Why is Rei So Different in the Anime and Manga?

Rei and Her Split Personality

Rei and Her Split Personality

This is a question that has been asked both by Japanese and international fans of Sailor Moon since time immemorial… or at least since the series first debuted in 1992. While there are little differences here and there in the intricacies of all the other characters’ personalities, Rei stands out in being simply so completely different between the anime and manga. How is it that the mature, self-assured, lady-like, and self-proclaimed man-hating1 young woman in the manga became the boy-hunting foil for Usagi in the anime? Even Ms. Takeuchi herself had complained about how the anime changed the character. So, what happened?

Rei Hino

Rei Hino

One of the simplest explanations for the change — and one that probably explains at least half of the story behind it — is that while the focus of the manga was on the story of young love and young girl fighting against the forces of evil (at least in the first season), the focus of the anime was more on friendship and the relationship between the five girls. The strength of their friendship, for example, is what gave Sailor Moon the strength to defeat Queen Metalia in the end.

Another contributing factor was due to the slightly younger intended audience of the anime and the fact that, unlike the solitary nature of a manga (where the reader engages in it by themselves), a television program is typically a group experience, perhaps watched with your family or with friends. For this reason, the anime team went with a decidedly more comedic route than what you saw in the original manga. Rei — the soldier of fire — seemed like as good of a candidate as any, I suppose, to play the opposite of Usagi and constantly push her, argue with her, and fight for the attentions of their shared love interest, Mamoru.

Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin - the Base for TA Catholic School

Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin – the Base for TA Catholic School

But perhaps there’s a slightly deeper reason for this, another reason why it is that the anime staff envisioned Rei as more of a wild, outgoing girl. There very well may be, and that reason could very well be tied directly into where the story takes place (and — more specifically — where Rei lives and plays).

Rei is said to go to T.A. Catholic School (a private all-girl’s school)2 which seems to be based on Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin (T from Toyo and the ei in Eiwa is pronounced “A” in Japanese, which would explain the name TA chosen by Naoko).3 The school is located in a part of Roppongi where there are quite a few embassies, high class restaurants, and has a vibe of what one could call the “upper crust part of town.”

Incidentally, TV Asahi (the station which carried the Sailor Moon anime during its original run) is also located in Roppongi, though despite being in the same area, the feeling of the town is incredibly different. Particularly at that time, in the late 1980s and early 1990s (and even today, to be honest), Roppongi was known for its discos and wild night-life entertainment. Late night drinking, women in short skirts, and dance clubs running late into the night were and are the norm. The most famous of which, Juliana’s,4 was located in Shibaura, in the same Minato ward and nearby to Roppongi.

Juliana's Tokyo in the Early 1990s

Juliana’s Tokyo in the Early 1990s

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was a misunderstanding by the anime staff when they were deciding how to interpret the characters from paper to the airwaves, I think the staff working on the series definitely had a different impression when they heard the words “Roppongi girl,” which could have led to at least some of the differences we see in Rei’s personality. While Ms. Takeuchi’s association was likely more in line with the private Catholic girls school, the embassies, and sky-rise apartments, the day to day experience of the TV Asahi directors and writers would have been very different and more akin to the night club life that Americans would more closely associate with Las Vegas.

This difference ultimately sorted itself back out in the live action show and Crystal, so it’s fair to say that the manga is obviously what would be considered to be the “correct” Rei Hino, but I for one find them both to be interesting in their own ways. Even if it was unintentional, I think it gives you a chance to enjoy the same character twice, even if I admittedly do prefer the manga!


References:

  1. As stated by Rei in the special side story, “Casablanca Memories.” First published in vol. 11 of the first run of the manga, and in the September 1993 edition of Nakayoshi
  2. This may seem a bit strange to some people for Rei to be attending a Catholic school, seeing as she is a Shinto priestess, but it’s not uncommon in Japan for Christian schools to simply be treated as a private school, nor is it uncommon to have multiple religions observed, at least in part, within the same household.
  3. Established in 1894 by Martha Cartmell, a Methodist missionary from Canada. See the History of Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin
  4. See Juliana’s (Wikipedia)

12 comments

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    I unashamedly adore the anime version of Rei. I admit she came across as a bit ‘full on’ at the start, but she grew on me over time when I saw more sides to her. I enjoyed the sibling like relationship she had with Usagi. For me, the character fit’s better with the whole ‘God of War’ aspect of Mars.

    On the other hand I personally found the prim/proper/stoic depiction that purists constantly tell me to accept as superior, rather dull. Plus I dislike how she encourages that tedious belief that misandry makes you empowered, somehow…
    Sorry, but that kind of attitude just makes me cringe.

