But! more importantly! It is Review Rednesday, and we have a Sailor Moon review to post! Spoilers ahead!
Oh my goodness, we actually finished Sailor Moon volume four. It's like a miracle or something. This is the volume that we told our editor we would finish in March. Then March got all filled up with other projects, so we said we would finish it in April. Now it is May 8, and we finally finished it. And it's not just that we were super busy. This volume was hard. So, so hard. Fortunately for us, the release of the whole series got pushed back another five months. I know that we are not directly responsible for the delay, but I can't help thinking that things keep happening to push it back because the universe is concerned for our health. With the release dates pushed back, we sort of almost have time to work on this series without killing ourselves.
As for the difficulty of this volume. Oh my gosh, you guys. I mean, it didn't have King Endymion's short novels all over the place like the last volume, but...I think it's just a difference in how Japanese is, as opposed to English. I mean, we got tripped up as early as the second page (of story; I mean, the table of contents was dealt with long ago), with Sailor Pluto's line. In Japanese, it's kind of worded like "the until-this-point-came-to-be-protected order [of the universe] has been destroyed!" And in Japanese, that's okay, because Japanese works differently than English. But in English, it's really not okay, so we had to come up with a way to fit all the information in and still make it sound natural, and frankly, we couldn't. We took out the "until now" part, because we figured it was kind of implied, and honestly I still think it sounded juuuuust a little melodramatic. I seem to remember reasoning with ourselves at some point that it's okay if Pluto's speech pattern is a little strange, because she spends all her time alone, so she doesn't really have a frame of reference for "normal" speech. So sometimes her wording ended up being maybe a little odd, but I have to keep telling myself that's okay.
But the problem was! That is far from the only line of dialogue that had that problem. We had that problem from pretty much every single character in the series, except, like, Mercury, because she almost didn't say anything. And let me tell you, it resulted in some pretty strange sentences in the previous edition. And I don't know if looking at the previous edition helped or hurt, because sometimes you see it worded one way and then you have a hard time taking it in a different direction. And believe me, most of the time, we absolutely had to take it in a different direction (this is not to disparage the previous edition; it also had to do with our first draft, so I guess if the previous edition hurt us, it wasn't anymore than our own first draft). But I don't think there's much more to say about the difficulty of translation without fishing around for specific examples, so let's just get to the story, shall we?
Small Lady has run off, all the Sailor Guardians have been abducted except for Venus, and Tuxedo Mask has run off in search of Small Lady. Meanwhile, Usagi is wandering around the Black Moon's castle in search of her friends, when she meets Saphir. And this reminds me of several other things that I wanted to talk about. First of all, we had the hardest time getting our research done for Veneti and Aquatici...and that reminds me that there was another note we wanted to write about the same time in the story about Wiseman, which we also had a harder time researching than seems reasonable. But that was just because we didn't have time to watch VOTOMS. For Veneti and Aquatici, we found a book on Google Books that seemed to somehow connect them to sapphires, but because we were being ridiculous and skimming the passage instead of actually reading it, we wasted a lot of time trying to find other sources (that was part of the problem, too; we thought corroboration was important, and forgot to get the exact information we needed corroborated) to tell us exactly what the connection was. What we should have done was read the passage that explained they were not talking about sapphires, but jacinths. When we finally figured that out, we looked up jacinths at Wikipedia, and bam! there we had it. I get tired just remembering the whole ordeal. (Read the note to find out how they're still related to sapphires!) I think another thing was that the one book mentioned this other guy, so we looked up the other guy and found out that there's a book going around in Japanese and it's about crystals and their powers and seems like exactly the kind of thing Naoko Takeuchi would be interested in, so it was kind of a red herring, because we didn't find anything else about that dude.
Anyway, while Saphir is talking to his little jacinths, he mentions that he loves Droids because they never mess up his plans, and that's when we realized that Saphir is...I don't know what the normal word for it is. We called them Js, because of the Meyers-Briggs personality profile. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it divides the standard personality into four categories, each with a spectrum where the end of each spectrum is labeled with a different letter. The last category spectrum is from J to P. J (for "judging," for some reason) is for people who like things to be very structured, and they feel lost without a plan. P (for "perceiving," still no idea why) is for free spirits who feel trapped when they have a schedule. We think we're actually somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, but out of necessity, we veer more toward P, because we know a few Js who not only insist that we follow their plans exactly, but also aren't so great at communicating what their plans are, so we need to be flexible. (Working freelance is another thing that requires more of a Perceiving personality by necessity.) One of our J friends has even told us that it physically hurts him when his plans are disrupted, and I think that's what we're dealing with with Saphir. Like, he puts up with Demande's whims because he loves his brother, but if there's anybody else that shares the blame in any way, shape, or form, or not even necessarily actually shares the blame but could by the smallest shred of logic be potentially construed as sharing the blame, well, he's going to go at them with extreme prejudice.
