There’s one thing that’s always been bothering me about the introduction of ChibiUsa and, by extension, the introduction of the setting behind Crystal Tokyo and its monarch, Neo-Queen Serenity. I don’t mean “bother” in a bad way, of course. More like one of those niggling1 little doubts that always seems a bit off. In a series that is ostensibly about female empowerment, contains many female leaders (Queen Serenity, Queen Beryl, Queen Metalia, Neo-Queen Serenity, Sailor Galaxia… I could go on), and stars a main character that is infinitely more powerful than her romantic interest and male counterpart, why did Ms. Takeuchi decide to have Usagi give birth to ChibiUsa and assume the throne as Neo-Queen Serenity at the age of 22?
The world of Sailor Moon is definitely not kind to happy and stable family lives, at least where parents are concerned. Between Makoto and her trouble with airplanes, Mamoru and his issue with cars, Rei and her difficulties with childbirth, and Hotaru and lab explosions, there seems to be dead parent epidemic going around – and that’s only among the main cast! When you look at it that way, I guess you could say that Ami got pretty lucky with only having her parents divorce. While divorce is a common thing that most of us have first- or second-hand experience with now, what did it mean for viewers back in 1990’s Japan? Surely how Japanese fans perceived it was different than how we look at it now (and in the west), right?
Like everything else we discuss, the answer is “complicated.” So let’s start with what we do know: Ami’s parents are divorced, her mother is a doctor, her father is an artist, and after the divorce she kept her father’s name.1 Divorce was certainly not uncommon back in the 1990s in Japan, but it definitely wasn’t something you generally saw on tv or in anime, so that was certainly forward-thinking of Ms. Takeuchi to put in. For a little bit of context, the crude divorce rate (i.e., the rate of divorce per 1,000 people)2 in 1991 in Japan was 1.4% (vs. 2.0% in 2010)3 and 4.7%4 and 6.8%5 respectively in the U.S.
Where Japan and America (and much of the west, in fact) differ most of all when it comes to divorce is that Japan is still a sole-custody-only country – meaning that shared/joint custody is not possible. In the overwhelming number of cases (nearing 90%), the mother retains custody of the children and the father is out of the picture. In fact, in nearly 40% of the cases, the non-custodial parent never sees their child again.6 This would explain why Ami continues to live with her mother and her father only keeps in touch via postcards.
We also know that she learned to swim and play chess from her father as a way of “keeping herself centered,” so we can assume they had a pretty good relationship. Her father is also a member of an high-class sports club (and the other members clearly know who he is), so we can probably assume that he does (or used to) live in the Tokyo area.
Though it’s never quite clear why her parents divorced or what kind of impact it had on Ami, we do know that at the time it definitely left her in the minority, and may have been partially responsible for part of her isolation from the other students in her class.7 One thing that is interesting to note is that while we associate the names of all of the Sailor Team with the female sailor soldiers, their last names actually all come from their fathers – and Ami is no exception. It definitely brings up the interesting question of how lineage works in the Sailor Moon universe, and how things change in Crystal Tokyo (no “Usagi Chiba” here!).
In another world and another time, it would’ve been interesting to see how Ami – the brains of the team – turned out if she lived with her father. At least I know I’d be interested in seeing it!
The answer to this question can be really short or surprisingly quite long, depending on how deep you want to get into it. Of course, the quick and easy answer is that “Rei is a miko because she lives at a Shinto shrine,” but like most things in the Sailor Moon universe, things aren’t that simple (nor would it be interesting if they were!). We’ve already discussed the interesting religious (in)significance of Rei attending a Catholic school, so let’s take a closer look at the inspirations behind her more obvious religious affiliations!
Fortunately for us, Ms. Takeuchi directly addresses this question in her ~~ Punch! question and answer segment added to the end of the re-released manga volumes around 2003/2004 (the shinsouban; “new editions”).1
Or, an alternative title for this question could be: “Is Usagi Really Just a Victim of Circumstances?” What I love most about answering these questions is having the opportunity to stop and take a look at the accepted facts of the Sailor Moon universe, break them down, and analyze them with respect to how they fit into the real world. When it comes down to the core elements of Usagi’s personality – the titular character in Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon – her supposed lack of intelligence is one of her defining attributes. I know I’ve talked a lot about intelligence already, but I think Usagi deserves a second look… and maybe even an apology.
