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?

What is the Inspiration for the Spiral Heart Moon Rod?

The Spiral Heart Moon Rod

The Spiral Heart Moon Rod

Throughout her time as a sailor-suited soldier of love and justice, dedicating her days to boring school work and evenings to punishing evil in the name of the moon, Sailor Moon has gone through quite a few different magical items and all manners of attacks. While I’m personally a fan of the traditional Moon Stick, which I think we can all agree has a pretty lackluster name, the inspiration behind the Spiral Heart Moon Rod is fascinating in its own right.

What makes the Spiral Heart Moon Rod so interesting is that its design, like the designs of other important items in the Sailor Moon canon, appears to be based on a real rod – a scepter1 – in the possession of the British Royal Family. Specifically, I’m referring to the Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross,2 part of the coronation regalia of the British monarchy.

The Sovereign's Scepter with Cross and Spiral Heart Moon Rod

The Sovereign’s Scepter with Cross and Spiral Heart Moon Rod

In addition to the remarkable similarities in their general appearance, which is pretty convincing in its own, it’s also noteworthy that the Sovereign’s Scepter contains within it Cullinan I,3 the clearest cut diamond in the world – not too dissimilar from the legendary Silver Crystal itself! The curving lines reminiscent of a heart, the crown design on top, and the crystal embedded within all make this a pretty convincing basis for the design.

Cullinan I

Cullinan I

Taking into consideration that the talismans were also based on Western designs, it seems pretty fitting to me that Ms. Takeuchi would choose such a famous item from the crown jewels to use as the basis for her design. It also ties in nicely with her role as heir to the Silver Millennium and the future Neo-Queen of Crystal Tokyo.

Since we know that Ms. Takeuchi incredibly well-informed and clearly did a lot of research into various crystals, I think it would definitely be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the broaches throughout the seasons, or maybe some of the other various sticks, wands, and scepters wielded by Sailor Moon. Just seeing something real that looks so similar really gives you a sense for just how impressive her attacks must have looked to the enemies she faces.

But what about you? What was your favorite of her weapons, and why? I’ve always loved the simplicity of the Moon Stick and how it even evolved once the Silver Crystal was added to it, but that’s just me. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions!

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!

Why Did Mimete Call Eudial a Snail Lady?

Eudial and Her Snail-y Demise

Eudial and Her Snail-y Demise

At first glance, it doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy that Mimete would refer to Eudial at a “Snail Lady” since there are several scenes in the anime where Mimete uses them to harass her. But when you stop and think about it – as I’m wont to do with incredibly tiny details about anime – it doesn’t really make any sense why Mimete would call Eudial something that she so clearly dislikes. I mean, you don’t refer to someone with acrophobia1 as “Ms. Tall Places” or someone someone with an extreme dislike for legumes as “Mr. Bean,” right?2 So if that isn’t the reason, what is the connection between Eudial and snails?

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What Does Nephrite’s Cursed Symbol Mean?

The Target is Chosen

The Target is Chosen

One of the interesting things about the Classic season of the Sailor Moon anime is that each of the Four Kings of the Dark Kingdom not only had their own unique objectives, but they also had their own youma and their own ways of trying to achieve their goals. While Jadeite may have decided to get energy en masse, for example, Nephrite chose to get energy from a person when they were at their peak. But there’s one thing that I always wondered about many years ago when I watched Nephrite put his mark on his future victims: does that mark actually have any sort of meaning behind it?

The answer to this question is unfortunately, like is often the case when discussing the world of Sailor Moon, both yes and no. While the producers behind the anime were no strangers to adding in obscure hidden references into the background of scenes or playing games with character names, the answer to this question is rather straightforward – if you know where to look for the answer.

