How Did Sailor Moon’s Disguise Pen Work?

It's Morphin' Time!

It’s Morphin’ Time!

Among all of the special items that Luna gives Usagi and all of the other Sailor Soldiers, I’ve always felt that the Disguise Pen was one of the most interesting, and yet also the most under represented. How is it that you could have a pen that could turn you into whatever you wanted to look like (and typically allow you to look like a grown adult despite being a fourteen year old girl…) and yet so rarely ever use it? In fact, out of its 11 appearances in the anime and six appearances in the manga,1 all but two of them in both the anime and manga occurred in the the Dark Kingdom arc.

What particularly interests me, though, is how more often than not Usagi manages to use the pen wrong and all the while still gets a semi-satisfactory result. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s take a look!

Dr. Usagi - Always Willing to Help

Dr. Usagi – Always Willing to Help

A good place to start is, of course, at the beginning. The Disguise Pen first appeared in Act 2 of the manga (with the introduction of Ami) but appeared earlier in the story in episode 3 of the anime. For the sake of comparison, we’ll use the manga for now.

When Usagi rushes into the cram school to save Ami, she decides to disguise herself as a medical professional – specifically, a “University Hospital Doctor.”2 What’s interesting about this, though, is how her transformation ends up. In the anime they show her as a short-haired doctor in a white lab coat, but in the manga she looks like her normal self, but in a… nurse’s uniform? That’s right: this is where we first get a glimpse at the possibility that – in the manga at least – what Usagi transforms into is based more on what she envisions the job being like that what it actually is.

A... Flight Attendant?

A… Flight Attendant?

Next up is Usagi’s rush to disguise herself so she can enter the Cursed Bus after leaving the Hikawa shrine.3

Putting aside the fact that Usagi trying to disguise herself in order to enter an evil bus clearly being operated by the enemy (and how ridiculous it is for Jadeite to fall for it), what’s interesting about this is that once again Usagi mistakes the name of the job that she’s thinking of. While she’s clearly thinking of what is known in Japan as a “bus attendant” or a “tour guide” (a – typically female – staff member who accompanies the driver on the bus and entertains the passengers, takes care of issues, and often guides tour groups at the destination)4, in the anime and manga, she once again makes a mistake and asks to transform into a stewardess.

Interestingly enough, this has changed with every release of the manga, though it’s always been wrong. In the original manga, she says she wants to be a stewardess, in the re-release she says succhi,5 the Japanese abbreviation for stewardess. In the latest complete (kanzenban) release, this has been changed to “CA” (cabin attendant)6 As an interesting aside, judging by the design on her cap, it’s likely that Usagi (and Ms. Takeuchi!) was thinking of the so-called “eighth generation” flight-attendant uniform of All Nippon Airways, introduced in 1990.7

Punk Rocker Usagi (ep. 6)

Punk Rocker Usagi (ep. 6)

It may seem obvious, I suppose, but it’s interesting to consider that what Usagi ultimately disguises herself as is, more than likely, the image that she has in her head of a given job and less to do with the words she actually says. Her view of a “musician” in episode 6 of the anime is particularly… interesting.

The Disguise Pen had so much potential, but definitely was under utilized as the anime continued. I suppose I can’t really blame the anime or the manga for it, though, when you consider that the cast grew larger and larger with each passing season, and the Disguise Pen was a gimmick that only Usagi could participate in. Still, considering how much it could do, I really would’ve loved to see more of it!


References:

  1. See Disguise Pen Transformations (WikiMoon)
  2. See vol. 1, p. 64 (70) of the original (shinsouban) manga; episode 8 of the anime
  3.  See vol. 1, p. 103 (110) of the original (shinsouban) manga; episode 10 of the anime
  4. See Tour Guide (Wikipedia)
  5. See Japanese Slang (Succhi)
  6.  See vol. 1, p. 110 of the kanzenban release
  7.  See Evolution of ANA CA Uniforms

3 comments

  • I think the most interesting use of the Disguise Pen was in the episode about Venus’s Past. In that one Usagi declares she doesn’t know anything about driving a boat, which prompts Luna to tell her to use the pen to turn herself into an actual sailor. It seemingly works as moments later after grabbing Venus she is driving the speedboat and even apparently parks it by the cruise liner without issue.

    So either Luna tricked her into thinking she gained a sea sailor’s knowledge and then she just got lucky and figured out how to drive the boat on her own (similar to a boat racing simulator game at Crown?) or the transformation (in the anime at least) was not purely physical and she also gained the knowledge and skills associated with her Disguise Pen form.

    Which just makes it all the more disappointing that it wasn’t used more because that could have had a TON of potential for use/abuse…

    (Also for the record don’t forget that Luna was able to give Venus the Disguise Pen in the Usagi’s Birthday 2-parter of S. Which makes me wonder how Luna got it? Did Usagi stop carrying it around for some reason or actually give it back? Did Luna actually have more than one? Or did Luna access Usagi’s magical storage space and take it from there? The latter two possibilities could have meant that it may not have had to be limited to just Usagi’s usage)

    • I really need to get around to re-writing this article, or at least adding a bit to it. Early on, I was trying to keep the blog exclusively to the first and second season, so I didn’t touch on some of the later uses of the Disguise Pen like I should have. In addition to Minako’s use in the S anime, Usagi also used it to dress up as a Mugen Gakuen student in the manga, and I think there was another use in Stars, but I don’t recall right now.

      Oh well, that can always be a second article later on Minako!

      As for how Minako got it from Luna, I’d have to agree with you that I’m more in line with the idea that either Luna had access to Usagi’s magical storage space, or Usagi just kinda leaves it lying around. Since we know for a fact that Usagi leaves her brooch around (since she wears it and it’s stolen off her uniform by ChibiUsa in R), I’d say it’s safe to say that the pen also exists in the real world – probably used like a normal pen, knowing Usagi. Students carry pen cases with them in their school bags nearly everywhere, so it’s not too far of a stretch to assume that Usagi and the Sailor Team carry their transformation pens with them, which would make it plausible for Luna to snatch it to give to Minako. When/why/how is another question entirely, I suppose!

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