Given the pedigree, being the prequel to Sailor Moon, I was not expecting very much from Codename Sailor V. And while it is not among my favorite mangas, I was surprised at how much better it was than its more famous follow up.
The premise is largely the same, a ditzy teen gains super powers and fights evil. But there is a creativity to Codename Sailor V that is lacking in Sailor Moon. In the latter, the Senshei tend to be one trick ponies, having one primary attack that they use at any one time and not doing much else. Sailor V actually has more than one attack and will also often fight hand to hand (or foot to face, as it were), something that is rare in Sailor Moon. In addition, the transformation pen is used much more creatively in Sailor V than in Sailor Moon. While Usagi would just disguise herself, Minako at several points uses the pen to arm herself, one time even using it to give herself a giant machine gun.
Sailor V also fights regular crime fairly often, something largely ignored in the Sailor Moon manga for reasons I do not understand. This results in several policemen being recurring characters, some of whom I wished would have turned up in Sailor Moon.
These differences result in a series that feels much more varied, a world that feels more real, and a character that through her own actions is more fleshed out than Sailor Moon, which in turn makes the style of humor that both mangas share funnier. A few chapters in I was asking myself why this was not made into the anime instead of Sailor Moon. I also asked myself why the creativity so apparent in Sailor V was so absent from Sailor Moon.