The Sailormoon series has had a huge effect on my life, and if you’re on this site, reading this article, I’m willing to bet you’ve had some experience with it yourself. Being one of the first anime serialized on US television, it’s had a sometimes life-changing effect on the children that grew up to be today’s fanboys and fangirls.
Now, in addition to celebrating the first time in ten years the Sailormoon manga has been published in the United States, we are also celebrating the first time ever publication of Codename Sailor V with an official English translation (as well as editors notes for things lost in translation and cultural differences).
My task today is to review for you book one of Codename Sailor V. I’m finding this difficult.
Anticipating this book for so long, having so many preconceived notions about the series, and what it’s supposed to mean in the larger context of Sailormoon canon, I’m having trouble organizing my thoughts.
I guess that leaves me with only one choice; looking at the book in the simplest of lights. That is to say, as the beginning to a story.
The author, Naoko Takeuchi, had just finished the popular figure-skating manga, “The Cherry Project” and her publisher let her pick the subject of her next endeavor. Being a huge fan of Super Sentai (known more commonly to us as Power Rangers), Takeuchi wanted to do something similar, using female fighters, video games, and outer space. Her publisher encouraged her to involve sailor suits, like the Japanese school uniforms. And so, Codename Sailor V took shape.
If you’re new to Sailormoon and/or Sailor V, you may be disappointed with the art. Takeuchi was popular for shoujo art; for soft lines, big eyes, and sweeping hair. Even in this edition of the book, where the art has been touched up, and some panels added/changed, the art still seems very unrefined. Takeuchi herself was still young and developing as an artist during Sailor V, so these shortcomings are understandable. Even so, the lack of physical distinction between characters other than hair color and clothing differences, especially in men, can be annoying at times. A good example is the similarity between the guy who works at the video game center and the guy who works for the Special Police; they may as well be the same guy.
If you are familiar with the Sailormoon manga, you are going to see a lot of familiar faces, but not on the right bodies. There are lot of characters from Sailor V who’s designs are then recycled (I’m assuming intentionally and lovingly) into the main Sailormoon story. You’ll find prototype designs for Jadite, Rei, Ami and Kunzite, to name a few. However, there are panels of Usagi, Naru and Rei but those are intentional additions to the canon.
But really, it’s Sailor V. At this point, the art isn’t what you’re here for. You’re here to see a super powered teenage girl kick a guy in the face.
And I can promise you this much, there will be many a kick to the face.
As for story, nothing gets too heavy right out the gate. We meet 13-year-old Minako Aino, a girl with great athletic prowess but who is academically lazy. She has a typical life of chasing boys and swooning over teen idols.
Until a talking cat shows up.
Talking cat yields magic pen, magic pen turns typical teen into magical girl, magical girl kicks monsters (and human perverts) in the face. There is much rejoicing.
Other than that, not much else goes down in these first few chapters. Sure there’s some alluding to a greater purpose, a mysterious earlier life and the talking cat won’t shut up about some “mission” that we never get a clear explanation of (Sailormoon fans know what he’s on about, but I’m trying to take this in context of “in the beginning”).
Honestly, I’m not ready to give an opinion on the story of this until I’ve got my hands on book two. That’s where most of the plot is. Book one of Codname Sailor V is full of exposition, character introduction, foreshadowing …and kicks to the face. It’s a fun romp. The target audience is clearly young teenage girls, but it has proven over the years that it can be enjoyed by a wide audience base.
At the end of the day, I’m thrilled to finally have my very own copy of Codname Sailor V after so very many years… and kicks to the face.