When I started my comics fandom 14 years ago, it was never the burly, macho American supermen that captured my youthful attention; it was the skinny, spiky haired, wide-eyed Japanese heroes. One of the first comic magazines that I ever read was a copy of Tokyopop’s MixxZine, which featured four series: Magic Knight Rayearth, Parasyte, Sorcerer Hunters and Sailor Moon. While each series did a fantastic job at uniquely showcasing what manga had to offer to the American audiences, only one title in particular that had a critical impact on the readers: Sailor Moon. This series served not only as a colorful, easy to follow and exhilarating action comic but also emphasized strong, positive female roles and acted as an inspiration to female readers everywhere.
First fully published in America in 1997, this formative series has long been out of print…until now! Kodansha Comics USA, Kodansha’s American subsidiary, revived the title and released the first volume, Sailor Moon Vol. 1, on September 13, with plans to complete a 16 volume run (12 for the main Sailor Moon manga, two volumes of short stories, and two volumes of Sailor V). As a long time reader of manga, I’m elated to have this title out in our market. It’s historically important; its release validates America as a primary market for this type of “lost” material, as it already has a huge fan base built into it. Many of those long times fans, however, have grown out of their adolescent, impressionable years and have become full-fledged adults, which begs the question: does this book and its positive messages still hold up years later? Let's dig in and find out.
What I like most about Sailor Moon, which is something that I’ve really emphasized already, is the positive female role models in our Sailor Scouts. I am speaking specifically of the supporting characters. You have Ami, the hard working genius looking to follow in the footsteps of her parent’s profession as doctors. You have Rei, a natural-born mystic who passionately sticks with the craft despite odd looks and comments from passersby. These characters represent drive, utilizing your natural talents and sticking with what you believe in, no matter what people think; values that are wonderful things to instill in any reader. In my opinion, they are the best part of the series, easily overshadowing the main character Usagi Tsukino. Our hero isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, constantly spending the book in a state of confusion, sleepiness and insecurity about her place in the world and more importantly, her feelings towards a certain boy. Usagi, on one hand, can be seen as the most obnoxious character in the book, but, on the other, is a perfect vehicle for the audience. She represents the uncertainty we all feel as teenagers and the anxiety and excitement of establishing relationships with our peers. Usagi constantly develops throughout the book by interacting and learning from her more talented friends.
Now from an actual reading point of view, I found this volume of Sailor Moon to be a fast paced, cluttered read. There is so much going on with each page, that I found the book didn’t have an easy flow. I had to revisit and reread pages a few times to really assess what happened, which was bothersome since it wasn't a one-time thing; it persisted throughout the whole book. It is a book that has a lot going on to the point where it's maybe too much.
Aside from the structure issues, the artwork is very finely crafted, with thin detailed penmanship that brings out distinct and expressive characters. The style is recognizable and distinctly manga and long-time readers will immediately recognize it. It’s an easy book to get drawn into just from the cover design.
The story itself is nothing to write home about. It’s a fun introduction to the main points of Sailor Moon canon and does a good, although quick, job at introducing key characters, but the repetition of the same introduction process over and over wears on you as a reader. It doesn’t give you a chance to really assess what's happening or who these people are, which is unfortunate. The book is saved by a big reveal at the end and peppers in hints of major story development in the future, which I think will be definitely worth getting to.
All in all, this is a fun book for any type of reader. As someone who has read manga for years and who is familiar with this title, it was a blast to get reengaged in the story and reminisce, however, I think this is a book this is better suited towards new and younger readers who might be unfamiliar with manga. It has great story potential, cute artwork and an extremely positive outlook on friendship, growing up and feeling empowered.
So to answer the question, despite some flaws, yes, Sailor Moon has still got it years later.
TL;DR Sailor Moon Vol. 1 has some storytelling flaws and confusing action, but overall will be a fun read for old fans and a great introduction for new manga readers. The series is looking forward to a 16 volume run, so pick it up now and see if it's for you.
Sailor Moon Vol. 1 is written by Naoko Takeuchi and published by Kodansha Comics USA. You can find it at your local comic book store, your local bookstore, or online through Random House. Volume 2 will be available November 15.
Samuel "Self Confidence Skeleton" "Big Ol' Robot" Kusek has always been an advocate for the comic book format and specifically a big fan of Manga. He previously wrote for Popcultureshock's Manga Recon, is an aspiring cartoonist himself and enjoys a good bowtie. You can find his tweets at @SamKusek.