What Do Youma, Droid, Daimon, Lemure, and Phage Refer To?

A battle awaits... just like yesterday. And the day before...

A battle awaits… just like yesterday. And the day before…

As a person who grew up with Power Rangers, I will unashamedly admit that I absolutely love the Monsters of the Day (MotD) that are so prevalent in the Super Sentai series – and thus, by extension, Sailor Moon as well.

So in honor of our favorite Moon Power fodder, we’re going to take a look at where the names for each of these groups came from. After all, just what the heck is a lemure anyway?

Stick around to find out!

Not an MotD, but still not to be trifled with

Not an MotD, but still not to be trifled with

Though these MotD were still a part of the manga, the anime really ran with the idea and made sure to properly implement these one-shot villains into nearly every episode of the show.

Obviously opinions are pretty split on their use, ranging from being a total waste of time and padding the show, to being a fun addition that helped showcase what the Sailor Soldiers were capable of doing.

Myself, I’m probably in the latter camp – I appreciate that each episode was given a theme to it, and that theme typically carried over into the monster. Some of the theming was pretty generic, sure, as was the case with the tennis-inspired youma Tesuni or questionably-designed Hurdler, a daimon that was essentially a giant running shoe.

Hurdler leaves something to be desired

Hurdler leaves something to be desired

But for every design that leaves you comically smacking your head (do people actually do that?), there are some truly interesting references, like Kunzite’s Oniwabandana – named after the Tokugawa-era government spies, Oniwaban – and the twin droids Chiral & Achiral – which take a page from Ms. Takeuchi’s extensive background in chemistry.

But something tells me that you’re not here to read an extensive love letter to Sailor Moon‘s MotD.

Before we take a look at where the name for each season’s enemies come from, there is one extra little tidbit that I’d like to share: the Japanese name used for MotD.

The enemy designs were not always subtle

The enemy designs were not always subtle

In Japanese, these enemies are referred to by the slightly less descriptive – yet possibly more interesting – word zako (雑魚; small fish/small fry).1 I honestly think it fits absolutely perfectly, since it so succinctly gets across their role in the anime, which is basically to fall at the hands of the Sailor Soldiers with little real challenge. Like a school of fish, their only real strength is in numbers.

With all the background out of the way, we’re now ready to take a deeper look at the subject at hand. So let’s start!

Youma of the Dark Kingdom (Sailor Moon Classic)

These are probably the quintessential MotD that come to mind when people think of villains in the Sailor Moon universe. They’re name is also one of the most generic, at least from the point of view of a Japanese viewer, in that the word youma (妖魔) simply means “ghost” or “apparition.”2

That definitely doesn't rule out Morga

That definitely doesn’t rule out Morga

That said, I don’t think that Ms. Takeuchi just pulled the word out of a dictionary and decided to go with that.

It’s probably more likely that this name was chosen due to Sailor Moon‘s connection with the Super Sentai series, and more specifically Sekai Ninja Sen Jiraiya (世界忍者戦ジライヤ; World Ninja War Jiraiya),3 the series that ran on TV Asahi for the 1988-1989 season. The main antagonists of the story were the 妖魔一族 (youma ichizoku; the Youma Clan), which may have been where the name came from.

A member of the Youma Clan

A member of the Youma Clan

Another possible explanation for the name is the anime titled Brave Raideen (勇者ライディーン),4 which also aired on TV Asahi in 1975-1976, and featured an enemy known as 妖魔帝国 (youma teikoku; the Youma Empire). In each episode, they sent down a different monster, known as a 化石獣 (kasekijuu; fossil beast), to fight our heroes.

In any case, it is a normal Japanese word, but not something you’d typically encounter, so worth considering possible references!

Droids of the Black Moon (Sailor Moon R)

I’m sure 90% of those of you reading this are already convinced that you know the answer – this is obviously a reference to the 1985 smash-hit cartoon Star Wars: Droids that followed the misadventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO.5

These are not the droids you're looking for...

