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Sailor Moon, Pretty Guardian

I’m covering the first “Sailor Moon” arc in this review! Books 1-3 three cover that arc and the first part of the “Black Moon” Arc.

The Eternal Edition just came out in 2018. It’s fancy schmancy with color pages, nice coating, and new covers by Takeuchi. If you can afford it, it looks worth while. I can’t, so I’ll just ogle if from the computer screen.

Mangaka: Naoko Takeuchi
Copyright:  2011 (Japan) 2011(English Translation)
Genre: Shoujo, Action, Fantasy, Magic Girl

Setting the Scene: skip this if you just want the review!

I like a lot of older manga and anime. I was not part of the “first wave” anime fans, but I could probably be part of the second wave. I didn’t have cable or satellite, so my first introduction to anime was in the late 1990s when Sailor Moon aired on Fox. Well, anime as we know it today: Superbook and Thunder Cats don’t count. Neither do the Rankin and Bass Japanese animated films Flight of Dragons, The Hobbit, The Last Unicorn, or The Return of the King.

Suffice it to say, Sailor Moon was a force unto its own, and was very different in its execution than the aforementioned Japanese animated cartoons. While it was heavily edited and Westernized (the names, I mean,) at its core, Moon-chan was not at all like what I’d been introduced to in the past. It immediately became one of my favorite shows. I mean, I already loved the repetition of Scooby Doo, so why not add another monster of the week show only with magic and romance and pretty girls and guys? Glitter…allll that glitter!

Then it happened.

Hastings Entertainment was once a movie rental store, but had to change its focus as video rentals declined. They eventually became a book, movie, and comic book store offering new books at discounted prices, among other specialty items. To be clear: when it opened in Springfield, Illinois, it had already made that transformation. Before the abandonment and slow decay of the strip mall on MacArthur Avenue, the Springfield Hastings had a store front not too far from my favorite restaurant, Shakey’s Pizza and Buffet (later Diamond’s Pizza and Buffet.) It had pizza, they took special orders, and the owner Mr. Diamond was recognizable from his ads on television. So I could spend my hard earned money eating pizza, then take a stroll down to the Hastings with Mom to peruse the discounted books.

I was looking through the fantasy section, as I always did, something bright neon pink caught my eye between the regular black spines with gold font. At least an inch shorter than the rest of the books, were two compact Mixx manga of Sailor Moon. I was gobsmacked! Yes, I just used that word. Like Gollum coveting his precious, I quickly snatched the only two Sailor Moon books on the shelf: volume one and two.

Thus temptation called, and thus I sealed the deal for a life-long obsession with manga.

Well, here’s my Mixx/TokyoPop collection. To this day I don’t have them all.

Can you imagine! It was a comic version of my favorite anime! At that time, “manga” was not in my vocabulary, so for me this was my replacement for the Pirates of Dark Water western comic books I never got to finish.

I lived in the Midwest, not a major city center. I mean…Springfield may be the Capital of Illinois, but it’s really more akin to a large town than a city. It’s getting better with its diversity, but I’d still not call it a metropolis. So to find a comic book that I was not a Marvel or DC super herobook (well, some of the comic stores did have Image and some other comic brands) was a total turn on for me!

What I didn’t know then, was the rabbit hole (er…usagi hole?) of obsession I was soon to fall down. So without further ado, in the name of the moon, let’s do this review!

Major SPOILERS in the summary

Usagi Tsukino is your average, air-headed 14 year old ’90s girl whose main concerns lie with food consumption, arcade games, and hiding poor test scores from her mom. She’s got her own group of friends, with Naru being her closest confidant and fellow air-head. But when rushing to school one morning, an encounter with a bandaged black cat sets in motion her transformation from an average teeny-bopper into a crime fighting, world protecting warrior: Sailor Moon, Champion of Love and Justice!

