Sailor Moon Manga Moveable Feast: Call For Entries

It’s time for December’s Manga Moveable Feast, and this month’s topic is Sailor Moon. It’s a manga that I tend to talk about at the drop of a hat, and so I immediately volunteered to be the host for this month’s event.

(A brief warning: there is really no way to make this discussion spoiler-free. I realize there are people who, with Kodansha’s re-release, are coming to the series for the first time, and I apologize to them. But Tokyopop’s complete manga and four of the five seasons of the anime have been out in North America for years and years. And I also want to gush about the Outers later on. So you have been warned: this will spoil the series.)

In college, I vaguely seemed to have Sailor Moon on the outskirts of my attention as one of those cute Japanimation cartoons the kids were talking about. As I got into anime and manga via Ranma, I began to note there were several fanfics that had him meeting up with Serena/Usagi (delete where applicable) and their cohorts, but nothing that really drove me to find out more. It was really when Mixxzine began to appear, serializing the story, that I started to realize just what it was that was making children and adults talk about this phenomenon.

There’s really so much to talk about. The strength of the main cast, who are all decidedly feminine and yet will not hesitate to kick anyone’s ass if so required. The manga (and anime) examining what it means to be a defender of justice and how, unlike other previous magical girls, this is not something that they happily give up when they grow up and get married. Usagi and the others are not just magical girls, they are the future rulers of the entire planet. And despite all of that, the manga also shows us that they are not only free to pursue their dreams, but are actively doing so. The sheer brutality of both the manga and the anime – I know that when people actually saw the ending of the first season uncensored, a lot of tears were shed; and let’s not even talk about the manga, where one volume began with Usagi staring at the reader as her flesh melted off her head revealing her skull beneath. (She got better.) And there’s any number of things that can be said about Haruka and Michiru, who managed to break several barriers both here and in Japan. Even when censored into ‘cousins’, you could see who they really were.

Obviously I can’t say all these things myself. Nor would I want to, when there are much better writers out there to do so. I will chip in during the week for an essay or two, but this is a call to bloggers, readers, or interested parties to write about the series.

A few things to note:

1) Obviously this is the MANGA Moveable Feast, but I feel that when you’re discussing Sailor Moon, especially in North America, where most of us saw the anime first, you inevitably find yourself discussing both, even when they differ. In fact, especially when they differ. As a result, please feel free to mention the anime as well. And you can also talk about Sailor V, of course.

2) As I said before, you may discuss the entire series. You may want to, as I did, put a quick note at the top if you’re going to be getting into the nitty-gritty of the Black Moon arc or the Starlights arc. But it’s not required.

3) I realize the manga is being reprinted and not entirely available yet, and that the anime is also out of print, but it goes without saying: please do not link to scanlation sites or torrent sites.

4) If you don’t have a webspace or blogsite but want to contribute, just let me know.

To participate, you can either post your article on Twitter, making sure to tag it with the hashtag #MMF so that I will see it (I am @Toukochan on Twitter, you could also add my name to the tweet); or you can email the link to my attention at gaffneys at gmail dot com. (Sorry, spammers suck.) I will post daily links as is the custom. The MMF runs from today through January 1st.

I look forward to seeing everyone’s awesome articles, essays, reminisces, or just plain old gushing.

And now, post-MMF, here are all the daily links in one handy page:

Day One
Day Two And Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven

Codename Sailor V, Vol. 2

By Naoko Takeuchi. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Run Run. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

(This review contains spoilers for this volume, as well as Volume 2 of Sailor Moon.)

It is possible that I implied in the review of the first volume of Sailor V that the second volume would be a lot more serious and dramatic. Which it is… in about the last 30 pages. I was going by hazy memories of reading the series years ago using raws and online text translations. But no, 85% of this manga is just as fast paced, wacky and fluffy as the earlier one, and Minako goes to even more over the top heights.

