By Naoko Takeuchi. Released in Japan as “Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon” by Kodansha, serialized from various sources. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.
And so we come to the final final volume of the Sailor Moon manga. Kodansha has indicated there’s an artbook coming along, but for the moment, this is it. And I really wish that it ended better. I’ve been a huge supporter and preacher for this entire series, pointing out how awesome it is, and thus it saddens me that this collection of three short stories has only one that really measures up to the standards set by the series in the past. And no, that’s not the one the anime chose to adopt into a movie. (I do give big props for that cover, though, which has a post-coital Usagi and Mamoru in bed, with Usagi winking at the viewer. Fourth-wall breaking has always been in the Sailor Moon manga to a degree, but this really takes it in new directions of cute.)
Let’s start with the story that takes up over half this volume, Princess Kaguya’s Lover. This was adapted into the 2nd of the 3 Sailor Moon movies, Sailor Moon S. And indeed that’s quite deliberate: Takeuchi wrote it with a movie in mind. I don’t think it ran in a magazine, but instead appeared straight in the original tankobon. It also stars Luna. Luna, Artemis, and Diana have gotten dramatically less focus in the manga than they did in the anime, which ironically helps the story a bit here. We’ve never seen Artemis pining over Luna quite as much as we do in animated form, so there’s less bafflement at Luna’s treatment of him. And the invasion of yet another female villain poised to destroy the world is handled with the usual Sailor Moon aplomb. At heart, though, this is a love story about a cat and a human, and that’s just sort of uncomfortable, even if Sailor Moon does transform Luna into a human so she can say goodbye to her (already in love with his childhood friend) crush. (Also, Venus and Jupiter have birthdays 6 weeks apart! Throw them separate parties, sheesh.)
Casablanca Memory is the reason to pick up this volume, as it’s excellent. Given Rei had to share a short story with Minako last time (and that really was Minako’s more than Rei’s), it’s fitting she gets one of her own. This takes place early on in the Senshi’s lives, around the time they first met Jupiter. Rei’s background has been quietly mentioned before, but this story is all about it: her father is a prominent politician with no time for family, and has assistants to remember things like “when is Rei’s birthday” and “get her something nice.” Her mother was a quiet supporter of her father, but fell ill and died, which Rei has never forgiven him for. Then there’s Kaido, the assistant of Rei’s father, who’s like an older brother to her… or maybe something more. The story isn’t perfect – it’s never clear if Kaido is possessed or was posing as a Dark General all this time, and his death is also very ambiguous. But it really gives you a good sense of Rei, and is at least very much in character.
And so we come to Parallel Sailor Moon, the final story in the manga, and the nadir of the series. This was written a couple of years after the series ended for an artbook, and the author noted it was in an alternate universe AND THANK GOD, because everyone in this is shallow and awful. Takeuchi has, throughout the manga, had a bad habit of making her characters shallow and annoying for the sake of humor. Since this story is all humor, that’s all we get. The premise has our heroines all grown up and married, with kids of their own, and apparently not senshi as they all live in modern-day Tokyo. They’re all noted to be daughters of prominent families who had arranged marriages, and the kids are “wise above their years” cynics who would not be out of place on an 80s ABC sitcom. Usagi has had a 2nd child, Ko. Ko is hyper-annoying and loves to eat, and everyone hates her. There’s not even the “we love Usagi for all her faults” here, except for one panel where they realize she’s in trouble. It’s just “Ugh, her.” I just… I identify with the characters more than anything, so seeing them portrayed like this hurts my soul. I laughed once the entire story, when Hotaru remarked about how they were going to take over the world as civil servants. That was it.
There are a few extras here, with a timeline for the series (real-life timeline, i.e. publishing dates) and Takeuchi’s description of visiting Cape Kennedy to see space shuttle launches. But overall, despite Rei being cool and beautiful, this book is for those who want t have the complete collection, and I suspect that of all the re-releases it will be the one I dip into least. Still love Sailor Moon, though.