If you’re anything like me, you’ve been reading and watching the adventures of Sailor Moon for ten or even twenty years and have seen Rei throw these strips of shrine-blessed papers at enemies (and even Usagi) without ever once thinking “Well, that’s kind of strange. Throwing papers around seems like an odd way to go about things.” In fact, until I actually started reading up on this for a completely unrelated project, it just seemed so natural to me that of course she would be throwing papers around. I suppose this is because scenes like this actually appear in other anime and manga, so it just seems like yet another anime trope. But if that’s the case, where did it start? How did something like this get embedded into Japanese entertainment in the first place?
Monthly Archives: January 2016
What Gun Did ChibiUsa Use to Threaten Usagi?
Before I go on to answer this question and spout off a bunch of random facts, it’s very important to note that I know nearly nothing about guns. But taking into consideration how far the artists in the original anime and Ms. Takeuchi herself had gone to copy real world cars, books, and even real people, it should come as no surprise that real-world gun designs might be used as well for the unforgettable scene when ChibiUsa first appeared in the second season of Sailor Moon.1
Interestingly enough, it looks like Ms. Takeuchi actually used two different designs for the gun ChibiUsa wields, though seeing as this is a difference between an opening cover image and one of the panels inside the manga itself, it’s actually entirely likely that the images were drawn at two completely different times and she either simply lost track of her reference pictures, or changed her mind later when she had to draw it in color for a close-up.
If you take a look at these two images closely, you can see that the design differs pretty dramatically in the look of the hammer, how the front of the barrel tapers off, the design of the finger guard, and even the diagonal slashes on the left (they go all the way down in the bottom image, but only halfway in the top).
Also, if you look closely (really, really closely), you can see a design like a waving flag underneath where the shell casing ejects from the pistol in the bottom image, which is very similar to the Walther Arms company logo.2 However, I’m unable to find any guns released by them matching this design, so it may just be a Takeuchi-original. You can tell that she didn’t take the scene all that seriously anyway, since even though the gun fires, ChibiUsa’s finger isn’t on the trigger, and the hammer is still cocked back. Interesting!
Now, moving onto the Sailor Moon R anime, fortunately it’s a completely different story and here they actually use a pistol that’s pretty easy to trace, design and all!
From what I was able to find, this is a Colt M1911A1 pistol that ChibiUsa here is wielding. Not only was it the go-to gun used by U.S. armed forces since, well, 1911, but it also gained popularity after WWII in other countries throughout the world and – most importantly – was the weapon which the Japanese police were armed with from the 1950s and through the late 1980s.3
One interesting note about the particular version she’s holding here is that, as you can see underneath her thumb in both images, the gun handle has the optional medallion inlay in it. It’s such a small detail that I have to wonder why it got put in. Maybe the reference pictures the artist was looking at had one?
Recently, I asked a few friends of mine (an iPhone game artist and a published manga artist) why it is that so often real-world cards, weapons, and other various day-to-day items appear in anime and manga. Is it an homage? Reference? The answer, I learned, is much simpler than that: it’s easy to imagine an idea of what a car is, but when you have to draw one and convince the viewer, it’s much easier to just draw something real.
I guess it’s obvious now that I think about it, but it’s interesting to know that there’s actually a reason behind this. Though, of course, when it comes to what to copy, there’s still a good deal of lee-way for the artists and designers to express their own interests!
How Smart Is Mamoru in the Anime and Manga?
One of the well-known – yet often forgotten – facts about Mamoru’s character is that he’s not only tall, mysterious, rich, and handsome, but he’s actually quite brilliant. In fact, if you were to judge by the levels of the schools he attends, he’s arguably on level with – or even above! – Ami. Of course we’ve already mentioned that Mamoru was changed from a high school student to a university student in the transition from manga to anime, but that actually has very little impact on the conclusions we can make, for reasons we’ll discuss below. So just how smart is Mamoru Chiba? Let’s find out!
What Book Was Mamoru / Endo Reading When He Was Possessed?
