Where Did the Members of the Dead Moon Circus Get Their Names?

The Dead Moon Circus (now open!)

The Dead Moon Circus (now open!)

As I’m sure you’ve probably already noticed by now, names – and the inspirations behind them – are something of a big deal to me. Not only do they give you an idea of the thematic references that either Ms. Takeuchi or the anime staff were sticking to with their main villains and the various monsters of the day, but I think the names she gave even the normal characters can tell you a lot about how she intended for them to be viewed.

Today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the inspirations behind the names for the… interesting cast of characters that belong to the Dead Moon Circus.

I hope you stick around! There are bound to be a few surprises along the way.

Free admission for children 3 and younger

Free admission for children 3 and younger

You probably won’t be all that surprised if I told you right now that there are rocks/minerals involved, would you? If so, then you probably have a lot of background reading to do on all the other villains that have appeared in the Sailor Moon series.

Getting that spoiler out of the way doesn’t really make this any less interesting, though.

I’m not sure about you, dear reader, but I don’t exactly have an encyclopedic knowledge of various gems and minerals and can’t immediately call to mind what they look like. Seeing the stones themselves together with the is always fun, because you can see just how much of an inspiration they actually were.

So with that out of the way, let’s take a trip down to the Dead Moon Circus!

Holding the AA meeting at a bar wasn't the best idea...

Holding the AA meeting at a bar wasn’t the best idea…

Amazon Trio

Though this is probably a pretty small point in the grand scheme of things, one interesting thing about the Amazon Trio is that this is the first time since the Dark Kingdom that we see the Sailor Soldiers facing off against all-male enemies… at least until the Amazoness Quartet entered the picture.

Also of note, though Fish Eye is usually pointed to as the feminine one of the group, all three of them speak in feminine styles in Japanese and Hawk’s Eye also dresses in women’s clothing in the manga.

Tiger’s Eye

Named after – surprise! – the gemstone of the same name, they also share a lot in common in terms of their color themes. This is probably more to do with the fact that they’re both mutually inspired by tigers, but let’s not think too much about that.

Tiger's Eye

Tiger’s Eye

Hawk’s Eye

I’m telling you, if these characters weren’t named after stones, I’d be pitching a fit about the fact that they have apostrophes in their names. But they are, and in this case after the stone named hawk’s eye, so I guess that makes it okay. As an interesting side note, tiger’s eye (the stone) is actually made from hawk’s eye (also the stone).1 Sadly, we didn’t get any cool design connection here, since hawk’s eye is a dark blue/grey stone.

Hawk's Eye

Hawk’s Eye

Fish Eye

As you’d expect, Fish Eye is named after the mineral apophyllite, which means that…

… wait a second. Apophyllite?!2

Well, yes and no. Like the other gemstones, “fisheye” is apparently an alternative – though seemingly rarely used – name for apophyllite. However, that’s the name that was used when it was translated back into Japanese, 魚眼石 (gyoganseki; lit. fish eye stone) Though it typically is clear, fisheye can come in a wide variety of colors, including blue!

Fish Eye / Apophyllite

Fish Eye / Apophyllite

Amazoness Quartet

As much as I love these four characters and desperately wish that I could write at length about where they got their names, unfortunately there’s really not much to say about that.

The members of the Amazoness Quartet are all named after the four largest asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. In order of discovery:

  • CereCere = Ceres
  • PallaPalla = Pallas
  • JunJun = Juno
  • VesVes = Vesta

As an interesting side note, though, these four were actually considered to be planets between 1808 and 1845, which gives even further street cred to them being Sailor Soldiers.3

Amazoness Quartet

Amazoness Quartet

Since they aren’t counted as Sailor Soldiers in the anime, though, their names don’t actually make a whole lot of sense there, but that’s more a shortcoming of the anime and less a problem with the names.

Zirconia

You’re probably already familiar with the name from the diamond substitute of the same name, cubic zirconia. When you stop and actually think about it, this name is actually pretty fitting when you consider how the Golden Crystal was such a big part of this story arc, to say nothing of the Silver Crystal, Crystal Tokyo, and all the other connections.

… I wonder if this makes her something of an arch rival to Prince Demande?

