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Friday, December 2, 2011

Guest Review: Codename Sailor V GN 2

Codename: Sailor V volume 2
Author: Naoko Takeuchi
Kodansha Comics USA
296 pages (omnibus ed.)

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.

Reviewer note: Look, Jeremy is back! Everyone’s favorite guest reviewer has returned with his review of the next volume of the English translated release of Codename: Sailor V. And as usual, if you like what you’re reading here, be sure to pop over to his blog, Taking Over The Universe, and read all of his amazing posts about pop music and pop culture!

Spoiler warning: Review contains spoilers for the Sailor V manga so far.

Here we are again, taking a look at the last volume of the Sailor V manga. Originally split into three volumes, Kodansha re-organized them into two volumes, making these monster nearly 300 pages. Let's just say you are getting a lot of bang for your buck, size wise. I don't know if I can say the same about its content.

The second volume was very obviously done over an extended period of time. The first two chapters were a two-parter introducing the character Phantom Ace. He starts out being a kind of knock-off of Tuxedo Kamen from the Sailor Moon series, but his story takes a massive turn from what you would expect. Anyway, the series avoids the routine of her being saved by him, as it only happens two or three times through the eight chapters presented. He instead turns out to be a Japanese idol, getting his own TV show, and eventually movie deal. In Minako's side quest to become his girlfriend, she finds out that he may be involved with some sinister people.

One of the big story points of the manga was that Minako's identity was discovered by the chief of police, Sakurada. This would have been a very interesting plot point, and proven to be an interesting over-arching story line... if they hadn't tossed it down the toilet. They made a pretty big deal about Sakurada finding out her identity early in the volume, but they don't even bring it up again until three chapters later. Here, it is all brushed under the mat by saying they are friends now, and for some reason unknown to anyone ever, the policewoman doesn't want to expose her at all. I guess good people do exist in the world.

Those three chapters I mentioned earlier? Completely pointless. They are linked together by being about three siblings from the Dark Agency who one by one go after Sailor V, employing pets as their main weapons. These three chapters did nothing to further the storyline and, to be honest, were boring. The only amusing part was when one of the enemies, Wan-Wan, created a tiny black animal (it was a dog that looked a lot like a cat) with a crescent moon on its head named Luna. Artemis developed a huge crush on her, but seeing as she was the "monster of the week", it was more or less just a funny gag for fans of the Sailor Moon series. I repeat: completely pointless.

Just as I was about to give up hope on the series all together, the last two chapters saved it from a depressing demise. The final two chapters, while not perfect, wrap up the manga as best as it could. Due to it being finished long after Sailor Moon's end, it would be hard to not have a ton of plot holes, but I will do my best not to pick them apart.

First, Minako finally gains her memories back. It all seemed to be triggered by her running into Ami, who would later become Sailor Mercury. She found herself saying "I'm not alone" while passing by Ami in public. Soon after, her memories of the Moon Kingdom flooded back to her. The excuse for the change of costume from blue to her more well-known orange? She said she was borrowing a disguise while she was waiting for her memories to return. Dear Naoko Takeuchi, THIS MAKES NO SENSE! Seeing as it took the other scouts forty-some odd episodes in the anime and a dozen chapters or so in the manga to regain their memories, the other scouts should have had costume changes too. I just don't buy this.

The leader of the Dark Agency, a section of the Dark Kingdom, is actually Phantom Ace. This was actually a bit of a surprise. There was very little foreshadowing for this, other than they finally saying their leader was a male in one of the chapters. Better yet, he also reveals that he was, in another life, a citizen of Venus, falling in love with her from afar. Her stalker soon reveals that he, along with the armies of Earth, have all become slaves to the Dark Kingdom.

I guess I was expecting too much. This became more of a side project over the years, and Minako was overshadowed by the other Sailor Senshi in the main series. The fact that this manga was even completed was a miracle, so the ending we got is good enough for me.

The writing seemed a bit distracted. A lot of the panels were cluttered with useless dialogue. One of the recurring gags that I did enjoy was the "stabbing" sequences where one character's speech bubble is literally stabbing at another character. Some of the chapters came off as being quite preachy, such as telling kids to take care of their pets or to give blood to help save lives.

The artwork stays consistent throughout the volume and is a vast improvement to the first few chapters. Do I have to bring up how weird Artemis looked again? There were some very gorgeous illustrations during Minako's awakening, showing her and the other Senshi as they were in the Moon Kingdom. I still can't get over the costume change. I mean, sure, for Sailor Moon's sake, color coding was helpful, but why make it randomly tacked on to the end of this series?

Was it everything I had hoped for? Not at all. Is it acceptable? Quite so. This series has so much nostalgia seeping from every pore of its being. Had this not been the sister series to one of the biggest breakthroughs in bringing anime to America, I don't think I would even give this a second look. It offers you a different, and sometimes contradictory, look into the world of Sailor Moon's early days. Then again, as most prequels turn out, it wasn't too suspenseful because we all know exactly where she ends up. You have to decide for yourself if simply being along for the journey is worth it.