Review: Sailor Moon Vol. #1

Like many who grew up in the 90s, I regularly watched Sailor Moon on television and giggled with my friends over the way North American censors changed the show in an effort to shield us from terrible things like gays and lesbians (in my case, this ultimately backfired, so much) and cross-dressing. Take a group of girls, all with their unique strengths, and have them kicking ass and taking names? Hells yeah i am so there! I’ve watched plenty of magical girl shows since then, but I’ll always have a soft spot for shows like Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors despite the terrible, terrible dubbing.

One thing I never did get around to, though, is reading the Sailor Moon manga. As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I don’t buy a lot of manga because they wreak havoc on the wallet and I tend to get through them in about a half an hour (although, considering the price I pay to go to the movies, that’s not bad at all).

Now that the new Sailor Moon anime is coming out (in July, hopefully), I thought that now would be a good time to actually read the manga, so I totally splurged and bought the two boxed sets of the new revised edition from Kodansha. Yeah, that’s more like a super splurge….

I’m allowed to splurge on occasion.

Anyways, here’s my review of Volume 1:

In case you’ve been living under a rock for a couple decades or you’re too young to remember the 90s, Sailor Moon is the story of Usagi Tsukino, a regular high school student until she meets Luna, a talking cat who tells her that she is Sailor Moon, Guardian of Justice, tasked with protecting the citizens of Tokyo from the forces of the Dark Kingdom, led by Queen Beryl, while also hunting for a lost princess and a magical crystal, said to give the one who possesses it extraordinary power. Usagi isn’t in this fight alone, however, and during her search for the princess she’ll meet other girls destined to be Sailor Scouts, and they’ll fight the forces of the Dark Kingdom together!

The first thing you’ll no doubt notice if you’re only familiar with the dub is that all the characters have their original Japanese names. Serena, Melvin, and Molly are Usagi, Umino, and Naru, respectively. If you’ve seen the anime, you’ll likely recognize a condensed version of episodes 1, 8, 10, 22, and 25, with the major difference that certain villains who had their own story arcs in the anime are reduced to “monster of the week” status (as there’s no need accommodate a season’s worth of shows like in the anime) and quickly killed off.

As first volumes go, oftentimes I’m left with the sense that nothing much happens except at the very end when it ends on a cliffhanger, and this isn’t the case here (although keep in mind that each chapter was once published separately). The action is fast and furious with the occasional break where Usagi crushes on boys (and even a few girls) and does normal teenage things like shopping or going to the game center, but I never found it dragged on in either case.

The art is, predictably, really nice, and the characters are very distinct from one another. I heard the artist actually redrew the interiors for this new edition, and it looks fabulous.

The translation (again, not having read previous editions) was decent, although some lines were very awkwardly phrased. For instance, one of the first lines of Usagi’s narration is “I’m a bit of a cry baby…./I admit to myself,” which just sounds very unnatural in English. There’s also the frequent use of honorifics, some of which seem unnecessary. For instance, Usagi calling Luna “Kitty-chan” (nekochan in the original) where it seems like the translators could have simply dropped the -chan because the English term “kitty” has a similar connotation of cuteness. I’m actually a little annoyed that they chose to stick to using the honorifics when there are rough English equivalents that would have made more sense, but I suppose the goal was to give it a more “authentic” Japanese feel or to stick closely to the original Japanese text, which, judging by the awkwardness of the translation, probably wasn’t the best idea. Even so, from what I’ve heard of the other translations (Tokyopop, I loved you, but godsdammit) this translation is an improvement. I especially appreciated the translator’s notes which explain some details that Western audiences might not understand (such as tabloids being called “Sports” papers in Japan). They’re not extensive, they’re just interesting.

So, yeah, the translation is easily the weakest aspect of the manga, but the rest is solid and, in all honestly, it’s not unreadable. Overall, well, it’s a classic, Sailor Moon was practically the West’s first exposure to the magical girl genre, and if you haven’t picked this series up yet and are waiting for the new anime, this is definitely worth your time.

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