Through numerous confrontations with supernatural beings trying to suck the energy out of the almost deliberately oblivious masses, Usagi eventually finds and gathers her entire group of Pretty Guardian soldiers; Sailor Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus. In the process, she encounters the mysterious and churlish Mamoru Chiba, as well as his “dreamy” alter ego Tuxedo Mask. It’s a race against time as Usagi learns more about herself, her objective to find the “Legendary Silver Crystal,” and the mission to find and protect the re-incarnated Princess of the Moon Kingdom.

It all comes to head when Tuxedo Mask is revealed to be the man formerly known as Prince of the Earth, Endymion. Upon receiving a massive attack meant for Sailor Moon from Kunzite, Leader of the Four Kings of Heaven and brainwashed warrior of the Dark Kingdom, Endymion falls prone into the distressed Usagi’s arms. Realizing Mamoru’s true identity, Usagi’s memories come flooding back to her in a brilliant light, as her tear crystallizes into the Legendary Silver Crystal, and her former glory as Princess Serenity of the Moon baths the other guardians looking from below.

Shocked from her discovery, Serenity accidentally allows Kunzite to kidnap her beloved Endymion, who is later brainwashed by the Queen of the Dark Kingdom, Beryl, to fight against the Sailor Scouts in a ploy to steal the crystal and, at least on the surface, restore her master Queen Metalia. But Queen Beryl’s true objective is to take control over the crystal herself and depose Metalia, ruling the earth with the Prince, whom she herself had coveted in her previous life.

After many sacrifices, Sailor Moon, the other Pretty Guardians, Luna and fellow cat advisor Artemis (a male cat, in spite of his name) finally defeat Queen Beryl and reseal the evil dark force, Queen Metalia, healing the earth. After the loss of her guardians’ life, Sailor Moon, with the help of a healed Prince Endymion, journey to the moon to find the Silver Millennium restored to its former glory, and Usagi takes up the mantel as Queen Serenity. With permission granted from the remnants of the former Queen, her original mother, Serenity revives those who lost their lives in the Dark Kingdom’s attack, and returns to Earth to live out her reborn life as Usagi Tsukino with her friends Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minaka, as well as her beloved Mamo-chan.

The arc ends with the girls returning to their normal life, and Usagi and Mamoru finally kindling their romance as an official couple, when quite literally out of the sky falls a pink haired little girl carrying some heavy metal fire power!

Pros and Cons: NO SPOILERS HERE!! Yay!

Let’s start with the good.

I could probably write and entire thesis on why this manga, particularly this first arc, is so great. A lot of it, of course, is instructive of my own background: it was fresh, it was inventive, but it was also familiar. Let’s check the baggage at the door, and I’ll try to parse what I feel the strongest parts of this arc were.

The art. Is. Fantastic.

I don’t think I need expand upon that, but I will. Takeuchi’s style is…well…very stylized. At times, I do feel her mouths are placed a touch too close the the nose, but it’s a stylistic choice, not a proportional mistake. And generally speaking, by exaggerating the eyes and minimizing the other features, Takeuchi achieves what she’s intended to do: create extremely expressive, adorable characters who are “Pretty Guardians.”

Beautiful covers! Both are Volume 1 of Sailor Moon, Mixx & Kodansha respectively.

But beyond that, her screen-toning skills are just gorgeous! The art is very soft and atmospheric in moments when one is intended to feel entranced, or in a dream. She uses what looks like an airbrushed doily effect for many of the glamor shots meant to capitalize on the shoujo look. The whole feel is very ethereal.

Other times the art, particularly when focusing on the Dark Kingdom, is very shadowed and heavy. Many, if not most, of the early and even later depictions of Queen Beryl’s base is bathed in darkness and in fact has entire shadows of pure black ink. The hatching and tones are often very close knit, or at least function to drape even lighted areas with some sort of shadow.

The paneling and page set up is also easy to read and follow, regardless of whether your native language reads left to right, or right to left. I realize it takes time and practice to learn to read in a different direction, and that’s something I now have practice in. But the direction of the panels for the most part, with few exceptions, is almost always clear and tends to lead from one panel to another the way a comic should. I also like how this particular style likes to break out of the boxes. Nothing wrong with comics that follow a straight “inside the box” format, but for this particular story, I feel breaking out really adds to the beauty and attractiveness of this manga.

