Who Is the Real Princess Kaguya in the Sailor Moon S Movie?

Won't the real Kaguya please stand up?

Won’t the real Kaguya please stand up?

The nice thing about writing a blog covering a series that went off the air over 20 years ago is that it’s not like there’s any chance that I’m going to be spoiling the story for anyone. Even with the recent U.S. screenings of the Sailor Moon movies, I’d be willing to bet that the majority of those in the audience had already seen the movie, or at least knew what it was about.

So with that said, I really don’t feel too bad about dissecting story of the Sailor Moon S movie, or peeling back the layers to take a deeper look at the Japanese folktale Ms. Takeuchi based her story on.

If you’ve ever stayed up late at night wondering who the heck Princess Kaguya is, this one’s for you!

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What is Princess Kakyuu and the Starlights’ Connection to the Moon?

"Your princess is in another castle..."

“Your princess is in another castle…”

One of the things that I’ve always loved most about Princess Kakyuu is how she serves as such an excellent counterpoint to Princess Serenity — and all in such a subtle way that neither the anime nor manga ever directly calls attention to it.

Despite how Japanese the myth of the “bunny of the Moon” our hero may be based on, it’s hard to deny that everything else about the Silver Millennium is about as western as they come. From their style of dress to the castles they live in, you can plainly see that the Moon Kingdom is most definitely not based in Japan.

And that’s where Princess Kakyuu and her entourage come in. As western-inspired as Princess Serenity and the Moon Kingdom may be, Princess Kakyuu and Kinmokusei take every bit as much inspiration from the east.

So today we’re going to talk about some of those inspirations, and about Princess Kakyuu’s mythological connection to the Moon. I hope you brought your reading glasses, because I’m about to get wordy!

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Why Do Minako and Rei Always End Up Together?

What's going on here??

What’s going on here??

Alternative title: What Is the Relationship Between Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars?

Whenever the Sailor Soldiers split up in the anime or manga, you’ll notice that the breakdown generally ends up with Makoto and Ami and then Rei and Minako. Today, we’re going to take a look at why that may be, and if there’s any deeper reason as to why Ms. Takeuchi decided on this break down.

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What Myth Are the Ayakashi Sisters Referring To?

The Four Ayakashi / Specter / Phantom / Negamoon Sisters

The Four Ayakashi / Specter / Phantom / Negamoon Sisters

While there’s no official (or even in-universe) connection between the Dark Kingdom and the Black Moon, Ms. Takeuchi continued reaching back into her roots in mineralogy and family history in gemstones when naming the members of the Black Moon Clan. But things aren’t exactly so clear cut with the Ayakashi Sisters. So what, exactly, is the mythological background behind Rubeus’ four underlings?

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Why Did Professor Tomoe Sacrifice Hotaru?

Hotaru Taken by a Tragic Explosion

Hotaru Taken by a Tragic Explosion

Now, far be it from me to pass judgment on what makes a good and bad parent, but I’ve always found it… questionable that Professor Souichi Tomoe chose to implant a daimon egg in his daughter (and only surviving member of his family after the tragic death of his wife), which ultimately allowed Mistress 9 to take control of Hotaru. While this plot device – or one like it – was obviously necessary for the progression of the Death Busters story arc, I wasn’t completely satisfied with that answer. After all, Ms. Takeuchi is pretty well known for putting meaning behind the most insignificant details, right? While most of what’s written in this post is just speculation on my part, I think there’s enough evidence to at least give it some serious consideration. So let’s take a closer look!

Even mad scientists need to eat...

Even mad scientists need to eat…

While I’m generally a fan of the Occam’s Razor1 school of thought (i.e., that the simplest explanation is the most likely to be true), when it comes to explaining the personalities and backgrounds of the characters of the Sailor Moon series, Ms. Takeuchi has proven to prefer depth and complexity. In order to answer the question about Hotaru and her father’s questionable parenting practices, we again look to Greco-Roman mythology for a little context.

