What is a Moonie Code?

Usagi Flaming Noobs on the Sailor Moon ML

Usagi Flaming Noobs on the Sailor Moon ML

This is something a little bit different from what I usually cover here, but I wanted to briefly stop and take a look at not just the world in which the characters of the Sailor Moon universe live, but also how the fans had developed their own culture to show their appreciation for the series. This isn’t something I will be doing all that often, but I think it’s definitely interesting to show how the Sailor Moon fandom has evolved into what we have today. So, without further ado, I bring you Moonie Codes!

mooniecode(1.12.05)
SM:5+ F:vM9+[+]Sf+:pSCl D:sNe-Ta-:vEs X:**[*]:a197s|1d:m17sO:?d+:s[+]:o:a[+]:h+[+]:x P:a24:s6:w:f[+]:eGrBGz:hBrD:t[-]:cWh:bB+:*Li:yH?:r+|-

For those of who looking at this mass of letters and numbers and who were neither regular internet users in the late 1990s or fans of Sailor Moon, this jumble of text looks like something between a corrupt file or an encryption key. Alas, this is the kind of insanity that hardcore fans used to put in their e-mail signatures, post on message boards, put on their homepages, or even sign guestbooks with to show their level of fandom. First created by the user Tolaris1 on July 15, 1997, the Moonie Code is a play off of the Geek Code2 and was created as a quick way for you to succinctly write all of your preferences, opinions, thoughts, and beliefs on Sailor Moon in one block of text.

Luna never was good at touch-typing...

Luna never was good at touch-typing…

How does it work?

Well, in the author’s own words:

The moonie code consists of a few sections. Each section starts with a capital letter and is used to describe a part of your amazing and unique personality.

Each section, as noted above, is marked by a capital letter and then followed by a colon to help mark it from the rest. Let’s take a look at a few examples and deconstruct it a bit!

SM:5+

Means that, on a scale of one to ten, you’re between a 5 and a 6 as a Sailor Moon fan.

F:vM9+[+]Sf+:pSCl

F is for your favorites, be it senshi, villian, supporting cast, or season. v is for villians, so the code above shows that the poster likes Mistress 9 quite a bit (the + sign) and liking her more and more (the additional [+] sign) as well as Saphir. The p is for your favorite season/act, and the author of this code likes S and Classic.

I’ll save you the boredom of analyzing each part in detail, but this should give you an idea for how a Moonie Code was put together.

Okay, but why?

Back in 1997, you could finish lunch before your e-mail loaded

Back in 1997, you could finish lunch before your e-mail loaded

For anyone who grew up with Gmail and nearly unlimited e-mail storage, high speed internet, web 2/3.0, and Facebook, this is a completely valid question. The early internet, however, was a completely different beast what what we have now with far more basic forms of communication and — more importantly — far fewer images (as a matter of necessity).

Message boards, where they existed, generally did not have user images and rarely did profiles contain any bios or detailed information. The primary form of communication between fans was over e-mail and “mailing lists,” on which all registered members receive a copy of each e-mail sent in the group. This is where things like these Moonie Codes would shine, since you could communicate through your signature your love for the series in each and every e-mail or message board post without having to tell the same story over and over again.

That’s nice, but what exactly is a Moonie?

You could probably pick up on this on your own, but it’s probably worth pointing out: a “Moonie” was one of the many names being tossed around for Sailor Moon fans in the US in the late 90s. Much like Trekker vs. Trekkie, though, there were many people who didn’t care for the term (and the Moonie Code even has a section allowing you to put that information in!).

So there you go, a brief primer on the Moonie Code, and a snapshot back in time on what the Sailor Moon fandom on the internet was like in the US back in the late 90s. In case you want to know more (or want to make your own Moonie Code), I’ve copied the original Moonie Code readme file here. Enjoy!

Who Was the Inspiration Behind Ami’s Character Design?

The Bob-Hair'd Goddess

The Bob-Hair’d Goddess

It probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that with all the various female designs that Ms. Takeuchi had to come up with when designing the cast of Sailor Moon that one or two of them (or even more!) would be based on people in the real world. Much has been said in recent years about modern Japan’s obsession with their (often very young) idols, but this is not a recent trend at all – not by a long shot. The young idol who became the basis for Ami (in design, at least), Noriko Sakai,1 was only 15 when she made her debut in the magazine Momoco‘s section that would introduce pretty up-and-coming talents entitled Momoco Club (モモコクラブ), before later that year gracing television screens on a show by the same name.

