What Are the Sailor Soldiers’ Favorite Ways of Fortune Telling?

Usagi getting her fortune told (ep. 2; using yarrow stalks)

Usagi getting her fortune told (ep. 2; using yarrow stalks)

Once again, we’re going to be talking about something that you never knew you wanted to know: the way that each of the Sailor Soldiers prefers likes to throw their fate to the wind and find out what their fortunes may be.

That’s right, we’re talking about fortune telling! Join along for another trip into exploring the profiles of our favorite Sailor Soldiers!

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What Kind of Magazines Does Usagi Read?

Not even pretending to study

Not even pretending to study

Say what you will about Usagi’s lack of interest in educational pursuits, but despite her rather… questionable scores in her scholastic pursuits, at the very least we should give credit where credit’s due: she is portrayed in the anime quite often reading comics, magazines, or other materials. All that hard work (?) must be paying off, because her Japanese — as in, language arts,1 or the study of a national native language — scores are her highest.2

  • Japanese: 52 pts.
  • English:10 pts.
  • Math: 20 pts.
  • Social Studies: 32 pts.

In honor of Usagi’s uncharacteristic pursuit of language arts, I’m going to take you on a tour of Usagi’s room, and we’ll look at some of the magazines she seems to enjoy reading as well as their real-life counterparts.

Let’s get started!

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Do Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna’s Names Refer Back to Usagi?

Our names mean WHAT??

Our names mean WHAT??

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?

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Why Does Usagi’s Blood Type Matter?

Just a quick prick!

Just a quick prick!

So there you are, reading through bios about your favorite Sailor Soldier, and committing all these facts to memory. We’ve all been there, totally normal.

But as you’re scanning through Usagi’s birthday, her favorite foods, favorite method of fortune telling, and all that jazz, you run into the blood type column. Now, as interesting as this may be, you can’t help but wonder why anyone would care about Usagi’s blood type, right? We’re not doctors here, so why are we so worried about blood types?

Well, today we’re to talk about why blood types matter, and what it says about the Sailor Moon cast!

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How Did the Sailor Soldiers’ Views of Love and Life Differ?

All you need is love! ♪

All you need is love! ♪

With all of the exciting adventures the Sailor Soldiers embark on and the resulting epic battles against the forces of evil, it’s often easy to forget that, at its core, Sailor Moon is a story of teenage romance.

Today, I’d like to take a closer look at the softer side of our sailor-suited heroines and see how their approaches to love and life differed.

So without further ado, let’s get this started!

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Which Character Did Sailor Mercury’s Voice Actress Apply For First?

The original Sailor Moon voice cast and characters

The original Sailor Moon voice cast and characters

Of the many (many!) things that we can praise the Sailor Moon anime production for, I’d definitely rank the excellent and highly talented voice cast right up near the top. Without their wonderful voice work to strike a chord with the viewers, I’m not sure the anime would have been as much of a success as it was.

But things very well could have turned out differently. As it turns out, Aya Hisakawa – voice of our beloved Ami Mizuno – actually went in to try out for someone else at first.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane!

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How Old Was Usagi’s Mother, Ikuko?

Don't ever ask a woman's age...

Don’t ever ask a woman’s age…

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

Usagi's growing up!

Usagi’s growing up!

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).

Ikuko and six year old Usagi

Ikuko and six year old Usagi

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!

What Weapons Were the Inner Soldiers Supposed to Wield?

The Sailor Team Attacks

The Sailor Team Attacks

One of the interesting key differences about the Outer Sailor Soldiers is that, unlike the Inners, they all have their own weapons / talismans. Even Sailor Moon and Sailor ChibiMoon get on the trend and have their own various sticks, rods, and kaleidoscopes! So why is it that the Inner Sailor Soldiers miss out on this pattern and don’t have their own weapons? The fact of the matter is: it wasn’t always meant to be that way. So what were the Sailor Soldiers armed with?

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Does Usagi’s Family Also Have a Moon Connection?

The Tsukinos

The Tsukinos

The Tsukino family play an interesting part in the Sailor Moon universe since they both have a strong connection to Usagi – the central character in the story – while at the same time supposedly representing what is mundane and normal in the world. Since it’s pretty well known that Ms. Takeuchi was a fan of adding in little touches here and there as in-jokes/references about her characters, often through clever puns in their names, it’s probably worth taking a deeper look at what connections, if any, Usagi’s family has.

First and foremost, it’s worth noting that the Usagi’s family members’ names don’t have any special meanings behind them, since we know that the makeup of her family and the names themselves are based off of Naoko’s real family.1 Though the kanji is likely different, it seems that Kenji, Ikuko, and Shingo are all based on the Takeuchi family.

However, not all is lost for subtle references to rabbits and the moon, at least when it comes to the anime!

Ikuko and Usagi's unique hairstyle

Ikuko and Usagi’s unique hairstyle

Though far more pronounced in the anime than in the manga, if you look closely you can see that both Ikuko and Usagi share a common trait in their hairstyle – particularly, that they have a heart-shaped part in the middle of their bangs. This styling of course can also be seen in Queen Serenity, ChibiUsa, and Chibi Chibi as well. So what’s the point?

