Why Is Sailor Moon Talking About Safe Sex?

Sailor Moon STI Condom (Front)

Sailor Moon STI Condom (Front)

While I’ve certainly written more than my fair share of off-color topics in the past, from what the Sailor Soldiers wear under their skirts to their mathematically-derived bust sizes, I never thought I’d actually be writing about an authorized Sailor Moon… condom, with Ms. Takeuchi’s seal of approval. While this isn’t the type of trivia I usually discuss, this seemed worthy of a further look and something I thought would be fun to share with fans in the west. So, what’s all this about?

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Why Was There No Sailor Stars Movie?

What could have been...

What could have been…

When you consider what a hot property Sailor Moon was as a full-blown multimedia marketing machine from the early- to mid-90’s, it seems like something of a mystery that there never was a movie for the fifth season to wrap the series up. After all, with the new stories and characters introduced in Sailor Stars, there must have been a lot of potential for making a movie, right? Well, that’s what we’re going to take a look at today!

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How Old Was Usagi’s Mother, Ikuko?

Don't ever ask a woman's age...

Don’t ever ask a woman’s age…

In a series like Sailor Moon which has given us so much trouble when it comes to trying to sort out the time line, it’s refreshing to finally be able to take on a question regarding an age which can actually be answered (… within reason) for once. So just how old is Ikuko Tsukino and – by extension – how old was she when she gave birth to Usagi?

Ikuko is, as implied by her name,1 the quintessential caring mother who isn’t afraid of engaging in a little bit of tough-love in order to get Usagi to actually get around to taking studying seriously. Also implied in her name is the Japanese concept of 教育ママ (kyouiku mama; a mother focused on scholastic achievement), a term which has been around in Japanese culture since at least the 1960s,2 though the concept may be more familiar in the west as a “tiger mother” as popularized in Amy Chua’s book by the same name.3

Usagi's growing up!

Usagi’s growing up!

As for her age, according to an offhand remark Ikuko makes in the manga, we can definitively say that she is 36 years old as of the Sailor Stars arc.4 Similarly, she makes a remark in the anime which puts her age at around her “later 30s,”5 so I would say it’s pretty safe to place her at 36 in both versions of Sailor Moon.

If she’s 36 years old when Usagi is first entering high school (and figuring that Usagi is 16 years old at that time), that would put her at around 20 years old when Usagi was born. And I bet you thought Usagi was young when she had ChibiUsa! In 1977, when Usagi was presumably born,6 the average age at the time of first marriage was 27 and 25 for men and women, respectively. As a point of comparison, those numbers are now 31 for men and 29 for women.7

What this does mean, though, is that Ikuko probably did not go to university, though that wasn’t so uncommon in those days. Back in 1977, only around 13% of Japanese women actually went to a four-year university, which is the same rate as that for Japanese men in 1955!8 This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but it might be an additional reason behind Ikuko’s motivation for pushing Usagi to study hard (and since Usagi became the Neo Queen of Crystal Tokyo at 22, she very well could have gone to university).

Ikuko and six year old Usagi

Ikuko and six year old Usagi

What’s most interesting for me about all of this is that it shows that Usagi’s family is actually on the younger end of the scale, meaning that Ikuko would probably be a fair bit younger than the parents of all the other Sailor Soldiers (well, except Makoto’s…). From the point of view of education, it also nicely emphasizes exactly how impressive and rare it would have been for Ami’s mother to have been attending medical school at that time!

I really do which that we knew more about the family lives of the other members of the Sailor Team, but I guess I should be happy that at the very least the Tsukino’s were fleshed out as much as they were. I’d love to know just how much of their personalities were actually based on the members of Ms. Takeuchi’s family!

What Kind of Car Did Usagi’s Family Own?

The Tsukino family truckster

The Tsukino family truckster

While cars may not be the most fascinating aspect of Sailor Moon, it’s always interesting to take a look at how Ms. Takeuchi and the animation staff have gone through the effort to bring things from the real world, such as the Crown Game Center, and accurately represent them in the manga and anime. Of course, real world inspiration isn’t limited to only places and things, but it extends as far as the magical items the characters wield and even some of the clothes they wear (which is another topic for another time)!

