by Rebecca Silverman,

Sailor Moon

GN 2

Sailor Moon GN 2
Now that she and Mamoru know each others' identities as Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, Usagi and her friends are ready to really figure out what's going on with the Dark Kingdom and the mysterious Silver Crystal. Their investigations will lead them to both their fifth Sailor Guardian and the truth about their pasts in another world, but those truths will also give Queen Beryl an opening to bring the present crashing down.

Even if the first volume of Naoko Takeuchi's magical girl classic didn't speak to you with its assemble-the-cast plot, don't write it off just yet. Volume two, a combination of the second and third books of the original printing, takes off running and remains plot-heavy up to the conclusion, which anime fans will recognize as nearing the end of the first season. When we last saw Usagi, she had awakened in Tuxedo Mask's apartment (and bed), which led to a mutual realization of identities: he knows that she is Sailor Moon and she learns that he is Mamoru Chiba. Mamoru confesses that he is an amnesiac and that he is convinced that the Legendary Silver Crystal holds the key to his past. He's honestly not sure what the whole “Tuxedo Mask” persona is about, but he has to believe that finding the crystal will help.

It is clear that this is the beginning of a love story. Usagi and Mamoru are attracted to one another, Usagi describing the pangs of first love in a time-honored and yet still sweet manner. Both secretly hold onto what might best be termed as favors from the other in the sense that knights begged something from their ladies before battle to bring them luck. In fact, their new bond is so deep that Tuxedo Mask puts himself in peril for Sailor Moon, a stroke that at first seems like a simple shoujo trope. It is that, but Takeuchi takes it upon herself to weave an intricate backstory for the entire group – which by this point involves Sailor Venus as well – which becomes the framework for the rest of the series.

How you feel about Usagi's past may depend on how much you know about Classical mythology. Takeuchi, a scientist before she became a mangaka, bases her characters' previous lives on the myth of Selene and Endymion. Selene was the Greek goddess of the full moon (flanked on either side by Hecate and Artemis) who fell in love with a mortal man named Endymion. In a reversal of the relatively contemporary Sleeping Beauty story, Endymion was put into a deep sleep by Zeus and was visited by Selene in the night. Takeuchi changes this story so that Endymion is the prince of the kingdom of Earth, while Selene – written Serenity – is the princess of the moon kingdom. This past informs the present lives of the characters, who paid dearly for their forbidden love (a not-so-subtle Romeo and Juliet metaphor) when then-princess Beryl led an attack on the moon people. Classical scholars or purists may be upset, or at least annoyed, that Takeuchi mixes Greek and Roman names, but given the planetary naming system, it seems a fair move to have made. Geology is also given a chance to shine, as Beryl's henchmen are all named after stones. It is worth noting that the character known as “Malachite” in the original American release has returned to his name of “Kunzite,” and that Zoicite is once again a man.

With the main cast of the first story arc assembled, Takeuchi does spend more time focusing on Usagi than the other girls. Ami has the most solidified personality and Luna gets a fair shake in the character development department, but Rei and Makoto fall a bit by the wayside. Minako, the girl who becomes Sailor Venus, has more hints of personality. These will be better understood if you have read Codename: Sailor V, particularly the second volume.

There is an air of sadness about this volume that was not present in the first, and it is fair to say that it presages storylines to come. Takeuchi's ethereal art contributes to this, and while it will seem dated to some readers, it still holds up well – action is clearly defined, characters are easily identifiable, and she draws a mean desiccated corpse. Her new color art is obviously superior to the earlier work inside the book, but these pages are still delicately beautiful, if not slightly over-toned. One interesting choice she makes is to leave blood white. To contemporary readers accustomed to black-filled pages where violence is present, this takes some getting used to, but it works well with her windswept style.

As with the previous volume, Kodansha USA has done a beautiful job bringing this to English-speaking audiences. Four full-color pages open the book, it has a satisfyingly high page count, and the notes in the back are useful, though not exhaustive. The translation reads more smoothly than volume one, with a more natural tone to the dialogue. Even if you own another translation, this is worth buying.

It is possible, and maybe even likely, that this series will produce nostalgia in readers who loved it when they were younger. But Sailor Moon goes beyond that – in an industry where girls' books often push sexy over self esteem or revolve totally around boys, it is good to see a story that wishes more for them. Yes, there is a princess who wants her prince and vice versa, and yes, the girls wear what could be seen as sexy costumes, but above all this story is about doing what is right and not stopping until you succeed. So even if you're just in this series to see what all the fuss is about, stick around. As this volume indicates, things have only begun to move.

Production Info:
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-

+ Intriguing past with many Classical references, faster moving story. Increasingly tight-knit group of heroines.
Heavy on the photo backgrounds and screen tones, little character development outside of Usagi and Mamoru.

Story & Art: Naoko Takeuchi

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