Who Came Up With Sailor Mercury and Sailor Mars’s Catchphrases?

Sailor-suited soldiers of _____ and justice!

Sailor-suited soldiers of [noun] and justice!

“In the name of the Moon…!”

Admit it, with just these six words, you probably finished the rest of the sentence in your head. Sailor Moon’s self-referential catchphrase is so famous that even the casual fan of the series would probably be able to finish it.

While the catchphrases of the other Sailor Soldiers may be less well known — though I’m sure their fans would be willing to disagree! — the stories behind them are no less interesting.

Today we’re going to talk about who came up with Sailor Mercury and Sailor Mars’s catchphrases and what they almost were instead!

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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?

Could Ami Really Be Allergic to Love Letters?

Allergic to Love? Oh REALLY?

Allergic to Love? Oh REALLY?

One of the interesting criticisms I often see about the Sailor Moon series is the seemingly ridiculous fact that Ami breaks out into hives simply be being in the presence of a love letter.1 This, as the fans say, is absolutely unrealistic. Putting aside for a second that we’re talking about a series in which cats talk, junior high school girls live alone, and 14 year olds fight the forces of evil, this seemed like something that might be worth investigating. After all, not only am I not a stranger to researching the real life implications of the Sailor Moon universe, that’s the whole point of this blog!

First off, it’s important to note one small distinction: Ami is not allergic to love letters or even love in general. According to the manga:2


“Well, I kinda broke out into hives this morning…”
“I guess the stress is building up.”

Poor Ami...

Poor Ami…

You see, while there are a wide variety of causes for the onset of hives (and I’m by no means a medical doctor!), it’s pretty clear here that what Ami is suffering from is a stress-induced case of hives known as psychogenic urticaria, or psychogenic hives.3 This essentially means that the cause of the outbreak has nothing to do with any external causes, but is purely related to a stress reaction within the body. This is more common in adults than children,4 though I think it’s safe to say that Ami is relatively mature for her age.

There have also been studies showing that up to 80% of cases of hives are unexplained and are attributed to stress disorders,5 and another study done in Turkey has shown that those with chronic cases of hives have a higher than average rate of suffering from medical disorders such as depression, OCD, and more.6

So the good news (… bad news?) for Ami here is that she could very well be having a completely normal reaction to the sudden onset of stress and anxiety brought on by receiving a love letter, so it’s not completely unrealistic as people may say online.

One more thing!

One more thing!

One final thing to note is that many people also argue that this is inconsistent due to Ami’s completely normal behavior when going on a date with Ryo Urawa in season one.7 However, as we established that this is likely related to Ami’s stress/anxiety toward the situation, if you feel completely comfortable or natural, then you would obviously not have an outbreak. Yet another nail in the “allergic to love” coffin.8

So anyway, while this definitely isn’t to say that everything in the world of Sailor Moon is entirely grounded in reality, there are definitely a lot of myths about the characters (like Ami’s 300 IQ score!) that get misrepresented and make things seem even more outrageous than they really are. Let’s give Ms. Takeuchi a little more credit!

Why Was Ami the Most Popular of the Sailor Soldiers?

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

One of the enduring mysteries of the Sailor Moon franchise is that of the perplexing popularity of Ami – the shy, bookish brains of the Sailor Team – especially among fans in the West. I’m sure it’s no mystery at all to those who count themselves among her fans, of course, but from a purely objective perspective, it seems a bit strange that the soft-spoken, brainy character (who didn’t even have a particularly abnormal amount of episodes even devoted to her, mind you) would end up constantly ranking at the tops of Japanese polls. So how is it that Ami came to be the most popular of the inners, and what does it tell us about Japanese fans of Sailor Moon as a group?

Before testing any theory, though, it’s important to first see if there’s any truth to your hypothesis. So we should first ask: is Ami actually popular? And how do we know?

In order to answer this question, I dug through the archives of the Japanese anime magazine, Animage,1 and tallied up their monthly “favorite character” rankings, which allows all of their readers to vote for their favorite anime characters and tallies them up. Since the anime runs on a schedule of March to February and the magazine ships early, I’ll be comparing seasons from June through May for the magazine results. They’re actually pretty surprising! [Note: Popularity counts from 1 down to ~20, so 1 is the highest.]

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What’s the Significance of Ami’s Parents Being Divorced?

Ami and her BFF Luna

Ami and her BFF Luna

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?

Saeko Mizuno

Saeko Mizuno

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.

Ami's Father

Ami’s Father

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!

Who Saved Ami From Becoming a Cyborg?

Ami Mizuno – Not a Cyborg

Ami Mizuno – Not a Cyborg

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.

Cyborg Ami

Cyborg Ami

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).

Ami Five is Alive!

Ami Five is Alive!

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.

Happy Happy Ending

Happy Happy Ending

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.

Dark Rabbit

Dark Rabbit

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!

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!