Who Was Responsible for Rei’s Change in the Anime?

Okay, whose fault is it??

Okay, whose fault is it??

I know that I’ve talked at length about how Rei was portrayed quite differently in the anime and manga, and I’m sure at some point you might be wondering when the commentary on this issue will end.

Well, depending on your opinion of the issue, I have some good or bad news for you — today is not that day.

That’s right! We’ll be looking at an exclusive interview done in the November 1992 issue of Animage1 between the magazine’s editorial staff, Rei’s voice actress, and the top production crew for the Sailor Moon anime.

Come for the trivia, stay for the drama!

Happy to be the center of attention

Happy to be the center of attention

In the past, I’ve already discussed the special relationship Animage seemed to have enjoyed with the Sailor Moon production. In addition to some exclusive early interviews, the magazine also held multiple contests for fans of the show which were commented on by the production team, received exclusive art, and even got some of their fan-submitted catchphrases in the anime itself.

The November 1992 issue poses an even more interesting case. Here, we find a Rei-centric feature titled “Special Operation: Plan to Skyrocket Rei’s Popularity” (特別計画 レイちゃん人気倍増計画). The feature setup reads like it’s something that the magazine came up with in order to increase Rei’s popularity, but the more you read through the interview, it starts to sound like it was setup with the anime staff to get the word out to readers.

The feature’s goal is summarized concisely right at the top:


And for those of you who haven’t spent 13 years of your life learning Japanese:

While Ami and Usagi’s popularity keeps rocketing up, Rei (Sailor Mars) just doesn’t seem to be all that popular.
We can’t let that stand! We’ve gotten Rei’s voice actress, Michie Tomizawa, together with the main staff to have a debate about Rei in order to fix this situation. We call this the “Plan to Skyrocket Rei’s Popularity.”
Do you think we can get her even more popular than Ami?

Before we go any further, it’s probably worthwhile to add a little context.

Back in early 1992, shortly after Sailor Moon hit the airwaves, Ami was literally figuratively killing it in the ranking department. She was nearly unstoppable in monthly character polls. In the November 1992 issue where this takes place, Ami was ranked first place, Usagi fifth, and Rei at… 17.

Rei rarely broke the top 10 (note: this is July 1994 scan)

Rei rarely broke the top 10 (note: this is July 1994 scan)

So it looks like the magazine took it upon itself to do something about this. And/or was asked by the animation studio to do something about this. But let’s avoid accusations of journalistic impropriety.

This feature is less of a straight-up interview, and more of a “prompt an interaction with the interviewees.” Speaking of interviewees, the following people are featured:

  • Michie Tomizawa (Rei’s Voice Actress)2
  • Iriya Azuma (Producer)3
  • Kazuko Tadano (Character Designer)4
  • Kunihiko Ikuhara (Director)5

The initial prompt from the magazine’s editors basically starts off citing an earlier interview with Tomizawa,6 where she expressed annoyance at Rei being treated as a “gag” character. She then continues on with this to say that Rei started off as really cool, but later on she’s become a bully and they focus on scenes where she looks stupid.

A goofball?

A goofball?

Azuma chimes in to agree, saying that he originally imagined Rei as a hot-headed, pro-active, and overall positive girl with the power of Mars. Tadano agrees that her original design was that of an active young girl.

Addressing what changed, Tomizawa goes on to state that, looking back on it, it must have been Ikuhara who had been the one pulling the strings here. The magazine backs this up here, pointing out that majority of the “gag” episodes involving Rei up until that point were, in fact, directed by Ikuhara.7 The scene where Rei was stepped on by Mamoru, where Rei was standing outside an anime studio, and where she uncharacteristically pinched Ami in episode 26 were all directed by Ikuhara.

Suddenly — and this is what makes me thing the whole “interview” was directed from the beginning — Tomizawa makes a reversal and says that she receives a lot of fan letters saying that they like how Rei flies off the handle, or how she can be so serious and a goof at the same time. Maybe, she goes on, Rei isn’t so bad like this.

Iriya posits that this was Ikuhara’s goal all along, and Ikuhara responds to say that he’s just been trying to make Rei as his ideal type of woman.8 He further elaborates to say that it’s almost impossible not to love a straight-man character with a bit of a silly side.

The rest of the interview carries on a bit like a PR piece, where each member of the staff reinforces that they like Rei this way, and that Ikuhara’s portrayal makes her a lovable character. They also go on to say that the voice actresses’ personalities have had quite an unintentional influence (which raises some interesting implications about what could have happened to Usagi!), but they all come to the conclusion that these changes to Rei were engineered by Ikuhara.

A romance never meant to be…

So, I’m gonna be the first to say that I wasn’t too surprised by the results of this. From everything I know about Ikuhara’s outlook on directing, he has very passionate ideas on characters and how they’re portrayed, so him seeing Rei as a more interesting character when shown in a different light isn’t much of a surprise.

It is, however, interesting to me to see it directly addressed, and to see that (on the surface, at least) Michie herself wasn’t a fan of how Rei was shown in the anime. I’d love to see commentary from any other of the voice actresses over how their characters developed throughout the series!

With that out of the way — which is your favorite version of Rei? Manga, anime, musical, PGSM, Crystal, other (DiC or other foreign dub)? I’d love to know!

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  1. See p. 25 of the November 1992 issue of Animage
  2.  See Michie Tomizawa (Wikipedia)
  3. See Iriya Azuma (Wikipedia)
  4.  See Kazuko Tadano (Wikipedia)
  5.  See Kunihiko Ikuhara (Wikipedia)
  6. Though it’s never directly stated — and I haven’t read it fully — I think this is probably in reference to an interview in the October 1992 issue of Animage
  7. This feels a lot like a Scooby Doo unmasking scene here. “So it was Old Man Ikuhara that had been making Rei so goofy!” So tempted to put a Scooby Doo image here…
  8. We’ll ignore the fact that she’s 14.

35 thoughts on “Who Was Responsible for Rei’s Change in the Anime?


    • True – it feels a bit disingenuous to refer to Rei as completely different characters, when in reality it’s just a different take on the same character.

      • Completely changing multiple parts of her personality really isn’t a “different take” though… I’d call Usagi’s small personality changes a different take. This is…….. really, hugely changing the original character… on purpose.

        • Interesting side note — do you think the straight-up ripping off Minako’s characterization was on purpose, or just coincidental and elements were moved from Minako so she didn’t overlap with Rei?

          I would normally give the benefit of the doubt (Hanlon’s razor: never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity), but I find it oddly telling that none of Rei’s musical talents or desire to be famous/an idol ever appeared until Sailor Moon R or so. It does kind of feel like he repurposed a lot of Minako’s characteristics.

          • What I’d like to know is who made the anime from the episodes like “Sailor V Makes the Scene” & “Secret of the Luna Sphere”.

  2. Ack. *Of course* it was Ikuhara… Who else…

    I don’t mind anime!Rei at all, but the personality change itself always bugged me. In the manga, you get the impression that she was specifically designed as an inversion of Minako, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it, but the anime is another story entirely…

    It never had a “Sailor V” “pilot”, and Minako was introduced very late into the story (also, she is more serious in her first appearance in “Sailor Moon”), so I suppose the anime staff was just working with what the had at the moment, and their attempts to make the characters more lively and interesting didn’t really account for future developments. This would explain why this version of Rei eventually wound up becoming Minako’s “rival” instead of a complementary character. (Though, if the live-action version is any indication, these roles are not mutually exclusive!)

  3. Weird enough in a series based on a lot of astrological references Rei in the anime is closer in personality to an actual Aries I’m sure that Naoko secretly likes this version of Rei… I dare to say that the PGSM version of Rei is kind of a mix between manga-anime. 🙂

  4. Well, you know full well I can’t resist a Sailor Mars article, so…

    It’s good to finally hear some of Michie’s own thoughts on the subject, though it’s a bit tricky to interpret what her meaning was here, or indeed how genuine it actually was.
    But the impression I’m getting is that she desired to push more of Rei’s badass no-nonsense attitude similar to how she was shown in her debut ep. As well as show more of her caring side. Which I think she got her way with anyway. Perhaps the positive feedback helped change her stance. Interesting to learn that they received fan mail.

    Personally I thought Rei leant herself well to both serious and comedic roles. Though I certainly never viewed her as a ‘gag character’. A foil yes, but I never felt she was being singled out in any way compared to the rest of the main cast.
    Likewise I always saw Ami as more of the straight man type, especially in the early part of classic when they were a trio.
    But I feel those comedic moments were necessary to prick her ego now and again, in order to bring her back down to earth. It would have been more annoying without them.
    Since it’s been brought up, I have to agree regarding the pinching scene, that was rather OOC. But I chalk that up to them not having a full grasp of their personalities by this point.

