Manga Review: Sailor Moon Vol. 1, Kodansha vs. Tokyopop

As promised, I am writing my review on Sailor Moon Vol. 1. I meant to get this out last Friday, but the review went longer than I expected. This review is more of a comparison of the English translated manga done as a re-release by Kodansha Comics and the first English translated release done by Tokyopop.

In summary, Sailor Moon is about a 14-year-old girl named Usagi Tsukino who is chosen/destined to become the sailor suited warrior of justice Sailor Moon. With a talking cat named Luna as her guide, Usagi has to learn how to become a leader, fighter, and protector of the world against Queen Beryl and her Dark Kingdom minions.

By the end of the first volume, Usagi gains allies along the way in her quest to fight the bad guys. Super genius Ami Mizuno is Sailor Mercury, fiery shinto priestess Rei Hino is Sailor Mars, and tall and strong Makoto Kino is Sailor Jupiter. Their true mission, according to Luna, is to find the Legendary Silver Crystal and to search for and protect the Moon Princess. Finding the crystal is absolutely dire for the scouts because in the wrong hands it has the power to destroy the world.

Sailor Moon is every bit of a magical girl shojo series. It has secret identities, transformations, good vs. evil, and epic battles. It also has humor, action, romance, and adventure. Some may find the main character Usagi annoying because of her cry baby, scaredy cat, slacker ways, but I do find that she grows on you. As you read the manga series in its entirety, you watch Usagi grow out of these things and become the leader and protector she is born to be. She is also much more than a sailor scout, but I won’t spoil it for those not familiar with the series. As I write this review, I’m probably biased toward the series but I can’t help it. I love everything about it. I have said it in my previous entry and I will say it again, Sailor Moon will always have a place in my heart.

My real review about this series is concerning the translations done by Kodansha and Tokyopop. Looking for and dusting off the the first volume done by Tokyopop, the translations seem inferior to what Kodansha has done. Tokyopop made every effort to Americanize the series by taking out the Japanese cultural references and replacing them with American ones. They also use the English names used in the English dub anime series. I did find it curious that instead of using “Serena” as the name Usagi goes by in the Americanized Tokyopop translated manga, they use “Bunny.” There was only one reference to the Serena name at the beginning of the manga, but for the rest of it, all the characters call Serena “Bunny” or “Buns” for short.

I personally didn’t mind the new American sounding names they gave to the characters in the anime and manga, but it did irk me when Tokyopop decided to have Serena become “Bunny” in the manga version. I just didn’t like the sound of “Bunny” even if Usagi’s name meant rabbit in English. Maybe Tokyopop wanted to do a literal translation of Usagi’s first name for American readers, but why not keep Serena? I always liked the English name they gave to Usagi and it fit well.

A major problem with the Tokyopop version of Sailor Moon I found was the rushed way they translated the whole volume. It becomes glaringly obvious when you compare the two volumes side by side. Take a look at the examples below that I have captured myself:

This first image I took comes from the Kodansha translation. Click the image to see a bigger version of the image to read a piece of Kunzite’s dialogue.

Now take a look at the Tokyopop translation. Notice the difference? The Tokyopop translation you see on your right clearly has left some things “lost in translation” quite literally. No where does the Tokyopop translation in this example panel mention “Four Kings of Heaven.” I don’t know why Tokyopop decided to leave that out, but I feel the “Four Kings of Heaven” bit that Kunzite mentions has to be important. It begs the question, in the Kodansha translation, “Why are the Dark Kingdom servants, Kunzite, Zoisite, Jadeite, and Nephrite considered the Four Kings of Heaven?” Sounds pretty damn important if you ask me. I think the problem with the Tokyopop translation lies with how they published the volumes.

The Tokyopop book volume is quite compact compared to the Kodansha volume. If you saw how the panels were arranged in the Tokyopop version, a lot of the artwork is squished to make better use of the page space. Doing it this way actually shrinks the talk bubbles considerably, which may explain why the translation isn’t as high quality as the Kodansha version. Tokyopop had to do a lot of shorthand with the conversation bubbles, trimming away key pieces of dialogue. The panels in the Kodansha volume are not squished and you can appreciate the images and the original text as it was meant to be read.

What I appreciate most about the Kodansha version is including the color artwork on the first few pages of the volume. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Ever since I got into Takeuchi’s manga all those years ago, I loved her artwork. I would scour the Internet for color scans from the Sailor Moon artbook or manga.

