My Week in Manga: December 26, 2011-January 1, 2012

My News and Reviews

So, I have exciting news. Well, exciting for me. This past weekend I helped build a shelf in my room specifically for my manga. It runs the entire length of one wall and half of another. It looks great and I had fun filling it up with books. All of my manga is now out of boxes (except for my Ranma 1/2 collection), which makes me extremely happy. I also have a floor again. Anyway.

Last week was the Sailor Moon Manga Moveable Feast. For my contribution, I posted a review of Naoko Takeuchi’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1. Also, a bit late, I have quick takes for Codename: Sailor V and Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 2 below. This month’s manga giveaway also features Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1. You still have until Wednesday to enter the Magical Girl Mania manga giveaway.

Speaking of the Manga Moveable Feast, I’ve officially made the announcement that Experiments in Manga will be hosting the Feast for January—Usamaru Furuya Manga Moveable Feast: Call for Participation. This will be my first time hosting the Feast, so I’m hoping to see some great contributions this month. I’ve already set up the archive page and have populated it with past reviews and articles. If you have any you would like to see added, just let me know!

Because of the upcoming Feast, and because of my November/December health issues, my posting here at Experiments in Manga might be a little wonky for a month or so. I’ll do my best to keep up, but you can probably expect to see My Week in Manga to be shorter than usual. Also, there won’t be any in-depth manga reviews until the Feast. In the meantime, you’ll just have to put up with my Japanese literature reviews.

Quick Takes

Codename: Sailor V, Volumes 1-2 by Naoko Takeuchi. For the most part, I enjoyed Codename: Sailor V. The series, though it ran concurrently with Sailor Moon, actually serves as a sort of prototype and prequel. I found Codename: Sailor V to be more coherent overall than the first couple of volumes of Sailor Moon. In fact, reading Codename: Sailor V helped me to understand some things about Sailor Moon that confused me. I particularly liked the first volume while the second volume turned out to be much goofier until the final chapter. Not that goofy is necessarily bad; I simply didn’t find it to be as engaging. I did like that several of the characters from Sailor Moon make cameo appearances in Codename: Sailor V.

From Eroica with Love, Volumes 5-9 by Yasuko Aoike. I’m really enjoying From Eroica with Love. Eroica and Klaus make such perfect foils for each other and I love watching them interact. And I can’t help but grin every time Klaus calls somebody a wanker, which is fairly frequently. I’m impressed by Aoike’s ability to create legitimate seeming scenarios for the two leads to encounter each other. The secondary characters, particularly Klaus’ “alphabets” and Eroica’s underlings, are also likable. Even James, who could have been annoying (and certainly is to the other characters), is delightfully amusing. The whole series is farcical, but completely believable in its own setting. I’ll definitely be tracking down the rest of the volumes available in English.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 2 by Naoko Takeuchi. After an unfocused first volume, I was very happy to see things begin to make sense in the second volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Not everything does mind you, but enough that I was able to enjoy the story and want to learn more. I’m starting to believe that Takeuchi actually has some solid ideas to play with. Probably most important is that the backstory for all the characters has been revealed (or at least has begun to be revealed). I still find Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon to be a little silly, although the second volume is less so. But, it’s a fun, charming silliness. I hope to continue to see Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon improve and find its footing.

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1

Creator: Naoko Takeuchi
U.S. publisher: Kodansha
ISBN: 9781935429746
Released: September 2011
Original release: 2003
Awards: Kodansha Manga Award

In 1997, Naoko Takeuchi’s manga series Sailor Moon was one of the very first titles published by Tokyopop. It, along with the anime series, became somewhat of a phenomenon in the United States. But, Tokyopop’s license ended and Sailor Moon has been out of print for years despite its popularity. Then, in 2011, Kodansha brought the manga back in a completely new edition under the title Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Kodansha’s version is based on the 2003 revision of the original series, which was first published in Japan between 1991 and 1997. I’ll admit, I mostly missed out on Sailor Moon the first time around except for a single day that I was sick in bed and there happened to be a marathon of the Sailor Moon anime on television. I don’t really remember much of it though, and the whole incident may very well have been a fever dream, but I’m pretty sure it actually happened. Still, I was very glad that Sailor Moon was selected for the December 2011 Manga Moveable Feast so that I could be properly introduced to the series.

