Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, May 10th 2013
GN 8 - 10
With Hotaru's transformation into the evil Mistress 9, things are looking dark for the Sailor Guardians. Hotaru's soul is still within her, however, and events will cause the awakening of Sailor Saturn, which has some very extreme consequences as the series' third arc comes to a close. Then with peace restored to Tokyo it is time for Chibi-Usa to go back to the 30th century, but the arrival of the Dead Moon Circus, sent by Queen Nehelenia and her Amazoness Quartet. Even with new powers will it be possible for the Sailor Guardians to defeat the Dead Moon, especially when Mamoru and Usagi are stricken with a mysterious illness?
The fourth story arc of Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon saga, known to many fans as “Sailor Moon Super S,” may have a reputation from the anime as being one of the weakest arcs, but the two and a half volumes that make it up in the manga are among the best the series has to offer. Picking up after the tumultuous events of the first half of volume eight, the story begins with an apparent return to normalcy: Usagi, Makoto, Ami, Rei, and Minako are all about to begin high school. Mamoru is now in college and Chibi-Usa, having completed her training, is about to go home. Setsuna, Michiru, and Haruka have all vanished, promising to raise baby Hotaru. Once Chibi-Usa leaves, it looks as if things will return to the way they were before Queen Beryl jumpstarted the whole thing. Since there are clearly more volumes, however, we know that this is not to be the case, and just as Chibi-Usa is about to leave, a total eclipse of the sun occurs. As people are marveling at this natural wonder, a mysterious ship sails out of the dark of the moon carrying the Dead Moon Circus. Bent on using peoples' beautiful dreams to obtain not only the earth but also the Silver Crystal and the heretofore unheard of Golden Crystal, the Dead Moon has just announced itself as the latest foes for the Sailor Guardians to face.
Part of what makes the SuperS storyline so good is that Takeuchi uses it to develop the other Sailors. Since the Dead Moon uses peoples' dreams, this gives her a chance to go into more depth about what it is that each of the inner senshi really want and how their pasts brought them to that point. Now we see that part of Ami's determination is brought about by her hurt at being left by her father and a need to feel closer to her doctor mother, that Makoto really wants to get married to make up for the family she lost, and that Rei's grandfather provided her with a feeling security and belonging that she didn't have previous to being dropped at the temple. Minako's concerns about being a worthy leader also come to the fore as she struggles with being the last to gain her new powers, reminding us that she was the first to awaken and how that might affect her. The outer senshi still keep their distance, sadly not quite getting the same development as their counterparts, but Mamoru also is given some extra attention, giving him more of a role and deepening our understanding of how he and Usagi must work together.
The real star of these three volumes, however, is Chibi-Usa. The SuperS storyline brings her to the fore, even providing her with a romantic interest, but her role in the previous arc also cannot be ignored, as she is instrumental to Saturn's awakening and how Hotaru chooses to use her powers. While Chibi-Usa's increased role does diminish Usagi's, watching her come into her own is rewarding as a reader, as is seeing how she has grown since her introduction as a lost, angry, and frightened child. Her relationships with Helios and Saturn mirror some of Sailor Moon's own with Mamoru and her guardians, offering a glimpse of Small Lady's future as a queen.
Takeuchi's art is rather uneven across these volumes. On the whole, eight is the weakest of the three in terms of both art and storytelling, with much of the dialog simply proving the old anime trope of “everyone just yells everyone else's name all the time.” Takeuchi seems to have just let her pen keep going much of the time, with arms and legs achieving ludicrous proportions. This tones down in volumes nine and ten, but it is still a problem that pops up from time to time. Volume eight also suffers the most from overtoning and some crowding, but in its defense it also offers the most impressive two-page spread of the series – Saturn swinging her glaive. The power of this image, almost entirely devoid of tone, is such that it almost feels like the world around you is silenced as well. It also marks a shift – after this chapter, Takeuchi begins to more actively mimic Alphonse Mucha in her imagery, using bolder outlines and a few of his more classic poses as well. Since she's already proven that she can use the whiplash line to good effect, this helps to strengthen the artwork, even if arms and legs at times look to be the same length.
Kodansha USA's translation suffers from a few stiff and awkward moments and grammatical errors but for the most part is impressive. One of the chief differences readers of the old TokyoPop translation will notice is that the priestesses who serve under Helios have gone from being “maenads” to “menaeds.” This is not a spelling error, but rather a reference to a lesser-known group from Greek mythology – the menaeds were the children of Selene (also called Mene) and Endymion. One must agree with the translator that given the context of the story, this name makes much more sense than maenads, the fanatical followers of Dionysus. The translator also notes similarities between Nehelenia's backstory and the Sleeping Beauty tale type, of which the Selene/Endymion story is a part, thus further bolstering her choice of words.
Although there remains one story arc in the series, to say nothing of the short story collections, volume ten ends on a very conclusive note. The world is safe, the Sailor Guardians together, and all seems right with the world. All in all it makes for a very satisfying reading experience and makes the wait for the Sailor Stars arc less painful. While all three books have their slow points, overall these are a good read and clearly show why Sailor Moon's popularity is so enduring.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B
+ Mucha's influence on the art is lovely, good development for all of the Inner Senshi, Chibi-Usa, and Mamoru. Saturn is a powerful and interesting character, nice choices on the part of the translator.
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