I do feel a little sorry for Saphir, having to deal with that kind of nonsense, but on the other hand, dude, lighten up. I mostly agree with Rubeus on stuff. We had fun translating him. I mean, we read him has having an attitude, so we gave him one in English, too. And this goes back to the whole thing about how a translator is just another reader, and all the readers reading the translation are reading it through the translator's filter. So we at least hope our filter is entertaining, if not true to the source material. (I mean, of course we hope it's true to the source material first and foremost, but failing that, we hope it's a fun read.)
Anyway, that brings us to Saphir's attempt to murder Usagi. The poor kid just snapped, I guess. He was like, "I have had enough of this nonsense. You're dead." But not before telling Usagi that, by the way, here we are in the one place that might connect you to Crystal Tokyo enough to access your powers. And so Usagi manages to transform into Sailor Moon and perform a daring rescue of all her friends. They go back to Crystal Tokyo...only to discover that Tuxedo Mask and Chibi Usa are gone! Oh no!!!
Let's get back to some external things that happened soon before we translated this volume. We went to see a screening of the Sailor Stars musical in LA, and since we went to the earlier showing, when we walked out of the screening room, there were a bunch of other Sailor Moon fans waiting around for the next showing. So we got to talk, and it was a lot of fun. One of the things that was mentioned was that it was a bummer how Sailor Moon Crystal wasn't any good, but at least they didn't mess up Black Lady--she was wonderful. We watched Sailor Moon Crystal and didn't think there was anything especially memorable about her. Our main thought about the Black Moon arc was that it's a shame it wasn't better because Mamoru Miyano really is perfect for Demande (which is especially funny because he's constantly calling himself Mamo-chan). And since Saphir was played by the voice of Tsutomu in Chihayafuru, we were hoping that Esmeraude would be played by Ayami Seto and Rubeus would be played by Tetsu Nara (who really does sound like Wataru Takagi, the original Rubeus), and then it would be all of the Chihayafuru team except for Kana-chan, who could play...I don't know, Diana or somebody.
So when we got to an especially tricky part of the story (where Demande steals both Silver Crystals), and the previous edition of the manga wasn't helping much, we thought we might as well see how the Crystal translator dealt with it. That...wasn't a heck of a lot of help, either, which is, once again, not to disparage any of the other versions, because let me tell you, those lines were really hard to translate. (Also, one of the hardest lines wasn't in the anime. Thanks, anime writer.) But the point is, we were watching it, and it had Black Lady, and we were still like, "Eh, I'm still not really feeling it."
But the cloud that was hanging over us from that Musical encounter the most had nothing to do with that discussion, and everything to do with someone's mention of a blog called Tuxedo Unmasked. Apparently this guy just blogs about Sailor Moon trivia...pretty much all the kinds of things we write translation notes about. This kind of got our competitive spirit up, because we already felt like the first three manga translations each had something in them that most Sailor Moon fans were previously unaware of, and if he went and blabbed it, we'd be like, "What are we even doing this for?" One of the people we met at the screening added us to a local-ish Sailor Moon fan group on Facebook, and just this last week, someone kept posting links to Tuxedo Unmasked articles (all related to Sailor Venus; I think we know that person's favorite character). But that only reminded us and made us more competitive. So we were always on the lookout for things we could write notes about, to explain story elements that may have been unexplained before. Of course, we probably would have done that anyway (we did our Garnet Rod note long before we had any idea this guy existed), but now it's more of a sense of we need to defeat him than just the standard pride as translators thing. It's really not fair, because we don't know this guy; we don't technically have any reason to have anything against him. But it didn't help that his note on ayakashi was repeating the same old line about how they're supposedly sea creatures. People! We did all the research when we translated volume one of Noragami! People don't use the word ayakashi to refer specifically to water monsters!
So then we're upset because people put stock in him and he's not entirely correct, but to be fair, our competitive side wants that last part to be the case. So it's just a bad thing all around, and we really just need to get over ourselves. We have a hard time with that, because the constant delay in Sailor Moon release dates makes it easy to go, "But Sailor Moon fans will never care about what we have to contribute." And we just keep telling ourselves to be patient, but then the release is delayed again, and people barely notice translation quality anyway...