Noriko Sakai (15) in a November 30, 1986 Performance on Momoco Club

This actually isn’t the first time we’ve talked about Noriko Sakai, actually. Her name came up previously in the discussion on Osa-P, Luna-P, Mina-P, and the various uses of -P in Sailor Moon. Despite being the youngest member of the Momoco Club cast, she served as an MC of sorts and introduced various segments, made the opening and closing remarks, and basically ran the show (on-screen, at least).

May 21, 1987 – Noriko Sakai on the show Gochisosama

May 21, 1987 – Noriko Sakai on the daytime talkshow Gochisosama

Going back a bit, I mentioned that the “Osa-P” name given to the jewelry shop is also a playful nickname that Ms. Takeuchi gave to her editor, Fumio Osano,2 based on the wildly popular “Nori-P” language that Noriko Sakai made up and played with at the height of her fame as a sort of character branding (however, as the Sailor Moon manga continued through the mid- and late-90’s, this nickname had evolved into “Osabu,” as a play on the sound a pig makes in Japanese – buu). It’s no secret that Ami is Mr. Osano’s favorite character, between him tweeting about her birthday3  or even mentioning his “beloved Ami” in the manga.4 The bio on his official Twitter account5 even describes him as:

武内直子先生「美少女戦士セーラームーン」の原作担当者(永遠のマーキュリー 男子)です。
Manager of the original “Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon” by Ms. Naoko Takeuchi (and eternal Mercury fanboy).

While this part is just conjecture, between the -P nickname given to him and his absolute love for the character of Ami Mizuno, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to guess that he may have been of a fan of Noriko Sakai to begin with (and the nickname was a teasing play on his obsession) and then used Noriko Sakai as the basis behind Ami’s character design, as they do bear quite a striking resemblance.

One last note: Ms. Takeuchi has also mentioned in the past6 that Ami’s origins can be found in a short-story compilation written by her – Miss Rain – which was serialized in 1993 in Nakayoshi. Take a look at it sometime, it’s a pretty interesting story!

Is There a Reason Why Sailor Moon is Set in the Eighth Grade?

Juban Junior High (Act 8 of the Television Drama)

Juban Junior High (Act 8 of the Television Drama)

When I first saw Sailor Moon (in English) back in my younger days, I remember looking at the Sailor Soldiers as piers to my age group – actually even slightly older than me. Now that I’m older, the series itself has seen its own 20th anniversary come and go, and I end up looking back on the series from the point of view of an adult, it seems a bit strange that the the super heroines who fight for love and justice and frequently save the world from the forces of evil are 14 year olds – simple eighth graders in the middle of junior high school.1 After taking a closer look, though, it may not actually be all that surprising that the series was placed in junior high school, or even more specifically in the eighth grade. But why is that?

The first thing to point out is the target audience of Nakayoshi, the magazine which carried the Sailor Moon manga. Much has been said about the widespread readership of manga in Japan, with 32.7% of respondents aged 15 to 44 in 2012 poll by NTT Communications stating that they “love manga,” and an additional 41.7% expressing that they like it.2 That being said, frequent readership among women peaks in the early 20s (44.8%) before sharply declining in the their early 30s (18.6%). The trend for men is rather different, peaking in their late 20s (46.7%) and hovering at 35% until their early 40s.

Sailor Moon's Debut in February 1992 Nakayoshi

Sailor Moon’s Debut in February 1992 Nakayoshi

However, there’s more to this story than the numbers would imply. Nakayoshi is a manga which skews relatively low for their target audience – around the third grade level of elementary school and through junior high school, judging by advertisements and content. This would make junior high school a prime setting for the Sailor Moon universe, as it adds a sense of maturity when looked at from the view of an elementary school student, still allows for the idea of budding romances, and also addresses the changes and uncertainty junior high school students themselves are facing. But when you take a look at the bios provided by Ms. Takeuchi for all five of the initial Sailor Soldiers, you find that they’re all 14 years old, and all in the eighth grade. What’s the reasoning behind that?

Once again, this takes us back to the structure of the Japanese school system and how you graduate and move on to higher education. In the sixth, ninth, and twelfth grades (the final years of elementary, junior, and high school respectively), Japanese students devote much of the year to preparing for and taking exams for junior / high school and university / college. These periods are referred to (half) jokingly as “examination hell” (受験地獄; juken jigoku) and the students as “examination students” (受験生; jukensei). In the post-bubble, highly competitive early-90s, competition was incredibly fierce and only the students with the best scores would get into the best schools.

