Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bite Sized Manga Reviews #4 - Princess Power

Titles Reviewed:
Codename Sailor V #1
Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch #1
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon #1

Earlier this week I started posting my availability during PMX and Comikaze so that I can start planning shoots. To my surprise, I have a bunch of people requesting me to do photoshoots right off the bat. I noticed that in the past I used to be the 2nd tier photographer that people would go to for shoots once the other (busier) photographers are filled up. I guess my star must be rising in the cosplay photography world if I have become the first tier photographer that people are requesting, or it could just be my imagination.

Slather yourself with sugary goodness as this slate of Bite Sized Manga Reviews focuses on three manga with strong princesses. We have the silly adventures of Sailor Venus in Nakao Takeuchi's Codename Sailor V. Experience the romantic troubles of a magical girl mermaid in Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch. On the tail end of the reviews is the return of the King (princess?), in the classic manga Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon.

Codename Sailor V #1
Published by: Kodansha USA
Cost: $10.99

Codename Sailor V is about two characters, Minako Aino and her talking white cat Artemis. Minako is the long-haired tomboy, she gets in fights, eats a lot, is interested in the latest idols, plays the latest video games, and isn't the smartest girl. Her daily life is changed when she meets Artemis, a talking white cat who gives her a compact and reveals that she is Sailor Venus, princess of Venus and a guardian of Earth. Minako has got to be one of the easiest characters to relate to on some level in a manga series. She is extremely beautiful, but she is very flawed. Her laziness and her desire to live a normal life is easy to relate to. She reads like every otaku's dream girl since she has a strong sense of justice, loves video games (and happens to be good at it), and has a great zest for life. Atermis is unfortunately stuck playing the straight man to all of Minako's silly adventures. He is part mentor, part friend, and part sarcastic narrator. The interaction between Minako and Artemis is what drives the story and the character development within Codename Sailor V, and they pull the series along very well.

Unlike its other manga sibling, Nakao Takeuchi's Sailor V was written before Sailor Moon, during Sailor Moon, and after Sailor Moon. Sailor V was a sort of side project for Nakao Takeuchi as she told the story of Sailor Venus before she joined the Sailor Scouts in Sailor Moon. The manga is one volume, but it has years worth of development in character design in one package. Her design of Sailor V improves over the course of a volume. In today's standards the art may be a little simple and crude, but it takes a chapter or so to get used to the manga's art style. Takeuchi has this incredible talent to draw some gorgeous intricate character art, only to have some very crudely drawn super deformed characters the next page and make it work on some level. Due to the project being a side story about Sailor Venus, the manga does feel disjointed since there is no main narrative holding the manga together. It is both a positive and a negative since it could be picked up and enjoyed from any chapter, but the lack of a strong narrative also locks potential readers out who desire a strong story to hold it together. One of my favorite chapters in the volume was the chapter on Minako's misadventures in an Arcade, where she tried beating someone's score in the arcade, only to incur the wrath of the gamers in there. It was brilliant social commentary about the inclusive nature of hardcore fans, yet it was done in a package that was funny. That mark's the strength of Sailor V, many of her adventures lampoon teenage life, otaku community, and even the magical girl genre.

Positives
  • Interaction between Minako and Artemis
  • Brilliant social commentary about Otaku culture
  • Easy to pick up and enjoy a chapter
Negatives
  • Lack of a strong, cohesive structure
  • Manga art takes some getting used to
  • Monster of the week storyline

Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch #1
Published by: Del Rey Manga/ Kodansha USA
Cost: $10.99 

