What is the Story Behind the R in Sailor Moon R?

Sailor Moon Rrrr......rrr?

Sailor Moon Rrrr……rrr?

One of the more enduring mysteries about the Sailor Moon anime franchise is what the “R” in the second season of the anime, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R, actually stands for. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s “hotly contested,” it is one of those questions which you’ll get a different answer for every person you ask. Before we go on, though, one thing to get out of the way is to discuss the way that Ms. Takeuchi handles this in the manga, seeing as the manga didn’t have seasons, per se, even though the themes of the stories did change in both the anime and manga around the same time and always happened around March or April of each year.1 In the manga, the five major story arcs are named:

  1. Dark Kingdom [February 1992 – March 1993]
  2. Black Moon [April 1993 – March 1994]
  3. Death Busters [March 1994 – March 1995]
  4. Dead Moon [April 1995 – March 1996]
  5. Sailor Stars [April 1996 – March 1997]

The anime, by contrast, in Japan is referred to as:

  1. Mujirushi (無印; lit. ‘unlabeled’) [March 7, 1992 – February 27, 1993]
  2. R [March 6, 1993 – March 12, 1994]
  3. S(uper) [March 19, 1994 – February 25, 1995]
  4. SuperS [March 4, 1995 – March 2, 1996]
  5. Sailor Stars [March 9, 1996 – February 8, 1997]

There is some debate among fans regarding Sailor Moon S as well and whether or not it stands for Super, since it seems silly to have Super followed by SuperS, but alas, that is irrefutable due to the fact that the title is sung during the eyecatch.2 You can watch and hear it for yourself here!

Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal

Sailor Moon and Sailor Moon Crystal

So that brings us back to “R” and where the title comes from! Unfortunately, the eyecatch is of no help, since it simply says “Sailor Moon R!” There are many theories floating around, including that it stands for Romance, suggesting that this is because the series takes on more of a romantic turn in the relationship between Usagi and Mamoru. However, that theory doesn’t really pan out, since the anime had to run with Cardian storyline for three months3 to allow Ms. Takeuchi to get ahead in the manga so they could follow the story.4 This means that they wouldn’t have known yet that the theme of the series was ‘romance’ anyway.

Other common theories are Return (since the series came back to the airwaves), Rabbit (after Usagi), Remake (since it’s theorized that the characters were reborn and the year was restarted, explaining no change in age), and Ribbon (… no idea where this came from!). One strong contender for the Return theory is that on the TV program Quiz: Hint de Pint,5 which also aired on TV Asahi (the same station that Sailor Moon aired on) the host, Masaru Doi, read the title of Sailor Moon R as “Sailor Moon Return” in the episode airing July 25, 1993.

Quiz: Hint de Pint

Quiz: Hint de Pint

While we can’t say for sure, one thing that further adds to the mystery is that there’s another series which came out right at around the same time which to which the author also gave its sequel the “R” title after its name: the science fiction Somon Valley series by Katsuhiko Takahashi.6 The Somon Valley series first made its debut in 1985 and the follow-up novel, Somon Valley R7 was released in 1991. Now at first glance this could just be a coincidence, but it’s also worth noting that the producer of the Sailor Moon anime, Iriya Azuma,8 belonged to the science fiction club of Keio University (incidentally, the same university Motoki Furuta and Mamoru in the anime attend) and is apparently quite familiar with science fiction in general. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that Mr. Azuma was influenced by this title when name the new Sailor Moon anime series.

Regardless of which camp you fall under, it’s an enduring mystery that will keep people guessing for quite awhile longer, I’m sure, or at least until some sort of behind-the-scenes reference material comes out! Hopefully one day we’ll get an straight answer, but for now we’ll just have to enjoy theorizing!

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  1. School years and business years both start in April and end in March in Japan, so it’s seen as a season for new beginnings. Students graduate in March and start the next grade in April, employees enter their companies as a new hire in April, get promotions in April, retire in March, etc., so it’s basically a cycle that sticks with you for the rest of your life.
  2. The short video clip before and after commercial breaks, generally done once an episode, and which splits the anime episode into two parts, typically referred to among fans as parts A and B; see Commercial Bumper (Wikipedia)
  3. From March 6 to June 12, 1993
  4. This is also a unproven fan theory, but seeing as every anime season leads in with a semi-unrelated storyline and that the anime seasons often start right when the manga starts up on the new plot as well, it seems rather plausible.
  5. A play on words, since hint is pronounced hinto (ヒント) and pinto (ピンと) means to come into focus, or to grasp something. So “Quiz: Get it with a hint” or something similar. See Zojirushi Quiz Hint de Pint (Wikipedia)
  6. See Katsuhiko Takahashi (Wikipedia)
  7.  See Somon Valley R (Amazon)
  8.  See Iriya Azuma (Wikipedia)

17 thoughts on “What is the Story Behind the R in Sailor Moon R?

