If there’s a manga release bigger this week than Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon… you know, it’s not even worth speculating. There isn’t. Fans have been dying to get their hands on this series again, and Kodansha provides one heck of a product for ’em—uncut, unflipped and fitted with a fresh translation.
Those weaned on the TV series—and let’s face it, that accounts for a huge chunk of today’s anime fans—are in for a real treat with the manga. Reading it might even be a strange experience for some. At this point Sailor Moon has kind of transcended the notion that it all started with this humble little shojo comic, serialized from 1992-1997 and collected across 18 volumes, and a lot of that ultimately has to do with the fact that it’s been out of print for so long in North America. I still remember the floppy releases hitting comic store shelves, but that seems like an eternity ago.
So this will no doubt be the first experience reading Takeuchi’s work for a large portion of the population, and while it naturally has a lot in common with the Junichi Sato-directed anime adaptation it spawned, the manga is still a different beast. The pacing, for instance, is much more brisk, and a lot happens across the six acts featured in volume one. Over the course of about 240 pages, clumsy, chronically-late protagonist Usagi Tsukino stumbles into her predestined role as the guardian Sailor Moon, and meets three fellow guardians—Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars and Sailor Jupiter—meant to complete this harrowing quest alongside her.
That quest involves discovering the location of a mysterious princess, as well as finding the Legendary Silver Crystal before their adversaries can get their evil hands on it and send our world into ruin. It’s a lot of responsibility for one girl to bear—especially when that girl happens to be more interested in spending her time at a local game center and choosing between a couple potential love interests.
One of those could-be romances comes in the form of the blunt, occasionally downright rude Mamoru Chiba, a tall-dark-and-handsome who moonlights as the enigmatic Tuxedo Mask. Usagi definitely has a Clark Kent/Superman crush on him from the get-go, but she’s also kinda into that bro at the game center, so what’s a girl to do?
Takeuchi’s style of storytelling is really playful, so it’s clear early on why Sailor Moon became such a huge phenomenon. It’s classic shojo manga—almost every panel is loaded with flowery adornments that serve no other purpose than to make the page that much prettier. Her characters, especially Usagi, have very distinct personalities, and most don’t hesitate to let their thoughts be known, if not to everyone else, then at least to the reader.
Kodansha’s release of Sailor Moon is a great overall package, and even the most hardened Sailor scholar should find very little to complain about. Complete with translation notes and a brief preview of volume two, well, odds are anyone reading up to this point either already has it, has plans to pick it up, or they left their computer spinning in a mad, Tasmanian Devil dash to the nearest comic shop. You won’t be disappointed.
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Story & Art: Naoko Takeuchi
© 2003 Naoko Takeuchi