Sailor Moon Eternal Edition (vol 1)
By Naoko Takeuchi
Paperback, 304 pages
2018, Kodansha Comics
Usagi isn’t very smart and she isn’t very athletic and her two favorite activities are sleeping and eating, yet she’s been chosen – she’s Sailor Moon, guardian and protector and she’s got a lot to learn quickly, since the enemy is already attacking the citizens of Japan.
I feel like everyone knows at least a little something about Sailor Moon, right? But maybe that’s just my undying nostalgic love for this series talking. If you don’t – strap in for a semi-spoilery ride. This is going to end up as a part review, part nostalgic ramble.
My love of Sailor Moon originated from the TV show. I recall watching it early in the morning before school started. It was probably my only motivator for waking up (ok, and maybe also Lucky Charms!) and my favorite part was probably when she transformed every episode. Even her nails got painted! As the years progressed, I’m not sure I was able to watch every episode, but I think I saw the majority of the seasons and eventually discovered it was a manga. I know I borrowed some from my local library, but I’m not sure which ones, though I do remember them being in hardcover…
Once the show was no longer available (I grew up in a time before Netflix and Amazon Prime and Hulu –gasp!-) I satisfied my craving for Serena and the gang by using all of my dad’s colored ink to print out pictures I found on AOL (yep, this was pre-Google too!) and put them in a binder that I would then flip through endlessly. I learned the names I knew the characters by were the English dubs and soon committed their Japanese names to memory. I gotta say, I still prefer Lita over Makoto and even Serena over Usagi and Darien over Mamoru, if I’m honest.
Dad humored me and bought me a huge poster for my room one year (it was sparkly and I loved it) and I eventually found my way into the magical world of fanfiction, so, that was fun. I’ve watched the movies and I may actually own them all on both regular DVD and Blu-ray.
WTF does all this have to do with the latest and greatest editions of the manga!? NOTHING! Just indulge me!
I just really love Sailor Moon and I have for a long time. As an adult, my bedroom is full of Sailor Moon fanart. I did eventually rewatch the TV series and it was as fabulous and flawed as I remembered (again, kids, this was with the original English dubs – whose voice acting I still love best – where Michelle and Amara were “cousins”) and I definitely want to watch them again. I’ve tried to watch them somewhat recently but I don’t enjoy the new voice acting, even though I know the dubs are more accurate. And don’t get me started on Crystal – ugh, that animation is not suited to the material! I didn’t even finish episode one.
I’m saying all this so you’ll understand that I grew up with Sailor Moon and that my love for her is strong (one of my cats is named Artemis for a reason), even though I have some issues with the series.
Let’s actually talk about the series now, shall we?
I found out there would be Eternal Editions released this fall thanks to Amazon and bought the first one as soon as it was released. I really didn’t look into what the differences were between these new editions and the paperback mangas I already own and frankly, I didn’t care. It’s a special edition of Sailor Moon, damnit, I had to own it! I was delightfully surprised when this giant edition arrived at my door!
In large format with glossy pages and a sparkly cover, I got to relive Usagi’s adventures as she’s told by a talking cat that she’s Sailor Moon – a “pretty sailor-suited guardian” tasked with defending Tokyo locals from the forces of evil. I don’t know about you, but as a youngster (and maybe even as an adult) finding out I possessed magical powers from a talking cat sounded pretty rad. Usagi is clumsy, unfocused and whiny as all hell, making her an unlikely heroine. That may or may not help readers connect with her – for Young Milliebot, it made me think someone average like myself might soon discover hidden powers.
In volume one, we’re introduced to Usagi and her friends, as well as the talking cat, Luna. We’re along for the ride as Usagi discovers she has powers and fights her first enemy from the Negaverse, who happened to inhabit the body of her best friend’s mother and is draining the energy of anyone shopping at her jewelry store. We meet the handsome and alluring Tuxedo Mask and learn a little about the leader of the Negaverse, Queen Beryl, and her henchmen, Jadeite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite. The Negaverse sure does love draining energy, I guess because murder would be too harsh for a manga aimed at young girls.
This volume contains several chapters (issues?) so we get to see how Sailor Mercury, Mars and Jupiter discover their powers. Usagi and the girls stop the Negaverse from taking over a prep school with their brainwashing discs, follow a demon bus into another dimension and help a possessed princess gain back her self-control. In the final chapter, Sailor Moon uses up all her energy to save a large group of people and when she’s saved by Tuxedo Mask they finally discover each other’s identities. Romance ensues.
This series has a lot to love – an “average” teen girl becoming a superhero, magical transformations including wardrobe changes, romance with a top-hat wearing hunk, talking cats, video games that dispense magical jewelry and pens, campy baddies who concoct elaborate plans focused on energy draining and, at the center of it all, a mysterious crystal that everyone is racing to find.
However, I have a few issues. First off, Usagi is 14. Readers of this volume are constantly reminded of her age because each chapter starts with her introducing herself (I believe because the originals were published in a magazine or serial format, so it helped readers remember). Most of you likely know I’m a frequent reader of middle-grade, so this isn’t normally an issue. But I feel like Usagi and her friends are over-sexualized. Her traditional school uniform consists of a short skirt and her Sailor Moon uniform is no different. In some scenes you can even see a frilly, lacy sort of underskirt that I couldn’t help but think was her underwear.
Usagi and company are thrust into a world where they must constantly fight evil adults and so they feel older. But then those intros come along and constantly remind me that Usagi is 14! Her boyfriend, Mamoru is “17 or 18” and that’s just creepy to me. Normally, 3 or 4 years isn’t a big gap, but it is when you’re talking about someone just going through puberty versus a legal adult. If Usagi was just 16 or 17, this wouldn’t bother me as much.
My other issue is how simplified everything is. Now, I really don’t have a lot of experience reading manga, so maybe this is a trend for the format. But Sailor Moon discovers her powers and identity and is immediately thrown into a battle, which she manages to win with fairly little effort. After that she basically accepts her role. She’s still rubbish at fighting (which is adorable and understandable) but there’s very little surprise about her new identity. The rest of the scouts follow suit, with very little skepticism or adjustment to their new roles. Each battle is formulaic and predictable and readers are left to fill in a lot of details on their own. I don’t mind this, but I’d love a bit more development plot and character wise.
Also, how does Mamoru not recognize Usagi is Sailor Moon immediately!? She doesn’t wear a mask! Her outfit isn’t even all that different from her school uniform!
I don’t mind mentally embellishing the story and my nostalgic love for this series will always keep me coming back for more, but I just wish things were a bit more developed.
If you’re looking to get into the Sailor Moon manga, I recommend starting with these editions. They’re huge, with lovely glossy pages and some color inserts. They do have an updated translation with some slight variations in wording – for example the “Legendary Silver Crystal” has become the “Mystical Silver Crystal”. This edition is also a bit longer than the last run of the mangas so I’m thinking maybe there will be 10 volumes instead of 12.
If you’re a longtime fan and lover of Sailor Moon like I am, I think these might be worth buying even if you already own the other editions, given the increase in size and page-count. They’re definitely sturdier and I like the larger format.