Though it seems that Ms. Takeuchi was stopped at the last minute by her editor, Fumio Osano, from killing the Sailor Team at the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, their anime counterparts weren’t quite so lucky. For a show which strayed even more into family-friendly territory (which can be seen often with the comical moments between Rei and Usagi that didn’t exist in the manga) and even cut out some of the deaths from the series (such as Jadeite being killed in the manga and frozen in to an eternal slumber, Princess Serenity’s suicide in the manga after the death of Prince Endymion, etc.), it’s a bit odd that they’d go the opposite direction and actually kill off the main cast in the epic climax. So after being lulled into this false sense of security, how did the fans react? And, by extension, their parents?
The information for this article comes from the June 1993 issue of Animage magazine.1
The first, and most widely-publicized, story comes from a midnight radio DJ for Radio Fukushima, Arata Owada.2 As the story goes, he used to would watch Sailor Moon together with his daughter every Saturday and was shocked to watch the Sailor Team fall one by one. He was so upset by this that he actually called up TV Asahi and demanded to know what they planned to do about the characters. Since he often discussed anime on his late-night radio show – and was vocal about his concerns – he eventually caught the attention of Animage, which asked him to do a phone interview.
In the interview, he said that his daughter was so shocked by the ending that she came down for a 40°C (104°F) fever and stayed home from kindergarten for a week. When he finally took her to the doctor, he was told it was autointoxication3 and the doctor asked if she had suffered some sort of trauma or shock recently.
Another – and perhaps more interesting – story comes from a fan-letter section in the same issue of Animage called “Mom’s Too!” In it, a 32 year old mother offered her opinion on the matter. She noted that in real life, people don’t die and then magically come back, so she was opposed to the idea of the Sailor Team so imply being “reset” and then coming back to life as if nothing had happened. She was concerned that her daughter would take away the opposite lesson: that people die and come back, that death isn’t permanent, and may lose out on the importance of life.
Looking around on the internet also gives various anecdotal stories from people about their classmates not coming to school or the author themselves not being able to eat for several days after watching the climax to the first season, so it’s pretty apparent that the impact these episodes had on Sailor Moon fans was huge.
Personally, though, I think it’s a good thing – it really shows that what could be written off as a simple anime really did touch people’s lives, and that the TV Asahi staff did a wonderful job of making these characters real. Isn’t that really the greatest compliment?
The most direct – and simplest – answer as to why ChibiUsa has pink hair ties closely into the fact that Ms. Takeuchi had originally intended for ChibiUsa to literally be something of a little Usagi, in-so-far that much of her character designs, birthday, likes and dislikes, all can be directly tied back to Usagi herself. So to start with our conclusion and work our way backwards: the reason why ChibiUsa has pink hair is because of Usagi’s hair. Now, let’s work our way backwards!
This is, admittedly, a really silly question and goes way into detail about really tiny things. But these are actually my favorite types of questions because they really make you think and also analyze the context of the Sailor Moon universe and how it fits in (intentionally and unintentionally) with the real world. So with that out of the way, let’s dive right in and discuss: what was Makoto eating when Usagi decided to make friends (and quiet her trumpet-playing stomach)?
Well, like all seemingly simple questions concerning Sailor Moon, this question sounds incredibly simple but has a lot more depth to it than you’d first imagine. Most importantly, her lunch differs ever-so-slightly between the manga, original anime, and the Crystal reboot. Making matters worse, Makoto had already started eating in the 90s anime, and the manga image is slightly cut off, leaving us guessing on the full contents. Crystal, however, gives us a good, clear shot, so we’re okay there.
Let’s take this one by one, then:
From what we can see in this picture (and in the other scenes we briefly get), she has:
- small takikomi gohan1 riceballs (x3)
- fried croquettes2 (x2)
- green peppers wrapped in meat (probably bacon) (x2)
- cherry tomatoes (x2)
- boiled quail eggs (x2)
For someone who wasn’t expecting Usagi to come along and help her out with lunch, that’s quite a respectable lunch she has there! To be honest, this (relatively) simple lunch fits in the best with her being a junior high school girl living alone, in my opinion. But doesn’t quite show off her famous cooking skills!
The Original Anime
Once again, this scene actually starts with Makoto eating so we can’t get 100% accuracy here, but from what we get to see, her lunch consists of:
- normal-sized takikomi gohan riceballs (x3)
- croquettes (x2)
- cherry tomatoes (x2)
- little chick3 boiled quail eggs (x2)
- cheese hamburger patty
- glazed carrots4
- meatball (we see her eating one)
- ketchup packet
Honestly, compared to the manga I think that the anime really shows off Makoto’s cooking skills. Glazed carrots and specially cut boiled quail eggs are no mean feat to make in the morning, especially before school. Definitely impressive!
The Crystal Anime
Last but not least, we have Makoto’s lunch as served up in Sailor Moon Crystal. What did Makoto bring to share today?