One question that begs to be asked, though, is why exactly real world locations and things as simple as cars are copied over into the world of Sailor Moon. While this makes a lot of sense in the case of really famous locations (such as Tokyo Tower) and the latest sports cars, since it can instill a sense of familiarity into the viewer, this doesn’t make quite as much sense when we’re talking about the Tsukino’s family truckster.1 I find it kind of hard to believe that anyone was actually a fan of the VW Golf II GTi 16V, Mr. Tsukino’s car of choice.2

VW Golf II GTi 16v

VW Golf II GTi 16v

The most likely answer as to why this car was used in the anime is, frankly, that it’s just easier to copy a real world design that it is to make it up yourself. I’m not an artist myself, so I spoke with some professional illustrators to try to get another perspective on this. According to my friend, it’s easy enough to imagine the concept of a ‘street intersection,’ ‘car,’ or any other generic place or thing, it’s actually quite challenging to freehand draw a car unless you have some experience.

There is, in fact, a whole industry in Japan devoted to providing manga artists and illustrators with royalty-free photos of both famous landmarks and generic locations.3 In some cases these are just used for inspiration, though they are often used for tracing over in order to make convincing-looking background scenery. It’s actually quite likely that Ms. Takeuchi used something like this (or photos she took herself) when sketching out her manga.

Does the Tsukino family have two cars??

Does the Tsukino family have two cars??

As for the car itself, there isn’t too much interesting to say about it other than that when new, the Golf4 sold for approximately three times the price of the most popular car at the time,5 the Toyota Corolla.6 Considering the rather impressive house they lived in, it’s probably fairly safe to say that the Tsukino’s were doing all right, financially speaking!

Oh, and in case you were curious, yes… the car did have seat belts for all 5 passengers, so there was no excuse for Usagi and Shingo to slack off on safety!

Nothing altogether world shattering here, but it is somewhat interesting to see how much of the real world inspired the world of Sailor Moon, especially when you consider how much of an impact the series had on the real world. It makes me wonder just how many real world things you can find if you were to stop and look closely at other minor things in the background!

Does Usagi’s Family Also Have a Moon Connection?

The Tsukinos

The Tsukinos

The Tsukino family play an interesting part in the Sailor Moon universe since they both have a strong connection to Usagi – the central character in the story – while at the same time supposedly representing what is mundane and normal in the world. Since it’s pretty well known that Ms. Takeuchi was a fan of adding in little touches here and there as in-jokes/references about her characters, often through clever puns in their names, it’s probably worth taking a deeper look at what connections, if any, Usagi’s family has.

First and foremost, it’s worth noting that the Usagi’s family members’ names don’t have any special meanings behind them, since we know that the makeup of her family and the names themselves are based off of Naoko’s real family.1 Though the kanji is likely different, it seems that Kenji, Ikuko, and Shingo are all based on the Takeuchi family.

However, not all is lost for subtle references to rabbits and the moon, at least when it comes to the anime!

Ikuko and Usagi's unique hairstyle

Ikuko and Usagi’s unique hairstyle

Though far more pronounced in the anime than in the manga, if you look closely you can see that both Ikuko and Usagi share a common trait in their hairstyle – particularly, that they have a heart-shaped part in the middle of their bangs. This styling of course can also be seen in Queen Serenity, ChibiUsa, and Chibi Chibi as well. So what’s the point?

Crescent Moon Bangs

Crescent Moon Bangs

Well, it’s not actually a heart-shaped parting in her bangs, but actually two crescent moons facing each other, which gives the appearance of a heart.

While the effect may be subtle, it’s much easier to see when highlighted, as shown here. Ikuko’s hair style varies a bit from episode to episode and is a little less pronounced in the Sailor Moon Crystal anime, but if you look closely, you can definitely see that the two-moon hair style is the same across all of the versions.

