Sailor Moon 9

November 16, 2014

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2013 – 12 volumes

Okay!  Still going back to basics!  The S story arc is still going on, and most of this volume deals with side stories about the non-main Sailor Guardians powering up and finding their own inner Tiny Senshi.  Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter each get their own chapter, and Venus gets a double chapter where her inner Tiny Senshi is actually man-Artemis.  Then Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto re-enter the story.  YES.  If it was possible, Michiru and Haruka got much cooler while they were away.  But there’s no way to not make Haruka cool.

The stories are… about what you’d expect from Sailor Moon.  The Amazon trio, plus Xenotime and Xenolite, wreak havoc in this volume while the Amazoness Qartet sends them to their deaths from the sidelines.  These bad guys are actually my favorites, and they get developed a little more than usual here (or, at least, the Amazon Trio does), because they have to bond with Ami, Makoto, and Rei in order to get them to contemplate their inner selves.

I liked this volume for that reason, it was nice to step away from Usagi, Chibiusa, and Mamoru for awhile.  Of course, they still have all their stuff going on.  In fact, Mamoru is dying, and Chibiusa is initially heartbroken because she falls hard for Pegasus and later gets jealous because he’s looking for Sailor Moon, and not her.  Mamoru is driving Usagi away because he doesn’t want to bring her down, and… that’s about it.  We get some development for Chibiusa, and we learn what the deal with Pegasus is, but not so much for Usagi.  Which is fine, because we normally see an awful lot of her.

So now that Saturn is back and everyone is Super-fied, it’s time to bring down the Dead Moon!  Then we can commence with the serious business of Sailor Stars afterwards.

It really is a shame I like Sailor Stars so much.  It means this story arc gets left in the lurch, and it really isn’t so bad.

Sailor Moon 8

November 9, 2014

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2012 – 12 volumes

I read this some time ago, and to go with my policy to not read the next volume of something until I write the last one up, I haven’t continued this.  Though I want to, which is a bit paradoxical since I haven’t really been enjoying the re-read of the manga.  But we gravitate towards what’s familiar, yes?

The ending to the S arc is suitably epic, of course.  And why not, with Sailor Saturn showing up to end the world?  I still like that the enemies were refreshingly weak in this arc (meaning, they were mostly sneaking around to collect power and weren’t openly menacing), and I did enjoy the fact that the end-of-all-things thread in this volume was more a result of the fact the Death Busters had pushed things too far, rather than posed an openly huge threat.  I wish the manga had ended with the death and rebirth thing here, although my imagined version is much more depressing than what actually happened.  Then again, there was some actual (sorta) death, so… you know.

…and it was undone at the beginning of the SuperS arc, but what can you do?  I’m very fond of circus themes, and I’ve always loved the dream-like quality to the story here, even if it seems not to quite make sense, even for Sailor Moon.  Also, the villains through this section of story are EPIC.

Also, this volume ends on one of my favorite pages of the manga, the body swap.  So silly!  Hasn’t lost its charm since the first time I read it 15 years ago.

Again though, as much as I like the touches in this arc, I’ve never really enjoyed reading it.  I’m much more looking forward to the cosmic, near-incoherent story that comes in Stars.  I want it to be better than I remember SO BADLY.

Sailor Moon 7

April 21, 2013

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2012 – 12 volumes

Oh, Super Sailor Moon. The story started to drag a bit here for me again, but it’s hard to deny the pleasure of all of the guardians re-uniting, and the Super Sailor Moon sequence… it’s triumphant, no matter how many times I read it.

I don’t like to criticize the story too much here, though. I love the fact that the Death Busters are constantly referencing the fact that they aren’t as powerful as Sailor Moon, and the big bad guy has to stay hidden because he’s so weak. It’s not super-original, but it’s a refreshing change of pace from the usual super-cocky evil villain. Of course, things take a turn for the worst here, and Pharaoh 90 winds up getting the power-up he needs, so everyone winds up getting separated and fighting evil versions of the Witch’s 5 that are closest to their power. Mistress 9 also puts in an appearance, de-throning Kaolinite. This isn’t going to work out well for anybody, but we all know where this is going anyway, so there’s that.

We get to hear the legend of Sailor Saturn, too. I always loved her background story, that she only appears when the world ends, a kind of grim reaper that ends what needs to end and puts everyone to sleep to start the cycle over. It’s very grim, but necessary in the example they describe, and I love that they’re trying to prevent her from awakening here, or needing to, by not letting the situation get too out of hand. There’s some question about whether she’s destined to awaken here, whether they’re meant to lose, which is also interesting. Less interesting is when she sort-of becomes a regular character after this, robbing her of her mystique, but that’s for later. Maybe I’ll like it more the second time around. I am growing more fond of the series after reading it through again, after all.

