This is a review and discussion of the Live Action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon series Acts 21, What Did You Do To Ami?, and 22, Ami Becomes An Enemy. These aired on February 28th and March 6th 2004. These episodes introduce us to Dark Mercury, the evil version of Sailor Mercury, which is a unique character to the live action series. I think this story arc is a lot of fun and this very cool character is one of the key differences between other incarnations of the Sailor Moon story and the live action series.
Act 21 starts out with a ton of flashbacks. Naturally we need to focus on what just happened, as something happened to Ami we just don’t yet know exactly what it is. Along with these flashbacks we see a scene of Makoto punching Tuxedo Mask which takes place during Act 20 but that we didn’t actually see in Act 20. Perhaps it just didn’t fit in that episode so they spliced it in as a flashback? She’s angry that he’s using Usagi which isn’t a great characterization of what’s happening but that’s not to say that she doesn’t have good reason to be upset that this man who clearly has a fiancé is stringing her friend along. Makoto is the central character for the early part of this episode for whatever reason.
Usagi is not at school. She claims to be sick but it’s actually because she’s a bit heartbroken, again, because of this whole Mamoru’s fiancé situation. Ami is also not at school, prompting Makoto to go check out her home. When she first rings the doorbell we clearly see that Ami’s bed is empty but upon entering Makoto finds Ami passed out sick barely able to wake up. What this likely means is that Ami isn’t really sick and that she’s just messing around with Makoto at this point. Considering that Makoto’s is showing constant and legitimate concern for Ami this ruse is very cold and calculated. Makoto makes her some food to help her out. What is that food? It looks like soggy rice. A bit of searching tells me that it’s kayu, called congee in other countries, a sort of rice porridge which is typically served to a sick person. As a write this I have a cold and recently ate chicken soup, a staple sick person food in western countries, but it seems like such a thing is not universal! Ami chows it down, seems to make a miraculous recovery and wishes to go to the amusement park! How atypical!
At the amusement park we see a bear that looks just like Usagi’s costume from Act 4. In fact if I didn’t know better I’d say they were reusing props!
Just hanging around the amusement park is Motoki. Who works at Karaoke Crown when he’s out doing this kind of thing anyway? He always seems to be at the counter when the girls are there yet is frequently seen outside as well. Motoki claims to be taking Kamekichi, his turtle, out for some fresh air. This seems to be a colossally inefficient way to give your turtle fresh air. Although last time we learned that you have to pay for some parks in Japan an amusement park generally carries a heavy price of admission. Did Motoki really pay to come and give his turtle fresh air, a thing which is more of less available outdoors on the entire surface of the Earth? Perhaps he got more free tickets like he did earlier in the series!
After Ami passes out on the ferris wheel Motoki comes to the rescue! He has his car there because apparently he even drove his turtle to a place to give him some fresh air. His car naturally is green and looks a bit like a turtle. It is filled with turtle decorations. Do I judge him for this? Not with the amount of Sailor Moon merchandise I own! Motoki is wearing Makoto’s scarf and mentions that it was the only valentine’s gift he received! Makoto, trying to deflect the implication, says that it wasn’t meant to be that big a deal. Motoki, being the great guy that he is, accompanies Makoto to the hospital and only reluctantly leaves, giving her a bunch of magazines and snacks to help her pass the time. Makoto and Motoki’s fingers touch when he hands her a coffee. I usually wouldn’t make a big deal about this kind of thing however when Motoki went to the amusement park with Usagi he made a point of only holding her hand with a handkerchief as an intermediary showing perhaps a more intimate relationship between him and Makoto!
Shingo is actually not terrible in this episode! He realizes that Usagi is down and so he gets her… a meat bun! This is a bit like getting anime Naru a chocolate parfait to cheer her up as the meat bun reminds her of the one she got Mamoru on their romantic not date along the coast back in a time before Hina was in the credits for the show.
Meanwhile Mamoru is getting ready to study abroad! He mentions that there’s only one month and he has material from “Saintford College” which is also written in English as “University of Saintford”. There is no such place in the real world. A bit of searching only uncovered an unfinished piece of fan fiction which uses such a name. The name is likely a reference to the real life Stanford University. Anyway Mamoru going abroad to study. Sound familiar? It should! This was a theme in the manga and original Sailor Moon anime where Mamoru left during the Stars or Sailor Stars story arc leaving room for Seiya to saunter in and try to steal his girl! Turns out he never really made it to the United States. Will he make it this time?
Well it turns out Ami went missing from the hospital. This is a lot like when Usagi was being turned evil by Kunzite and ended up disappearing as well. Ami runs into some thugs and she seems to beat them up off screen. Makoto listens to the trees in order to track down her friend which seems to work.
And then the big moment! Ami transforms but not using Mercury Power. Instead she calls out “Dark Power Make Up!” and transforms into an evil goth looking version of Sailor Mercury known as Dark Mercury or Darkury for short. This character is somewhat of an opposite in appearance and behaviour of Sailor Mercury. Simply put this is the evil version of Sailor Mercury and she’s out to attack her former friends! This is a great story arc showing some great drama between Ami and her friends who’s friendship started out rocky but seemed, until recently, to be pretty solid.
