Before you get all excited and start commenting that Sailor Venus was the leader of the Inner Senshi and that this is clearly spelled out in the manga, I’ll stop you right there and point out that I know this. However, outside of one or two mentions in the manga, Sailor Venus never functionally performs any leadership roles, and in the anime I’d say it’s up to debate whether she’s actually leader at all. When you consider that the the battles against the Monsters of the Day end with someone shouting to the effect of “Now, Sailor Moon!” it’s pretty hard to view anyone else but our titular character as the leader. Or… is it?
Ever since starting this blog, I’m always very careful to try to avoid ever saying something stated or depicted within the anime or manga is either a lie or didn’t happen, at least not without compelling proof to the contrary. Once you start going down the rabbit hole of saying that “Maybe Usagi was lying when she said she was 150cm!” or that “Makoto is probably just estranged from her family,” you really can’t say anything definitive about the series since all of your proof is suspect.
But sometimes, the situation can justify a deeper analysis. Such as, for example, Usagi and Mamoru’s purported “first meeting” in the Sailor Moon R movie. So, did they really meet as kids?
Though Sailor Moon fans are a pretty diverse lot when it come to the subject of a “favorite” — be in favorite character, season, manga vs. anime, or anything else — I find that the Sailor Moon R movie tends to fare pretty well among fans. Going by sales figures alone, it was definitely the most popular of all three of the movies, grossing nearly 30% more than the Sailor Moon S movie and over double that of ticket sales for Sailor Moon SuperS. It’s no wonder that it’s managed to stand the test of time.
However, one thing that I never really got when I was younger is what is the movie trying to say? It’s only recently that I started to think about ChibiUsa’s famous line to Luna and Artemis: “It’ll be okay, Sailor Moon is everyone’s mom!”
But what did she actually mean by that?
A frequent topic of conversation for this blog is is just how much the story and characters of Sailor Moon had changed from Ms. Takeuchi’s original plan for the series. Many of the changes, such as Ami originally being a cyborg, were done early in the planning process and before the characters actually came to light while others, like Makoto’s rougher side, slowly were adjusted as the series progressed. What we’re looking at today – Sailor Moon’s ability to fly – is one of those odd situations where it was removed from the series only to be put back in later, for Eternal Sailor Moon. So how was Usagi originally meant to fly?
In a series like Sailor Moon which has given us so much trouble when it comes to trying to sort out the time line, it’s refreshing to finally be able to take on a question regarding an age which can actually be answered (… within reason) for once. So just how old is Ikuko Tsukino and – by extension – how old was she when she gave birth to Usagi?
Ikuko is, as implied by her name,1 the quintessential caring mother who isn’t afraid of engaging in a little bit of tough-love in order to get Usagi to actually get around to taking studying seriously. Also implied in her name is the Japanese concept of 教育ママ (kyouiku mama; a mother focused on scholastic achievement), a term which has been around in Japanese culture since at least the 1960s,2 though the concept may be more familiar in the west as a “tiger mother” as popularized in Amy Chua’s book by the same name.3
As for her age, according to an offhand remark Ikuko makes in the manga, we can definitively say that she is 36 years old as of the Sailor Stars arc.4 Similarly, she makes a remark in the anime which puts her age at around her “later 30s,”5 so I would say it’s pretty safe to place her at 36 in both versions of Sailor Moon.
If she’s 36 years old when Usagi is first entering high school (and figuring that Usagi is 16 years old at that time), that would put her at around 20 years old when Usagi was born. And I bet you thought Usagi was young when she had ChibiUsa! In 1977, when Usagi was presumably born,6 the average age at the time of first marriage was 27 and 25 for men and women, respectively. As a point of comparison, those numbers are now 31 for men and 29 for women.7
What this does mean, though, is that Ikuko probably did not go to university, though that wasn’t so uncommon in those days. Back in 1977, only around 13% of Japanese women actually went to a four-year university, which is the same rate as that for Japanese men in 1955!8 This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, but it might be an additional reason behind Ikuko’s motivation for pushing Usagi to study hard (and since Usagi became the Neo Queen of Crystal Tokyo at 22, she very well could have gone to university).
What’s most interesting for me about all of this is that it shows that Usagi’s family is actually on the younger end of the scale, meaning that Ikuko would probably be a fair bit younger than the parents of all the other Sailor Soldiers (well, except Makoto’s…). From the point of view of education, it also nicely emphasizes exactly how impressive and rare it would have been for Ami’s mother to have been attending medical school at that time!
I really do which that we knew more about the family lives of the other members of the Sailor Team, but I guess I should be happy that at the very least the Tsukino’s were fleshed out as much as they were. I’d love to know just how much of their personalities were actually based on the members of Ms. Takeuchi’s family!
While cars may not be the most fascinating aspect of Sailor Moon, it’s always interesting to take a look at how Ms. Takeuchi and the animation staff have gone through the effort to bring things from the real world, such as the Crown Game Center, and accurately represent them in the manga and anime. Of course, real world inspiration isn’t limited to only places and things, but it extends as far as the magical items the characters wield and even some of the clothes they wear (which is another topic for another time)!