Expanding Beyond the Shoujo Genre…

Sailor Moon is classified as a shoujo. And boy, is it ever a shoujo! But I’d argue, and I think many would agree, it’s more than just a girly romance targeted at a young-adult female audience. Maybe that was the intent of the publishers. Maybe it was of the author. But what it became in the Western sphere goes beyond that. Maybe it does in its homeland, as well.

When I was a kid, I was a tomboy. I liked bikini-armor clad Chicks n Chainmail (and Chicks and Chained Males) science fiction and fantasy, playing in the mud, climbing trees, watching He-Man, She-Ra, and just about any other action cartoon that wasn’t particularly targeted towards girls. Probably ones you’ve never heard of, too, like the short lived Siegfried and Roy cartoon. I mean, yeah, She-Ra was action packed and starred many female characters, but of the girly cartoons I liked, that was very much the exception. I mean, Rainbow Bright would cower at the sight of She-Ra!

So when Sailor Moon hit the scene, I was more than ready. This manga spans several genres, and that’s a good thing. Yeah, it’s a romance, but it’s mostly an action manga dressed up in mystery, drama, fantasy, and even science-fiction: especially the deeper you get into the series. It’s a bit of a comedy, as well. There’s so many funny scenes, that re-reading aloud, my dudefriend kept giving me funny looks.

Some of my personal favorite funny parts:

“You’re looking a little weak. Maybe because I stepped on you?” –Usagi to Luna, Vol. 1 pg 8
“I’m not a trashcan, you know!” –Mamoru to Usagi after several wads of paper tossed into the face. Vol. 1 pg 64
A pair of glasses completely changing the length and shape of a person’s face (Princess D, Vol. 1 pg 173-4)
Sailor V’s love chain beating the shit out of Furuhata to bring him to his senses. (I don’t think this was meant to be funny…) Vol. 2 pg 222
And more.

The Story.

Wow. They take the whole “star-crossed” lovers thing, and bring it to a whole new level. They’re going to suffer, and they’re going to suffer again, and again. This section is going to avoid details that’ll spoil the story, but can I just say the protagonists work very hard to achieve their goals and make it clear they’re willing to sacrifice everything to do so. And while the concept of “good vs. evil” is a tale told time and time again, the new spins put on this story, and the way the tale unfolds, make it seem refreshing and new. The concept of re-incarnation is also something interesting that, at least for myself coming from a very Midwestern background, had not encountered in popular media. I mean, I was familiar with concept if for no other reason than my mom had several texts lying around discussing Hinduism and Buddhism, but I wasn’t getting that education from the pop culture of late ’90s cartoons or comics.

Doesn’t mean it’s not there, but again, it wasn’t something I’d encountered. So back to the story, what Takeuchi does here, is really roll up so many fascinating concepts and mythos into her own work which is really what gives this manga the feel of an epic. I mean, it’s episodic, of course, but it feels so incredibly grand!

Why do I compare it to an epic? There’s the obvious connection of the Greek story of Selene of the Moon and Endymion of the Earth, but beyond that, there are so many other very Greek nods in this story. Even the miko, Rei, you know, the priestess of the Shinto shrine? Her raven companions are named Phobos and Deimos: the two moons of Mars. But they take on their Greek names: Phobos being the embodiment of fear, and Deimos being the embodiment of terror. The architecture of the Silver Millennium is very Grecian, as well, with Corinthian columns and porticoes. It’s an interesting mixture of Islamic mosques with Grecian temples (and even some German castle call backs,) as the main structure also seems to have minaret-like towers, domed ceilings, and of course, the crescent moon symbol.

This combination enhances the romantic appeal of the story. While there are epic battles, there’s also the softer, romantic side. I’m going to expand on that, and why the Islamic architectural features appeal to romanticism and lends to the feel epic story of Sailor Moon‘s first story arc.

