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In order to help me catch up on my reviews, I'm doing another post with more than one review crammed in. :) I'm also doing something different in that I'm going to be reviewing manga, something I've never done on the blog yet. This is in an effort to review everything I read (with the exception of plays and textbooks) and because while I don't read *nearly* as much manga as I used to, I do still pick a series up once in awhile.

Like yesterday's post (which was actually posted very, very early this morning actually...) I'm going to be putting both reviews under the cut with Final Judgment talking about my feelings overall.

Why Did I Read It: When I was about 6 years old, Sailor Moon was my most favorite tv show in the whole wide world. I was in love with the colorful and vibrant art style (those big eyes!!) and the story of an ordinary girl becoming an extraordinary guardian of justice enthralled me; I wanted a magic cat to come give me a magic locket that let me transform into something akin to Sailor Moon.

Of course, I grew out of Sailor Moon and while it didn't exactly win the test of time (with me anyway), I always recognized the mark it left on me and on anime in general. The "magical girl" genre in anime definitely wasn't new when Sailor Moon came around, but it revolutionized the genre and shaped it forever.

So while I have all this love and nostalgia for the anime incarnation, I've never in my 21 years gotten around to reading the source material: the manga. A manga publishing company (that translated original japanese manga into English) Tokyo Pop, released english translations waayyy back in the day, but by the time I discovered manga, Sailor Moon was already hard to find and largely out of print. Since then, Tokyopop has defunct, making them nearly impossible to find.

Jump to 2011 -- the Sailor Moon manga is now celebrating its 20th anniversary and since the rights were given back to Kodansha Japan after Tokyopop went under, they're being re-released in English with all-new translations and maintaining they're right-to-left format. I was curious to read the source material of what had made such an indelible mark on my childhood, so I read the ones currently during my breaks at work.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon vol. 1 (NA 2011)
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Illustrator: Naoko Takeuchi
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 248 (paperback)

This first volume introduces us to Usagi Tsukino, a somewhat lazy girl who loves food and is a bit of a crybaby. One day on her way to school she saves a talking black cat who reveals herself to be Luna. She presents Usagi with a locket that allows her to transform into the guardian of justice Sailor Moon, who's tasked with stopping the evil forces that are plaguing Tokyo (unbeknownst to the normal folk), find someone who's the Moon Princess, and find the Legendary Silver Crystal. Along her way, Usagi will find other guardians like herself, and together they form the Sailor Scouts.

That summary sounds pretty cheesy, huh? Well, that's what Sailor Moon is in a lot of ways. There are some really cringe-worthy moments, such as when Usagi introduces herself to the baddies (as her Sailor Moon persona of course) if you take them too seriously. It actually all made me wonder HOW seriously I was supposed to be taking everything. Like I mentioned above, the Magical Girl had been around for quite some time when Sailor Moon came around, and while Takeuchi revolutionized the genre, there were some moments here that I couldn't tell if they were parodying the Magical Girl genre, or trying to embody it.

Anyway, the story is very fast-paced. This is usually the case with manga, as manga-ka (manga writers and illustrators) want to pull their audience in right away. This made for a jarring reading experience at times. Usagi, along with the other sailor scouts, never question why they've been chosen to do what they do and very readily accept that they suddenly have to fight monsters and look for someone called The Moon Princess. I mean, what the hell? If some talking cat told me something like that, I would be more shocked/weirded-out/etc. But for the sake of the story, these girls take in stride. Sort of Big Baddies are killed off rather quickly, which was also rather jarring. However, this might all feel especially fast-paced because I've also been watching the anime as well, which is chock-full of filler episodes.

There was a lot of things that felt out of place in the story, such as Luna talking to an arcade machine to get instructions on how to complete the mission her and the scouts were set out to do. The whole "mission" itself was frustratingly hazy and not well explained either, which drove me nuts. Of course, already knowing the story in advance helped alleviate that, but still: they're told right off the bat to look for this moon princess and legendary stone but they have no idea WHY. Luna never even explains how she knew to find Usagi and the others, or how she knew what their mission was. Maybe it was because she was sent to earth to be reborn and as such was just born with that knowledge? Maybe I should just stop over-thinking things so much.

All this over-thinking has made me thought (hah) that I would have enjoyed these a lot more as a young girl, where I would be much more forgiven and willing to roll with the punches.

Seeing as this is manga I should probably talk about the art. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Takeuchi has a style that's most associated with anime/manga (the big shiny eyes, the slim and superrr long legs, etc.) but I find it's quite pretty to look at. My only problem with the art was with Luna.. sometimes it seemed like this was the first Takeuchi ever had to draw a cat (or possibly animals in general) as Luna appeared really odd a lot of the time.

So, this wasn't the best manga reading experience I've had, but it was a fun nostalgia trip nonetheless, and as the manga story deviated enough from the anime one, I was intrigued to keep reading.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon vol. 2 (NA 2011)
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Illustrator: Naoko Takeuchi
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
Pages: 235

In the second volume, the last sailor guardian, Sailor Venus (AKA Sailor V) reveals herself to the group. The identity of the Moon Princess is revealed, the Legendary Silver Crystal is found and the girls found out some important truths about the past that have brought them to their current situation.

