Manga-ka: Naoki Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2011
Synopsis: “Minako Aino is a 13-year-old middle school student whose calm, normal life changes when she encounters a talking white cat with a crescent moon on its forehead. The cat introduces himself as Artemis and claims that Minako has the power to transform into the hero Sailor V!”
After many years of wanting and waiting, I now finally own shiny new English editions of Sailor Moon and Sailor V! While both were high on my wishlist, I had enough familiarity with the Sailor Moon manga through past experience that Codename: Sailor V won me over to become first of Naoko Takeuchi’s magical girl epics to be cracked open. Granted the power to transform into a mini-skirt wearing warrior with a magical pen given to her by a talking cat, can Sailor V beat the bad-guys, get the guy and live up to a fan-girl’s expectations? (The answer: Pretty much!)
It’s impossible not to make comparisons between Minako Aino (Sailor V) and Usagi Tsukino (Sailor Moon) when reading the story. There are a lot of similarities in their personalities and they share a lot of the same little quirks but it doesn’t take long to realize the two are still very different. With exception of a few very brief protests, Minako is much more accepting of her new role as a warrior for justice. Instead of letting the new responsibility burden her, she integrates it into her life with as much optimism and enthusiasm as she does everything else. She loves her new abilities and growing stardom and dispatches bad-guys as casually as she pines for the newest cute guy in her life. Minako is so vibrant and cheery – the joy she takes in just about everything she does made the story a lot of fun to read.
The downside of her bubbly personality is that the story follows in kind. It can be a little frantically paced, hopping from one daily adventure to the next with individual moments rarely dwelt upon long enough to leave a lasting impression on either readers or Minako herself.
Her methods of fighting evil pop out as much as she does. While the classic name-launched magical attacks are used, she’s more often kicking, punching and ‘Sailor V Chop!’-ing her foes. Though I use the term lightly in context of a magical girl story, this more physical aspect of defending and attacking actually gives her role as Sailor V a more realistic air. It grounds the brief confrontation scenes more than a simple ‘magical-attack-and-it’s-over’ foray. That she uses her assortment of tricks and tactics to settle takoyaki stand disputes and defend kindergartners from bullies is all the more entertaining.
A big flaw of Sailor V being such a dynamic character however is how much the story focuses in on her alone. A collection of side characters offer up more chances for humour and brief places to turn our eyes elsewhere for a moment, but they end up adding very little to the story. I’d love to see Sailor V more involved with those around her so we can, in turn, learn more about her and add some more substance to the episodic stories. I wouldn’t want the series to lose it’s peppy edge but feeling the strain of a one-character show after only one volume makes it clear why Sailor Moon worked so well with a multitude of characters.
Kodansha Comics’s standard of leaving the original Japanese sound effects in place works really well in a series like Sailor V. Naoko Takuechi’s use of sound effects are very organic with the artwork, blending in and complimenting the scene in which they’re used. Having these more delicate effects replaced with large English equivalents wouldn’t have worked nearly as well as it does in other books, such as how Viz Media handles their shonen series. Little translations are included alongside the originals here, and while honestly there wasn’t a lot of care taken to matching the style of the original, they’re rarely distracting and just the right size. Kodansha Comics’ edition of full colour pages at the beginning are a welcome treat also, along with the simple but standout design of the book’s exterior.
My feelings were a bit mixed at first about the translation but it really grew on me after only a single chapter. It’s not as fluid as I’m used to reading but there’s something about the tone that matches the story’s pace really well, especially when delivering lines such as “…and today V-chan is about to go turbo full-throttle on your butt!” and announcing herself as “the pretty guardian in a sailor suit”. While I can’t read Japanese (and thus haven’t read the original), the snappy dialouge and often intentionally cheesy lines work so well with Sailor V’s story that you get a feeling of real authenticity reading it – it just all works together. I felt the same about the artwork. First impressions tempted use of word ‘dated’ but it’s not a flaw. It works well with the story it’s telling and adds to the entire atmosphere. I couldn’t imagine it any other way and still keeping the same ‘classic’ feeling. Chapter cover illustrations were especially eye-catching – the detail work is so delicate yet immediately eye-catching.
Codename: Sailor V is a really interesting story to come back to after having experienced Minako first as Sailor Venus. Seeing her acting so carefree in the early days of battling the dark forces says a lot to the evolution she makes as a character over her years in the Sailor Senshi universe. While I can’t wait to get to those parts, I had a good time enjoying these more light-hearted days of winning trips to Hawaii, beating cranky nerds at video games and beating up a series of soul-sucking pop-idols. The Sailor Moon character cameos were icing on the cake for a book offering me a new angle on an old character and plenty of fun while doing it.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures