This is the final volume of the two part omnibus edition of Codename: Sailor V. Like with volume 1, this manga features a few colour pages at the beginning. There is also a section of Translation Notes at the back, like with most of Kodansha’s releases.
Also warning, do not read past the summary if you haven’t finished the manga. I talk major spoilers!
Minako continues her job as the warrior of love and justice Sailor V against the Dark Agency, but a mysterious man now joins her, Phantom Ace. He seems to be a popular up and coming idol and Minako instantly becomes a huge fan. But Artemis isn’t sure whether he is truly friend or foe. But this doesn’t stop Minako when she wins the audition to be Ace’s leading lady in a movie about a Chinese Princess. However things start to go in an entirely different direction at the set and Minako finally learns the truth about her destiny as Sailor V.
Where to start? You may notice that my summary is unusually short. And that’s because not much happens of consequence in this volume until the final chapter, Setting Out on a New Journey. The super lighthearted tone that we saw in volume 1 continues this volume. In fact, it feels like Minako is becoming even more immature than she was in volume 1. What with the almost constant bickering with Artemis, her demand of new gadgets for the sake of new gadgets, and her declaration that she will let Ace take over as superhero idol. She’s not entirely serious about the last one, but it does take a nose dive on her competency, especially when one chapter has her forget to charge her crescent compact and she basically has to rely on Phantom Ace’s help to win. I can’t lie, this really irked me. One of the things I liked about Minako back in the first volume was that Ms.Takeuchi differentiated her from Usagi by making Minako confident and capable. Yet here in this volume all of this is being undercut for the sake of a lighter atmosphere and some laughs. I am disappointed.
The manga isn’t all bad, but it didn’t quite live up to what I was hoping from it. In fact, my fear that the development for Sailor V/Minako would come at the last minute was indeed confirmed. Granted, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but this was because the set up was believable for it. Minako matures because her memories finally return and she truly awakens as Sailor Venus. Somewhat underwhelming? Yes. Mainly because Usagi does the maturing even before awakening as Princess Serenity. It did feel a bit like a crop-out even if it made sense within the story.
And I guess this is the main problem for the Sailor V manga; it will without a doubt be compared to Sailor Moon and fall short of it. I do understand why Ms.Takeuchi decided to do such a radical tone shift. If Sailor V is so radically different from Sailor Moon, then you can’t compare and contrast them as much. And it’s somewhat true for me too. Sailor V isn’t Sailor Moon. It’s more a light hearted mahou shoujo comedy and I can appreciate it for that. But even so, because the two manga share the same universe and Sailor V does act as somewhat of a prequel for Moon, I cannot help but compare them and lament that Sailor V isn’t Sailor Moon. Would have Sailor V felt like a watered down Sailor Moon if Ms.Takeuchi did continue with the same tone? Perhaps. But perhaps it would have felt more like an extension of the franchise rather than almost an omake. And that I feel is the true tragedy. You honestly do not need to read Sailor V. It’s a silly light-hearted extra. The character development for Minako is very minimal, and the fleshing out of the world of Sailor Moon, while interesting, ultimately doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. It’s definitely a nice little extra for Sailor Moon fans, but that’s all it is. A nice extra for fans. An omake. It could have been more. It could have been an important side-story to the Moon universe. This is why I ultimately found Sailor V to be such a disappointment. It’s definitely not bad, I did enjoy it, but it is, in my eyes, wasted potential.
But there is some good to be had. For one, it’s definitely interesting seeing a similar character to Tuxedo Mask play out in a different way. The quite tragic ending of Sailor V was definitely the highlight for me. Sailor Moon has a tone of somberness throughout, but in the end, each arc ends pretty happily. Sailor V’s ending felt much more bittersweet. Minako finally awakens only to watch her one shot at love die. But at the end, she’s okay because she knows she’s not alone, she has comrades. I admit I’m somewhat of an oddity. I prefer bittersweet, even tragic, endings to full out happy ones. I like my happy ends too, of course (loved Moon’s ending). Yet there is something compelling about an compromised (i.e. not entirely happy) or even a downer end. Perhaps it is that mixture of subtle emotions that pull at you. Such was my reaction here; I felt for her knowing Minako awoke only to painful memories and to see that repeated in front of her once again; but even so I was still happy to see her pulling herself together and moving onward toward her fated friends. Speaking of fated friends, the cameos were nicely done as well. Makoto shows up right when Minako comes back from the movie shooting and is about to begin her search for her fellow warriors. This scene was quite tenderly nostalgic. You know Minako is inches away from one of her comrades and you also know that Makoto arriving at Juuban is the final stage before Sailor V joins up with the others. It was great to see that Minako wouldn’t have to wait much longer to join her life-long friends. Although at the same time, it does create some continuity errors since Minako was supposedly helping Usagi via the arcade machine already. But hey, maybe it was Artemis! He bickered with and ditched Minako enough times this volume that it’s entirely possible!
The reference to Sailor Moon in the chapter featuring a mangaka was quite hilarious as well. Especially since the silhouettes were obviously of all the Solar System Senshi, but the plot was about a bridal shop and heroines who transformed and wore bridal clothing. Maybe Ms. Takeuchi was intentionally poking fun at copy-cat Wedding Peach? Personally I like to think that’s the case because it makes this little cameo all the more hilarious. And that’s basically the tone of the rest of the stories (excluding the finale), which again, in the grand scheme of things isn’t bad. I did find most of them amusing enough. But it just wasn’t what I expected or wanted from a prequel. And I guess that’s the main problem, you can’t help but form expectations. I know I wrote back in the impression of volume 1 that I didn’t know what to expect from Sailor V. But I kind of did have some expectations. Not in terms of solid story, but in terms of tone and themes. In the end, Sailor V is something else entirely and I guess I’ll just have to accept that eventually.