What this means is that for the sake of storytelling, it wouldn’t make sense to set the cast of Sailor Moon in the ninth grade, as it simply wouldn’t make sense for them to have the free time that they seem to have for going to arcades, meeting up, etc. They also couldn’t be in the seventh grade, because Code Name: Sailor V – the prequel series – is set then and there wouldn’t be enough time to allow that series to run. This would also help partially explain why, as posited earlier regarding the rebirth of the Sailor Team in Sailor Moon R,  the timeline was reset. This gave Ms. Takeuchi and the anime team another year to avoid that troublesome issue of test-taking and studying.

Though I should stress that these are just my thoughts on the matter, taking into consideration the cultural norms and school systems of Japan, there’s at least some supporting evidence for this. At the very least, it’s interesting to think that there’s some logic behind the choice of having a team of eighth graders fight to save the world!

Why Did Rei Go to a Christian School?

Rei, the Shinto Priestess

Rei, the Shinto Priestess

One interesting issue regarding the character of Rei that is often pointed out among fans as an “inconsistency” is the slight oddity that a Shinto priestess would be attending a Christian junior high school. As we can see in multiple issues in the manga and continuously throughout the anime, Rei is a rather gifted young woman with mystical powers allowing her to sense evil, have premonitions, and otherwise engage in other experiences we’d typically describe as a “sixth sense.” Beyond that, Rei frequently performs fire readings and performs the role of a miko (巫女; shrine priestess)1 in carrying out Shinto rituals at the shrine. Taking all of this together, it may seem a bit strange at first glance that Rei would attend a Christian school. However, taking the situation and status of private schools in Japan, it’s not actually all that surprising. Let’s take a closer look!

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Why Were There Five Sailor Soldiers in the Beginning?

The Five Inner Senshi

The Five Inner Senshi

With such a long-running and beloved series like Sailor Moon, it’s easy to overlook some of the more basic details of the series as obvious and just part of “the way things are,” but when you actually stop and take a close look, you can’t help but wonder why that’s how things turned out. The fact that there were originally five members of the Sailor Team, for example, is one of those. Often referred to as the “Inner Senshi,” the original five sailor-suited beauties making up the core team are simply seen as the staple of the series, but when you actually stop and think about it, things don’t quite add up. Though there’s been no direct word from Ms. Takeuchi on this issue, there’s a surprising amount of tradition in Japanese TV, manga, and traditional theater culture as well which supports this five member team, so let’s see if we can make some sense of it!

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Would it be Legal for Mamoru and Usagi to Date?

Police Looking to Talk to Mr. Mask

Police Looking to Talk to Mr. Mask

Or, a better (though not as easy-to-read) title would be “What are the Legal Implications for the Relationship Between Mamoru and Usagi in the Anime?” However, I think we’ll need to give up a little bit of clarity in the question here for ease of reading. Please forgive the ambiguity.

This is, however, an interesting and important question when you actually stop and think about the ages of the characters involved. Usagi is, in both the manga and the anime, 14 years old and a second-year junior high school student. Mamoru, on the other hand, ranges between him being 16 at the start of the manga1 to 18 at the start of the anime.2 Though at first glance, this two-year age difference doesn’t seem to matter much or have many implications, it actually has huge implications legally, especially when you consider the difference between a 14 and a 16 year old dating and a 14 year old dating an 18 year old man.

Mamoru's High School ID – Act 3, p. 96, vol. 1

Mamoru’s High School ID – Act 3, p. 96, vol. 1

I’d say it’s safe to put the manga aside, then, and to say that there are no real implications there. A two year age difference is pretty minor anyway, and since they’re both minors, it’s no big issue. Now for the anime, there are some issues which come into play due to Mamoru being older than 18. While the age of majority in Japan is 20,3 local and national laws protecting children (and the ones which would also consider any conduct between Usagi and Mamoru between minors) cut off at 18 and the Juvenile Act (which prevents the conviction of minors under the normal laws for criminal acts) has been modified to allow for criminal trials as young as 16.

But that’s not to say that Mamoru and Usagi dating is against the law – in fact, it isn’t. If they maintain a nice, pure, and chaste relationship like we see on screen, then there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. This is the same in most countries, actually, in-so-far that the relationship itself isn’t forbidden, just certain acts carried out therein. The relevant law is Article 176 of the Penal Code,4 which reads:

A person who, through assault or intimidation, forcibly commits an indecent act upon a male or female of not less than thirteen years of age shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not less than 6 months but not more than 10 years.

So we’re okay then! Nothing indecent going on between the two of them, right? Well, yes and no. Episode 22 mucks things up a bit, actually.