Pichi Pichi Pitch is about a new girl in town, she runs a popular bath, has an easygoing personality, and can easily talk to the hottest guy in school. She does have a little problem, she is a mermaid princess in search of a pearl she gave away as a child. With forces disrupting the 7 mermaid kingdoms, she has to deal with saving the oceans while dealing with romance and friendship. Mermaid melody follows the adventures of Princess Lucia and the friends she makes along the way. Lucia has three forms, she has a human form walking on the world, when splashed with water she transforms into a mermaid, then when activating her pearl she transforms into a Japanese pop star. Yes, you read it correctly, she transforms into a JPOP artist to use the power of music. It would be nice to be there when they can up with that brilliant idea. Silly premise aside, Lucia and the gang are likable and fun to read. Her main love interest is Kaito, a male tsundere character. He fell in love with her mermaid form as a young boy, but he can't imagine the spacy (human) Lucia as the girl he fell in love with. The character designs are nice, the girls are rather buxom, but that is believable since the main female cast are all mermaids. As a magical girl series, I think that Mermaid Melody: Pichi Pichi Pitch follows the formula way too close to the Sailor Moon template. The first couple of chapters are her getting her teammates to defeat evil. They even seem to follow the character patterns in Sailor Moon well, with Lucia being the spacy lead character, Hanon being the smart down to earth girl, and Rina being the cool beauty. At least introduce the characters in a different way so that it can spice things up a bit. The character designs are great and the cast is likable, but other than that the series has many flaws.

Positives
  • Great Chararcter design
  • Likable cast
Negaives
  • Follows the Sailor Moon Template too much
  • Transform into JPOP artists, really?
  • Aimed at a very narrow demographic
  • Villains are not exactly memorable

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon #1
Published by: Kodansha USA
Cost: $10.99

When Sailor Moon came out it revolutionized a genre and caused many imitators (like the series directly above it). It was considered by many to be the first anime or manga to get them into the hobby. Its historical influence in the world of anime and manga cannot be understated, it forever changed how an entire generation viewed anime and manga. In the United States, Tokyopop first licensed the manga and released it under the MIXX label. Even with the confusing localization and poor paper quality it would become the first manga to sell a million copies in the United States. Does this manga stand up to the test of time?

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon is a story that most anime or manga fans know about, but if you don't know I will go over it in some detail. Sailor Moon follows the adventures of Usagi Tsukino. She is lazy, loves games, does bad in school, and rather live a normal life. Usagi is pushed into becoming a magical girl when her best friend's life is in danger. There she meets a handsome stranger named Tuxedo Mask who is looking for the legendary silver crystal. On the way she recruits Ami, Rei, and Makoto. Ami is Sailor Mercury, a super genius with an obscenely high IQ. Rei is Sailor Mars, a man-hating beautiful girl who has an uncanny ability to sense spirits. Makoto is Sailor Jupiter, a tall, buxom girl who people peg as strong and vicious, but she really is a kind and gentle girl. With these three other girls, Usagi tries to find the princess and the legendary silver crystal.

Sailor Moon is a classic manga because the manga is almost 20 years old and yet it is still as easy to relate to and enjoy. All the characters in Sailor Moon are likable, it is one of the first manga I read years ago where I enjoyed the interactions of the main cast. The manga art is simple, but it is really easy to get used to. Nakao Takeuchi has this elegant style that is very iconic, so it has aged gracefully compared to most of the manga made in Sailor Moon's time period. Sailor Moon moves very fast, with the a majority of the inner sailor scouts introduced by chapter 5. Unlike many superhero stories, Sailor Moon's adventures is not to save people, but rather to search for someone and something, saving people on the way. It just so happens that Sailor Moon and the villains are searching for the same thing, so they clash many times in search of this common object. Usagi is the perfect female lead because she is so imperfect, on some level we can relate to her because she has lots of flaws, yet in the blink of an eye she is given so much responsibility. Kodansha's English translation is wonderful, it really does capture Sailor Moon very well. The beauty of Sailor Moon is that it was a manga that was primarily aimed towards girls, but it had many elements of shonen manga that make it easy for a man to relate to it since it is full of action and had shonen themes of loyalty, friendship, and honor. The manga is a classic, and it deserves to be in the pedestal that changed how a generation viewed anime and manga.

Positives
  • The cast of Sailor Moon
  • Moves very fast
  • Elegant, gorgeous artstyle
  • Wonderful Kodansha Translation
  • Appeals across many demographics
Negatives
  • IQ of 300? Someone should have done more research
  • 20 years old, yet no one has topped them in the magical girl genre

1 comment:

Alicia said...

Great review!!! I hope that Sailor Moon #2 is coming soon.