Act 22 continues where we left off with Sailor Mercury attacking her friends. First she turns an icicle into a cool looking sword. This reminds me a bit of the sword that Sailor Mercury created when she was defending Usagi, who Kunzite was turning into a monster. Now Sailor Mercury finds herself in a similar situation to Usagi’s in that episode except with one important difference! When Usagi was on the verge of being turned evil by Kunzite it was Ami who brought her back. Ami can’t bring Ami back because she’s herself! It is the abandonment that Ami is feeling by her friends which has precipitated this transformation and it doesn’t look like there’s any coming back from it! Sailor Moon attempts to heal Sailor Mercury with her Moon Stick but Mercury quickly strikes down the attack! The fight is only halted by Kunzite who seems to be calling the shots, but not for long.
Back at what seems to be Hina’s place she has made hamburger for the two which Mamoru doesn’t seem to be eating. We learn a bit more about the arrangement. Mamoru has agreed to study abroad, presumably at Saintford University, and promised Hina’s father than he would marry her. This whole arrangement seems odd to me from a Western perspective but a few readers have pointed out that this kind of thing isn’t terribly uncommon in Japan. The concept of mukoyoshi has a family adopting an adult son in law by having him marry the daughter. In many such cases the man will take the daughter’s family name. Does this mean Mamoru would end up as Mamoru Kusaka?
Usagi is stressing about how to cover for Ami becoming evil to her teacher and it turns out… she actually came to school! She may be evil but no need to let her grades and attendance record suffer needlessly! Ami has also brainwashed her classmates, including Naru, against Usagi who is stuck eating on the roof like a reject! We’ll remember that both Ami and Makoto spent some time eating their lunch on the roof in earlier episodes, as it seems to be the place for people without friends to go to pass their lunch break. Usagi uses this moment to reflect upon how Ami must have felt herself being abandoned by her friends.
The opinion of the cats seems to be that the gang will have to fight Sailor Mercury but Usagi doesn’t want to have anything to do with that. Unfortunately they will be forced into that situation! A monster appears at the amusement park and the setting for the combat is an odd stage in or close to an aquarium.
Sailor Mercury quickly dispatches Sailor Venus who’s happy to fight a fellow Sailor Guardian. When it comes to Sailor Moon though she won’t fight but instead transforms back into Usagi. This is Usagi at her finest. Her true strength does not come from her ability to fight but from her compassion for her enemy, who in this case is one of her closest friends. This doesn’t convince Dark Mercury as she slashes the mittens that she’d made! This is a symbolic gesture to demonstrate her severing their friendship.
Usagi cries and the tear lands on her broach causing a bright cleansing light. Ami appears briefly, calling Usagi’s name, but Kunzite takes her away before this can go anywhere. This Dark Mercury story arc could easily have been ended here. Usagi essentially put fighting aside and showed her feelings to Ami and then there was some magic stuff to make the bad magic go away, which wasn’t really the problem. The issue was between Ami and her friends and it is essentially resolved through their feelings but we can get more out of this story arc by having Ami remain evil and I’m all for it since I dig the character. It reminds me a bit of what they did with Black Lady in the original Sailor Moon anime. She shows up, there’s a little fight, then Sailor Moon pretty much heals her but they needed to do a big finale episode later so Wiseman sweeps her away.
Sailor Venus mentions that Sailor Moon has begun to awaken with that bright light. It’s easy to see the parallel of the tear to other incarnations. In the manga as well as both Sailor Moon anime series the Silver Crystal appears from Sailor Moon’s tear. At this point in the series we have still not seen the real crystal, just fakes put on by Sailor Venus who is absolutely Princess Serenity in this series. The light wasn’t a total waste of time though. Those mittens were repaired which is again symbolic. If the mittens which were cut can be fused together then perhaps there is still hope for Ami’s friendship. The gang are dedicated to getting her back.
Back to Mamoru and Hina, who are otherwise not really interacting with the rest of the cast in these episodes, they arrive back at Mamoru’s apartment and there is music playing! Hina wonders if he left a CD on, which seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation! I would think a radio or TV could also fit the bill! Mamoru, being no stranger to monsters and all sorts of terrible things, assumes the worst! It’s also worth mentioning that Mamoru is a thief who regularly breaks into jewellery stores to steal expensive gems. A person like that probably assumes some illegal break in could be a real possibility! Alternatively as a fairly unfaithful man perhaps he suspects there is a lady in his apartment! He goes in alone, which serves the plot well because Hina would not know how to react to seeing Zoisite’s ghost. He again refers to Mamoru as Master Endymion. Endymion is Princess Serenity’s lover! Looks like Mamoru’s juggling three women since it’s well established that Minako, and not Usagi, is actually Princess Serenity.
Feel free to leave a comment with your own thoughts on these two episodes. If you’re looking to watch along with the series you can get English subtitled fan subbed versions from sites such as Miss Dream, TV-Nihon and Sea of Serenity. Fans looking to stream the show can do so from Dramanice and Kiss Asian.
Keep reading for more screenshots from these episodes.