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.