Why Do the Sailor Soldiers Call Out Their Attacks?

What happens if Tuxedo Mask eats too many burgers? He gets a Moon Spiral Heart Attack.

What happens if Mamoru eats too many burgers? He has a Moon Spiral Heart Attack.

If you try to sit down with a friend – or worse, older family member – who knows absolutely nothing about anime, in my experience at least, one of the first questions you’ll get asked is “Why doesn’t the enemy just attack them while they’re doing the stupid poses?”

To be fair, it’s actually a pretty legitimate question for ask, especially for the uninitiated who are used to western superheroes who just throw out attacks and utilize their special powers without calling attention to it.

So today we’re going to take a look at why the Sailor Soldiers call out their attacks, and whether or not there’s any meaning behind the poses they do!

Love and Beauty Shock

Love and Beauty Shock

Though the attack phrases were still very much a part of the manga, it’s a bit harder to gauge whether or not the Sailor Soldiers also need to assume certain poses in order to attack since there’s obviously no motion on page. I’ll leave that interpretation up to you, dear reader, but my belief is that they probably do make poses to attack, though they’re probably less involved than the anime.

The easiest and quickest response to this question of why they call out their attacks would be to say that it’s because Sailor Moon is heavily based on the tokusatsu formula,1 which is pretty well known for its absurd attack names and action poses. That’s probably one reason why kids on the playground love it so much.

But are these attacks just a way to make a cool gimmick for kids to imitate? Is it a trick to cut down on animation time and save money? Are the phrases even necessary to perform the attacks?

Well, my cynical friend,2 while I can’t answer the first two questions – though could you really blame the producers if the answer to them was “yes”? – I can answer the third.

We’ve actually seen on several occasions in the series that it’s not necessary for the Sailor Team to perform their moves or shout out their attack phrase in order to attack. Makoto, Minako, and Rei all show this in the final showdown at D-Point,3 though there are plenty of other occasions.

Makoto doesn't mess around

Makoto doesn’t mess around

So if they don’t need to call out their attacks, then why do they?

This is all a part of a Japanese safety standard known as Point and Call (指差喚呼; shisa kanko),4 method for improving safety by requiring a person to physically indicate what they are doing in addition to physically pointing in the direction they are looking in order to make them focus on the task at hand.

The concept was first put into policy by the Kobe Railway Administration back in 19135 and exploded across Japan from there, before moving out to Taiwan, China, Korea, and other parts of Asia.

While this is most typically seen in pop culture in the context of the train industry,6 with the conductors and station staff waving their arms about wildly and shouting out phrases as the trains come and go, it’s actually pretty common throughout a lot of Japanese life.

JR conductor showing off Point and Call

JR conductor showing off Point and Call

Anecdotally, I had to indicate verbally and point out every direction I checked when getting a Japanese driver’s license, and they encourage you to do it even at home. Also, when going through CPR training in Japan, they tell you to shout out each step to keep track of what you’ve done and what you need to do next.

Since you’re putting in all this effort, is it actually effective?

Yes, and very much so.

In 1994, the Railway Technical Research Institute put this to the test7 by having workers perform a series of 100 tasks using either:

  • No vocalizing or pointing – 2.38% mistakes
  • Vocalizing only – 1.00% mistakes
  • Pointing only – 0.75% mistakes
  • Vocalizing and pointing – 0.38% mistakes

In case you had any doubts in your mind about the efficacy of pointing and yelling while you carry out mundane tasks – yeah, it works. In addition to forcing you to focus on the task at hand, it also helps avoid getting ahead of yourself and the human tendency to take shortcuts.8

So what does safety protocol have to do with thunder crashes and moon tiaras?

Well, everything really.

While occupational safety is one of your last concerns when unleashing death upon your opponent, you have to admit that it must take a high degree of concentration to focus these powers into the highly directional attacks that you see in the series. Indeed, in the times where you don’t see them go through the motions (such as the aforementioned battle against the D-Girls), the attacks are unfocused blasts of energy.

"I got this, guys..."

“I got this, guys…”

Secondarily, and especially with regard to sentai series, I think you could make a good argument that the call out their attacks also as a way of keeping the other members aware of what’s going on – much like a SWAT team member would shout when his room is “clear,” or a basketball player would yell that she’s “open.” If I know a Fire Soul is blowing through, I would probably act different.

