Sailor Moon, Vol. 3
by Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics, 248 pp
Rating: Teen (13+)
The third volume of Naoko Takeuchi’s shojo hit, Sailor Moon concludes the opening arc seeing our heroines facing off against the evil Queen Metalia! Secrets are revealed as the forces of good and evil clash with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance. Afterwards the Sailor Scouts find themselves up against a new threat with new mysteries and questions waiting to be answered.
We’re three volumes in and I beginning to think that this might be a rather uneven series. The first volume was all introductions, leading us to meet the various Sailor Scouts while finding out bits and pieces about them and their powers. The second volume was a massive info dump with huge amounts of background information, world building, setting up the conflict between Sailor Moon and the forces of Metalia and Beryl, and a heavy fleshing out of the romance between Usagi and Mamoru. This volume brings the opening arc to it’s conclusion but does so in such a way that undercuts much of the drama and the excitement of the story. It’s so compressed that moments which feel like they matter and should resonate fall a bit flat or are glossed over surprisingly quickly. Moments such as the Sailor Scouts sacrificing themselves or various fights and climactic scenes often take place over the course of a panel or two. This continues into the second arc which we’re thrown into head first, witnessing seemingly pointless attacks upon the Sailor Scouts by villains who are cyphers. While that’s not a huge issue, their motivations currently serve as a mystery hook for this arc, the reactions of the Sailor Scouts to all of it are virtually nonexistent! For example, Sailor Mars is kidnapped early on but the scouts express almost no worry or grief outside of an initial “She’s gone!” reaction. This rather large and major occurrence is almost glossed over and instead Sail Moon spends a large chunk of the story stressing over the arrival Chibi-Usa, a mysterious young girl who seems to have a connection to Usagi and who moves in with them. While it makes sense that that would be on her mind, you’d think she’d be more than a little worried about her friend being kidnapped and might comment on it a bit more. To make things even more bizarre almost no one but the Scouts seem to notice or care about Mars’ disappearance. Her classmates express some surprise that she’s been absent for a few days but there’s nothing about what her family is doing or anyone making any attempt to locate a missing teenager beyond the Scouts asking around. It makes the entire thing feel surreal and oddly empty, like the events are taking place in some kind of vacuum which doesn’t affect the world the story is set in.
Visually the book’s not really my cup of tea but it’s hard to deny Naoko Takeuchi’s skill in depicting and conveying emotional oomph. As I mentioned above her battle scenes tend to be hyper compressed to the point that they make old school superhero comics look positive languid in their pacing. It’s not just the pacing but the lack of clarity regarding what’s happening and where people are going or moving in relation to each other. On the other hand when it comes to the romance between Usagi and Mamoru she’s piles it on and turns up the volume to eleven. A kiss between the two at the end of the opening arc is given a gorgeous two page spread juxtaposing it against their previous lives as Endymion and Serenity. The whole moment hangs in the air wonderfully thanks to her use of toning, patterns, a lack of panel borders or backgrounds and more. The entire scene feels like the equivalent of two lovers running to each other at the climax of a Hollywood film.
I’m finding Sailor Moon to be a mixed bag and wonder if it’s due to the fact that I’m so far outside of the target audience for the book or whether it’s just not being as good as everyone’s made it out to be over the years. Still, while I can’t quite put my finger on it, though I’m leaning towards it’s importance in the American anime and manga scene, it is oddly compelling and I find myself wanting to give it at least one more volume.
Sailor Moon, vol. 3 is available now from Kodansha Comics.
by Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics, 244 pp
Rating: Teen (13+)
The second volume of Naoki Takeuchi’s Sailor Moon picks up right where the first one left off and it contains revelations and twists by the bucket full. The truth about Sailor Moon and her allies, Tuxedo Mask and more is about to be revealed!
Wow. I’ve seen some people mention that the second volume is full of twists and turns and they weren’t lying. The first volume was a little slow in places, introducing most of the cast and offering us only brief glimpses at the villains and what they’re after, but volume two is almost the exact opposite. The pacing picks up as truths are revealed and the Sailors find themselves whisked from one shocking revelation to another. Usagi’s character begins to grow and shows hints of a heretofore unseen inner strength that feels genuine. Her relationship with Tuxedo Mask develops and the revelations with that help to flesh out and explore the background and history of the world the story inhabits.
Naoki Takeuchi’s artwork still isn’t really my cup of tea. I recognize that she does a fantastic job at conveying mood and emotion through various screen tones, borders, lack of borders and more, but at the same time it’s just not my thing. So much of it seems to occur in a white space occupied by sparkles or blurry lines. While it does a good job at conveying the characters moods and reinforcing the atmosphere of the story it also causes it to feel a bit removed and ungrounded at times. There’s also a few rapid transitions that left me wondering if I had missed a page or two.
I enjoyed the second volume of this series far more then the first, despite my lack of love for the manga’s visuals. Naoko Takeuchi’s created an interesting and compelling world and I’m curious to find out more and see how the various dramas play out. As of now I’m definitely in for the long run.
Sailor Moon, vol. 2 is available now from Kodansha Comics.
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.