Usagi and Tuxedo Mask Share a Kiss (Ep. 22)

Usagi and Tuxedo Mask Share a Kiss (Ep. 22)

While Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask are star-crossed lovers, reunited across millennia, unfortunately for him being 18 years of old and kissing a junior high school student who drank alcohol during the party falls under an “indecent act.” But there’s no assault or intimidation, so we would have to consult Article 178(1) of the Penal Code, which reads:

A person who commits an indecent act upon a male or female by taking advantage of loss of consciousness or inability to resist, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resist, shall be punished in the same manner as prescribed for in Article 176. (emphasis added)

Now I know people are throwing down their pens here and saying that I’m being overly pedantic and that Usagi and Mamoru are deeply in love and that no one in their right mind would call this a crime. And you know, you’re absolutely right! I totally agree with you. The good news is that the Japanese laws actually agree with you (and me!) too.

You see, Articles 176 – 178 are limited to what’s known as a shinkokuzai (親告罪; a crime which is only prosecutable if there is a complaint made), which is covered under Article 180 of the Penal Code:

The crimes prescribed for in Articles 176 through Article 178 and attempts of the above-mentioned crimes shall be prosecuted only upon complaint.

Absent a complaint by Usagi – which, as we established, wouldn’t happen as she was consenting and loves Mamoru – there’s no illegal conduct here. So for once, common sense actually wins in a discussion about the law and human interactions! In short, though their relationship is on shakier ground in the anime than in the manga, their relationship is totally fine as long as the law is concerned.

Why Did Sailor Venus Play the Role of the Moon Princess?

The Moon and Venus – Not as Different as They Seem

The Moon and Venus – Not as Different as They Seem

One of the odd peculiarities of the co-existence of the shared universes of Code Name: Sailor V and Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon is the fact that despite Sailor V(enus) being the first Sailor Soldier to make an appearance, she was the last one to join the team. Not only that, but despite having been the self-proclaimed Sailor Venus,1 she further claimed that she was was the true heir to the Moon Kingdom – Princess Serenity. She not only has the crescent on her forehead, but the Crescent Compact2 to prove it. So what gives? Why was she the one chosen to play the role of the princess (and not Ami, Rei, or Makoto?) and, for that matter, why does she even have a crescent compact in the first place if she’s not even from the moon?

To answer this question, we need to go back in time—almost 405 years exactly3 to the late fall/early winter of 1610, and to the observations of the planet Venus made by Galileo Galilei. Though the existence of Venus had been known to civilizations across the globe since time immemorial, one of Galileo’s greatest contributions to the budding field of astronomy gained through his observation of Venus was in his finding proof that the old geocentric model (in which the Sun, stars, and other celestial bodies revolve around the Earth)4 was provably wrong and that the heliocentric model (in which the Earth and other celestial bodies revolve around the Sun)5 must be correct.

Sailor Venus as Princess Serenity

Sailor Venus as Princess Serenity

And how did Galileo come to this conclusion? Through his observation that Venus has a crescent phase, much like the moon. Or, in Galileo’s own words (in Latin):6

Cynthiae figuras aemulatur mater amorum

And in English:

The mother of love [Venus] copies the forms of Cynthia [the Moon]

Indeed, as Galileo saw it, the significance of Venus in his observations was that it was displaying the same phenomenon we observe on a monthly basis when looking up at the moon. Put into other words, Venus was imitating the moon – not unlike how Sailor Venus pretends to be Princess Serenity, the heir-apparent to the Moon Kingdom. This would also explain being given the crescent compact in the Sailor V manga and her using it as a weapon, since the crescent shape of Venus was one of its important features. Furthermore, it’s unlikely that any of this would have been lost on Ms. Takeuchi. Not only was she clearly thorough with her research in the first place, but she herself is a fan of astronomy and was a member of the astronomy club in high school.7

As for why Sailor Venus was the last to join the team despite the first to make an appearance, there could of course be many answers for this, but part of the reasoning behind that may also lie in her namesake planet: Venus is known both as the Evening Star and as the Morning Star, due to it appearing early in the evening shortly after the sun sets and preceding the sunrise in the early morning. This tracks nicely with her appearance in the Sailor Moon anime and manga, as she both preceded (Sailor) Moon and was the last to make her appearance.

It’s unclear how much of the story Ms. Takeuchi already had planned out ahead of time before the one-shot release of Code Name: Sailor V in RunRun and when, a little over half a year later, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon was first serialized in Nakayoshi, but considering all the work she went into putting together all the other mysteries of the series, there’s definitely a lot there to support a variety of theroies!