  1. Hi! Shouldn’t the names of arcs 3, 4, and 5 of the manga be listed as Infinity (Mugen), Dream (Yume), and Stars (It was only called SAILOR Stars in the anime)?

    • Thanks for the comment, and the suggestion. Could you let me know where you got those names from? I’m following the names offered on the Japanese Wikipedia page. It was also go to follow (in my opinion, at least) that since the first two arcs are named after their respective villians, that the trend would continue. Also, the “Death Busters” name seems to have stuck and is being used for Season III of Sailor Moon Crystal, so I think it can be considered the official name.

      Still, though, I’d love to see where the listing for those titles came from! They might be the originals before Ms. Takeuchi changed her mind, or something.

      • I believe those were the words that prefaced the individual chapter titles, so it seems logical to take those as the titles for each arc as a whole. If we were naming them all after the villains, then wouldn’t the last one be called something like “Shadow Galactica”? Or are you saying that the villains can also be considered Sailor Stars?

        On the other hand, the Tokyopop releases named the fourth arc “SuperS” and the fifth arc “StarS”, so there may be precedent for pulling in the anime titles in some way.

        • Hmm, I guess it could be argued in a multitude of ways, particularly going for the “whatever the first title was for a given season is the name used” response. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be many solid sources on a hard and fast rule to what the names were for each of the arcs of the manga. However, the names I posted in the article are the ones most commonly used by Japanese fans on the internet, and show up pretty universally in all Google searches, so I’d say the list is fairly safe to say as the “de facto” list, as far as Japanese Sailor Moon fans are concerned.

          Wikipedia on Sailor Moon’s Story

    • Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the idea of “Returns” for one reason alone — “returns” isn’t a word you see often in Japanese written in katakana. I can’t think of many anime, manga, books, or movies that use it in the title, and especially not old series. So of all the options for words Japanese viewers (and kids!) would be aware of, it sounds kind of unlikely.

      Romantic also seems weird, seeing as there’s nothing specially romantic about the season. o_O Revenge would be weird.
      It really is a mystery!

  2. The second season of Himouto! Umaru-chan and kindachi case files is also entitled ‘R’. However, they’re all recent ones. Compared to ‘R’, the more elusive one for me is ‘SuperS’. It’s just so weird and couldn’t possibly make sense for any interpretation……

    • I’ve always just read the second “S” as a design choice and not actually an abbreviation, meaning that it’s just plural. So we go from:

      Sailor Moon → Sailor Moon R → Sailor Moon S(uper) → Sailor Moon SuperS → Sailor Moon Sailor Stars

      So we’ve got Super (just Super Sailor Moon) followed by Supers (i.e., all the Sailor Soldiers are now super, thus we have supers). The Japanese also pronounces it as “Supers” and not “Super S.”

  3. The s in Sailor Moon S stand for Super , So does Sailor Moon Super S stand for Sailor Moon Super Super? Naoko, that makes no sense!

    • It’s simply a stylized Supers, as in plural (since the rest of the Sailor Soldiers also become Super).
      Technically it’s also pronounced as “Supers,” though I still slip up even now and call it “Super S” by mistake.

      • The logo was initially written as “Sailor Moon SS” (still pronounced as “supers”, much like the S in “Sailor Moon S” is pronounced as “super”); there’s at least one CD album that was released with the old version. It was changed after only a few episodes, so the video releases had the new logo from the start. That’s probably why it looks the way it does.

        • A lot of early toys were still marked with the older SS logo (probably because they entered production before the series aired). They… quickly realized that was a bad idea.

  4. I think it’s similar to the titling of most modern manga/anime in the early 2000s, (Re:Zero, Re:creator etc.)
    Which could actually mean in different ways but usually means ‘Reboot’ or something.
    Though since it wasn’t prevalent during the 90’s, this was kind of a variation on that matter hence, the suffix “R”. Though this is just my idea.

    In addition, why the next season was named “S” is well… what comes after “R” in the English alphabet…? LOL… okay that was a bad take. Guess we still have to speculate on it all until an official answer is given!

  5. I think the R(omance) name fits even with the first 13 episodes as so many of those episodes involve the love rectangle between Usagi, Mamoru, Ail and En.

    Also I think R(ibbon) came from the fact that the ‘R’ in the logo is literally made from a ribbon

  6. Back in the 90’s when there was a full blown Sailor Moon boom in Poland, I remember multiple magazine articles mentioning that R stands for Romance for the Ail & Ann arc and Return for the Black Moon part. I have no clue about the initial source of that information though…

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