These are not the droids you’re looking for…

And you’d be wrong on both counts: the show was not a smash-hit, nor is it the reference you’re looking for.6

Throughout the 60s and 70s in Japan, there were a huge number of tokusatsu shows and movies7 which featured androids – in fact, I count 9 on a cursory glance.8 This is probably due to the fact that it’s easier to fit a guy into a cardboard suit and call him a robot than make something bulkier, but let’s not think about it too much.

The manga/Crystal Droids were pretty generic

The manga/Crystal Droids were pretty generic

As for why she shortened it down to “Droid”? Probably to make it less of a dictionary word, though there are theories out there that Ms. Takeuchi cut off the front (top/head) of the word as a representation that the Droids themselves don’t have heads. Umm… yes.

Daimons of the Death Busters (Sailor Moon S)

The word used in the third arc of Sailor Moon, of course, comes from the ancient Greek daimōn, which is a “lesser god” or “guiding spirit” in ancient Greek mythology.9

While that information would be interesting in its own right, it’s also worth noting that the Middle English word “demon” traces its roots back to the Latin “daemon” (meaning “spirit”), which itself is a borrowing from the Greek “daimōn.”10 And this isn’t just your average, run-of-the-mill demon. We’re talking about ranging from “god of the heathen” to “unclean spirits” here.

I'd be willing to call this a "demon"

I’d be willing to call this a “demon”

So depending on how deep you want to look into this, Sailor Moon – the Messiah – was fighting against demons in the Infinity arc. Possibly even a further connection between the play on Christianity we got in that story arc?

Lemures of the Dead Moon (Sailor Moon SuperS)

Though the lemures in Sailor Moon don’t seem to have a lot to do with their namesake in Roman mythology, it is clear that this is where the name came from. The lemures are described as:11

[R]epresent[ing] the wandering and vengeful spirits of those not afforded proper burial, funeral rites or affectionate cult by the living[.] … [They] were formless and liminal, associated with darkness and its dread.

Basically, lemures are not something you’d want to bump into in a dark alley on the way home at night.

Lemures aren't exactly intimidating

Lemures aren’t exactly intimidating

As much as I’d like to say that there’s some sort of deeper meaning to be had here, sadly I think the word was just kind of used for how it sounded and that it did, at least to some extent, have some sort of symbolic meaning behind it.

Phages of the Shadow Galactica (Sailor Moon Sailor Stars)

While I went into this fully expecting to learn about some sort of monster, ghost, or demon from a long-since-passed religion, I was quite surprised to learn that the word “phage” actually comes from bacteriophage, meaning:12

[A] virus that infects and replicates within a bacterium. The term was derived from “bacteria” and the Greek: φαγεῖν (phagein), “to devour”.

As for why this word was chosen, that’s a really good question. My best guess is that this was in reference to the phages essentially taking over their host (the now starseed-less person) and, unless Sailor Moon healed them, they would be stuck as Sailor What’s-His-Name and never turn back to their normal selves.

To be fair, though, phages only existed in the Sailor Moon Sailor Stars anime, and that season was pretty… bizarre as it is, so I’m not too surprised to see a departure from the demonic theming.

You can't talk about Phages without mentioning Sailor Guts!

You can’t talk about Phages without mentioning Sailor Guts!

And there you have it! The sources for all of the names of the various Monster of the Day groups that appeared in Sailor Moon!

I know, deep inside, that they’re all essentially the same and a rehash of the same idea, but for some reason I’ve always found myself to be more partial to the Youma and Daimon due to how they interacted with the Dark Kingdom and Death Busters respectively. But what about you, which was your favorite group of minions?? Did you think any one of them did it better than the rest?


References:

8 comments

  • You left out the Cardians… obviously named for Ann’s tarot-like cards, and the most forgettable of the MOTDs.

    I agree with you, I’m also partial to the Youma and the Daimon. The Lemures and Phages were too silly and non-threatening, and the show even began to mock its own requirement to have a MOTD to get rid of in every episode.