But this is not the time for that! We are reviewing Sailor Moon!
Oh right, I was talking about Black Lady, because at the end of volume three, we all knew that that was who Chibi Usa was about to become. Dun dun DUN! And frankly, we just did our final read through of the volume, and it's kind of a lot of back and forth complicated stuff that I think was important to the overall story development but is extremely hard to summarize. Let's see. After Sailor Moon escaped, she set off a bunch of nuclear reactions on Nemesis, so Black Lady came along to evacuate Demande and Saphir, but not Rubeus because he decided he wasn't dedicated to the cause enough to die for it, so they killed him. That's kind of what evil organizations do, at least in these stories. And Black Lady gave them more powers, and Wiseman enhanced his brainwashing of Demande and Saphir, and Black Lady was so evil now that she decided she might as well just destroy the earth to get Neo Queen Serenity and Sailor Moon's Silver Crystal.
Meanwhile, Endymion's all bummed out because he thought Neo Queen Serenity had awakened, but she's still in her crystal coma. This scene was really great, actually, because it was Diana who came along and made things better. Oh my goodness, I think Diana is an overlooked, underrated character. She's so adorable and so brave. Her theory is that Neo Queen Serenity is still asleep because they don't really need her yet. And I think that's kind of a good way to look at things, as a person of faith. Things seem hard and desperate, and you start to wonder why they never get any better and where's the divine intervention, but to hear Diana say it, you don't get any because the Lord knows you're strong enough to still handle it. I like that.
At one point, Usagi passed out, so they decided to take her back home, but not for long, because Black Lady's attack on the 30th Century is so powerful that it has repercussions a thousand years in the past. So they all go back to the 30th Century, and we get to have Chibi Usa's pity party. I mean, let's face it, that's what it is. And I think that's okay (from a storytelling perspective), because her feelings of rejection and inferiority were real, and those kinds of feelings do lead people to commit mass murder, as we have seen many times in the recent news. It was kind of interesting to see how it went down, and it was also interesting because we'd also seen how, while Chibi Usa's feelings were real, her assumptions that led to them were not based in fact. We knew that Neo Queen Serenity and Usagi and Endymion and all the Sailor Guardians really did care about and love Chibi Usa. But we also saw (back in volume three) how she was bullied into forgetting all about that. Add to that the incredibly stressful situation of your planet on its way to death, and the guilt from the very believable possibility that it's all your fault... Well, it's understandable that Chibi Usa turned to the dark side. And it's also true that when someone gets like that, it's very hard to reason them out of it.
At some point in this, Demande decides to reveal that he wasn't really extra-brainwashed after all. A quick review shows us that it happened when they were about to fire yet another giant Black Crystal into the Earth, and Demande was like, "But you really will destroy it this time!" And that has me like, "Since when did he care?" but further reading tells us that Wiseman said, "It doesn't matter, the Queen is mine," and that might have been what set him off. I feel like there's a lot more character development to the Black Moon clan that we get to see in the manga. This is where we have the tragic scene where Demande kills his own brother, and there's definitely some pathos there, but there's not a lot of time to dwell on a big dramatic death scene. We think that's actually a sign of good storytelling (or can be, anyway), because the characters do all have a strong foundation of who they are and everything, and ideally you can show all of it, but sometimes it just doesn't work in the framework you have, so you have to let some things go. In this case, we get less drama from the story of the brothers turned bad. It's there, but we don't get all the details. But if you try to fit too much in, the story drags. And let's face it, with everything that was going on in that scene, if Demande had stopped to mourn Saphir, he would have been killed in a flash. This is another important thing to realize as a storyteller.
On the other hand, Wiseman did stop to let Chibi Usa mourn Pluto. This was a difficult scene to translate, because it's really important and dramatic, so you want to get it right. Oh, but before we get to that, let's pause and go back to Diana. She really is the best. Basically, Black Lady and Wiseman are out there killing everybody, and the Sailor Guardians are dying because they've used up all their energy already, and here this tiny little kitten thinks, "What can I do to help?" There's nothing she can really do to fight (she's just a tiny kitten, for crying out loud), but she knows there is a soldier who hasn't joined the battle yet. She knows the rules, too, and that Pluto is supposed to be guarding the door. And she knows that, while she can't do anything helpful whatsoever in a fight, she can stand and watch a door. And let's face it, if Pluto's been alone for so long, the odds of anyone coming near that door are not high, so it's probably okay that she wouldn't have been able to stop anybody. But oh my goodness, if someone had chosen that time to try to sneak through the time door... Still, it was so cute how she was like, "But it's better than nothing, right?" Awwwwwww! She's the best.