So, what do you think of all this? Do you think that the special attacks are just an artifact of Sailor Moon being an anime, or do they actually serve some sort of deeper purpose? Something else?

Obviously, there’s no right answer to questions like this, but it’s nice to think there’s some sort of deeper purpose!

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  1. See Tokusatsu (Wikipedia)
  2. As a writer, you can easily put words into the mouth of the reader. My apologies if you weren’t thinking this.
  3. See episode 45
  4.  See Pointing and Calling (Wikipedia)
  5. See pp. 259-262 of the Kobe Railway Administration’s Train Conductors’ Manual
  6.  See JR Gestures
  7. See a summary of the results
  8.  See the necessity for pointing and calling

27 thoughts on “Why Do the Sailor Soldiers Call Out Their Attacks?

    • I think I can comfortably say that most of use have thrown at least one or two Moon Tiaras in our lifetime. =D

      The transformations, on the other hand, those don’t work out so well for those of us without a keen sense of balance. Too much spinning!

      • haha, some of the transformation sequences are kinda impossible to replicate unless you’re super flexible 😛 (Esp when moon sticks her leg up in the Cosmic henshin XD)

          • This whole thread had me cracking up.

            And I was one of those kids on the playground mimicing the attacks. Supreme Thunder was always a tricky one….

          • The real question is: was it more embarrassing to just do the moves and not call out the attack out loud (leaving those around you wondering what’s wrong with you), or to go all in and shout the attack?

    • I can’t even swim without throwing a few “Shine Aqua Illusions” at my friends or into the empty air.

  1. From what I’ve managed to put together, and bare in mind this just my interpretation. That as well as being rooted in ancient martial arts, calling out your attack somehow puts a bit more energy into it. Like psyching yourself up, or a momentary adrenaline rush.
    In certain sports, yelling or roaring can give you a bit more power. Such as shot-putting.

    Which leads me to wonder. What was the first Anime or Tokusatsu to popularize the attack calling trope. The earliest I can think of is Kamen Rider.

    • Glad you asked! =D

      I actually researched this – seriously, I live for this stuff – and found the earliest known reference, but it wasn’t relevant to the article so I left it out.
      The earliest reference to a 必殺 (hissatsu) technique is Nemuri Kyoshiro from 1956.

      Possibly pre-dating that is the 忍法 (ninpou) magic used in the Edo-era novel Sawada Ten Braves, but since I’m not sure I’d make too much of this connection.

  2. Another awesome article! Thanks! I had thought about all of this before, always explaining they do this in fast motion and the anime just makes it seem slower like Matrix, you know, for us to enjoy the movements. But this is great information to add to my explanations in the future haha. The work-as-a-team part, yelling “here come’s the ocean blast, move away!”, so the other Sailor Guardians are not harmed. And the cultural knowledge about Japan is great too! Thanks!

    • For the transformations especially, I think the slow motion (for the sake of the viewer) thing makes a lot of sense. I believe on several occasions they’ve been attacked immediately after transforming (though I don’t have any episode numbers off the top of my head), so it doesn’t make sense that the enemy was standing around and waiting for the Sailor Team to finish up before striking.

      I know lots of other people explain it away as a sort of magical force-field around them, or that they teleport elsewhere when transforming (hence the multi-colored, space-style background), but I feel like this is something that would have to be addressed it if were the case. I mean, if you’re invincible in the field of battle, don’t you think someone would mention it, or Zoisite or someone would have tried to attack?

        • Whenever I hear the words “Japanese TV” and “science” put even remotely together in a sentence, I die inside.
          I’m sure this article/program had something interesting to say, not doubting that! But Japanese TV is so wildly inaccurate and unconcerned about facts that it’s quite hilarious. =p It’s 95% old wives tales and baseless rumors.

          Just a few weeks ago, they had a guy in a doctor’s coat on screen talking about how you need to be careful of standing outside in the rain, or you’ll catch a cold.
          Another fun gaffe – a popular TV program in Japan went on to tell the audience that the moon doesn’t rotate. They “forgot to research.”

          I know this is totally off topic, but just a fun FYI about Japanese news reports!

