Does ChibiUsa Come From an Alternate Timeline in Sailor Moon?

There can only be one!

There can only be one!

ChibiUsa has always interested me not only for her character — which is certainly enough to win you over in its own right! — but also for what she represents in the series. Her very existence proves that Usagi and Mamoru’s magical romance works out, the Sailor Soldiers will ultimately win, and if your parents leave you crying in the rain, you’re justified in turning evil.

Except for one small, tiny, little catch:

Her existence may not actually prove any of those things.

How’s that? Well, dear reader, I’m glad you asked! Today we’re going to be exploring the possibility that the ChibiUsa we know and love may not be one, but several different ChibiUsas coming from several different timelines.

I hope you have a pen and paper handy, because things are gonna get a complicated!

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Why Was ChibiUsa Sad About Returning to the Future?

The Sailor Team Say Their Goodbyes

The Sailor Team Say Their Goodbyes

This is yet another one of those odd questions that at first glance sounds completely obvious, but makes a lot less sense when you stop and actually start to think about it. I mean, of course ChibiUsa is sad to leave Usagi, Mamoru, and the Sailor Team to go back to the future. After all, she has to go all the way back to the future to be with… Usagi, Mamoru, and the Sailor Team? This is unfortunately one of those situations where there is no proper answer to the question, but it’s at least worth taking a look at it in a little further detail!

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Where Did the Inspiration for Usagi’s Hairstyle Come From?

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Getting to the Root of the Problem

One of the most identifiable of Usagi’s character traits – if not the most identifiable – is her signature hair style. It’s what earned her Mamoru’s teasing nickname お団子頭 (odango atama; or “meatball head” in the DiC dub) and led to multiple important elements in the series, from her hair decorations to ChibiUsa’s rabbit-inspired modified hairstyle. But what was the inspiration behind giving her that hairstyle in the first place and was there any other precedent for it before Usagi came into the picture? There’s surprisingly more to it than you’d imagine!

Before we get started, we need to break down the elements of Usagi’s hair into its two main components, which are often mistaken as one related hairstyle: the odango and the twin tails. Both of these hair styles are prevalent in Japanese anime and manga (though odango not so much in real life, it’s definitely not unseen or unheard of). I’ll explain the details of both as we go, but I apologize for just throwing terminology and foreign words left and right.

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What is the Story Behind ChibiUsa / Small Lady’s Name?

An Unreadable Poker Face

An Unreadable Poker Face

What’s in a name? That’s a question we’ve asked many times already, but it’s always worth taking another look at the characters we love just a little bit closer and see if there’s something more to find out about them in something as simple as what we call them. If you want to talk about name mysteries, ChibiUsa definitely has a lot to offer to the conversations — she has a pretty long name after all! Her official name is Usagi Small Lady Serenity,1 though she’s typically referred to as ChibiUsa (Sailor Pluto, however, typically prefers Small Lady in the Black Moon Family arc) in order to avoid confusion with Usagi. So where does the Small Lady name come from?

Though Naoko has never officially remarked on this in detail, we can make some interesting inferences from what we know about language use in manga.

She's not 'chibi,' and don't forget it!

She’s not ‘chibi,’ and don’t forget it!

What’s interesting about the Small Lady name is that it’s already written either in roman characters as “S L” or written out in the Japanese phonetic alphabet, katakana, which is used for foreign words and sound effects.2 Though at first glance, this may imply that there’s no deeper meaning to be had, but that leads us into an interesting use of language in manga: very often, authors will intentionally apply kanji to Western words (to give them context) or will read a kanji with a Western word. One of the more famous examples is the first appearance of Super Saiyans in the Dragon Ball manga. What we all know of as Super Saiyan can be written in Japanese as either スーパーサイヤ人 (su-pa-saiyajin) or as 超サイヤ人 (su-pa-saiyajin),3 though it’s interesting to note that 超 should be read as chou and cannot be read as “super.”4

So why all this talk about Dragon Ball? Well, it was an anime and manga contemporary to Sailor Moon so we know that the phenomenon was already common at the time and gives credence to the idea that there might be some deeper meaning to the Small Lady name. Fortunately for us, the options are pretty limited, but the most likely choice for a kanji reading for Small Lady is: 少女 (shoujo; lit. small lady / maiden)5 If that sounds familiar to you, well, it should: these are the very same characters used in the title of the series: 美少女戦士セーラームーン (bishoujo senshi se-ra-mu-n; Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon). An alternative literal kanji choice would also be 乙女 (otome; lit. small lady / maiden). You would probably recognize this word as the ending theme to the Sailor Moon R anime: 乙女のポリシー (otome no porishi-; Maiden’s Policy).6 More likely than not, the Small Lady name is in reference to the very term her mother, Usagi, used to refer to herself as a sailor-suited soldier of justice.

