Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
The Black Moon ups their game by kidnapping Sailor Jupiter as well as Mercury and Mars, driving Sailors Moon and Venus and Tuxedo Mask to a state of panic. They decide that it is time to make Chibi-Usa reveal who she really is. But the crisis has another effect on the team – Mamoru starts hearing a familiar voice guiding his movements and teaching him how to better use his powers. Will its identity be revealed when Chibi-Usa tells us what's really going on?
What is a translator to do when the author he is translating knows more about a given subject than he does? If you said “look it up,” in the case of Sailor Moon's fourth volume, you'd be a bit off. While Naoko Takeuchi's scientific background has been apparent from the start, in this volume she introduces temporary villains Chiral and Achiral, named after a molecular types, and the pair attack with chemical terms. While translations from the science are provided for the duo's names, translator/adapter William Flannagan essentially tells readers to look up the attacks themselves if they want to understand them. Now, given that this is not a series known for its attacks making vast amounts of sense – if they did, many of Sailor Venus' attacks would take on some interesting connotations – it is likely that there's no real logic behind what the twins say. It does mark, however, a definite low point in terms of Kodansha's glosses.
That aside, this volume is decidedly more exciting than its direct predecessor. With the Sailor Guardians' numbers reduced, Sailor Moon is growing increasingly anxious, and despite Venus maintaining her cool, something which makes sense given her longer history of crime fighting, she can't help but take out her nerves on the easiest available target, Chibi-Usa. Not only does her mistrust of the girl grow, but she also allows herself to become ever more jealous of the way Mamoru looks after her, even going so far as to embarrass him by flat-out accusing him of having romantic feelings for the child. (“But she's just a grade-school student!” he cries.)This leads to some decidedly adult moments, with Mamoru attempting to reassure Usagi of his love – simply put, they consummate their relationship. The sex scene is not graphic by any means, and younger readers may not even realize that it has happened, but all of the clues are there. As it turns out, this is a pivotal moment for the future as presented in this volume and just one of several in the book. Another large landmark for the series is the introduction of the first of the so-called “Outer Senshi,” Sailor Pluto. (Remember, this was written when Pluto was still an acknowledged planet.) Pluto's inclusion in the story both reminds us of the mythic base Takeuchi is working with as well as implies the existence of other sailor guardians, and she herself is an interesting, if not somewhat sad, character. Series fans who are more familiar with the anime may be surprised to see that her signature attack is shouted in the manga rather than whispered, as it was on screen, but her inclusion adds some definite interest to the tale, particularly as she comes in at a point when we are focusing solely on Sailors Moon and Venus and Tuxedo Mask.
Speaking of Tuxedo Mask, he in this volume far surpasses his earlier (and anime) role by developing his psychometric powers and getting an attack phrase of his own. This elevates him from vaguely bland romantic interest to a full-fledged member of the team, securing his spot in the story as an important player and not just a convenient male. Given his past life, this is a positive direction for the character as well as a logical one, since most of the story is taking place on his home turf, rather than Princess Serenity/Usagi's. In fact it feels fair to say that he is the most-developed and central character for most of this book, followed by Chibi-Usa. Usagi does take back over as primary protagonist later on, but most of this volume belongs her Mamoru, no matter who is on the cover.
Takeuchi's art continues to improve as this book goes on, although her tendency to give all females, regardless of age, clear bosoms is beginning to rear its head. On Chibi-Usa this is more noticeable in profile, but her school friend Momo, who gets a brief introduction and, if memory serves, will reappear in a later short story, has a figure that is much more developed than the average grade school girl's. There are still obvious differences between the cover art and the inside art, primarily in terms of face shape, but ground has been gained since the series began. Most notably improved are the flow and drape of fabrics, a trend that began last time. Usagi wears a dress that is certainly wedding-worthy in the latter half of the volume, and even uniform skirts have a flow that most little girls would covet during the princess phase. Perhaps these things stand out more given the recent fondness for Goth Loli fashions, which tend to be over-frilled – Takeuchi dresses her characters in outfits that are elegant rather than cute.
The second arc of the series is coming to its head and the tension is mounting. With new characters appearing and older ones developing, as well as Black Moon's goals and motivations coming clear, this is an interesting and exciting volume. Inclusion of small details such as Usagi's friend Naru or Makoto's friend noticing that there is something “different” about the girls, if not full-out knowing their secret identities, helps to make the world a bit more real in a way that mainstream American superheroes never quite grasped. While the story still has its logical flaws, it remains an engaging read that holds up well despite the passing of years and this volume continues to keep up both the promise and nostalgia of Takeuchi's masterwork.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Good character work for Mamoru. Improving art and introduction of new characters have promise for the story's developing world.
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