Motoki Furuhata has always been an interesting character to me in the world of Sailor Moon not only because he manages to be a strong supporter of Usagi and the rest of the Sailor Team even before he knows much about what’s going on, but he also neatly ties together the worlds of Codename: Sailor V and Sailor Moon. While I’d love to talk more about Motoki, though, today I’d like to talk about his girlfriend, Reika Nishimura, and some of the mysteries about her.
A frequent topic of conversation for this blog is is just how much the story and characters of Sailor Moon had changed from Ms. Takeuchi’s original plan for the series. Many of the changes, such as Ami originally being a cyborg, were done early in the planning process and before the characters actually came to light while others, like Makoto’s rougher side, slowly were adjusted as the series progressed. What we’re looking at today – Sailor Moon’s ability to fly – is one of those odd situations where it was removed from the series only to be put back in later, for Eternal Sailor Moon. So how was Usagi originally meant to fly?
The internet, as I’m sure you know, is home to a great many bizarre theories, half-baked connections, and misunderstandings. But for every ten poorly-considered campaigns to buy breakfast pastries to save your favorite anime, there are at least one or two legitimate pearls of wisdom to be found. Today I want to take a look into a Japanese fan theory making the rounds on the internet that Ms. Takeuchi was inspired by the 1985 cartoon She-Ra: Princess of Power1 when she made Sailor Moon.
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
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).
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!
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
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.
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!
While it’s certainly a well known fact among Sailor Moon fans that Ms. Takeuchi lived in Minato Ward while she was planning and drawing the series, due to the relatively private nature of Japanese manga artists, it’s always been a bit difficult to pin down what she’s been up to ever since the series had ended. Indeed, even her whereabouts have been a bit of a mystery ever since she got married and she retired from the limelight in the late 1990s and early 2000s. So where exactly has she been since then?1