Usagi Small Lady Serenity

Usagi Small Lady Serenity

The story with ChibiUsa’s name is interesting in general due to the Serenity name connecting her to her mother and even down the line to her grandmother. Even more interesting is that she doesn’t seem to be given a last name (neither Tsukino nor Chiba), which implies that the people of Crystal Tokyo don’t use last names. It may be a small detail, but I’m glad to see that Usagi maintained her independence, even through marriage!

Why Did Usagi Become Queen of Crystal Tokyo at 22?

Our Future Queen

Our Future Queen

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?

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Why Does ChibiUsa Have Pink Hair?

Pink Hair'd Rabbits

Pink Hair’d Rabbits

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!

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What Gun Did ChibiUsa Use to Threaten Usagi?

Say "What" Again

Say “What” Again

Before I go on to answer this question and spout off a bunch of random facts, it’s very important to note that I know nearly nothing about guns. But taking into consideration how far the artists in the original anime and Ms. Takeuchi herself had gone to copy real world cars, books, and even real people, it should come as no surprise that real-world gun designs might be used as well for the unforgettable scene when ChibiUsa first appeared in the second season of Sailor Moon.1

Silly Rabbit, tricks aren't for kids

Silly Rabbit, tricks aren’t for kids

Interestingly enough, it looks like Ms. Takeuchi actually used two different designs for the gun ChibiUsa wields, though seeing as this is a difference between an opening cover image and one of the panels inside the manga itself, it’s actually entirely likely that the images were drawn at two completely different times and she either simply lost track of her reference pictures, or changed her mind later when she had to draw it in color for a close-up.

If you take a look at these two images closely, you can see that the design differs pretty dramatically in the look of the hammer, how the front of the barrel tapers off, the design of the finger guard, and even the diagonal slashes on the left (they go all the way down in the bottom image, but only halfway in the top).

Also, if you look closely (really, really closely), you can see a design like a waving flag underneath where the shell casing ejects from the pistol in the bottom image, which is very similar to the Walther Arms company logo.2 However, I’m unable to find any guns released by them matching this design, so it may just be a Takeuchi-original. You can tell that she didn’t take the scene all that seriously anyway, since even though the gun fires, ChibiUsa’s finger isn’t on the trigger, and the hammer is still cocked back. Interesting!

Shouldn't she be more terrified?

Shouldn’t she be more terrified?

Now, moving onto the Sailor Moon R anime, fortunately it’s a completely different story and here they actually use a pistol that’s pretty easy to trace, design and all!

From what I was able to find, this is a Colt M1911A1 pistol that ChibiUsa here is wielding. Not only was it the go-to gun used by U.S. armed forces since, well, 1911, but it also gained popularity after WWII in other countries throughout the world and – most importantly – was the weapon which the Japanese police were armed with from the 1950s and through the late 1980s.3

One interesting note about the particular version she’s holding here is that, as you can see underneath her thumb in both images, the gun handle has the optional medallion inlay in it. It’s such a small detail that I have to wonder why it got put in. Maybe the reference pictures the artist was looking at had one?

Recently, I asked a few friends of mine (an iPhone game artist and a published manga artist) why it is that so often real-world cards, weapons, and other various day-to-day items appear in anime and manga. Is it an homage? Reference? The answer, I learned, is much simpler than that: it’s easy to imagine an idea of what a car is, but when you have to draw one and convince the viewer, it’s much easier to just draw something real.

I guess it’s obvious now that I think about it, but it’s interesting to know that there’s actually a reason behind this. Though, of course, when it comes to what to copy, there’s still a good deal of lee-way for the artists and designers to express their own interests!