It’s time to review a pretty legendary manga in the form of Sailor Moon! If DBZ is the most popular Shonen manga of all time (Mildly debatable I suppose since One Piece tops it in sales, but DBZ basically invented the industry and nobody can forget it!) then Sailor Moon is the most popular Shojo title. It revolutionized the manga industry as we know it and they recently came out with the new Sailor Moon Crystal anime to be a more faithful adaption (in theory) of the manga than the original show. They also re released the manga volumes again in a crisp, new form. So, I finally got to read it and it’s a solid Shojo title. It’s safe to say that it beats most of the others, (I still say that Fairy Navigator Runa may be better…) but it definitely has its weak points as well. Let’s see how the series held up through the years!
The plot is pretty large so bear with me. The first arc mainly follows Usagi as she deals with the usual school routines and such until she is given a magical amulet by a cat. She is actually the legendary guardian of the moon…Sailor Moon to be exact! (I like to think that the sailor part is there because the scouts soar through the cosmos with their FTL feats and space has been known to have similarities to water) She must now find the other Sailor Scouts who have been scattered around her school and neighborhoods so that she can find and
destroy defeat Queen Beryl of the Negaverse. (Dark Kingdom) It’s a tough job, but the Sailor Scouts were literally born to do this. (In this reincarnation anyway)
Things wind down a little after that as we get introduced to Mini Moon. Her courage is matched only by her cunning and she certainly makes things difficult for Usagi. (I still prefer to say Serena, but I suppose that I can deal with calling her Usagi) She has come to the present because things are getting dangerous in the future. Wiseman has assembled some powerful allies and they now wish to reduce the world/galaxy/universe into ash. That may not be his exact goal, but that’s more or less what happens. The heroes will now have to time travel and meet up with a new sailor scout to take these villains down. Can they really hope to do this or have the heroes met their match?
Next up, we get the Death Busters! (Really cool name right?) This is the anime that made Sailor Moon famous (to me anyway) and it was pretty intense in the anime. These heart snatchers want to power up an immensely destructive being to wipe out the universe once and for all! The true threat may be closer to the heroes than she appears. Will the heroes really be able to face off against someone so close? Meanwhile, Tuxedo Mask struggles to stay relevant, but it’s a losing battle. As the fate of existence hangs in the balance, Sailor Moon will have to make a tough call!
It’s hard to call the next arc an arc, but I suppose that we’ll have too since even Wikipedia recognizes it as such! A circus comes into town and there’s a new queen who happens to be evil. Nehelenia is so evil that not even the heroes can hope to make her change her ways. The scouts have been through this before, but can they hope to beat the Amazonian Quartet? The villains have finally taken the scout’s number advantage in the fights so the battle can truly be even now!
Well, every series must end at some point right? Things get chaotic for the heroes as a bunch of new characters are introduced. None of them are likable of course, but have we ever had a character debut in the final arc of a series and still manage to be epic? Sure, we can name a bunch of villains, but how about a hero? Gets interesting doesn’t it?……verrrryyy interesting. Anyway, Sailor Galaxia is basically the Sailor Moon version of Galactus and she doesn’t suffer from his great size disadvantage. Sailor Moon is completely outgunned and the scouts really seem to be outmatched. They’re going to have to use the power of friendship and something that could be even more useful in a fight if they really want to end things once and for all!
I’d say that the series’ main weakness is that it feels dated. It’s not really in a good way as some series can pull it off a little more efficiently than others. The art is the main problem that I have with it. It’s kind of like Tsubasa in the sense that the art usually looks all right, but it gets dicey for fight scenes. On the other hand, Tsubasa was still a lot newer and it did look more refined than Sailor Moon. I have a feeling that it’s the kind of series that is easier to read the second time around, but I read this one pretty recently so I likely wouldn’t revisit it for a while. Thus, I can’t really say that I care for the art. I would certainly call it under average, but I’m sure that many series back in those days weren’t quite as refined as the ones of today. Some would hold up well and others just wouldn’t. This is simply a case of the latter.
It’s also why my memory of the series is more grainy than it would be for something like Bleach. The events start to blur together after a while and the characters can look very similar as well. I also have the TV show to thank for my distractions since I saw it quite a few times so I tend to think of the TV show version of each arc instead of the manga’s. What can I say…the show was just That good. Still, this could be the manga’s greatest weakness. No series wants to be forgettable and my recollection is just way vaguer than it should be. Even for a series like Muyo and Roji or Kingdom Hearts II where there may be yearlong breaks between chapters, it’s always pretty easy to remember past events and just jump in. It helps that there are only a handful of characters who really stand out in Sailor Moon. (Plus, no “Rage Mode” scenes or big power ups that radically change Sailor Moon’s appearance.
The oldness of the series does help it in one big area. There really isn’t anything in the way of fanservice. It’s possible that there is a scene or two somewhere in the manga, but I can’t recall any and that’s always a good thing. There is a pretty big dose of romance thanks to Tuxedo
Last Mask and Sailor Moon though. I can’t say that it’s very good though and the constant insults can make you take a step back. Why couldn’t these two just stay as rivals or enemies? Most of the bickering was in the anime so it’s not quite as common in the manga, but it’s still intense to see. Taking away the romance would have been fun since the new characters in the final arc wouldn’t have jumped into the fray themselves. The romance isn’t terrible like Black Bird so it won’t really affect the score that much, but I definitely would have liked it to have been cut out.
One thing that always needs to be addressed are the power levels for the series since they’re always compared to DBZ. I have to say that I sneeze at the very thought of Sailor Moon being that high. One Piece or Naruto could have a field day with the Sailor Moon universe, never mind Bleach! Sailor Moon would have a more even match in something like Shaman King I suppose, but pre elemental spirits and taking Hao away. Then, that could be an interesting fight. The problem is that the Sailor Moon fighters tend to be very slow and their durability is really underwhelming. They’re basically just meta human in those areas or maybe not even peak human. All you need is a quick slash from Kenshin and they would all go down. It really all comes down to Sailor Saturn and Sailor Galaxia to hold off the big threats since they have some good proven feats. The rest of the characters are mostly hype at this point. The manga does make it easy with all of the narration. We find out towards the end that all of the Sailor Scouts are immortal and their spirits are indestructible. This means that they can never be defeated for good because their souls will just be reincarnated. So, the debaters who put a lot of stock into the “immortal = victory” argument will definitely like this. Of course, destroying them once every 100-1000 years shouldn’t be too difficult for the villains since the reincarnations will likely not be much stronger. This is why immortality really doesn’t help all that much. Well, it’s still good to see that Sailor Moon has a lot of debaters on their side.
Sailor Moon is the main character and she’s pretty unique. It’s safe to say that there aren’t many main characters like her, but I can’t say that it’s really a good thing. She’s just not my kind of main character. She’s mostly comic relief for about 90% of the series and she’s just not very powerful. I guess it’s okay for the main character to not be supremely powerful or born with the powers of the 9 Tailed Fox or something, but it certainly doesn’t help. Let’s also not forget the romance subplots as well. Adding all of these things up results in a main character that just isn’t my style. If she could have at least said something like “Only one of us is walking away from this chump” or “In the name of the Moon, prepare to die!” then that likely would have helped me gain some respect for her. I just want her to strike some fear into the hearts of the villains or to at least stand up to them. Typically, Sailor Moon just isn’t that kind of character.
We’ve also got Tuxedo Mask, but they don’t call him Tuxedo Man for a reason. He constantly gets kidnapped or brain washed so it’s really hard to take him seriously. He doesn’t really have any abilities at his disposal so it makes sense that he would be defeated, but he should at least lose with some dignity. His rose was surprisingly effective in the anime, but it was definitely not quite as lethal here. He also develops a romance with the main character that he tries to deny through insults and such, but he eventually crumbles. The romance plots don’t help either of them as you would expect. Again, Tuxedo Mask just needed to act a little cooler for me to really like him. At least punch out one of the villains or something! Don’t worry, we’re going to talk about a cooler character next for a change of pace.
Sailor Galaxia is the big villain that I had been waiting for! It’s no stretch to say that she rose the series up the universe tiers by herself. There were other strong fighters of course, but Galaxia is a casual planet buster and she actually felt like a DBZ villain. This is someone that I could actually picture fighting opponents like Frieza. (Let’s not push it and request that fight though) She’s easily the best villain in the series and that’s great since it means that the manga got to end with a bang. Her armor is really cool and it helps her design to end up as one of the best. She’s easily one of my favorite characters in the franchise and maybe she is my favorite. It’s something that I’ll have to think about.