One question that begs to be asked, though, is why exactly real world locations and things as simple as cars are copied over into the world of Sailor Moon. While this makes a lot of sense in the case of really famous locations (such as Tokyo Tower) and the latest sports cars, since it can instill a sense of familiarity into the viewer, this doesn’t make quite as much sense when we’re talking about the Tsukino’s family truckster.1 I find it kind of hard to believe that anyone was actually a fan of the VW Golf II GTi 16V, Mr. Tsukino’s car of choice.2
The most likely answer as to why this car was used in the anime is, frankly, that it’s just easier to copy a real world design that it is to make it up yourself. I’m not an artist myself, so I spoke with some professional illustrators to try to get another perspective on this. According to my friend, it’s easy enough to imagine the concept of a ‘street intersection,’ ‘car,’ or any other generic place or thing, it’s actually quite challenging to freehand draw a car unless you have some experience.
There is, in fact, a whole industry in Japan devoted to providing manga artists and illustrators with royalty-free photos of both famous landmarks and generic locations.3 In some cases these are just used for inspiration, though they are often used for tracing over in order to make convincing-looking background scenery. It’s actually quite likely that Ms. Takeuchi used something like this (or photos she took herself) when sketching out her manga.
As for the car itself, there isn’t too much interesting to say about it other than that when new, the Golf4 sold for approximately three times the price of the most popular car at the time,5 the Toyota Corolla.6 Considering the rather impressive house they lived in, it’s probably fairly safe to say that the Tsukino’s were doing all right, financially speaking!
Oh, and in case you were curious, yes… the car did have seat belts for all 5 passengers, so there was no excuse for Usagi and Shingo to slack off on safety!
Nothing altogether world shattering here, but it is somewhat interesting to see how much of the real world inspired the world of Sailor Moon, especially when you consider how much of an impact the series had on the real world. It makes me wonder just how many real world things you can find if you were to stop and look closely at other minor things in the background!
The Tsukino family play an interesting part in the Sailor Moon universe since they both have a strong connection to Usagi – the central character in the story – while at the same time supposedly representing what is mundane and normal in the world. Since it’s pretty well known that Ms. Takeuchi was a fan of adding in little touches here and there as in-jokes/references about her characters, often through clever puns in their names, it’s probably worth taking a deeper look at what connections, if any, Usagi’s family has.
First and foremost, it’s worth noting that the Usagi’s family members’ names don’t have any special meanings behind them, since we know that the makeup of her family and the names themselves are based off of Naoko’s real family.1 Though the kanji is likely different, it seems that Kenji, Ikuko, and Shingo are all based on the Takeuchi family.
However, not all is lost for subtle references to rabbits and the moon, at least when it comes to the anime!
Though far more pronounced in the anime than in the manga, if you look closely you can see that both Ikuko and Usagi share a common trait in their hairstyle – particularly, that they have a heart-shaped part in the middle of their bangs. This styling of course can also be seen in Queen Serenity, ChibiUsa, and Chibi Chibi as well. So what’s the point?
Well, it’s not actually a heart-shaped parting in her bangs, but actually two crescent moons facing each other, which gives the appearance of a heart.
While the effect may be subtle, it’s much easier to see when highlighted, as shown here. Ikuko’s hair style varies a bit from episode to episode and is a little less pronounced in the Sailor Moon Crystal anime, but if you look closely, you can definitely see that the two-moon hair style is the same across all of the versions.
Even if Queen Serenity is considered Sailor Moon’s true mother and Ikuko is her mother only through reincarnation, it’s nice to know that Ikuko still has her place in connecting to Usagi!
Moving onto Kenji, well, I’m afraid that unfortunately he doesn’t really seem to play a big part in the series (which isn’t uncommon for fathers in anime/manga, I suppose), so other than the connection to Ms. Takeuchi’s own family, there’s not much to go off of here.
The good news, though, is that Shingo isn’t without his own interesting reference!
Though not directly tied to the moon at first glance, if you take a look at his name tag (which he’s required to wear going to, from, and in school in lieu of a uniform), you’ll notice two little round bits on top of his last name, 月野 (tsukino). This is consistent throughout the first season of the anime, at least, and always appears on his name tag. So what is it?
Much like the odango hairstyle that Usagi uses, these two little circles on top of the moon kanji character are meant to be reminiscent of bunny ears, which ties back into the traditional Asian legend of there being a rabbit on the moon (and the inspiration for Usagi’s name in the first place).2 Now, why Shingo would want to draw rabbit ears, in honor of his sister, on his name tag in the first place is beyond me, but I guess we can assume he has a soft spot in his heart for his sister anyway.
It’s really unfortunate that Usagi’s family really took a back seat as the series progressed in order to make room for more characters, but I suppose it was necessary when you consider that new characters were being added and also needed time in the lime light.
All the same, though, it’s nice to know that the anime producers took the time to at least put in these extra little details for the fans to catch! Yet another little bit of trivia that makes Sailor Moon fun to watch over and over again.