The Curse of Nephrite

The Curse of Nephrite

Since we see Nephrite use this symbol in multiple episodes when he puts his mark on a possession important to each of his victims, we can pretty definitively state what the proper orientation is (i.e., which way is up and, thus, how it should be interpreted). When you look closely at it, you can see that this symbol is really nothing more than a stylized form of the katakana used to spell out his name in Japanese – more specifically, the ネ (ne) in ネフライト (nefuraito).

But that’s no good reason to get disappointed, not yet at least! First, we need a brief history lesson.1

Hiragana and katakana,2 the two Japanese syllabic alphabets, developed from evolutions – simplifications, really – of kanji, which had been previously used in the form of man’yogana3 wherein kanji was read not for its symbolic meaning, but was used to phonetically spell out Japanese words. This was obviously not ideal for several reasons:

  1. Very little consistency between authors over which kanji was used to represent which sound (i.e., there are dozens of kanji that can be pronounced ne, so which do you use?)
  2. Kanji is time-consuming to write and requires more finesse for fine lines
  3. It was unclear when a kanji should be read for pronunciation and when it should be read for meaning (a proper noun, for example)

The katakana symbol ネ (ne) comes from a simplification of the kanji 祢 (ne),4 more specifically, the left radical of that kanji. When you take a look at how the kanji is simplified when writing in one of the various cursive styles of Japanese calligraphy, you can see the similarities with Nephrite’s mark.

Japanese Cursive Styles

Japanese Cursive Styles

You can see that as the kanji is written in more stylistic manners, the left radical bears a strong resemblance to the mark that Nephrite leaves on all of his victims. It looks like what we have here is a case of the anime producers actually looking back to the past in order to create something new and unique. I told you this wasn’t a complete disappointment!

Now if only someone could explain to me why it would be okay for Nephrite and Naru to date, like the trouble with Usagi and Mamoru in the anime, I think all of my questions would be answered.

What is the Connection Between Ami’s Mother and Germany?

Ami, off to Berlin

Ami, off to Berlin

While there’s certainly nothing particularly notable in fiction about a main member of the cast (successfully or unsuccessfully) having to move away, Ami’s sudden announcement in the anime1 that she would be going to Germany of all places for her study abroad comes off as a bit random. Moreover, her reasoning – that she wants to be a doctor like her mother – seems completely unrelated. But what’s interesting about this is that while Ami’s sudden desire to go to Deutschland may seem completely random to Sailor Moon fans in the west, it actually made a lot of sense, and even seemed natural, to Japanese fans.

First, a little background on what is strange about Ami going to Germany.

In Japan, every student is required to study English for at least three years in junior high school, though most will study for six, with an additional three years in high school (though high school is not included in compulsory education in Japan).2 Though much can be said about the quality of English education in Japan,3 high scores (on tests, at least) are still seen as important by – and are even required for entering – some of the biggest companies and universities in Japan. With that in mind, why would someone as scholastically focused as Ami choose to go to Germany and not an English-speaking country?

Time to get down to studying!

Time to get down to studying!

This is where Ami’s mother and, more importantly, her career comes in. Up until around the 1990s, when digital/electronic records started to take over, it was common practice for Japanese doctors to jot down their notes and transcribe information in the patient’s chart regarding their status not in Japanese, but in German. Even the Japanese word for “patient chart,” カルテ (karute), comes from the German word karte.4

Now why would they do that? Well, the reason is two fold. First, many of the Japanese words for medical ailments and conditions involve uncommon kanji and, when the word has been borrowed, it would make more sense to write the foreign word rather than a string of katakana to spell it phonetically. Second, it was written in German to keep the patient from reading their own records.

Not so sure about this...

Not so sure about this…

Actively trying to keep a patient from reading their own medical records may sound like lunacy (or even malpractice!) from a 21st century, western point of view, but Japanese media is rife with scenes of a relative dying of some grave illness and only the family being told of how much longer the patient has to live. Informed consent5 wasn’t even required under any Japanese laws until the Medical Care Act6 was revised to include it in 1997. By writing the records in German, it was nearly guaranteed that the patient wouldn’t understand their own prognosis without the doctor to explain.

