Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
GN 11 & 12
Time has moved on and Usagi and all of her friends are in high school. Mamoru, however, is off on a study abroad program to Harvard, and Usagi's going to miss him. She takes him to the airport, where he promises to write, gives her a ring...and has his soul taken by a strange Sailor Guardian while his body dissolves before Usagi's eyes. This marks the entrance of Sailor Galaxia, a Guardian of Destruction, and Sailor Moon's most formidable foe yet. Can Usagi defeat her and win back her loved ones? What will be the ultimate cost of the future?
These final two volumes of Naoko Takeuchi's classic series Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon are arguably the darkest. Where previously Sailor Moon and her fellow guardians have fought against a variety of nefarious foes with varying degrees of evil power, now they must face a single woman who is known as a “guardian of destruction” (emphatically not death and rebirth, like Sailor Saturn), Sailor Galaxia. Galaxia is the exact opposite of Sailor Moon, ready to do harm wherever she can, gleefully killing sailor guardians in order to obtain the source of their powers, their sailor crystals. Her ruthlessness and power force Usagi to face her worst fears, as well as to really consider what it is she is fighting for.
I say “Usagi” and not “Sailor Moon” because, as with all good magical girl stories, this final series of battles is more about the girl in the costume rather than the costume itself. The struggles are faced by Usagi Tsukino, not Sailor Moon or Princess Serenity. This is driven home by the reactions of Neo Queen Serenity in the far future, as she and Chibi-Usa start to realize that something has gone wrong I the past. Neo Queen Serenity is calm and in control, handling the situation smoothly, while Usagi spends much of volume eleven in a state of emotional shock. As readers, it is very easy to empathize with her, as Takeuchi pulls out the stops with some of Galaxia's actions. Never mind that we've watched these characters face mortal danger before only to come back just fine – the way that she draws them this time makes an impression. When you consider that Usagi is watching this not as a third-party reader, but as the heroine of the story, the impact is heightened, and her depression and hysteria come across clearly. It is the girl who witnessed these horrors, not the superheroine, who must ultimately decide what to do and how to act. Towards the end of volume twelve, she has a discussion with Princess Kakyu, the ruler of another planet, about what her real motivations for fighting are. They are quite telling, but in the end serve to make her a stronger character.
Of necessity, these two volumes, which make up the arc known as “Sailor Stars,” introduce new characters who stick around a bit longer than some of the others. Galaxia's minions are known as the Sailor Anima Mates, and while most of them get no more page time than other bad guys, Takeuchi does some interesting things with Sailors Lethe and Mnemosyne, names that fans of Greek mythology should recognize. Likewise Usagi gets new companions in the forms of Kakyu, the Sailor Starlights, and a mysterious little girl named Chibi Chibi, who is definitely not all she seems. Chibi Chibi's role evolves continuously throughout the arc and she proves instrumental to righting the wrongs of the old Silver Millennium that begat the story in the first place. Takeuchi does a good job of bringing everything full circle in the end of volume twelve, and Chibi Chibi is instrumental in that. The Starlights' role is a bit more ambiguous. Although they do provide important information and protection to Usagi when she needs it, they are also unceremoniously written out of the story before the final battle, as if Takeuchi didn't know what to do with them. Most who have read or seen this section of the story before will remember them as “the guys who turned into girls when they transformed,” or perhaps Sailor Star Maker's attack, “Star Gentle Uterus.” Sadly, even with this new translation, that is likely to remain our impression of them; while they aren't quite throwaway characters, they also aren't as important as they perhaps ought to have been. As for Kakyu, she mostly takes on the role of Luna and Artemis, providing Usagi with information and motivation. Her costume is one of the more interesting, combining both traditional Korean and fantasy Arabian garments to good effect.
Takeuchi's art remains flowing, floaty, and beautiful, although arms and necks still get ludicrously long in places. She shows more creativity with sailor outfits, with Galaxia's being crystalline and sharp looking in nice contrast to the fluidity of Sailor Moon's. Takeuchi also begins coloring in some of the blood, and the combination of dark and light fluids when someone is injured adds impact. Pages continue to show an Art Deco influence and can be crowded, although that does have the benefit of making the quieter images more powerful.
Sailor Moon's finale has its moments of corniness, but overall it is a strong finish to the manga that launched a thousand imitators. Usagi's inner strength comes to the fore in a way that many bizarrely named attacks couldn't hope to mimic, and perhaps that is the real secret behind the popularity of the story. It isn't the costume or the past that gives her strength, in the end – it is what she as a human loves. There's hope and promise in the ending, and really, that's all that Queen Serenity was ever looking for.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Usagi is at the heart of these final volumes, not any of her alter egos. Some powerful images and a hopeful ending.
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