Though I kept it very brief, a lot of things happen in this second volume. Usagi is revealed to the Moon Princess all along, though she embodied that identity in a past life and those memories had not been unlocked to her before. The girls also go to the moon (literally) to learn about their past lives where Usagi was princess of the moon (and the other girls were her guardians) and how the Moon kingdom fell to ruin. When I was younger and was watching the show, this arc had some of my favorite episodes. Being older, this revelation wasn't nearly so cool to me the second time around, but it was definitely nice seeing some exposition as to why the girls were chosen to be Guardians and who the Forces of Evil were (though they're still about as deep as a puddle.) The whole literally-going-to-the-moon bit felt kind of strange though... I'm pretty sure someone would notice if there were decrepit buildings on the moon (in the anime, it's all seen through an induced flashback and I'm fairly sure it's at least hinted at that everything of the Moon Kingdom was destroyed, leaving the moon as we know it today, which honestly makes a little more sense -- again though, I think I'm over-thinking it.)

One thing I've noticed, and appreciated, in this manga adaptation is the characterization of the girls. In the anime, Usagi cries and whines constantly and Rei is a huge bitch who clashes with Usagi constantly. In the manga, they're both much more subdued. Usagi matures considerably when she receives the memories of her past life and Rei is sort of bitchy, but not nearly as catty as in the anime. Overall, all the girls just seem much more friendly and tight-knit.

I'm surprised by how much I've been enjoying Usagi and Mamoru's romance. They're super cute together, and in this volume as well as the first they've had some swoony-ish moments. It might be a little off-putting that they're so attracted to each other so quickly, but the whole reincarnation thing makes that more forgivable. The only problem I had with their romance is that it seems to be all-consuming. I'm always a little discouraged when girls fall apart when their man is absent, and this unfortunately happens here. However, Mamoru being kidnapped by the enemy is sort of a Big Deal and not knowing if she'll ever see him again or if he's safe would definitely suck for a 14 year old who's fallen in love for the first time. Also, while Usagi wallows a little bit, she does buck up, which was nice.

Final Judgment: While this isn't the pinnacle of quality manga, reading this manga classic definitely incited some nostalgia (hey, it even made me want to re-watch the fairly terrible anime, that's gotta mean something). While the story is so fast-paced that it's a little off-putting, it's an overall enjoyable story. The characters are likable (much more than their anime incarnations), the romance is decent and the art is definitely pretty (with the exception of Luna, who just looked downright funny at times). While I don't think I love this series enough to actually buy it, I will be reading the other volumes as they're released as I'm curious to see what direction the story takes.

Cover Commentary: Not a whole lot say here -- images are nice and obviously represent Takeuchi's art style adequately. They're nice and simple with the single character and white backgrounds with accents of that Guardian's color to keep it interesting.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 10th, 2013 07:25 pm (UTC)
I love that you review anime, manga, AND books. That's exactly what I want to do with my blog (but I figured reviewing anime and manga of the same series might get redundant, and the last manga I read was Lovely Complex). Sailor Moon was my favoite when I was about five or six as well. It ended up being my favorite for years, actually, and it led me to discovering tons of new anime and manga and both genres as well, so I owe it the world.

The characterization is what I love most about the Sailor Moon manga. Honestly, I enjoyed the anime back in the day, but after reading the manga, you realize it's not... the best adaptation at all. Their traits are exaggerated or rewritten. I don't know if you can tell from the first two, but Mamoru is a hundred times better, and insanely different in the manga than he is in the anime. (I actually love what Takeuchi does with him because in the anime, he's stoic and typical Japanese guy, but in the manga, he's the opposite. What Sailor Moon is awesome with is gender role reversal. Mamoru needs to be saved, he serves as the support for Usagi, and Usagi holds the power and wields it well. Ultimately, they're a team though and you see this so much better in the manga, where they're equals.)

I actually hope you read more of it. The story and the characters are what make Sailor Moon standout (the art is lovely too, of course), and it's why it's a manga I revisit constantly. I'm glad they're redoing the manga (the Tokyopop translations were awful), and I can't wait to see the new anime adapation (which is supposed to better represent the manga) this summer.

(Is there a way to subscribe to your blog? I don't have an LJ, but I'm really loving your reviews!)
Jan. 11th, 2013 12:13 am (UTC)
Ah yes, reviewing the two can definitely be redundant, especially if the anime sticks close to the source material. Sailor Moon was definitely my gateway to the world of anime which is why I think I have so much nostalgia for it.

And yes, I like Mamoru quite a bit in the manga. He's very sweet and not at all like the one from the beginning of the anime (who's frankly a jerk at first -- what kind of 18-19 year old picks on a 14 year old?) I'm also superrrr picky with romance so I was equally surprised at how swooney some moments between him and Usagi made me feel.

Since I posted this review I have read volumes 3 through 5 but I waited too long to post reviews and then I forgot what happened in which volume. D: I do think I'll re-read them and then catch up with the rest that have been released since. I'm also pretty pumped for the new anime adaptation -- while the current anime is definitely flawed I'm actually enjoying my rewatch (again though this is mostly due to nostalgia; also, there's a big chunk of the anime I've never seen, mostly from the "S" and "Super S" seasons.)

For subscribing, if you look right above my profile picture, under "Syndicate" there are two tinyyy little buttons to subscribe with. :D I should probably get new ones that are more visible. xP
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