Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A beautiful junior high school student comes across a mysterious talking cat that tells her that she has an important destiny. To her shock and amazement, she discovers that she is no ordinary teenager, but actually a chosen warrior and the reincarnation of a princess! She is… Sailor Venus!
… What? Where you expecting someone else?
Codename: Sailor V is a prequel to Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, the classic magical girl manga by Naoko Takeuchi. It is set one year prior to the start of Sailor Moon and stars Minako Aino, a.k.a. Sailor Venus as she is learning the ropes of being a champion of justice and working under the codename of Sailor V (hence the title)! Codename: Sailor V began as a one-shot story before it was expanded into a series and, thanks to its popularity, the sequel series debuted later that same year. In some respects, it feels like a prototype of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. Minako and Usagi (a.k.a. Sailor Moon) start their heroic journey’s in much the same way and a number of characters in these manga series feel like mirrors of each other. Mina’s friend, Hikaru, seems like a cross between Naru and Ami; Phantom Ace is an obvious parallel to Tuxedo Max; Amano, a nerdy boy in Mina’s class who has a crush on her, is essentially the exact same character as Umino, right down to wearing the exact same spiral-eye glasses! Mina herself has a lot in common with Usagi, she can be very silly and is a poor student who spends all her time playing video games, goofing off and crushing on boys. She’ll complain about having to fight bad guys and gets cheeky with Artemis, asking for rewards for defeating an enemy and for new items when she gets bored of her current magical weapons. Not exactly the ideal hero, much like Usagi when she first became Sailor Moon. Minako even gets a lot of similar powers in this manga, including a transformation pen that functions identically to the one that Sailor Moon uses to disguise herself. However, there are also a number of things that set her apart from Usagi. Minako is very athletic and tough and she takes to the role of superhero much faster than Usagi. She might complain from time to time but whenever a situation arises that requires her attention Sailor V immediately gets down to business.
The format of Codename: Sailor V differs from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon as well. It’s episodic and more comedic, with each chapter featuring a new monster-of-the-week type villain with increasingly bizarre schemes for Sailor V to foil. Some of these evil plans are simply hilarious. A few of my favorites include a plan to make women gain weight so that they can suck out their energy at a weight-loss spa and another plan that involved using mosquitos to drain energy by sucking people’s blood. In keeping with the lighter tone, Sailor V will jump into battle spouting facts about blood donation and making references to Victor Hugo (apparently, he was very against cruelty to animals), before overpowering her enemies with smelly Sulphur clouds or magically creating giant mosquito coils. This manga doesn’t take itself too seriously and it’s a lot of fun to watch Minako kick butt and make up her attacks on the fly.
Codename: Sailor V isn’t without any narrative meat, however. There is a running gag where Mina constantly falls in love with different guys, only to crash and burn, that is played up for laughs throughout the series but then takes a bit of a serious turn towards the end. Minako eventually comes to the realization that she was more in love with the idea of being in love than she was with any of those guys and that she actually loves being Sailor V. In a bitter-sweet moment, Minako regains her memories of her past life as the Princess of Venus, finally remembering the important friends she lost, and simultaneously comes to understand that she will need to give up on finding love if she is to fully devote herself to her duty. Finally awakened as Sailor Venus, she commits herself to stopping the forces of evil, finding her lost friends and her precious princess and sacrifices one of her personal dreams in the process. It’s a little heart-breaking, especially if you’ve read Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and are familiar with how this commitment is tested in that series, but it’s also touching to see how Minako matures as a result and to know that the true loves of Minako’s life will end up being her friends.
If you’re a fan of Sailor Moon then this series is a must read. It’s funny, cute and gives you a lot of insight into the character of Sailor Venus. If you’re new to the Sailor Moon franchise, then this might be a good place to start, as it’s a short and light-hearted series with a plucky heroine that’s sure to steal your heart!
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on Codename: Sailor V check out Kodansha’s website: https://kodanshacomics.com/series/codename-sailor-v/
Be sure to let me know what you thought of this series in the comments section. How do you think it compares to it’s sequel series, Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon? Speaking of which, be sure to check out my review of that manga: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Series Review