This is the final volume, and the reissue is almost 300 pages, so there’s a lot to take in. One thing I noticed right away is that Minako’s secret is exposed, something that the Sailor Moon anime experimented with quite a bit, but usually it was villains discovering their identities only to be killed off before they could tell anyone else. Here it’s the Inspector General of the police department, who happens to be a giant Sailor V otaku, and she manages to put two and two together by simply being in the right place – she sees V disappear behind a corner, and Minako reemerge two seconds later. The senshi’s ‘disguise magic’ has never really been gone into in great depth, and this is the closest we’ll get to it. Of course, everything ends up working out for Minako in the end.

There’s also Artemis, who gets a bit more focus here. As most of these chapters were written during or after Sailor Moon proper, there’s a lot more crossover and references to the other series. As a result, we can not only contrast Usagi and Minako, but also their animal guardians. For all that he desperately tries to get Minako to grow up and respect her duties as a senshi, Artemis can be just as impetuous and overreacting as his charge. At one point he feels so unappreciated by Minako (who really is callous in the chapter, the closest she gets to being a jerk in this series) that he runs away – then is stunned Minako never even noticed. More to the point, the chapter where he falls for the ‘puppy’ Luna is entertaining but also enlightening. We see that his memories are NOT as hazy as Minako’s, and that he definitely does remember Luna – and misses her a lot more than he lets on. Again, some nice detail that we can get now that the other series has been planned out.

(Speaking of which, one way you can tell that these chapters are written well after the Moon manga is the shot of the fictional manga artists’ 10 heroines – it’s clearly a silhouette of all 10 senshi, complete with the Outers and Chibi-Usa.)

For those who enjoyed the humor in the first volume, there’s some hysterical stuff here. Minako’s speeches to the enemy alone are worth the price. And fans of the best Minako anime episode (and one of the top 5 episodes of Sailor Moon period) will be delighted to here of the chapter where she gives blood – including using the disguise pen to age herself up and lie about her age! There’s a ton of side comments by the author in the dialogue boxes or in narrative form, which is highly cute but can also be a bit messy – I think this manga shows Takeuchi sort of unfettered, and we see a lot of chatter that the Moon manga didn’t have. (Josei manga Codename Sailor V!)

And of course there’s the finale. Minako has spent two volumes crushing on (and then abandoning or getting rejected by) any number of hot guys, and the start of this volume shows the up and coming young actor and possible ally, Phantom Ace! Of course, readers of Sailor Moon will see the word ‘Phantom’ and raise an eyebrow. Not that it’s meant to be a big secret, but surprise, Ace is actually the villain of the piece. His final battle with V involves more property damage than we’ve ever seen before (and V has had a LOT of property damage!), and it’s in the midst of this that she regains her memories of the Moon Kingdom, and her past life as Venus. It’s a radical shift in tone – Minako’s regaining her memories looks horribly painful, and it’s not clear if it’s due to the sudden inrush or simply having to relive her failure to save Princess Serenity.

The most fascinating part of the manga for me is the final pages after Minako has defeated Phantom Ace (or ‘Danburite’, as he is actually known). He’s occasionally told love fortunes with a pack of playing cards in previous chapters, and now he really hits Minako hard with his final one – she will never find love, and will always choose duty over it. Given Venus is the senshi of love, and Minako’s basic vivaciousness, this is quite a blow… or so one might think. I am recalling that this guy also professed to be madly in love with her in their past life. Minako’s issue throughout the 2 volumes has been focus – Artemis can’t get her to take her V duties seriously because she keeps running off after guys. Now she’s basically told, Venus is what you do as well as who you are. You never have to worry about having to make a difficult choice. It’s sort of heartwarming in its callousness, and will also be touched upon towards the end of the Sailor Moon series, where we see that Minako has come to terms with and accepted that being a Senshi and protecting her princess is her highest priority.

And so we come to the end of Sailor V, as Takeuchi briefly ties in with Minako’s appearance in Sailor Moon by implying she’ll be working with the Inspector General to fight crime for a bit (which the other manga noted she did before joining the others.) You don’t have to read Sailor Moon to understand Sailor V, but there are lots of cute references and in-jokes you’ll appreciate if you do – I liked Ami’s appearance towards the end, as if Takeuchi realized she was the only Inner she hadn’t written in yet. But really, Sailor V is much like its heroine, Minako Aino. A bit hyperactive, dizzy, gets off the point a lot, and talks constantly, but is filled with energy and life. I thank Kodansha Comics for picking it up after so many years. And now we can read Minako’s further adventures in future volumes of Sailor Moon.

