Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Manga Review: 'Codename: Sailor V' vol. 1
The first Sailor Moon manga I picked up was the side series Sailor V, which focuses on Minako and her adventures as a Sailor Scout way before Usagi/Serena even met Luna and received her powers. I had remembered this being a point in the anime series, but my knowledge doesn't stretch beyond that.
Sailor V begins much in the same way Sailor Moon did. We get acquainted with the girl, who is a horrible student in middle school, boy-crazy, and is being stalked by a talking cat. Artemis meets Minako and tells her she's the guardian of the Goddess of Venus, and she needs to fight for world peace in a cute little sailor suit.
Once Minako starts turning into Sailor V and stomping evildoers dispatched from the Dark Agency, the story takes a turn for the shonen genre. It becomes "monster of the week," very fast paced and allows for very little, if any, character development. There was a lot of wasted potential here since Minako is just 13 and is suddenly given this huge responsibility. The author touches upon that briefly, giving her a moment in which, frustrated, she exclaims to Artemis that she never asked to be a Guardian nor did she see why she should be obligated to fight when she doesn't even know who her boss is, or what she's fighting for. That only led to one quick scene in which she's taken to the "headquarters" to talk to her boss over a computer screen, and the boss also reveals nothing at all. I guess that was enough for Minako though, because she got suited up and ready to charge quickly after.
I'm not even bothered by how absurd the villains and their treacherous plans are, because it just comes with the territory. First Japan, then the world! They try all kinds of different tricks to enslave the Japanese people, starting with making idols that entrance them, moving on to video games, and even continuing on to forming student gangs to literally beat the enrapture into them. They fail on all accounts with a few axe kicks and moon beams from Sailor V, though she isn't brought any closer to the real enemy behind it all. She just fights a different goon each mini-volume throughout the first graphic novel.
In the meanwhile, Minako is being a regular 13-year old girl. She falls for every trick in the book (and for all the wrong guys), and prefers playing video games to studying. She doesn't connect that anything run by the Dark Agency is going to be evil, even though Artemis asserts caution, and she is otherwise a lazy bum. I like that about her, though.
As for the fresh translations - while they aren't bad, I think they're lacking. Some of the diction could have been phrased better, but overall the team did a great job keeping everything in the spirit of the original. What might stand out to an adult reader the most is the abuse of exclamation marks, but that is unfortunately a result of the original script as well. At the end of the volume, there are a few pages with notes so readers could understand what some words and references mean, including some character names which have been preserved in Japanese -- it's a nice touch that not enough people go through the trouble of.
I can't really judge the artwork too harshly. I've always called myself a fan of Naoko Takeuchi and her artwork, but it's definitely dated. The proportions are way off and some of the panels are so busy you can't really tell what's going on. The flip side is the artwork makes me nostalgic. Takeuchi has also mastered the art of making comics feel animated, which not many artists can do all things considered. I have to concede that it's a wonderful piece of work altogether despite the art style not being my cup of tea.
Do I recommend Sailor V? Grab it for your kids, and if you happened to be a fan Sailor Moon back in the day, you might want to grab it for yourself. It's all-ages friendly and a good introduction to the series in general since, really, Codename: Sailor V serves as a sort of prequel to Sailor Moon. The series features regular goon-fighting, some romance, and plenty of Japanese cultural references in between and makes for a nice, light read that you can pick up or put down over time given its structure. Volume two is also released along with the first few volumes of the newly translated Sailor Moon manga.
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