(Cubic) Zironia vs. Prince Demande

(Cubic) Zironia vs. Prince Demande

Zircon

Though I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that Zirconia’s flying eyeball minion is just a play on her name, zircon is actually a mineral in its own right and is not to be confused with cubic zirconia.4

Queen Nehellenia

Even just writing the name out makes me cringe, since the spelling of the name has gone through so many changes throughout the long history of English versions. So far, she’s gone by:

  • Nehelenia
  • Nehellenia
  • Neherenia
  • Nephrenia
  • Susan

Okay, so I may have made that last one up. But I’m sure you get the point that there seems to be some confusion as to the best way to spell out this name. And some of that confusion is undoubtedly due to confusion over the reference.

She gets offended when you spell her name wrong

She gets offended when you spell her name wrong

The commonly accepted answer is that she is named after the goddess Nehalennia/Nehalenia/Nehalaennia,5 whose origins are also unfortunately lost to time. According to Wikipedia:

She must have been a Celtic or Germanic deity, who was attributed power over trading, shipping and possible horticulture and fertility.

So, while that’s good and interesting at all, it doesn’t exactly make for a very compelling connection. More than likely, Ms. Takeuchi actually picked this name based one some… well… let’s just say sketchy information.

Queen Nehellenia doesn't look kindly upon those that don't fact check

Queen Nehellenia doesn’t look kindly upon those that don’t fact check

As already addressed over a decade ago by another intrepid Sailor Moon researcher,6 Nehellenia was described the 1988  book The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets7 as follows:

“Nether Moon,” a variant of the Goddess Hel, or Holle, after whom Holland was named.

And, while this would definitely give us a great connection between Nehellenia’s name and the character we see in the series, unfortunately over the past 3 decades many of the details in this book have been proven wrong. Such as, you know, the fact that Holland is derived from the Old Dutch term holtlant (“wood-land”).8 Or that apparently the Romans named every sea after Mary, which is absurd.9

But the good (???) news is that none of this matters! While the book may have been full of nothing but falsehoods and insane ramblings, it actually was translated into Japanese at the time and would have been available to Ms. Takeuchi. So even if it was wrong, it’s still a source that she may have used.

So, long story short, Nehellenia is probably named after a Celtic or Germanic goddess that Ms. Takeuchi wrongly believed was named for a “nether moon.”

Any employer that offers free massages is a winner in my book

Any employer that offers free massages is a winner in my book

And that, dear reader, is probably far more than you ever wanted to know about the etymologies of the names for the villains of the Dead Moon Circus!

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m always interested in covering the names of characters, places, things in the series, and even song lyrics, so if there’s anything you’ve always wondered about, I’d love to hear your questions!


References:

10 comments

  • Juno, Vesta, Pallas and Ceres are also women in Greek/Roman mythology. i’m gonna copy some short descriptions from Wikipedia so prepare…

    Juno (Latin: Iūnō [ˈjuːnoː]) is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome.[1] Her Greek equivalent was Hera; like Hera, her sacred animal was the peacock.[2] Her Etruscan counterpart was Uni. As the patron goddess of Rome and the Roman Empire, Juno was called Regina (“Queen”) and, together with Jupiter and Minerva, was worshipped as a triad on the Capitol (Juno Capitolina) in Rome.
    Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans is apparent in her attire. She is often shown armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Athena, who bore a goatskin, or a goatskin shield, called the ‘aegis’.

    In ancient Roman religion, Ceres (/ˈsɪəriːz/;[1][2] Latin: Cerēs [ˈkɛreːs]) was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships.[3] She was originally the central deity in Rome’s so-called plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as “the Greek rites of Ceres”. Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ludi Ceriales (Ceres’ games). She was also honoured in the May lustratio of the fields at the Ambarvalia festival, at harvest-time, and during Roman marriages and funeral rites.

    Vesta (Latin pronunciation: [ˈwɛsta]) is the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family in Roman religion. She was rarely depicted in human form, and was often personified by the fire of her temple in the Forum Romanum. Entry to her temple was permitted only to her priestesses, the Vestals, who tended the sacred fire at the hearth in her temple. As she was considered a guardian of the Roman people, her festival, the Vestalia (7-15 June), was regarded as one of the most important Roman holidays.[1] During the Vestalia matrons of the city walked barefoot to the sanctuary of the goddess, and gave offerings. Such was Vesta’s importance to Roman religion that hers was one of the last republican pagan cults still active following the rise of Christianity until it was forcibly disbanded by the Christian emperor Theodosius I in AD 391.
    The myths depicting Vesta and her priestesses were few, and were limited to tales of miraculous impregnation by a phallus appearing in the flames of the hearth – the manifestation of the goddess.[2] Vesta was among the Dii Consentes, twelve of the most honored gods in the Roman pantheon.[3] She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, and sister of Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, and Ceres. Her closest Greek equivalent is Hestia.[4]

