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!

Why Did Rei Pursue Mamoru in the Anime?

Rei Locked on to Her Target (ep. 15)

Rei Locked on to Her Target (ep. 15)

While there are quite a few differences between Rei in the anime and the manga, one of the more striking differences between the two is the storyline where Rei and Mamoru briefly dated in the first season of the Sailor Moon anime. Though Mamoru himself was no stranger to differences between the two mediums, how it is that the cool, mysterious, and boy-hating1 (!) Rei from the manga went so far into the opposite direction and ended up pursuing Mamoru so aggressively is more than a bit out of character for her. So how did this wind up happening and what does this tell us about Rei’s character in the anime?

Rei’s reasons for pursuing Mamoru were actually pretty simple (some would say superficial, but I’m not one to judge). According to Rei:2

「ルックスがよくて、いい学校に行っていて、お金持ちだから」

“He’s attractive, going to a good school, and is rich.”

Rei finds her prey...

Rei finds her prey…

More than likely, this is in reference to what is known in Japanese as 三高 (sankou; the three highs): high salary, high-class education, and physical height.3 During the bubble economy4 – from the late 80’s to early 90’s – these attributes were said to be what was most valued by Japanese women when choosing a potential boyfriend or future husband. From Rei’s point of view, as the daughter of a politician and a student at an elite private school, it was only natural that Mamoru would make a good match for her. It’s possible, I suppose, that she could also sense Mamoru and Usagi’s budding feelings for each other and this was meant to be antagonistic, but that’s just speculation and I really don’t see Rei as that type of person.

Perhaps the greatest source of information on (anime) Rei’s outlook on love and romance comes from an interview5 with Michie Tomizawa, Iriya Azuma, and Sukehiro Tomita (Rei’s voice actress and Sailor Moon‘s producer and scenario writer, respectively). In it, the producer (Azuma) admits that Rei and Michie have the strongest resemblance between all of the voice actresses of their respective characters, and even that the animation staff often sit in on the post-recordings and take notes for how to evolve the characters.

Newtype: 「シリーズが進むうちに、レイちゃんと富沢さんの性格が接近してきたということですね。」
Azuma: 「ええ。スタッフも、アフレコなどでよく声優さんを観察していますから・・・あっ、似てきたといっても、富沢さんがイジワルだってわけじゃないですよ(笑)。」

Newtype: “So Rei and Ms. Tomizawa’s personalities are getting more and more alike as the series progresses.”
Azuma: “That’s right. The staff is often watching the voice actresses during the post-recordings, you see. Well, it’s not like Ms. Tomizawa is ill-tempered or anything! (laugh)”

Later in the interview, Ms. Tomizawa discusses the brief relationship between Rei and Mamoru, describing it as Rei mistaking her feelings of admiration for Mamoru for romantic love. Even more interesting, and possibly even more relevant to Rei’s feelings towards love with regard to Yuichiro, Ms. Tomizawa describes herself as:

Tomizawa: 「 ・・・わたし、子供のころからずっとスポーツギャルで、仲のいい男の子の友達もいっぱいいたんですけど、好きになった人に対しては口もきけないようなタイプでした。」

Tomizawa: “… I’ve always been a sporty girl and have had lots of male friends ever since I was a child, but when it comes to people I liked, I couldn’t talk to them.”

This may help explain her completely different approaches toward her relationships with Mamoru and Yuichiro, wherein she directly pursues Mamoru but seems to interact with him more like a friend, particularly in the Sailor Moon R anime where she can occasionally be seen spending time together with Mamoru and ChibiUsa, while completely ignoring or even yelling at Yuichiro. Further discussion on her relationship with him, however, will have to wait for another time!

A romance never meant to be...

A romance never meant to be…

Whether you love or hate the way Rei differed in the anime and manga, she did serve as an interesting foil in the series to play against Usagi and even helped bring out some of Usagi’s feelings toward Mamoru prior to the big Tuxedo Mask reveal (something which fans often describe as happening too fast in the manga). It’s interesting to see that a lot of this actually came about from Ms. Tomizawa’s take on the character and how the production staff chose to adapt Rei’s personality to match the person providing her voice (both literally and figuratively)!

What is the Inspiration Behind Sailor Saturn’s Silence Glaive?

Sailor Saturn and Her Silence Glaive

Sailor Saturn and Her Silence Glaive

While most of the weapons in the Sailor Moon universe range from either the fancifully bizarre (e.g., head-jewelry-turned-boomerangs), to mundane (e.g., magical-but-plainly-normal disguise pens), and even extend to the mythological (e.g., the three talismans), the Silence Glaive – wielded by Sailor Saturn, the most powerful of the Sailor Soldiers – has always been an interesting source of debate among fans of the series as far back as I can remember. Part of this is due to the name itself, of course, though there is also some confusion regarding its significance to the series and why she uses such an obscure weapon. Let’s take a close look at what this weapon is, and if there may be any deeper reason why Ms. Takeuchi chose for her to use it!

