What Was the Inspiration For the Three Lights’ Names?

The Threeeeeee Lights

The Threeeeeee Lights

I’m sure you must have figured this out by now, but I absolutely love trivia — the tinier the detail, the better. Anything I can learn to extract just a little more detail about the world of Sailor Moon is awesome to me, because it helps make the story all the more “real.”

Even more so than that, learning these tiny little details helps keep this series fresh. Despite having watched and read through the various misadventures of the Sailor Soldiers countless times already, every time I learn some new little bit of information, I want to go back through the story and see if it changes how I view the characters.

In the interest of shedding a little light1 on Sailor Moon‘s fifth and final season, today we’re going to talk about the Three Lights — Seiya, Yaten, and Taiki — and the inspirations behind their names. If you’re also a huge fan of boy bands that are actually girls bands in disguise, then you’re going to want to stick around for this one!

Sometimes I forget how tiny Yaten is!

Sometimes I forget how tiny Yaten is!

Just to be clear, when we’re talking about the Three Lights’ names, there are actually three names that we need to look at here for each of the characters:

  1. a first name;
  2. a last name; and
  3. a Sailor Starlight name

Today we’ll actually only be taking a look at 1 and 2 here (their first and last names in “human” form) and I’ll be saving 3 for a later date, since that’s going to be a far more intense article.

Interestingly enough, the discussion over their first and last names isn’t quite as easy as you’d assume it to be, due to a little issue we have in how fans refer to the characters. While fans in both Japan and the West tend to refer to the characters by their first names (e.g., Naru, Unazuki, Motoki, Haruna, etc.), there are certain characters that for one reason or another are almost exclusively referred to by their last names (e.g., Umino, Urawa, Amano, Wakagi, etc.).2

Does anyone remember my first name?

Does anyone remember my first name?

The Three Lights happen to fall into this latter category, but that’s due to the simple fact that they all have the same first name. So the proper name order for the Three Lights (in First Last name order) is: Kou Seiya, Kou Yaten, and Kou Taiki.

Though fans are mostly clear on this issue now, for years there were bizarre “facts” running around about how these three were brothers, almost as if they were some sort of Japanese Hanson tribute band.3 In reality, it’s quite the opposite. They’re three unrelated young men (… or women) who all happen to have the same first name. A first name that, by the way, means “light.”4

The characters we know as Seiya, Yaten, and Taiki are three boys (… or girls) named Light. Or, put another way, they are three Lights.

Thus explaining where the band name for the Three Lights comes from!

The long-lost Fourth Light -- Dr. Light

The long-lost Fourth Light — Dr. Light

So what we’re left now with is explaining away where their last names come from, which is fortunately not all that bad… kinda.

The name “Seiya” (星野) consists of the kanji for star (星) and plain/field (野), meaning a plain or field of stars, i.e., a star-filled sky. This seems like it makes enough sense at first glance, so I’d say I’m fine with this one.

The name “Yaten” (夜天) is itself a normal word that appears in dictionaries, meaning “night sky.”5 Not a lot of mystery here!

The name “Taiki” (大気) is not only also a word you’d encounter in a dictionary, but it’s actually a fairly common one at that. Meaning “he who has a giant forehead” “atmosphere,”6 this is the most puzzling name of the group. While I can totally see Starlight connection with the field of stars (Seiya) and night sky (Yaten), this whole atmosphere connection is a bit out of left field.

… or does it? The names actually make a lot more sense when taken in context of their full names (in last, first order), much like those of the rest of the Sailor Soldiers:

  • 星野光 (seiyakou)7 = the lights of the stars and nebula; a star field
  • 夜天光 (yatenkou)8 = the light seen in the night sky on a moonless night
  • 大気光 (taikikou)9 = the light given off by the upper atmosphere, otherwise known as an airglow10

I have to hand it to Ms. Takeuchi for her ability to give her characters creative names that not only suit their personalities in the stories, but also manage to fit in some meaningful puns while she’s at it. Not only are they members of a band named “Three Lights,” but they’re literally named after three types of light that you can observe in the night sky.

So many lights in this picture

So many lights in this picture

In case you ever found yourself wondering where the Three Lights’ got their names, why they all have the same first name, or just what the heck was going on with Taiki’s last name, I hope this helped shed a little light11 on the matter for you!

As for the Starlights’ names (Star Fighter, Star Healer, and Star Maker), that is unfortunately a bit more of a complicated matter and something I’ll have to save for another article. In the mean time, however, if you have any theories on where these names come from (or especially a theory on what inspired the names of their attacks!), I’d love to hear from you down below!!

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  1. See what I did there? Pun totally intended.
  2. Technically, the latter two characters are from Codename: Sailor V, but I’m willing to count it for the sake of this example
  3.  See Hanson (Wikipedia)
  4. 光 = kou = light; see 光 (Jisho.org)
  5.  See 夜天 (Jisho.org)
  6.  See 大気 (Jisho.org)
  7.  See 星野光
  8. See 夜天光
  9.  See 大気光
  10.  See Airglow (Wikipedia)
  11. Pun still intended

17 thoughts on “What Was the Inspiration For the Three Lights’ Names?

