Sailor Moon (美少女戦士セーラームーン) is a 18 volume magical girl series by Naoko Takeuchi originally published from 1991-1997 in Japan, later released as a 12 volume special edition and then again in a large format “Eternal” edition for the 25th anniversary. All three versions are available in the US, the original done by Tokyopop and the other two by Kodansha, as well as the original two volume Sailor V that its technically a spin off from.
Usagi Tsukino is a clumsy middle school girl who one day happens upon a cat with a strange mark on its head which starts talking and saying Usagi is a reincarnation of a moon princess who needs to stop an evil power from resurrecting. But you already knew that, didn’t you, this is freaking Sailor Moon for petes sake, if you have any familiarity with anime you know the premise and its not like the manga isn’t secretly some kind of horror story.
To start with the biggest distinction the manga has going for it, it has absolutely gorgeous artwork. Takeuchi draws everyone in a distinctively feminine style which works in a very fine line for depicting both the girls just as well as the more monstrous or action pieces. The artbooks alone are worth gushing over, seriously just go run “Sailor Moon manga” through Google images and look at the colored pages.
Storywise you have a series which is considered a classic for a reason- there’s a story of empowerment which can be related to no matter your age or gender with such a large diverse cast of characters there’s someone you see yourself in whether its the tomboy Makoto or the klutzy Minako or the maternal Setsuna1.
Theres a message of acceptance which is somewhat shocking for its time and is sadly still relevant to today. Uranus and Neptune are lesbian lovers (despite what early translation efforts would claim) and the Starlights are trans (kinda? In a way? Thats the easiest way to describe them), both facts which no one ever calls attention to or questions, they just take it as straight fact that of course a group of guys would transform into girls when they become Sailor Senshi.
If youre familiar with the anime this is going to shock you, the manga is briskly paced. Theres no monster of the week stuff here as almost every chapter sees a villain being defeated which sadly causes some of the storylines to not breathe as much as they should. A little more development, especially of the villains, would help greatly.
I mean, duh. Theres the original 200 episode series from the 90s, now finally completely available in the US as of last year. Its ok though you’ll find it tones down a lot of the more striking story elements.
In 2014 they tried releasing a new version called Crystal which was supposed to stick closer to the manga version and I cannot stress enough how much of a failure it is.
Weeb Level: 3/10- this is one of two series which established the tropes of the whole magical girl genre so you don’t need to be familiar with them too much.
Fanservice: 2/10- There’s a fair bit of near nudity though nothing too sexualized considering the possibilities.
Quality: 9/10- Its a classic for a reason and never gets old rereading.
Where to get it: The Kodansha versions are readily available in bookstores as well as on Comixology or other online apps. The Tokyopop version is long out of print, but had a weaker translation2 with the Eternal editions being ongoing releases.