By Naoko Takeuchi. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
I will try my best, but don’t expect me to be unbiased here. This is one of the most anticipated re-releases in the last 10 years, and I have been waiting for what seems like FOREVER. And now, it seems, it’s finally here. Sailor Moon is back, and she is Usagi Tsukino again, and the series, as reprinted in Japan with updated art (and a few rewrites of dialogue) from Takeuchi herself, is ours once again.
I can’t really summarize, so I’ll just try to give my thoughts. I really liked this volume. Takeuchi is clearly taking the time to develop a very different heroine from Minako’s Sailor Venus, one better suited for the long haul of character development, like the best shoujo heroines. As a result, Usagi may grate on some in this volume, especially if they’re reading it in conjunction with Code Name Sailor V. She doesn’t want to be a hero. She finds lethal danger terrifying, strangely enough. Luckily, she has various weapons and allies at her disposal, and (leaving aside the poses for the reader) does a good job despite her faults. What we really notice her is her ability to make friends, and get even the hardest of hearts to open up to her. Even Rei, who’s the coolest (and grumpiest) of the cast, is worried about her instantly.
Speaking of the other senshi, I like how they’re all different yet share a similar background of feeling as though they don’t belong. Ami is looked on as a prodigy, with all the good and bad that this implies, and seems to have taken it a bit too much to heart. “All that I’m good for is studying”, she says at one point, making one wonder if she has the typical “education mama” behind her. Rei, in contrast to her anime counterpart, gives off a cool and frosty aura, and has those who visit the shrine wonder if she uses supernatural miko powers for evil purposes. As for Makoto, well, she’s dressed like your standard 80s shoujo manga girl gang member. She’s huge, left her school for ‘unknown’ reasons, and no doubt has knives under that skirt. Scary girls, all of them.
Except, of course, they’re all nice as pie. (Well, OK, Rei is nice as sour cherry pie. But give her time.) What’s more, being a senshi gives them all a new purpose, and all three seem to feel as if this is the destiny they’ve been waiting for. It’s actually spelled out by Makoto, in her speech towards the end of her chapter. Fate brought them together. Now, Usagi’s backstory doesn’t match theirs – she’s well-liked and has no issues with lacking a purpose. So Sailor Moon isn’t quite as defining for her. It’s almost as if she has yet to discover her true role…
I had forgotten how fast things move in the manga. Most of Western fandom is more familiar with the anime plotlines and pacing, where it’s a good 8 episodes before we even meet Ami. Here we’ve already got 4 of the 5 main senshi before the book is out, and the entirety of the first ‘arc’ will be finished by Volume 3. This is a pacey series, which does not have patience for long protracted battles the way shonen manga does. Sailor Moon’s battles are fairly perfunctory and noticeably lacking in awesome moves. How the villains die is not quite the issue here. However, this does allow the main plotline to become relevant, and there are no monsters of the week. The search for the Silver Crystal (and the Princess) are what everyone is concentrating on, and Jadeite and Nephrite don’t get many second chances before they are dispatched. (By the way, the senshi kill off the bad guys here. Get used to that, much more than the anime.)
There’s some great humor here, but unlike the action comedy that is Sailor V, this is pegging itself as an epic romance. That Mamoru is Tuxedo Mask surprises no one, as clearly he and Usagi have that ‘destined’ look when they first meet in Chapter 1. After all, they bicker with each other. (By the way, the whole ‘secret identity’ thing gets kind of tossed aside right away here. Sailor Moon calls out the real names of her fellow senshi right off the bat, and there seems to be no issue of ‘why don’t they get that it’s the girls they know?’ here, as no one really sees them closely unless they’re unconscious or a villain.) The climax to this volume is actually more effective than the original Volume 1, which ended one chapter earlier. It makes you want to get more right away.
The presentation here is fine. I’m sure there are some translation issues, but I didn’t bother to get out my old Tokyopop editions and do a line-by-line compare. Nothing jarred enough that it made me want to verify anything, which is just fine. I particularly enjoyed Sailor Moon comparing Tuxedo Mask to Lupin III. (Usagi, you’re no Fujiko-chan.) This is the reprint edition from Japan, meaning we get nice new pretty covers (no stickers, though), and Kodansha’s usual liner notes. I do miss Takeuchi’s author’s notes in the originals, but she removed them from the reprint, so what are you going to do? They are basically more variations on ‘I am a busy and fluffy shoujo writer!’ in any case.
If you’re a big Sailor Moon fan, you’re going to be buying this anyway. If you’re not, well, Usagi may grate on you a bit at first, but give her time. The series is worth it. And the women in it kick eight kinds of ass. (Usagi, OK, does not kick as much ass. At least physically. But she gets to be the emotional core.) As we get further into the series, everyone will get even better. Highly recommended.