Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Codename: Sailor V
Thirteen year old Minako Aino is your average middle school girl – she likes games, comics, and pigging out. Then one day in the middle of gym class she crash lands on a talking white cat with a crescent-shaped bald spot on his forehead. The cat tells her his name is Artemis and gives her a magical pen. It turns out that Mina is anything but ordinary – she is the pretty guardian in a sailor suit, Sailor V, and the world needs her help!
“Code name: Sailor V! Champion of Justice! The Pretty Guardian in a sailor suit! Sailor Venus has arrived!” Yes, fangirls and boys, the day many have hoped for since the ancient times of Toonami and Mixx Entertainment has at long last arrived – Naoko Takeuchi's original sailor-suited heroine has come to the English speaking world. While inferior to its more famous sister, Code Name: Sailor V is still a fun read and an interesting glimpse into how the Sailor Moon phenomenon began.
While most of the action in this volume takes place a year before Usagi's adventures will begin, it is not, strictly speaking, a prequel. Code Name: Sailor V was begun before Sailor Moon, more technically making the second series a sequel. However, Takeuchi began Sailor Moon before finishing its predecessor, at roughly the end of the first volume. Kodansha USA's new translation combines one and a half of the series' original three books into one, which is probably a wise move. Mina's story is episodic in general and far more egregiously so in the original first volume of the series. Readers expecting the same level of storytelling as their memories of Sailor Moon may find themselves turned off by this, but rest assured that while this type of writing does not fully disappear in the latter half of the book, it does at least improve.
As should be evident, Code Name: Sailor V follows Minako Aino, also known as Sailor Venus. In these first appearances she fulfills the basic Nakayoshi heroine requirements: she's a little bit boy crazy, she has an appetite like a horse, and school isn't her forte. Mina's also a bit of a tomboy, jumping over walls and going into the male bastions that are arcades. Her mother, yet another contender for the much-coveted Annoying Manga Mom Prize, despairs of her. Her henpecked father floats in and out of the story, mostly to show how controlling her mother is. Despite her cheerful attitude, it seems like Artemis may be her only pleasant family member. When you consider that Venus is representative of love, Mina's home life suddenly seems a little bit sad.
Followers of the original release of Sailor Moon, or viewers of the anime, will notice some clear similarities. As Sailor V Minako uses the “crescent beam,” but also can throw her magic compact as a boomerang. Arcade worker Furuhata is the same guy from the more well-known story, and nerdy glasses-wearing Amano is a dead ringer for Umino/Melvin from Usagi's school. Likewise Mina's best friend Hikaru is nearly identical to Sailor Mercury and the police chief is a Sailor Mars clone. Many of the villains work for a group called the Dark Agency, a name that may be familiar as well, although it also allows for the ludicrously named boy band “Dark Guys.” The similarities may be off-putting if the two volumes are read close together, so you may want to curb your enthusiasm and give yourself a break between the two. Also interesting is the fact that here Minako transforms by calling on “moon power” - a point that will be important later on in Takeuchi's work.
Kodansha USA's translation is solid, and follows with the decisions they made in their recent reissue of Sailor Moon. Perhaps the most important feature is that the original names are preserved. They are given in western order, which may strike a wrong note with some fans, but the notes in the back make sure to explain the significance of the family name, even noting what the meaning would seem to be to Japanese readers. There is one typographical error where “their” is used for “they're,” but if you're not a grammar stickler, it shouldn't bother you. The book is a bit thicker than average, and is presented with six full-color pages. Takeuchi's color art is stunning, more visually striking than her black and white. Both the colored and uncolored pages showcase her major strength – the fluidity of line and movement which characterizes her work. While it is easy to track her improvement across these pages, even her earlier chapters retain it. Panels can be cramped and overfull, but for the most part the art works well and is attractive.
When Code Name: Sailor V was originally published as a one-shot, Takeuchi's editors are rumored to have said, “Great! Now do it with five girls.” That she kept going with Mina's solo adventures is a testament to how important she felt the character would become, and little hints of that are found sprinkled throughout the book. People who are familiar with the larger story will be able to catch them, and those who haven't may want to keep a close eye on some of the villains and side characters.
If nothing else, the release of this series is a landmark for many older fans who never dreamed they would get to read it. While it isn't as good as what comes after, it is still worth reading if only because you can. With some hints for Mina's character later on and the basis of Usagi's reality laid out, Code Name: Sailor V is a piece of Sailor Moon history that rounds out the characters and Takeuchi's world.
Overall : B
Story : C+
Art : B+
+ Pleasing artwork, good foundation for the greater series. Historic Sailor Moon value.
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