Manga-ka: Naoko Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2012
Synopsis: “Chibi Usa’s sickly friend Hotaru isn’t just Sailor Saturn, Deity of Destruction. She’s also possessed by Master Pharaoh 90. Facing this cataclysmic power will be impossible – unless Sailor Moon can unite the powers of every Guardian of the Solar System. Then, when the moon eclipses the sun, a mystical unicorn begs for help. An elaborate ship floats through the sky, and Usagi and Chibi-Usa have trouble seeing eye to eye….”
It’s especially fun getting to this point in the story which was only briefly touched upon in English media during Sailor Moon‘s big popular streak starting in the 90s. All the planetary Sailor guardians are together at last, including the less than favourably anticipated Sailor Saturn (speaking only plot-wise of course). The individual personalities of the group are as interesting as their interactions, making the departure of some later in the book doubly sad. All the good guys continue to support Sailor Moon both as protectors of their princess, and the planet itself, while also serving as inspiring energy sources for her transformation into Super Sailor Moon.
Artistically there’s a lot to love about this volume. The new covers are always beautiful and Kodansha Comics continues to include several full colour illustrations in each book. Within the story itself, I’m repeatedly floored by the sheer grace of Naoko Takeuchi’s artwork. It carries scenes that often move at a frantic pace with perfect shifts in tone. I love how it switches from dark and desperate scenes rendered with panel-heavy pages and dark shadows, to more open and panel-light pages that are saved for moments of power-ups, transformations and emotional sacrifices. Volume eight is packed with opportunities to show off her skill at shifting between these different scenes with merciless suspense, and equal reward. One of my favourite scenes is when Chibi Moon gains a new power alongside Sailor Moon, and then later when she can only join everyone else in watching Sailor Moon take on the enemy head on in a fantastic climax that leads to Sailor Saturn’s introduction.
About two thirds of the way through this book, the story shifts from this point to its next arc. The characters have (temporarily) lost some friends, and gained new powers to aid them, but it’s not clear who or what they’re dealing with when a creepy circus appears in town and Chibi-Usa is visited by a mysterious pegasus (though when would a flying horse who comes to visit you in your dreams not be considered mysterious?). Even though I still remember most of the big plot points of this arc, it makes me grin from start to finish getting to revisit them years later. So many little scenes and details feel as new and surprising as the day I first experienced them. Interestingly I’ve come to realize that at some point I’ve become especially attached to Chibi-Usa, and while the story does feel like it’s leaning a little too disproportionately in favour of her, I love watching her try so hard to live up to her Mother whose spirit, good looks and power certainly sets the bar high.
Regrettably Kodansha Comics’ work is still sprinkled with quality inconsistencies. I’ve really come to love the way the translation reads but it’s soiled by poor editing that leads to obvious spelling and grammatical errors that look so sloppy in the quantity they are throughout the series to date. It’s a real shame when overall the story reads well, and the lettering looks great, but I’m constantly nagged by the little continuity errors (attack names changing, for example) and quality blips that momentarily pop my blissful drawn-into-the-story bubble.
There’s so much to love about the Sailor Moon manga, and while nostalgia certainly adds that certain special sparkle, this gem of a series that inspired so many like it stands strong on its own merit. The maturity of every character, the desperation of their battles and the beauty of their abilities makes me doubly excited for the new anime planned for 2013. I hope it can really grasp some of that special something that makes my heart flutter with every read of these books. Volume eight ends on a cliffhanger that promises lots of potential cute and silly fluffy in the early chapters of volume nine. I’m looking forward to those scenes just as much as time for the guardians to shine in battle, and the refreshingly relevant and likeable Mamoru Chiba to get the help and attention he clearly seems he needs as the new bad-guys close in around them.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures