Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon the Manga: the Dark Kingdom Arc, Pt. 3
Continuing the series of blogs in which I look back at the first arc of the Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon manga, we’re up to acts 7 through to 10 today. The manga departs quite radically from the anime storyline at this point, so I’ll be discussing how well the manga arc is developing. Therefore, major spoilers if you haven’t read the manga. I recommend you go read it.
Volume 2, Act 7
We ended the last act on something of a cliffhanger, where, having carried her to his bed while she was unconscious (creeeeeeepy), Mamoru reveals himself to be Tuxedo Kamen to Usagi.
That was rather shocking, especially when compared to the highly-dramatic reveal of the show. While I do prefer the anime, I have to say I like Mamoru much better in this arc of the manga.
First up: no transformation for Mamoru. His Tuxedo Kamen costume is, in fact, just something he appears to don. This goes well with the manga form of Tux, who has zero powers and completely relies on Sailor Moon to get things done.
Usagi’s shock is nice, especially when she raises the masquerade mask to Mamoru’s face. I have to say, however, that it feels a little lifeless. Perhaps it’s because in the anime you had so much longer to build up their relationship..
By this time, Usagi has stolen Mamoru’s pocket watch (looks so much better than the anime) and Mamoru has stolen Usagi’s handkerchief. The sight of both sniffing their ill-gotten gains is both sweet and distinctly creepy. I like how these characters are equals. Equally perverted too.
We get our first glimpse of Queen Metalia in this act. It’s mostly along the lines of “I WILL BE ALL-POWERFUL”, but there is an interesting aside of Queen Beryl, suggesting that she regrets working for Metalia. In the manga, it is Beryl who awakens Metalia in the hope that it will grant her all her desires (read: Mamoru and his hot teen bod.)
The Sailor Senshi discuss Sailor V, in which the possibility that she is the Moon Princess they’ve been looking for is raised. It’s a nice set up for the following acts!
Usagi feels guilty for not having told anyone about how she was -kidnapped- by Mamoru. There’s a lot of internal monologue from her. It gives a great dimension to her character, but we’ve seen a lot less of Usagi’s silly side. As such, the emo angst feels less earned than the anime. Again, a matter of time spent with her.
The evil plot of the arc is an evil video store (topical for 1992) which rents out evil videos. It’s sucked out all the energy of a bunch of people aaaand… it’s really not that interesting I’m afraid.
What’s more intriguing is when the Senshi test the evil video cassettes at the arcade. The little figure of Sailor V in the arcade machine turns to Usagi and starts yelling about how it’s clearly an evil plot! This is weird.
Sailor Moon goes out to heal the people of Tokyo with Moon Healing Escalation, but this gives Zoisite the chance to grab her from behind and demand the Silver Crystal. Of course, Sailor Moon at this time has no idea where it is…
And Tuxedo Kamen is powerless to save her! I really liked his helplessness, totally fleshed him out as a character, and made him more likable because he isn’t constantly swooping in like a dick in a hat.
In fact, a little like episode 33, Sailor Venus is the one who finally turns up to rescue Sailor Moon with a Crescent Beam attack. The act ends with Sailor Moon’s star-struck reaction. This is, of course, the momentous point where Naoko Takeuchi’s two mangas came together as one, so is deservedly dramatic.
I like it. The only problem was the naff evil plot.
Volume 2, Act 8
So! Sailor V is here! Or should I Sailor Venus? OR SHOULD I SAY Princess Serenity!?
What’s going oooooon?
I was so confused the first time I read this. Having Sailor Venus announced to be the Moon Princess really threw me for a loop, and I was intrigued to see where this would go. I knew it couldn’t be true, but it was interesting to see such a change from the anime.
We also get the reveal that the Sailor V in the arcade game was… I’m not entirely sure, but I think it was actually Sailor V, in a training programme designed for Sailor Moon…?
We get a long reveal of the history of the Silver Millennium and the Senshi’s past lives. The art work is surprisingly boring here – it’s mostly just talking heads for such an interesting subject.
Usagi bumps into a glasses-wearing book-reading Mamoru again. I liked their interplay a lot. We never got a chance in the anime to have an Usagi and Mamoru who knew each other’s identity but weren’t going out yet. As such, they’re both awkward and blushing. It’s cute.
In the Dark Kingdom, Kunzite is staring at Zoisite’s corpse.
Hang on a sec, when did he die? I guess by Sailor Venus’ attack, but the manga wasn’t clear on what happened to him. Ah well, he’s definitely dead, I mean just look at this fucker:
It’s Kunzite’s turn to attack now. He heads AGAIN to Tokyo Tower mumbling about the beautiful darkness, and shocks some people to death for some reason.
Seriously, Naoko Takeuchi LOVES drawing dead people all crispy like this.
At Tokyo Tower, Sailor Moon and the Senshi confront Kunzite. Just as Sailor Moon tries a Moon Healing Escalation, Kunzite pushes her off the tower!
Straight into Tuxedo Kamen’s arms. This is really clumsy at first…
But then Sailor Moon thanks him by smooching the shit out of him. She kisses him, and he looks a little shocked. I really liked Sailor Moon taking charge of her own romantic agency. Not as demure and “feminine” here. Great moment.
So, when the Sailor Senshi realise that they can’t hurt Kunzite, Sailor Moon orders the girls to flee with Sailor Venus, their Moon Princess, while Moon holds back Kunzite. Venus looks completely appalled by this. I WONDER WHY?
