By Naoko Takeuchi. Released in Japan as “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
I had forgotten how much compressing the 18 original volumes into 12 (and 2 side-story books) would speed things up. That’s right, we’re already at the end of the first arc and starting the second! Indeed, you can definitely tell that, had Sailor Moon not been a huge success, Nakayoshi would have likely ended it here, right before Chibi-Usa arrives. But then, had that happened, we wouldn’t be discussing it now.
For fans of the anime, that’s Sailor Mars on the cover. You might not recognize her as she’s looking cool, calm and collected. :) In the actual manga, though, things really aren’t going so well. Mamoru has been possessed by Metallia, and even if Jupiter and Venus manage to kill off Beryl, things aren’t going to end quite that easily. (Speaking of which, a couple of things to note: a) there’s an ongoing gag about Venus’ sword being too heavy to use. Done for comedy in Vol. 2, it’s now quite serious, as Venus has a lot of trouble actually wielding it. That said, even if Jupiter (who is much stronger) gets in the first blow, it’s Venus who actually kills Beryl. b) Wasn’t there a shot of archaeologist Beryl being possessed by Metallia in a previous volume? I guess we’re assuming, like the Four Generals, that once they were converted to evil, they couldn’t be saved. Keep an eye out for villains killed in Sailor Moon going forward, and see how many were once human…)
Unfortunately, Mamoru is still evil, and so it’s up to Sailor Moon to kill him for the good of the world. Which she actually does, even using Venus’ huge sword. And then, very startlingly, she proceeds to reverse the sword and kill herself. Or at least, so it seems. I dunno, maybe it’s because of the anime episode 45 and 46, but I find the ending to the first arc in the manga somewhat confusing. It would appear that both Sailor Moon and Mamoru were ‘saved’ from a deadly blow from the sword; Mamoru by a crystal containing the essence of his four Generals, and Sailor Moon by Mamoru’s watch. This… seems a bit too pat. On the good side, Moon is just as awkward with a heavy sword as you’d expect. Honestly, none of them look comfortable with it.
The action then moves to the North Pole, where, in order to wake Sailor Moon and Mamoru, the senshi decide to sacrifice their lives. This involves using their transformation pens to somehow use all their power to wake Sailor Moon, and again kind of pales in comparison with the anime. But that’s not the manga’s fault. But now Sailor Moon is alive, and can use the power of love, the power of prayer and the power of basic light over darkness to defeat Metallia. Now she’s finally reunited with an unpossessed Mamoru, and they kiss. And then she… finds out her friends are all dead. Oopsie. (Note we see them in pools of blood, which are all drawn as ‘clear fluid’ rather than the typical ‘black blood’ you see in monochrome. I suspect this may be to make it less horrifying – they’re drenched in it.) Luckily, Sailor Moon can resurrect the dead with her new powerup, which she proceeds to do. (If you’re rolling your eyes at this, get used to it – it’s not the last time we’ll be seeing it.)
Yay! Happy ending, everyone’s alive and going back to school, Usagi has a boyfriend, and all is well… wait, who’s this kid? Yes, Chibi-Usa drops in, and sets the stage for the second major arc in the manga, which is generally called Sailor Moon R in deference to its anime counterpart. Chibi-Usa… is a brat at times, even in the manga. But at least in the manga it’s very clear that she is, at heart, a very scared child, and that much of her behavior is due to panic and stress as much as anything else. She arrives out of the sky with her mind-controlling ball that looks like Luna and immediately proceeds to ingratiate herself with Mamoru, get accepted into Usagi’s family, and get on Usagi’s nerves. And she’s also after the Silver Crystal… which the villains are also after. Is she a villain?
Yes, we get a new set of villains here as well, with the Black Moon Family. More on Prince Demande later, as he’s a truly horrible ass, but here we just get to see bits of the main villains. Instead, they send out disposable minions, each with the powersets to match up against a specific senshi, to capture them. And it actually works quite well, as first Mars, then Mercury are captured by the enemy and… well, not killed, but moved off the board for a while. This, by the way, results in the deaths of the minions. This is not the anime, no redemption for you! There are also, by the way, some lovely scenes of Ami, Rei, Makoto and Mamoru interacting with their friends in daily life. The friends don’t get big roles, but it helps to show that the cast are (mostly) quite popular and well-liked.
I’m not sure if there were any extras in this volume in Japan; there aren’t any here, I can tell you. But regardless of that, this was a solid volume of Sailor Moon. More battle-oriented than most, which means I like it a bit less than the others, as Takeuchi’s battle scenes can get confusing. But as we leave our heroes, the Senshi are now down to three. And somehow, I have a feeling that the start of Vol. 4 will end with Jupiter getting abducted as well, as that’s how these things go. Is this what happens when you find yourself on the cover?!?!