How Absurdly Expensive Was Haruka and Michiru’s Rent in Sailor Moon?

Dreaming about all their money

Dreaming about all their money

Between the race cars, motorcycles, helicopters, violins, and other extravagancies, I’m quite sure we’re all pretty much on the same page that Sailor Moon‘s Haruka and Michiru are ridiculously wealthy. And we’re not even talking about Usagi “I Own a Million Dollar House” Tsukino style wealthy here, either. We’re talking about the kind of money you and I dream about while we eat instant ramen.

… or are we?

Today we’re going to take a look at just how out-of-this-world Haruka and Michiru’s rent really would be. I hope you brought your calculators, because things are going to get intense!

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How Were Haruka and Michiru’s VAs Told to Portray Their Characters?

Masako Katsuki and Megumi Ogata

Masako Katsuki and Megumi Ogata

Though the arguments have mostly settled down in recent years, discussions over the nature of Haruka and Michiru’s relationship was, at one time, one of the most hotly contested debates in the nascent days of the North American Sailor Moon fandom.

Today, we’re going to take a look at an interview conducted with Megumi Ogata and Masako Katsuki, voice actresses for Haruka Tenoh and Michiru Kaioh respective, and see how they approached figuratively, and literally, breathing life into their characters.

I hope you stick around!

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Why Didn’t Megumi Ogata Sing Sailor Uranus’ Song, Initial U?

Sailor Uranus transformation

Sailor Uranus transformation

When I was first getting into anime, the concept of “character songs” (or sometimes known as “image songs”) was something that was a little hard to wrap my mind around. They’re essentially songs written from the character’s point of view and performed in character. If done right, if gives you further insight into the character in a way that you don’t often hear them express themselves.

If done wrong…? Well, that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Join along for a trip down memory lane as we discuss what went wrong with Initial U!

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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 Did the Outer Senshi Use Lipstick in Their Transformations?

The Outer Senshi Applying Lipstick

The Outer Senshi Applying Lipstick

This is yet another one of those questions that I’ve been wondering about for a long time that could either be something as simple as a design choice made up by either the animation staff or Ms. Takeuchi herself, or might actually have some sort of deeper meaning behind it. After all, the staff behind the Sailor Moon anime didn’t hesitate to make some pretty far-reaching, if arbitrary, decisions to alter characters personalities. However, for the most part, most of their changes were for the sake of adding in additional meaning to the anime as references for astute fans.

So why is it that, while every one of the Sailor Soldiers either has their nails painted during their transformation (or showcases their painted nails during when transforming into their Super forms), the adding of lipstick is a characteristic unique to the Outer Sailor Soldiers. Making things all the more interesting is that Sailor Saturn is excluded from this quirk, and her transformation clearly showcases her magical manicure.

Sailor Moon's Magical Manicure

Sailor Moon’s Magical Manicure

As best as I can determine, this design choice was most likely made in consideration of the target audience of the anime, and what is actually considered “adult” to them. After having watched, read, and played Sailor Moon in its myriad of forms, it’s easy to forget that the magical items they use are real-world items and that their “Make Up” transformation phrase is not only a nifty thing to shout, but also directly references the transformations these young girls are making into sailor-suited heroines. And in this case, it also is referencing real-world make-up.

According to a 2014 web survey conducted by My Navi Woman1 on women’s age when they first wore lipstick, the number one response was 18 years old, at 20.3%. Though the second most common response, 12 or younger, was at 19.8%, this actually is in the minority when you calculate the rest of the ages together. Taken as a whole, >60% of women responded that they were either 16 years or older when they first used lipstick. The same age range, incidentally, as Haruka, Michiru, and Setsuna.

Inner Senshi Manicure Set

Inner Senshi Manicure Set

But for those numbers to be meaningful, we need to know about Japanese manicure trends. Fortunately, Benesse did a survey in 20112 with Japanese parents on just that. As early as 6 years old, 44.1% and 26.5% of girls were reported to being either interested in or actually painting their nails, respectively. Though the painting of nails is still forbidden in the vast majority of Japanese schools – even through high school! – it nicely highlights the point on what kind of makeup girls Usagi’s age and younger have in mind.