Compared to the opening pages on Tokyopop, there really is no competition when it comes to Kodansha. The colored art included in Volume 1 makes you sit up and take notice of the manga if you are reading it for the first time. Re-reading the Kodansha version felt like coming home to something familiar but different at the same time. I know my eyes feasted heavily on the lovely color images and made me appreciate the work for a few minutes before needing to turn the page to continue with the story.

My final thoughts on Kodansha vs. Tokyopop is this, Kodansha gets the new Sailor Moon translation right. That’s all there is to it. The Tokyopop volumes are no longer available. Anyone who didn’t get a chance to buy the volumes when they were out are not missing much. If manga fans of the series did manage to get their hands on the Tokyopop volumes before they went out of print like I did, it’s worth buying and collecting the series again. The Kodansha version is a whole new manga series in my opinion.

I am grateful to Tokyopop for being one of the first companies to introduce Sailor Moon and a whole lot of other manga titles to the American market. Their translations may have had some flaws in the beginning, but I will always have the nostalgia of buying every single copy of my favorite series from my childhood.

12 thoughts on “Manga Review: Sailor Moon Vol. 1, Kodansha vs. Tokyopop

  1. Thanks for the comparison. I have all of Tokyopop’s old volumes but I can see Kondansha went out of their way to make their editions really nice, so I think I’m going to double dip and pick these ones up. (And totally worth it because Sailor Moon is awesome!)

    1. It is definitely worth buying the re-releases by Kodansha. I still have to buy the rest of the volumes, but the Kodansha version is 10x better than the Tokyopop ones. 😉

  2. Thanks for this! I just ordered the first two volumes of Sailor Moon, so I’m really glad upon learning that Kodansha has done a great job for this classic series. 🙂

    1. I’m glad you found my review helpful! I was skeptical at first to buy a series I already own, but the entire redo by Kodansha is well worth collecting Sailor Moon all over again. 😉

  3. Awesome review, though I would like to point out that Bunny is a common dub name in other languages. I have some issues of the Tokyopop ones (1-3, 7-10) and thought about rounding out my collection since the price for used ones has dropped since the Kodansha ones came out, but I’m not certain whether or not I’ll just buy the Kodansha instead. I’d kind of like to have the “original” series complete for posterity since I’m not sure how much of the story was changed to coincide with PGSM (I had heard that Takeuchi changed several plot points). Great review for people looking to invest in the new ones!

    1. Thanks! I’m glad you found this review helpful. I never knew about the changes in storyline to coincide with PGSM. Now I have more reason to compare the other volumes of the Kodansha versions with the Tokyopop ones I have.

  4. Usagi’s name was changed to Bunny instead of Serena so they could still use the ‘Rabbit of the Moon’ jokes in later volumes I think. I’m trying to read both, because I feel the dialogue could be better in Kodansha as it sounds unnatural.

    1. From what I’ve read of the few volumes of the Kodansha version of Sailor Moon I bought so far, I still stick by the belief that Kodansha’s new translation of the series is much better than Tokyopop. There were some aspects of the Tokyopop translation that didn’t seem quite right and they Americanized many of the Japanese cultural references too. I prefer the publishers to keep everything in the manga as intended. If there are some cultural references that we won’t quite get, then they can always add translation/cultural notes at the end of each volume like plenty of manga series do these days.

      1. True, but there were sloppy translations like Princess-sama and characters saying things like “What kind of nonsense am I up to?” and “I have a bad premonition”. A lot of people say it reads like a textbook. The translation does improve as volume 6 is a cut above the rest. I see what you mean with Tokyopop though, as their translation was very simple in comparison. “Moon Frisbee!” made me laugh.

      2. I must have glossed over the awkward translations in the Kodansha version. I may need to go back and read those. I suppose Kodansha is trying to do a more literal translation of the manga this time around, and it could explain why some of the dialogue doesn’t flow very naturally as you have pointed out. Then again, I’m only up to Volume 2. I haven’t gotten that far with the new translations of Sailor Moon yet.

        I actually don’t remember the “Moon Frisbee!” line from Tokyopop. It’s another one I’ll have to go back and read over.

  5. Thanks so much for this review! I just decided to start reading the manga since the new anime series is coming out this summer and I loved it back when I was a kid, but I wanted to know what I was getting into–get my money’s worth and all that. Awesome review. Thanks again!

    1. Thank you for the comment! I’m glad you found my review very useful. You won’t regret buying the Kodansha translations at all. I’m in the slow process of collecting these new translations myself, but I’m glad to have this standing side by side with my old, worn copies from Tokyopop. Ah memories!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.