I’ve mentioned it many times before, but it always amazes me just how detailed Ms. Takeuchi is in bringing to life the characters (and world) of Sailor Moon. You can really tell that she researches all the names, places, and characters and even puts in a lot of fun finishing touches here and there that leave a lot of fodder for me to answer questions like this! So, just what book did Mamoru – or, more accurately, Endo – forget and leave behind, only for Reika to come and bring back to him?1
At first glance, the title of the book just seemed pretty generic and like something you’d write as a one-off line, akin to the fake movie titles you hear spouted off in movies. The title translates to “Encyclopedia of Jewelry” (宝飾大全; houshoku taizen) and opens up to a page entitled “Collectors’ Stones,” and shows a variety of different stones on it. This seems a bit odd to those of us who are particularly pedantic because the title of the book is specifically about jewelry, while the book itself shows a page on rare (and not-so-rare) stones. So what gives?
Well, after doing a little bit of research, it turns out that there actually was a book by this exact same title, published by Yomiuri Color Mook in February 1991, over a year before this scene appeared in Nakayoshi. However, after taking a look through the index of the book,2 it seems that while Ms. Takeuchi may have used this book as a reference when looking up different stones and their meanings for the series, it probably isn’t the base for the one Mamoru is reading here. The cover, however, does seem similar! But not quite what we’re looking for on the inside.
Around here, I almost gave up and just figured that this was a simple coincidence that the names matched, and maybe Ms. Takeuchi just made the book up. Seems possible, and there might not really be anything deeper to this story. Going back through my notes again, I made one last check of the Sailor Moon Perfect Edition (完全版; kanzenban) to get some higher quality scans and to see if I could get any further details. Wouldn’t you know it, but it turns out this that is yet another one of the scenes where Ms. Takeuchi actually made changes between the original run of the manga and the newer updates!
This time around, the book’s been renamed “General Primer on Gems and Crystals” (総論宝石結晶; soron houseki kesshou) and the inside looks different. Doing a quick search for the title, and bingo! There was a book by a very similar name published back in March 1992 by Relief Systems titled “Crystals and Gems” (結晶と宝石;kesshou to houseki). Now wait a minute, I know I’ve seen this before… and any one who grew up in the early 90s and had to spend time in their school library definitely has too.
After researching this book more, I found out that this is actually a translation of the book titled “Crystal and Gem,” written by Robert F. Symes, and published by DK Children.3 The book has been around since the 1960s and I assume remains relatively unchanged, since a quick look at the index confirms that on pages 48 and 49 (of the English edition, at least) is a section titled “Collectors’ items.” Not much unlike the section found in the first edition of the manga. Even the art style/layout of the English and Japanese book is incredibly similar to the style which Ms. Takeuchi used in the original scene.
In fact, if you take a look at the page and compare it with the image from the manga above, you’ll actually notice that Ms. Takeuchi’s sketch is a near exact copy of these pages! Even more interesting is that page 49 (right page) contains an image in the lower-left corner of Mr. George Kunz, the source of the name for the stone Kunzite. Quite an inside reference!
It’s funny that Ms. Takeuchi actually changed the title of the book in the re-release to be closer to the inspiration, and yet changed the inside of the book to be further away from what the referenced material looks like. It’s not like I don’t understand, though. In the original manga, it was simply a sketch and impossible to get an idea of what the contents of the book were like, while this new version has clearly written text with “Jadeite” and “Beryl” written on it. But it feels a little less nuanced, and more like she’s throwing you a softball.
However, I’m honestly impressed that Ms. Takeuchi went this far to put a reference to Kunzite in here, in a small sketch of a book in one tiny panel. Great job!
How Did the Youma of the Dark Kingdom Get Their Names? (Part 2)
Now we move onto the latter half of the first season of Sailor Moon and onto the youma serving under Zoisite. What’s interesting about this is that though we were generally granted our usual “one monster of the day” to meet the quota, for the most part these youma didn’t actually serve under Zoisite, but rather belonged to the Seven Great Youma, which had existed since the time of the Silver Millennium and were simply uncovered by Zoisite or the Sailor Team. Also rarely noted is that Queen Beryl herself also has youma which report directly to her, though to be honest, the structure of the Dark Kingdom is a bit hard to follow in the first place. Anyway, as we did in Part 1, let’s take a look at how the youma of the Dark Kingdom got their names!
