Manga Review: Sailor Moon Volume One

Sailor Moon Volume 1 is a manga with the story and art by Naoko Takeuchi. Kodansha Comics has the North American distribution rights for the manga. This English adaptation, which is presented as an “unflipped” release, was adapted and translated by William Flanagan. Sailor Moon is rated “T” for teens age 13 and up.

Sailor Moon Volume 1
Written by: Naoko Takeuchi
Publisher: Kodansha
English Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: September 13, 2011

The main character of Sailor Moon is Usagi Tsukino, a clumsy 14-year-old who’s also a bit of a crybaby. One day, she encounters a black cat with Band-Aids on its forehead. Usagi removes the Band-Aids to reveal a moon-shaped spot on the cat’s forehead; this encounter ends up changing Usagi’s life. One night, the cat visits Usagi, and reveals that it’s a talking cat named Luna. Luna gives Usagi a broach, and informs her that she has been chosen as a guardian. As a guardian, it’s Usagi’s duties to gather allies, defeat enemies, discover the location of the Princess and the Legendary Silver Crystal. The broach gives Usagi the ability to change into an alter ego named Sailor Moon.

Over the course of this volume, Usagi is joined by three allies: a bright girl named Ami who becomes Sailor Mercury, the shrine miko Rei who becomes Sailor Mars, and a strong girl named Mako who becomes Sailor Jupiter. In addition, Usagi keeps encountering a high school boy named Mamoru; as Sailor Moon, she keeps encountering the mysterious Tuxedo Mask. Usagi and her allies find themselves against a group that is also searching for the Legendary Silver Crystal.

The art style and tropes that Takeuchi used in Sailor Moon is definitely influenced by the shojo style from the 1970s; this is especially evident in the facial design for character of Usagi/Sailor Moon, which bears a strong resemblance to Candice “Candy” White Ardlay from Candy Candy. While I personally enjoy this kind of style in manga, it can potentially be jarring to younger manga readers who are more familiar with the styles and tropes of modern shojo manga.

When I checked this manga volume out from the library, my 13-year-old daughter asked if she could read it. Knowing my daughter’s manga tastes, I thought she would enjoy it, so I told her that she could read it. After she read this volume, I asked her what she thought of it. This was the conversation we had:

Me: “So, how did you like it?”
Daughter: “Meh…”
Me: “So it was just OK, then?”
Daughter: “Mom, OK isn’t the word for it. It was over the top strange.”

I was actually rather flabbergasted by her response, because I had been so sure that she would have liked it. If my daughter’s reaction is any indication of how younger readers will react to Sailor Moon, then the series may have a harder time finding an audience with that age group.

One thing I noticed when I saw this volume is the fact that there isn’t any kind of a “teaser” printed on the outside cover or on any pages in the front and back of the volume. It seems Kodansha took the tact that the main audience for this re-release is made up of readers who are already familiar with the property. Unfortunately, a lack of any kind of teaser of description of the item is going to make this manga volume a harder sell to potential readers who have no previous familiarity with the series.

Kodansha also included a teaser for volume two at the end; however, the teaser is only available with Japanese text. Unfortunately, for the section that was used as the teaser, it’s hard to figure out what exactly is going on with just the pictures. I wish Kodansha had either gone to effort to have the five pages translated into English, or have not included the teaser at all. However, I will give Kodansha credit for the translation notes that are included in the back of the book. Flanagan did a fantastic job of explaining the Japanese meanings of the names, as well as the Japanese concepts that are used which would have little to no familiarity with American audiences.

At the time I’m writing this review, this volume of Sailor Moon has been the number one selling manga in the United States for about two to three weeks in a row, and I would guess that the vast majority of these sales have been fueled by the nostalgia market. After experiencing my daughter’s reaction to this volume, I think the series may have trouble finding a new audience with younger readers that have gotten into manga after the heyday of the Sailor Moon anime and manga. Admittedly, I wasn’t into Sailor Moon during her heyday, but I found this volume to be an interesting read, and I wouldn’t mind reading future volumes of this series.

I wrote this review after reading a copy of this manga volume that I checked out through the King County Library System.

Additional posts about Sailor Moon:

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