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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Guest Review: Codename Sailor V GN 1

Codename: Sailor V volume 1
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics
272 pages

Like Sailor Moon, Minako Aino is a normal 13-year-old schoolgirl until a fateful day when a white cat introduces himself to her and tells her she has the power to transform into the hero, Sailor V. Using a magic pen to transform, Sailor V fights the evil agents of the Dark Agency as she strives to protect the earth.

My favorite guest blogger and beloved nakama Jeremy/Gaosalad is back, this time with a review of arguably one of the biggest manga releases for English readers of the year - Sailor V! Remember, if you like my friend Jeremy's style, jump over to his sweet blog for his thoughts on pop culture and music galore!

Read on for Jeremy's review of Codename: Sailor V's premiere volume!

Long ago, there existed a manga so scarce that even scanlations were hard to come by. People searched far and wide for it, as it was fabled to connect the dots of so called plot holes in one of the world's greatest series. This prequel was thought to be forgotten forever. Then, out of nowhere, the gracious company Kodansha Comics USA decided to gift us (well, for eleven dollars) this amazing manga. Behold: Codename: Sailor V!

In all seriousness, this manga is one hell of a nostalgia trip. For those not familiar with its sister series "Sailor Moon," Minako is a very ditsy airhead, much like Usagi herself. She starts to get stalked by a talking cat (bear with me) and eventually finds out that she is a super powered warrior sent to fight the forces of evil and create world peace -- through violence!

The first volume of the manga is centered on Minako slowly figuring out about her enemies. For the first few chapters, she is randomly stumbling upon enemies and taking them down with powers revealed by Artemis the cat. Later, she finds out that the real enemy is The Dark Agency, a mysterious organization disguising monsters as pop idols as to steal energy from all demographics. This wouldn't be a problem if Minako wasn't completely obsessed with any and every idol on the market.

The manga explains a lot of things that are just kind of there in the Sailor Moon anime. (I can't say the same for the manga as I've not read it all yet). Take, for instance, the Sailor V game. In the anime, Usagi is an avid player of the game, but nobody really questions it. In Sailor V, it is shown that Artemis has "Boss" send the game to the Crowne Arcade so that she can train. So yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense, but it still is an explanation, right? And the command center that just kind of appears in the anime is revealed to be Artemis's headquarters where he apparently chills all cat-like and discusses what action to take next with the boss.

Sailor V is followed by two police officers, the superintendent Sakurada and Officer Wakagi. Sakurada is secretly obsessed, and seemingly in love, with Sailor V while Wakagi wants to arrest her, citing that she is creating her own renegade justice that should be stopped. The two are just kind of there for now. I'm told that later they will become more important, but who knows?

The manga started before Sailor Moon began, but continued periodically throughout the run of the show. Many of the devices that are used in Sailor Moon actually originated in this manga, the disguise pen being the most prominent. The transformation pens appear here as well. A lot of this could be chalked up to it being from the Moon Kingdom, but it still feels a bit lazy. People who are unfamiliar with the franchise may think of Sailor V as a Sailor Moon knock off.

The series has a lot going for it. Nostalgia was a giant factor in me loving this manga. It features cameos by several main characters from Sailor Moon. Usagi and Naru are seen arguing outside the arcade, Rei gets a bad feeling about the new video game that turns out to be a monster, and a Minako crushes on a guy I am pretty sure is Kunzite meaning that the Dark Agency and the Dark Kingdom would be more closely related than they lead us to believe.

This is not to say that there is nothing wrong with it. This manga was one of Naoko Takeuchi's first major projects. The story pacing was very uneven and episodic. Not a lot happened to progress things in some of the chapters, such as when she mistakenly went to Greece instead of Hawaii, but then in some chapters so much happened it was hard to keep up with.

The age of the project really shows, too. The first couple of chapters show a much less polished art style, and it gets better as the volume progresses. From what I understand, Sailor V was often put on hold so that she could work more on Sailor Moon's development, explaining the progression of the style. The most noticeable change is in Artemis. He starts out looking like a very disproportionate cat, and eventually ends up very close to what he looks like in the Sailor Moon anime.

So far, not a lot has happened in the manga. By the end of the volume, all that had happened was she became aware that an evil organization exists. Boss is still of unknown origins, the leader of the Agency and its connection to The Dark Kingdom haven't been explored, and the reason for the police even being main characters in the manga is still not making any sense. There is still a lot to come, and nostalgia can only keep it relevant for so long. This series better kick it into high gear in the next volume or it might lose interest from its core readers. I, on the other hand, will prove myself to be a Sailor Moon fan boy, and buy them anyway.