Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Oct 13th 2012
GN 5 - 7
When Chibi-Usa falls under the spell of Wiseman, she is transformed into the maleficent Black Lady, jeopardizing the past and the future as the “R” arc comes to its close. Then as the “S” storyline begins, mysterious new sailor guardians appear with stronger powers and mysterious talismans. How are they connected to the Death Busters? Why won't they fight with the other sailor guardians? And what does Chibi-Usa's new friend Hotaru have to do with all of this?
Sigmund Freud would love volume five of Sailor Moon. This is when Chibi-Usa, feeling lost and useless, follows Wiseman in a time storm and allows him to transform her into an adult version of herself...and she promptly uses her newfound evil powers and sexy body to brainwash and seduce (or at least kiss) her future father, Mamoru AKA Tuxedo Mask. Of course, Freud would probably also have something to say about the cone-shaped buns on her head and the moon rod, so perhaps it is best to leave him out of this and move on. Suffice it say that this is one of the stranger moments in Sailor Moon's second arc.
Between these three volumes we cover a lot of ground. Book five, as has been mentioned, wraps up what anime fans know as “Sailor Moon R,” the segment of the story that introduces the first of the so-called outer senshi, Sailor Pluto. Book six begins “Sailor Moon S,” a new plotline that brings us a fresh set of extraterrestrial villains and also, and perhaps more excitingly, introduces the remaining three sailor guardians of our solar system, Uranus, Neptune, and Saturn. Takeuchi draws this out, first showing us Haruka and Michiru as their everyday selves (more or less) before gradually having them show up as mysterious new sailor guardians. Past readers of the series will remember that Haruka (Sailor Uranus) initially shows up as a boy before abruptly becoming female. Neptune (Michiru) later tries to explain the shift as Haruka having the power of both a male and a female, but the shift is so abrupt and the fact that she initially appears as a Tuxedo Mask-esque fighter make that feel like a flimsy cover up. Haruka's shifting gender feels like Takeuchi made an abrupt shift in plans or decided that she didn't want to play the gender game just yet, and it gives a nonsensical air to what is otherwise a very engaging arc. These three volumes have a variety of rough transitions, in fact, with Sailor Venus swiftly loosing and regaining consciousness only to loose it again in volume five's denouement and other similar experiences dotted throughout the books. This is unfortunate, as one of Sailor Moon's strengths as a series is to make the implausible seem possible and to throw just enough science fiction into the fantasy to make it work.
The third story arc is, however, easily the strongest so far. The addition of the three new guardians and the explanation of the fourth add a layer to the series' mythos both in terms of the present and the past. Usagi and Chibi-Usa are both visibly growing as characters as well; with Chibi-Usa's newfound confidence and ability to transform into Sailor Chibi-Moon, she becomes a much less grating character and demonstrates some of her parents' inherent kindness – she is, in some ways, a less emotionally unstable Usagi. Her determination to befriend Hotaru, the daughter of a mad scientist, and her straightforward approach to problems is charming, and in general she shows a self-reliance that is more in line with the outer guardians than Usagi and her friends. Hotaru, likewise, is an interesting character who grows more and more confident and compassionate the longer she is around Chibi-Usa; by the end of volume seven, we are starting to see a disconnect between what Haruka and Michiru say about her and her own actions. The new arc also gives Minako and Makoto a bit of time in the spotlight, reminding us of their ambitions and personalities, although Rei and Ami remain fairly static.
The plot of the third arc revolves around the reclusive genius Professor Tomoe, working with the alien bad guys known as the Death Busters. He is directly working with Kaolinite, who reports to Pharoah 90 and has charge of a group called the Witches 5. Kaolinite and Professor Tomoe are the most visible villains, with the Witches filling a bad guy of the week role and Pharaoh 90's role not truly fleshed out beyond “I want the Legendary Silver Crystal.” Tomoe is a terrific mad scientist, and one can almost hear him pronouncing his lab “la-BOR-a-tory” and imagine that he has a large white cat somewhere that he strokes while cackling. That he is Hotaru's father makes him much more frightening and renders him the most alarming villain in the series to date. The mix of magic and science that he and Kaolinite use is fascinating, giving this arc a unique feel when compared to the previous two.
Takeuchi's art shows some signs of rushing in a few places, with awkward ankle joints and flourishes left off of the guardians' costumes, but overall remains quite beautiful. The wind is always blowing in Sailor Moon's world, the better for her to show off her use of the whiplash line, and Sailor Moon's new costume seems designed for maximum flow in that regard. She still has a distressing tendency to give second graders fully developed figures, but the light touch of her pen makes that at least partially forgivable. Backgrounds are getting increasingly tone-heavy, and with these volumes Takeuchi also begins to put some text in fancy frames, which can get to be a bit much on the eyes. Generally speaking, however, these are attractive volumes and the color images certainly don't hurt. (Please license the artbooks.)
As Naoko Takeuchi's classic forges ahead, expanding its mythology and mingling magic with science, it continues to be a highly enjoyable read. With smooth translations and beautiful presentation, the books themselves are delightful, and that the story really picks up in the third arc just makes it even better. Sailor Neptune's hair may keep changing lengths, but when the sailor guardians are caught up in a battle for the fate of two of their own, to say nothing of the world, that doesn't really matter. So keep reading – this arc's conclusion is, if one remembers correctly, not something that you'll want to miss.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Beautiful lines, an increasingly interesting story in the 3rd arc, and the outer senshi. Add to that color pages and a smooth translation, and things are looking good.
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