Thoughts on the english release of Codename Sailor V
Sailor Moon, at its best, generally fell into the category of guilty pleasure for me. At its worst it sucked. There were a number of cool ideas and a story that had a lot of potential, but it never lived up to it, and the problems with the anime were to many and too big to be overlooked. The story was nonsensical once you got past the broad outline, the characters got virtually no development once Usagi was revealed to be the princess and might as well have been cheerleaders, then when the outer scouts and starlights were introduced they became wallpaper. The action scenes, despite featuring some of the weirdest monster designs ever, were stunningly uncreative and repetitive, with the stock footage and the usual 'Tuxedo mask throws a Rose to temporarily stop the bad guy, says something corny, and now Sailor Moon has confidence to win' ending.
The second and third arcs were actually pretty good despite these problems. After much of the Dark Moon Arc involved the scouts turning the bad guys to the side of good, the big bad turned it around in the most dramatic way possible by making chibuusa evil. Then the plot with the outers and Hotaru was also very interesting and sad. The series nosedived in the final arcs, but those 2 at least partialyy loved up to the potential.
The manga, at least at first, is much, much better than the anime. The first arc actually tells a good story, Usagi is a better written and more complex character, and the other characters seem more important, especially Sailor Venus (who gets to be the one to kill Beryl!) It's still not perfect; it seems like it is still juggling too many characters, but it is not bad by any means. Unlike the anime, however, it drops off after the first arc instead of improving. The new characters push the old ones to the sidelines, the stories feel repetitive, as does Usagi's character development.
In both the anime and the manga, the character I found the most interesting was Sailor Venus. For one, she was fighting the Dark Kingdom's monsters alone long before anyone else, with no Tuxedo Mask or other senshi to help her. She can clearly outfight the 'brick' of the team, Sailor Jupiter, and does in the manga. In the manga she has a presense that makes the other senshi awed and inspired just by her being in the same room as them. And in both versions she is introduced as a vigilante who fights crime in addition to later being revealed to also fight the monsters the senshi fight. In the anime, by the time Usagi meets Luna Minako is already successful enough as a superhero that they are making manga, animes, and videogames about her. With all that I was curious to know what the story was with her past.
On top of that, during the third arc of the anime, there were 2 episodes that made me go "why the heck isn't she the main character?!" First there was the episode where it was revealed that becoming Sailor V forced her to make sacrifices for 'the mission.' She gave up activities she loved, fell out with her old friends, because being a superhero took time out of her life and was a big commitment. This was a huge departure from the other senshi, who were almost all loners until they became senshi. And Usagi got to keep her old friends in addition to gaining new ones and find the love of her life. Minako was the only one whose life was made worse instead of better by being a senshi, and it was a much more realistic depiction of what being a superhero would entail. And, also realistically, she resented having to make these sacrifices at times.
In the episode where her 'pure heart' was targeted, this was taken a step further. She was worried that she had sacrificed so much to become Sailor V/Venus that she had given up who she really was. So she took drastic, and foolish, action to prove to herself that she was still Minako and hadn't gotten completely lost in Sailor Venus. And I must have been the only one who found it badass that her reaction to experiencing what the other senshi described as 'the worst pain ever' was to laugh like a chipmonk. She's clearly gone through a lot more than the other senshi, and I thought the character development in those 2 episodes was better than all the character development all of the other inner senshi, including usagi, got during the entire series. It was also really sad to see in those 2 episodes how much of the similarity between her and Usagi is an act she uses to cover up how much her sacrifices have hurt her and how she can't really discuss them with her fellow superheroes because they can't relate to actually having problems with being superheroes.
So even with all the problems I thought both the anime and the manga had, I was really curious about the english release of the Codename Sailor V manga because it was a series focusing on how the one character I found to be truly interesting from Sailor Moon became that character.
Interestingly, Codename Sailor V is closer in style and tone to the Sailor Moon anime, especially the first arc, than the Sailor Moon manga is. The Sailor V manga is largely comedic and episodic where the Sailor Moon manga is largely serious and epic. So that was an interestong change, and again makes me wonder if the anime would have been better if it focused on Minako.
There are problems with Codename Sailor V. The villains are ultimately not impressive (owing to their being a minor element of the villains from Sailor Moon, so in that regard it seems the decision to expand the story in Sailor Moon before completing Sailor V negatively affected the latter). Minako can be annoying when the jokes fall flat, though thankfully that doesn't happen as often as in the anime. And the development I was looking for doesn't happen until the end, though it is a whopper when it does happen.
The first thing that strikes me about Codename Sailor V is that it is a lot more fun than the Sailor Moon manga or anime. It tries to be funny much more often than the Sailor Moon manga and succeeds a lot more often than the anime. The second thing is that there seems to be a lot more creativity in Codename Sailor V than in any version of Sailor Moon. Unlike the other senshi, Minako isn't a one trick pony. She fights with her fists effectively and can use more than one attack in a fight, so the action scenes are much more exiting than the typical 'Moon tiara' fights from Sailor Moon. On top of that, I love how she'll use her transformation ability to turn into a soldier with a giant machine gun. That's just awesome, and emphasizes that it is her, and not Sailor Mars or Jupiter, who is the most badass senshi.
That Minako fights normal crime as well as monsters is not played as I expected. She does it mostly to show off, and not because she feels much responsibility in being a superhero. It still helps to add diversity to the story so it feels less repetitive when the monster of the week shows up. And the ongoing plot with the 2 police officers, one who hates her and one who obessesses over her, is really funny and really well done.
For a series that focuses on fun, Codename Sailor V has a serious downer of an ending. This is where Minako turns into the serious character from the Sailor Moon manga and the person who understands the meaning of the word sacrifice all too well from the anime. She learns that all of her dreams in life are meaningless, that her destiny is to live and die for someone she's never met. Her happiness must take a backseat to the happiness of this stranger.
Overall Codename Sailor V, while not meeting my full expectations until the end, is much better than the anime and noticeably better than the first arc Sailor Moon manga. Unlike its sequel it ended before there was a drop in quality. I'm a little disappointed in that there was little connection with the anime character who gave up so much and fell out with her friends without having to be told her destiny was 'to live for the one, to die for the one' (Babylon 5 reference), but as it was a prequel to the manga and not to the anime (which for some reason deemphasized her time as Sailor V once she was intorduced but had a whole other plot about her going to England) I can't complain too much about that.