Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Vol. 5

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.

Sailor Moon is at Vol. 5, and the R arc is nearing its end. Things are getting bad. Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are still abducted, Moon’s been kidnapped, and now Wiseman seems to have spirited off Chibi-Usa. Will our heroes be able to stop the rising tide of pervasive evil? Well, there’s 7 more volumes of the main storyline, so the answer to that is obvious. The question is how dramatic and interesting can the author make it before Usagi fires her beam of super-concentrated pureness at the villain?

Quite a bit, as it happens. The villains below Wiseman seem to get a bit more depth to them than their first arc counterparts. In particular, Saphir seems like he might actually betray the villains for the sake of his family. Unfortunately, we’re not at the point yet where the manga starts redeeming minor villains, and the power of Death Phantom within him proves too much. Demande fighting his conditioning was also interesting, though I find Demande so loathsome that the impact was lessened for me. Unfortunately for the Black Moon Family, they find themselves replaced by a more useful villain, who has closer ties to our heroes.

That’s right, it’s time for Black Lady. Take all of the frustrations, desires and fears of a typical eight-year-old girl (again, ignore that she’s supposedly 902, that makes no sense). Then infuse her body with evil, and age her up so that she looks like an adult. This plotline can get a little creepy, be warned – Chibi-Usa’s jealousy of Usagi gets played out here with incestual subtext, and seeing Black Lady kissing her mind-controlled dad is meant to be as unpleasant as it sounds. Still, Black Lady does an excellent job of making the villain’s plan come to fruition – so much so that if they’re going to stop her, it’s going to require the big guns. They’re just going to have to – STOP TIME.

I have to admit, re-reading this volume, I hadn’t realized how emotional Sailor Pluto gets in it. I’d gotten used to the concept of her as the cool, stoic warrior of time – which she clearly isn’t here. Lamenting her fate (she can’t leave the time gate, she can’t let people through the time gate, and she can’t stop time, all rules she breaks in this arc), we realize that her true desire has simply been to be able to fight with the rest of the senshi. This is why she has such a close bond with Chibi-Usa, who has similar feelings of loneliness. Of course, you don’t break the only three rules of your position without consequences, and Pluto’s are particularly heartbreaking, even if you do know how things end up in the S arc and beyond. That said, her sacrifice was definitely worth it, as they were able to get Chibi-Usa back, as well as give Sailor Moon the final bit of determination she needs to beat the bad guys (even if the “name of the moon” speech seems a little jarring after such a serious scene.

The rest of the volume is basically getting Usagi in place to defeat Death Phantom, then getting her back. (Which reminds me, there’s a very amusing scene towards the start of the book where Tuxedo Mask runs off to rescue Chibi-Usa, and a stressed Sailor Moon collapses. They decide to take her back to the 20th Century to recuperate… for about 10 minutes, then the Black Moon Family messes things up so they have to return again. Pacing can sometimes be a problem with Takeuchi.) Luckily, everything works out, and Sailor Moon is even able to briefly meet her future self (hey, they’ve already broken all the other laws of time). We also see the three abducted senshi reuniting with the human side characters who their chapters focused on, which was nice and sweet. (I can’t remember if we ever see them again, but that’s par for the course with minor Sailor Moon characters.)

This volume really doesn’t let up at all, being a breathless race to the climax from beginning to end. And while that may disappoint some fans of the anime (certainly the other four senshi really have very little to do here), it helps to convey the tension needed to support such scenes. And Chibi-Usa goes home to the future! … no, wait, she’s back immediately, as Neo-Queen Seremity apparently regards her past self as free babysitting. Oh well, it’s always nice to end an arc on a cute note. On to the third, and some might say best, arc.

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