The Silence Glaive

The Silence Glaive

The first, and most obvious, question people often ask is: what exactly is a glaive anyway? While I’m not exactly an expert in medieval European weaponry, the best way to summarize a glaive is that it’s a form of a spear, but with a sharpened blade which is used for cutting rather than thrusting/stabbing,1 and is actually quite similar to the Japanese samurai weapon known as a naginata.2 Over the years, some fans have suggested that the Silence Glaive itself may be closer to the medieval European weapon known as a halberd (and that the name itself may be a mistake),3 but taking into consideration that it is more similar to a long axe, this seems unlikely. More likely, this assumption probably comes from the fact that some Japanese-English dictionaries refer to a naginata as a form of halberd.

Making matters more confusing, Ms. Takeuchi had actually chosen to write out the name of the Silence Glaive in kanji in its first appearance.4 The Japanese name given for it is: 沈黙の鎌 (chinmoku no kama; sickle of silence). This is more than likely a direct reference to the popular image of the Grim Reaper/Death,5 who is often depicted as wielding a sickle for reaping the souls of the dead. That said, when you look at the design of the weapon and its decidedly non-sickle-like-appearance, it’s probably safe to assume that Ms. Takeuchi was using the term “sickle” (鎌; kama) in reference to the Chinese/Japanese weapon known as a “sickle-spear” (鎌槍; kamayari).6

Various Forms of Kamayari

Various Forms of Kamayari

While this basically takes care of the question of what Ms. Takeuchi’s intention was when she was naming the Silence Glaive, this still leaves a lot of questions open with regard to what she actually had in mind when she was drawing it. As mentioned above, either a glaive or a naginata would be an obvious choice since the former is used in the actual name and the latter is a traditional Japanese military weapon, I personally think that the crescent blade (偃月刀; yanyuedao),7 a traditional Chinese pole weapon, is more likely to have been the source of inspiration for Sailor Saturn’s weapon, especially considering the curved blade (and the connection to the moon, which is included in the Chinese characters for the weapon itself).

A Crescent Blade (偃月刀; Yanyuedao)

A Crescent Blade (偃月刀; yanyuedao)

And for reference, the Silence Glaive…

The Silence Glaive (沈黙の鎌; chinmoku no kama)

The Silence Glaive (沈黙の鎌; chinmoku no kama)

Without an interview with Ms. Takeuchi herself regarding what her intentions were it’s not really possible to make any clear and definitive statements as to what the basis for the design, history, and inspiration behind the Silence Glaive were, but thanks for some of the hints she gave through the Japanese kanji, I do think we are able to at least make several strong guesses on the issue.

What do you think, though? I’d love to hear more theories on this matter, and other people’s thoughts on possible inspirations behind this unique weapon!

What is a Tomoe and Its Connection to Saturn / Hotaru?

Hotaru Mitsu-Domoe

Hotaru Mitsu-Domoe

It would probably be fair to say that the historical connections and meanings behind the names of the Sailor Moon cast seems to be something of a running theme for me. On the other side of the coin, though, Ms. Takeuchi definitely seems to have done her homework when it comes to naming her characters and even went out of her way to add hidden references to the character’s planets and personalities. And that’s not even talking about all of the in-jokes and references that the anime staff put in!

As most any Sailor Moon fan can tell you, all of the Sailor Soldiers are named in a way that directly references their planets (though the Minako/Venus connection isn’t so obvious). Once she reached the Outer Soldiers, in fact, their names literally come from the Japanese names for their respective planets,1 with the final character for star/planetary-body (星; hoshi)2 omitted. However, oddly enough, Hotaru’s last name, Tomoe, doesn’t fit so neatly into this naming system. In fact, other than the fact that the To part of her name is made up of the symbol for soil (土; tsuchi/to),3 which is the Japanese elemental symbol representing Saturn.4

The planets and their Japanese/English names

The planets and their Japanese/English names

What about Moe? Well, the kanji used is an alternate (uncommon and used only for names)5 way of writing moe (萌え; infatuation),6 which I’m sure is a term that many modern fans of Japanese anime are familiar with.7 So at first blush, one could assume that Hotaru’s last name implies that she is infatuated with the earth… but that would be incorrect. As with the names of some other characters, the most obvious Japanese translation is not always the correct answer, and that’s also the case here with Hotaru’s last name.

Taiko drum with a mitsudomoe

Taiko drum with a mitsudomoe

You see, the more likely interpretation is that the kanji which make of Tomoe (土萠) are irrelevant and that her name is actually a direct reference to the Japanese shape known as a tomoe.8 In its most common form, as a mitsudomoe (三つ巴; triple tomoe) which is commonly found on Shinto shrines and on taiko drums, it is said to represent the three-fold division between mankind, earth, and sky. Incidentally, going back to its Shinto roots (though the symbol also appears in Korea, China, and throughout Asia, so it’s fair to say that its origins are not Japanese), the tomoe was traditionally associated with Hachiman, the god of war.9 What’s more, this was also the symbol used on the flag of the Ryukyuan Kingdom10 and is today strongly associated with karate and various other forms of martial arts throughout Okinawa, further cementing its military nature.