Even if Queen Serenity is considered Sailor Moon’s true mother and Ikuko is her mother only through reincarnation, it’s nice to know that Ikuko still has her place in connecting to Usagi!

Moving onto Kenji, well, I’m afraid that unfortunately he doesn’t really seem to play a big part in the series (which isn’t uncommon for fathers in anime/manga, I suppose), so other than the connection to Ms. Takeuchi’s own family, there’s not much to go off of here.

Shingo the Bunny Man

Shingo the Bunny Man

The good news, though, is that Shingo isn’t without his own interesting reference!

Though not directly tied to the moon at first glance, if you take a look at his name tag (which he’s required to wear going to, from, and in school in lieu of a uniform), you’ll notice two little round bits on top of his last name, 月野 (tsukino). This is consistent throughout the first season of the anime, at least, and always appears on his name tag. So what is it?

Much like the odango hairstyle that Usagi uses, these two little circles on top of the moon kanji character are meant to be reminiscent of bunny ears, which ties back into the traditional Asian legend of there being a rabbit on the moon (and the inspiration for Usagi’s name in the first place).2 Now, why Shingo would want to draw rabbit ears, in honor of his sister, on his name tag in the first place is beyond me, but I guess we can assume he has a soft spot in his heart for his sister anyway.

It’s really unfortunate that Usagi’s family really took a back seat as the series progressed in order to make room for more characters, but I suppose it was necessary when you consider that new characters were being added and also needed time in the lime light.

All the same, though, it’s nice to know that the anime producers took the time to at least put in these extra little details for the fans to catch! Yet another little bit of trivia that makes Sailor Moon fun to watch over and over again.

 

Why Does Sailor Moon Heal Everyone?

Mooooon Healing ESCALATION!

Mooooon Healing ESCALATION!

An alternative title for this question is probably: “Why Doesn’t Sailor Moon Kill More People?” But that seemed a little dark, so I decided for some nicer phrasing. It’s not like we actually want Usagi to kill, right?

One thing that makes this question interesting is that, if Sailor Moon had been a cartoon originally made in the United States back in the early 90’s, I wouldn’t give this a second thought and it wouldn’t even occur to me that it’s odd that the vast majority of the monsters of the day (and even the major villains!) end up being ‘healed’ or otherwise brought over to the side of good. Even when the villains do wind up being killed in the anime, they usually die at their own hands, by being backstabbed by a colleague, or for some reason unrelated to the Sailor Team. But this is Japan, where the concept of showing bad (or even good!) people die in children’s media isn’t considered to be so wrong.

Detective Conan can be surprisingly dark...

Detective Conan can be surprisingly dark…

Take Detective Conan for example. Its target audience is mainly young children, and yet since the anime began its run in 1996, a total of 334 people have died as of episode 631.1 Since the story is meant to take place over just one year (without any of the fancy time-resets Sailor Moon is granted), that works out to 0.9 deaths per day!

Even in the live-action Super Sentai series,2 which Sailor Moon‘s concept is based on, at the very least the daily monsters were generally killed without a second thought.

The first, and most obvious answer, is the argument related to sexism (though not necessarily in a bad way): the Sailor Soldiers are girls, and thus are seen to be pure and shouldn’t be killing people. What makes this a particularly difficult to refute argument is that the Sailor Moon series essentially created the fighting superheroine genre3 in Japan, so we don’t have a lot of examples to go off of. But I personally don’t think that’s 100% of the story.

Moonlight Mask

Moonlight Mask

I wonder if, perhaps, this might be partially related to the major thematic element of the series – the moon. In fact, Japan’s first tv superhero, Moonlight Mask,4 also fought as a “soldier from the moon.” His name (月光仮面; gekkou kamen) actually comes from the Japanese name of the Buddhist bodhisattva Candraprabha,5 whose name is written in Japanese as 月光菩薩 (gakkou bosatsu; Moonlight Bodhisattva).