While this is by no means any sort of definitive proof of why the three talisman-bearing Sailor Soldiers all have lipstick applied when they transform, I think it does at least give an interesting insight into Japanese attitudes toward makeup which may differ from those in the West.

If I were to wager a guess, I would say that the point in doing it this way was to highlight the age difference between the new and mysterious Sailor Soldiers being introduced in the Death Busters Arc and to give them an added sense of maturity. It also explains why Hotaru goes along with the others in just having her nails painted. What do you think about all this? Do you think there was any sort of deeper meaning behind it, or just a stylistic choice of the animators?

Were Haruka and Michiru Viewed as Lesbians in 1990s Japan?

How Did 1990s Sailor Moon Fans See This?

How Did 1990s Sailor Moon Fans See This?

As Sailor Moon‘s popularity began to pick up in the west, and the decision ultimately came down to not continue dubbing the series (despite efforts from the fans), the fans started to reach out on the early internet for more information about the undubbed seasons and about the other, mysterious Sailor Soldiers. Fans went back and forth on the nature of the relationship between the little-known Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune – both women! – with people going so far as to make up lies about fake origins, gender transformations, and more.1

A tender embrace

A tender embrace

Though the dust has ultimately settled and, with the more direct statements in the Sailor Moon Crystal, both fans and creators can agree that they are clearly a lesbian couple now,2 this still leaves it unclear as to how their relationship was viewed in Japan. After all, if there was so much confusion in the US, wouldn’t it be natural for there to be confusion in Japan as well?

While it’s difficult to say what a country believed as a whole, I’m basing much of my statements on an article published by Newtype,3 one of the top three anime magazines in Japan. This article was published shortly after episode 126 of the anime aired,4 presumed to be the end of Haruka and Michiru’s story line. The title of the article is:

“Farewell to the Soldiers of Love – The Dramatic Tale of the Soldiers of Forlorn Love, Haruka & Michiru, Comes to an End”

The article is a bit long to provide the English and Japanese in their entirety, but the following is a translation of the relevant parts where the author describes his/her interpretation of episode 110.5

“Neptune, took the bullet from Eudial in order to save Uranus’ life. Uranus took her own life with the gun that was used to shoot Neptune. Didn’t you [the staff charged with creating episode 110] find this to be just a little sexy, in addition to its seriousness?”

“I would like you to read the following as just one interpretation of dramatic expression, as that is all it is. Thinking of this in a Freudian manner, a gun is symbolic of male genitalia. Though they appear to be lovers, neither of them has male genitals. Is there some meaning to the fact that the more feminine Neptune took the shot of her own will while the masculine Uranus shot herself of her own will (that’s right, the one who shot and the one to be shot couldn’t be reversed!)? Then, a symbolic so-called gun comes between the two of them (who do not have any male genitalia) and “talismans” are born from their bodies after they have been shot through. Almost as if a child had been born from within them…”

“The relationship between the two of them is reminiscent of the love between a man and a woman, but it was a deeper connection between spirits that was somehow even stronger than that. I think this scene was drawn out amazingly, with a hidden subtext of sexual symbolism of the depth of their relationship.”

Sailor Uranus and Neptune Investigating a Heart Crystal

Sailor Uranus and Neptune Investigating a Heart Crystal

The author manages to say both a lot and nothing at the same time, which makes it a bit difficult to interpret. Ultimately, though, I think the takeaway that you can get from this article is that if one of the biggest Japanese anime magazines was talking so frankly about the relationship, it’s fair to say that the general consensus among anime fans at the time was that there was some sort of sexual relationship between the two (even if some people chose to read into it in a Freudian manner).

