Codename Sailor V and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Book 1

Reviews by Ed Sizemore

In Codename Sailor V (Sailor V), Minako Aino is a middle school student who excels at sports but is poor at academics. She encounters a strange cat with a crescent marking on its forehead who tells her she has been chosen as a guardian of justice. She is given a special compact and pen that allow her to transform into Sailor Venus. She must fight aliens seeking to enslave the Earth. The cat, named Artemis, serves as her mentor.

In Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (Sailor Moon), Usagi Tsukino is a middle school student who is a slacker and gets poor grades. She encounters a strange cat with a crescent marking on its forehead who tells her she has been chosen as a guardian of justice. She is given a special broach and pen that allow her to transform into Sailor Moon. She must fight aliens seeking to enslave the Earth. The cat, named Luna, serves as her mentor.

These books have remarkably similar first chapters and premises. That’s not really surprising, since Sailor V and Sailor Moon are companion series. The events in Sailor V take place first. Sailor V is only two volumes long, and the lead character will become a part of the Sailor Moon story.

Sailor Moon was previously released by Tokyopop and was a early success for them. The Sailor Moon anime played on Cartoon Network. Sailor Moon was one of the series that brought females into anime and manga fandom. It’s one of the reasons anime conventions can brag about a 50% female attendance. Kodansha has re-released Sailor Moon with a new translation, while this is Sailor V’s first time in English.

While both series have lots of fighting, Sailor V is almost a pure shoujo fighting manga. Each chapter, Minako is fighting a new minion of the Dark Agency. There is some character development in the story, but it feels more like those moments are used to keep the manga from being just one fight scene after another. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Minako is a typical 13-year-old, so there isn’t much depth to explore.

Sailor Moon is more evenly divided between fighting and story development. From the beginning, Takeuchi introduces more story elements. Usagi’s responsibilities aren’t just defending the Earth, she also has to assemble a team of Sailor guardians to help her locate the Moon Princess and the Legendary Silver Crystal. The forming of a team allows Takeuchi to work in more character development for Usagi.

So let’s talk a bit about our two learning characters. Minako’s skill at sports gives her a lot more confidence than Usagi. She’s also better at taking the initiative and certainly a better fighter. Being 13, Minako has a rebellious streak in her. At her core, she’s good-natured and very empathetic to the people around her. She’s at that wonderful time in her life when she is equal parts child and woman. Her self-sufficiency makes her the more likable of the two characters for me.

Up front, I’ll say I found Usagi grating. She is also a good-natured, caring person. However, she is also very lazy and seems to always need rescuing. She certainly starts out having the steeper incline of development and maturity needed. She is the least likable character in the series. The other guardians are much more mature and developed persons.

There is one moment toward the end of Sailor Moon that makes me slightly sympathetic to Usagi. She realizes her allies are better guardians than she is. Usagi then wonders how she can be their leader. If she is capable of such honest moments of reflection, then there is hope for Usagi, and she might turn out to be a wonderful person.

One thing you can say about Takeuchi’s artwork: She likes long legs and short skirts. There is a solicitousness to the way the Sailors are drawn that made me wonder at times who the intended audience is for these manga. This art inspired the Barenaked Ladies lyric, “Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon / Cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes / That make me think the wrong thing” (from the song “One Week”). The character designs make me think of fashion models who look much older than their 13 or 14 years. I confess to being a little uncomfortable with this aspect of the art.

That being said, I do love the page layouts of both books. Sailor V has a more traditional grid structure, while Sailor Moon has more of those innovative pages that I love in shoujo manga. There is a wonderful maniac energy in the art that brings all the characters alive. The fights are dynamic and dramatic. There is even a wonderful homage to 70s shoujo art in the romantic scenes between Tuxedo Max and Sailor Moon. Takeuchi’s art is truly a feast for the eyes.

I definitely liked the lead character and story of Sailor V better. Sailor Moon left me a bit cold by the end of the first volume. There were too many ‘Usagi as damsel in distress’ moments for me. If Sailor Moon wasn’t such a pivotal series for American fandom and a favorite of several people I respect, I would drop it at the first volume. I will admit, I’m not the target audience for Sailor Moon, and so much of its appeal will be lost on me.

