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Sailor V #1
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Since the beginning of Sailor Moon fandom, Moonies have longed for an English language release of the Codename Sailor V manga! Finally after all these years it's here! Does it meet expectations?
As with the new Sailor Moon manga, this release of the Codename Sailor V manga uses the newly remastered Japanese editions which feature new covers and visually improved interior artwork on almost every page that was redrawn by Naoko Takeuchi herself.
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As impressed as I am with the presentation of this release I'm going to have to remove a star due to some serious visual issues that affect it's presentation due to the adaption which I'll discuss later in this review.
I have always been a fan of the Sailor V manga since way before reading this English language release. For the uninitiated, Sailor V follows the story of Minako Aino, an ordinary schoolgirl who is awoken by a mysterious white talking cat, Artemis and becomes the super crime fighting heroine, Sailor V (she also goes by her true name Sailor Venus though calls herself "Sailor V" as a kind of cool abbreviation or "Codename").
If this story sounds similar to Sailor Moon it's because Sailor Moon was actually written after this Sailor V began publication (though the Sailor V manga, while entirely set before the events in Sailor Moon, actually originally continued publication until after Sailor Moon had finished).
Despite the similarities between the two series there are some nice aspects that set it a part. For one, while Sailor Moon is more about gathering a team and completing a mission, Sailor V is for all intents and purposes focused almost exclusively on Minako which allows a lot more time for character development concerning herself and her supporting characters.
We're given some awesome information concerning the series mythology that may surprise newcomers such as her having her own castle orbiting the planet Venus (something that isn't brought up again until much later in the Sailor Moon manga) and the revelation that there is someone in charge of Artemis called "Boss" (for more on "Boss", click here). I also enjoyed the attention to detail as seen in explaining that her compact recharges itself in the moonlight and it was great to see Sailor V doing actual "crimefighting" and helping the average person as opposed to in Sailor Moon where the battles are much more epic. That's not to say that the battles in Sailor V aren't big though. There's some very interesting and fun baddies here that, dare I say it, are more interesting to read than Queen Beryl and her lackeys and it's fantastic to see Sailor V be given a variety of attacks that are visually different from one another.
Another pleasant surprise is the variety of locations seen in this volume. While we do visit the typical Sailor Moon locations in Tokyo, readers are given a special treat when the story takes a more global turn in the second half of the volume as several characters head to Hawaii and Greece in a chapter that literally had me laughing out loud.
I really can't fault the story in this first volume of Codename Sailor V at all. It has a perfect combination of humour, drama, characterisation, action and mystery with perfect pacing. The story is definitely deserving of a full score.
As with the first volume of the Sailor Moon manga, Codename Sailor V #1 has similar issues with awkward dialogue. While the nice pacing of the story actually helps lessen the impact of the English adapted script there are still several instances that affect the reading experience such as the inclusion of dated English phrases such as "putting on airs", a phrase that I had never heard before that forced me to ask my followers on Twitter and Facebook for it's meaning.
Turns out it basically means "acting high and mighty" and is considered old fashioned English normally spoken by our grandparents' generation or posh people. The fact that myself and about 50% of people I asked didn't know what it meant is one problem with the script (Why not use "They're acting all high and mighty" or "They think they're better than us", etc) but the other is that it's used my Minako (a 14 year old Japanese schoolgirl) and a tough gang member! Apparently the two characters are so similar in personality that they speak the same and they both like to use phrases spoken by people in two generations their senior.
The mixing of Japanese phrases in the English adaption returns once again with a lack of useful translation notes to help non-Japanese speakers navigate this English language release. Even if you know your "chan", "san" and "sensei" other phrases that the average reader wouldn't know such as "sempai" and "hime" remain untranslated while "Oniisan" gets awkwardly translated as "Bro" once again.
The selection of which words to translate seems completely random depending on what chapter you're reading. For example "hime" is translated as "princess" (as it should be) in Sailor Moon #1 yet here it remains "hime" concerning the character "Shizuka Hime Dark" which could easily have been translated as "Princess Shizuka Dark" or even "Dark Princess Shizuka".
Even if you like the inclusion of Japanese words in your manga, you have to admit the lack of consistency and quality is hard to ignore. "Luga" is "Lurga", "Ai" once again is "Beauty" instead of "Love" and there are odd ":"s added to Sailor V's special attacks where none existed in the original Japanese and don't exist for the attacks in the English version of Sailor Moon.
If you can look past these issues, the overall plot is translated well and nothing seems to have been censored (unless you count characters using childish phrases like "Dummy!", "Daddy!" and "Mommy!") which would have earned this issue a 3 1/2 stars for the adaption. Unfortunately there are some other issues that are present here that didn't exist in the re-release of the Sailor Moon manga.
Many fans have speculated that these releases were rushed and there is some pretty good evidence to support this in Sailor V where readers can see some of the original Japanese text (I'm not talking about the sound effects) half-arsed deleted in the speech bubbles. An example is on page 24 in the lower left hand bubble (you can see the kanji) and the top right bubble (the "." from a Japanese "?" is sitting in the bottom of the bubble, though I will admit this "." is not a big issue).
A better example of how rushed the lettering was is seen on page 166 with the text on the clock which has been embedded directly over the Japanese text without it being removed. (Those squiggly lines next to "right now" are the Japanese writing.)
There's also some rather obvious typos that I just picked up on during my first casual read through of the manga such as "You're always up go no good." on page 112 and "Their odorous!" on page 180. Both of these could have been caught before publication if more care was given to releasing a quality product.
Add to this the continuing strange sound effects (i.e. schoolgirls screaming "KYYYAAAAA!!!" at a sexy guy and then "KYYYAAA!!!!" when they're being attacked, "CROWWWD", "GRATCH", "GAMPH" and "SNFF") and I really can't give it a good score for adaption.
Keep in mind that this takes into account the lettering, publishing and everything else involved in the English language adaption in addition to the translation for Japanese to English.
I am a massive Sailor Moon fan and an even bigger Sailor V fan. Nothing would make me happier than to give this English language adaption of the manga a five star rating. In fact that's what I would give the original Japanese release. However with the awkward dialogue, distracting sound effects, unprofessional honorifics, grammar mistakes and rushed graphic work I find it hard to believe that anyone, no matter how big a fan they are, would give this release a 100% positive review. In fact I would assume that the bigger a fan is the more picky they would be with an adaption.
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With this in mind I would like to say that I am not one of those fans who thinks it's impossible to release a manga that will be equal to the Japanese original. While I own and enjoy my Japanese versions of the manga and anime, I am not at all a purist. In fact I'm actually as big a fan of the DiC version of the Sailor Moon anime as I am of the uncut original Japanese versions.
All I ask for in an English language adaption, Sailor Moon or not, is the same artwork as the original (which we get thankfully and it looks fantastic!) and a script that sounds completely natural to an English speaker that has been checked for spelling, grammar and print errors and has a consistent quality throughout.
Codename Sailor V #1 is a must read for Sailor Moon and Sailor V fans though unfortunately this release does not give fans the quality release that they deserve.
Kodansha really needs to spend more time on creating a quality product rather than depending on fans' desire to own the Sailor V and Sailor Moon manga if they want the rest of their releases to sell as many as these first two have.
(not an average)
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