    As for Ikuhara’s…(we’ll diplomatically call it) fondness for the character. While he may have been the initial trigger for these changes, it’s still clear to me from this interview and the previous one you translated, that a number of people had a hand in crafting her personality.
    But this is probably why I preferred Sato a bit more. His successor was something of a cryptic oddball, with a tendency to make stuff up and troll people. So I generally take anything involving him with a grain of salt.
    While in all fairness there was no chance of matching Ami’s runaway popularity, this does seem to confirm that she was a favourite among the staff. Given there was a gap between their first appearances in both versions, perhaps it was felt that the cool-distant-beauty with no apparent flaws would prove unengaging and quite dull for the target audience? Because honestly I did find her pretty forgettable there. Mainly because Naoko never really did anything interesting or noteworthy with her character, especially since the bulk of focus went towards the royal family.
    After her introduction, she quickly faded into the background, where her duties basically boiled down to having visions, and sensing ‘bad things’. A role that was gradually passed to other characters such as Mamoru. And Crystal chose to take that further by removing her personality altogether, rendering her virtually interchangeable with much of the cast. So I’m grateful for them giving her a much more active part Though I Kind of wish they’d shared some of that with poor Makoto.

    I don’t know exactly what it is about Rei that endears herself so much to me, more so then any other anime character I’ve encountered. But it’s more like a combination of various big and little things.
    Having to grow up with these supernatural abilities that led to others shunning her. Her passion and ambitiousness. Loyalty and love for those close to her, even when they get on her tits. Her desire to organize things. Her ‘closest’ interests. Her cute little moments of vanity. Surfing on shopping trolleys. Sticking up for Koan right after she tried to kill her. The wide variety of facial expressions. Whenever she’s grumpy or embarrassed. Running across an entire city at a mere whistle blow. Pretty much every single thing she does in that episode with Nanako in the fourth arc. Her plans and fantasies that sometimes backfire. Her outfits such as the famous pink overalls. The understated level of maturity she exhibited when Mamoru left her for Usagi. And then there is of course her wonderful friendship with the later, which only went from strength to strength over the course of the series.
    I also have this habit of developing sympathy towards characters I feel get an undeserved level of flak from fan bases. And there are so many infuriating fabrications and misinterpretations about Rei. As well as all her negative aspects being blown completely out of proportion, while her actual admirable ones get played down or ignored entirely.
    I for one really do not agree to these flimsy accusations that she stole traits of Minako. Why should one character not be allowed to dabble in the interests shared by another? That’s kind of why friends become friends.
    Ami and Michiru both enjoy swimming. Haruka and Makoto both practise martial arts. And Minako and Usagi play racing games.
    She sings in one episode, and suddenly she’s ripping of Minako? What about the fact they both wear high heels and have almost exactly the same hairstyles?
    Heck PGSM had Rei sing as well (better then Ayake in all fairness), and not to mention the fact that she plays the piano in the Manga. So Rei possessing musical talent to a degree is pretty evident across various continuities.
    And just to point it out again, Mamoru (along with Michiru) also demonstrate extra sensory abilities. So she hardly holds a monopoly on that either. Naoko is just as guilty of doing it as well.

    But that aside, I really do love this version of the character. However it’s a love that developed over time the more I learned about her. She ended up surprising me in ways I didn’t expect to be.
    And I think that’s the main problem really. A lot of people just don’t give her a chance, and write her off based on first impressions only.
    The Rei we meet at the beginning is different from the Rei who gives her life at D-point.

    Overall I just find her to be fun, vibrant, and surprisingly quite human at times. A character who demands your attention whenever she’s on screen.
    She has her faults (despite how much she doesn’t want others to see them), but her heart is in the right place, and her intentions are never malicious.
    Other then perhaps putting more of an emphasis on her career aspirations. Along with bringing in the feud with her father (which could be implemented quite easily with little alteration), there really isn’t anything about her I would change.

    So yes…To sum it up…



    Just thought I’d mention that in case you failed to notice.

  5. Personally, I like PGSM Rei the most because you know… Rei x Minako but I also love DiC Rei because she sounded so rediculous with the things she would say.

