Sailor Moon, Vol. 1
by Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics, 240 pp
Rating: Teen (13+)
After nearly a decade of being out of print, Naoko Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon returns to America thanks to Kodnasha Comics! Arguably one of the most influential manga series in the US, it kicked down doors and welcomed an entirely new generation of young girls into the sequential art form! The tale of Usagi, a school girl chosen to lead a group of other school girls in a battle against the forces of evil begins here.
The story in this first volume is surprisingly simple and straightforward almost to the point of predictability. Luna, a magical cat from the Moon arrives and informs Usagi, your typical, hapless school girl that she’s been chosen to help save the world as Sailor Moon. She’s tasked with several quests, including finding a powerful gem, gathering her allies and finding and defending a princess. Much of the volume is devoted to introducing the various characters and ideas, such as powerful, otherworldly aliens sucking energy from helpless earthlings, and some of the different girls who are Sailor Moon’s allies. At this point, emotionally, it feels a bit hollow and empty. There’s a lot of mystery and questions surrounding mysterious dreams and the enigmatic man Tuxedo Mask, but at this point it feels awfully plot heavy with villains and allies popping up randomly in each chapter. For their part, Sailor Moon and her allies are fairly straight forward and almost archetypal in their personalities and characteristics. The vaguely ditzy, blonde brimming with love and good will, the quiet and intelligent brainy girl, the tall and strong girl with a protective streak and so forth and so on.
The visuals are… sparkly. I haven’t read too many shojo series but I have to admit that Sailor Moon is quite possibly the most stereotypical looking one that I’ve come across. It’s dripping with slightly chibi-esque moments, sparkles, flowers, toning patterns and more. Nearly everyone in this book is incredibly pretty and those that aren’t are usually villains or, possibly, secretly pretty! The panel lay outs are surprisingly dense and busy with lots of images bleeding into other panels, patterns splattered across the page and more. While the visuals do do a fantastic job at complimenting the emotional content of the text and at conveying various moods and emotions, the story telling seems a bit messy and stiff. The panels don’t really flow and motion and action are almost nonexistent. Confrontations with the villains are bland, un-engaging and often times incredibly short and quick.
Sailor Moon is an interesting read in terms of it being a classic and hugely important to the development of the American manga market, but at this point it’s not quite blowing me away or making me fall in love with it. There are moments that seem interesting and are amusing, along with story elements that seem to hold a lot of promise, but there’s just something lacking from the first volume to pull it all together and make it fantastic. As it is, knowing it’s importance and having a vague idea of what’s to come, I’ll probably be sticking with it for a bit longer. If I didn’t I really couldn’t see myself following the series for much longer.
Sailor Moon, vol. 1 is available now from Kodansha Comics.