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 continues to introduce us to the Outer Senshi and their way of dealing with things in this volume. It can be a bit hard to take, and the anime was never quite sure when to quit with the whole ‘no, we are right and you are wrong’ schtick. To be fair, one can argue that it’s all that the Outers know. We see, in their flashback (and note that their memories of past lives seem MUCH clearer than the Inner Senshi pasts have ever been) that they basically patrol their solitary planets looking for distant threats. They don’t even have cute animal companions to keep them company. And the one time they were able to do something, it was pushing the big red ‘PRESS THIS TO DESTROY UNIVERSE’ button of summoning Sailor Saturn. So it stands to reason they’d regard this as something that’s their job, and has to be done their way. Plus they’re two years older than Usagi and company. For a teenager, that’s, like, FOREVER.
That said, it’s Sailor Moon’s manga, and you know she’s going to be right in the end, so it can be a bit aggravating to see them try to do the whole ‘go away and let us handle this’ thing. Luckily, there are several moments that endear them to us. For one, I loved that, immediately after Setsuna’s memories awaken and she reclaims her powers as Pluto, she rushes to embrace Chibi-Moon. From a story perspective, Pluto’s death was devastating to Chibi-Moon the most, so it stands to reason that if you’re going to retcon it (and I don’t remotely understand how Pluto gets reincarnated in the past, but hey, timey-wimey ball and all that) you’d better reclaim that emotional moment. Pluto’s joy at seeing Chibi-Moon is equally fantastic. Of course, once that’s over she joins the Outers in their aloofness, but hey, can’t have everything.
I know that it’s a common theme throughout all 12 volumes of the manga, but it always seemed to me that S really ramped up the idea of possession as an attack to an insane degree. Here the Inners and Outers get pitted against each other by pumping up their negative emotions, we see Kaolinite (back when she was just Kaori, presumably) getting possessed by Pharaoh 90, and of course there’s Hotaru, whose success at fighting off the Evil Mistress Nine within her is even more admirable in this context, given that nobody else seems to have any luck fighting anything off at all. Speaking of Hotaru, her father in the manga is a really evil bastard, who it’s made clear seems to have been off the rails even BEFORE turning evil, so no redemption for him as you may have seen in the anime. That said, Hotaru’s reaction to all this is sweet and loving, even as a disembodied spirit.
Lastly, while bonds of friendship, love and respect are all very well and good, there’s a lovely reminder that being a senshi is a calling rather than a cute little fantasy. Most magical girl manga tend to have their heroines thinking of romance first and foremost – and indeed Usagi is fairly typical in that regard – but we’ve seen over and over again that this is a lifetime profession for Sailor Moon and the others – and that the lifetime is going to last MUCH LONGER than most. The Witches Five (brought back to life again, in one of the poorer plot choices in the entire series – don’t kill off minions if you need them again!) each taunt the Inners with the idea that there are other careers they could be doing – doctor, fortune-teller, florist, idol – that they’re sacrificing by choosing to be a senshi and help Sailor Moon instead. This is not a one-time theme, and will become even more important in the SuperS arc that follows this.
This isn’t a perfect volume of Sailor Moon – it’s a bit more messy and chaotic than it’s been in the past, and there’s more shouting at everyone else than I’d like (most of it designed to fill up pages while we wait for Mistress Nine to be powerful enough to break out). But, as noted above, it’s filled with food for thought, and now that we have all our ducks in a row we’re ready for a powerful climax. Will the Outers have to kill Hotaru to save the world? (Note: if you want this to remain secret, try not to look at the color pages for this volume.)