by Naoko Takeuchi
While I wait for my copy of Sailor Moon Vol. 7 to arrive, I thought I would take a look back at Codename Sailor V, a series that takes place before the events of Sailor Moon. Minako Aino is an athletic young woman who is clever and quick on her feet, but academically challenged. One day, a white cat appears and tells her she has been chosen to protect the Earth from danger, so he gives her a magical compact that allows her to transform into Sailor V, the warrior with the power and beauty of the goddess Venus! (But she’s dressed a sailor suit. That’s weird! Well, I guess Venus did come from the sea, if we believe artists like Botticelli…) Although she wants to live a normal life, playing video games and chasing idols, Minako reluctantly embraces her new persona as she discovers that being Tokyo’s newest superhero can be an awful lot of fun.
If all of this sounds familiar, don’t be surprised – at first glance, the first chapters both Sailor V and Sailor Moon are virtually interchangeable. (In fact, Usagi Tsukino does make a cameo in this comic, and after the third volume of Codename Sailor V Minako will migrate over to the Sailor Moon comic as Sailor Venus.) But Minako and Usagi, despite their initial similarities – blonde, ditzy, below-average students who like to eat and sleep – are actually pretty different girls. Minako is very athletic, which has given her confidence and the fortitude to take on new challenges. She’s a proud tomboy who doesn’t cry or show weakness. When presented with the chance to be a superhero, Minako is not a reluctant fighter. She goes above and beyond her duty to defend the Earth from the Dark Agency. Sailor V will intervene whenever she sees a miscarriage of justice, be it kids bullying smaller children or feuding takoyaki vendors at a street fair. After a few chapters, Sailor V is even taunting the police when she captures criminals faster than they can. Minako’s a cocky thirteen year old kid who has just been handed magical powers, and she’s having fun with it. From the start, I find her much more likeable than her lunar counterpart.
But there’s no denying that Sailor V is an extremely formulaic story. After the introductory chapter, it seems like every chapter goes the same way: Minako is obsessed with the current trendy idol, who – shock of shocks! – always turns out to be the villain of the month. Minako disguises herself to get close to the idol, and then transforms and defeats them after a short, preachy speech and a V Kick! to the head. It’s predictable, and while I doubt the younger audience for whom this book was intended would care, it is definitely noticeable to an adult.
The other thing that struck me as a little odd was that in Naoko Takeuchi’s universe, nerds exist to be picked on. This is first exhibited when competition over a video game score at an arcade leads to a battle between a game-obsessed otaku and Sailor V. Granted, the nerd is a misogynist horrified that girls are daring to invade the game center, so seeing him get smacked down is pretty funny. A few pages later, though, and Minako’s at it again, sweet-talking a bespectacled friend of hers to loan her a popular video game. She’s always insulting the guy, but he just smiles and sinks back into his tech-centric little world. In one of the final chapters, a nerdy man fails to win a trip to Hawaii because Sailor V pushes him out of line. His brother (a police officer who tries to capture V throughout the book) convinces him to just buy the trip anyway, using all his savings. His luck continues to deteriorate – at the airport, Minako mistakes his intentions and calls him a pervert. He follows Minako onto the wrong flight and ends up in Greece instead of Hawaii. While they’re at the Parthenon, a big piece of rock falls and hits him on the head…I mean, the poor guy just exists for the universe to kick around! Individually, the stories are all clichés of the genre, but these otaku-types never get a moment of glory. I just feel bad for them.
Anyway. So while I think that Minako is an energetic heroine who can definitely carry her own title, Codename Sailor V just isn’t that great of a story. I would be very curious to learn just how much of Sailor Moon was planned when this story began running in 1991. It seems as if the seeds of Sailor Moon were embedded in V’s story from the very beginning, but if that were the case I don’t know why Takeuchi wouldn’t have just started with Usagi’s story. Does anyone know of an interview with the author where she discusses the origin of the two series? I’d really like to know.
3 out of 5 stars
To read more about Codename Sailor V, Vol. 1, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.
Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Mary Boleyn: The Mistress of Kings by Alison Weir
2010: Children of the Lamp: The Akhenaten Adventures by P. B. Kerr
2009: A Prisoner of Versailles by Golden Parsons
2008: The Hunt for the Seventh by Christine Morton-Shaw