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.
In the last volume of Sailor Moon, we had chapters each devoted to the development of a senshi, be it Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, or the Outers. That having been done, it’s time for an action-packed climax to the SuperS arc. Now, this can also be a drawback. Takeuchi’s battles do tend to have a certain sameness to them, and in many ways this is just another variation on “our light is purer than your dark”. So with that in mind, let me talk about all the other things that I loved about this volume.
First of all, the entire arc has been a look at the dreams and nightmares of the world, with the Dark Moon Circus dealing out both with impunity. We’re definitely on the nightmare end of the scale for this volume, with many grotesque, horrific images that look even better in Takuuchi’s long-limbed shoujo style. Seeing Usagi’s face melting off was what caused me to buy a copy of the manga in my comic store years ago (this was an older Japanese tankobon, I think), and it hits Venus and the rest of the senshi right where they live – the Princess is dead, they failed to protect her. (A flashback showing the very Sleeping Beauty-esque appearance of Nehelenia in the Silver Millennium only reinforces that – also, Venus and the others as chibi-Senshi are adorable.) Usagi, meanwhile, is caught in what seems an idealistic dream – she and Mamoru are the same age, and he makes her breakfast before they go to school together. But she immediately starts to see through it, even if regretfully – Mamoru was never that sicky sweet. It’s a childish Usagi dream, and she’s moved beyond that.
The other senshi mostly get to stand around and gape, but there are occasional moments of awesome. Venus and Uranus are the clear team leaders of their respective groups, and there’s a brief moment where we see they don’t really get along. We also see a magic mirror that needs to be broken, and after senshi attacks fail to do the job Jupiter goes with her Plan A – punch it really hard. (Who needs superpowers when you have MONSTER STRENGTH?) But the big winner here is Saturn, who is back, is around Chibi-Usa’s age, and is clearly the most savvy of the entire group – so much so that she and Chibi-Moon actually have to be banished from the plot for half the book (in another really creepy and well-drawn sequence where they’re imprisoned in shards of mirror). She confronts the Amazoness Quartet, abut can see them for who they really are – and almost manages to get them to remember before Nehelenia steps in and turns them into dull black orbs. (Also, she gets to do something in the volume on which she’s the cover star – a rarity for this re-released series.)
After Nehelenia is defeated (sorry, honey, no redemption for you here), we see everyone transformed into their ‘royalty’ dresses (we actually see it earlier as well, and it’s worth noting a couple of things. First, Serenity apparently has powers so vast that she can give her retinue prom formal gowns almost by default. Secondly, everyone gets white gowns bar Pluto and Saturn’s, which are black. I’d like to think there’s meaning to that beyond “breaking up the color scheme”), Saturn is still in her senshi outfit as she has another duty – have Serenity purify the orbs. And after she does so, we see the true forms of the Amazoness Quartet – the Asteroid Senshi, Chibi-Moon’s own inner retinue from the future. (This is actually not explained quite as well as I’d like, and is another weakness of this volume.) Add that to Helios, who is at last free to not be a giant magic horse and romance Chibi-Moon as himself – and one purpose of this arc is to give Chibi-Usa her own group to turn to in Crystal Tokyo that’s not simply her parents and guardians. She’s free to grow up.
For a volume that seems to be, on flip through, about half ‘senshi gape at encroaching darkness’ pictures over and over, there was a lot going on here. We’ve got two volumes of the main storyline to go, which will be the last arc, Stars. I’m especially looking forward to these as it’s the arc I re-read the least first time round, so I want to see what new insights I can find in it. (I also want a street date for the Takeuchi artbook – some of the title pages in this cry out for big color prints.) Still a can’t miss shoujo classic.