Do Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna’s Names Refer Back to Usagi?
Names are something I’ve talked about at length in this blog, from those of the main cast down to the lowly monsters of the day, and odds are good that this is something I will continue to talk about for a long time to come.
Today, we’ll be taking a look into the some possible inspirations behind the names of our favorite Outer Soldiers. Why don’t you come along for the ride?
Right off the bat, I’m going to preface that this is just a theory of my own devising, and there’s no real hard data to back this up. Then again, there’s not a lot of facts out there to support how the characters got their names, so we generally just have to make do with what we can get, right?
Now, what I’ve always found interesting about the three talisman-wielding Outer Soldiers1 is that their names really don’t fit in with the naming system Ms. Takeuchi had so kindly prepared for the rest of the Sailor Soldiers.
As a brief refresher, I’m sure you all already know that Usagi’s last name includes the kanji for Moon (月; tsuki), while Ami, Rei, and Makoto’s last names include the kanji for water (水; mizu), fire (火; hi), and wood (木; ki) respectively – which are the same kanji used in their representative planets, Mercury (水星; suisei), Mars (火星; kasei), and Jupiter (木星; mokusei).2 And Minako? Well, she’s a unique exception.
Now, what about Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna? Well, to some extent, they do follow a similar pattern with the Inner Soldiers insofar as that their names use the same kanji as their planets: Uranus (天王星; ten’nousei), Neptune (海王星; kaiousei), and Pluto (冥王星; meiou).3 But unlike their Inner system cohorts, their names lack the same kind of wordplay that Ms. Takeuchi is famous for. Unless she really wanted Setsuna’s last name to literally mean ‘Hades.’4
So what do you do when you don’t find the answer you’re looking for in the obvious place? Look at the less obvious place, of course! And that brought me to ask the question: do their first names have any special meaning?
It’s not entirely without precedence, either, as the series progressed. I mean, Hotaru is named after the Japanese word for firefly,5 because fireflies are often used as a metaphor for the supernatural, or even the souls of the dead.6
I have two theories for what their names could mean, actually, but we’ll start with the simplest.
In Japanese, はるか (遥か; haruka) means ‘far off’ or ‘distant.’7 The first character in her last name, 天 (ten; ama; ame), can mean anything from heavens to sky.8 遥かな天, in that case, could be in reference to the far off, distant skies.
Possibly of note – or possibly not! – is that there was a semi-famous song released in 1991 which contains the lyrics about a bird flying off to the distant reaches of the sky.9
Up next, Michiru! Her name is probably the simplest for us to guess. Kanji-wise, it’s pretty much a sure bet that her name would be 満ちる (michiru), meaning to be ‘full.’10 Though you wouldn’t say that the ocean is itself full, you could say that the ocean is full of something. Or, more naturally, that the tide is full (high) – 潮が満ちる (shio ga michiru).
Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about Setsuna. I’m not the Sailor Moon anime, after all!
Her name comes from 刹那 (setsuna), which means to be ‘momentary’ or ‘ephemeral.’11 The kanji used in her last name, 冥 (kurai) is an alternate kanji used for 暗 (kura), meaning ‘darkness.’12 So, basically, ephemeral/fleeting darkness.
Now that’d be a cool name for a punk rock band.
Referential to Usagi
Now, this theory is probably the less likely of the two in my opinion, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point it out.
Basically, all of their names can be easily applied to the word ‘moon’ and be equally meaningful:
- 遥かな月 (haruka na tsuki) – the distant moon
- 満ちた月 (michita tsuki) – the waxing moon
- 刹那的な月 (setsunateki na tsuki) – the ephemeral moon
If I were to break out a poetic license, I personally like this second interpretation much better, since it further affirms the connection between the Outer Soldiers and their Moon Princess… but seeing as their names make equally – if not more – sense when paired up with their own last names I think it’s too much of a long shot.
Of course, both of these theories could be totally wrong! But I’d love to hear which one you think holds more water, or if you have any idea of your own.
As for the proper way to write their last names (Tenoh, Tenou, Ten’ou, Ten’oh, Ten’o), I’ll leave that discussion for another time, though I will say right now that there is no right answer, and the Japanese government’s answer is something I’m pretty sure every fan would hate. But for what it’s worth, I prefer the spellings with an ‘h’!
- Sorry Hotaru fans! I’ve already talked about her, so I didn’t want to retread old ground here! ↩
- See 水星 (Jisho.org), 火星 (Jisho.org), and 木星 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 天王星 (Jisho.org), 海王星 (Jisho.org), and 冥王星 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 冥王 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 蛍 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See The Light of the Firefly: What is its Role in Japanese Culture? ↩
- See 遥か (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 天 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 旅立ちの日に ↩
- See 満ちる (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 刹那的 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 冥い (Jisho.org) ↩