Anyone who has been a fan of Sailor Moon for any significant amount of time – which, let’s face it, is probably most of you – has probably been more than a bit perplexed about what was going on with the naming of our two lead villains in the third story arc of the series.
While Queen Metalia was pretty easy to understand and Sailor Galaxia really didn’t leave anything to the imagination in the name department, the seemingly random numbers that came up in the Infinity arc always left me puzzled.
So today we’re going to take a look at one possible explanation for why Ms. Takeuchi chose those numbers, and what significance they may have on the story. I hope you join along!
I’m going to be honest with you (and don’t worry, I usually am), the whole issue with the number nine appearing in both Mistress 9 and Pharaoh 90’s names has been an obsession of mine for awhile now. It’s not something I exactly dedicated a lot of time to, but every once in awhile I’d try to come at it from a different angle just to see if I could find any sort of clue about what the names could mean.
And let me tell you, I tried a lot of different things. You’d be amazed at just how many ways there are to try to derive meaning from numbers. Some of the theories that went nowhere include:
- Japanese homophones for the numbers 9 and 90
- 9 can be pronounced as ku, which is also a reading for the kanji 苦 (ku; pain, suffering, anguish),1 but this theory doesn’t pan out since the manga and anime clearly pronounce it as the English “nine,” and it doesn’t explain Pharaoh 90.
- Adding or subtracting numbers
- Unfortunately 9 = 9, and 9 + 0 = 9. So nothing gained.
- I found absolutely nothing noteworthy in English or Japanese numerology sources that would imply these numbers are significant.
- Egyptian history
- Maybe the 90th pharaoh that was discovered was somehow significant? Unfortunately, it looks like pharaohs weren’t exactly plainly numbered in order of discovery (darn!!), and the actual number of pharaohs keeps changing as more are found, so that’s unreliable.
- … and more than I care to remember
Hopefully this gives you a bit of an insight into the process I go through when researching articles. Start with a question, propose a theory, test your theory, find out it’s wrong, and try again.
But we’re not here to talk about how many hours I waste on my work commute to solving Sailor Moon riddles. We’re here to talk about how Mistress 9 and Pharaoh 90 got their names! Or… at least how I think they got their names.
You see, one of the important themes in this story arc is the concept of a Daimon, and Daimon eggs. While we mostly think of them as the silly, erotic, or bizarre monsters of the day in the anime Sailor Moon S season, Daimon were pretty serious business – especially in the manga. The Witches 5 themselves were considered to be perfect Daimon, in fact.
So why am I suddenly rambling to you about Daimon? Glad you asked!
Daimon, or daemon, can be traced back to ancient Greek mythology, in which they were seen as lesser deities or guiding spirits.2
The more I read about them (for another article in the works, but let’s not worry about that), they more I wondered if perhaps Ms. Takeuchi also looked to Greek history for other things about the Infinity arc. Like, say, the names of our lead villains?
As it turns out, there was an ancient Greek practice known as isopsephy, which as Wikipedia explains it:3
[it is] the practice of adding up the number values of the letters in a word to form a single number.
Naturally. Without bogging you down with a lot of details, basically you take the order of each letter in the alphabet, assign it to a number, then add up all those numbers. A simple English example would be as follows:
Fire Soul = (6 + 9 + 18+ 5) + (19 + 15 + 21 + 12) = 105
But, you know, using the Greek alphabet.
So that got me thinking: what if we looked at it the other way around? Do these numbers, 9 and 90, actually tell us something?
Much to my surprise, not only is there a letter with the value of 9 (as we’d expect), but there is another letter with the value of 90 as well. Huh – this is starting to get interesting!
Starting with Hotaru’s evil alter-ego, the letter corresponding to the number of 9 is Θ (theta).4 And since we’re all experts in Greek symbolism, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but theta was considered the symbol of death.
The symbol of death, you say? Now where have I heard that before…?
Mistress 9 = theta = the symbol of death. My, what an interesting coincidence!
Moving on to 90, its corresponding letter is Ϙ (koppa/qoppa),5 a letter that fell into disuse many generations back, but stuck around as a number. While it’s hard to find any clear-cut meanings to koppa, the consensus seems to be that it’s related to “piercing a veil,”6 and that “veil” could be anything from truth, to ignorance, to darkness, and more.
This one is a little less cut-and-dry, but considering how well Mistress 9 seems to match up, that you could make a decent argument for Pharaoh 90, and that we don’t even know what Ms. Takeuchi’s references said about the meaning of koppa, I’m willing to accept this as a “definitely possible” theory.
Unfortunately, I still don’t have the definitive answer I’ve been looking for, but I think I’m reasonably comfortable with this explanation that I can at least put it aside for now.
But I’d love to know what you think about this idea. Too much guessing and not enough proof? Maybe you have another idea about what the numbers refer to? Please let me know!