          • “But Japanese TV is so wildly inaccurate and unconcerned about facts that it’s quite hilarious. =p It’s 95% old wives tales and baseless rumors.”

            Sounds a bit like Fox News in that respect.

            If we’re going of topic, I’m wondering if you are familiar with this “interesting” clip.

          • You know, for the longest time I thought that was some sort of gag video made in Japan and then got picked up in the US. But nope — it was totally a legit program that ran on Fuji Television titled 英会話体操Zuiikin’English (English Aerobics Zuiikin’English), and ran in 1992.

  3. Yeah as far as the transformation time I’m pretty sure that 3×17 pretty much answers that, we see Neptune transform from Haruka’s perspective and it’s pretty much instantaneous. A big flash of blue energy/light envelops her and transformation done in under 2 seconds (about the same time it takes Haruka to de-transform in 3×26 ) with no visible posing, waves crashing, or outfit appearing piece by piece. We see something somewhat similar in 5×04 when Usagi turns into Eternal Sailor Moon from the perspective of her friends with her being covered in a big pink glow and transforming far quicker than normal without most of the feathers/posing typical of her sequence (although we still get a portion of the traditional sequence slowing things down). It happens again even more likely in real time in episode 5×06 where she instantaneously transforms in under 2 seconds with a flash right before she does whatever she does to Nehellenia. Other examples of instantaneous transformation are 1×28 where Ami, Rei, and Makoto are contacted by Usagi on their communicator, she tells them a monster has appeared and by the time she completes a second sentence that she needs them there, they have already transformed when they reply to her. Tuxedo Mask also does an instantaneous flash of light transformation in one of the early episodes before Mamoru knows his own double identity.

    There are also plenty of times that the Senshi are already in the process of being attacked when they transform. One of the most obvious is of course the elevator scene in 1×34 where Zoisite’s fire is already hurtling at her where no way did she have nearly 40 seconds until it reached her from the time she decided she had to transform! Another example is 5×29 where the Three Lights transform as Tin Nyanko launches her attack and are done and able to counter it before it hits. Sailor Moon has also transformed in the same instant that the two attacks meets (she doesn’t get a sequence).

    Of course none of this rules out that they don’t still in fact teleport to another location/dimension which doesn’t follow the same rules of time/space as normal. I mean after all if we are saying that it takes only about 2 seconds to actually transform real time then we have to look at positioning before and after transformation. So scenes such as 3×33 where Ami has been knocked to the ground by Viluy at a distance near Haruka/Michiru and starts transforming while still basically laying down, only to be standing upright just a few feet away from Viluy when she is done. Or the opposite effect like 5×17 where Rei is knocked down by her cousin and barely dodges a short distance away to stand by Usagi. Both are within a yard of the Phage when they start to transform only to then be much further away when they are done and doing their intro speech. Another potential example is 1×03 where Usagi is still flying through the air from the impact of the youmas attack when she starts to transform. Before the dust has even settled she is standing facing her enemy. So did her momentum stop and shed recovered that quickly on her own or did the transformation itself reposition her? Even scenes like 3×18 where Usagi and Chibiusa are seemingly in front of the heartsnatcher by the trees when they start to transform only to wind up on the other side behind it on top of the playground equipment for their speech post transformation. Chibiusa’s transformation sequence for much of “S” is also interesting to note on its own. Extremely quick in that she is just covered in hearts, the background goes pink, and her normal clothes just instantly become her senshi ones from the center out…but in this instant one other thing happens and that is her pose also instantly changes without any transition in this flash. Again would certainly seem to fit with an alternate space/time concept. There is of course one more thing to consider regarding possible teleportation/dimension shifting during transformation and that is episodes 2×05 and 4×24 where Usagi and Ami respectively are sucked into different dimensions where they chat with Queen Serenity/altAmi and emerge transformed back in the real world…
    Plus considering that the Senshi seemingly summon/send objects they are touching to/from somewhere else like obviously transformation rods, Sailor Moon’s weapons (remember she even kept the Moon Stick after detransforming), their civilian clothes (not even just standard transform/detransfrom but in 5×25 Rei/Minako were apparently able to re-summon the video-game cosplay outfits they had on while still transformed as Mars/Venus!) , and even just random stuff they were holding pre-transformation such as the daifuku Usagi is holding pre transformation in 1×30, then not holding, then holding again to offer Rei before they disappear one more time until the end of the battle. So if they can move other objects to and from this other dimension/space at will does it not make sense that they could indeed potentially enter it themselves in order to transform? Likewise we know that together they can teleport great distances, and that Tuxedo Mask (the sorta Earth senshi) can teleport short distances on his own (like when he teleported in front of Sailor Moon from standing behind her to intercept Zoisites attack in 1×34), I’m pretty sure we also see him start to teleport during his involuntary transformation sequence. So if Tux can do it, then it seems not unreasonable that the others could potentially as well and it would certainly explain their propensity for getting to high places unnoticed for their intros (or Usagi getting below the stage that fast in 2×10) as well as always being able to arrive to conveniently help each other out at the right moment in battle when they weren’t seemingly nearby before and would otherwise need blind luck to know where to go.

