By T.K. Wilson
Warning: Contains spoilers
Sailor Moon R: The Promise of the Rose (currently free on YouTube) begins on a somber note. We see a young Mamoru Chiba ascend a staircase to the roof of a hospital carrying a rose in his hands. He offers it to a small alien boy, who promises to bring Mamoru flowers in return before disappearing.
Some years later, we find a grown Mamoru walking in a botanical garden with his girlfriend Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) and her friends Ami, Rei, Makoto, Minako, and their daughter from the future Chibi-Usa (it makes sense in context), when flower petals begin to fall from the sky and a handsome young man approaches. He seems to know Mamoru, arousing Usagi’s jealousy, reminding him of a promise he made which Mamoru does not recall.
The next day, the girls battle a mysterious plant monster that drains the vital energy from humans. With the help of cats Luna and Artemis, they determine the plants to be of alien origins, and soon meet their master, Fiore. He is possessed by the Xenian Flower, a sentient plant that feeds on negative feelings like loneliness; it was Fiore who was Mamoru’s friend in the hospital and now wants Mamoru all to himself. When Mamoru protests that there’s room in his heart for Usagi AND Fiore, Fiore lashes out, aiming for Sailor Moon but wounding Mamoru when he defends her. Horrified, the alien takes Mamoru to his asteroid base to heal him, leaving a shaken and terrified Sailor Moon to rally the troops to save him and stop the Xenian Flower from taking over Earth.
Here we see the Sailor Guardians, and especially Usagi, at their selfless best. All of the girls rush to help and save others in the midst of great danger, with Usagi’s only moment of real childish weakness being briefly jealous of Mamoru having other friends. This is a major change for her, as before this we have seen her as a self-described crybaby and ‘fraidy cat. In this movie, she truly shines as a princess and a leader, who sacrifices her life to save her friends and even her enemy. Mamoru has always been a self-sacrificing sort (and is now the butt of many jokes about “Dudes in Distress” because of it) and offers Fiore forgiveness and understanding even after he hurts him and tries to kill his true love. The other Sailor Guardians all support Usagi, sticking up for her when Fiore calls her evil and stupid and helping in battle any way they can. And in the end, even Fiore learns that friendship and love can’t be forced and offers himself up to bring Usagi back to life.
Some jokes in this movie revolve around the fact that Mamoru seems to be popular with boys as well as girls. Mamoru is straight, and so are most of the Sailor Guardians (it’s sometimes hinted that Sailor Mars is bisexual), but there is clear subtext that Fiore is in love with Mamoru and it’s not just the desire for a friend that drives him to force Mamoru to be with him. There is a scene of very young Mamoru (six years old or less) sharing a hospital bed with very young Fiore, but it’s entirely innocent. Usagi flirts with Mamoru at the botanical gardens and Mamoru kisses her once. The Xenian Flower appears as a topless woman with the lower half of a plant and her hair and staimens covering her chest, and the giant flower minions are women in bikini tops. There’s a VERY uncomfortable scene where Fiore grabs for the brooch Usagi wears on her chest and causes her uniform to start to come undone; she can be seen partially naked.
Moments of peril and violence abound, with the Guardians crashing, smashing, and magic-blasting away at their foes and sometimes getting bashed and thrown around themselves. The most chilling moments happen when Fiore accidentally stabs Mamoru through the midsection with his nails (the screen goes red and camera holds on Mamoru’s impaled body for what seems a really long time, but you can’t see any blood or gore) and then later drains Usagi’s life-force. She screams in genuine pain and falls blank-eyed and helpless to the ground. (In a somewhat cruciform position, though that might be unintentional) There are also one or two uses of minor swear words.
Sailor Moon R: The Promise of the Rose is easily the best of the three Sailor Moon movies on YouTube. While it won’t make too much sense for those unfamiliar with the Sailor Moon franchise, for those who are familiar with it, it is a treat to see our girl in her finest hour. The animation is the best out of all of them with some moments of sheer brilliance, and the voice acting is the best of the three. (I have to hand it to Christina Vee who plays Sailor Mars in particular.) If you’re curious about Sailor Moon or if you’re a long time fan, I can’t recommend it highly enough, but only for more mature audiences.