Welcome to the very first installment of Manga Girl!™
Manga (and anime) have been a part of my life for so long, I’m very pleased and excited to be discussing it on Inveterate Media Junkies in a regular monthly column. I remember a time when I had to drive over an hour to find ANYTHING manga or anime related, and I was happy with whatever I came across! We finally got a little comic book store in the center of town– and it quickly became a weekly tradition for me and my friends to wander down to that little corner of the world and pick up whatever we could find.
One of our first loves, of course, was Sailor Moon– by the incomparable Naoko Takeuchi. I came to Sailor Moon via the anime (Ah, Toonami, how you shaped my high school years!), but almost immediately turned to the manga to fill those long waits between newly translated seasons.
And what an awakening that was!
Not that the anime was bad, but reading the manga I discovered just how filtered the anime was. (Zoicite was a man? Shock and awe.) The manga was really how I fell in love with the series. Here the characters were truly who they were meant to be– deeper and more spiritual, with complicated backstories and lives. My friends and I identified with these Sailor Guardians– and having these strong role models throughout our formative years had a great impact on our confidence, our talents, and even who we’ve grown up to be. To this day, my best friend and I still refer to one another as Usagi and Minako, and the vast majority of my online personas or usernames still involve “Venus” in one way or another.
My very first cosplay was Sailor V, because it felt like the most natural persona to adopt. (I had long ago tracked down the Japanese versions of Code Name: Sailor V, which was never translated into English– until now! But that’s a column for another day.)
With the anime reboot this summer– Sailor Moon: Crystal (July 2014!)– there’s been a resurgence of Sailor Moon merchandise and chatter. As part of the build-up, Kodansha has retranslated the manga. Naturally, I was curious to see whether or not this new version would be worth my time and money. After all, I already own the entire manga series, and though I’ve been very aware of the name changes that were made (all the Japanese names were Americanized)… I didn’t know if the actual story had been subject to any alterations.
So, I decided to find out. With my initial investigation complete (the first two volumes only), I thought I would share my findings. So here you are– a thorough comparison of the 90s English version of Sailor Moon, compared against the newly retranslated version- Pretty Guardian: Sailor Moon.
The biggest difference? Well, you can now read the manga right to left, like the original Japanese versions intended. The first time the manga saw publication in the States, it was flipped to read left to right. That never bothered me way back when, but I’ve since grown very used to reading Japanese-style, and prefer my manga that way. It’s also nice knowing that I’m seeing the images exactly as they were meant to be seen, and not a mirror image.
And the character names have been returned to their original Japanese!
While we once had Serena/Bunny, Amy, Raye, Lita, and Mina– we now have Usagi, Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako. I truly believe the restoration of the original names is important. (I suspect they were changed because publishers thought the Japanese names would be confusing.) Luckily, the world seems to have learned its lesson. In addition to no longer changing names when any manga or anime are translated, we also get the original theme songs! (No more made up English language songs! Hurrah!)
Plus, the new translation is much more literal than the old. So what does this mean? Well, it means this:
“I’m Usagi Tsukino. 14 years old, in the 2nd year of middle school.”
Instead of :
“My name’s Bunny. I’m 14 and in 8th grade.”
Not a huge difference, and certainly not a big deal… But enough of a difference if you know a little something about the Japanese language and how they refer to different aspects of their lives. It also means the dialogue occasionally flowed a bit better and sounded more natural in the old version, as it was changed to suit the English language. But, again, if you like the way the Japanese people actually speak, then you will appreciate the “truer” translation of the new versions.
The new version also has translation notes!
There are a few pages in the back of each volume explaining the cultural references in the different chapters. This has become fairly standard for manga nowadays, but these notes were not included in the older translation. It’s always fun to know exactly what was meant by a specific reference or use of a word… Rather than allowing things to go misunderstood. For example, your reading can be significantly changed when you know that “sports papers” in Japan are popular tabloid-style papers… And while they do cover the sports scene, they also deal with news and celebrity gossip.
Major differences in the number of chapters in each volume. This has absolutely no effect on the story or translation whatsoever, but I thought it was interesting to note:
The old translations had 4 chapters per volume.
The new translations have 5 chapters per volume.
The newly rereleased Japanese versions have 7 chapters per volume.
Now you know.
The old translations also had little “notes from Naoko” every so often– little tidbits with sketches of characters, random facts and specific notes to her American fans. These are no longer present in the new translations. (I just have to treasure them in the older versions.)
Both versions contain extras in the back of each volume– things like original character designs and random sketches. Some are the same, some are different… So having both versions would give you access to more factoids and images.
The new translations have full color images in the front!
This is one of my favorite things about the new manga volumes. I’ve always loved Naoko’s art– especially when colored. Of course, my friend (Usagi, we’ll call her) just arrived back from a trip to Japan where she bought herself the newly reissued Japanese versions, and we discovered Japanese reader enjoy full color images at the start of every chapter, not just at the beginning of the volume. In this instance, the Japanese versions win. (Now, if only I could read Japanese.) To be clear, all the images are exactly the same– so English readers are not missing out on any content other than the color.
We now also have the option of purchasing box sets in the States– and I gave in and bought one. The box is gorgeous, with beautiful art never used before… And a sheet of stickers! (Everyone loves stickers, yes?) The first box set contains volumes 1-6, while the second contains volumes 7-12. How they manage to always have 12 volumes of Sailor Moon– no matter the translation, no matter the version, no matter how many chapters they include– I have yet to determine… But the story never suffers from the name changes or the language adjustments (certainly not like the anime was twisted about).
If you are an older Sailor Moon fan wondering if you missed out on something vital– the answer is likely no. However, if you asked me whether the new translations are worth your time– I’d say yes.
Die-hard fans obviously need to own every version anyway– but there’s enough new art and extras in the new volumes to make a purchase worth your time. Plus they spark a genuine appreciation for the way the story was meant to be seen, read and enjoyed.
If you’ve never read Pretty Guardian: Sailor Moon— what are you waiting for? Now is the perfect time! The covers are new and shiny and the box sets make the manga very affordable. Besides, this is the series that practically defined the Magical Girl genre. All those other magical girls you’ve probably been reading about? These are their role models, the girls who paved the way for all the awesome role models woman have today. (And there are stickers!)
So grab your Sailor fuku, your talking cat, and your transformation pen and get to it! There’s no time like the present, and there is almost certainly some dark energy out there just waiting to strike!