Okay, so Pluto joins the fight, and conveniently is faced with a situation where the only solution is to break the third and final taboo. I mean, she's broken all the others, so why not, right? I'm really starting to think that these "taboos" are not all they're cracked up to be. But Athena just explained it and it makes sense. The first taboo is not to travel through time. She let people travel through time, she made friends, she got attached. Because she was attached to her friends, she wanted to fight, and this led to her leaving her post. Because she left her post to fight, she was tempted to stop time. And because she stopped time, she died. I did have a brief thought about, "Well, who set these rules anyway? Who's the judge and jury here?" Probably nobody, was my answer. Stopping time probably takes a lot of energy, as in, all the energy she has. She uses that up, and she doesn't have any energy to keep her body alive, and she dies. And, back to Athena's explanation, the conclusion is that all three of these taboos were set on Sailor Pluto for her own sake, to keep her safe. It doesn't make her a sinner that she broke them; it just means she has to face very unpleasant consequences.
Right, so we all knew Pluto was going to stop time. This is why they didn't show Serenity saying what the third taboo was until she already broke it, because if she'd said it, any perceptive reader would think, "Well, I know what Pluto's going to do next." But it all worked out for the best(?), because Pluto's sacrifice is what finally brought Chibi Usa back to her senses. Not only was she able to break free of Wiseman's control, but her renewed strength of heart gave her the power to finally transform into Sailor Chibi Moon! And this is a very important thing to note, because it was her tear, shed for Sailor Pluto, that transformed into her brooch. This will be an important detail later on in the series.
But another great thing about this is that, long before Frozen, it went into the fact that there are different kinds of love than the kind that involve hugging and kissing. In other words, you don't have to want to get into somebody's pants in order to love them. (Of course, there's also Demande and Black Lady's twisted delusion that forcing people to love you is also a valid form of love. Some might say this series is problematic because that's even presented as an option, but it is our hope that the readers will realize that these were the villains talking, and not people to be emulated.)
And more dramatic stuff happens and Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask get taken away to Nemesis. This part was ridiculously hard to translate, but in retrospect, I really like these scenes. Someone posted on that Sailor Moon Facebook group a question about what you learned from Sailor Moon. And someone talked about how they loved Sailor Moon R, where Usagi learns that she doesn't need Tuxedo Mask. ...Well...maybe that was true in the anime. Here in the manga, Usagi tells Mamoru that she does need him, she can't do anything without him. And that might sound like a really sexist message, but I don't know. We think that the kind of love they have is beautiful and sacred, and that's how Naoko Takeuchi portrays it. And it's not only that Usagi needs Mamoru--he needs her, too. It's mutual, and that's part of what makes it so great. And another thing I like about this scene is that all through this arc, Mamoru has been angsting about how powerless he is and how he wishes he could do more to help Usagi, and she's able to tell him that his presence is important in her life. Meanwhile, the Black Moon clan has Usagi worried that her whole existence is one of the sources of evil in the world, and he's able to assure her that it's not. So it's kind of a life-affirming journey for both of them, and for Chibi Usa, too. And I just like it.
Then Chibi Usa shows up, and she and Sailor Moon defeat Nemesis together...I do kind of imagine Tux's role in this as kind of like a battery or a generator. But hey, batteries and generators are important. And as I think about it, I kind of imagine the finale of the good Fantasmic, when Mickey beats Maleficent, and they send up some fireworks that come raining down in a shower of sparkles. And they go back to Earth...
Wait a minute, I forgot one of my favorite parts! After Usagi blasts herself and Wiseman back to Nemesis where he reveals himself to be Death Phantom...speaking of which, this is not the only story we've translated that involved an evil person fusing their entire being with a celestial body. We're still wondering if that's a thing in Japanese fiction/folklore, or if it's just because the second thing was written by a guy who was a big Sailor Moon fan back in the day. TV Tropes tells us it happens in sci-fi, so maybe it's just a sci-fi thing. Incidentally, we got the feeling that the Dark Kingdom arc of Sailor Moon was an amalgamation of all of Takeuchi-sensei's favorite fairy tale tropes, while the Black Moon arc is a combination of her favorite sci-fi stuff.