    And Crystal watered everything down to such an extent that it didn’t seem like she had any kind of personality at all. At least the current musicals are keeping her spirited.

    A small compromise, I thought the live action series did a decent enough job with the character. Largely thanks to Keiko Kitagawa’s performance.

    • Rei is one of those characters in the manga that feels like she could have been really interesting if she was ever really developed… but wasn’t. Kinda like Setsuna / Pluto. I get where Ms. Takeuchi was going with her character – the mysterious, distant beauty kinda thing – but it came across to me as closer to “cold and detached” rather than “intriguing and mysterious.”

      I know that a lot of people complain about how much they despise the love/hate relationship with Usagi, but I always found it refreshing since she was adored by absolutely everyone in the manga, which felt a bit too unrealistic (never mind that we’re talking about transforming magical girls here and complaining that “being popular” is “unrealistic”).

      After all, isn’t war and fighting all about passion? I think the musicals did a good job capturing that aspect of the character!

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    It’s puzzling the way a lot of people consider their relationship abusive, but then detractors like to twist things out of proportion.

    Given that Usagi was essentially Naoko’s idealised self-insert, the universal adoration she received did make me wince quite a bit. But even she admitted that her work on the Manga could have been much better.

    Personally I think the general concept of Sailor Moon provides just enough basic material for you to interpret and present in different ways. Which is why I don’t really believe in a ‘true version’.

    • At the risk of going far into a “in the Japanese culture…” analysis (which I actively try to avoid), I think there is something to say for the phenomenon of talking the worst about people you really and truly care for. It’s not even an explicitly Japanese trait, in my opinion, though it definitely is common here to hear parents describe their own children as “stupid” or wife as “ugly.”

      I think the harsh remarks Rei makes about Usagi are actually more just her being like an over-bearing sibling, wanting and expecting the best from her friend and not tolerating Usagi’s sometimes half-hearted efforts.

      Or at least that’s how I look at it, I suppose!

  • I to have a fondness for anime Rei.

    And I’d like to say I’ve long grown tired of ignorant people writing her off as things like shallow, hateful and boy-crazy (as if that was the only/most important thing in her life). While playing down or completely ignoring things like her hard-working ambitiousness, her loyalty to Usagi and others, and all the times she’s shown genuine kindness and yes, even maturity.
    Heck, even Naoko herself came round to her in the end.
    In every good group dynamic, you need at-least one character to act as a bit of a foil. She’s basically the equivalent of Raphael from TMNT.

    Frankly dismissing an entire gender because of one not exactly traumatic experience strikes me as more petty then tragic. I don’t think Casablanca Memories handled the subject very well.
    I’d much rather have got more focus on the relationship with her deceased mother, or her supernatural powers. As those were far more interesting things to explore.

    • Yes yes yes. I really wish they had expanded on her parents more (actually, more on the parents and personal lives of the senshi in general.)

      • One of the places where I think the live action series really excelled. Though I don’t think it’s easily transferable to the anime/manga universe, at least it does give you a different look at the lives of the Sailor Team.

        • In Cygnus And In Health

          There is the problem when it comes to Minako, as her family is basically a prototype for Usagi’s. Hence why we never really see them outside of Sailor V. Even the Live Action series eschewed them.

          I found it odd that the same series also dropped certain characters like Umino, and in particular Rei’s Grandpa. I mean, what happened to him? Are we to assume he’s off-screen, because otherwise that means Rei seemingly lives at, and runs an entire shrine on her own.

          Given that her father is a high ranking politician, they’re could be potential for certain enemies to target her in order to get to him. There’s a plot idea.

          • I feel that a character like Umino would be really hard to do in a live action setting without just making him a collection of stereotypes playing out one after the other. In an anime/manga setting you can kinda get away with stuff like that since it’s comical and, I mean, c’mon… he has swirly eyes! But it’s a bit harder to do in real life.

            As for Rei’s grandpa, I think it couldn’t have hurt to at least have a one-short appearance in the background or something. Otherwise, it does come off as really weird an unnatural.

  • In Cygnus And In Health

    I’m somewhat curious to what the general Japanese fans stance on Rei is like.

    From what I’ve seen, she doesn’t seem to generate the same level of polarisation like in the english speaking world.
    And Michie Tomizawa seems to be quite well regarded by them. I wonder what her opinions are on how different the character is. Given how much influence she had on the personality.

    Are there any interviews that might shed light on it?

  • I wrote about this briefly, but I think that the Rei/Usagi relationship in the anime strengthened Sailor Moon. Rei was always pushing Usagi to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Yes, they fought all the time. But she was Usagi’s reality check. (Luna too, to some degree, but Usagi ignored Luna a lot.)

    And, it is Rei who she clings to at towards the end of Stars when the inners are dying.

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