Was Naru Intended to Be a Bigger Part of Sailor Moon?

Usagi Tsukino and Naru Osaka – BFFs

Usagi Tsukino and Naru Osaka – BFFs

Naru Osaka is one of those secondary characters that is incredibly hard to pin down. At first glance she’s just one of many background characters – like Ms. Haruna SakuradaUsagi’s family, and many other members of the supporting case – but when you actually take time to look at the amount of work put into developing her character, you realize that quite a bit more work was put into her background than many others. So what do we actually know about Usagi’s best friend?

Naru? A Sailor Soldier?

Naru? A Sailor Soldier?

In addition to being the go-to victim for the various Youma, Cardians, and other monsters of the day, Naru is unique in that she’s the only non-Sailor Soldier to have her own birthday – January 1. This was considered to be such a significant point that at one time, early Sailor Moon fans considered Naru to be the next Sailor Soldier to be unveiled, possibly a then-unannounced Sailor Saturn.1

While it may seem ridiculous now to think that Nephrite’s one-time lover could be the latest Sailor Soldier to join the team, at the time the idea wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Up until then, the Sailor Soldiers were slowly joining the team in a bit of a random fashion – Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and then Venus – so it wasn’t necessary obvious to fans in the beginning how many members there would ultimately be in the Sailor Team, nor in what order they would join.

By the end of the first season and moving into the Black Moon Arc / Sailor Moon R, Sailor Saturn would be the next logical choice. But what is it about Naru that would make her the likely candidate? Well, much like Hotaru who would come much later, Naru’s birthday also coincides with the Capricorn star sign, and thus the planet Saturn.2 There are other interesting fan theories regarding an early debut of a different Sailor Saturn than the one we ultimately ended up with, but that’s a story I’ll have to save for another time.

Putting aside for now Naru’s birthday and the possibility that she might have at one time been a candidate Sailor Soldier, there’s one other point about her that lends itself to suggesting that Ms. Osaka was supposed to be a more integral character: that’d be her name.

Wanna hear a secret...?

Wanna hear a secret…?

Okay, so it’s not too surprising that we’d go back to analyzing a character’s name in the Sailor Moon universe, but the fact that Naru never actually developed into something deeper – no offense – actually makes the analysis of her name all the more interesting.

The Osaka part of her name is the least interesting of the two and, as far as I can tell, is just a way to tie in the “Osa-P” reference for her mother’s shop while allowing Ms. Takeuchi to get in an in-joke at her editor Fumio “Osa-P / Osabu” Osano. But her first name is where it gets interesting.

Naru’s name doesn’t have any kanji associated with it, so it would be written simply as なる in Japanese. While you could try to match it to various kanji to give the name some meaning, none of them seem to really fit her character or make sense.3 But what if you read her name backwards? なる (na-ru) becomes るな (ru-na)… or, luna. Writing names backwards is a pretty common way of generating name puns in Japanese, though it’s much harder to see in English. The most popular example would probably be the オリマー (or-ri-ma; Olimar) / マリオ (ma-ri-o; Mario) connection in Nintendo’s Pikmin.4

Little Naru Playing Tennis With Rui

Little Naru Playing Tennis With Rui

Unfortunately, we can’t really say beyond a shadow of a doubt what Ms. Takeuchi and the anime staff had planned for Naru, but as one of the earliest characters developed for the series and with more background than many others supplemental cast, it certainly seems like she may have been intended to be more involved in Usagi’s misadventures than actually ended up happening.

As for whether the series would have been better or worse off that way, I’m not really sure. I think Naru’s character developed over time to be what we know her as today, so it’s hard to imagine her as anything other than Usagi’s friend and a supporter. Even if she wasn’t ever intended to be a Sailor Soldier, I’d still love to have seen her as someone a little more intimately tied to the plot! I guess we may never know, though…

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  1.  See p. 133 of セーラームーンの秘密 (Sailor Moon no Himitsu; the Secrets of Sailor Moon)
  2.  See Domicile (Astrology) (Wikipedia)
  3.  See なる kanji
  4.  See Captain Olimar

25 thoughts on “Was Naru Intended to Be a Bigger Part of Sailor Moon?

  1. Actually, there’s one interpretation of Naru’s name that does make sense. Remember her counterpart from Sailor V, Hikaru Sorano? Her name, though also written in hiragana, has a more obvious meaning to it (光る = to shine), so by that logic Naru’s name would be derived from 鳴る = to sound.

    Now, Hikaru *was* originally supposed to become one of the Sailor Senshi (Ami took her place in the actual story, after the main heroine switch), so imagining Naru as one isn’t as strange as it may seem…

    • I considered that before, but I’m not 100% sure about the most logical kanji for Naru (which is akin to the problem I had finding a proper kanji for Rei). While you’re right in that 鳴る is a decent candidate, that kanji is used almost explicitly for things like bird calls (chirping, tweeting, etc.) or for the sound of thunder. Basically, sounds emanating from nature.

