To be fair, this is probably not a question that has crossed many people’s minds, but I thought it was interesting enough that it was at least worth discussing. After all, while we all know that it’s not uncommon for Japanese anime and manga to make references to each other, for those who have grown up in the west — or are watching Sailor Moon decades after it first aired — the references are no longer instantly obvious. So just why does this odd fish keep appearing, and who/what is it?
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One thing that makes this question interesting is that, if Sailor Moon had been a cartoon originally made in the United States back in the early 90’s, I wouldn’t give this a second thought and it wouldn’t even occur to me that it’s odd that the vast majority of the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.
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!
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.
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:
“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.
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!
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.
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!
Following up on the success of the success of the first Super Famicom Sailor Moon game released on August 27, 1993, Angel followed up on its success with yet another side-scrolling beat ’em up just 4 months later, on December 29, 1993,1 this time based on the Sailor Moon R anime. Though its apparent that a lot of material was re-used between the two games in order to cut out on time needed for programming and art design, there’s a surprising amount of new content to the game and the fighting engine has been greatly upgraded, so it really does stand out well on its own. Let’s take a look!
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s completely out of the question, taken from a Western point of view (and assuming no prior influences by anime or other aspects of Japanese pop culture), the very idea of a super hero transforming into a powered-up version of their own school uniform seems downright silly. It goes without saying that the entire premise behind the name of the series itself is based on the fact that they’re wearing uniforms styled after late-19th century European navies,1 but there has to be something more to the fact that these soldiers of love and justice are, sailor-suited, right? As usual, this is a rhetorical question, and the answer is most certainly yes! But let’s take a deeper look into the why.
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.
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.
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?
I’d like to thank a reader for sending this in because, I have to admit, that it the colors used in Sailor Moon’s brooch were just so natural that I never bothered to question it. But when you stop and take a look, you can’t help but wonder if there’s any method to the madness, any sort of order behind how Ms. Takeuchi arranged the colors as why. More specifically, the question posed is as follows: