By Naoko Takeuchi. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Run Run. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
(This review contains spoilers for this volume, as well as Volume 2 of Sailor Moon.)
It is possible that I implied in the review of the first volume of Sailor V that the second volume would be a lot more serious and dramatic. Which it is… in about the last 30 pages. I was going by hazy memories of reading the series years ago using raws and online text translations. But no, 85% of this manga is just as fast paced, wacky and fluffy as the earlier one, and Minako goes to even more over the top heights.
This is the final volume, and the reissue is almost 300 pages, so there’s a lot to take in. One thing I noticed right away is that Minako’s secret is exposed, something that the Sailor Moon anime experimented with quite a bit, but usually it was villains discovering their identities only to be killed off before they could tell anyone else. Here it’s the Inspector General of the police department, who happens to be a giant Sailor V otaku, and she manages to put two and two together by simply being in the right place – she sees V disappear behind a corner, and Minako reemerge two seconds later. The senshi’s ‘disguise magic’ has never really been gone into in great depth, and this is the closest we’ll get to it. Of course, everything ends up working out for Minako in the end.
There’s also Artemis, who gets a bit more focus here. As most of these chapters were written during or after Sailor Moon proper, there’s a lot more crossover and references to the other series. As a result, we can not only contrast Usagi and Minako, but also their animal guardians. For all that he desperately tries to get Minako to grow up and respect her duties as a senshi, Artemis can be just as impetuous and overreacting as his charge. At one point he feels so unappreciated by Minako (who really is callous in the chapter, the closest she gets to being a jerk in this series) that he runs away – then is stunned Minako never even noticed. More to the point, the chapter where he falls for the ‘puppy’ Luna is entertaining but also enlightening. We see that his memories are NOT as hazy as Minako’s, and that he definitely does remember Luna – and misses her a lot more than he lets on. Again, some nice detail that we can get now that the other series has been planned out.
(Speaking of which, one way you can tell that these chapters are written well after the Moon manga is the shot of the fictional manga artists’ 10 heroines – it’s clearly a silhouette of all 10 senshi, complete with the Outers and Chibi-Usa.)
For those who enjoyed the humor in the first volume, there’s some hysterical stuff here. Minako’s speeches to the enemy alone are worth the price. And fans of the best Minako anime episode (and one of the top 5 episodes of Sailor Moon period) will be delighted to here of the chapter where she gives blood – including using the disguise pen to age herself up and lie about her age! There’s a ton of side comments by the author in the dialogue boxes or in narrative form, which is highly cute but can also be a bit messy – I think this manga shows Takeuchi sort of unfettered, and we see a lot of chatter that the Moon manga didn’t have. (Josei manga Codename Sailor V!)
And of course there’s the finale. Minako has spent two volumes crushing on (and then abandoning or getting rejected by) any number of hot guys, and the start of this volume shows the up and coming young actor and possible ally, Phantom Ace! Of course, readers of Sailor Moon will see the word ‘Phantom’ and raise an eyebrow. Not that it’s meant to be a big secret, but surprise, Ace is actually the villain of the piece. His final battle with V involves more property damage than we’ve ever seen before (and V has had a LOT of property damage!), and it’s in the midst of this that she regains her memories of the Moon Kingdom, and her past life as Venus. It’s a radical shift in tone – Minako’s regaining her memories looks horribly painful, and it’s not clear if it’s due to the sudden inrush or simply having to relive her failure to save Princess Serenity.
The most fascinating part of the manga for me is the final pages after Minako has defeated Phantom Ace (or ‘Danburite’, as he is actually known). He’s occasionally told love fortunes with a pack of playing cards in previous chapters, and now he really hits Minako hard with his final one – she will never find love, and will always choose duty over it. Given Venus is the senshi of love, and Minako’s basic vivaciousness, this is quite a blow… or so one might think. I am recalling that this guy also professed to be madly in love with her in their past life. Minako’s issue throughout the 2 volumes has been focus – Artemis can’t get her to take her V duties seriously because she keeps running off after guys. Now she’s basically told, Venus is what you do as well as who you are. You never have to worry about having to make a difficult choice. It’s sort of heartwarming in its callousness, and will also be touched upon towards the end of the Sailor Moon series, where we see that Minako has come to terms with and accepted that being a Senshi and protecting her princess is her highest priority.
And so we come to the end of Sailor V, as Takeuchi briefly ties in with Minako’s appearance in Sailor Moon by implying she’ll be working with the Inspector General to fight crime for a bit (which the other manga noted she did before joining the others.) You don’t have to read Sailor Moon to understand Sailor V, but there are lots of cute references and in-jokes you’ll appreciate if you do – I liked Ami’s appearance towards the end, as if Takeuchi realized she was the only Inner she hadn’t written in yet. But really, Sailor V is much like its heroine, Minako Aino. A bit hyperactive, dizzy, gets off the point a lot, and talks constantly, but is filled with energy and life. I thank Kodansha Comics for picking it up after so many years. And now we can read Minako’s further adventures in future volumes of Sailor Moon.
(Hey, who was their boss anyway? It can’t have been Luna… Queen Serenity’s sentient recording again?)