This volume is a lot of battling with the Death Busters, and it ends at the beginning of the fight between Mistress 9 and Sailor Moon. Part of why I may have found this to be a bit of a drag is because the battles in this series aren’t particularly good… usually they end with one attack, sometimes there needs to be some encouragement to make this happen. But it’s slightly more interesting here since the guardians are wandering through the campus and some displaced areas trying to find the enemies or each other, and there’s some interesting character stuff going on. I suspect the final battle will happen in the next volume, and we’ll move on to the beginning of the SuperS arc after that. I like the themes in SuperS better (the movie is my favorite, despite not having anything to do with the manga series), so I’m looking forward to re-reading that part.

But Stars is still my favorite. None of the Stars volumes are out yet, but I can’t wait.

Sailor Moon 6

March 16, 2013

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2012 – 14 volumes

Hm. Maybe I read it in a less sour mood or something, but I was really, really into this volume of Sailor Moon. And that’s saying something, because the Death Busters storyline is one of my least favorite.

I think a good part of it is that there’s a legitimate mystery going on. The mystery doesn’t revolve around how evil the enemy is, but rather who Haruka and Michiru are. There’s the usual mystery of “What’s going on at Mugen Academy!?” which is obviously the hang-out of the villain of the piece, and creepy Professor Tomoe is a hilariously obvious bad guy. But it’s more interesting here because Haruka and Michiru are involved, and Hotaru makes for an interesting puzzle piece as well. We do learn who Haruka and Michiru are at the end of the volume, but I still want to read on, because their motive isn’t clear. I also can’t quite remember what the Death Busters want with the talismans. All of this works really well in the context of the series.

Also, I didn’t remember Haruka being so awesome. I forgot she was mostly portrayed as a man, and acts as such while still flirting and teasing with everyone. She’s my hero. I wish she was Sailor Moon instead.

Much the same as usual, the villains work in sort of a limited capacity here, but the in-between stuff is way better. There are still random demons that pop out that the Sailor Guardians fight, and later in the book that’s followed up by a member of the Witches 5 that is immediately vaporized after only appearing briefly two or three times. But that’s how it works. The villains continue to have character designs that are way better than their limited screen time should allow.

Chibi-Usa is a character I’ve never liked, as she’s almost a brattier version of Usagi. But she’s tolerable and humanized here, so I was even interested in her role in the story. I hope this trend continues through the SuperS arc, which I know features her heavily.

I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for a lot of awesome stuff in the next volume. Setsuna appears on the last page, and I’m all over her showing up and being awesome, even if it doesn’t quite make sense in the context of the series.

Sailor Moon 5

October 11, 2012

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2012 – 14 volumes

I’m a bit behind on this, and I should really catch up. This volume ends the R/Dark Moon story arc, and the S and Super S story arcs are stories I don’t remember as well. Maybe it’ll be like reading it for the first time!

I’m still really torn on how to feel about this series. Again, it’s full of really good ideas, and there are parts and characters I really like. On one hand, the fact that a criminal from 1,000 years in the future was sent to a prison planet and eventually merged with it to become this ultimate rival evil is kind of awesome. But Wiseman/Death Phantom is never more than… just evil. The manga isn’t really about him, but Sailor Moon is probably one of the only action-oriented series that doesn’t try to humanize the villains more than a smidge. Reubeus, Sapphire, and Diamond all have a smidge of characterization (Diamond does what he does because he’s in love with Neo Queen Serenity and wants her for himself, Sapphire thinks that the crystal Sailor Moon has is the source of too much strife and is a bit of a rogue, et cetera), but not more than that. Some characters go way over the top in this, but then again, I think I may enjoy Sailor Moon more if the villains were a bit more than cannon fodder.

Perhaps the extra depth is why I like Black Lady so much. Well, that and the character design. She was my favorite part of this volume.

Other than that… really, there’s just a whole lot of the bad guys being bad because they are, and that’s what they do. The Guardians struggle, are nearly defeated, and overcome in a triumphant way. It just doesn’t feel as good in Sailor Moon for some reason. Perhaps because I’ve read it before, or perhaps because the battles aren’t that great, I don’t know.

Poor Sailor Pluto, though. I forgot about that part, and it was sad.

