Codename: Sailor V Volume 1

Codename: Sailor V Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi

I’ve had Sailor Moon and Codename: Sailor V in my house for a week, but even though I’ve read them for some reason I am still having a hard time believing that they’re real. Since Sailor Moon has been the holy grail of out of print manga series, it just seems wonderfully surreal that this series is finally getting a decent omnibus style release with a new translation. Sailor V was the prototype series for Sailor Moon, and Sailor V appears in Sailor Moon at first as a shadowy mentor figure. So many of the storylines that are explored more fully in Sailor Moon are introduced in Codename: Sailor V, which might not have as much depth but is still fun.

Like most shoujo heroines, Mina (short for Minako) is an aggressively average student. She prefers athletics and nursing crushes on unobtainable boys to her schoolwork. Her life changes dramatically when she meets a talking cat named Artemis who informs her that she’s been chosen as a protector of Earth. Once she’s equipped with some magical accessories she announces what she has become, “Champion of Justice! The Pretty Guardian in a Sailor Suit! Sailor Venus has arrived!” One of the things that I enjoy about magical girl manga is that although there’s certainly an element of makeover fantasy in the transformations, part of story also is all about power. When Mina transforms for the first time she says “I feel liberated! I’m overflowing with power! I’m struck with the urge to act!”

Unfortunately for Mina, the action she’s presented with gets repetitive. There seems to be an unending supply of demonic idol singers who are out to enslave the Japanese populace and feed off their energy, and Sailor V must battle all of them. In this way, Codename: Sailor V resembles a very simple shonen manga, except for the battles here are always needing to involve lots of cosplay and battle cries instead of actual punching. Still, there are flashes of humor on display that make the overall experience of reading the book a lot of fun. Mina seems to be very protective of governmental regulations, as when she’s battling one of her many rounds of evil idol singers she remarks that brainwashing is bad and “these are horrendous business practices and the Japanese Tax Office will not stand for it!” Later on when she’s talking to her mysterious boss about an enemy she encounters during a vacation she flies into action after the comment “I don’t know who he is, but I do sense a deep-seated grudge regarding Hawaii.” People with grudges regarding Hawaii must be punished!

One of the things that enlivens Codename: Sailor V is the supporting cast. As Sailor V grows in notoriety she is starting to get noticed by the police. The female Inspector General nurses her crush on V with giant posters in her office, and she arbitrarily orders around her more skeptical male sidekick. Mina gets an eye rolling reaction from one of her enemies to her proclaimed title of “Pretty Guardian.” I tend to grade magical girl shoujo for what it is. If there’s humor, costume changes, and a little bit of action I’m a satisfied reader. While I don’t think that Codename: Sailor V has all the elements that made Sailor Moon such a long and successful series, it was fun getting a glimpse of Sailor Moon’s origin and more of the origin of Sailor V.

Papillon Volume 5/6

Papillon Volume 5/6 by Miwa Ueda

I was happy to see signs of life in Kodansha’s North American arm with the recent summer lineup, but I was a little disappointed that the only ongoing Kodansha title that I actively purchase was left off the list. I’ve slacked off on getting Tsubasa and xxxHolic just because they seem to have gotten so weighed down by continuity. Wallflower is so episodic that I don’t feel like I’m missing much if I skip volumes, and while I enjoyed the first few volumes of Nodame Cantible, I haven’t gotten back into collecting that series. Papillon is pure trashy fun.

As I was reading this omnibus volume I was struck with how addicting Ueda makes this series despite the fact that none of her characters are sympathetic. Nice girl Ageha may be the heroine, but she’s essentially spineless and prone to collapsing under the weight of her own drama. Ageha’s twin Hana has a myriad of psychological issues that lead her to dress up as her sister to see if her boyfriends will fall for her twin, and she’s now trying to steal Ageha’s boyfriend away. Ageha’s boyfriend Ichijiku is a guidance counselor in training who somehow finds it appropriate to date a high schooler even though he might be trying to help build up her self-confidence. If the ending of Papillon involved the main characters dying in a fiery bus crash, I would not be all that disappointed. Yet Ueda’s soap opera makes me want to keep reading.

Ageha starts a part-time summer job at a restaurant where Hana’s ex-boyfriend Shinobu Shindo happens to be working. Shinobu used to have a crush on Ageha too, but when he told her about his feelings she thought he was teasing her. Hana confesses her feelings to Ichijiku and he rejects her. Then Ageha talks to Ichikiku in guidance counselor mode, telling him all about Shinobu without realizing that her new co-worker might inspire feelings of jealousy in her boyfriend. Angst and misunderstandings abound, and Hana start to act even more reprehensible than before when she disguises herself as Ageha and attempts to seduce Ichijiku. Meanwhile, a woman from Ichijiku’s past makes a sudden return, bringing yet another set of psychological problems for him and Ageha to deal with.

Ageha begins to show vague signs of self-awareness as she begins to analyze her own behavior. She actually helps Ichijiku with some of his problems, instead of being her usual flailing and helpless self. Hana keeps acting out so much, I am really hoping that she gets hit by a meteorite and dies. I hope that Kodansha decides to wrap up this series because even though I doubt my hopes of fiery death will be satisfied, I do want to see what happens next.