Two other villains are Queen Beryl and Queen Nehemiah. Unfortunately, they are essentially the same character. I can’t really say that they have any personality. They just want to destroy the world or something along those lines. They are willing to destroy innocent people to do this and Sailor Moon won’t stand for it! They’re not bad villains, but they are pretty generic. In that case, your only hope is usually for the villain to have a cool design or to have some impressive combat feats. In those regards, Queen Beryl definitely beats Nehemiah. I can’t say that they really added much to the series, but Queen Beryl has become pretty iconic by this point. So, I’d say that it warrants her appearance and she can definitely fight. I’ll also give some props to her since her name is a pretty cool pun. From the manga, Queen Beryl is probably my second favorite villain. It’s a bit of a “by default” thing, but that still does mean that I find her likable. It may be in comparison to others, but she still beats many other villains. If only she could have gotten a nice hand to hand fight or an extended action scene. That certainly would have been cool!
Wiseman is the big villain from the Mini Moon arc and you gotta love the design. He has a pretty intimidating cloak. Unfortunately, his plan is rather sketchy. It revolves around Mini Moon lacking strength of character and buying into what he’s saying. If she had just stayed in the castle or been a little more defiant..things may have been okay. Still, Wiseman’s “cunning” I suppose and he can still fight when it comes to that. He’s not the greatest fighter, but that’s all right considering who he’s fighting. He’s a little generic, but there’s only so much you can do with a serious villain who runs around in a cloak while holding a crystal ball.
The Sailor Starlights come in during the end of the series and they’re pretty underwhelming characters. They’re only here to mess with Sailor Moon and Tuxedo
Mast Mask. This gets old rather quickly and you would think that their tricks wouldn’t work on the strong bond that the two of them have right? Well, the problem is that Sailor Moon is easily impressed by just about anyone and we’ve established that Tuxedo Mask doesn’t have a lot of will power. The Starlights are eventually written out of the manga, but why they were added in the first place is beyond me. They scream “filler characters” whenever they’re on screen.
We’ve also got the three Outer Sailor Scouts. Neptune, Pluto, and Uranus. These three were pretty intense in the show, but their roles have been drastically reduced in the manga. Sailor Pluto never really gets to fight since she has to guard the time portals. She eventually rejects that job, but she only gets a page or two of action to use her signature attack. It’s a pretty good attack and more fighters should learn how to use the classic energy ball. Uranus had a pretty great attack in the show and I believe that it’s the same in the manga, but it doesn’t look very impressive. Neptune’s water abilities are decent as well, but these two never get to do anything worthwhile. They couldn’t take down Saturn and I think that’s when the audience realized that they weren’t any more useful than the other Scouts. Only Sailor Moon can hope to take the villains down.
Well then, how about the normal scouts? Mercury is one of the originals and she’s not really a fighter. She’s pretty smart and she has aqua abilities, but even her powers aren’t meant for combat. It’s all about bubble illusions or other non threats. She eventually gets some better abilities, but she really doesn’t help all that much in the fights. Sailor Mars has fire powers and she is a little more refined with her abilities. She can talk a good game and her fire arrow is an attack that I can actually trust. She’s a step up from Mercury to be sure. Sailor Jupiter doesn’t have much character and I really didn’t like her in the show. I’m more indifferent as far as the manga is concerned. Thunder abilities are cool, but they never really help her out. Sailor Venus is arguably the strongest member of the main Sailor Scouts with the exception of Sailor Moon. She has a lot of prior experience since she was already a Sailor Scout since before Sailor Moon’s time. Her experience causes her to be pretty confident or to completely underestimate her opponents…usually both. She’s definitely better than most of the others, but Sailor Mars may give her competition. (In the manga anyway)
Mini Moon is sort of a member, but I like to think of her as a part timer. She hasn’t really gotten to develop her abilities yet so she can’t help in a fight. Mostly, she just tries to psych out Sailor Moon and mess with everyone’s memories. She’s pretty skilled in that area, but she tends to make a lot of bad decisions that endanger everyone. Mini Moon gets a pretty cool/powerful super form as a result, but it’s only a positive for her. At the very least, Mini Moon manages to be a lot more likable than Mini Mini Moon. (Or Chibi Chibi Moon) The double Mini Moon can’t really talk since she’s so young and she’s really only useful for one of those twists that you were waiting for at the end.
We’ve also got the mysterious Sailor Saturn. She’s one of the main antagonists for a while and her power is considerable. Aside from Sailor Galaxia, it may not be a stretch to say that she is the strongest character in the series. She actually shows her feats instead of relying on the hype of the other characters to keep her going. Sadly, she doesn’t get to do much once she turns good, but one good action scene is still a lot better than 90% of the cast. Her design is pretty inspired and she’s easily one of the best characters in the series.
