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!

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  1.  See the Kanji for Water (Jisho.org)
  2. See Mercury (Wikipedia)
  3.  See the Kanji for Wood (Jisho.org)
  4.  See Jupiter (Wikipedia)
  5.  See Jupiter’s Atmosphere (Wikipedia)
  6. See Thunderbolt (Wikipedia)
  7. See Act 5 of the shinsouban re-release of the manga. In the original release, this was actually Supreme Thunder, but was changed by Ms. Takeuchi in later editions.

21 thoughts on “What is Sailor Jupiter’s True Element – Lightning or Wood?

  1. I never really think of her as wood-y. Her tiara has that little antenna, it seems like she _has_ to be electric/lighting-y! (At least until you read this post and are reminded of the connections that actually do exist…)

    • Same here… no matter how much I may know in my heart of hearts that she’s probably supposed to be associated with wood/plants, I just can’t see it. Her Supreme Thunder pose (which was an interesting article in its own right! ) is just too iconic! The anime definitely ran with the electricity theme too, so I’m wondering if maybe it was also more popular with Japanese fans too. Would love to see more about it, but since there are almost no manga-based products, it’s hard to compare.

      • I apologize for a long post:

        I’ve always thought that it could have something to do with the fact that wood = wind in East Asian cultures, which is why her attacks often have storm/wind-related names: Hurricane and Cyclone.

        With some further research, one can find that in the Chinese Bagua, the planet Jupiter is related to not only wood but thunder!

        So, without going into everything, as one of the eight elements in the Bagua system, Jupiter is represented by 震 Zhèn, the fourth symbol.
        In this system, Jupiter is “wooden” and the associated element is “Thunder”.

        The associated Bushido symbolism is “Integrity”, which is like Makoto’s name “Sincerity”, “Truth”.

        The energy is electric and the natural event is a lightning storm.

        Color: green

        This symbolism fits Sailor Jupiter pretty well, linking her to both wood and lightning. If this symbolism carries over into other systems or if Naoko Takeuchi looked into the Bagua, this seems likely to be where these connections come from.

        The symbols also carry into the other characters in odd ways that make sense for some of the symbolism.
        For example, Uranus is associated with “mountains” rather than “the sky” in the Bagua.
        Its associations are earth, wrath, volcanic eruptions, heroic courage, and *cough* testosterone creation and the color blue.
        That seems awfully close to anime Uranus, since “World Shaking” has always looked more about “earth” than “air”.
        Oddly enough, this symbol is also associated with being a gatekeeper or a Guardian, which sounds closer to Pluto.

        As you’d expect, Mercury = water, ocean, dark blue (or black on some charts) while the others more or less line up:

        Mars: Fire, snakes, red
        Venus: Metal, daylight (oddly hurricanes), white
        Pluto: Wind (look up the Japanese form of Dead Scream), darkness, violet
        Saturn: Earth, emptiness, nothingness, darkness, gravity, pale violet or pink

        Neptune is the oddball. All of its associations are heavenly:
        Sky and meteor strikes. Also, it seems to be associated with silver and the crescent moon. The only moon-shaped thing Neptune has is her Lip Rod and that’s anime only.

        I apologize for the long post, but the more I read about Bagua it makes me sure that there is some link between it and Sailor Moon.

  2. The nature theme fits better with her primary colour. But the electric based attacks are arguably better looking.

    Let’s face it, throwing petals and leaves at someone doesn’t have quite the same effect.

    But I think this dual ability can be looked at as representing two sides of her personality. The gentle easy-going Makoto is represented by nature. And the fierce when roused, by thunder.

    • I feel like if they worked at it a bit more in the anime they could make it work — I mean, Sailor Venus has her “Love Me Chain” and “Love and Beauty Shock” attacks, to say nothing of all the cutesy attacks launched left and right in the Pretty Cure anime (… speaking of which, I still need to watch Pretty Cure someday).

      But I think you’re right. No matter how much they tried to work with it, I don’t really think the plant/nature theme really suits Sailor Jupiter’s fighting style and personality. I mean, sure, Makoto does a lot of cooking and one of her key personality traits is that she is not only tough but really big into domestic/homemaking hobbies, but I think as Sailor Jupiter she’s more of the tough fighter of the team, and the sheer, raw, unfocused power of lightning just fits her so much better.

  3. Why not both elements? Lightning exists in nature, and they have a tendency to hit trees. And Supreme Thunder first hits SAILOR JUPITER before being redirected.

    • More than likely, this is probably the best way to look at it, especially when you consider that (to the best of my knowledge, at least…) electricity isn’t one of the classical elements so it would make sense for it to be included into the wood/plant category.

