Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon the Manga: The Black Moon Arc, Pt. 1
Now that I’ve completed the anime reviews of Sailor Moon R, it’s time to take a look at the manga volumes that the series was based upon. I’ll be looking at volumes 15 – 26 of the Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon manga chunk by chunk. As with the Dark Kingdom story arc, I shan’t be looking too in-depth , but generally looking at the quality of the manga’s art and story, how it diverges from the anime, and how we might reinterpret events in the anime with this expanded backstory.
Today we’re reading Acts 15 & 16. I know, I know, only 2 acts in a single post. I’m terrible at this.
It’s difficult to obtain the Sailor Moon manga here in the UK in print. I have myself imported the original Japanese manga volumes, but I’m working off these handy scanlations from Miss Dream, which I thoroughly recommend reading.
First of all, I should tell you that at least once per Act, I threw my hands up in the air and screamed a “WTF” to the Gods. There is quite a bit of difference from the anime. Some differences are to the manga’s advantage, other differences… well I can see why they adapted it differently for the anime.
Act 15 – Permeation – Sailor Mars
When we last left Usagi and Mamoru at the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, Queen Metallia had been vanquished, all was happy in the world and our favourite couple were rudely interrupted in a romantic scene by a little girl falling from the sky and whipping out a pistol. A typical day for Usagi then.
The same gags appear here as they did in the anime. Chibi-Usa demands the Ginzuishou, then her toy gun scares the crap out of Usagi. I like how this is drawn – the similarities between Usagi and Chibi-Usa re even more evident without colour, and Takeuchi draws frightened-to-death brilliantly.
We start diverging from the anime storyline at once, flipping over to Dimande and the Black Moon. It’s interesting to see him earlier on, good that they’re establishing the antagonists early. I like them chugging wine in celebration and hubris.
Rubeus and The Phantom Sisters (or Crimson Rubeus and The Strange Sisters to be accurate to the manga) areindeed the first evil-doers to go hunt for the Ginzuishou and The Rabbit in the past, but there’s something markedly different about this…
…mainly that the Strange Sisters are totally fucking evil. This is so weird to me as one who always saw theirs as a path of redemption in the anime.
We get the scene of Usagi and Mamoru finding Chibi-Usa in a park, and Mamoru sensing a premonition when he touches Chibi-Usa. I’m glad to say that they explain this premonition much better in the manga than in the anime, where it was all some weird devious plot by future King Endymion. We’ll get to that later.
When Usagi inevitably takes Chibi-Usa home, in a completely bizarre and random move, Umino is in the house too. He’s reduced to being a doodle in the corner of the room, but he’s there, hanging out with Usagi’s dad. Just wanted to point out how weird it was.
I’m not sure why, but when Usagi shouted at Chibi-Usa in the anime, it seemed childish, petty, touching and rather funny. In the manga, it seems… rather hostile and scary. This is a feeling that I think Takeuchi really embellished in a later arc.
Usagi’s friends are just as apathetic of Chibi-Usa’s appearance as in the anime. I particularly love a throw-away joke by Rei here. Made me chuckle heartily.
As in the first story arc, upgrades to the powers of the Sailor Senshi are provided, rather anticlimactically, by Luna and Artemis, who merely hand over new transformation pens. The anime certainly knew how to draw this out and slap some drama on it.
We meet a couple of new characters suddenly, as though Takeuchi wanted to rush through them. One is Unazuki, Motoki-Arcade-Douche’s little sister, who we’ll meet soon in Sailor Moon S.
Well. I fucking hate this guy.
I didn’t know I could revile a Sailor Moon character more than Motoki, but this random Asanuma creep is such a whiny, brown-nosing gimp, so lacking in personality, that it’s astounding how many scenes he gets in the manga. More than that, his romantic engagement… well, I’ll explode over that later. Suffice it to say that the anime was spot on when they executed him off-screen.
Just for now, know that it’s Asanuma’s proud desire to become Mamoru (and stalk him), and that it’s the manga’s desire to make the reader like him. Which you shouldn’t.
Rei, it transpires, is being pressured into joining the supernatural society at T.A. School for Girls by another reoccurring and bland character Kotonoe, and we get another bland introduction. I think this is Naoko Takeuchi’s effort to world build, but all these new people we don’t care about just cloud the narrative.
There’s much talk of UFOs from Kotonoe, and this rather 90s X-Filesy vibe. Whereas the anime sort of touched upon the sci-fi to make it interestingly weird, this really does feel like a Mulder and Scully case.
Koan turns up at the school as a rival fortune teller to Rei. She has none of the flare, moxie or threat as her anime counterpart. As we’ll see, she’s little more than cannon fodder.
Here’s how I knew that Koan would never be redeemed as she was in the anime: Rei has a psychic dream about Koan burning a fucking kid to death. Yeah, there’s no turning back from that. I like that the anime reflected this by having Koan have no qualms about burning Chibi-Usa alive, but I also loved her vulnerability.
Here she’s just a psychopath.
This next bit gets pretty weird. Rei and Koan have a bit of a stand off at the T.A. Girls festival, with Koan being generally mean to people, then Rei spots a nun with a Black Moon crescent on her head…
And then the nun explodes.
I have to admit I didn’t see that coming.
This is never fully explained either, or perhaps I just didn’t get it. Either way, Rei transforms and fights Koan, and then promptly loses. Takeuchi has always been pretty shoddy when it came to action scenes, but this is a bit of a mess.
I think Mars gets engulfed in Koan’s evil flames, Mercury turns up and freezes Koan with Shine Aqua Illusion, and then Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen create a new rod out of their love which she uses to flat our murder Koan.