    • Every time I watch PGSM, I’m always in awe of just what a great job they did in casting actresses that really seemed to have a great understanding of their characters.
      Rei was pretty awesome in that!

  6. I really liked anime Rei. Manga Rei was a little too perfect, anime Rei seems more like a real person.

    • Agreed. Anime Rei definitely has some… over-the-top moments that I think they could’ve done without, like when she gets kinda goofy, but she feels a lot more real to me than manga Rei ever did.

  7. Eh, I’ll always be a manga Rei fan. I was never a fan of how she treated Usagi in the anime, or the angry fire-wielding stereotype. The anime had some great Rei moments, but I felt like a lot of the time, especially in the first season, she was way too cartoonishly mean (and man did I dislike how they created Yuuichirou seemingly just to give her a punching bag).

    That said though, I totally agree that PGSM Rei is probably the best one of all!

    • Personally I find people really exaggerate Rei’s ‘meanness’ in the anime. I understood the character almost from the beginning. And as far back as episode 11 it was clear she cared about Usagi. Plus I find her more down to earth and believable.

      I don’t care much for Manga Rei’s straw misandrist routine anyway, especially after reading Casablanca Memory.

      PGSM Rei is okay, but again the whole misandrist thing just feels forced there even more, particularly since they didn’t even provide a reason behind it.

      • Manga!Rei is not a “misandrist”. She just had a couple of not-exactly-great experiences with men (her father, Kaidou), so it’s understandable that at this point of life she’s a bit wary of men. Must every adolescent girl be lovey-dovey and head over heels over some man, anyway? And judging by the artbooks, she looks pretty happy with Jadeite.

  8. Very interesting- I’d heard that one particular director was responsible for a lot of Rei’s characterization, and I can imagine the other directors running with it. It was generally fairly consistent throughout the series that Rei would be the first one to tease or chide Usagi, though the first season seems to get the lion’s share of Rei’s grouchy screaming. It might also be the funniest, however.

    I have a similar attachment to grouchy, angry female characters, so I get where Ikuhara’s coming from. It’s just…. ODD… that one person could alter a character so much from the source material. It’s inevitable given how little time they had between the manga & anime that a character would change a LITTLE, but Rei is vastly different. I generally PREFER “Grouchy Rei”, but I can see why fans used to any other version would be annoyed. It can also come off as inconsistent when they cycle back and forth between “Rei is mean” and “Rei & Usagi are the closest of the girls”.

    • I couldn’t get a copy of the 1992 issue, so the image in the post is a scan from July 1994 to give readers a sense of what the rankings looked like.

  9. Damn you, Ikuhara. Sometimes I love you, sometimes I want to slap you senseless. But I do feel it’s unfair to place TOO MUCH of the blame on him.

    TBH, I like Anime Rei’s closeness with Usagi, but I really hated their childish bickering. They really could’ve handled that better. Oh, and don’t even get me started with Yuuichirou. Ugh. They just had to give the Does Not Like Men character a boyfriend, and a really dumb/annoying one to boot. That’s the one thing that kills Rei’s heroic/tragic scene for me in the finale, saying she should’ve kissed him. No.

    • I don’t really care much for the ‘Does Not Like Men’ routine anyway if I’m perfectly honest.

    • nope, you’re not alone, I always like 90’s anime Rei more. Manga version of her… I mean… kinda boring like every other Senshi/ Guardian except Minako. Naoko didn’t give a damn about them, except Minako.

  10. I love anime Rei and it surprises me to see comments from people upset at Ikuhara for changing the manga character.

    The fiery, temperamental personality fits a character like Sailor Mars perfectly. But she’s not an overly cartoony wild character who’s always angry and confrontational, not at all. She’s a well rounded character who has an amazing relationship with Usagi. She can be like the serious manga character, but she’s human and can get frustrated as well, and she still likes to have fun sometimes.

    The manga character is just less relatable. She’s serious and intense, and that’s about all. No wonder she was less popular than the others. She did show hints of her less serious side… and the anime producers just brought out a little more of that aspect of her personality. I think it was a great decision.

    • I get where Naoko was trying to go with manga Rei by making a cool and distant character. And it probably would’ve worked in an anime or in a longer form manga where the characters had room to “breathe” and engage in more slice-of-life action. However, with how quick the manga had to rush from one story element to the next, Rei’s personality just made her feel very one-dimensional to me.