      There are several other candidates, such as 成る, which means “to become,” such as “to become an adult” or “to become scared” (though this verb is usually written without kanji). Personally, I have a feeling this is more likely, though what it is that she is to become isn’t clear to me. Becoming Osaka??

      Another candidate kanji (though even more rarely used in this context) is 生る, which means “to bear fruit.” I think we can rule this one out.

      All in all, I still feel strongly that it’s possible Naru was originally considered as a possible future Sailor Soldier (though definitely not one of the original five), but her name definitely falls out of the common naming pattern!

      • I’ve always assumed Rei’s kanji to be 霊 (soul) because Hino Rei = “火の霊” = “fire soul”.

  2. Naru-chan looks so beautiful and pure (wavy hair, blue eyes, bows and gemstones). Also the whole damsels in distress role made me think that she might be Neo Queen Serenity. Couldn’t be more wrong ^^’ Thank you for this article. It’s good to share my interest in this character.

    • She really is a great character and friend to Usagi, especially in the first season, so it really makes me sad to see her kinda disappear as the series moved on. I especially loved the first few episodes of Sailor Moon where Usagi and Naru would just hang out, enter musical competitions, and even join gyms together.

      I really do wonder if there was more in mind for her character!

  3. I always had the initial impression that they were originally planning to do more with Naru, but for whatever reason dropped it. It’s a pity either way.
    As much as I like the Usagi/Rei dynamic, I don’t think they should have demoted her like that. Especially since she’s known Usagi for longer.
    She could very easily have fitted in with the rest of the group. Having a non Senshi in on it would have been quite an interesting angle. The finale of Nephrite arc could have led into that.

  4. Naru seemed strangely demoted from the series. She was Usagi’s best friend, then all of a sudden Usagi didn’t hang out with her anymore or wasn’t seen interacting with her at all.
    That’s a bit like Roxy, from Winx Club. A whole season was centered around her, she was even announced as the “seventh Winx fairy”. But she was suddenly downgraded to a mere supporting character the next season.
    Well, at least she never went full missing like Naru in Stars,

  5. What I really wonder about Naru is why DIC decided to give her that horridly thick Brooklyn accent when they did the English dub.

  6. I remember as a kid I was like Woah a new Sailor has appeared how cool ! Especially when Pluto, Uranus, Neptune and Saturn appeared. I wouldn’t have liked Naru to be a Sailor Soldier though because she has such a boring character design. However it would have been amazing and more realistic had Naru and Umino remained a part of Usagi’s life until the last episode / chapter.

  7. Hi very interesting article. I know it is rather common among American fans to make Naru into a Sailor Earth even though Tuxedo Mask is Earth’s Senshi. It is interesting to know that back in the day Japanese fans thought that Naru would be Sailor Saturn because of her Capricorn star sign. Indeed Naru and Hotaru’s birthdays were even close. Naru born in January 1st and Hotaru being born on January 6th. All though please do an article talking about the fan theories about another Sailor Saturn. That would be lovely to read and information not widely known in the Sailor Moon fan community.

  8. I’ve just discovered this blog, and I’ve already been hopping from entry to entry for… *checks watch* …about two hours straight. I LOVE these insights and research, especially having studied both Japanese and mythology myself (years ago, now).

    My favorite theory for Naru has always been that of her latent potential to become Sailor Earth. Maybe she was supposed to awaken if Mamoru had never regained his memories? (Did Queen Serenity mess up a time line, and Naru’s awakening had to be suppressed in order to eliminate conflict?) But if you take her name forwards AND backwards, it could be “RUNA NI NARU,” which is a delightful palindrome for “to become the moon” – or, perhaps, “NARU NI RUNA,” which suggests that the moon becomes Naru… MAYBE, historically, if Queen Serenity, hadn’t sent the spirit of her deceased daughter (et al) to the future (our present), then the moon would no longer exist, and Earth would take its place as center of the solar system (instead of its moon – how weird?). This would ALSO explain why Naru-chan is perpetually the target of so many youma (etc) attacks! They could be drawn to her sleeping power, just as others are drawn to dream mirrors, pure heart crystals, etc. (And could “of-the-sea” UMINO be her potential “of-the-water” MIZUNO?? Geeky, misunderstood, potentially all-powerful behind those glasses??? Clark Kent, anyone?? No? Okay. Maybe that’s a stretch. LOL)