Tuxedo Mask isn’t having any of this though, he’s finally seen the chance to protect Sailor Moon, and he jumps in the way of Kunzite’s blast.
In the anime, his frequent sacrifices for Usagi were a little… 1-dimensional. He protects, that’s what he does, he gets all stabbed in the back for fun. In the manga, however, Tuxedo Mask feels completely powerless. All he can do is look up at Sailor Moon in admiration. He finally has a chance to save her instead, and he doesn’t think twice. That’s great characterisation there.
Tuxedo Mask falls… and that’s another cliffhanger. Quite a few of these aren’t there?
Volume 2, Act 9
The act opens with Sailor Moon rather distraught that Tuxedo Kamen is dying right in front of her, and memories of Endymion start flushing back to her.
Her grief cracks her tiara, and yes, in fact, she is Princess Serenity. The whole “Sailor Venus is the Princess” double-cross thing worked quite well for me. I’m surprised they didn’t use this for the anime to be honest.
This plan didn’t work so well. The should have probably guessed that Sailor Moon, not knowing she was the Princess, would try and sacrifice her life. Duh.
After a whoooole bunch of flashbacks to the Moon Kingdom, which all look nice, even if they’re not thrilling, the Ginzuishou appears before Princess Serenity from one of her tears.
We get weird flashes to other locations. There’s a kid at the hospital in pain, but suddenly he’s cured. A dying plant comes back to life. The Silver Crystal obviously has the power of resurrection, even if the act tells you in the clumsiest way possible.
This next bit is really interesting though.
The Ginzuishou seems to bring the Great Four generals back to life! The crispy corpses of Jadeite, Nephrite and Zoisite all seem to be healed, and Kunzite remembers that they were Prince Endymion’s sworn guard, until Queen Beryl enslaved their souls.
A really interesting development.
Despite his memories stirring, Kunzite still attakcs Sailor Moon, but now all he wants is Endymion. He steals his body, just like in Episode 35 or the anime.
The rest of the act is pretty simple, a bunch of talking and… a creepy shot of Mamoru’s melting skull in Usagi’s dreams. See, I told you, Naoko Takeuchi is fucking nuts.
After Usagi is depressed for a week, the girls turn up to cheer her up. After more angst (it’s actually a little annoying), Luna shuts Usagi up by suggesting they go to the Moon.
For me, this was the most interesting conclusion yet. How the heck are they getting to the goddamn Moon?
Volume 2, Act 10
I’ll tell you how the heck they are getting to the goddamn Moon:
There’s a lot of preamble of the girls getting ready. It’s fine, but nothing interesting particularly happens. By this time in the arc, I’m definitely of the opinion that the anime nailed a better narrative. Of course they had the advantage of adaptation.
The girls use Sailor Teleport (although they don’t call it that, and just float up into space rather than teleporting) and arrive at the Sea of Serenity.
It’s pretty awesome guys. It’s so hauntingly dead-looking. The artwork of sad, lonely ruins set against an endless void is fantastic.
Luna leads the Senshi towards the remains of a “Crystal Tower”, and the focus shifts to a stone with a sword wedged in it, a la Kind Arthur. Now this is different.
All the girls try to pull it out, but surprisingly it’s Sailor Venus who succeeds. This activates the teensy-weensy projection of Queen Serenity that we saw in Episode 44 of the series.
Now we see the entire inspiration for that episode. The difference is that it all makes sense in the manga, while it felt rushed and random in the anime. It would have been nice if the girls actually took a trip to the Moon in the anime, this arc would have look awesome. Maybe for the reboot, eh?
We get the Silver Millennium backstory again, but there’s a big difference this time. Whereas Princess Serenity was killed by Beryl and Metalia in the series, here…
Princess Serenity pulls a Juliet and stabs herself in the goddamn stomach with a goddamn sword. GODDAMN. I can see why they skipped over this in the anime…
…and that’s pretty much it for the Moon.
The act ends in the Dark Kingdom. Although in the previous act we saw the Ginzuishou reviving Jadeite, Nephrite and Zoisite, Kunzite is left holding only 3 stones. These appear to have been the generals’ state after getting a Moon Healing Escalation.
As it happens, Kunzite is aware that he’s Endymion’s man, and goes off to spy on Beryl to discover her plan. It… does not go well…
Beryl, fully aware Kunzite is not currently under her control, uses you know, Dark Energy and stuff, to take Kunzite over one last time.
Now with a fancy stone on his head (it’s probably made out of kunzite, silly), Kun-face starts freezing random people until Sailor Moon turns up. Even the frozen people have the same crispy-death look that Naoko Takeuchi loves. I liked it at first, but it’s just getting silly.
Sailor Moon saves the frozen people annnnnd… Kunzite and Sailor Moon start floating into space over the battle for the Ginzuishou. It’s pretty weird.
The other four Senshi combine powers to shatter Kunzite into dust.
Queen Beryl is left with the stone of Kunzite, perfectly not surprised that he lost. The power of this stone allows her to… resurrect Mamoru!
Well I had no idea he was dead to be honest.
Evil Mamoru look somewhat cooler than the evil Endymion of the series. He’s still pretty slimy, but in an interesting way. He waltzes straight into the arcade… DUN DUN DUUUUN another cliffhanger!
I actually liked this act quite a bit! Mainly for the Moon stuff. Kunzite STILL didn’t have a great death, but his confused persona made him far more interesting than in the anime. Another thing to explore in the reboot, guys!
Stay tuned in a few days for the last acts of the Dark Kingdom arc, or in the meantime checkout the previous blog entries in this series.