Ms. Takeuchi’s near obsessive attention to detail is just one of the many things that make Sailor Moon such a great series. No matter how many times you watch or read through it, there’s always something new to discover.
And yet, despite her impressive ability to get even the tiniest details right on matters ranging from mythology to astronomy — and in a pre-Wikipedia world, no less!! — even Ms. Takeuchi messed up at some pretty crucial points.
… or did she?
Today we’re going to take a look at the ancient Moonie myth surrounding just what is going on with the Great Pluto and Saturn Mix-up. I hope you like Greco-Roman history, because things are about to get mythical!
While I’m sure many of you are already chomping at the bit, waiting to get down to the meat of this important matter, allow me a moment to provide some of your fellow readers who may not be totally up to date on Sailor Moon drama with what the whole Pluto/Saturn mix-up is all about.
The whole problem with Pluto and Saturn basically boils down to the fact that most of the Sailor Soldiers are, at least to some degree, themed after the Greco-Roman gods that their respective planets are named after.
- Minako is the self-proclaimed goddess of love, much like her namesake1
- Makoto is big, powerful, and even throws lighting — just like Jupiter!2
- Haruka and Michiru have power over the sky and the sea respectively, not much unlike the gods Uranus and Neptune3
Not only do Setsuna and Hotaru buck this trend, they actually are reversed. And that’s what has caused so much confusion over the years.
Where have I heard about a Senshi like that before? Oh, right! Sailor Moon‘s galactic reset button!
Hotaru’s planetary inspiration, Saturn, is named after the Roman god of the same name.5 While Saturn is essentially an anthropomorphic representation of time.
Now that we’ve got all the background out of the way, I’m sure you can see the conundrum we’re facing here.
The general crux of the argument is as follows:
Setsuna is not technically the incarnation of Pluto, but rather identifies herself in the manga as the daughter of Chronos — the Greek god of Time.8 In the manga, she even uses an attack known as Chronos Typhoon, further strengthening her legitimacy as the Sailor Soldier of time.
Back in Hotaru’s camp, well, it turns out that a lot of historians much smarter than me are still not entirely convinced who Saturn’s Greek counterpart is: the aforementioned Chronos, or Cronus, an entirely different Greek god who is considered to be the patron of the harvest.9 Cronus is often depicted with a sickle, Hotaru has a glaive. One reaps crops, the other reaps souls. Practically the same thing!
While I think that these explanations make for compelling reads, to me they read more like solutions that have been shoehorned in to explain the unexplainable.10
Rather than being an explanation, Setsuna’s multiple connections to Chronos actually just compound the problem. It does nothing to explain away the Pluto/underworld/death connection and simply reinforces her ties with time, which is something we never doubted to begin with.
While it is true that Sailor Pluto’s attacks often reference elements of the underworld — Dead Scream and Dark Dome Close, specifically — that still seems pretty minor when you consider the major thematic elements of her character.
Things aren’t much better for Saturn, either. While the Cronus explanation is certainly interesting, it doesn’t help explain Hotaru’s character at all. Sailor Saturn has no attacks, abilities, or character elements that reference a harvest.
Many people make the argument that the Silence Glaive is a stand-in for a scythe, but not only is that connection loose at best, but it ignores the fact that Ms. Takeuchi originally envisioned Sailor Saturn with a decorative wooden staff.11
So now that I’ve finished discussing why I think everyone else is wrong, I should probably explain what I think is going on. Was Ms. Takeuchi crazy, or did she know a lot more about mythology than we’re giving her credit for?
Personally, as boring of an answer as this is, I think it all boils down to convenience.
You have to remember that Sailor Moon was a constant work in progress, and that pretty much every story arc was written as if it were the last. I highly doubt she knew that the series would be renewed until she was already well into her story. So when she started the Black Moon arc, she had no way of knowing that there would ever be a Sailor Saturn, or any of the dozens of other Sailor Soldiers for that matter.
My best guess is that when Ms. Takeuchi decided that she wanted to tell a story about time travel and needed to come up with a new Sailor Soldier, she opted to go with Pluto instead of Saturn for both practical and thematic reasons.
Practically speaking, if she had created a Sailor Saturn this early in the story, it would lead fans to the natural conclusion that more Sailor Senshi were coming up next. By making her the Soldier of literally the furthest planet12 in the Solar System, it neatly avoids that problem.
Thematically, it also simply made sense to have the sixth Sailor Soldier be from Pluto. As I just mentioned, it was the planet13 furthest away from the sun, which added to the character’s sense of isolation and loneliness. It also put her out closest the Black Moon, who made their home on Nemesis, a theoretical “rogue star” at the outskirts of the Solar System that could possibly be to blame for all of the Earth’s major catastrophes.14
Once Sailor Moon was renewed for the Infinity arc and Ms. Takeuchi was charged with creating a Sailor Soldier to serve as Sailor Moon’s counterpoint in the struggle of life vs. death, I imagine she just made the obvious choice of pairing off Uranus and Neptune and then going with what was left — Saturn.
So, where does this all leave us?
Well, as much as I’d love to reach some sort of dramatic conclusion on the Pluto/Saturn debacle, I honestly just think it’s a case where Ms. Takeuchi chose storytelling over references and internal consistency. She was writing the story as she went, and it made the most sense to tell a time traveling story with a Senshi from Pluto at that time. As the story continued, she already used Pluto and Saturn was her next best choice.
That’s not to imply that she’s infallible, of course. But for all of the intense research Ms. Takeuchi was known for, it’s incredibly hard to believe that she’d make such a rookie mistake, especially when there are easier explanations.
But that’s just my opinion! Why do you think that Hotaru and Setsuna don’t fit in with their planetary themes? Or do you think that they do? I’d love to hear different takes on the subject down below!
- See Venus (Mythology) (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Jupiter (Mythology) (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Uranus (Mythology) (Wikipedia) and Neptune (Mythology) (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Pluto (Mythology) (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Saturn (Mythology) (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Why are the themes of Sailor Saturn and Sailor Pluto switched from their mythological counterparts? ↩
- See Pluto and Saturn Switched? An interesting argument. ↩
- See Chronos (Wikipedia) ↩
- See Cronus (Wikipedia) ↩
- Like 90% of what I write here on the blog…? ↩
- See page 49 of the Sailor Moon Material Collection ↩
- … at the time. Poor Pluto… ↩
- Yeah, I know… ↩
- See Nemesis (Hypothetical Star) (Wikipedia) ↩