    THEN, if we look at Naru’s last name, Osaka, there’s a lot of potential to unpack, there. My expertise on this topic is nonexistent, so please feel free to point out errors, but as I understand it, Osaka used to be the capital of Japan, and control switched back and forth for a while depending on who was in power (lending credibility to the theory that Naru-chan COULD have awoken as a leader or soldier depending on circumstances). Additionally, the old name for Osaka is NANIWA, which, if we use the homophone “nani ha,” you get “nani ha Naru,” which, if you allow for loose interpretation, can be either, “What is Naru,” or “What will (it) become” ? The ambiguity and potential there captivates me! I wish we had more on her. <3

    PLUS, the city of Osaka apparently used to be written with different kanji (I'm on wikipedia, now – help!) that could have been confused with a homophone that could have been read as "anti-samurai," or "samurai rebellion," which could be connected to the Earth's tumultuous relationship with the Moon? I'm stretching, here.

    (ALSO, this could account for her fading from the storyline as we progress. As Sailor Moon's leadership skills grow and her future – and that of Neo Tokyo – become more solid, perhaps Naru really does fade into the background.

    ALSO fun (if likely irrelevant) is the fact that PGSM's Naru-chan was played by the talented Chieko Kawabe, who ALSO played Sailor Mercury in several of the Myus!)

    ANYWAY. I'm having way too much fun with this. Just throwing out random ideas and seeing if anything sticks! <3

  9. I know I have said this before but I would still Tuxedo Unmasked love to hear your article about the fan theories regarding a different Sailor Saturn then Naru or Hotaru. As always I love your articles and your amazing wisdom in the Sailor Moon fandom.

  10. Might as well dig this up since Naru is already a dear character to me, and I have strong feelings on meta-theming and what things are supposed to represent.

    I’ll touch simply on the closing thought on if the series would have been better if Naru was Sailor Saturn.

    The answer is a resounding yes, but with a catch. ANYONE would have been better filling the Sailor Saturn role than Hotaru as she was. Now, that’s not to say that Hotaru couldn’t have been a fantastic Sailor Saturn. In fact, there was a missed opportunity there that could have been incredibly impactful without necessarily compromising the concept of a sailor solider of death and rebirth. Unfortunately, even as far back as the manga, her character was grossly mishandled.

    So what are the central themes to Sailor Moon? That women and girls are more powerful than anyone in 1992 could properly fathom; and love is the most powerful force in the universe, and should be celebrated on every level. I won’t go into the mostly-understood breakdown of how that is represented on every level (though fun fact: if we didn’t have Rei and Casablanca Memory, the latter theme would fall apart entirety), suffice it to say that every character, in some fashion, is entirely about love, hope, and unity. What is Hotaru about? Death and destruction, conceived and executed like an angsty teenager who might need an eye kept on them, with the “rebirth” idea feeling tacked-on and hackneyed. Even when she is reborn, there is this disconnect between the resurrected Hotaru and Sailor Saturn. Her character is grossly out of place on just about every level.

    If one wanted to maintain the theme of death and rebirth on a cheap level, Naru would have still made a more ideal Sailor Saturn. The girl who is constantly attacked by monsters, left in the dark about her best friend’s secret, has this great transformation and enters a whole new world. She learns new secrets, gains new powers, and goes from the perennial victim to arguably the most powerful senshi next to Sailor Moon. Death, and rebirth. Is it cerebral? No. Is it meaningful? Not really. Is it deep and resonant? Not as much as it should be. But it’s something that fits the theme of the other girls and the theme at large. And it gives Naru purpose. It might not be necessary, as I feel it’s important to have a civilian with that degree of depth of character to show, again, that the power of love is transcendent and you don’t have to be a magical girl to be a strong woman. But if you want to give her more than that, the story practically writes itself.

    So that’s your answer unpacked, but I do want to make one final tangential point. There is a way that that answer could have been “no”, and it would have been very powerful, and as someone who has experienced a lot of loss in his life, I am quite disappointed that this was missed because it would have been perfect for Sailor Moon.

    The way that Sailor Saturn could have — and probably should have — been handled in a way that would leave Naru’s role best as it is and keep Sailor Saturn “on brand” would be that if her character was about giving hope to young girls and the like who were forced to experience the death of loved ones. It would have been very heavy to handle, especially since it crosses past the idea of Usagi’s friends dying and coming back to life to making the theme about the audience and forcing them to face the finality of death, but the problem is that death is part of the natural cycle of existence. We hope to be long in the tooth before we experience one that hits close, but we don’t get to choose when a friend or parent dies, and it could happen to anyone at any time. How powerful would it be to have a character that, instead of existing to bring about the apocalypse to save the world somehow (but not doing that, but threatening to do that again anyway) and trying to push a new world on the bones of an old, you get a pretty solider in a sailor suit who exists to be the guardian of hearts scarred by losing a parent, a friend, a lover, etc.? Sailor Moon has played a little fast and loose with religion, so if you want to tack on the idea of reincarnation, sure. But it would be best represented in Sailor Saturn reminding people that those who died are always with you in some form or fashion. But moreover, as the guardian of DEATH and rebirth, her theme can be about understanding the pain that comes with death, but promising to be the strength for those who grieve. To remind them that there is still a life ahead of them, and that while she is the guardian of those that passed, she is also the guardian of those left behind. No matter how alone or hurt you feel, there is someone who loves you and wishes to help you carry on. She knows how hard it is, but that it can be done. And not just she, but all those that have passed wish that all those that survive can find the strength to live life and see its beauty. This character is EXTREMELY on brand, and represents a love of self and existence not really touched on otherwise.