    In Greek mythology, Pallas (/ˈpæl əs/ ) (Greek: Παλλάς) was the daughter of Triton. Acting as a foster parent to Zeus’ daughter Athena, Triton raised her alongside Pallas. During a friendly mock fight between the two, Zeus looked down from his seat in the sky and thought that they were fighting to kill. He distracted to Pallas with his ageis and, Athena, expecting Pallas to dodge, thrust a spear into her heart, killing Pallas instantly.
    Out of sadness and regret, she created the palladium, a statue in the likeness of Pallas.[1] This story inspired a yearly festival in Libya dedicated to Athena. Girls from the Machlyans and Auseans tribes would fight each other, and those who died were labeled fake virgins.[2]

    And there is much more information but you should read it yourself. I also don’t know if it’s all true because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone 🙂

    • This is true. Almost all of the celestial bodies in our solar system are named after Roman gods, with the exception of Uranus (who is a Greek god).
      It’s pretty fascinating to read up on!

  • I like seeing the pictures of the stone-based character beside their respective stone. It’s cool looking at them and seeing the sort of design they come up with. (something I enjoy about both Sailor Moon and Steven Universe, lol) Naoko did pretty good with Tiger’s and Fish’s Eye, but I’m not sure what she was thinking with Hawk’s Eye. It’s not a bad design on its own, but it feels lacking when compared to his stone. Where’s the color scheme? The similarity to Tiger’s Eye? Some missed opportunities there both in terms of designs and relationships. Like Naoko could have used the connection between the stones and make Tiger’s and Hawk’s Eye father and son, or maybe even brothers!

    I knew what the Amazoness Quartet’ names were referring to, but I never knew they used to be considered planets. It’s funny to think had Sailor Moon somehow existed 1845-1846 they could deal with the same fandom nonsense poor Pluto is stuck with. XD

    • Interestingly enough, Ceres almost became a planet once again in 2006, when the International Astronomical Union was starting to re-evaluate the classification of dwarf planets. By keeping Pluto, one proposal suggested adding in Ceres, allowing Charon, and including one more object past Pluto all as planets — making for a total of 12.

      See Nine Planets Become 12 with Controversial New Definition

      In case you haven’t noticed, I love astronomy.

      • I love astronomy too! Though apparently I don’t love it enough since that is one bit of trivia I did not know. XD Very interesting.

  • Actually, when I was doing some research for my periodic table, I found out that cerium was really named after Ceres, and there is also palladium, which name I consider being somehow related to Pallas. So there is some chemistry after all.

    • The whole issue with the Amazoness Quartet is interesting, because the question comes down to whether or not they were always intended to be Sailor Soldiers. If they were, then their names all make a lot of sense seeing as they were ultimately meant to be awakened anyway.
      But if they weren’t, then it seems really odd that Ms. Takeuchi would use her planetary/celestial object naming theme on enemies.

      I’m going to guess that it was always the plan, for the sake of my own sanity. =D

      Though to be fair, being named after a celestial object doesn’t always guarantee that you will be a Sailor Soldier, as evidenced by Phobos and Deimos.

      • It’s interesting to think about how different the show would be if it was made today. With fewer planets to work with, Setsuna would have been associated with Saturn. The third season would have played out differently, with one fewer Outer senshi to work with.

        Oh yeah, the second season storyline might have been different too… there certainly wouldn’t be talk about a tenth planet. A tenth one was found around the time that Pluto was demoted and “dwarf planet” became a category… it wasn’t called Nemesis, but it’s too perfect that it was named Eris after the goddess of Chaos (of all things).

        Maybe Naoko would have stuck with the same Quartet in the fourth season. Those are the brightest remaining objects, the first ones discovered, and the ones with some history in astrology. But if she went with dwarf planets, that would be Eris, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Ceres. (Makemake already sounds like the name of a character in the Amazoness Quartet!)

        As for Phobos and Deimos, everybody knows that moons don’t get to be Sailor Soldiers! Except for uh, THAT one…

        BTW I just have to mention how great it is that NASA found that Earth basically has a chibi moon. Fine, it doesn’t technically qualify as a moon, but there’s a second object orbiting Earth and it fits in with the Sailor Moon mythos, so I really got a kick out of it.

  • …Except that your so-called “Junos” doesn’t exist ;P

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