Considering how important the rise to prominence of homosexual and transgendered characters was to fans in the west,6 I’m glad to see that it was seen similarly in Japan and hope that it had similar impacts. Though the anime certainly did downplay Haruka’s mixing of genders, the message seems to have gotten across fairly well, as showcased in a tagline underneath a screenshot on the same page:

“Michiru casually responds ‘Well then…’ to Haruka’s risque line of ‘I’m not letting you go home tonight.’ This was a meaningful scene that only the two of them could have.”

Haruka and Michiru, driving home

Haruka and Michiru, driving home

As for the sexuality of the other Sailor Soldiers? Well, fan theories are abound and the jury is still out, but it’s at least nice to get a glimpse into what Japanese fans thought of Haruka and Michiru’s relationship back in 1995! This does bring one question to mind, though: did the anime really do less to advance the obviousness relationship, or possibly more? As I re-watch the series, they definitely didn’t shy from anything! What do you think?

Did the Sailor Moon Anime Make Haruka More Masculine?

Sailor Uranus – A Sailor Soldier Not Restricted by Gender

Sailor Uranus – A Sailor Soldier Not Restricted by Gender

I generally try to avoid topics that require an understanding of Japanese to begin with, since it’s much less fun for those involved and has a very “inside baseball”1 feel to it if you’re trying to follow along with a bunch of different terminology. Of course, it can be very interesting sometimes and since we’re talking about a series which has undergone many incarnations in being brought to the Western world, it definitely is worth discussing sometimes. The case of Haruka, and how her gender and sexuality is conveyed in the anime and manga, is certainly one of those issues worth a closer look.

Haruka needs to relax sometimes

Haruka needs to relax sometimes

Japanese, as I’m sure many of you are aware, has a lot of personal pronouns.2 In fact, if you take a look on the Japanese Wikipedia page,3 you’ll find that they list fifty-one different ways to say “I” or “me.” This leads to an interesting problem in translation, since in Japanese these all express information on the way that the speaker views both themselves and their relationship with the listener while there’s no other choice than to translate them all as “I” when putting it into English.4 While most anime fans have undoubtedly heard of the common terms like watashiatashiboku, and ore, there are many others like honshoku (本職; used in business correspondence, often by government officials) and wagahai (我が輩; used by kingly sorts and despots, like King Koopa from Super Mario and well known in the title of “I Am a Cat” by Natsume Soseki5) which, though slightly less common, are just as important to Japanese culture and communication.

So when it comes to Haruka, it’s obviously a great point of interest how she refers to herself, since it expresses a part of her character that doesn’t really come across in English. While researching this, though, I came across an interesting issue: the anime and the manga treat Haruka’s use of personal pronouns differently… and in a pretty peculiar way.

The Unstoppable Sailor Duo

The Unstoppable Sailor Duo

How does the anime treat it? Well, irrespective of whether she is Sailor Uranus or Haruka (and both before and after Usagi discovers Haruka is female), she refers to herself using the pronoun boku, which is typically reserved for males but is not seen as completely verboten when used by younger girls and up through university. Where things get interesting, though, is in the manga. Ms. Takeuchi did not stick to just one personal pronoun for the character, but actually uses two – atashi and ore, which are seen as explicitly feminine and masculine, respectively. So when appearing as Haruka, she identifies herself more as a masculine and strong personality while taking on more of a feminine touch (on the same level as the way Ami refers to herself!) when in the form of Sailor Uranus.

To be honest, I’m rather disappointed that the anime did away with this for a simple across-the-board use of boku rather than going through the effort of trying to show Haruka as more of a fluid character, transcending above the simple male/female gender choice, as Ms. Takeuchi hinted at in the manga by switching between two extremes.

Ultimately, this is all a relatively minor issue, but it’s unfortunately one that’s lost in translation since there really aren’t any direct ways to address it in English other than changing the rest of the character’s speech patterns. I’d love to hear about how other translations dealt with it, though. Especially ones which do have gendered pronouns!

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