  1. Huh, according to the Japanese Wikipedia (page: 夜天光), all three of their names are actual words/terms. Which is a bit bizzare, because this would imply that Seiya’s name containing the kanji 野 is a coincidence (which is why it doesn’t use the same reading as the other senshi names).

    …I wish there was an easier way to search for Sailor Moon characters’ names without finding pages concerning the characters themselves. Anything that’s not a pun tends to be some sort of a reference anyway. @_@

    • Aaaaaand, you’re absolutely right! Totally missed the puns on Yaten and Seiya.

      I’ve rewritten to ending of the names section to reflect that. ^^ Thanks for the comment!

  2. Wow, I always thought “Kou” was thier surname. Thanks for clearing that out.

    • It’s definitely hard to keep track with some anime characters, since the fans almost exclusively refer to them by their last names!

      • Well the use of last names is quite authentic. My boys at hs did it, too, quite often. Furthermore, calling a boy by his first name when being a girl most often implies a relationship. And as there are 3 boys with the same name it makes sense to use the family name and/or some nickname.

        • In this case the use of the last names make sense. I guess my point here is more that it’s interesting how fans sometimes wind up sticking with a first name and sometimes with a last name.

          Motoki vs. Urawa, Yuuichirou vs. Umino.

  3. Well, I learned something new today! I had no idea those were their last names. I have no theories on the attacks. “Serious laser” is kinda ‘meh’ and “Gentle uterus” is just way out there as far as I’m concerned.

    • I had a look at the internet, and a Japanese suggested it could stand for 創造、調和、破滅. In a way the circle of life. And life of mammals starts in the womb, ⚪⚪uterus wouldn’t be that strange. And a laser is a rather cool means to destroy stuff.

      • I’ve seen this theory running around. It’s interesting, but I really don’t see any actual support for it within the series.
        Especially when you consider that 破滅 (hametsu; destruction, ruin) is pretty different from “Fighter.”

  4. It may become clearer if you wrote that these names are actually scientific terms and not just made up words aka Tsukino Usagi or Kino Makoto.

  5. A theory about their Starlights names I once shared with Dies Gaudii back in time (“20+ years fandom” syndrome ^^). Apologize for the messiness of this post, just posting everything I can remember ^^…

    Fighter/Healer/Maker could be related in some ways to the 3 top Archangels :

    > Fighter / Michael : he is the armored Archangel, wielding a “flaming” sword, especially fighting Satan/Dragon, etc. The meaning is “Who is similar to God”. To some extent, he is the leader of the group, and maybe the closest to God. His color is Blue.
    As for his attack “Serious Laser”, the “Laser” though may be somehow seen like a sword of light… Serious is a reference to her “key theme/word” from Artwork material. It may also contain a pun about “Sirius”, the brightest star of its zodiac sign Leo… And to which Michael is sometimes related (although I believe Seiya’s zodiac is designed to “replace” Mamoru in the first place).

    > Healer / Raphael : meaning “God Heals”, the association is very satisfactory, isn’t it ? Raphael is associated with Green color.
    Raphael is also mixed with Israfel in Quran (meaning “The one burning”) so that both of them are coined to horn the beginning of the Judgement Day… “Inferno” could be related to this “burning” meaning. And/Or maybe just because Raphael becomes a very popular character for Italian painters, so the use of an italian word… ?
    As for “sensitive”, either it related to Yaten’s pissing behavior ^^ or to the ability of healing (sensitive parts of your body)… or just to her key word in artwork “delicate”.
    Artwork material also mentions an attack often transcribed as “Star Healer Worm”… As for me, a more logical transcription would be “Star Healer Warm”…

    > Maker / Gabriel : maybe an interesting explanation for this infamous Uterus… Gabriel, meaning “Strength of God”, is actually the very “maker” of God’s deeds, regarded as his right hand. Especially, he delivers a lot of messages throughout all book, the most well known being the Annunciation to Virgin Mary, but similarly to Elisabeth. Yes, he has something with pregnancy, and to some extent the “making process inside uterus”… #Weird ! The fact Gabriel appears as the angel who actually speaks the most, compared to other angels, may also feed the fondness of Taiki for poetry and the inspiration of Dante for her birthday.

    Interesting fact, angels are described as “made of light”, and neither male or female. Hello starlight-themed transgenders !!

    I remember of an objection stating that this theory missed Uriel.
    Well, first, we could also say many other archangels/main angels would be missing.
    But actually Michael, Raphael and Gabriel really stand above all of the others angels.
    I believe they are the only ones clearly named at some point in the Bible. Plus, culture-speaking, a lot of artworks and paintings feature them and their feats. Far more than any other angel.
    The three of them are celebrated on September 29th in Catholic church.

    • That’s interesting, but these three are possibly more connected to the Hindu Trimurti. Though I don’t think this was ever confirmed by Naoko Takeuchi.
      She has used several different religions throughout (Shinto, Christianity (Holy Grail, and tons of other symbolism), Buddhism and this was possibly her attempt at using some Hinduism.

      I hope one day she reveals all.

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