That sounds pretty sexy, I know, but this scene was transposed to Sailor Moon S of the anime instead of R. Glad to see they continued to draw from parts of the manga they missed.
I can’t believe Koan lasted a single Act.
Anyway, Moon Princess Halation, Sailor Moon’s new attack, does nothing to help Mars, and Rubeus turns up to kidnap her, taking Sailor Mars back to Nemesis.
Woah. She’s, like, properly gone. This has been such a divergence of the anime so far, at this point I have no clue where the story is going. It’s interesting. I can’t say I’m hooked, but it’s certainly an interesting direction.
Act 16 – Abduction – Sailor Mercury
Hey. You know who doesn’t deal well with her friends getting kidnapped? Sailor Moon, that’s who. After screaming a bit, Usagi turns on Chibi-Usa, accusing her of having something to do with Sailor Mars. Again, she’s really creepy in how she approaches Chibi-Usa.
It transpires that Chibi-Usa flat out has the future Ginzuishou around her neck. The entire mysterious energy thread from the anime is completely gone here. I liked the fact that no one had any idea, not even Chibi-Usa, what happened to the Ginziushou. Made it more mysterious.
In the show, Chibi-Usa was annoying to Usagi, but she only ever made her truly mad the once – and I feel it was a complete misstep. She’s almost about to hit Chibi=Usa here too. Usagi’s realisation that she’s a horrible person in this moment is a rather interesting character development, but it makes me like her less as a character right now.
But at least she realised it herself instead of having to be stopped by Tuxedo Kamen, as in the anime, which is flat out insulting.
Luna eventually finds Chibi-Usa herself, and gets Mamoru to come and pick her up. Luna and Mamoru have almost zero interaction in the anime, so it’s really interesting and heart-warming to see them converse. In fact, Mamoru has almost no relationship with the other Senshi outside of his early relationship with Rei.
The scene with Chibi-Usa and Mamoru is incredibly sweet, and Chibi-Usa comes off even more vulnerable and innocent, making Usagi’s earlier outburst even more out of proportion. Yikes.
At the Crown video arcade, we learn that Motoki, the arcade douche, completely remembers the fact that Usagi and her friends are Sailor Senshi, and is completely cool with it. What the fuck!? They’re so cavilere with their secret identities here. And with Motoki, such a bland character (who looks remarkably like that other boring guy Asanuma).
As soon as Ami begins describing how to play chess, I can see what’s coming.
There’s a lot of talk here about a quiet invasion of aliens, of already being infiltrated. It gives a creepy vibe that was definitely absent from the anime, but it’s also rather dull.
We then get quite a few pages of Ami and Makoto returning to T.A. Girls’ School to investigate the whole exploding-nun-thing… and it goes nowhere.
Even worse, we get an entire scene from Asanuma’s perspective, of him astutely realising that Usagi et al. are hiding a secret (you may be perceptive, I still hate you). He also recalls a time when he saw Mamoru heal a bad graze on his arm with magic. The only interesting thing to come out of all this is that Mamoru is developing explicit powers.
In the anime, all he ever did was throw roses and whack stuff. I like that Mamoru is gaining powers of healing, of sensing emotions, intentions, memories and auras from his touch. It’s very cool, and I can’t believe this was absent from the show.
We get the sense of balance from the Black Moon generals next. Saphir is impertinent but honest to his brother Dimande. Rubeus (who we never saw interact with Dimande in the anime) is super devoted to his prince. Seeing him kiss Dimande’s cloak is rather funny.
We also see that the next Strange Sister is, in fact, Berthier. She looks a lot less ditzy than in the show.
There’s an entire bizarre scene with Ami at school next. There’s a problem with a faucet, so she uses her powers to dowse where the break in the pipe is… And then Berthier turns up to criticise her? This is all so weird and pointless.
Berthier’s next step in drawing out Sailor Mercury is to literally call her out on national TV – she goes on live as the “No. 3 International Chess Player” to challange Mizuno Ami personally. This is so weird. And I thought the Chess Tower tournament from the anime episode was bizarre.
The chess match lasts about 2 panels before everyone just says “fuck it” and transforms.
Sailor Mercury starts running after Berthier through the streets, but she’s attacked by some rather crappy-looking mannequins. These are, in fact “Droids”. Remember all the cool and stylish monsters-of-the-week from Sailor Moon R? Yeah, this is what they’re reduced to.
This time it’s Sailor Mercury’s turn to be trapped by a Strange Sister. Just like before, Sailor Moon kills Berthier in such an anti-climatic and downstated manner that it’s hard to realise she’s been killed at all.
And then just like Mars, Mercury is abducted.
I have to say, Takeuchi drags this abduction out for a while. Mars and Mercury (and Jupiter next time) are missing from a big middle chunk of this manga arc. It’s actually a rather interesting high-stakes plot, but at the same time there’s something not terribly interesting about all this.
I think Takeuchi is great at character design and general story, but as far as plot details, pacing and writing goes, she’s beaten by the anime.
That being said, they reduced the Sailor Senshi’s abduction down into a single moment in the show. It wasn’t the greatest of episodes, and I think they could have done an amazing job of adapting these separate abductions into different episodes.
This arc ends with Takeuchi’s hilarious little comics about her creative process. It’s all brilliant and interesting, especially the doodles of her kicking her editor in the face.
I also like Makoto’s creative backstory, that she was originally going to be the leader and smoke cigarettes. A missed opportunity there to be sure!
Next time, Arc 17: Makoto makes terrible decisions, gets attacked by an evil clone.