Fighting evil by moonlight? You’re not alone. Sailor Moon made history as one of the most popular shoujo (traditionally, manga and anime targeted towards a younger female audience) manga ever released, and 2014 is shaping up to be the year of the Senshi.
July 5th will see the start of a new animated series, Sailor Moon Crystal, in a simultaneous worldwide release with Kotono Mitsuishi (the original voice actress for Sailor Moon) leading the cast. Viz Media’s recent announcement of their license to re-subtitle and re-dub the existing anime has energized the fandom even more—it’s clearly a great time to be a Sailor Moon fan.
As a self-proclaimed Moonie, the three months of waiting for Sailor Moon Crystal seem agonizing, so what better way to spread out the excitement than to reread all twelve volumes of the manga? Read along, and share your thoughts!
Some Quick Facts:
- The first act of the manga was printed in February 1992, with the final act printed in the March 1997 issue of Nakayoshi, a manga magazine.
- Kodansha later collected the 52 chapters into 12 volumes and rereleased them beginning in November 2013 in celebration of the manga’s 20th anniversary, publishing two volumes per month along with the companion series Code Name Sailor V. (Check out the character introductions below for more information.) The release was done in both Japanese and English.
- Usagi Tsukino – Though she’s more familiar to North American audiences as Serena Tsukino (anime) or Bunny (manga first release), the 2013 manga keeps her original name. Usagi is not the kind of character one might peg as a heroine, but that is precisely the kind of theme Sailor Moon plays into: discovering the potential you never knew you had inside you all along.
- Ami Mizuno – Resident genius and shy teenager, Ami doesn’t want anything except to be left alone to study. But one encounter with Usagi adds a little more colour to her routine days.
- Rei Hino – Rei is a lady who dabbles in duality: she is deeply reflective but temperamental, and loyal but quick to tease.
- Mamoru Chiba – For most of the first volume, he’s only the strange young man who interacts with Usagi in humourous ways. His quest for the Silver Crystal also ties him to her in some pretty complex situations.
- Luna – Every heroine needs an advisor, and Usagi’s just happens to be a talking cat. Luna’s guidance saves the day more than once, and she learns from Usagi as well.
- Sailor V – Mentioned only in passing, the mysterious heroine fascinates Usagi, and even her first transformation gives her a similar costume—mask and all.
Volume 1: Some Decidedly Unfriendly Diamonds:
Overall, the first six acts establish a strong world and layered characters. Takeuchi’s art has an ethereal quality, with smooth, light lines. I particularly adore the way she draws the girls’ hair—the movement on each page makes them come alive for me. It’s a physical manifestation of the intense power that all of them carry. The colour pages make me want to purchase the art books just to marvel over the beauty of it all.
Usagi’s innocence is the most notable part of this act. I found myself returning to contemplate it through her introduction, her interactions with her friends Naru and Umino, and her first fight as Sailor Moon. I felt that she wasn’t gullible so much as just inexperienced, and considering her life before the story begins, it’s not a surprise. Usagi would never have found herself in danger before—Tokyo has extremely low crime rates—and her family and friends care about her. Interestingly enough, she does display a desire to protect people and pursue justice, so as unlikely as her transformation into Sailor Moon might seem, the foundations are there in her personality.
Mamoru’s introduction is definitely not meant to be romantic or sweet. In fact, he’s kind of a jerk, and as much as I identify with him, he isn’t the kind of character who garners sympathy right away. Motoki, “the good-looking and nice guy” who works at the Crown Arcade, is clearly meant to be a physical and emotional foil to the dark-haired and mysterious Mamoru, and the connection between them is a great surprise.
Ami, Rei, and Makoto, while clearly very different from Usagi, are not portrayed as better or more preferable heroines. Each girl has her strengths and weaknesses, and Takeuchi doesn’t try to build up one to the detriment of the others. Makoto is less classically feminine than the other girls, Ami and Rei are both unused to social interactions, and Usagi doesn’t care about how different they are because they are her friends. They learn to rely on each other—both on the battlefield and in their regular lives. This treatment lays the foundation for a very real and powerful friendship between the girls that will literally save the world.
Energy—and the stealing of—is the Sailor Moon villain M.O. 99% of the time (the 1% consisting of brainwashing Mamoru), and I actually find that interesting because of how Japanese culture functions. The Japanese people talk about energy and strength quite often and even bands/performers will thank their audiences and express their desire to give them energy to keep going, or humbly ask for continued support and strength. For a villain to steal energy, it would be akin to dismantling society bit by bit, as well as building up the Big Bad of this particular arc, Metallia. The girls lend each other strength, a motif that Takeuchi brings back throughout the manga several times.
The first volume comes to a close with another possible source of strength for Usagi in Tuxedo Mask. It’s clear that he suspects a connection between them, and I found that the slow burn was much more satisfying in the manga. But dashing and dapper as he is, Mamoru doesn’t dominate the scenes he’s in. His presence and the magnetic pull he feels towards Usagi in both incarnations only adds to the focus on Usagi and what she is ultimately capable of inspiring in the people around her. Sailor Moon or not, Tsukino Usagi is a formidable character on her own, and her growth is what carries the manga forward.
Next week on Moonie Musings: Hey, remember that time we went to the moon?