As a translator, one of the most difficult issues to deal with is that of trying to figure out what an ambiguous word means when you don’t have enough context. This issue becomes infinitely harder when you’re working within a fantasy setting and there quite simply isn’t any further information for you to look up.
The debate surrounding Kinmokusei is one such problem. In Japanese, it could just as easily be either a planet or star (but thankfully not both).1 But depending on which one it is, that kind of changes our perception of where the Starlights come from.
Today, we’re going to see if we can try to unravel this mystery. Get suited up, it’s gonna be a rocky flight!
Long-time readers may recall that I’ve actually already touched on this issue in the past. But since that was a quick discussion of the issue from the perspective of the difficulties of translating the world of Sailor Moon, I thought it’d be worthwhile to take another look.
Oh, and also my answer is different this time around. Kinda. But not really. Anyway, you’ll just need to keep on reading for this to make any sense.
First off, a little background:
What makes this issue so complicated is that Japanese tends to slap the Japanese character for star (星; hoshi/sei) onto the names of celestial bodies.2 Examples include:
- 水星 (suisei; Mercury), 金星 (kinsei; Venus), 火星 (kasei; Mars)
- ハレー彗星 (haree suisei; Halley’s Comet)
- 中性子星 (chuuseishisei; neutron star)
- 赤星 (akahoshi; traditional Japanese name for Antares)
- 青星 (aoboshi; traditional Japanese name for Sirius)
- 星 (hoshi; the “Planet” in Final Fantasy VII)
While this may seem like a jolly-jack-splendid3 idea in Japanese, it makes things absurdly complicated in English translations. The Final Fantasy VII example in particular is good, because it shows how a translator could very easily mistake what’s being discussed if they didn’t have the proper context. Even a native Japanese speaker wouldn’t necessarily know what a fictional name is supposed to refer to without additional information.
And that’s where Kinmokusei (キンモク星) comes in! The name is a clever word pun that can be read as either “planet/star Kinmoku” while also serving as a a homophone for kinmokusei (金木犀 or キンモクセイ), otherwise known as the flower osmanthus fragrans.4
So for that reason alone, even in English I would probably translate the name as Planet/Star Kinmokusei in order to keep the flower connection. But that’s neither here nor there.
As fascinating as that may be, the question we’re here to answer is whether it’s a planet or a star. And the simple answer is…
… it’s both.
Which is, I’m sure you’d agree, the worst possible cop-out answer imaginable. But before you leave in anger and disgust, hear me out!
The fact of the matter is that – SURPRISE! – the anime and manga were not always consistent.
Strictly speaking, there actually is no Kinmokusei in the anime, since the home of Kakyuu and the Starlights was never referred to by name. If we were to assume that they’re from the same place — Kinmokusei — in the manga and the anime, then we should be able to affirmatively say that it’s a planet.
Why? Well, because the anime shows the Starlights’ home world, and it happens to be a planet.
As much as I’d love to call it a day and say we’ve wrapped up this mystery, the manga throws a wrench into that plan.
When Sailor Kakyuu makes her appearance in the manga, she introduces herself as:
Or in English (literally):
You will now be facing against me, Sailor Kakyuu, soldier of the Kinmoku Star!
And that pretty much removes any and all uncertainty about what Kinmokusei is in the manga, since she even uses the English word “star” (スター; sutaa). Since Kakyuu also refers to it as “Kinmoku Star,” that also clears up the debate of the proper name in English (Kinmoku rather than Kinmokusei).
How do we deal with this discrepancy? Well, the easiest and simplest answer is simply that the anime and manga were inconsistent. I mean, we’re talking about the season where the Starlights went from pretending to being men to literally transforming from men into women. And don’t make me talk about the “who the heck is ChibiChibi” insanity.
The other option would be to say that both the anime and the manga are canon, in a way.
As I mentioned above, the planet in the anime goes unnamed, which makes it entirely possible that it isn’t Kinmoku, but is rather the planet that Kakyuu and the Starlights live on. After all, Neo Queen Serenity and the Sailor Soldiers all live on Earth in the time of Crystal Tokyo, and yet Usagi/Serenity still technically possesses the Moon sailor crystal. So living on your own celestial body is obviously not a requirement. This is also why the Sailor Kakyuu being from Kinmoku issue fans often discuss doesn’t bother me.