- Yasha: This is the Japanese word for Yaksha,1 a natural spirit appearing in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist texts. The meaning behind the face mask and the monster form is in reference to the female and male yakshas, which were portrayed respectively as beautiful with round faces and attractive figures, or as fearsome warriors.
- You may recognize this name as being similar to the character Inuyasha, from the series with the same name. This is the same yasha being referenced.
- Grape, Suzuran, and Housenka: Often referred to by Western fans as the “Plant Sisters,” though in the Japanese version they’ve been given no name other than the “Three Youma Girls.” Their names are clever plays off of flowers, but by using different kanji also spell out the names of their attacks, though unfortunately I can’t find any sort of deeper meaning behind Grape. As for the other two:
- Suzuran when written as 鈴蘭 (suzuran) means “lily of the valley,” but by using a clever word play could be written as 鈴乱 (suzuran) which means something akin to “bell disturbance” (harmonic disorder?). Her attack name is 鈴乱れの音 (suzumidare no oto), meaning something like “Sonic Disrupting Screech!”
- Housenka when written as 鳳仙花 (housenka) means a garden balsam, but the first part of her name can also be written as 砲戦 (housen), which is an artillery barrage. This is likely in reference to the fireballs she shoots.
- Akan: This is a mix of the Japanese word あかん (akan) meaning bad, wrong, or something you shouldn’t be doing.2 Also, あか (aka) can also mean red, which explains the color.
- As an interesting bit of trivia, this is the only time which any of the Four Kings other than Kunzite turns a normal human into a youma.
Seven Great Youma
- Gesen: A direct reference to the Japanese word for arcade — ゲームセンター (game center), often abbreviated as ゲーセン (gesen).
- Boxy: A Japanese pun which plays on both “boxer,” and the Japanese word for priest, 牧師 (bokushi).
- Bunbo: Seeing as this youma was reincarnated as Ryo Urawa, one of the few characters to nearly match Ami in intelligence, and he’s themed after stationary supplies, his name — based on the Japanese word 文房具 (bunbougu; stationary supplies) — makes sense!
- Binah: This is likely in reference to Binah,3 one of the ten Sephirah,4 which are considered to be the revelations of the Creator’s Will.
- Rikoukeidar: The name is a play on the Japanese term 理工系 (rikoukei) for a person who is considered more logical (rather than artistic) or what we’d consider a science type. Makes sense considering the type of school Reika went to!
- Jiji: This name is a double pun, based on the slang used to refer to an old man じじ (jiji; derived from おじさん, ojisan) and 獅子 (shishi), the basis for two 狛犬 (komainu) which appear outside Shinto shrines.5
- Bakene: A play off of 化け猫 (bakeneko),6 one of the youkai, or ghosts/spirits, of Japanese legends.
- Mitsuami: A direct reference to the Japanese word 三つ編み (mitsuami) meaning hair braided from three strands.
- Shakoukai: A double pun playing on the term 社交界 (shakoukai) meaning social circle and 貝 (kai) meaning shellfish.
- Blizzar: With all the hard work they put into names, I’m kinda disappointed that they went with a simple reference to blizzards here. I guess to Japanese speakers the reference isn’t so obvious, though?
- Zoyrin Geller / Doyrin Geller: The Japanese pronunciation of this name isn’t even known among Japanese fans, much less among the Western audiences. One possible explanation is that the name is in reference to Solingen (pronounced with a Z in German and in Japanese), which is known as the City of Blades,7 which may be in reference to the ice skates.
- As a bit of trivia, Janelyn (the female member of the pair) is a reference to Janet Lynn,8 an Olympic American figure skater.
- Papillon: From the French word for butterfly.
