The re-released volume 4 of the Sailor Moon manga continues on from where volume 3 left off; Sailor Mars and Mercury have been captured by the new enemy known as ‘Black Moon’ and Usagi feels powerless to stop them. Just as the media goes into a frenzy with the increase of UFO sightings in the area, the remaining Sailor soldiers start to think that their new enemy is possibly from space, or another dimension. Before any conclusions can be made, Sailor Jupiter is swiftly captured and Chiba-usa’s sudden appearance just before Black Moon’s debut is no longer seen as a coincidence. With little hope remaining and Usagi growing increasingly worried for her friends, Chibi-usa is cornered and reveals that the enemy is in fact from a different time period all together.
Like volume 2 did for the first arc of Sailor Moon, volume 4 brings big revelations to the Black Moon arc. A lot happens in this volume and it doesn’t take long before a strong team of 5 Guardians is whittled down to just Sailor Moon, Venus and Tuxedo Mask to somehow fend off their new threatening opponent. Similar to the discoveries of their past lives the back story of the new enemy and where Chiba-usa comes from is told in great detail; obviously Naoko Takeuchi thought about the whole plot in great depth and she doesn’t leave little things such as why Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask barely age in the future fly by. The story may still rely heavily on the suspension of disbelief and you know that the small plot threads for the minor characters such as Naru and Omino are probably going to be left unresolved, but the material is still going strong with unique plot developments driving it and a likable heroine for all readers to get invested in. The pace is also not as jarring as before so the twists and turns come off as motivating rather then hasty.
The character that shines most from the book however is Mamoru; normally seen as the one who constantly gets captured and/or brainwashed, he’s actually the complete opposite in this volume. He’s a very active character who seeks to improve himself by activating his own offensive power to help those he loves. He shows his maturity and patience when he reaches out to Chibi-usa and doesn’t pressure her too much for the truth, knowing she’s young and scared. He also consults with his former Shitennou (Kunzite, Jadeite, Nephrite & Zoisite) for guidance on the new enemy, and it’s nice to get a detailed explanation – even a name! – for his mysterious ability. The bottom line is that he’s the perfect, supportable boyfriend to Usagi without being a throwaway character, a complete jerk for comic value, or plot device to drive Sailor Moon to rescue him, he contributes his own to the story and it’s nice to see.
Art is still a highlight of the series with beautiful close ups of the girls, plus the Usagi/Mamoru moments being delicately and romantically handled. I failed to mention this in my previous review but I will bring it up now as the problem still remains; action scenes can be a tad confusing to follow. The powers of the girls aren’t always drawn well, and any hits to the enemy or sudden movements of our heroes are often easy to miss. Also I didn’t take much notice of it before but I have to admit that this volume struggles with making conversations fluid at times; admittedly they’re talking about big evil plans and they’re trying to make it sound all complicated and intricate, but don’t forget that most of the characters in this book are only teenagers, and sentences like; “What a sinister thing to do! If they succeed, it could spell doom!” just don’t flow well.
4 books into the story and we’re barely halfway through, but Sailor Moon is still going strong. Great energy, strong plot developments, likeable characters and nice art ticks all the right boxes for a great manga to pick up for all ages. And with a cliff hanger in this volume, it makes the wait for book 5 even harder!