So going back to the question we posed at the very beginning, what is Kinmokusei? Though everything I know about Sailor Moon seems to imply that it should be a planet, the fact of the matter is that it is most definitely a star. The name Kinmokusei is a manga-only invention, and the manga states it’s a star. To be fair, this also ties in better with the Starlights name.
What’s your take on the whole situation? Did Kakyuu and the Starlights actually live on the star, or did they live on some other planet (or even space castle, like the Outer Senshi had)? It’s definitely an interesting issue, and I really have no good answers!
- But that’s a problem related to astronomy, and has nothing to do with the Japanese language ↩
- See 星 (Jisho.org) ↩
- Did anyone else watch Cabin Boy? Just me? ↩
- See Kinmokusei (Wikipedia) ↩
23 thoughts on “Is the Sailor Starlights’ Kinmokusei a Planet or a Star?”
Anime: they obviously lived on a planet regardless of whatever celestial body they represent, kinda like how Earth is still the “home planet” of Sailor Moon, Mars, Uranus, etc.
Manga: For this one I’m guessing it could be the exact same situation, OR an awesome castle since those explicitly exist in the manga version of the store. I am highly skeptical that they lived on a literal star though. Because, you know……….. giant ball of flaming plasma. xD
This was fun to read.And I have another question for you.In the Turkish dub from the early 2000s sailor starlights each reference a star in their attacks.Fighter says sirius maker says Antares and I can’t understand what healer says because the only video I can find is a YouTube video with very low sound quality.In dubbing things we aren’t very creative so is there any mention of this in anywhere?
Do you have said video? I would love to watch it. It is interesting that in that Turkish dub Sailor Star Fighter references Sirius in her attacks and Star Maker referenced Antares. I would love to know which star that Star Healer references and if anyone who has seen this dub I would be very grateful if anyone knows the info of which star that Star Healer referenced in that dub.
I love how you’ve laid out this confusing issue!
Next question up — just what was Princess Kakyuu’s role like! Not sure if there’s enough to write a full article about, but we shall see…
Interesting article! Thank you!
As I have always thought of Kinmoku(sei) as a planet, I was actually quite surprised to read that some people thought it may be a star. My personal reasoning was or is that there is no evidence whatsoever to think that there exist any Sailors of stars. There is no Sailor Sun for instance! On the contrary, it’s where Metaria (Metallia) is supposed to have come from. So it’s a bad place rather than something that would origin in something as positive as a Sailor Senshi.
As for the star problem, Moon and all others have STAR seeds even though they don’t origin in stars but planets and even moons. So I’d rather call it a misuse of the word in / by Japanese rather than being a real sun. It wouldn’t unfortunately be the first instance it happened.
Btw. I have some smaller problems with your translation of キンモク・スターの守護戦士、セーラー火球がおまえたちの相手よ！To be concrete, the translation of AITE. Either I have yet to learn a new meaning of ally or it may be a misunderstanding on your part. The AITE refers to the second fighter in a battle. So セーラー火球がおまえたちの相手よ！would be more something in the line of “You’re facing me now in battle!” She is basically threatening Sailor Xi and Psi, not telling Moon they are fighting partners. But please feel free to correct me. (You know to err is human.) However, up to now I’ve only heard this phrase in dorama when someone challenged someone else to a duel or fight.
You know, you’re absolutely right! Translation has been revised.
I’m looking forward to your next article.