- Oniwabandana: A reference to the 御庭番 (oniwaban),9 secret agents serving under the Tokugawa government as spies and security guards. The second half of the name is also a play on bandana.
- Thetis: A clear reference to the sea nymph of Greek mythology of the same name.10
- One interesting thing about Thetis is that she’s one of the few youma who actually shows much personality and even interacts within the Dark Kingdom. She also was one of the strongest to appear until the Seven Great Youma.
- DD Girls: Unfortunately, none of the individual team members have their own name, but rather are just known by their color. However, the group’s name is a reference to the Japanese all-girl pop group C.C. Girls,11 and mixed in with the reference to the D-Point, where the final battle took place.
And there you have it, an in-depth look into the names of all of the youma as they appeared in the first season of Sailor Moon! I gotta admit it was a bit exhausting, but I’m happy to see that the producers of this series went so far out of their way to put so many hidden meanings in these one-shot enemies. Who’d have known!
[(1-20-2015) Edited to add: Thanks for the catch on Boxy and 牧師 goes to Sailormoon Canada on Twitter!]
How Did the Youma of the Dark Kingdom Get Their Names? (Part 1)
One of the many recurring themes that we keep touching on over and over in the world of Sailor Moon is the significance of names, and the minions of the Dark Kingdom are no different. The majority of their names are either directly related to the specific youma’s power, appearance, or the main character of the day in the episode, but quite a few of them actually have a surprising backstory behind them! So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the names of the youma as they appeared in the first season, separated by who they served under.
- Morga: This is a hard one since there’s really no direct links in Japanese or English to her name, but judging by her appearance, the ga part of her name is likely in reference to 餓 (ga), meaning “to starve.” She also remarks in the manga that Naru’s mother is likely starving to death and locked up.
- Speaking of the manga, she’s one of the few “monsters of the day” who appeared in both the manga and the anime throughout the entirety of the Sailor Moon series, though she didn’t have a name in the manga.
- Balm: A clever play off of the word “palm,” in reference to palm reading and, more generally, fortune telling.
- Frau: Many people claim this is a play off of the Japanese word 振る (furu; to dump), but that doesn’t make sense in this context. Most likely it’s a play off of “flower,” in reference to the broaches given away that sap listerners’ energy.
- Iguara: A pretty clear reference to an iguana, due to the pet shop which was opened and the design of the enemy.
- As an aside, he cute animals that smell all-so-nice in this episode, chanela, are an obvious reference to Chanel, the brand of perfume.
- Kyurene: Spelled the same in Japanese as Cyrene/Kyrene of Greek mythology, a strong and aggressive female hunter.1
- Derella: Derived from a shortening of Cinderella.
- Garoben: A play off of the Japanese term ガリ勉 (gariben) meaning to be fanatic about studying,2 and probably in reference to all the students and how hard they were studying (and as a result, having their energy taken from them).
- Ramua: An anagram of the Japanese word for “alarm” (as in, alarm clock). A – Ra – Mu = Ra – Mu – A
- Kigaan: A play off of the Japanese word 祈願 (kigan) meaning prayer,3 which is typically offered up at a Shinto shrine.
- Murid: “Dream” written backwards in Japanese. Do – Ri – Mu = Mu – Ri – Do
- Tesuni: An anagram of the Japanese word for “tennis.” Te – Ni – Su = Te – Su – Ni
- Petasos: This is likely in reference to the ancient Greek hat known by the same name, petasos, in reference to the hat which Nephrite uses to syphon energy.4
- Widow: Pretty obviously in reference to the black widow spider.
- Kyameran: Could be interpreted either as: (i) An “n” added to the Japanese word for camera, or (ii) a contraction of “camera” and “man” to become Cameran.
- Jumeau: In reference to the Bisque dolls5 which were popular in the late 1800s. A French company, Jumeau,6 was one of the most famous manufacturers.
- Regulus: Direct reference to the star, Regulus.
