There’s one thing that’s always been bothering me about the introduction of ChibiUsa and, by extension, the introduction of the setting behind Crystal Tokyo and its monarch, Neo-Queen Serenity. I don’t mean “bother” in a bad way, of course. More like one of those niggling1 little doubts that always seems a bit off. In a series that is ostensibly about female empowerment, contains many female leaders (Queen Serenity, Queen Beryl, Queen Metalia, Neo-Queen Serenity, Sailor Galaxia… I could go on), and stars a main character that is infinitely more powerful than her romantic interest and male counterpart, why did Ms. Takeuchi decide to have Usagi give birth to ChibiUsa and assume the throne as Neo-Queen Serenity at the age of 22?
Before we can comment on whether this is even noteworthy or not, though, we first need to take a look at what Japanese society was like in 1992 when it came towards marriage and childbirth trends. In 1992, the average age of (first) marriage for Japanese women was 26.0 years old2 while the average age of the mother for her first childbirth was around 27 years old.3 Though not unheard of, mothers between the ages of 20 to 24 made up just 15% of the total births at that time. So we definitely know, from a Japanese society stand point at least, that Usagi being married and pregnant at 22 would definitely be outside social norms.
The next obvious question, then, is if there’s something significant about the age of 22. The age of majority for the vast majority of the world is 18,4 though under Japanese law Usagi would have been an adult at 20. Though the US (and other countries, I’m sure) have staggered ages of gaining rights – such as drinking at 21 – in Japan everything is 20 with the exception of driving, which is at 18 years of age.
But, that’s not to say that something interesting doesn’t happen when Usagi hits 22. Something that, in fact, actually plays into Ms. Takeuchi’s tale of female empowerment: the average age of graduating from university in Japan is 22/23 and is the age when a student gets a job and enters into society – a so-called shakaijin (社会人; a full-fledged member of society).5 Considering that Usagi is 14 years old and in the eighth grade at the beginning of the series, that would put her in her senior year of university when she was 22 (and graduating the following spring, at 23), assuming that since she gave birth to ChibiUsa on her birthday we take her age prior to the birth and not after (giving birth on her 22nd to 23rd birthday and not her 21st to 22nd – wow Sailor Moon is complicated!).
By putting Usagi’s official age of becoming (Neo-)Queen of Crystal Tokyo at 22, this means that she very well may have attended university and also avoids the awkwardness of her having taken some boring office job (human resources? business development??) prior to assuming her position as rightful heir to the throne.
Last, and probably most significantly, is what year it would be when Usagi was 22. Going back to our original calculations of her being 14 at the start of the series:
|Year in School
|Eighth Grade (Jr. HS)
|Ninth Grade (Jr. HS)
|Tenth Grade (HS)
|Eleventh Grade (HS)
|Twelfth Grade (HS)
And that, right there, may be one of the biggest reasons for the choice behind Ms. Takeuchi picking 22 for the age when Usagi becomes queen (and has ChibiUsa). Assuming a relatively normal timeline – which the manga did a much cleaner job of than the anime – that would mean that the beginning of Crystal Tokyo would be in the year 2000. When you think back to all the hype going on for Y2K in the late 90s (and the end-of-the-world theories throughout the late 20th century), this makes a great choice for the beginning of a new king… queendom.
Taking a look at it from this perspective, it actually makes quite a bit of sense for Usagi to be 22 for all these major life changes. Though the university part is all a theory on my part, I’m glad to see the possibility that Usagi did pursue further education… and also avoided having to suffer through a nine-to-five day job!
- Yes, I say niggling in my daily life. See the definition here ↩
- See marriage statistics at the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare ↩
- Unfortunately, the only data I could find was 26.7 years old in 1985 and 27.5 years old in 1995; see 1992 childbirth statistics at the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare ↩
- See Age of Majority (Wikipedia) ↩
- See the definition of 社会人 (Jisho.org) ↩