So how does this connect to the Sailor Soldiers always choosing to show mercy over killing? Well, Moonlight Mask’s motto (as a throwback to his Buddhist inspiration) might be the key:

憎まず、殺さず、許しましょう

“Do not hate, do not kill – let us forgive.”

Moonlight Mask was also known for not killing his enemies, possibly in reference to the Buddhist origins behind his name, but I also believe it’s related to the perception of the moon as a source of unsullied purity; a light in the darkness. This connection also is carried through into the Sailor Moon series, from the purity of the characters themselves and even back to the peace of the Silver Millennium, which was only put to an end due to the greed of humanity. But what about you? Do you think it’s simply a matter of tv viewers not wanting to see women kill, or is there possibly some other, deeper explanation that I missed?

As an interesting aside, between his turban, name, and all white outfit, he’s pretty clearly the inspiration behind Moonlight Knight, and also the second time Mamoru is based on an old Japanese superhero.

Why Did Professor Tomoe Sacrifice Hotaru?

Hotaru Taken by a Tragic Explosion

Hotaru Taken by a Tragic Explosion

Now, far be it from me to pass judgment on what makes a good and bad parent, but I’ve always found it… questionable that Professor Souichi Tomoe chose to implant a daimon egg in his daughter (and only surviving member of his family after the tragic death of his wife), which ultimately allowed Mistress 9 to take control of Hotaru. While this plot device – or one like it – was obviously necessary for the progression of the Death Busters story arc, I wasn’t completely satisfied with that answer. After all, Ms. Takeuchi is pretty well known for putting meaning behind the most insignificant details, right? While most of what’s written in this post is just speculation on my part, I think there’s enough evidence to at least give it some serious consideration. So let’s take a closer look!

Even mad scientists need to eat...

Even mad scientists need to eat…

While I’m generally a fan of the Occam’s Razor1 school of thought (i.e., that the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true), when it comes to explaining the personalities and backgrounds of the characters of the Sailor Moon series, Ms. Takeuchi has proven to prefer depth and complexity. In order to answer the question about Hotaru and her father’s questionable parenting practices, we again look to Greco-Roman mythology for a little context.

Cronus, the Greek god on which Saturn was based,2 had something of a bad habit when it came to eating his own children. Seeing as he had castrated and overthrown his own father, Uranus, in order to become the ruler of the universe,3 it’s somewhat understandable that Cronus would worry about his own children wanting to topple him. In fact, he was told by Uranus and Gaia (his mother) that his own son would be his undoing. In order to put a stop to that, he would eat his children shortly after they were born.

Though canonically we would accept Hotaru as the character representative of Saturn/Cronus when it comes to her portrayal within the Sailor Moon series – indeed, Saturn was often depicted with a scythe/sickle similar to the Silence Glaive – I wonder if it’s also possible to look at the story as it’s applied to her. Though Professor Tomoe clearly cared about his daughter and sought to save her life, implanting the daimon egg within her and allowing Mistress 9 to possess Hotaru seemed to be connected with his desire to further his research (which is what caused the accident in the first place) and completely separate from his efforts to keep Hotaru alive.

Professor Tomoe – Not All There?

Professor Tomoe – Not All There?

While one could naturally point out the obvious difference in eating your own children and what Professor Tomoe did, the results are not so dissimilar when you take a look at the motivations behind them: like Cronus, Professor Tomoe was willing to sacrifice his own child in order to further his own goals in his quest for power.

This could all very well be just a coincidence, but seeing how much effort Ms. Takeuchi went even to match up star signs and birthdays for all of the characters, it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibilities. So what do you think? Do you think that Professor Tomoe’s treatment of Hotaru was in reference to the Greek origins of the character? Just a plot device? Maybe some other theory…? I’d love to hear it!

Why Did the Outer Senshi Use Lipstick in Their Transformations?