- Castor and Pollux: In reference to the stars and the characters by the same name in Roman mythology.7
- As an interesting aside, it’s said that the models for two of the staff at the animation studio appearing in this episode, Hiromi Matsuno and Kazuko Tadashita, are none other than Hiromi Matsushita and Kazuko Tadano (husband and wife character designers and animators working at Studio Live on producing Sailor Moon episodes at the time)8
This takes us all the way through the first half of the original season of Sailor Moon, but it’s already getting pretty long, so I think we’ll need to hold off for part two until the next time around. Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the youma which service under Zoisite and Kunzite, along with the Seven Great Youma themselves and those that served directly under Queen Beryl. There’s plenty of more trivia to be found!
How Did the Youma Used by the Four Kings Differ?
While it’s pretty well known that the way each of the Four Kings of the Dark Kingdom went about their job was different (as well as the objectives assigned to them by Queen Beryl), one of the interesting “blink and you’ll miss it” facts about this arc is that the youma1 who served under them were also different. I’d like to also go into how each of their names were also unique/relevant to the episode that they appeared in, but we’ll need to go into that sometime later due to the sheer volume of names we’d have to look at. So for now, let’s take a look at how the youma under each of the Four Kings differed!
In nearly all of the Jadeite episodes, there was generally some sort of transformation taking place, usually in the form of either Jadeite himself or the youma he dispatched dressing up and pretending to be a human. In the first episode, for example, Morga had abducted Naru’s mother and pretended to be her for at least several days. Though it’s unclear how long Naru’s mother was abducted, we do know that jewelry sales were going on for several days and in the manga she remarks that Naru’s mother is dying of starvation as they speak.2 Though it’s not always clear if they take the place of specific humans or sometimes simply make up an identity, this is the running theme throughout the Jadeite arc. Not one to miss out on the cosplay action, Jadeite himself also gets involved in multiple episodes: 3 (as a radio DJ), 10 (bus driver), and 11 (security guard) off the top of my head.
Nephrite is somewhat unique in that he gets involved more directly than the other Kings. However, the youma that he oversaw typically differed with those from Jadeite’s in that they rarely (if ever?) would actually transform into or pretend to be humans, but rather would possess Nephrite’s target as identified through his fortune-telling or something that belonged to and was important to them in order to steal their energy. Tesni and the tennis racket, Widou and the cloth, and Kyameran and the camera are all good examples of this. There is one exception to this rule, though, in episode 19 with Neprite Kamen, but I guess he just wanted a chance to be in the lime light!
Zoisite’s case is a bit different, since the majority of the youma working under (with?) him can’t even be said to be serving under him at all in the first place. However, nearly all of those that appear in this arc are one of the Seven Great Youma, each tied to one of the seven Rainbow Crystal shards and being reincarnated as humans. They were said to have been the strongest of Queen Beryl’s minions, so it’s possible that several millennia they served under Zoisite, but that’s unclear.
So anyway, the youma in this arc are unique in that they are all monsters reborn as humans, which has imbued their human form with special powers. Their youma form typically assumes a trait of the person they inhabited.
That’s not always the case, however, as seen in episodes 23 and 24, with Yasha and the three youma Zoisite sent to kill Nephrite. Unfortunately, with so few examples, we can’t really find a common theme between them.
Kunzite’s situation is interesting in that it’s basically the opposite of what Jadeite did: rather than have youma take the place of (or pretend to be) a human, he simply turned a human into a youma to cause them to do his dirty work. Though it’s not clear (and never really explained in the series) if he causes a youma working under him to possess the human and Sailor Moon uses the power of the Silver Crystal to destroy it or if he simply imbues the human with powers which causes them to become a youma, which Sailor Moon cleanses from them. My guess is the latter, since they still seem to have human emotions and maintain their relationships, as is the case with Janelyn and Misha in episode 39.
For something so minor and that could’ve easily devolved into a “monster of the day” segment, I’m personally glad that the anime producers went so far out of their way as to treat all of the Four Kings differently. Not only were their tasks different, but the way they went after their tasks were also sufficiently different and definitely kept the series interesting through the whole season!