Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
September is winding down, and as you read this, I’m on my way to Anime Weekend Atlanta! Three days of anime-filled fun – with my friends at my side, I’m sure to have a blast, as always! Looking forward into the future of anime, just as I get done with my retrospective on the past.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon vols. 1-3 by Naoko Takeuchi
I’ve somehow earned a reputation for disliking Sailor Moon, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I am, after all, a female anime fan who got into this fandom hard in the late 90s and early 00s, meaning I pretty much lived for Sailor Moon and all the other Toonami shows. But Sailor Moon occupied the time slot that started right as I was getting let out of school, so I always missed half the episode if not the whole thing entirely. This means what I got out of Sailor Moon was a confusing mish-mash of characters and storylines that never quite came together into a logical whole, leaving me feeling a little “meh” about the show. That’s pretty much how Sailor Moon became the low-hanging fruit that I use to poke and prod at my friends, but I never hated it. (InuYasha, on the other hand…)
But fair enough: I have a reputation and Ms. Heather called me on it, issuing the challenge that I should go back and give the series another shot. Given that Kodansha Comics just started rereleasing the manga last year (and there’re plans for the worldwide reboot of the show), I figured this was the perfect chance.
I’m assuming you all know the plot of Sailor Moon (and Kodansha Comics must assume the same, since they didn’t bother with a plot synopsis on the back of any of the volumes), but for any of you too young to remember, it goes like this: Usagi Tsukino is an under-achieving 14-year-old girl who admits to being a bit of a cry-baby. Her life seems to be going nowhere fast, at least until she accidentally steps on and ultimately helps a stray cat with a crescent moon shape on its forehead. The cat, named Luna, can actually talk, and it reveals that Usagi is in fact Sailor Moon, a reborn warrior of the Kingdom of the Moon, charged with saving the Earth from evil! But Usagi can’t save the world alone: she needs to locate her allies and become the leader of an unbeatable team of Sailor Scouts!
And wow, does the manga not waste any time in collecting the entire team. In fact, after just three volumes, the Sailor Scouts have banded together, regained their memories of the Moon Kingdom, become allies with the mysterious Tuxedo Mask, defeated one group of world-threatening villains, and subsequently gotten drawn into a fight with another batch of evil-doers. Other mangas have accomplished less in three times as many volumes, but that also means that there’s not a lot of time to really absorb anything, any time to get to know the girls beyond a couple quick personality points (Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury is intelligent; Rei Hino/Sailor Mars is elegant; Makoto Kino/Sailor Jupiter is a tomboy). Remembering as much as I do from watching the show as a kid, it never bothered me or stopped me in my tracks, but I wonder if newcomers would find the manga as interesting? Or am I overthinking things?
I’m ultimately pretty ambivalent towards this series: it’s hard to find a lot of fault with something from my childhood, but I really don’t know how much of the story was plotted out before Takeuchi set it all down in stone. It feels a little slipshod, and every time the Sailor Scouts get into a jam, they just come up with a new planet-themed attack and it solves the problem, bar none. There’s not a lot of tension, is what I’m saying, and even as people are getting attacked, knocked unconscious, and kidnapped, you never really feel that they’re in permanent danger. Then there’s the issue of the character’s ages, especially once the romantic subplot involving 14-year-old Usagi and high-school aged Tuxedo Mask comes into play. I pretty much always age-up characters in these sorts of series anyway, but it was practically a necessity here.
As far as the art is concerned, it’s definitely showing its age a little in its general design, but you can never accuse Takeuchi of skimping on the details. Backgrounds, outfits, and hair are all drawn sumptuously, with hair and clothes in particular always flowing around the characters in dramatic arcs. When Takeuchi doesn’t want to spend time on backgrounds, however, there’s an abundance of screen tones and shoujo bubbles that actually get a little muddy at times. But I’ll take muddy, magical girl effects over blank white space in a fast-paced series like this, any day.
So, ultimately, I had my ups and downs with this series, or at least the first three volumes of it. I was reminded why I liked certain Sailor Scouts (Mars, Jupiter) and why I disliked others (sorry, Sailor Moon – at this point in the story, you’re still too much of a crybaby). It was refreshing to have a series that just jumped into the story and never looked back, and which never seemed to spin its wheels. But at the same time, it was almost too rushed, too quick to finish off a group of bad guys before we even had a reason to root against them.
Ah, Sailor Moon – I wanted to like you. Really, really like you, but I guess I’m back on the “meh” bandwagon. At the very least, thing’s seemed to be on a upwards climb in terms of quality at the end of the third volume, and I think if I’d managed to make it just a little further this week, I might’ve had a better final opinion.
Maybe I’ll have to finish out the series (14 volumes, you say? Only 7 released so far, you say?) and give it another review. I wouldn’t want Heather to accuse me of being biased~!