In a way, much of Islamic literature was (and still is) highly romanticized. Think of the Arabian Nights and carpet rides and Princesses saving themselves from being murdered by telling amazing stories! Think also of one of the most quintessential little poetry books to come to us in the West: Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. My gosh, people! This poetry, is beautiful. And it’s basically a giant love letter.

Think also of the romanticized history of the Taj Mahal, which is what the Silver Millennium Palace resembles, only with a smattering of Grecian architecture. I’m sure most people already know, but for the sake of context, the story behind the Taj Mahal is a mausoleum commissioned by a Mughal Emperor as a final resting place for his most beloved wife. It was romantic…unless you were any of those other wives. But you know, so it goes! And how appropriate that the petrified Silver Millennium would resemble a mausoleum. That can’t be coincidental! Maybe it is. But whatever the reason, all these homages to ancient empires really helps to shape the world of the first Moon Kingdom into a glorious mythology of its own.

Silver Millennium Palace. Volume 3, pg 114

One last thing I want to touch upon that makes this first arc of Sailor Moon so iconic is the near–no actual–religious iconography. I don’t mean to say there is a god unto which the characters are worshiping, but rather to point out the underlying theme of having faith in one’s self, their companions, and their ancestors. This is where, in a way, the story could be moderately reminiscent of Shintoism. Usagi prays to both her mother, the first Queen Serenity, and to the moon in general. They pull upon their own strength and power, but also to fallen comrades and her ancestors long passed. The last chapter, Act 14: Conclusion and Commencement, Petite Etrangre, heavily employs prayer and faith in order to surmount their greatest enemy at their most desperate hour. There’s also the whole “sword in the stone” nod, where Venus is granted the strength to release the legendary weapon from its boulder, hearkening back to another romanticized story (the French version of the Arthurian legend,) and with it reminding us of the religious implications of that mythology.

Everything about the story is huge: it even takes place both on the earth and in space. It only gets bigger from here on out, and the following arcs are just as epic (though, some more so than others.)

And I haven’t even touched upon the characters yet!


Where do I begin? Well, Usagi. And Mamoru. I’m going to be honest, these two…and maybe Luna, get the most attention in the first arc. I’m not complaining. It makes sense, since this is really her, and their story.

To be fair, Luna’s character is probably one of the best constructed in the story. Although towards the end it becomes more “master and servant” in Luna’s words, I would argue their relationship is deeper than that of Queen and subject. At some point, Luna begins acknowledging Sailor Moon as her master, and that she’s devastated to have failed her. But, in spite of their relationship being one of “master and servant,” it really is built to be more akin to that of Frodo and Samwise. Luna’s not just a subject: she’s a close friend and, in a way, guardian to Serenity. More than that, she becomes family to all the Tsukinos.

Well…except Shingo. Usagi’s little brother is by far the LEAST underdeveloped character. He could just be cut from the story, and I don’t think anything would be missed. I mean, the first time we see him, you can’t even see his face! It’s just his mouth while he’s kicking his sister’s behind. What a little shit!

Look at that little turd! Take him out! Volume 1, pg 21

If there’s one thing that bothered me, though, its how Luna degrades herself, when Usagi does not view Luna as a servant in the slightest. It perturbs me, but it does also build her character. If anything, Luna is Usagi’s senpai (not the troped up version of the word.) Particularly in the beginning, the two have a student/teacher relationship, and Usagi is the one not wanting to let Luna down. Even at the end, I think the wonderful thing about these characters, is that Luna and Serenity become one in a sense. While the student transcends the teacher, the teacher is not left behind: she, too grows. In this way, to me I feel Luna should not view herself as a servant, but more so a partner on equal footing. Usagi may be more powerful, but without Luna’s wisdom and guidance, Usagi would never reach her full potential.

