Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Manga Review: Sailor Moon volume 6

At long last, a Sailor Moon review. Specifically, of the first volume of the S arc, which introduces the wonderfulness that is Haruka and Michiru.

I won't bother summarizing Sailor Moon up to this point. If you're considering reading the sixth volume of this series, you should already know what Sailor Moon's premise is. I will say that the volumes up to this point (covering the first two arcs) are excellent. And Haruka and Michiru are one of the most enduringly beloved, mega-popular yuri couples for good reason.

Just to be up front, although I've written about it here before, Sailor Moon is my gateway manga and anime and holds many sepia-tinted memories for me. For what it's worth, on re-reading this series as an adult, I still find it well-written and enjoyable, although naturally, some aspects of it read differently now.

As for what is in this volume...

A new arc, a new set of baddies. And a new pair of Sailor Soldiers who we know will be allies, even if Sailor Moon and the other Inner Soldiers don't yet.

Yes- kyaa!- this volume introduces Haruka/Sailor Uranus and Michiru/Sailor Neptune in its first chapter. Haruka being mistaken for a guy plays out less comedically here than in the anime, and there is more confusion on Usagi's part over her fleeting attraction to Haruka. And one... surprisingly creepy line from Haruka to Usagi. And there are a lot of helicopters. Helicopters seem to be to Haruka and Michiru in the manga what fluttering flower petals are to them in the anime.

We first see Michiru emerging from the swimming pool in her penthouse and Haruka wowing everyone at a racetrack before they fly together in their private helicopters to the elite school they attend. Strawberry Panic!, eat your heart out. One of the funniest moments in this volume is when a character Haruka and Michiru track for a bit (because she entered the villains' headquarters without realizing it) emerges outside and is like, "Oh wow, it's dark, and I need to get home. Kind of dangerous to walk after dark from here, isn't it," and they suddenly swoop down in a helicopter and are like, "Oh hey, we were just passing by in our helicopter. Want a lift home?" I also question the extent to which Haruka and Michiru desire to keep their Senshi identities a secret from the Inner Senshi, given that they give a big hint about it to Chibi-Usa and Haruka nicknames Usagi "Dumpling" (after her hairstyle) when she encounters her as a Senshi and as a civilian.

The Sailor Moon manga is darker and less campy than the SM anime, but it still has some comedic gems- this is the origin of attack names like "Jupiter Coconut Cyclone!", "Tuxedo La Smoking Bomber!", and my favorite, from a later arc, "Star Gentle Uterus!" (Poor, poor Taiki.)

Mugen Academy, the elite academy that Haruka and Michiru attend, is a towering glass skyscraper where preschoolers through graduate students are cultivated to be the leaders of tomorrow. Mugen Academy and its affiliated lab are owned by Professor Tomoe, a mad scientist who acts as the ringleader of this arc's villains.

While the head villains in the previous arcs had fantastical backstories, Tomoe is just a widowed man with a sick young daughter named Hotaru. Hotaru doesn't know what her father is up to, although she notices that his behavior is strange and his hands colder than they used to be. Tomoe and his lab assistants, the Witches 5, create creatures that latch onto to people and turn them into inhuman things, which Sailor Moon and the other Sailor Soldiers vanquish when they encounter them, returning the possesed people to normal.

My one criticism of the villains in this arc is that the Witches 5 aren't as... well, entertaining in the manga as they are in the anime. Physical appearance and attacks aside, they're pretty interchangeable. The manga's pacing doesn't give it as much room to give them individual quirks as the anime does, but one still misses how much of a hoot their anime counterparts are.

Another downside of the manga's tighter pacing is that we don't have time to see Haruka and Michiru being playful and lovey-dovey in this arc the way we do in the S anime- although we will get that itch scratched later in the manga, when Haruka and Michiru don't have their hands full trying to prevent the apocalypse by themelves. Despite their current lack of lighthearted couple moments, they're very cool and display plenty of badassery while indubitably being an item.

The Inner Senshi come to distrust Haruka and Michiru for understandable reasons, but Usagi still believes they can be allies. More like Usagi than she thinks, Chibi-Usa believes that Haruka and Michiru are trustworthy also.

Chibi-Usa also meets Hotaru, who is reticent and reclusive and a little floored by Chibi-Usa's desire to befriend her. One of the nicest developments in this volume is Hotaru opening up to Chibi-Usa.

Towards the end of this volume, Neptune and Uranus save Mercury from an enemy attack and a familiar face pops up in Mugen Academy's university science department. How will these elements tie together? Keep reading and see! ^_^

The glitches in Kodansha's early translation of this series have smoothed out by now- but don't be mistaken, it has always been good and made me weep with joy compared to the old localized Tokyopop version. For a softcover release, Kodansha's edition of Sailor Moon has very good production values, with sturdy binding (another aspect I can't helping contrasting with Tokyopop's release from eons ago) and (in this case, somewhat spoilery regarding Hotaru) glossy color art pages at its beginning. There are translation notes in the back and a preview of the next volume.

I especially appreciate the color art pages because I love Takeuchi Naoko's ethereally pretty artwork. Takeuchi has some really freaking beautiful drawings, especially in color. The best aren't in this volume's color pages. I want to send Kodansha flowers not only for re-releasing this series in English, but going the extra mile by planning to release a snazzy new Sailor Moon artbook in Japan, the U.S., and five other countries (not sure which ones right now) in 2013, since the Sailor Moon artbooks have been long out-of-print worldwide. (I actually have the German release of the first Sailor Moon artbook, since I spotted it while traveling in Germany years ago.) There may be some artistic inconsistencies in the Sailor Moon manga, but Takeuchi's art style still delights me to an extent that few series match, just as her storytelling does.

Story: A-
Art: A- (A for the color art.)
Overall: A-, but even with its flaws, no less loveable than any other other series.

As a bonus, a cute Haruka and Michiru Christmas fan art by one of my blog's readers, Kori! (Who I know some of you know as the person who pens Prince of Cats, which I still find adorable.)
Her DeviantArt page (where I got this fan art) has a lot of other good Haruka x Michiru/general Sailor Moon pics.

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