After literally years the Sailor Moon manga has returned to stores with a new translation, new artwork and a new look!
This new release of the Sailor Moon manga is based on the Japanese re-release that came out a few years back to coincide with the airing of the live action series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon on Japanese television.
In addition to creating all new covers for the manga, Naoko Takeuchi went back to redraw a lot of the interior pages, adding more detail to characters and items and even making some small edits to the text (though nothing that changed the story in any major way).
The chapters were also reorganised for these new volumes to create a more cohesive series. All of the short stories were removed from the regular story arcs and were collected in two separate manga volumes that were released after the main series was finished.
This English adaption contains all of these improvements and the artwork looks fantastic with no noticeable loss in quality with the transition.
This release is slightly larger than the Japanese manga though and instead of the slipcase cover we are given a regular one. This is hardly unusual though as all other English releases of manga series do the same.
A great motivator for picking up this release is the colour pages at the beginning of the volume though it must be said that they seem to have made a mistake during printing and have printed one of the black and white pages on a glossy page meant for colour artwork.
Despite this minor printing error that doesn't detract from the release at all, the Sailor Moon manga has never looked this good for English speaking readers and earns itself five stars for presentation.
Those Moonies who have only ever seen the Sailor Moon anime are in for a very nice surprise when they finally check out the manga. The story and characters are written with a lot more depth and important details that were excluded from the anime.
This first volume of the re-released Sailor Moon manga covers a lot of the first major story arc introducing the reader to Sailor Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and through several print and computer game cameos, Sailor V. Those expecting the filler pace of the anime may be shocked by just how fast the story progresses and how quickly enemies are defeated and new ones appear but this is actually a good thing as it leaves a lot more room for manga only plot and character developments later on.
Having said that it does feel as if some characters, particularly Sailor Mars and Naru aren't given the character moments they deserve in this volume and having personally read future volumes of the manga and seeing just how much Naoko Takeuchi's characterisation and pacing improves I'm going to give the story in this volume a three and a half out of five stars. This volume of Sailor Moon is good but it gets so much better!
One of the biggest fears myself and many other Sailor Moon fans had concerning this release was the possible mixing of Japanese phrases in the English translation which would have, in my opinion made the manga completely unreadable.
In the months building up to the re-release many fans noticed that the official product description on Amazon used the phrase "Sailor Senshi" (Japanese for "Sailor Soldier") and an article of new Sailor Moon merchandise used the Japanese name for Tuxedo Mask, "Tuxedo Kamen".
As soon as I received my copy of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon #1 one of the first things I did after filming and uploading my Sailor Moon #1 Unboxing Video was skim through and check for these possible changes.
Thankfully Tuxedo Mask is Tuxedo Mask and the girls refer to themselves as "Sailor Guardians" which is an acceptable interpretation of "Sailor Senshi" and matches the English title of the manga, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon which is also used on the Japanese manga covers.
Unfortunately while those involved in the adaption didn't mix those words they've randomly decided to throw in other Japanese words which could have easily been replaced with their English equivalent.
Makoto addresses her teacher as "Sensei" even though "Sir" could have been used or sensei removed completely without affecting the meaning of what she said (which was actually done in the original TokyoPop adaption), the characters refer to each other with Japanese honorifics even when it sounds completely unnatural in English.
Usagi's brother Shingo calls Luna "Kitty-chan" ("Kitty" would have been fine) and Luna refers to the princess they're looking for as "Princess-Sama" (which as many Moonies have pointed out seems highly redundant and even if the translator wanted to stick super close to the original meaning they could have used "Her Highness the Princess" or something similar).
What makes this more confusing (i.e. distracting for the reader) is when they randomly decide to translate similar phrases (are they keeping or translating them?) but do so so directly that it looks incredibly awkward. A prime example is Motoki who several characters call "Oni-san" (brother) in the original Japanese.
1) The translator doesn't include the "san" honorific which destroys any consistency they were trying to keep with their adaption. You can't pick and choose. Either you're keeping honorifics (which you shouldn't in a professional translation) or you're not.
2) It gets translated as "Bro!".... when said by Usagi. This not only breaks the characterisation of the character but also creates a very different impression for the reader than they would have gotten reading the original Japanese. Having Usagi yell out "Motoki!" would have actually been a lot more emotionally close to her yelling out "Oni-san!" in Japanese but due to some compulsion to have everything be so literally close to the original Japanese what we get on a very regular basis is lots of panels that are emotionally different from the original.
Ask any professional translator and they will tell you that sometimes it's necessary to change what is said to keep the original meaning. If you haven't already I highly recommend checking out this documentary on anime subbing (that you can watch for free on YouTube!). I very much agree 100% with the narrator's views on translation.
There also seems to be some very odd phrasing of dialogue that made me stop reading several times and wonder if this was even adapted by a native English speaker. Such gems as "I admit it myself, I'm a bit of a cry baby" (surely "I'll be the first to admit that I'm a bit of a cry baby" is more natural), "Ms Bump Head" (wtf) and Luna and Usagi's conversation about being nervous so you can get up in the morning (see pic) really boggle the mind.
And the less said about "Ai" / "Love" being mistranslated as "Beauty" in th first half of the book and then being read as "Love" in the second half the better.
There's also the occasional mistranslation that unintentionally makes Usagi, who is supposed to be your everyday 14 year old schoolgirl sound rather posh.
When she sees Tuxedo Mask leave for the first time, instead of whispering something along the lines of (from the Japanese "Suteki!") "He's so handsome!" we get a simple "How wonderful...!" and when she's kicked out of class due to being late, the original Japanese "Mo....." which is basically the equivalent of "Oh man!" or "This sucks!" gets interpreted as "Oh, honestly!".
I half expect her to start asking for tea and crumpets!
Here's a comparison of the page with a screencap of Miss Dream's scanlation of the manga. If fans who are doing this for free can get this right, surely the company who actually owns the series can do better! (the image of the official manga was taken as a photo and not scanned so don't compare image quality. ;) )
I do have to say that compared to previous translations of the Sailor Moon manga, this adaption does a much better job when it comes to plot and details though. Nothing is left out and everything is translated so fans shouldn't worry about getting any incorrect information with this release.
The unnatural dialogue though and the unnecessary and unprofessional inclusion of random honorifics affects it's readability massively though bringing my rating for the adaption down to two and a half stars out of five.
It is a good quality translation (the best English speaking Sailor Moon fans have had!) but it feels incomplete and rushed in so many ways and would have benefited greatly from an editor or proofreader before it's release. (The final page in the manga says the translator and the letterer were the only people involved in it's adaption!)
After literally years of waiting, the Sailor Moon manga is back in print! If you've never read the manga, I can't recommend it enough! The Sailor Moon manga has so many more characters, plot points and epic moments than the anime. It's not hard to see why many who have read it claim it to be their favourite form of the series.
Should you buy this re-release if you've already read, or still own, the original TokyoPop Sailor Moon manga? Absolutely yes! While there are obvious issues with the translation that could either drive you up the wall (like me) or leave you indifferent, the new artwork on almost all of the 237 pages, new colour pages and cover are definitely something you will want to see.
The Sailor Moon manga has never looked so good. Let's just hope that future volumes improve the reading experience too.
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