Moon prism transformation!

January 1st, 2012

In the closing days of 2011, I was working on three possible candidates for the final Otaku Ohana post of the year. “This will be great,” I thought. “Wrap up 2011 on a strong note, maybe build some writing momentum going into 2012 … Yeah! Let’s DO THIS!”

… aaaaaand then work got busy. Again. Sigh.

So here we are in the first hours of 2012 — happy new year! — and the post that emerged as the leading candidate to end 2011, has become the first post of 2012. It’s actually good that things turned out this way, all things considered, because the Star-Advertiser’s blog about anime and manga culture will now kick off the year … with an actual post featuring anime- and manga-related content. Shock and awe!

Today’s discussion is part of the December Manga Movable Feast, hosted by Sean Gaffney over on his corner of the ever-expanding, Voltron-esque manga blogging entity that Manga Bookshelf has become. (Hey, they even picked up Brigid Alverson’s Mangablog. That is one impressive collection of talent they have there, made even better now.)

The topic: Sailor Moon. But it’s not a straight review of the series — I’ve only had a chance to dip into a few chapters of Codename: Sailor V (quick initial impressions: it feels like the Sailor Moon beta version that it is, what with the similar concepts of a talking cat, a talisman that enables a transformation, a sinister stealth organization that’s infiltrated the world, and a lead character whose grades aren’t exactly befitting of a world savior). I’ve also looked at a few chapters of the refreshed Kodansha USA translation, in which — when slavishly comparing it panel-by-panel to the original Mixx/Tokyopop translation — I discovered this little Mixx quirk:

In the Kodansha translation, Usagi’s homeroom teacher has her original name back, Haruna Sakurada. That little bubble also doesn’t exist there. So what’s up with the Mixx translation? Maybe “Patricia Olsen” was a reference to some in-house joke lost in the 13 years between Sailor Moon editions, never archived in the vast reaches of the Internet. (Yes, I have tried Googling the name. Yes, I have seen the references to a Pat Olsen who wrote two Ranma 1/2 fanfics, one crossing over with Saber Marionette J, the other crossing over into several universes including Sailor Moon. Yet I find it hard to believe that that’s the gal we’re looking for … the dates simply don’t add up.)

So this isn’t a review. It’s more a quick chronicle of my history with the series, a three-part evolution that’s played out over … oh, I’d say the past 15 years or so.

Phase 1: The discovery

Right around the same time that I was discovering the joys of manga with Maison Ikkoku in the late ’90s, a coworker at Ka Leo, the University of Hawaii-Manoa paper, was singing the praises of the Sailor Moon anime. Back then, we had the DiC version that was running in syndication at the time airing locally, the one where ol’ Sailor Moon was fighting evil by moonlight, winning love by daylight and never running from a real fight. Granted, those lyrics never took into account when she was running from a real fight … which was pretty much every other episode, when it was up to Sailors Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and/or Tuxedo Mask to save the day.

So yeah. Not that much of a fan of the Moon Princess. Ol’ Meatball Head Serena just seemed too ditzy for my taste. But Sailor Mercury? Amy? Quiet computer genius, brains of the Sailor Scout operation and master Mercury Bubble manipulator? That was my girl. If DiC had renamed the show Sailor Mercury and the Meatball Head, I wouldn’t have minded one bit.

While I came to see Mercury first and foremost, I stayed for the plot twists that kept things interesting in the original story arc, chief among them the brainwashing of Tuxedo Mask (what?!? The scouts’ chief ally, working against them?!? Oh noes!) and the revelation of the Silver Millennium, ancestral lunar home to the girls and ol’ Tuxie. But what really caught my attention was the “conspiracy” factor. Watching the series in the early days of the mainstreaming of the Internet, I could hop online and learn not only what would happen next, but also — gasp! — DiC actually cut out content to make the show family-friendly. It was a unique tool that enhanced my enjoyment of the series.

But somehow my interest began and ended with the first arc. Never did get into Sailor Moon R or anything beyond that. I knew of the existence of the Tokyopop manga, but I just glanced at it at one of the local Waldenbooks stores (remember those?) and moved on. The art just seemed too wispy, too insignificant to me when compared to what I was seeing in Maison Ikkoku; I can only think looking back now that it was more a function of Tokyopop’s printing than anything else.

Phase 2: The burnout

Back when tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I were writing “Drawn and Quartered” in the Sunday Star-Bulletin for a good chunk of the ’00s, there were some series that we felt that we never needed to cover, the mere mention of which just made us roll our eyes. Those series were the ones that entered that evergreen, “don’t need to explain why it’s popular, it’s just going to be popular no matter what you say about it” territory — Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and Pokemon spring to mind — and Sailor Moon fit that description for us. You mentioned anime in mainstream media, those were the examples that frequently popped up. We wanted to be different, to dig beneath the surface and find the things that weren’t in the mainstream consciousness.

We had a feeling that Sailor Moon would somehow live on and be a big part of the anime community’s identity forever, so there was really no need for us to ever cover it. And it did hold up to that description. Just … not in the way that we expected.

Phase 3: The appreciation

See, a funny thing happened on the way to fandom immortality: Those licenses to print money off of Sailor Moon suddenly disappeared. ADV’s rights to release the English dub and the subtitled Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon R series expired in 2004. Geneon’s rights to Sailor Moon S, Super S and the three movies expired in 2005, as did Tokyopop’s rights to the manga.

All of a sudden, we weren’t being bombarded with all Sailor Moon, all the time. The fan base was essentially frozen; some aged out and moved on to other things, while others kept clamoring for reprints that either (for the anime) have yet to be answered or (for the manga) would take six years to finally fulfill. Any new fans coming in in the meantime  would have to pick up increasingly expensive, out-of-print editions … and, to their credit, some actually did.

Just how popular the series continued to be even when it was out of print was reinforced to me when I was researching the Sailor Moon entry for The Rough Guide to Manga (which well may be out of print by now, but you can still find pockets online that still have it for sale, so if you can find it, grab it, because it still makes a great beginning-of-the-year gift). I may have waffled on some of the choices for my “Canon 50″ list of essential manga for that book, but Sailor Moon was one of those series I knew I had to put in there from the start — too many people had read it for it not to be in there, after all.

The local public library system’s stock of volumes, though? To say they’re well-loved may be an understatement. Many volumes are marked in the catalog as “lost.” The ones that remain are held together by multiple layers of tape, glue, metal bolts and any type of other adhesive material you can think of. That’s why I was so happy that Kodansha USA decided to re-release the series — maybe, just maybe, the libraries will finally be able to buy new copies to share and retire those old copies. (And hopefully this generation of patrons will take better care of those books, too.)

When I finally got to read those volumes in the system, though, they were better than I remembered them, back when I dismissed them at Waldenbooks. Granted, the localization seemed a bit too flippant for my taste — something that’s thankfully been corrected in the Kodansha editions — but the story was just as good as I had remembered it from the anime, albeit with a few changes here and there.

Is the manga better than the anime? I’ll leave that for other MMF discussions.  All I know is that there are memories to be revisited, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming Kodansha volumes to read the story I’ve known … and discover new elements that I may have missed.

2 Responses to “Moon prism transformation!”

  1. Sailor Moon MMF: Final Day Links:

    [...] one link today: Jason Yadao examines his history with the series, and reminds us of that half-dubbed Mixx translation once more. [...]

  2. Bandai cancels new anime and manga releases:

    [...] Jason Yadao checks in at the end of the Sailor Moon Manga Moveable Feast with a post on how his view of Sailor Moon has evolved over the years. [...]

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