Having complained for several paragraphs, there’s still something I really like about this series. Obviously, since I’m five volumes in and still going. But I’m not sure if it’s a love of the basic idea, or nostalgia, or probably both. But I’m reading it… and feeling a bit rushed and a little disappointed, because I’m just not enjoying it very much.

Again, though. Maybe the S/Infinity arc will be better, because other than the basic parts, I don’t remember the storyline well at all. I’m hoping I’ll get really into it if reading it is a bit fresher next time.

Sailor Moon 4

July 25, 2012

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2012 – 14 volumes

Okay! I give up! I submit! I’m completely caught up in the story at this point. The guardians keep disappearing, evil is encroaching, the far future is brought to bear on the present, the 10th planet of the solar system (this part made me laugh) is actually evil, and everything is escalating nicely, with the heroes in a rather dire place throughout the entire volume. I live for this stuff. Sailor Moon delivers nicely. Plus, Sailor Pluto is my favorite.

The time travel part of this story arc has always been one of my favorite parts of the series, trumped only by the Sailor Stars arc. The big reveal that Chibi-Usa is actually from the future, and traveled to the past to get the legendary Sailor Moon to save her mother… and actually, she’s from 30th Century Crystal Tokyo and her mother is Usagi, was always all kinds of mind-blowing to me for whatever reason. Plus, she made friends with the forbidden guardian of time, who gave her a key to travel through time with. Best not to dwell on that last part, especially since time travel is apparently the last taboo and is guarded viciously.

But the Guardians can do it, and the bad guys can do it, so now we are shuffling between the present and future once all the explanations are out of the way. As I mentioned, the Guardians keep disappearing, and we go down to a core staff of Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask, and Sailor Venus by mid-volume. By volume’s end, even Sailor Moon finds herself in a situation where… she’s more or less out of action. Prince Demande (though I prefer the translated gem names, so Diamond) has a great and very crazy reason for kidnapping her. I like his motivation, though I have to admit I probably only enjoy it because I know it doesn’t go anywhere creepy.

Mostly, though, I’m ready for the next volume, which introduces the Black Lady. She’s also one of my favorites. I’m also curious to see if the S arc is better than I remember. I’ve never been the biggest fan of that one.

Sailor Moon 3

May 9, 2012

Naoko Takeuchi – Kodansha USA – 2011 – 14 volumes

You know, every volume of this I read I grow a little fonder of it. I can’t help it. It’s Sailor Moon. I still think it has some problems, but it is addictive. Also, it’s hard to hate on this volume, which starts with a big double-page color map of every single character in the first story arc. So cool!

Also cool: the ending to the first story arc. I’m always a little puzzled by the action scenes in Sailor Moon, as it’s not always super-clear what’s going on. This is a good example. It took me a minute to realize that Sailor Moon was murder-suiciding Tuxedo Mask. And… yeah. It’s a shoujo manga, and the power of love and strength of heart and blah blah blah undoes all of it, but that it happens at all is pretty fantastic. That’s a fairly dark place for any shoujo manga to go.

The… menace that Queen Metalia poses is also a little ambiguous. She… overtakes the Earth for a minute… with a black aura. That affects the weather. What she’s doing, exactly, I’m not sure. It’s bad, though, and with Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask out of the picture, the four other guardians have to save Sailor Moon and somehow resurrect the Silver Crystal. You know where this is going. I’m vaguely dissatisfied with this, because it is a little too long, and a little too abstract for my taste. The other Sailor Guardians are merely powering up until the Silver Crystal works. And then everything is okay. The sense of scale is nice, but the fight is… almost nonexistent. It’s still kinda cool, and I do like it as a finale, but… I don’t know. Maybe I’m just getting down on it unnecessarily.

So then! The Dark Moon story arc starts in this volume. The Guardians start disappearing, and small ladies appear in their place. I’ve always liked the random introduction of Chibi-Usa, who appears from nowhere and is taken in and accepted by all, despite the fact she threatened Usagi with a gun first thing. Only Usagi doesn’t like her. I never really cared for her either, but she does play an interesting part in the upcoming story.

These chapters are all one-shots in which the Guardians disappear one by one, and I liked these stories much better than the one-shots in the first story arc. Perhaps because I care about the characters now, but also because the victims here are those characters, and they don’t come back at the end of the story. It’s a bit depressing, but it makes for a good story. I also like the Dark Moon bad guys. They’re still fairly faceless (Berthier is good at chess!), but somehow, I like them better this time around.

Meh. I’m still being pretty mean to this series. I do like it now, at least, and I’m probably being overly critical and unfair. I’ll probably stop within the next few volumes, because then I’ll be distracted by Sailor Pluto. She’s my favorite.