In 1994, I was still a few years away from discovering anime. I had heard of it and seen some. Speed Racer and Starblazers had been on TV and I knew enough to know they were “Japanimation.” But I had not stumbled into the giant sinkhole of time and money that this interest would become.
While I was blissfully unaware of this thing – across the planet, millions of people were reading a manga and, eventually, watching a cartoon that would, eventually, change my world completely.
20 years later, Kodansha and Takeuchi Naoko-sensei are once again collaborating. This time on the Perfect Edition of the manga series Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン). This translation, btw, is official. Pretty Guardians, it is. Not Scouts, not Sailor Soldiers. A “perfect edition” is Japanese industry shorthand for “No more changes, ever. These are the final edits, the last time we proofread the text or re-draw a panel.”
It seems ironic somehow that although this was the first manga I ever read, it wasn’t until last year that I looked at the 15th anniversary edition, when it was released in English. Some choices were made that were good, a few that are inexplicable. (Like the spelling of the Outers’ family names. I rebuked the translator over lunch last time I saw her – gently, as I am wont to. “What the fuck, Mari? Who spells like that!?!” We’re still speaking, ’cause she’s cool like that. But really, Ten^o? WTF.)
I digress, as I often do when it comes to Sailor Moon. It was my first anime love. My first manga. The reason I learned to read Japanese. The motivation for me to write fiction…and eventually, non-fiction.
And just a few months after finishing it again for the very first time in more than a decade…here I am reading it. Again.
The art has definitely been remastered and redrawn in places. People more dedicated than I have done side by side panel comparisons to show how the Senshi have been “youthened.” The digital remastering (perhaps even re-toning in places?) looks really good. Color pages from the artbooks are included, which always give me a warm fuzzy feeling. I can attest to one very specific change that I noticed right away.
In the original artbook for the series, Takeuchi-sensei commented on original costume sketches. On the character design page, she notes a chain around Jupiter’s hips that never made it into the comic. I have no idea why I remember that, but I did. So when Makoto transforms for the first time in the perfect edition and there was the chain, I laughed.
My apologies for bad quality, my scanner finally gave up the ghost, so I had to take photos. You can click the images for slightly larger versions.
Here’s the original panel from the 1990s version:
Here’s the costume page from the first official artbook that – for some reason, who knows why – I remembered. Note the belt and the highlight sketch of the ball on the belt.
And here is the new 20th anniversary version:
Ta-da! There’s the belt.
I have absolutely no idea why that stuck with me, but there you have it, Jupiter has her belt, at last, among other redrawn things. The new edition is 1.5 volumes of the original edition per volume, so this one ends at the appearance of a mysterious Sailor. A good stopping point for the volume and probably puts this edition at 12 volumes. Volume 6’s cover already has me squeeing. ^_^
The story is the same…but it’s not the same. I have no idea if anything was rewritten, but I have now read it multiple times in both English and Japanese I can no longer say it’s the same story I read the first time. Is it me, or does it make more sense this time? I flash back and forth between the anime, manga and live-action series when I’m relieved that Mercury kills Nephrite instead of Beryl, but sad because he’ll never eat her terrible cookies. No, the story can never be the same again. But that’s okay, because sucking people’s energy out through a VHS tape was a stupid idea anyway. ^_^
So while I may never really understand why Mamoru is walking around Azabu-juban in a tux in the late afternoon, or why Ami, who is a genius, never asks a meaningful question, or why no one listens to Rei when she says, “I have a bad feeling about this” even though she is psychic, I don’t care. I never cared and now I’m just so pleased to see that after 20 years Takeuchi-sensei will get the Sailor Moon she wanted the first time around. I’ll be fascinated to see what other differences await.
Art – 8 Visibly better. So much has improved in 20 years.
Story – 7 Still silly. It’s never going to be not silly. So what?
Characters – 9
Yuri – 0
Service – This is so hard to parse. Mamoru in a tux is ostensibly service for the original readership of girls, but the costumes have ridiculously short skirts. Let’s call it a 5
Overall – Oddly, 9. Did I ever like it this much or am I getting soft in my old age?
There are not enough thanks in the world for Okazu Superhero Dan P. who is the sponsor of this and so many other reviews here. Thank you so much, Dan! If you’d like to become a Okazu Hero, just pick an item from my Yuri Wish Lists on Amazon or Amazon JP and you too will become my hero!
Yes, yes, I cannot wait to see the Outers…again….