Taken all together, it’s pretty apparent that the stronger connection for Hotaru here would be with the tomoe symbol, both for its military applications (which ties in nicely with her status as one of the most powerful Sailor Soldiers) as well as for its symbolism related to the various stages of life – birth, death, and life in heaven.

As usual, I really have to give it to Ms. Takeuchi to be able to slip references like this in, all the while making it seem totally natural. Not only did she manage to include the reference to the planet Saturn, but even managed to include a far deeper cultural reference. She never ceases to amaze!

Is Michiru the Most Powerful of the Sailor Soldiers?

Is Neptune really an unstoppable force?

Is Neptune really an unstoppable force?

Let me start out first by saying that I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory that Sailor Neptune is the most powerful of the Sailor Team, but during my research of going through old Japanese fan sites, this was an interesting theory I ran across. The reasons behind it are also pretty interesting, so whether or not this is something one personally believes in or not, it’s definitely something interesting to think about!

Before we can talk about “most powerful,” I think it’s important that we take the time to define what it is that we’re actually talking about and, more importantly, to explain why the obvious choices don’t count.

Continue Reading

How Uncommon Are the Names of the Sailor Moon Characters?

The Sailor Team like to think they have pretty normal names...

The Sailor Team like to think they have pretty normal names…

We’ve discussed on several occasions the difficulties involved in localization, particularly when it comes to names, but we haven’t often discussed the names of the main characters themselves (with some exceptions), and how uncommon or strange they may seem. In fact, when the Sailor Moon manga was first being localized into English by Mixxzine1 (before being moved to Smile2 and then serialized by Tokyopop)3 – one of the first magazines for localized manga to be widely distributed in the U.S. – there was a lot of debate among fans over how Usagi’s name was localized.

While many fans either preferred the name Serenaas used in DiC’s localization of the anime, many other fans expressed an affinity for the Japanese original name. Mixx’s choice to translate Usagi’s name literally as Bunny was divisive to say the least. On one side of the argument, you could say that this is how Japanese readers interpreted the name—as a word found in the dictionary. On the other, one could argue that just like Dick Dastardly4 and many other children’s cartoons in the West, the name is simply an extra to give you further insight into the character.

Since there’s no “correct” solution to this issue of nuance in Japanese being lost in localization, I think it’s worth taking a look at this issue from another direction: just how made up are the names of the Sailor Moon cast, and are they really as obscure and fictional as we’ve all been led to believe? How many people can there actually be who are named “… of the moon,” anyway?

Neo Queen Princess Usagi Serena Bunny Serenity Tsukino

Neo Queen Princess Usagi Serena Bunny Serenity Tsukino

There are at least 251 households named Tsukino.

According to this index5 of 19,661,494 Japanese phone book listings, at least. Another site, which uses both phone records and and government census data,6 says that there are approximately 1,500 people with the last name Tsukino, making it the 6,402nd most popular last name in Japan. The site also provides an interesting look into the origin of the last name:

現鹿児島県東部である大隅国曽於郡月野が起源(ルーツ)である。近年、鹿児島県に多数みられる。 「野」は自然のままの広い地を表す。

The origin of the name is the village of Tsukino in the Soo district of Oosumi province in what is now the eastern part of present-day Kagoshima prefecture. There are many with the name found in Kagoshima prefecture. The character for “no” (野) means a wide-open natural space.

That’s right, if you were to go to Soo county in Kagoshima,7 you could very well meet someone named Tsukino. So in terms of realism, how do the rest of the characters fare?

Name No. Households Ranking Most Common In
Tsukino 251~1,500 6,402 Kagoshima
Mizuno 26,216~175,000 105 Aichi
Hino 4~20 64,633 Oita
Kino 1,284~8,700 1,811 Shizuoka
Aino 21~140 26,233 Hokkaido
Chiba 34~230 19,895 Yamagata
Tenoh 13~80 36,041 Hiroshima
Kaioh 0 NA NA
Tomoe 0 NA NA
Meioh 0 NA NA
Osaka 172~1,200 7,346 Osaka

I guess it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Mizuno would be that common of a last name (almost breaking into the top 100!) considering that there’s the Mizuno Corporation,8 a popular brand of sports equipment. More than anything else, though, I was surprised to see that nearly all of the last names of the main cast (with the exception of Michiru, Hotaru, and Setsuna) actually exist in the real world. Even Ms. Naru Osaka, who I always figured was a pure parody name, actually has some real-world relatives in the – big surprise! – Osaka region of Japan.

The Lovely Ms. Osaka

The Lovely Ms. Osaka

So there you have it! Though obviously Ms. Takeuchi picked the character names in order to match them with their representative planets as well as their chosen element and, to be honest, it may simply be a pure coincidence that any of these are real-world names at all, I for one am glad to see that there is at least one more touch of reality in the world of Sailor Moon.

And for anyone who’s curious – no, there’s no one in Japan that I could find named Usagi. Too bad!

1 18 19 20 21 22 31