(Hey, who was their boss anyway? It can’t have been Luna… Queen Serenity’s sentient recording again?)

Codename Sailor V, Vol. 1

By Naoko Takeuchi. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Run Run. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

And here is where it all began – Takeuchi’s first big success (which was immediately subverted by its own publishers and then cannibalized into Sailor Moon) and the debut of Minako Aino, the only senshi besides Usagi not to give off that ‘I am ostracized from my peers and need a purpose in life’ vibe. Mainly as she and Usagi are the everyday heroines, and therefore get the everyday lives. Indeed, their families could be almost identical, minus Usagi’s younger brother. There are a few differences, though.

In fact, the cover pretty much gives the biggest one. Usagi is a sweet, but reluctant superhero who has to be dragged into her first few battles as villains are scary. Minako has no such issues. She is athletic, hyperactive, and ready and willing to leap into being a superhero, after a few initial shocks. She’s battling Dark Kingdom enemies as well – though these are far more of the monster-of-the-week variety – but she also uses Sailor V to catch bank robbers and generally ‘do good’. Not that she’s perfect – she also uses her magic tools to cheat at homework, and wonders at one point how to make money out of all this – but Minako’s proactiveness seeps through every panel here.

Usagi also had her main cast – she met Mamoru, Ami and Rei almost immediately. Minako pretty much just has Artemis there to poke her into doing the right thing and groan at her hijinks. Yes, she technically has a best friend (who, sadly, does not have a T-shirt reading ‘I am not Ami Mizuno’ like earlier scanlations gave her) and an annoying otaku classmate like Umino (the otaku actually gets more screentime than the best friend, oddly enough), but most of the time Minako sets out on these missions on her own, and you can tell that by the time they got to integrating her into Sailor Moon (especially the anime) they wanted to play up the Lone Wolf aspect of her.

The manga is very episodic in general – unlike Sailor Moon, which has a feel of an epic romance almost from the start, Sailor V looks like an action comedy, and doesn’t really gain depth until midway through it. The series ran very irregularly in Nakayoshi’s spin-off Run Run, and once Sailor Moon started, you’d see long breaks between chapters – sometimes yearly breaks. You can pretty much see the exact point the series goes from regular to irregular – it’s lampshaded by having Minako pass by Usagi in the final panel of the chapter.

Some other interesting things to note. Minako and Artemis here are communicating with a mysterious ‘boss’ who’s giving them orders – something which may puzzle those who know Sailor Moon. Is it Luna? No, can’t be, she won’t wake up Sailor Moon for about a year. (I did like Minako being 13 here, a year younger than Usagi in Sailor Moon, which means no timeline issues when the other senshi in Sailor Moon note Sailor V’s been fighting evil for over a year now). The identity of the power-that-be is an intriguing mystery.

Likewise, one of the highlights of each chapter is seeing Minako use her disguise pen to change into a different outfit, complete with pose – note how they’re timed to match the page turn, students of manga art! Usagi did this at the start of Sailor Moon as well, but it gets dropped once the manga gets more serious. My personal favorite when when she turned herself into a male teen idol – and seemed pretty much fine with it. (Bet she experimented when she got home too… *whack* Ow.)

The final chapter might give us a taste of what’s to come in the second and final volume of Sailor V. It’s more serious in general, and for the first time Minako’s disguise pen is used for serious purposes. There’s a more melancholy feeling to it, and it actually bookends nicely with the opening chapter. You sense that Minako is not going to be able to continue in the wacky adventures line for much longer. But for now she is, and thank goodness. Minako is my favorite of the ‘main five’ senshi, and I’d read the Japanese version of this (in 3 volumes) with a text translation years and years ago. It’s fantastic to see it here, and see Minako fight for (and sometimes run roughshod over) justice.