Sailor Moon Episode 2: Fortune-Telling and Corruption

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Fortune-telling is a venerable tradition in Japan – the particular fortune-telling technique featured here with the Juban District priest happens to be kau cim, which utilizes sticks in the divination. Of course, Jadeite is on hand to observe; as a member of the Dark Kingdom, he opts to use corrupted versions of familiar practices in order to gather energy, something established with the first episode with Sailor Moon. Here, Jadeite appears as a bit of a shady individual who observes from a distance – he doesn’t completely show his face to the audience when we first see him, because he’s undercover, wearing a classic all-black ensemble to obscure his features to avoid detection. He has keen awareness of the tribulations of human society, but uses it for personal gain.

This cuts to the heart of the Dark Kingdom’s machinations – Jadeite, as one of the four Shitennou under the direct jurisdiction of Queen Beryl, he works for the regent as an entity of malevolence, part of the darker elements of Buddhist cosmology. Buddhism posits a life where the dukkha (generally translated as “suffering,” but more general than that may indicate) reigns in human affairs; material desires and emotional frustrations typify human existence, and the Buddha’s way involves casting aside all the fetters that tie humanity to the material world in order to achieve enlightenment. Jadeite and the Dark Kingdom both illustrate the corruptive influence all around us – if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves under sway by all the negativity of the world, as corruption exists throughout all social strata. Thankfully, Sailor Moon occupies the opposite angle in this complex religious and social environment – she exists as a beacon of light, actively fighting against the corrupting elements of the Dark Kingdom in order to bring awareness of the Buddha’s philosophy to those around her. Since her visual motif is the moon, Tsukino Usagi represents the all-encompassing compassion of the Buddha; after all, the full moon was presented during numerous key moments of Gautama Buddha’s life (such as his birth), which is why it became a potent Buddhist symbol over the centuries.

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With this episode’s youma, we see the travails of the new and how love can be corrupted; the youma utilizes Western-style tarot cards, a stark contrast to the more traditional kau cim of the priest. Originating in the fifteenth century CE, tarot cards initially began as a game, but eventually moved on to divination; here, the youma utilizes tarot as a means of collecting energy for the Dark Kingdom. The overhead shot seen above shows her in a menacing light – she has the upper hand here, as she lures unsuspecting students to her shops in order to gather their life force. Umino Gurio, the hapless nerd of the series, doesn’t suspect a thing; he is in love with Usagi and wants to have his fortune told, not realizing he has fallen for a Dark Kingdom trap.

Here we get to see the Dark Kingdom in action – the world isn’t always nice, and corruption can come from anywhere. Jadeite specifically targeted fortune-telling because of its ubiquitous nature in Japanese society; the priest seen earlier has a wonderful, cheerful appearance befitting his service as a priest, but here we see how negative influences can pervert the craft for nefarious goals. The youma has only gathering energy in mind; she doesn’t have to exert much of her own will upon the populace, which is unfortunate because humans do have the capacity to resist corruption and find their own path towards enlightenment. Sailor Moon offers a means of salvation – no matter how bad things may become, she has the capacity to save humanity from negativity.

This fortune-telling session has the effect of turning the male students of Usagi’s school into delinquents – Umino even going so far as to flip a teacher’s skirt – deftly illustrating the disruptive influence of the Dark Kingdom. Umino transforms into a stereotypical rebellious teen; he (along with other students) throws rocks into school windows, making a fool of himself and going against social expectations. This can very well harken back to Edo-era social developments – villagers developed a sense of “town identity” due to restrictions placed on travel, and those who went against the village’s safety were ostracized. Here, the school becomes a modern-day equivalent to the village; Umino threatens the social fabric of Juban Middle with his errant ways, but he is likely unaware of his own behavior, due to his being controlled.

The confrontation between Sailor Moon and the youma that concludes this episode restores order to society – the youma turns to dust upon being defeated, lifting the curse placed upon the students. It shows how teamwork and dedication wins out in the end; even though the Dark Kingdom ostensibly has numbers on its side, it cannot compete with Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask because the Dark Kingdom emphasizes hierarchy and servility. The youma only exist to carry out the will of the Shitennou and Queen Beryl; they do not have their own ambitions. Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask win precisely because they view each other as equals – they have a lot to take care of, and they will work their hardest against the corruptive forces of the Dark Kingdom.

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