    But, again, we didn’t get that. So, yeah, things would have been a lot better with Naru as Sailor Saturn.

  11. I also loved Naru and Usagi’s friendship that was so solid and cute in the Dark Kingdom arc. She is such a strong character, and it’s easy to see that there was a lot of depth and more background put into her than the other members of the supporting cast — in the anime, she had a romantic connection with one of the main villians, and even seasons following the first, was still always a target for youma, daimon, etc.

    I believe she was meant to either be involved in the senshi’s lives and come to know about Usagi’s double life, or was being groomed to become a potential senshi. However, as the series progressed, I guess Naoko went a different direction, and I suppose the anime believed it better to have her fade from Usagi’s life.

    Her gradual (or sudden?) Lack of scenes I think is due to the character progression that Usagi makes. As the Rabbit learns more about being a senshi, her own abilities, and becomes more involved in protecting the planet with her new team, I think Naru fades to the background because the two of them have embraced two totally different life-styles, and Usagi doesn’t have time to spend time with her like she used to. I think there’s even an episode that displays this distance to some extent, with Naru worrying about Usagi and praying for that is ends up okay, even though she doesn’t know what’s going on — and Usagi, who can’t tell her friend about her heroic pursuits, feels bad for leaving her in the dust, but can’t put her duty behind her. This scene was symbolic, I think, and represented that the relationship between the two friends would never be the same afterward. I think Naruater disappears in StarS because she may end up going to a different high school than Usagi and the others, though that’s just my headcanon.

    It would have been neat to see her blossom as a Sailor Sun (since Endy/Mami is already Earth), but I guess we’ll just have to keep dreaming.

  12. I’m extremely disappointed with how Naru was handled as the series progressed. I adored her friendship with Usagi and Umino (partially), Sailor Moon season 1 was always special to me, moreso the early parts of it when Usagi had independence from the other Sailor scouts, I’ve been rewatching the show and I’m so disappointed with how things get unimpressive after the tone shift happens, like Naru, Umino, Usagi’s family and Usagi’s school life is forgotten about, but more importantly Naru doesn’t even get much interaction anymore with Usagi and her relationship with Umino was a huge middle finger to her character, Naru’s best involvement was her character, not being a girl who got with Umino, this relationship came out of nowhere, poorly constructed and shows how they downplayed her and Nephrite’s relationship just to get her a boyfriend, in a relationship with very little development to get there. Nephrite and Naru was special because of how you can feel Nephrite was changing and attempting to be a better person while fighting the evil that Queen Baryl had grown him, and Naru cared deeply for him, even if he was evil, it was even more special that Usagi wanted to help them stay together despite his allegiance. Naru and Umino being together did not do anything more than just shove a relationship for the sake of doing so.

    • This! I watched Sailor Moon as a kid, though not to remember it that well, but watched it again in 2017 and watched 4 seasons, and was appalled at how they botched her character, alongside most of the non Sailor Scouts past Season 1. Especially to the point with Naru that they out of nowhere decided that Umino was now her boyfriend just because, despite the fact they barely developed it given the lack of screentime both characters got before that reveal. Nephrite and Naru was special because of how delicate did they go at it, from Nephrite being challenged between being another follower vs becoming his own person and Naru was deeply affected over his growth and eventual death.

  13. Naru is not the only non-Senshi character whose birthday is known.* We also know that Queen Beryl’s birthday is on November 1. =)

    * Speaking of: Happy birthday, Naru, and a happy new year!

  14. Like most, i wish Naru didn’t just fade into the background. I always thought a fitting end for her arc would be in the beginning of Sailor Stars; where she and Umino end up going to a different high school far from the Juban district. Usagi, upset her friend is leaving, plans to spend one more special day with Naru, only to have it spoiled by the baddies. As the episode ends, Usagi and the Inner Senshi watch Naru and Umino board a train to their new destination. Naru turns to Usagi and simply says, “Thank you for always being there for me.” Usagi quietly understands what she is implying and all she can say is, “We’ll always be together, Naru.” Naru winks, and train door closes behind her.

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