I’m going to sort of “cheat” for the next few posts on this topic. I decided to move on from the novels I loved in middle and high school for now to the manga I loved at that time, but technically, it wasn’t always available. The unflopped-$10-or-less-a-pop manga boom began when I was just getting to college. When I was in middle and high school, I had limited access to manga. What I did get was imported from Japan (at least I saw pretty pictures and practiced my fledgling understanding of Japanese, but I certainly didn’t totally follow the story) or limited/edited/flopped (as in mirror imaged to follow American left-to-right reading style)/much more expensive for the most part. In other words, this library wasn’t anywhere near this large back then (each shelf is double-stacked; there’s another row of volumes behind it, although some non-manga stuff has creeped in there. Should I be bragging about probably thousands of dollars spent on manga over a decade and a half? Not really, but yes… Yes, I should… ):
Still, the manga I’ll cover in this series meant a lot to me as a middle and high schooler, and they still mean a lot to me today. I may or may not have had the translated volumes until after high school, but I often had import volumes and grew to love these series through anime adaptations, so I certainly knew the stories.
I have to start here. Sailor Moon was my first “official” introduction to anime at age 12–what I understood to be anime, anyway–and it snowballed into a huge part of my life ever since. Japanese anime and manga not only inspire me creatively, but this facet of pop culture inspired my love for the Japanese language and culture, helped me make many of my most treasured friends, and led me to meet my boyfriend of seven years in a college Anime Club, too. (More than seven years ago. We didn’t date immediately!)
So although I’ve read and seen so many manga and anime since, and I may not think SM stands up as the very best of the best or anything, it means a lot to me. At the time, finding a whole team of girl superheroes–girls around my age at that–spoke to the comic-book-loving girl I was. The series not only balances superhero battles of good and evil, but it has drama, comedy and romance, too.
The series starts with a single heroine, 14-year-old Tsukino Usagi, who discovers she can transform into Sailor Moon and fight evil demons attacking Tokyo thanks to a talking cat named Luna (whom I named my own kitty after). Eventually, she finds four other girls her age who are other Sailor Senshi, and even later, she encounters five more, older and younger girls, to round out the team. (And possibly even more girls after that. It gets complex.) There’s way more to it than that, including reincarnation and a love that lasts through lifetimes, but that’s the very basics.
The anime is actually quite different from the manga, other than characters and the enemies of each battle arc, but I actually did have access to translated SM manga in middle and high school, a sort of butchered version by Mixx/Tokyopop that I collected first in a magazine called Mixx Zine, then in a magazine called SMILE, then in individual American comic-book-style issues, and then in graphic novel form. Actually, some of that was concurrent; they published different arcs at once. And the translation used half English dub names and half original Japanese names; it was just a mess! But still, I collected it eagerly. And a few years ago finally rid myself of the whole haphazard mess… Thank goodness Kodansha started bringing out a much nicer and better translated version last year! (And they were the first to translate the prequel series, Codename Sailor V, yay.)
The original manga is 18 volumes, although the re-release packs more in one volume, so it should be 12 (14?) in the end. Although it’s much more drawn out, I think I prefer the anime to the manga, although I’m a fan of the manga’s gorgeous style. Still, I appreciate having two versions of the same story; many manga are almost completely unedited adaptations of their manga (or these days, light novel or game) origins.
This series became my absolute favorite series in middle school, perhaps only eclipsed in high school by a another Watase series, Ayashi no Ceres. I started with the anime (and watched it four or five times all the way through–there was less to watch back then!) and collected the manga in Japanese shortly thereafter, but some of the manga was available in English by the time I got to high school, in a magazine put out by Viz called Animerica Extra. I collected the manga in English through the magazine for all of its run, but it was canceled before the 18-volume manga ended, and years later I got rid of the magazines and collected it in six big three-volumes-in-one re-releases.
FY follows the tale of two 15-year-old Japanese best friends, Yuuki Miaka and Hongo Yui, who get magically sucked into a book about fictional ancient China. One goes on to become the Suzaku no Miko (“priestess of Suzaku”‘; Suzaku is one of four mythical beasts in Chinese folklore), and the other the Seiryuu no Miko, her mortal enemy. How these two friends come to be at such odds is a compelling part of the drama, and the two are in a race to gather their seven warriors and call their mythical beasts to grant them three wishes. Oh, and those warriors? Most are handsome men, and there are love triangles and rectangles and all sorts of shapes going on, which spurs more of the drama. And the series can be pretty funny at times, too.
There’s a prequel series, Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden, about the first Japanese girl to become a miko in this ancient book, that’s still coming out both in Japanese and English, but volumes are few and far between these days since Watase is juggling multiple projects and this one seems to be on the back burner. The middle schooler in me loved hearing there would be another tale set in that universe (especially since we learn a bit about this protagonist in the original series), and I do love many things about it, but it perhaps doesn’t have quite the charm as the original to me (it’s less funny, too), and the conflict is more political than personal like it was in FY. I actually would have preferred a prequel story about the Byakko no Miko, who comes after the Genbu no Miko, from what we learned in the original FY, but I’m not sure Watase will be up for it since she’s accomplished her dream of doing a weekly shounen (boys) manga, as opposed to the monthly shoujo (girls) manga she used to do. Ah, well.