When talking about an anime/manga series with a well-developed and passionate fan base, you often have to keep in mind that a lot of the “mysteries” out there are probably already common knowledge to fans of the series.
The rabbit imagery in Sailor Moon is a great example of this. If you asked a random person on the street about the connection between rabbits and the moon, you’d probably be met with a blank stare. A seasoned Sailor Moon fan, however, could talk your ear off about the lunar-dwelling mochi-makin’ rabbit.1
No, if I’m going to be true to my word of working to “unravel Sailor Moon mysteries,” we’re going to need to go deeper, and far more obscure.
That’s why we’ll be talking today about the cats that made Sailor Moon possible… and just why the heck Ms. Takeuchi chose cats in the first place! I hope you’re emotionally prepared for this, because things are about to get down right pawsome!2
The simplest and most obvious answer regarding when Usagi, Minako, and ChibiUsa all had feline companions is probably that cats are popular pets, and that in a country with small home sizes, it makes sense that smaller pets would prevail.
You wouldn’t be entirely wrong, either. Cats are big business in Japan… but have typically always trailed behind dogs as the pet of choice by a fairly large margin. In the 23 years since the Japan Pet Food Association started keeping statistics, 2017 was the first year in which there were more cat than dog owners.3
Nope, it turns out that there may be an even better explanation for the Moon/cat connection. And, as with many other Sailor Moon mysteries, it looks like we’ll need to hit the Greco-Roman mythology books in order to find our answer.
Remember how we previously discussed that Luna, Artemis, and Diana are essentially the same person? Okay, not the same person per se, since that would have made it pretty hard for Luna and Artemis to conceive their lovely baby kitten, but more that they were all essentially different names used across different mythologies to refer to the same goddess.
Well, that fact once again comes into play here. Specifically, regarding one of the tales of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon.4
In the story of Typhon,5 a serpentine giant in Greek mythology who tried to overthrow Zeus, all of the gods but for Athena and Zeus fled for Egypt to escape his awesome might. Afraid that Typhon may try to chase after them to finish them off, each of the gods transformed into a different animal to conceal their identity.
Artemis, in case you haven’t guessed by now, chose to take on the form of a cat while hiding out in Egypt.6
While this may sound like a mere coincidence, there’s actually more going on here than meets the eye.7
You see, Artemis didn’t just transform into any old cat. Artemis transformed into Bastet, the cat-headed Egyptian goddess of protection.8 Stories like this were a convenient way for the Greeks to maintain their original narrative, while still adding in the stories and adventures from other cultures.
Over the nearly 300 years that the Greeks occupied Egypt, the identity of Bastet slowly merged with the stories of their own moon goddess, Artemis, until ultimately the two came to be viewed as the same entity.
And that, my friends, is how the goddess of the moon came to be intertwined with the image of cats!
So for those of you playing along it home, the whole saga looks a little something like this:
Luna/Diana ⇔ Artemis ⇔ Bastet
Now, did Naoko actually plan all of this out when she was creating the world of Sailor Moon? Well, that’s hard to say. Obviously a cat is a pretty convenient pet since it doesn’t stretch the limits of believability to have Usagi’s animal companion running around outside on her own. But considering how much research Ms. Takeuchi did into her names and that Artemis was actually the first cat to appear in Codename: Sailor V, it’s possible this was a factor.
As the magical girl genre began to evolve into the late 90s and early 2000s, more obscure pets began to become the norm. I’d almost love to see what Usagi and Minako’s companions would be if Sailor Moon were created today!
- See Moon Rabbit (Wikipedia) ↩
- What, did you think that was a claw-ful pun? I disagree — I think it was downright purr-fect! You should know that I can’t turn down the paws-ibility for a radi-claw word play. ↩
- See ペット数、猫が犬を初めて逆転 飼い主の数は犬が多数 ↩
- See Artemis (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Typhon (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Typhoeus ↩
- ROBOTS IN DISGUISE! ↩
- See Bastet (Wikipedia) ↩