Cronus, the Greek god on which Saturn was based,2 had something of a bad habit when it came to eating his own children. Seeing as he had castrated and overthrown his own father, Uranus, in order to become the ruler of the universe,3 it’s somewhat understandable that Cronus would worry about his own children wanting to topple him. In fact, he was told by Uranus and Gaia (his mother) that his own son would be his undoing. In order to put a stop to that, he would eat his children shortly after they were born.

Though canonically we would accept Hotaru as the character representative of Saturn/Cronus when it comes to her portrayal within the Sailor Moon series – indeed, Saturn was often depicted with a scythe/sickle similar to the Silence Glaive – I wonder if it’s also possible to look at the story as it’s applied to her. Though Professor Tomoe clearly cared about his daughter and sought to save her life, implanting the daimon egg within her and allowing Mistress 9 to possess Hotaru seemed to be connected with his desire to further his research (which is what caused the accident in the first place) and completely separate from his efforts to keep Hotaru alive.

Professor Tomoe – Not All There?

Professor Tomoe – Not All There?

While one could naturally point out the obvious difference in eating your own children and what Professor Tomoe did, the results are not so dissimilar when you take a look at the motivations behind them: like Cronus, Professor Tomoe was willing to sacrifice his own child in order to further his own goals in his quest for power.

This could all very well be just a coincidence, but seeing how much effort Ms. Takeuchi went even to match up star signs and birthdays for all of the characters, it’s definitely not out of the realm of possibilities. So what do you think? Do you think that Professor Tomoe’s treatment of Hotaru was in reference to the Greek origins of the character? Just a plot device? Maybe some other theory…? I’d love to hear it!

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!

Who Is the Demon Standing Behind Sailor Mars?

Mars and the Mysterious Demon

Mars and the Mysterious Demon

One thing that’s always been of great interest to me is the story about the demon that appears in the background when she throws her ofuda and stuns enemies. I’ll admit that, having first seen Sailor Moon with the (censored) DiC dub, the first time I saw the demon – which they forgot to censor in one episode of the first half of Sailor Moon R (in the Doom Tree saga)1 – it was pretty terrifying. It didn’t help that it was 2am and in a dark room, of course. So what’s the story behind the demon? Who is he, and what is his connection to Rei and her banishing of evil spirits?

Buddhist God Acala

Buddhist God Acala

As we’ve already discussed in the past, Rei’s use of religion is a bit of a mixed bag in the Sailor Moon series (and the anime in particular), so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to find out that this demon isn’t actually a Shinto god at all, but actually can be traced back to Buddhism. Now, that’s not to say that Buddhism and Shinto are two completely separate entities. They were originally, of course, but over the years (and in a desire to try to explain away inconsistencies in beliefs), many of the Buddhist bodhisattvas2 (in a nutshell, someone who has come to understand the trues teachings of Buddha; akin to a saint in Christianity) came to be worshipped as Shinto gods, and many popular Shinto gods were considered to be bodhisattvas. In the case of Rei’s banishing of spirits, however, there’s a strong and clear Buddhist connection.

The demon that we see here is not a demon at all, but rather the Buddhist god known as Acala,3 one of the five Wisdom Kings,4 who is traditionally depicted with a sword in his right hand, a lariat or a noose in his left, and fire in the background. Acala, known as Fudou Myou’ou (不動明王; Unmoving Wisdom King), gained quite a following in Japan5 and had a great deal of art, statues, and no less than 34 temples dedicated to him.6 Considering that strong tradition, his warrior-like nature, and the association with fire, it’s not too surprising that he was a good fit for Rei’s warding off of evil energies.

It seems like the more you look, the more there is to find in the Sailor Moon universe, and I’m always impressed at just how far not only Ms. Takeuchi went, but the TV Asahi and Toei staff in creating the companion anime series. It’s always exciting to see what other mysteries there are to uncover!