Usagi Tsukino is an average fourteen-year-old middle school student at Minato Ward Juban Public. She enjoys eating, sleeping, and having fun. Her grades could stand to be better, but she would rather visit the local game center than study. On her way to school one morning, late and in a rush as usual, Usagi comes across a strange cat. After helping it—she was the one who stepped on the poor thing after all—the cat begins appearing wherever she goes. That night the cat, Luna, reveals its ability to talk and declares Usagi to be a guardian, destined to find her allies, defeat her enemies, and protect the princess and the legendary silver crystal. Usagi’s not really sure what Luna is talking about or even that she wants anything to do with it. But given the ability to transform into Sailor Moon and the powers needed to save her friends from harm, Usagi suddenly discovers she’s not just a normal teenager after all.

For a cat that appears to know just about everything about what is going on, at the same time Luna doesn’t seem actually to know anything. Although I’m sure that Takeuchi has some basic idea of where she is taking the story, in this first volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon I really feel like she’s making up most of it as she goes. Things just kind of happen and the readers and characters are simply there for the ride. The guardians themselves seem oddly accepting of everything that is occurring around them and of the revelations of their true natures—they just seem to go along with it. I actually found the resulting narrative chaos to be rather delightful at first, but I do hope that the story finds a bit more direction and focus in subsequent volumes.

Probably the thing I like best about Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon so far is the cast. While the villains come across as a bit one note, Luna and the guardians and Tuxedo Mask are all very likable. I particularly appreciate the range of their personalities. I was actually a little surprised by how much I ended up liking Usagi. She’s a bit of an airhead and an admitted crybaby, characteristics that tend to annoy me. But those aren’t her only defining qualities. When her friends are in trouble she will do anything she can to help them and will give it her best. Usagi’s an unlikely leader, but her confidence is growing and the others trust her. I think that Takeuchi’s artwork has held up pretty well over time. Granted, I do read a lot of older manga, so maybe it just doesn’t bother my stylistically. However, the more action oriented sequences and fights can be difficult to follow. I wasn’t astounded by the first volume of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, but I did enjoy its charming silliness enough to want to read more.

Manga Giveaway: Magical Girl Mania (Sailor Moon Giveaway)

It’s that time again. Time for another manga giveaway, that is! The end of December and the end of the year seemed to sneak up on me and were nearly over before I realized it. For December, I’ll be giving away a new copy of the first volume in Naoko Takeuchi’s classic magical girl manga series Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. This giveaway happens to happily coincide with the Sailor Moon Manga Moveable Feast hosted by Sean Gaffney at A Case Suitable for Treatment. (You should check out the contributions, there are some really great ones!) The contest is open world-wide, so I hope you’ll enter for a chance to win Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1!

Magical girls are one of those easily recognizable staples of Japanese pop culture. The genre has been around for quite some time and remains popular to this day. I actually haven’t read many magical girl manga. Off the top of my head I can only think of three, but I enjoyed each of them: Clamp’s Cardcaptor Sakura, Moyoco Anno’s Sugar Sugar Rune, and Naoko Takeuchi’s Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. A classic of the genre, Sailor Moon has been out of print in English for years. Fortunately, Kodansha has started publishing the revised edition of the series. This makes me particularly happy since I missed out on Sailor Moon its first time around.

So, you may be wondering, how can you win Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Volume 1?

1) In the comments below, tell me about your favorite magical girl manga. If you don’t have one, you can simply mention that.
2) To earn a second entry in the giveaway, name a magical girl manga that hasn’t been mentioned yet by me or someone else
3) If you’re on Twitter, you can earn a bonus entry by tweeting about the contest. Make sure to include a link to this post and @PhoenixTerran (that’s me).

Each entrant can earn up to three entries for this giveaway. As usual, you have one week to submit your comments. If you have trouble leaving comments, or if you would prefer, you can also e-mail me your entries at phoenixterran(at)gmail(dot)com. I’ll post the comments in your name. The winner will be announced and randomly selected on January 4, 2012. Good luck!

VERY IMPORTANT: Include some way that I can contact you. This can be an e-mail address, link to your website, Twitter username, or whatever. If I can’t figure out how to get a hold of you and you win, I’ll just draw another name.

Contest winner announced—Manga Giveaway: Magical Girl Mania Winner