Book Review: Sailor Moon Short Stories 1

Title: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Short Stories 1
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Genre: Magical girl shoujo
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA
Release Date: September 10, 2013

In this first of two collections of short stories, we find our favorite Sailor Guardians and their friends encountering new mysteries, enemies, allies, and once more saving the day. After the daughter of a foreign diplomat transfers to her school, Chibi-Usa's male classmates suspiciously stop attending classes. Upon investigation, Chibi-Usa discovers the new transfer student is a vampire! Mamoru’s birthday gift to Chibi-Usa turns out to be the brainwashing device of a depressed folk tale heroine come-to-life, seeking sympathy from fellow women and girls! Chibi-Usa’s Pink Sugar Heart Attack becomes literal when defeating a local sprite that has possessed the dentist she and Usagi visit to get their cavities treated. Then, other local sprites wreak havoc in the lives of Mako, Ami, and Rei as they and Mina and Usagi study for high school entrance exams. Finally, Chibi-Usa and her newfound BFF’s help out the quirky proprietor of a mysterious pawnshop that is under attack by both human and otherworldly entities!

I'm back after an unintentional two week sabbatical! This post brought to you by the surprise package waiting on my porch when I got home yesterday. Inside were two books I had totally forgotten were due out, one of which was the first volume of translated short stories from the Sailor Moon series. The volume, contrary to what I thought when I first saw the Japanese volumes in the Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya earlier this year, is not a special edition extension of the story, but rather a collection of  the bonus chapter stories that appeared at the end of the original 18 tankoban (manga volumes). When the series was rereleased in Japan in 2003 to promote the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon live action drama, the number of tankoban was slashed to 12, a reduction made possible by putting more chapters per book and removing the bonus chapters to make space for the extras. Of course, they couldn't just cut those out entirely, since they were part of the series' canon, so they were compiled into two tankoban and sold separately. What this meant for me was that some of the short stories in the volume, I'd read before (multiple times), some I had seen as animated shorts, and others I didn't even know existed.

The stories were all delightfully silly and fun! Despite being short, individual stories, they were split into two groupings that shared a common theme—the first being Chibi-Usa's Picture Diary and the second the Exam Battles faced by the older girls as they prepare for their high school entrance exams. The stories, as usual, focus more on the backstory leading up the final conflict rather than the conflict itself, a hallmark of shoujo stories. But that works out quite well, as the stories' main purpose mostly seemed to be character development. We are treated to personal character introductions featuring information on favorite colors, favorite foods, blood type (a distinction comparable to zodiac signs in Japan often used as a matchmaking, personality, or behavioral prediction tool), hobbies, etc. Being a huge fan of character development, I appreciated these extra stories right from the get-go, even more so because one of my biggest complaints about the Sailor Moon series is that the other Sailor Scouts are often forgotten when it comes to fleshing out their characters.

The pacing was about what you would expect in these stories, and as mentioned previously, each story is self-contained, despite being a part of a larger thematic narrative. We also get to meet two new characters—Chibi-Usa's BFFs—who had a surprising relationship to one of the trademark side characters of the series that I never knew about! Throughout these stories, we get to experience Takeuchi's gift with puns and what I imagine must have been the result of extensive research.

My biggest issue with this volume likely lay in the translation, which must have been extremely hard to work out this time around. I'd have to read through the Japanese volume to be sure, but Japanese often uses sentence endings to reinforce something such as the speaker's foreign origin or inhuman nature (for instances, talking cats or cat-humans might end a sentence with nyao, the Japanese counterpart to the English onomatopoeia, meow), a feature we distinctly lack in English. I can only guess that this is what accounts for the translator's inexplicable use of the letter "z" and improper grammar to denote what I think must be a(n evil) spirit of Chinese origin or the hard to understand valley girl speak of Chibi-Usa's kogal friends in the bonus chapter and, at times, even harder to understand explanations of their slang as given by Chibi-Usa. (I would also like to note that Chibi-Usa's BFFs don't look like third graders at all. Irrelevant, but it needed to be said.)

My final verdict? I would definitely recommend this book to Sailor Moon fans, particularly if you want to see the girls in a more relaxed setting and learn more about who the other four Inner Scouts are as individuals. It's a fast and fun read, perfect for a break taken from studying for classes or preparing for yet another meeting. Four stars, one star docked for the at times hard to follow translation.

Who's your favorite Sailor Scout? Any you wish you'd gotten the chance to get to know better or that you wish had gotten more screen time in the series? Hit me up! I love talking about Sailor Moon, and I'd love to hear your opinions on the ground breaking series.


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