      She does have some shining moments, of course, and I think PGSM did a better job playing with her personality. But it was still a shame how it worked out in the manga, I think.

    • Yeah, I prefer the meaner, grouchier Rei, too. I also feel like she kind of represents the fans who would find Usagi too childish or annoying, too. A “Grumpy Dwarf” character who is more practical and thinks the main character is dumb, lol. There’s real appeal there!

      Though I think her attitude is why Anime Rei is so much more popular in the West than in Japan.

  11. I prefer the manga version & I think PGSM nailed it. She was serious, focused on her own interests, and had a bit of an ego – just like many “Red rangers” or “red/fire themed” Japanese superheroes and very much like every Aries I know. You can tease them about how they outwardly look, but their goals and passions are serious and self-justified.

    Very different from randomly grouchy gag and inconsistent character that she had in the anime. I was able to watch the original episodes with subtitles and I was always struck by how flighty unreliable she was – she’d come through in the end but after her foibles put the mission in jeopardy or there was really no choice. And in the latter situation, ANY of the senshi would fight to the end and make sure to win. I think the anime episode where she stole the Moon wand was the most damaging to my younger eyes: I never looked at her favorably and I recalled how every other senshi knew she was in the wrong. Just…not the best way to showcase her.

    The only thing that redeemed her was that I think she was actually characterized more as a “Black Ranger” sentai team member in the anime – more blunt and obviously a foil or competitor foe the main leader. From that interpretation, I could kind of see what they tried to do but I think the anime writers really just didn’t know how the other senshi in the manga would ultimately fill certain roles so some beloved character beats from the anime’s earlier seasons end up being a little navel gazing when compared to the inner dialogue and resulting development Takeuchi could give them in the manga. Casablanca Memories blows away Rei’s anime arc with much less space. That story even featured a bonding moment over broken hearts with Makoto which really brought her maturity into focus.

    Her character made complete sense in the manga but I think ALL of their characters were more mature in the manga from the outset. In contrast, the anime often shoehorned them into more easily digestible forms. In the end, the editor in me just views anime Rei as meandering and a typical anime “hothead”. Not very flattering and she had her moments but I’m not surprised her popularity was so low.

  12. I prefer PGSM Rei, she’s mostly like in the manga, but with more depth. Anime Rei is often annoying to me. I don’t like it when anoyone bullies Usagi. The anime is often like “Hahaha, look how stupid Usagi is! She’s a crybaby, so bullying her is funny, right?” It’s the same with Chibiusa.
    In the manga Rei is just the calm, mysterious Miko, and many people seem to find that boring. But I actually really like it.

  13. It might be a little too late for me to comment, considering this is already almost four years old, but I feel the need to thank you for the content. I just finished the 200 episodes of the original anime series and have been awestruck by the quality of what you post here. Thight and engaging writing which remain playful without taking away from the focus, references to all the important mentions made and original quotations in japanese which brings trustability to all the facts conveyed, and overall, a delievery of the ideas that makes the text flow seamless from paragraph to paragraph.

    And, of course, it is very insightful! It’s great to be able to find so much good content about the anime “backstage”, how ideas changed and conflicted during adaptation, and how the production team were involved in the process. Specially when it is concerned to the roots of Ikuhara’s works as a director, whose experience on the series was carrier-defining — doesn’t take more than a glance at SuperS’ finale or S’ mid-season plot point to see many of his future ideas initially take shape. And having a source to this kind of content which is well-written and feels very trustworthy is great.

    I think I can’t make any meaningful complaint aside from “I wish they were longer!”. The topics are so interesting and you make such a good job of chaining one post to another through those links-rabbit-holes that I see myself always quickly having tons of tabs of the blog open, wishing I could read about something just a little bit more.

    If you happen to read this, I hope you continue the great work!

  14. I prefer PGSM Rei.

    As a kid, I found anime Rei, both original and DiC dub, as super mean. I never really liked her.

  15. I still think the change was for the better and that the “cool” (lifeless) manga Rei was not fit to be Sailor Mars. Obviously the way miss Takeuchi based so much of Sailor Mars on Rei being a shrine maiden was a horrible blunder, but at least in the anime that was partially remedied by making anime Rei’s personality more in line with what Mars represents in mythology.
    I don’t even know what manga Rei was supposed to represent except a series of definitely not empowering misogynistic manga tropes.

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