Sailor Moon #5
Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.co.jp
Barnes & Noble.com
Not a 5 star release.
As with the previous releases the cover looks amazing and pops more than the original Japanese cover. Sailor Venus looks fantastic and there's a great use of tones and colours which offer a surprising amount of variety in all the oranges and yellows in her character design.
While the cover impresses, the interior pages unfortunately do not. At least twenty pages suffered from some rather serious smudging and while I could still read the text, it wasn't easy.
Normally I wouldn't let something like this affect the score as more often than not, this sort of thing is normally a one-off. After asking fellow Moonies on Twitter and Facebook though, I was shocked to see that out of the forty or so people that replied about 3/4 of them had smudging in their copy with several suffering from severe smudging that made entire pages illegible. In addition to this, a few fans who work in book stores also informed me that they had gotten entire shipments of this volume with page smudging.
Pretty much every volume of this Sailor Moon re-release has had printing issues but this is the first time that these issues have been so wide spread and affected the majority of readers that it wouldn't be right not to mention them in a review.
I'm sure future printings will (hopefully) be smudge free. But for now it's about time that Kodansha invested in better quality printing for one of their biggest franchises.
Something else worth mentioning is that despite being advertised as coming with translation notes, there are none whatsoever in this volume.
This volume sees the conclusion of the Sailor Moon manga's second major story arc. It's certainly very dramatic with a lot of plot progression but for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, fails to excite me.
It's really strange as one would think that any story involving time travel, death, awakening of a new Sailor Guardian and Tuxedo Mask being hypnotised to be with his own future daughter would be riveting but all of these events seem to happen with very little emotional resonance with the main focus being on plot progression and conclusion rather than character development.
It really is surprising as the first half of this arc (in volumes 3 and 4) seemed to be all about character development with entire chapters devoted to giving more time to Sailors Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus. Even Tuxedo Mask was given some good character moments in the previous volume as he tried to deal with not being as strong as his love, Sailor Moon but due to circumstances here is all but removed from the main events along with Mercury, Mars, and Jupiter.
Sailor Venus is around but is demoted to moral support with Luna and Artemis (who seem to have accepted the fact that they have a daughter in the future rather quickly). Even Chibi Usa (strangely written as "Chibi-Usa") who made the dramatic transformation into the adult Black Lady at the climax of the previous volume is strangely underused here despite her awakening towards the end.
Thankfully the mysterious Sailor Pluto is given some great character moments as she deals with her duty, her solitary lifestyle and surprising possible romantic feelings towards the future Tuxedo Mask and upon completion of this volume, all of her moments stand out as the most memorable and well planned with the rest of the events seeming rushed and phoned in possibly so we can get to the awesome following arc which introduces Sailors Uranus, Neptune and Saturn. In fact, now that I think about it, this entire arc seems more about introducing elements and setting up characters like Chibi Usa and Pluto for use in future arcs rather than telling an interesting story in it's own right.
A good entry in the Sailor Moon saga but definitely left me feeling a little empty afterwards.
Due to Kodansha's dodgy work with the previous volumes of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and Codename Sailor V, the release of a new Sailor Moon volume seems to be met with more trepidation than the excitement that it should be. Thankfully while previous volumes had quite a few significant errors and translation goofs that brought into question the Japanese ability of the translator and quality control at Kodansha in general, I only spotted one typo on page 28 with "gasp" being used instead of "grasp". It's great to see that they're improving though honestly the fact that we're actually having a conversation about how now there's only one error instead of several speaks volumes about how much reader's faith in Kodansha as a publishing house has fallen.
The grammar, spelling and even translation mistakes, despite detracting greatly from the quality of this release, have never really been the main issue with this release though. The awkward, unnatural and out of character dialogue present in all previous volumes is still present here and really does prevent the reader from enjoying the story and characters as much as they should.
Very little effort has been made to make the dialogue sound like it was naturally spoken by teenage girls and while all the character names and attacks are written correctly there are several instances were the dialogue has been so literally translated from the Japanese that they haven't even bothered to rewrite the text in proper English word order which results in several instances where I had to stop and reread what a character said because of how unnatural the dialogue is written.
A perfect example is "It's because Chibi-Usa is your child with him!" which sounds strange no matter how many times you read it and "This voice that is like an earthquake..." which sounds more like a badly dubbed kungfu movie from the 80s than a modern professional quality translation.
There are also several moments where the emotion or intent of a scene is changed due to the rushed translation. Usagi's quiet pondering of her love for Mamoru in the original Japanese is changed to Usagi whining loudly about how unfair God has been to her is but one example of such a mood shift in characterisation.
Quite a few people have defended this release by saying that they actually change what the characters are saying in their head while reading or create their own motivations for the characters to justify why they talk the way they do. A reader shouldn't have to do this.
This release does use the original Japanese character names and seems to include all aspects of the original story but this does not make it a good translation. A good translation also maintains the characterisation and energy of the original material and that's something this release has still failed to do.
If you've never read the Sailor Moon manga, this is good chance to see how the story is different from the anime but I do feel sorry for people who are reading the manga for the first time as the original (and even the old TokyoPop release, despite it's other issues) has so much energy and is a lot more fun that what we have here.
For a full list of the translation/adaption issues in this volume, check out my Manga Mistakes page.
This is the best release by Kodansha so far but that by no means makes it a five star quality manga. It's great that they've almost mastered spell check but they still have a long way to go in regards to a quality translation and publication.
(not an average)
Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.co.jp
Barnes & Noble.com
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