I’m willing to give Sailor Moon’s next two volumes a try in hopes it will grow on me. It’s not uncommon for a manga series to be slow finding its groove. It took One Piece eight volumes to get interesting and another four or five volumes to get good. Hopefully, Sailor Moon will be a bit quicker to develop. For now, I can’t really recommend the series except to those like myself, curious to see what the fuss is all about.

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17 Comments

  1. As you continue, I’ll be interested in your read on the development of the other scouts/guardians. I find that my enjoyment of manga is usually driven by the secondary characters moreso than the mains (I blame early exposure to Miyazaki).

    Great review. ;)

  2. I haven’t read Sailor Moon since Mixx/Tokyopop first released the US editions (was that really back in the 90′s? ugh), but my recollection is that Usagi’s character arc is deeply satisfying, though it takes a while.

  3. [...] Sizemore in his review of the first volumes of Codename Sailor V and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon at Manga Worth Reading I’m actually terrible at keeping my manga collection organized. None of my [...]

  4. I agree that the first volume is a bit cold (as you say), but the following books GET SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i promise it’ll be worth it ;)

  5. Joshua & Jon, Thanks for the encouragement. I look forward to the next couple of volumes.

  6. Great reviews! Because I’ve read the manga and seen the anime, I am more forgiving of early Usagi’s faults, but let me reassure you that her potential for honest self-reflection is not just a fluke here. She will probably always be spazzy in some respects, but fairly soon rescuing will no longer be an issue.

  7. Right, being familiar with the anime and manga, fans know that Usagi does indeed reach a higher level of enlightenment than everyone else when all is said and done. And unlike other heroines, Usagi sometimes takes on moral positions that is unique to her character only, and most importantly, they are her OWN ideas and she sticks by them. That sort of individualistic streak gives her a backbone like few others.

    That said, Usagi will probably never be considered as “cool” as some of her other mates. She’s just way too prone to slacking off and being a clown. ;)

  8. It’s hard for me to look at these manga from an unbiased point of view. Sailor Moon was my anime and manga beginnings, it has a place in my heart that can’t be removed :) I REALLY enjoy reading the manga in this form, it’s MUCH better than my Pocket Mixx volumes. But when it comes to Sailor Moon I can’t read the manga without making constant comparisons to the anime. Sometimes I prefer the way the manga did something and other times I think the anime did it better.

  9. [...] on the latest Manga Out Loud podcast, so I’m looking forward to hearing what they said about Sailor Moon and the other magical girls of manga and anime. [...]

  10. [...] left after they gave away the sketch he did. Middaugh announced the Sailor Moon manga sold so well, there was going to be a second printing. They are upping the print run on future [...]

  11. [...] previously reviewed the first Sailor Moon book along with volume 1 of Codename Sailor V in September, and he also discussed the book in a podcast. [...]

  12. [...] Sizemore found that he had issues with Usagi as a heroine in his review of Volume 1, but he was able to get behind Minako more. Ed also did a podcast about the series with Erica and [...]

  13. [...] to continue, then I’m looking forward to catching up on Arisa next month and finally trying Sailor Moon. Similar Posts: Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Book 8 § Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei Book 7 § [...]

  14. [...] can get up to speed quickly); escaping with the sugary 4-koma strip Shugo Chara Chan 2; and trying Sailor Moon for the first time with Book 3. Also out are the adventure sagas Fairy Tail 17 and Deltora Quest 4, [...]

  15. […] magical girl is a manga convention, with Sailor Moon being the best-known example in the U.S. Because of the manga roots, Pantoja was a good choice to […]

  16. […] publishes manga, including such well-known titles as Akira, The Ghost in the Shell, Fairy Tail, and Sailor Moon.) They announced the debut on “multiple platforms, including Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon […]

  17. […] A new anime series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal, will premiere worldwide on July 5. Kodansha Comics currently publishes reprints of the manga. […]

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