Usagi Tsukino is a klutzy 14-year-old middle school student who scores hopelessly on her tests, much to her family’s disappointment. Usagi’s mundane life is suddenly turned upside down however, after she saves a black cat with a mysterious crescent moon on its head from danger. The cat later reveals to Usagi that her name is Luna, and their encounter was anything but an accident, with Usagi being destined to become the planetary guardian Sailor Moon and protect the Earth from the forces of the malevolent Queen Beryl and the forces of the Dark Kingdom.
Although a noted flop for the UK licensor MVM when they tried to release it on home video back in the early 2000s, it is still hard to deny the popularity and impact Sailor Moon has had on anime and manga as a whole. It almost certainly wasn’t the first mahou shoujo work to come out of Japan, but it did go a long way in popularising the entire genre, laying the groundwork for pretty much every magical girl property to come. Unlike the anime, the complete Sailor Moon manga has been available for quite some time over here, however with Sailor Moon Eternal Edition, Kodansha is giving the classic the treatment it deserves, with a gorgeous new re-release, that proves to be the definitive edition for the now iconic series.
At 300 pages in length, the first volume of Sailor Moon Eternal includes the first seven chapters of the manga, a slight extension on the five chapters featured in the original paperback, and as someone who has previously only seen the anime version of the franchise, I was very happy with the pacing of this initial volume. Like many shows at the time, Sailor Moon was plagued with horrendous pacing issues that saw the premise stretched within an inch of its life, something the source material, as I quite expected, does not struggle with in the slightest. What took the anime a good 30 odd episodes to accomplish is achieved by the end of this very volume! The actual story that is present here isn’t exactly much to write home about, being a pretty boilerplate magical item hunt, but given that this volume is all about setting up the lore and characters in the series, I can let this slide for now, especially given that it achieves that side of things brilliantly. Despite the monster of the week structure, it’s the mangaka’s world building that keeps the reader hooked, slowly revealing more about the forces of darkness that threaten the planet, as well as the origins and ultimate goals of the pretty guardians themselves.
Speaking of the characters, it is truly the cast that is the strong point of Sailor Moon as a whole. Sure, the girls are fairly archetypical, but yet all of them manage to be both memorable and likeable, in no small part thanks to the fantastic and now iconic designs from the manga’s author Naoko Takeuchi, but also due to the chapter length introductions that allow each member of the team to really shine and get their personality across. Leader of the group and franchise protagonist Usagi may be a bit of a Marmite character for some, with her klutzy, crybaby nature potentially being irritating, but personally I managed to find her strangely endearing, and perhaps, scarily, even a little relatable on some level. The upside with a character such as Usagi is that it leaves plenty of room for good development in the future, as she grows into the role as a leader over the course of the series. Although the heroines are the strongest element of the manga so far, it is the villains that let it down on the character front. This volume alone goes through two or three antagonists being introduced and quickly dispatched before they can establish any sort of personality in the slightest, not helped by their rather homogenous designs, with the result that they all seem to blend into one another.
As previously mentioned, this new edition of Sailor Moon isn’t just any old release, and great care, attention and love has very obviously gone into making this one of the nicest volumes of manga I’ve ever read. With an extra-large size that dwarfs any other manga in my possession, high quality, glossy finish pages, full colour illustrations, French flaps, a holographic cover finish, a newly revised translation courtesy of Alethea and Athena Nibley and brand new cover art from creator Naoko Takeuchi, this truly magnificent book honestly sets the bar for premium manga. The large format does great justice to the fantastic art of Takeuchi, whose distinctive and charming style still holds up to this day, especially in this high quality print. This is especially appreciated on the gorgeous full colour pages at the start of every chapter, that are truly a sight to behold.
Whether you’re a new fan experiencing the story for the first time or a diehard who wants to revisit a favourite, there’s no doubt that Sailor Moon Eternal Edition is the definitive way to read this classic.