode directors? She often appears in the episodes worked on by the animation studio "Studio Live."
After leaving the Osa-P empty-handed, Usagi heads for home. In a fit of frustration over her test score -- and blatant disregard for the environment -- Usagi crumples up her test paper and throws it over her shoulder, only to hit a man behind her.
Enter Mamoru Chiba, a university student with a surprising amount of free time and absolutely no moral qualms with teasing a 14 year old girl. After they bicker about her score, Usagi storms off for home.
The cat from earlier, who we'll learn is named Luna, steps out from behind a sign and makes a curious remark: "Usagi Tsukino... I've found you at last."
Are we supposed to take this line to mean that Luna had been wandering the streets, looking for a girl named Usagi Tsukino? For the rest of the Sailor Guardians, she only senses a "strange power" upon meeting them. I guess this can be chalked up to her faulty memory?
Yet another mystery we're left to puzzle over, and right before the commercials!
- Trivia: This is the only eyecatch in the season that uses just the male voice cast before and after the commercial break.
As predicted, Ikuko takes the news of the test poorly and sends Usagi right back out of the house. Right on cue, her younger brother Shingo makes his appearance and also makes a few snide remarks about his sister's shortcomings before quickly escaping behind the door. Ouch!
- Inconsistency: Why is Shingo, an elementary school student, getting home after Usagi? Ikuko even remarks that Usagi is late getting home. Maybe he goes to cram-school to study?
The scene changes to the Osa-P, where we see Morga -- still disguised as Naru's mother -- and Jadeite's plan unfold, with the comically-large jewelry draining the customers of their life energy.
When Naru confronts her "mother" about the customers collapsing in the store, it becomes apparent that things are not quite how they should be.
We transition back to Usagi, who's woken up by the cat from earlier. After getting over her initial shock of being face-to-face with a talking cat, Usagi is surprisingly receptive to Luna's story about destiny, magic, and fighting the forces of evil. With little convincing needed, Usagi transforms into Sailor Moon for the first time and the two, hearing Naru's cries for help, head off to rescue Usagi's friend.
- Tidbit: For the first six episodes, the transformation scene opens up showing Usagi's hand and a bit below her wrist. This meant that the animators had to redo the opening transformation shot each time to match Usagi's clothes. From episode seven and on, we see only her hand.
"I am the sailor-suited guardian of love and justice, Sailor Moon! In the name of the moon, I'll punish you!"
Usagi not only gives herself a pretty flattering introduction speech, but also strikes some impressive poses as she does it. It looks like all that manga reading paid off for her.
Unfortunately, this is about as far as Usagi planned as she's quickly sent running from all the now-drained shop patrons under Morga's command.
- Inconsistency: If you watch closely, right around when Usagi says "What are you all doing??" the animators forgot to color in the lower-left part of her bow.
Usagi is quickly surrounded by her pursuers and breaks down into tears as she concludes that superhero-ing is actually quite tough. But before Morga can deliver her final blow, a red rose cuts between Sailor Moon and her enemy.
"It is I, Tuxedo Mask! Crying won't solve anything, Sailor Moon."
Thanks to, or in spite of, Tuxedo Mask's words of encouragement, Sailor Moon starts crying loudly again. Her odango ornaments resonate with her cries, causing a sonic wave attack that distracts the zombie-shoppers and Morga. This is one of only two times that we'll ever see this attack.
Taking advantage of the distraction, Luna tells Sailor Moon how to use her Moon Tiara Action attack, which makes quick work of Morga and turns her into dust.
The scene transitions to the next day, opening to Naru trying to explain the events of the previous evening, though she's only met with disbelief by her fellow classmates. Meanwhile, Usagi -- the heroine behind last night's adventure -- is asleep at her desk.
Review: Though the episode tells a nice, concise story and the basics of what we need to know, pacing is a problem due to the constant scene transitions just to introduce characters. Overall, though, I think it does a good job setting up the story.
[Note: This episode review is a work-in-progress draft and subject to change.]