Crescent Moon Bangs

Crescent Moon Bangs

Well, it’s not actually a heart-shaped parting in her bangs, but actually two crescent moons facing each other, which gives the appearance of a heart.

While the effect may be subtle, it’s much easier to see when highlighted, as shown here. Ikuko’s hair style varies a bit from episode to episode and is a little less pronounced in the Sailor Moon Crystal anime, but if you look closely, you can definitely see that the two-moon hair style is the same across all of the versions.

Even if Queen Serenity is considered Sailor Moon’s true mother and Ikuko is her mother only through reincarnation, it’s nice to know that Ikuko still has her place in connecting to Usagi!

Moving onto Kenji, well, I’m afraid that unfortunately he doesn’t really seem to play a big part in the series (which isn’t uncommon for fathers in anime/manga, I suppose), so other than the connection to Ms. Takeuchi’s own family, there’s not much to go off of here.

Shingo the Bunny Man

Shingo the Bunny Man

The good news, though, is that Shingo isn’t without his own interesting reference!

Though not directly tied to the moon at first glance, if you take a look at his name tag (which he’s required to wear going to, from, and in school in lieu of a uniform), you’ll notice two little round bits on top of his last name, 月野 (tsukino). This is consistent throughout the first season of the anime, at least, and always appears on his name tag. So what is it?

Much like the odango hairstyle that Usagi uses, these two little circles on top of the moon kanji character are meant to be reminiscent of bunny ears, which ties back into the traditional Asian legend of there being a rabbit on the moon (and the inspiration for Usagi’s name in the first place).2 Now, why Shingo would want to draw rabbit ears, in honor of his sister, on his name tag in the first place is beyond me, but I guess we can assume he has a soft spot in his heart for his sister anyway.

It’s really unfortunate that Usagi’s family really took a back seat as the series progressed in order to make room for more characters, but I suppose it was necessary when you consider that new characters were being added and also needed time in the lime light.

All the same, though, it’s nice to know that the anime producers took the time to at least put in these extra little details for the fans to catch! Yet another little bit of trivia that makes Sailor Moon fun to watch over and over again.

 

What’s So Super About Super Sailor Moon?

Transforming Into Super Sailor Moon

Transforming Into Super Sailor Moon

Depending on how you take it, this question could either be existential, painfully obvious, a bizarre linguistics mystery, or an interesting mix of all three. Just to be clear, we’re not actually discussing the relative power of Sailor Moon’s attacks or why the series is called Sailor Moon in the first place, but rather what was the reason for having her powered up form being called “Super Sailor Moon.” Couldn’t she just power up without needing a new name?

She's not just good, she's super!

She’s not just good, she’s super!

Well, as with a lot of things in Japanese media, answering this question requires us to take a look back at the social and historical context that the Sailor Moon series was created in. As original and unique as the series is, and as much work as Ms. Takeuchi put in to make such a rich and diverse world for her characters to live within, the series was still greatly impacted by the pop culture of the country it was founded in.

You see, throughout the mid- to late-1980s and into the 1990s, Japan had something of a love affair with the word “super,” not much unlike how “x-treme” (and various variations thereon) became synonymous with sports, soft drinks, and pretty much any product or TV show marketed to anyone under the age of 30 in the US from the late 1990s and early 2000s.1 Japan’s (…bubble) economy was going strong,2 and the word “super” seems to have been picked up by marketers to show how their product was new and improved.

The most obvious example that you’re probably all aware of is the upgrade from the Famicom/Nintendo to the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo, but this goes back much earlier. Following the Nintendo connection, the sequel/upgrade to the smash hit “Mario Bros.” was “Super Mario Bros.”3 But as we’re about to see, characters being “leveled up” so-to-speak isn’t the only way that the word super had infected Japanese culture.

1988 Commercial for Asahi Super Dry

1988 Commercial for Asahi Super Dry

In 1987 the Asahi Beer company, wanting to expand their business from a paltry 10% of the Japanese beer market, launched the Asahi Super Dry product line. This sparked off what is known as the “Dry Wars” among Japanese beer producers,4 who were all trying to capture the budding dry beer5 market.

Other noteworthy examples include the Super Saiyan form6 in Dragon Ball Z in 1991, the Super-VHS video standard7 introduced in 1987, and the proposed upgrade to the floppy disk – the so-called SuperDisk8 – in 1997. Taking a look at anime titles alone, you can see the trend pretty clearly:9

So what does this all mean, then? Essentially what this means is that during this particular time in Japan, the word “super” was a popular marketing buzz word used to convey to the audience that this was a new, upgrade, improved version of a previous product. That’s not to say that the concept didn’t exist in the west – Superman predates this marketing buzz in Japan by nearly half a century. But what’s interesting about all this is that, taken as a whole, what Ms. Takeuchi was trying to emphasizing by powering Usagi (and, later, the rest of the Sailor Soldiers) up into her Super form.

A Survivor of the Dry Wars

A Survivor of the Dry Wars

Taking into consideration how deeply this was all affected by the words, language, and other series and products out at the time, it makes me wonder what the upgraded form of Sailor Moon would’ve been called if the series came out today? Mega like in Pokémon?10 Though I’m a fan of the Super and Eternal forms, I’d love to know how things would’ve changed if the series had been made today!

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