- small(ish?) takikomi gohan riceballs (x3)
- fried fish with tartar sauce (x2)
- octopus-shaped wieners5 (x2)
- cherry tomatoes (x2)
- boiled green beans
- tamagoyaki6 (x2)
I’d say that the Crystal lunch places nicely between the manga and the original anime when it comes to skill required for cooking (and uniqueness of her lunch). Definitely more intense that the manga, but could be thrown together in less time than the original anime version.
More than anything else, though, I’d say I’m actually most surprised by how consistent her lunch had stayed throughout all these versions – and spanning over twenty years, might I add! As for which I’d rather eat the most? I’d probably say the lunch as it appears in Crystal, since it’s definitely the most diverse. I always want to try making this someday!
There’s really no way to broach this topic without sounding a bit creepy, so let’s get the first (and most important) fact out of the way: what you’re seeing under the Sailor Solider uniform is the bottom half of the bodysuit/leotard. But what we’re discussing today is why that is, how it came to be, and what the inspirations were for the makeup of the design we all know and love today.
First off, it’s worth noting that the uniforms for all of the Sailor Soldiers can be broken down into nine basic components, which you can see broken up (literally and figuratively) pretty well in episode 27 of the anime, when Sailor Mercury is battling against Urawa as Bunbo.
To be fair, a more appropriate first question would probably be “was Sailor Mercury supposed to be a cyborg?” but that can be solved with a simple yes or no answer, so it’s better to not make things so simple. However, that is a very good (and astute!) question, and the one which we’ll answer first. So what is this talk about Ami being a cyborg, anyway?
Well, as Ms. Takeuchi outlines in her liner notes,1 Ami (or Sailor Mercury, since the character of Ami Mizuno probably wasn’t fully developed at that time) was originally meant to be a cyborg.
The original design for Mercury was that she would be a cyborg with acceleration technology. (This is probably the original Ami that I randomly sketched out)
Making matters worse, Ms. Takeuchi’s original intention was for this Cyborg Mercury to be destroyed at the end of the Dark Kingdom arc and have her die off (though this idea was ultimately taken up in the shocking end of the first arc in the anime).
Princess Naoko: “What’s more, near the end of the first arc, I had planned to have her arms and other parts torn away and have her die.”
Editor Osabu: “This isn’t some joke here, NO WAY! This is a girl’s comic!”
Fortunately for us, and for the rest of the Sailor Moon lore, her editor Fumio “Osabu” Osano objected strenuously against this idea for, well… multiple reasons. Of course, the series was intended to be a shojo manga for girls and obviously you’d want to avoid really dark scenes like the death of a character. Robots also (at least at that time) seemed oddly out of place. One of the biggest reasons, though, seems to be that Mr. Osano seems to have taken quite a liking for Mercury from the beginning and is a self-professed Mercury fan even now.2 In fact, Ami’s character design is even based on the source for his Osa-P/Osa-Bu nickname.
Princess Naoko: “However, my manager rejected that idea vehemently and it ended happy-happily without any of the Sailor Soldiers dying.”
Editor Osabu: “You absolutely, totally, CANNOT kill anyone!”
So while all of the characters were spared in the manga, it turns out things took a turn for the worse and, in a strange turn of fate, the anime producers decided to kill off all of the Sailor Soldiers in the anime (an oddly dark turn for the worse for a series meant for such little kids and their families). The irony wasn’t lost on Ms. Takeuchi, however.
Princess Naoko: “However, in the final part of the first arc in the anime, wouldn’t you know it, but they all died! I still hold a grudge over that (but they all came back!)” (I also wanted to make a manga where the characters all die off!)
Editor Osabu: HEY!
It’s definitely interesting to see what a dark turn the manga was originally supposed to have taken and, had her editor not interfered, how different the Sailor Moon series could have turned out to be. Though Ami was ultimately spared from being a cyborg, she did keep some of the original ideas for Ami in tact, such as her being cool and logical, her high IQ, and her affinity for computers. To be honest, I definitely prefer it this way – I can’t imagine the story being remotely the same with robots running around! – but do kinda wish she would’ve elaborated more on what her ideas were!
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been reading and watching the adventures of Sailor Moon for ten or even twenty years and have seen Rei throw these strips of shrine-blessed papers at enemies (and even Usagi) without ever once thinking “Well, that’s kind of strange. Throwing papers around seems like an odd way to go about things.” In fact, until I actually started reading up on this for a completely unrelated project, it just seemed so natural to me that of course she would be throwing papers around. I suppose this is because scenes like this actually appear in other anime and manga, so it just seems like yet another anime trope. But if that’s the case, where did it start? How did something like this get embedded into Japanese entertainment in the first place?