      To be fair, though, Ms. Takeuchi got a bit creative with her theme (I’m hesitant to use the word “element” here) use for Minako as well, seeing as she kind of goes between metal and “love” on a whim. That is something to talk about some other time, though!

  4. So, in Feng Shui, which is where the elemental associations with the planets came from, Wood is associated with wind and lightning as well. The Wu Xing, or five “elements” are not quite what Westerners think of. It’s more about different flows of energy, and the phase of “mu/moku” is properly “like a tree swaying in the gentle breeze.” Interestingly, Japanese practitioners of Chinese mysticism tend to link lightning to the phase of “metal.” I think a mild relation to wind exists in Makoto’s powers, such as Flower Hurricane and Jupiter Coconut Cyclone.

    • I have to admit that my knowledge of Feng Shui is limited, but that is interesting that wood, wind, and lightning would all be associated. I never actually thought there would be a connection to it, but it does make sense in a certain light!
      That also makes Sailor Jupiter’s later attacks — ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Cyclone’ — make more sense. In that case, it looks like Ms. Takeuchi did a pretty impressive job of trying to link them all together.
      You really have to wonder how many reference books and library trips she went through when drawing this manga in those primitive internet days!

      • And of course Zeus’s emblematic tree,the Oak, was said to take the brunt of lightning strikes.

  5. Also oak tree is one of the symbols of Zeus. So it does relate to Jupiter on the Greek/Roman and Japenese mythology.

    • Oh, I didn’t catch that, but you’re absolutely right! It’s nice to see that there actually was some sort of reasoning behind her connection to the two seemingly unrelated elements!

  6. I think that there are many layers to the characters that are created here. I think Ms. Takeuchi is extremely smart and did her research and blends Greek/Roman mythology with Japanese myth and Chinese Feng Shui quite brilliantly here. I think that Makoto definitely can be both lightening and nature in general. Zeus throwing the lightening bolt and being the symbol of the oak tree, I just think she did a good job giving the characters variety and making clever attacks.

    • I’m sure it’s something of a cop-out to put it this way, but I definitely prefer to think of it more like Jupiter is Lightning AND Wood rather than a matter of “or” and having to choose between the two.

  7. You have Sparkling Wide Pressure listed as a wood attack, but I think that was electric-based. And even the plant attacks usually have storms in their names (hurricane/cyclone). I think her element is a resounding … “both lol.”

  8. I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and like others said, the best answer just seems to be “Nature”. Storms and Lighting has always been classified as “Forces of Nature” and Petz deals with storms as well. So both Plants/wood and lighting would fit well together if we just agree that Jupiter’s element is Nature

  9. I always associated her with Lightning because I didn’t read the manga at all, just saw the 90s anime, and those plant-based attacks took me off-guard

  10. It’s crazy that the S opening features animation for all the Infintiy arc attacks but then they never actually used them in that season, I guess because of budgetary concerns. The Coconut Cyclone animation looked real interesting and a much different interpretation than how they did it in Crystal

  11. After reading this post, which helped clear up some things I’ve been wondering as I’ve only recently been able to watch all 5 seasons of Sailor Moon for the first time, I’d argue that her plant powers are clearly visible in her gardening skill. Jupiter/Mako embodies both parts of the plants and the electricity and storms of her planets namesake.

  12. Wait, Sparkling Wild Preasure is not an electtric attack? I don’t find Coconut Cyclone that related to the wood, but i don’t know, maybe in the manga is different.

  13. Next to Rei, Makoto was another character Naoko’s decisions made into a caricature that was far less than she could have been if her creator designed her properly with the mythology of her central theme in mind.
    The idea of basing a character who is derived from classical mythology on what kanji is used for the planet’s name is so normalcy and beyond comprehension that it doesn’t need further contemplation.
    But that isn’t even what Naoko was really doing.
    Naoko, who always claims she wants to empower her characters and who believes empowerment = masculinity only ever aimed to empower her favorites at the expense of appropriate characterization.
    As hinted at by someone else in a comment on another article you wrote, Naoko’s favorites are Minako, Usagi, and Haruka.
    While Jupiter is the head of the Gods in mythology it was Venus whom she made leader of the Senshi not for any good reason but that she is one of her favorite creations.
    Jupiter – while she was stripped of that aspect of what should have been her characterization and whom Naoko made into a butch girl who wants to be feminine (another horrible trope) instead of making her a competent leader – at least fared better than Mars, who from the stalwart, cunning, athletic and proactive characterization she should have gotten was turned into a passive and repressed damsel whose basic personality was “soit belle et tete tois” (be pretty and don’t do anything. Yes very empowered lol) whose powers were based more on Rei being a miko (????) than they were on Mars being the God of war.

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