    The Droids were ok, but not that memorable. There were fewer episodes in the Dark Moon arc and there were many more significant bad guys (the four sisters, Rubeus, Esmeraude, Saphir, Demand, Wiseman, and Black Lady) so the Droids just didn’t matter as much to the story.

    The Youma were loyal soldiers who had minds of their own and took their work seriously, and seemed to have Beryl’s goals in mind.

    The Daimon certainly had some silly aspects… but they were also more threatening. They also had more memorable personalities (Cenicienta and Doorknobder come to mind right away) and often got to interact with their creator before they were sent into battle.

    The Daimon eggs were such a cool concept and I felt like even more could have been done with them. They could have put multiple eggs into an object and created some kind of mutant monster later in the season. I thought it would have be great if when Kaolinite was killed by Mistress Nine, if a daimon egg came out of her body and cracked apart, revealing that she was reanimated because Tomoe put an egg into her corpse.

    And the final daimon of the season… I really thought this rogue daimon was going to get away and lead the story into the fourth season. Maybe there’s a limited amount of story to explore there but it’s not like early SuperS was anything amazing either.

    The Phages had a really cool name though, and it was appropriate for how they took over a host body and were counteracted by someone healing the host.

    Overall I’d pick the daimon as my favorites. But my favorite season was the second one, and I think the fact that it had fewer MOTDs is part of the reason why.

    • I left out the Cardians because they were anime only (though, to be fair, so were the Phages if I recall correctly) and Naoko obviously had nothing to do with then and… well, they were a combination between the word “card” and “guardian.” And this is long before Sailor Moon and her Sailor Crew were known as “Guardians.”

      … which makes me wonder if fans nowadays might find that a little confusing. But that’s neither here nor that.

  • I loved the MoTD, though they got less and less intimidating as the series progressed. I always felt that the biggest influence were Panther Claw from the original Cutie Honey TV series. Each member was a bizarre, female android/cyborg monster that ranged from grotesque to sexy. I think the influence is very prominent with the Daimon.

    • I never really thought about it too much until now, but I do kinda wonder why they decided to take a turn toward “sexy” with all the Daimon in Sailor Moon S. While they were sometimes suggestive in earlier seasons, it seems like a bit of an odd turn for the anime production staff to suddenly take in making all of the enemies have stars on them in some sexualized part of the body and then go out of their way to show it.

      It doesn’t really offend me, but I still find it a bit of an odd choice when you consider the nature of the series and the audience. I wonder if it had something to do with the more adult/darker themes of the season? Possibly because the fans from the beginning were getting older?

  • Thomas Vaccaro

    I think lemures were meant to be romanized as “remless,” which I took to mean “REM-less” as in, the REM cycle of sleep. Originally the Remless were the subjects of Nehelenia who originally surrendered their dreams to her so that she could be beautiful forever, so I thought the name denoted they could not dream or sleep.

    • Honestly, that sounds like a localization (either through one of the manga or anime translations), or a fan myth, to me. It seems pretty unlikely that Ms. Takeuchi would somehow make this an English-only wordplay back before the series had even entered any English-speaking countries. The Japanese word for Lemure (from Sailor Moon) is written as either レムレース or レムレス (source), while the name for the Sailor Moon MotD is also written as レムレス (source).

      Since the REMless spelling is a combination of an English abbreviation and an English suffix, it really doesn’t make sense. It’s a fun idea, for sure, but I think it’s purely an invention of either fans or one of the English localizations.

  • I would have liked to learn more about Monsters of the day, as you I’m a fan of the concept and I loved to see a new monster every episode.

    I have a soft spot for daimons I believe they were the best Motd specially because they grew stronger as the season progressed.

    Do you have more trivia about them I would like to read more about it!

    • I’m actually putting together a “bestiary” of sorts behind the scenes right now, to include not just the etymology of the MotD’s names, but inspirations behind their designs. ^^

      As for the names, so far I’ve completed the Youma, Cardians, Droids, and Daimon, and am now writing up the Lemures. It’ll be a sad day when I’ve finally finished the MotDs for all the seasons!

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