The Outer Senshi Applying Lipstick

The Outer Senshi Applying Lipstick

This is yet another one of those questions that I’ve been wondering about for a long time that could either be something as simple as a design choice made up by either the animation staff or Ms. Takeuchi herself, or might actually have some sort of deeper meaning behind it. After all, the staff behind the Sailor Moon anime didn’t hesitate to make some pretty far-reaching, if arbitrary, decisions to alter characters personalities. However, for the most part, most of their changes were for the sake of adding in additional meaning to the anime as references for astute fans.

So why is it that, while every one of the Sailor Soldiers either has their nails painted during their transformation (or showcases their painted nails during when transforming into their Super forms), the adding of lipstick is a characteristic unique to the Outer Sailor Soldiers. Making things all the more interesting is that Sailor Saturn is excluded from this quirk, and her transformation clearly showcases her magical manicure.

Sailor Moon's Magical Manicure

Sailor Moon’s Magical Manicure

As best as I can determine, this design choice was most likely made in consideration of the target audience of the anime, and what is actually considered “adult” to them. After having watched, read, and played Sailor Moon in its myriad of forms, it’s easy to forget that the magical items they use are real-world items and that their “Make Up” transformation phrase is not only a nifty thing to shout, but also directly references the transformations these young girls are making into sailor-suited heroines. And in this case, it also is referencing real-world make-up.

According to a 2014 web survey conducted by My Navi Woman1 on women’s age when they first wore lipstick, the number one response was 18 years old, at 20.3%. Though the second most common response, 12 or younger, was at 19.8%, this actually is in the minority when you calculate the rest of the ages together. Taken as a whole, >60% of women responded that they were either 16 years or older when they first used lipstick. The same age range, incidentally, as Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna.

Inner Senshi Manicure Set

Inner Senshi Manicure Set

But for those numbers to be meaningful, we need to know about Japanese manicure trends. Fortunately, Benesse did a survey in 20112 with Japanese parents on just that. As early as 6 years old, 44.1% and 26.5% of girls were reported to being either interested in or actually painting their nails, respectively. Though the painting of nails is still forbidden in the vast majority of Japanese schools – even through high school! – it nicely highlights the point on what kind of makeup girls Usagi’s age and younger have in mind.

While this is by no means any sort of definitive proof of why the three talisman-bearing Sailor Soldiers all have lipstick applied when they transform, I think it does at least give an interesting insight into Japanese attitudes toward makeup which may differ from those in the West.

If I were to wager a guess, I would say that the point in doing it this way was to highlight the age difference between the new and mysterious Sailor Soldiers being introduced in the Death Busters Arc and to give them an added sense of maturity. It also explains why Hotaru goes along with the others in just having her nails painted. What do you think about all this? Do you think there was any sort of deeper meaning behind it, or just a stylistic choice of the animators?

What is the Inspiration for the Spiral Heart Moon Rod?

The Spiral Heart Moon Rod

The Spiral Heart Moon Rod

Throughout her time as a sailor-suited soldier of love and justice, dedicating her days to boring school work and evenings to punishing evil in the name of the moon, Sailor Moon has gone through quite a few different magical items and all manners of attacks. While I’m personally a fan of the traditional Moon Stick, which I think we can all agree has a pretty lackluster name, the inspiration behind the Spiral Heart Moon Rod is fascinating in its own right.

What makes the Spiral Heart Moon Rod so interesting is that its design, like the designs of other important items in the Sailor Moon canon, appears to be based on a real rod – a scepter1 – in the possession of the British Royal Family. Specifically, I’m referring to the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross,2 part of the coronation regalia of the British monarchy.

The Sovereign's Scepter with Cross and Spiral Heart Moon Rod

The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and Spiral Heart Moon Rod

In addition to the remarkable similarities in their general appearance, which is pretty convincing in its own, it’s also noteworthy that the Sovereign’s Scepter contains within it Cullinan I,3 the clearest cut diamond in the world – not too dissimilar from the legendary Silver Crystal itself! The curving lines reminiscent of a heart, the crown design on top, and the crystal embedded within all make this a pretty convincing basis for the design.

