I’ve mentioned Sailor Moon before on this blog, via an alternate look at her fashion and while discussing Ai Yazawa’s art & manga. Recently I decided to read the manga in full, as previously I’d only seen the anime (the american dub, at that). I enjoyed it much more than I thought possible and it brought back a lot of memories of my middle school and high school days.
I won’t elaborate too much on how it changed my style since I’ve done so in previous posts, but I distinctly remember the moment I first saw Sailor Moon (even the episode, the one where she was worried about her weight so she started dieting) and how much it changed me. I’d only been exposed to american comics up until that point which were fairly realistic in nature, sticking close to anatomic rules. Well… sticking close to the anatomy of the “ideal” man and women, at least.
The Sailor Moon manga took those rules and ran with them. The women have ridiculously long legs and full heads of flowing hair, never a piece out of place. Their eyes are huge and super reflective. They are all slender hour glass figures and even the children are elongated and wispy. All of this should be wrong, off balance and look terrible… but I don’t care. This manga takes the reader to a completely different universe chocked full of pretty soldiers fighting the forces of darkness. Ribbons, tiaras, skirts, wings, sparkles… the art is saturated with everything girly.
The story is typical of a shojo manga. A school girl obtains magical powers to save the universe with her friends and with the help of a mysteriously handsome boy. The plot doesn’t break the mold, but it doesn’t really need to. It’s fluff, plain and simple, and that’s okay with me. The manga spans 18 volumes, plus side stories, plus art books, so there is plenty to take in. It has recently started a reprint and is available pretty much anywhere you can find books.
The art books are the real find. Fortunately, they’ve all been scanned and are freely available on the internet. Normally this would be frowned upon, but the books are out of print and are very rare; I tried to hunt them down on Ebay and found one selling for over a thousand dollars! I’d love to own them (maybe if I win the lottery, someday…) because they’re a true showcase to Naoko’s art. At first, I figured that she probably used simple pens and watercolor, but was surprised to discover that she enjoyed mixing media, employing markers, pastels, pasting designer tissue and even gluing beads into some pieces. Her washes of color are breath-taking.
I remember this image fondly; in grade 7 I wanted to experiment with watercolor painting and chose this image as a study. The art room in that school is still clear in my mind, as well as the feeling of putting color on a page for the first time (with watercolors, at least). That euphoria hasn’t changed at all. I still get that when I mark the page or canvas with that first stroke of color. To know that after all this time, I still enjoy art as much as I used to, if not more, is invigorating. This is so much more than a silly girl story for me. It’s a confirmation of my life as an artist.
After reading through this manga, I have an intense desire to start working with tones, watercolor and even spray. Maybe it’s time for me to do some new fanart for a series that’s been such a heavy inspiration in my art. Sailor Moon is the definitive shojo manga and simply cannot be overlooked.