I’ve never had a problem with “Sailor Kakyuu” being the Sailor Guardian of “Kinmoku(sei)” (instead of being “Sailor Kinmoku”) because none of the Sailors are named for their planets, but rather simply have “Sailor” tacked on before their given (past life) names. For example, it’s “Sailor Mercury” not “Sailor Suisei” and we know that “Mercury” was her personal name as a princess/civilian. “Sailor Moon” is the exception (not being “Sailor Serenity”), but since there was no “Sailor Moon” in the past, I suppose that can be overlooked. Of course, this means Star Fighter, Star Maker, and Star Healer are the Starlights’ given names, but I’ve never much cared for them so I’m not bothered if they have terrible names xD
Anyway, interesting to find out that Kinmoku is a star and not a planet (where the manga is concerned). I’d imagine Kakyuu et al live in an orbiting castle, as the Outers (and Jupiter?) do, being from gas giants (with Pluto simply living at the Space-Time Door).
I’m pretty sure Galaxia namedrops Kinmoku(sei) in the anime shortly before she kills Kakyuu – which would be episode 195 if I remember correctly. Not that this makes a lot of difference at that point. :/
Huh, it’d be interesting if they did mention the name Kinmokusei in the anime! I’ll need to check that out…
I know I’m way late on this, but I just watched the episode (195) and can confirm. Galaxia shows up, spots Kakyuu and says “Kinmokusei no Princess…”.
In my opinion, it would be most probably a planet (I feel like it was referred to as planet somewhere). But my best argument is that in Sailor Moon, term “star” should not be always taken literally. It can refer to other celestial bodies (“My planet Mercury, the water star…”) or even people (that´s actually really poetic… and deep).
Huh, I’ve never heard of planets referred to in English as “stars,” with the exception of Venus. Interesting!
Actually, the English word “planet” comes from the Greek for “wanderer” and was used for all forms of celestial bodies alike in its original usage. It’s only fairly recently (well, in relative terms) that the word has solidified in meaning to only refer to solar satellites.
Maybe they lived on planet kakyuu in the kinmoku solar system. Maybe it’s a “porque no los dos” situation.
I like my theory.
(The things i think about at 1:00am)
I mean, it wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of possibility, when you consider how many other places there are out there where a city and state have the same name. Hey, maybe they’re both Kinmoku!
Interesting! In the German anime dub they said Kakyuu was from the planet “Euphe”. (Eu is pronounced Oi) I wonder how they did get that idea, because there was no name mentioned in the Japanese dub. (And normally the German dub is one of the more closer ones to the Japanese one.)
Kinmoku is a sun and the Starlights hail from a triplanetary belt around it. Astophysically not as weird as it sounds & certainly not the weirdest thing in space.
As for why Princess Kakyuu is also Sailor Kakyuu, I think is the missing link as to why we never got Sailor Serenity: because it wasn’t supposed to happen. We only got Sailor Moon after Princess and Queen Serenity both died & the empire collapsed. Kakyuu’s planet was destroyed, necessitating her activation as a soldier above being a princess.
Maybe the 3 lights are 3 moons around the planet, one always visible in the sky?
Her sailor name is Sailor Kakyuu though, not Sailor Kinmoku/sei – this is key. I believe this means that there are two astronomical bodies being referred to when she says she is the senshi of the Kinmoku star – Kinmoku the planet, and Kakyuu the star. Maybe that’s not what Naoko intended, but I believe it is the best way to make sense of things.
As I reread this entry, I’m thinking that maybe a more free-handed translation (more like adaptation…) like Gold(en)/Orange Osmanthus Star could work for the manga’s Kinmokusei? And when Kakyuu says that she’s from Kinmoku Star, keep it as that because “Kinmoku Star” might be in her language, while “Kinmokusei” is ostensibly the Japanese translation for Japanese readers. Or translate “Kinmoku Star” as “Kinmokusei,” as Japanese is foreign to English readers just as the English “Star” is foreign to Japanese readers.
It’s always tough to tell when a proper noun should be translated (Ginzuisho, Tuxedo Kamen) and when it should be left as-is Chibi Moon, Princess Kakyuu… Shitennou?).
The Youma and other villains of the day are good examples of this, since I think it actually is a disservice to non-Japanese fans to not carry the puns and nuance over into the language. However, this is a point that people will probably debate until the end of time.
TIL Osmanthus, which is a floral tea, is called KINMOKUSEI in japanese!!! I think this has a cultural significance in their characterization and the choice in the name