Though this tradition has mostly gone by the wayside now thanks to electronic records and hospitals generally informing patients of their own medical conditions, in 1993 when this episode aired, that would definitely have still been the case, and thus it would have only been natural that Ami would want to get a head start on studying German so that she could follow in her mother’s footsteps as a doctor.

Though obviously the anime wouldn’t have dared to get rid of Ami (especially considering her popularity), I still would have loved to see her away from the team for a few episodes, or even show her experiencing Germany before coming back. There is one question that’s always bothered me, though: when Ami ultimately does become a doctor, what kind of doctor would she be?

What is Sailor Jupiter’s True Element – Lightning or Wood?

Jupiter Supreme Thunder!

Jupiter Supreme Thunder!

Despite being one of the five (six, if you count Mamoru / Tuxedo Mask) main original cast members, and the fourth Sailor Soldier to join the team, there’s a lot about Makoto’s back story that’s left untold. Not only does her background suggest that she was very possibly a member of a gang, but we were often left hanging wondering if we would ever find out about her mysterious ex-boyfriend/sempai or if she’d ever find a new love interest to get her mind off of him. But what we’re here to talk about to day is another one of those mysteries that has stymied Sailor Moon fans for decades: just why is it that Sailor Jupiter – the Sailor Soldier of thunder/lightning – also have wood/plant elemental attacks?

Well… actually, no. It turns out that this is yet another case of needing to re-frame the question to help us understand what the real issue is and to arrive at the right answer. As we’ve previously discussed, each of the Sailor Soldiers’ names from from the Japanese name for the planet their affiliated with, which also neatly gives them an elemental association. In the case of Ami Mizuno, for example, the Mizu in her name comes from the kanji for water (水; mizusui)1 which is incidentally also the kanji used to represent the planet Mercury (水星; suisei)2 in Japanese.

Mercury to Jupiter, in Japanese

Mercury to Jupiter, in Japanese

So what about Makoto then? Well, her last name Kino is made up of the kanji for trees  (木; kimoku)3 which ties back into the kanji used to represent the planet Jupiter (木星; mokusei).4 What this tells us is that it’s likely that Makoto’s primary element is actually supposed to be wood/plants and in fact the lightning attack is actually the abnormality. But before we can say that for a fact, we need to consider why this would be.

Coconut Cyclone

Coconut Cyclone

Why give Sailor Jupiter a lightning attack at all, you ask? Well, quite simply, one of the most memorable features of the planet Jupiter is its turbulent weather system, leading to violent thunderstorms as large as 1,000km across.5 Zeus and Jupiter, of Greco-Roman mythologies, were also known for throwing lightning bolts.6 When choosing an attack for the Sailor Soldier of the planet Jupiter, it’s hard to argue that her Supreme Thunder didn’t fit the role nicely.

However, as the series progressed, you can see that Ms. Takeuchi actually stuck with using purely wood/plant-based attacks going forward, with the single exception of Jupiter Thunderbolt.7 From thereon, we had (together with its first appearance):

  • Flower Hurricane (Act 5)
  • Sparkling Wide Pressure (Act 16)
  • Jupiter Coconut Cyclone (Act 27)
  • Jupiter Oak Evolution (Act 42)

The anime, however, seemed to prefer the electricity theme and continue to go with it whenever new attacks were created, though they sometimes implemented the manga attacks as well, which is what leads to some of the confusion.

So there you have it! As it turns out, Sailor Jupiter’s proper element should actually be over plants and nature, though due to a little creative thinking on Ms. Takeuchi’s part when it came to making her first attack, there’s been some long-term confusion as to which she really should have command over. Minako also has a similar issue with regard to metal and love, though that is another discussion for another time.

What about you? Do you prefer Sailor Jupiter as the Sailor Soldier of thunder and lightning, or do you see her more as backed by the power of plants and nature? I’d love to hear your thoughts!