A fan of the series since 1995, Koriander runs the popular Moon Sisters fan site and studies the Sailor Moon franchise closely.
The Original Champion of Justice
The Codename Sailor V manga did not hit North America until the early 2010s, but this 1991–1997 manga already had a major influence on Sailor Moon fans.
Most readers in North America first saw Sailor V in one of three places: the first season of the '90s Sailor Moon anime; a glimpse between the pages of Tokyopop's edit of the Sailor Moon manga; and in toy stores—Sailor V's crescent moon-shaped compact was released as the "Moon Jewelry Box" by Irwin and BanDai between 1995 and 1997.
But without Codename Sailor V, there is no Sailor Moon.
The Codename Sailor V Manga
Debuting on August 3rd, 1991 in RunRun Magazine (on Tuxedo Mask's birthday) and initially intended as a one-shot parody of Toei's tokusatsu shows, such as Poitrine and Super Sentai/Power Rangers, Codename Sailor V follows Minako Aino for one entire year before she meets the other Sailor Guardians.
The initial few stories were such a hit that Toei Animation opted to do a full TV anime, provided the cast expanded to five girls. Initial concepts of a different cast can be found online, but eventually, the story was expanded to include Sailor Moon and the other guardians as fans would know them by the debut of the Sailor Moon anime in February of 1992.
The only nod to previous concepts was in episode 42, where Minako spent a year in England with her adult boyfriend Alan before losing him to cop Katarina.
Codename Sailor V would run side-by-side with Sailor Moon through May of 1997.
Route Venus Is a Lonely Road
Minako's first year as a magical girl was brutal and lonely.
Unlike Usagi, who at 14 years old at least had the partial support of Luna and Tuxedo Mask—and only had to destroy a monster and rescue Naru and her mother—Minako's first task as Codename Sailor V was to kill her first crush.
Minako and Higashi
13-year-old Minako had just started getting close to her senpai, Higashi, a 14-year-old transfer student. He was the reason why from the first story onward, she always wears a red bow in her hair.
But just before her relationship could escalate, she not only caught Higashi wooing other girls from her class, but she also found that he was kidnapping the girls, absorbing their life energy and turning them into living zombies.
With only moments to spare, she was forced into her first transformation, and in a flash, the first burst of energy she ever used melted Higashi into dust right before her very eyes.
Higashi was only the first of many minions Queen Beryl's Dark Kingdom had sent out in the year before Sailor Moon got her powers, meaning that Minako had to learn hew new skills very quickly in order to keep mutated humans and monsters alike from destroying the world before the Moon Princess could be found.
Alone and Persecuted
With nobody she could talk to about this outside of Artemis, who had to push her to carry on right after this, Minako began a very lonely first year of having to cope with trauma completely alone.
She couldn't tell her friend Hikaru, who eventually faded into the background, and she couldn't rely on her parents, because her mother was extremely abusive and her father, who took little to no interest in her, was too busy being on the receiving end of her mother's screaming fits.
Even worse, the police were always trying to hunt Sailor V, jealous she was catching criminals before they were, making law enforcement a constant threat. The only exception being police superintendent Natsuna, sister to Usagi's 8th grade teacher Haruna, who hung around Minako and loved teen idols.
Men would grab her, humans would choose to become monsters, demonic creatures plagued Japan, and Minako had to fight alone.
The pain of being a magical girl culminated in an emotional meltdown with confusing dialogue during the Dream Arc of the Sailor Moon manga and the Sailor Moon Eternal film.
A Real Crescent Beam Smash
Both the Sailor Moon and Codename Sailor V manga titles are heavy on gore not typically expected in shoujo titles, but Codename Sailor V took the violence a step further.
Minako would describe the smells of rotting monsters and mutated humans, bringing the reader into the gross environment.
Some stories even allowed for Minako to use weapons outside of magic powers, wands and compacts.
She once used a military grade assault rifle, and in another, a sword, long before Sailor Uranus.
Surrounded By Love
Most of the Sailor Moon cast appears in Codename Sailor V at random points of the manga.
For a whole year, Minako occasionally bumps into Usagi, Naru, Ami, Makoto and Rei and she knows Motoki longer than Usagi.
Her favorite manga Aurora Wedding follows a cast that look identical to Tuxedo Mask, the Inner Guardians, Outer Guardians and even Chibiusa.
And unbeknownst to most, the "Boss" character she and Artemis talk to is really Queen Serenity, using the remnants of the computer on the Moon to guide them from afar. She even references "sending messages" when she meets Sailor Moon in the manga and in Sailor Moon Crystal.
Phantom of Her Opera
Halfway through the Codename Sailor V manga, readers are introduced to Phantom Ace, a mysterious boy who seemingly helps Sailor V in the way Tuxedo Mask helps Sailor Moon, but there's a curious twinge of competition between the two.
His regular identity is as Ace Saijou, a pop singer who looks like Justin Bieber when he was a boy, ironically debuting near when Bieber was born. (Bieber was born in March of 1994, Ace officially debuted in the May 1994 issue of RunRun Magazine, but as Danburite, was seen in the shadows in the August 1992 issue.)
Minako had many loves and crushes that ended in heartbreak during the manga, but this one was the hardest.
At the end of the series, he revealed himself to be Adonis, a soldier in the army for Planet Venus during her past life, who had an unrequited crush on her. He became so angry at the fact that she never knew him, never met him and never dated him, and at the fact that back then, she was already dating Kunzite, that he joined Beryl's army.
Once he was reincarnated, he regained his memories, still hated Sailor Venus for not dating him back then, and again, joined Queen Beryl's army, this time as Danburite, where the teenager worked his way up the ranks, ironically answering to Kunzite and the other Four Generals, and was only Phantom Ace to lure Sailor V into a fight to the death.
During the fight, Sailor V became Sailor Venus, regained her memories, and tried to save Danburite from himself, only for him to try to place a curse on her head, where she would never find love, before disintegrating before her eyes.
She had no time to process this, as by now, Sailor Moon and the others were starting to meet and awaken, so the now 14-year-old Minako found herself acting as a decoy princess until Sailor Moon regained her memories as Princess Serenity.
Love and Beauty Shock
Fortunately, Ace's curse never took hold.
In the final manga story Parallel Sailor Moon in 1999, Minako, now sporting a tattoo, is happily married to the assistant director for a sitcom, and she is the mother to Mina Aino, who also transforms as a Sailor Guardian.
To get here, Minako had to cycle through many heartbreaks and much tragedy, but Minako's story ends with a shining future.
© 2022 Koriander Bullard