And reach it she will!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tackle Usagi’s growth throughout this first story arc. I wanted to talk about Luna first, because…well, I love Luna, but also because Luna’s really what starts Usagi down her path of success. So yeah, I had to start with the catalyst for the whole story to unfold! The growth we see in Usagi as the story progresses is really quite wonderful. She’s first introduced as a bubble-headed slough-off, never getting out of bed on time, not studying, forgetting important things, and being a crying, whining baby before there’s really even much fighting taking place. To the comic’s credit, they play her early character off really well, as even her wailing crying becomes amplified by her bun protectors and helps distract the monster long enough for someone to get a hit in. That set up is used later in the comic, and eventually we get a pay off on page 43 of Volume 3, when once again her wailing is amplified and used against Endo. Only this time it’s not her crying feeling pity for herself: it’s progressed into her anguish for the one she loves.

The Pay off. Volume 3, pg 43

Another wonderful part of Usagi’s character is her question of identity, which mirrors that of Mamoru, who’s lost his memory. While Mamo-chan’s crisis stems from amnesia, and not knowing who his parents were, or even who he was, Usagi’s comes from within as each battle takes her further and further from being a normal 14 year old, and more into an unknown past life. What’s so well done about Usagi’s character, is how in spite of being a bit vacuous, she’s never cruel, or mean spirited. Instead, she’s very open, being friends with the school Otaku, Umino (although she’d never admit it,) and being adventurous and curious about Ami, Rei, and Motoko, where others in the school were standoffish and gossipy. Although she does her fair share of gossiping, unlike the others in her school, Usagi’s good nature invites strangers into her life to better get to know them. It’s that openness which is highlighted as virtue and pays off for her as she searches for the other guardians.

There’s so much more I would love to talk about when discussing Usagi, Mamoru, and the rest of the Sailor Moon cast, but I could very seriously write and etude on the subject, and I really need to wrap this up. Etude or thesis? Meh, I guess I could do either if I had the time or insensitive.

Okay, Let’s do the Cons Now.

This section is comparatively shorter. But no work is perfect, and Sailor Moon is no exception. There are a few elements that you either have to ignore and not think too much about, or just write off as…how things go?

Queen Beryl gets maybe two pages of backstory, three tops. While what we get is good, and helps explain a bit about her, I’m still not clear exactly who she was by reading the text alone. At one point she calls herself the Princess (vol. 2 pg 230,) but also Queen on the same page. Maybe it was a translation problem. Volume 3’s recap character page spells Queen Metalia’s name “Metaria,” but in all three volumes calls her “Metalia.” So, it could be chalked up as a typo, but it’s still a bit confusing. I really feel they should have built her character up more than just a crystal ball rubbing voyeur. She finally does see some action, but…yeah…I won’t spoil those moments.

Another qualm: the people. The people!

People in Sailor Moon are just stupid and materialistic. This is probably a symptom of the era it was published. The manga first appeared in the Nakayoshi Magazine in the early 1990s. So it was conceived and partly published right at turn of an economic swell, which came crashing down in the early ’90s (The Lost Decade.) Before the burst, there had been quite a growth in the economy, and I can’t help but wonder if that influenced the personalities of the people in the story. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe she just wanted to show the darker side of society. But the result is, even without the influence of the Dark Kingdom, people are obsessing over diamonds, and high society, and jewelry, and not treating each other very well. Most of the public who aren’t Usagi’s friends or acquaintances, are just jerks.

I’m sorry! There’s no nice way to put it. The parents of the missing Mii-chan are shallow jerks! Their child is missing, and reasonably so they beseech Rei to divine where she’s gone. But when she tells them that’s not how divination works and they should work with the police, they rebuke her as being rude. Yeah, they’re distraught, but their reactions and expressions are childish and unrealistic. Prior to the scene I just described, you actually see a bit of care for the missing child as Mii-chan’s mom genuinely looks worried: but the very next panel she’s literally waving it away, smiling as she claims she’s not accusing anyone of being bad at the shrine. It’s just not really very realistic for a parent missing their little child.

I feel that, although I love the art, if you removed their hair many of the main characters slightly suffer from “same face syndrome.” Takeuchi doesn’t do it all the time, but the differences are very subtle in some pages. To be fair, she improves as the story progresses.

To me, at least in this image, their eyes, noses, mouths, and faces are all shaped the same. Rei is puckering her lips, but the rest is very similar. Back Cover of Mixx Volume 2.

