Book Review: Sailor Moon vol. 12

Title: Sailor Moon, vol. 12
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Genre: Magical girl
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA

'In the name of the moon, I will punish you!'

You were probably wondering why that news about the 20th Anniversary Sailor Moon anime I mentioned yesterday was relevant. Well, here's why! This week's book is the final volume of the newly re-translated Sailor Moon manga. I think it's fair to assume that most people of my generation are familiar with the phrase at the outset of this post, either through direct exposure (watching the show or reading the the manga) or indirect means such as popular culture references. It was the catchphrase heard round the world in 1991 when the blonde-haired crybaby-turned-superhero, Usagi Tsukino (Serena Tsukino in the original translations of the anime and manga), aka Sailor Moon, uttered it for the first time. Sailor Moon is often credited with pioneering the magical girl genre, now one of the most popular genres in Japan's shoujo (anime and manga geared towards young girls) market. The series was such a big hit that it had an anime adaptation within a year of its debut, and was airing on American television in just over three—an unheard of transition at the time since manga and anime were relatively new concepts in the States. It was quickly followed by a U.S. release of the manga, dolls & action figures, key chains, fan fact books, movies, children's chapter books, school supplies, lunch boxes, the list goes on and on.

I share all of this information with you, so you'll understand the extent of the role Sailor Moon played in my childhood. I watched the anime religiously. I read the manga as soon as they came out. I bought the Sailor Moon school supplies. I saved up my allowance and tracked down all of the Sailor Moon dolls, which I still own, though I don't play with them anymore. Every time I threw a frisbee, I would yell, "Moon Tiara Magic!"  I took a ribbon dance stick my brother made for me and used it as a "transformation wand." (And no, I am still not ashamed of that behavior like I probably should be.) I wrote Sailor Moon fanfiction. Really, I could keep listing activities that show how much I loved the series, but you get the point. After I started college, Sailor Moon reentered my purview because it cropped up often in my freshman writing seminar, which dealt with Japanese and Japanese-American literature, and a manga class I took. At the time, the Sailor Moon manga publication had been discontinued, but in March 2011, it was announced that the manga would be re-translated by Kodansha.

The first re-translated volume was released in September 2011, and the last just last month, a release I had been eagerly anticipating, because despite my all-consuming love for Sailor Moon, I never finished the series. I knew what happened at the end, but I was eager to read it for myself in English. But to be honest, I was kind of disappointed.

First of all, the last arc of the series is in volumes 11 and 12, and they tried to tackle way too much information! She introduces four new main characters (nevermind numerous secondary ones), revolutionizes our understanding on the Sailor Scouts and their larger purpose in the universe, and rocked the foundation of what we had come to understand of the Sailor Scouts' universe and their enemy. All of it was extremely interesting, but it was presented in such a quick and condensed manner, it was hard to follow and confusing. Really, this arc needed at least two more volumes to appropriately tackle all the information Takeuchi brought up. As it is, the series ends rather abruptly with no homage or farewell to the other Scouts.

It snowballs from there. Because Takeuchi was trying to get through so much information, the pacing was off. She rushed through everything, which disrupted the tension and general flow of the story. The other scouts all got pushed off to the side (SPOILER: with some of them even dying "off screen," so to speak!), which, considering this is the end of a series that has touched the lives of millions around the world, was shocking. The new scouts she introduced were perfectly useless, and did little but speak in cryptic messages and fill in as Sailor Moon's cheerleaders (SPOILER: until they, too, bit the dust after doing a whole lot of nothing). She even gave some of the old Sailor Scouts cameos! (SPOILER: Just to kill them off.)

Sailor Moon with her main Sailor Scouts
The art was beautiful, though, I wouldn't have expected that to change from previous volumes. Takeuchi's imagination was awe-inspiring, as usual, which is why it was so sad that this volume progressed like it did, since I know she's capable of so much more. As I said before, the information she gave us was fascinating and really got me thinking about the Scouts, the canon universe, and the general timeline of events from the far past that is frequently referenced in the series to the far future of which we see glimpses. To be honest, it got me excited to start writing again, which few books have done that recently, so I have to give it kudos for doing that. Because of this, I am torn as to what sort of rating I should give this book, since I love the story of the series overall, and this book inspired me. However, the actual events of this book and the pacing were just too much.

Final verdict? I'll give Sailor Moon, vol. 12 a two-star rating, but I still want to encourage all of you to read the series since it is still just as amazing now as it was before. I'll likely be reviewing the other books when I get time to go back and reread the whole series from start to finish, but Sailor Moon is a classic that can be enjoyed time and time again without ever getting old. I should also mention that Sailor Moon has one of the best romances of all time.

Did Sailor Moon play a big role in your childhood? What are some of your favorite romances of all time? Leave a comment or shoot me an email and let me know! Check back Wednesday for a special post on age in YA literature and on Thursday for this week's What Can I Take featuring this volume of Sailor Moon as the inspiration!


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