How Did the Black Moon’s Droids Get Their Names? (Part 2)
I’m assuming that most of you have already read the first part to this series investigating the playful puns, recycled references, and hidden history behind the names given to the droids throughout Sailor Moon‘s Black Moon arc. If you haven’t had a chance to read through it yet, you might want to read through part one first. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at how the remaining droids got their names!
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I think one of the most difficult things to deal with in translation are names. On one hand, I’m generally firmly against the idea of translating proper nouns, because it’s simply ridiculous that you would change someone’s name once they move abroad.
On the other, when it comes to the vast majority of anime and manga characters, their names are generally some sort of wordplay that the Japanese audience is in on, but the reference is entirely lost on western viewers. In the case of the names of attacks and minor villains, I feel that translation may be a better approach.
But I guess I wouldn’t be able to blog about these things if they were already translated, now would I?
Well, let’s see what kind of secrets the Black Moon clan was hiding!
- Marzipan: To the surprise of absolutely no one, Marzipan is named after the confection of the same name. This makes a lot of sense, considering she works at a cake shop.
- Udering: Her name is a two-way pun: it sounds like “wedding ring,” which is particularly fitting seeing as she pretends to be a teacher at a shop which makes promise rings for couples, and consists of the words ude (腕; arm) and ring (リング; ring), which refer to the bracelets she wears.
- Pharmakon: Though you could probably guess this on your own by her appearance, the Pharmakon’s name shares the same root with the “pharma” root in the word “pharmacy.” More specifically, “pharmakon” itself is a Greek word meaning drug / medicine / poison.1
- Dogbaa: I’ve had a really hard time with name, and it looks like all the Japanese sites I’ve found have too. While it’s pretty obvious that the first part of her name is just “dog,” the second part of her name isn’t so clear. It could be in reference to a bar animal trainers use for training?
- Giwaaku: Yet another droid with a straight-forward name, Giwaaku is a play on the Japanese word giwaku (疑惑), meaning doubt, misgivings, distrust, or suspicion.2
- Chiral and Achiral: Ms. Takeuchi went back to her roots in chemistry for these two. Chiral and his twin brother Achiral get their names from the concept of chirality.3 An object is considered “chiral” if a mirror image of itself do not match. “Achiral” would mean the opposite – an object that is the same even when mirrored (e.g., a sphere).
- The twins are collectively known as the “Boule Brothers,” named after a “boule,” which is a synthetically-produced crystal.4 A fitting name for droids!
- Incidentally, this is not the first time Ms. Takeuchi has drawn upon her chemistry background when naming characters. Back in an earlier manga, “Always Together” (いつもいっしょね; itsumo issho ne), she named two pet dogs Aniline and Acetanilide.5 Not exactly the most easy-to-pronounce names for a kids’ comic!
- Rhuax: This name is something of a mystery. According to Animage,6 Sumisawa got this name from a Latin word, but it didn’t say which word that was. There don’t appear to be any Latin words that match this pronunciation (リュアクス; ryuakusu) in Japanese, but luxe (written in Japanese as リュクス; ryukusu) comes close. Considering this is the same root in “luxury,”7 this doesn’t sound like a good candidate. However, if Sumisawa was mistaken and it actually was Greek, then this would be the word rhuax, meaning “lava flow.”8 Unfortunately, for a droid whose design was taken from a clock hand, neither of these words make much sense.
And there you have it — more than you probably ever thought there was to know about the names of one-off characters in a 20+ year old cartoon! I kid, of course.
I know I’ve mentioned this countless times, but I really am impressed just how far Ms. Takeuchi (and, subsequently, the anime production staff) went to give additional depth to even the one-shot characters that appear in the Sailor Moon universe. Even if you don’t catch each and every reference, you can just feel the devotion that all of the people involved put into this series.
That really is what keeps me coming back for more.