From the moment that Phobos and Deimos first appeared in the series, I think that many fans got the sense that there was probably something deeper lurking within Rei’s bird companions. They had Mars-themed names, after all, and time and again we would find ourselves introduced to talking cats throughout Sailor Moon‘s run. So why not talking birds?
And yet, it took four long years before we ever learned any more about them… in the manga, at least.
Who are Phobos and Deimos really? What is their role in the series? And is it true that they’re also Sailor Soldiers in training?
Stick around, because today we’ll be taking a look at these questions and more as we discuss Sailor Mars’ feathered companions!
To be completely and totally honest, I feel like Phobos and Deimos are a sign of how scattered and rushed the end of Sailor Moon was, and just one of the many loose ends that were opened up and then never answered.
Don’t get my wrong, I love Sailor Stars… but it opens up so many questions and provides answers to so few.
But let’s back up a bit and get started with the basics.
For the majority of the manga — and the entirety of the anime — there was actually nothing magical at all about Phobos and Deimos. They were simply two birds that hung around the Hikawa shrine that Rei looked after.
However, things start to get interesting once it’s revealed in the Dream arc that Rei’s feathered friends actually have pixie-like forms1 when they come to Rei’s rescue to give her the power of Super Sailor Mars.
From there, they fall out of the story for awhile until they reappear in Sailor Stars to face off against Sailor Lead Crow.2 During their confrontation, we learn that Phobos, Deimos, and Sailor Lead Crow all come from the same planet (Coronis) and that she had betrayed the rightful Sailor Coronis in order to steal her Sailor Crystal. Oh, and that she and/or Sailor Galaxia also destroyed the planet while they were at it. How rude!3
Though this whole exchange — from Phobos and Deimos making their appearance to their deaths — takes place over a mere five pages, there’s a lot to unpack here. After all, it basically tells us all that we’ll ever know about Rei’s celestial partners.
The first thing worth mentioning is the fact that both Phobos and Deimos are depicted as small pixies (similar to a certain fairy made famous by Disney) while Sailor Lead Crow… well… isn’t. While we only get a small, single panel depicting Sailor Coronis, I’d say that it’s probably a safe bet that she’s also a normal-sized human.
Why is that? Glad you asked!
Every other Sailor Soldier in the series is shown to be a normal human, though that’s hardly a deciding factor on its own. More importantly, Sailor Lead Crow is also a normal human, and I find it hard to believe that Galaxia would have changed her physical form as a Sailor Animamate, so my best guess is that Phobos and Deimos are simply a different species that lived on the same planet. After all, it’s not the first time that Ms. Takeuchi introduced fairies into the series.
Where things really get interesting in their exchange with Lead Crow, however, is when she mentions that the two are “soldiers in training.” This has caused untold amounts of speculation among Sailor Moon fans about how Phobos and Deimos were, a la Sailor ChibiMoon, training under Sailor Mars to become Sailor Soldiers, though unfortunately there’s really no basis for that in the original Japanese. It’s simply an issue that crops up in translation.
The word used here, 訓練兵 (kunrenhei45; military soldier in training), differs from the セーラー戦士 (sailor senshi)6 term that we’ve come to know and love, implying that they are simply your run-of-the-mill military soldiers/warriors. With the near universal use of the term Sailor Guardians now, I assume that this myth will slowly fall into obscurity as more fans are introduced to the modern translations.
Further hammering this point home is the fact that Lead Crow herself implies that she was a soldier in training along with them. She was jealous of how lucky they were to have been picked by the Princess of Mars and given their own moons,7 and boasts about how she ultimately reached even greater heights than Phobos and Deimos by killing Sailor Coronis and becoming a Sailor Soldier in her own right — something far greater than a mere partner to a princess.
It’s unfortunate that we know so little about these two. I think that, had they been introduced to the story sooner, they could have added interesting dynamic to the series by showing readers a less Moon-centric point of view.
Though I didn’t touch on it here, I also wonder if there could be some connection between the fact that Phobos and Deimos come from outside the solar system, and Mars’ moons are likely not true moons, but captured asteroids.8 Obviously the asteroids themselves wouldn’t be from outside the solar system, but there is something unique about Mars’ situation compared to the other planets.
If you have any further thoughts or insight on the matter, I’d love to hear from you! Especially with regard to how Phobos and Deimos fit into the series, and where the story could have gone if they were given a bigger part. Let me know what you think down below!
- See Act 36 of the original manga ↩
- See Act 45 of the original manga ↩
- Feel free to read this in your best Stephanie Tanner impression ↩
- See 訓練 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 兵士 (Jisho.org) ↩
- See 戦士 (Jisho.org) ↩
- The nuance here is a little unclear, though the implication is that Phobos and Deimos were given the moons that were already named Phobos and Deimos, which suggests that those were not their original names ↩
- See Moons of Mars (Wikipedia) ↩