The Princess D chapter felt a bit contrived. There’s no reason why the enemy couldn’t have just possessed D quietly and made off with goods WITHOUT making a big production. There should have been a better way of executing that, which would have still resulted in Usagi and Mamo-chan’s big scene. Maybe Usagi stumbled upon D’s assistant trying to get her to stop, and D reacting violently and obviously possessed. It just would have made more sense than to have the villain shouting at the massive crowd and drawing attention to themselves. That’s not how you steal something!

There are more than a few serendipitous coincidences. So and so just happens to be in a place at the right time for such and such to happen. I’m not talking about Usagi and Mamoru, either. There’s an explanation for their crossing paths. Other times, it’s Mokoto just walking by when someone’s being attacked. She had no business to be there, but there she is.

The mind control trope is a touch overused. Everybody gets brainwashed! You get brain washed, and YOU get brainwashed! We all get brainwashed! Hurray!

And that’s it. I mean, I have little nit picks, but it’s fiction and I didn’t notice these issues until I became an adult. As a teen, I was too engrossed with the story to have time to scrutinize every page (as I did when I read this for the fourth time for this review.)

Parting Thoughts

How can I have more to say about just this first arc? Well, I do have more to say! I have lots more, much of which I’m omitting for the sake of hoping someone will still read this in spite of it’s length!

I want to be candid. This section is just a gush of things I’ve thought, related to, or came to mind when reading this story again.

Sailor Moon means a lot to me. Of all the magic girl, chosen one manga’s I’ve read, this one really struck a note with me. I like how it blended Japanese icons, like the rabbit on the moon and Tokyo Tower, and all the character’s Kanji holding special meaning, with icons easily recognized by a Western audience, such as Greek mythology and Arthurian Legend. I love how even though we don’t see them much, Takeuchi does a great job of at least give Usagi’s present day mom and dad some characterization. As much as Ukiko (yeah, Mrs. Tsukino has a first name) is a hardass to Usagi, she really loves her and Luna, and worries about her daughter (Vol. 2 pg 147 is a good one.)

I love the message of hope, faith in your friends, love, support, and perseverance even in the face of daunting prospects. I like how the characters are willing to give it their all to protect what they love and cherish. I love the message of teamwork, and to strive to improve oneself.

I also like how Volume 2 addresses why the Dark Kingdom is in Japan specifically, and mentions that they did search the rest of the world for the Legendary Silver Crystal, and it wasn’t just set in Japan because…Japan.

I like how Takeuchi’s real life experience as a chemistry major informs some of characters names and elements, and occurrences in the series. It’s still fiction, and this comes into play much more later in the series, but Takeuchi is BOMB! And I don’t care if that compliment is out of style. So are all the character’s clothes in Sailor Moon, and we don’t mind!

But most of all, I am thankful for a series that finally cast the woman (er…girls) as the ones saving the world, and physically and magically kicking some serious ass! It was so refreshing to finally have an action comic where the main characters were female, and they were saving each other. Yeah, Tuxedo Mask saves Sailor Moon, but she in turn saves him. And what’s even better, is that eventually, it’s the two of them working as a cohesive unit. And it was all done with a bit of comedy, a touch of romance, and a lot of really cool, beautiful visuals!

I can’t wait to review and reminisce the rest of Sailor Moon! And to those reading this whole review: thanks for taking this journey with me! Next time, I’ll have less to cover…er…at least ART wise, so the review will hopefully be not as long.

And do I need to even say it? Yes, this first arc (the first three volumes) is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


First six volumes all together.


Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

Harman, William and Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Trans. William Flanagan. Vol. 1. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2011.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Trans. William Flanagan. Vol. 2. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2011.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Trans. William Flanagan. Vol. 3. New York: Kodansha Comics, 2011.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Sailor Moon. Trans. Anon. Vol. 1. Los Angeles: Mixx Entertainment, Inc, 1998.

Takeuchi, Naoko. Sailor Moon. Trans. Anon. Vol. 2. Los Angeles: Mixx Entertainment, Inc, 1998.

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