Cullinan I

Cullinan I

Taking into consideration that the talismans were also based on Western designs, it seems pretty fitting to me that Ms. Takeuchi would choose such a famous item from the crown jewels to use as the basis for her design. It also ties in nicely with her role as heir to the Silver Millennium and the future Neo-Queen of Crystal Tokyo.

Since we know that Ms. Takeuchi incredibly well-informed and clearly did a lot of research into various crystals, I think it would definitely be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the broaches throughout the seasons, or maybe some of the other various sticks, wands, and scepters wielded by Sailor Moon. Just seeing something real that looks so similar really gives you a sense for just how impressive her attacks must have looked to the enemies she faces.

But what about you? What was your favorite of her weapons, and why? I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Moon Stick and how it even evolved once the Silver Crystal was added to it, but that’s just me. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions!

What’s So Super About Super Sailor Moon?

Transforming Into Super Sailor Moon

Transforming Into Super Sailor Moon

Depending on how you take it, this question could either be existential, painfully obvious, a bizarre linguistics mystery, or an interesting mix of all three. Just to be clear, we’re not actually discussing the relative power of Sailor Moon’s attacks or why the series is called Sailor Moon in the first place, but rather what was the reason for having her powered up form being called “Super Sailor Moon.” Couldn’t she just power up without needing a new name?

She's not just good, she's super!

She’s not just good, she’s super!

Well, as with a lot of things in Japanese media, answering this question requires us to take a look back at the social and historical context that the Sailor Moon series was created in. As original and unique as the series is, and as much work as Ms. Takeuchi put in to make such a rich and diverse world for her characters to live within, the series was still greatly impacted by the pop culture of the country it was founded in.

You see, throughout the mid- to late-1980s and into the 1990s, Japan had something of a love affair with the word “super,” not much unlike how “x-treme” (and various variations thereon) became synonymous with sports, soft drinks, and pretty much any product or TV show marketed to anyone under the age of 30 in the US from the late 1990s and early 2000s.1 Japan’s (…bubble) economy was going strong,2 and the word “super” seems to have been picked up by marketers to show how their product was new and improved.

The most obvious example that you’re probably all aware of is the upgrade from the Famicom/Nintendo to the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo, but this goes back much earlier. Following the Nintendo connection, the sequel/upgrade to the smash hit “Mario Bros.” was “Super Mario Bros.”3 But as we’re about to see, characters being “leveled up” so-to-speak isn’t the only way that the word super had infected Japanese culture.

1988 Commercial for Asahi Super Dry

1988 Commercial for Asahi Super Dry

In 1987 the Asahi Beer company, wanting to expand their business from a paltry 10% of the Japanese beer market, launched the Asahi Super Dry product line. This sparked off what is known as the “Dry Wars” among Japanese beer producers,4 who were all trying to capture the budding dry beer5 market.

Other noteworthy examples include the Super Saiyan form6 in Dragon Ball Z in 1991, the Super-VHS video standard7 introduced in 1987, and the proposed upgrade to the floppy disk – the so-called SuperDisk8 – in 1997. Taking a look at anime titles alone, you can see the trend pretty clearly:9

So what does this all mean, then? Essentially what this means is that during this particular time in Japan, the word “super” was a popular marketing buzz word used to convey to the audience that this was a new, upgrade, improved version of a previous product. That’s not to say that the concept didn’t exist in the west – Superman predates this marketing buzz in Japan by nearly half a century. But what’s interesting about all this is that, taken as a whole, what Ms. Takeuchi was trying to emphasizing by powering Usagi (and, later, the rest of the Sailor Soldiers) up into her Super form.

A Survivor of the Dry Wars

A Survivor of the Dry Wars

Taking into consideration how deeply this was all affected by the words, language, and other series and products out at the time, it makes me wonder what the upgraded form of Sailor Moon would’ve been called if the series came out today? Mega like in Pokémon?10 Though I’m a fan of the Super and Eternal forms, I’d love to know how things would’ve changed if the series had been made today!

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