There are certainly other characters that I could mention. We had The Heart Snatchers, The crazy Scientist, The evil circus…but they aren’t huge players. Sailor Moon is not the kind of manga that really believes in a lot of character development so they’re all pretty one note. This sort of leads into one of the complaints that I have with it.
Sailor Moon is always the hero. What we’ve learned from epic manga like DBZ and Naruto is that it’s best for supporting characters to also get their moments. Imagine if Goku got to fight Android 17 instead of Piccolo and if he fought 18 instead of Vegeta? Picture Goku always being the guy to claim victory while all of the side characters lost every time. That’s basically what happens in Sailor Moon. Her teammates can’t really do anything right and they have to be saved by Sailor Moon everytime. It can get pretty annoying after a while and especially if you don’t really care for the lead. This is probably one of the reasons why the other characters aren’t memorable. All of the Sailor Scouts are just there to be defeated over and over again. Sailor Moon’s victories also aren’t that impressive because she’ll just fire some kind of energy blast and the opponent is disintegrated. This never fails.
How does Sailor Moon stack up against the anime? Not very well I’m afraid. I think Toei realized a lot of the mistakes that the manga made and rushed to fix them. They didn’t get everything right though. Toei added some extra romance with Mars and they made Jupiter to be a pretty unlikable character. That being said, they made sure that each of the Scouts got their time to shine and there were many more fight scenes to be found. The fillers helped to develop the characters and I can safely say that I remember most of the episodes pretty clearly. I dare say that the anime is in another league and that is very rare since the manga is typically on the same level as the show. Some would say that the manga is typically superior since there is no filler. This is just not the case here. How does it stack up against Crystal? Much better so far, but it’s likely a losing battle. I’ll get back to you on that once I watch it.
This review may have seemed pretty negative, but that’s just because there are a lot of noticeable errors. Some series are just easier to rip apart than others. You still have to consider that this is one of the oldest fighting, shojo manga and it didn’t have a lot of the resources available to us today. It didn’t know that supporting characters should get a bigger role and the art isn’t really its fault. (Still gotta count it though) Sailor Moon was a fun read and that’s what counts. I’m confident that a remake manga would be even better and it still clobbers the average Shojo manga of today.
One of the positives that I can easily elaborate on is the final arc. I guess it would be a stretch to say that it saved the manga from being known as an action series without much action, but it did add a good amount. The stakes were a lot higher and the fights were a lot more engaging. The Sailor Scouts had been needing an opponent like Galaxia to fight because it would make things more interesting. It’s the closest to DBZ that we’ll get here and it was a blast. Galaxia’s minions weren’t that interesting, but her fight was definitely a lot of fun. It also proved that the artist can draw good fight scenes when she wants to. If we had another arc after the final one that had been just as action packed, it may have given it enough steam to earn an extra star on its rating. As it is, it ends up missing the solid seven. If you’re thinking about checking out the series, I’d definitely recommend making it to the final arc. The battles and nonstop action definitely makes it worth it!
Overall, Sailor Moon is a legend and it’s still one of the biggest titles around. I definitely had my share of qualms with it. I didn’t care for the art and most of the characters weren’t really likable. Still, it manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of other manga like fanservice and characters that are beyond dislikable. (Even DBZ had some of those!) Some parts of the series definitely feel dated, like the writing and the art, but it’s still a fun read. This is a series that has a lot of replay value. There are around 12 volumes and slightly more depending on the format. I would definitely recommend this to the average manga fan and especially if you’re curious about the Shojo version of DBZ. Don’t go into it expecting a bunch of fight scenes though as it’ll give you the wrong impression. Just go in blind and I’m sure that you’ll enjoy it as a pretty nice series. Who knows, maybe this will get you to watch the anime based off of it. See, I think it’s a fair assessment to say that Sailor Moon fails as a shonen action series about warriors who defend the world from evil. You should not read it for that. If you read it as just another Shojo series, then you’ll be very impressed since most of them stay away from the action genre. (Don’t compare it to other magical girl items though or you’ll be saddened to see just how much it gets stomped by Pretty Cure) Sailor Moon won’t be joining the elites of manga, but it can easily fight for Top 3 in the Shojo section of manga. (Which is impressive in itself!) I do plan to give it a re read someday since the ambiguous art also makes you want to check again to make sure that you didn’t miss any feats.