But anyway! Neo Queen Serenity woke up! And it was so cute, because the very first thing she did, before she went out to say hi to everyone or see what was going on or anything else, was to go straight to King Endymion and kiss him awake. I love how devoted they are to each other.
Anyway, now they've beat all the bad guys, and Sailor Moon and Neo Queen Serenity both act very much like themselves and decide history be darned, we're going to say hi to each other. And that was a very cute scene, too. Then Chibi Usa has to say goodbye, and she and Usagi reveal that they really did like each other all along, and it's a sad goodbye until POOF! she's back. Tadah! To be continued...
This volume includes the first set of short stories, because I guess they're printing them in chronological order sort of. So we have the Chibi Usa picture diary about the vampire at her school, and that's kind of a big spoiler, but we all knew all along that she was a vampire, right? We spent forever doing vampire research, it was ridiculous. And this is the worst part! We were like, "Okay, so since when is vampires eating flowers a thing?" So we Googled flower-eating vampires, and what do you think came up first? That's right. Tuxedo Unmasked. Uuuuugh. Well, we couldn't just copy from him, so we adamantly refused to read that article, but there weren't any other viable hits, so instead we did our search in Japanese. And we, too, found out about The Poe Family (as we continued to do research, Tuxedo Unmasked's blog kept showing up, and now that "Poe" was in our heads, the word caught our eyes in the description), and we did a little more research in the hopes that we could find something he didn't mention. Of course, we didn't read that blog post, so we don't know if we succeeded, but it's not really that important anyway. The really important thing was getting the spelling of her name right, and getting the spelling of...okay, so the Poe Family was inspired by a different story and the name of the vampire in Sailor Moon seems to have come from that one. So we had to get the spelling of the names from this other story right, which was tough because ramiika doesn't seem to be a name anywhere, but after doing even more research, we were directed to Vampire Hunter D, which has a character by the same name. Well, that led us to the vampire novel Carmilla, and finally we figured out how everything was supposed to be spelled, but it was kind of funny how the Sailor Moon vampire is based on a Poe vampire is based on a Shotaro Ishinomori vampire is based on Carmilla. There really is nothing original under the sun.
We also ended up doing a ridiculous amount of research for Casablanca Memory, because we were going to find something on the Rain Tree, darnit! See, when we were in college, as part of our major, we had to read The Clever Rain Tree, but the only thing we could remember about it was that there was Rain Tree in the title and that it was a little disturbing (I remembered a specific thing that needs not be repeated here). And when we Googled "rain tree," we got a whole bunch of uselessness. So Athena managed to find it by Googling the words in Japanese (the obvious thing to do), and she found out the name of the story, the series of stories it belonged to, and that there really was a piece of music inspired by it. We looked that up and listened to the whole thing, and decided it was fitting in that it was confusing and disturbing. I mean, fitting for the Clever Rain Tree, but not necessarily fitting for the story. Not necessarily inappropriate, either, though. Still, it's not the kind of thing you would necessarily expect to hear from a bestselling music box, but if Zoisite was using mind control... (If you want to hear it yourself, it's Rain Tree by Toru Takemitsu.) We were a little dazed at the end of our research, but we felt triumphant. We also listened to our Sailor Moon music box CD, because it was appropriate and much more cheerful than Rain Tree. (PS: We do know that the Rain Tree lamp is based on a real antique lamp that Naoko Takeuchi owned, but we wondered if she came up with the name Rain Tree all on her own, or if maybe she came up with the name because she had a familiarity with the story. The author (Kenzaburo Oe) did win a Nobel Prize in literature, so.)
As for the story of Casablanca Memory, we're just really amused that all of Rei's talk of "I hate men" comes from that fact that she's a thirteen-year-old still getting over a bad breakup. ...And I think that's all we have to say about that.
Oh man, that was a fun review! We wrote it about a billion years ago (by which I mean one year), so I'd forgotten all about it. And I'd forgotten how much good storytelling there is in this arc of Sailor Moon!
We actually have two new releases this week! Forbidden Scrollery 7 and Love in Focus 2! And we're still going in alphabetical order, so tune in next week for our review of Forbidden Scrollery 7!
Today I'm thankful for finally finishing that edit we were working on, getting a bit of help with research for one of the translation notes that was giving us trouble, getting our laundry done, getting to watch Miraculous, and it being time to go to sleep.