    Also for the record the transformation energy is indeed apparently tangible, and so the energy barrier theory although technically unnecessary due to the short time of transformation and potential teleportation also seems plausible. Best example here is 4×27 where we see that the mere act of starting to transform obliterates the vines that were holding Makoto and Minako. Plus of course when Usagi first goes Super Sailor Moon in 3×22 the mere act of transforming snuffs out all of Eudial’s fire near her. There are probably a few others but too tired to think or check right now…

  4. it never bothered me that they called out their attacks, but why nobody mentions here how silly/ridiculous they sound? i mean “venus love and beauty shock” or star maker’s “star gentle uterus”? really?? :’D

    • I guess part of that is that the attacks are all in English, so they sound somewhat exotic to a native Japanese speaker — problem even more so to junior high school kids who are just starting to learn English.
      There’s a fun Japanese blog that does literal Japanese translations of the attack names, and the author comments on how dumb they sound in Japanese.

    • Thanks for the comment! I’m always happy to hear that at least some people enjoy reading about these rambling research projects.

  5. Looks like I was half-right! I had always headcanoned that it was a way for them to focus their energies when attacking. It’s interesting hearing about the cultural aspect of it as well.

    I’m also glad I’m not the only one who used to go around yelling these things out. I remember I would always yell “MOON PRISM POWER!” every day before I got dressed for school (complete with holding my hand up, lol), and that when I got home I would throw around a frisbee yelling “MOON TIARA MAGIC!”.

    • I know that attack and transformations are pretty common in anime and super sentai shows, but I have to say that one of the (many) things that Sailor Moon did oh-so-well is that the attacks used in that show were just SO. DARN. CATCHY!

      • YES! I’ve seen a lot of anime and super sentai series throughout the years, but no transformation and attack calls have managed to beat Moon’s for me. They almost have a sort of musicality to them, with how well they roll off the tongue.

  6. Late to the party and don’t mind. It’s pretty reminiscent of AD&D, as spells generally had a Material, Verbal, or Somatic component required in order to cast them. This was 2nd Edition, it carried over to 3rd and 3.5; anything beyond that is not my realm to know.

    So your material aspects are a requirement for actual transformation. For attacks in the manga, Venus had her belt, Jupiter her tiara generated lightning rod, and of course Sailor Moon for her tiara and numerous rod/staff collection that helped to generate/focus the attack. The Outers stayed the same, their talismans/World Ending Items stayed the same for both manga and anime.
    Moving to the 90s anime, Jupiter’s tiara lightning rod stayed and still, the armory of things for Sailor Moon seemed to be present. Crystal … hehe ok I’ll leave that be.

    That leaves you with Verbal and Somatic components. You said words to focus the energies required (pending your class said how and where they came from), and sometimes you had to do a gesture to accompany it. Sailor Moon and company do the same, from the shouts and whispers to the waving arms, pointing fingers, and the whole host of other ways you can move your limbs about.

    Were super sentai shows and anime influenced by Dungeons and Dragons? Always a possibility.

  7. My first thought was that this could have something to do with cultural aspects like certain Japanese/Asian politeness rules (You have to be honest/sincere, introduce yourself properly, face an enemy eye-to-eye instead of just shooting them out of the dark/hidden ‘like a coward’ to ensure a ‘fair’ fight etc.) or so.

    Is that why many people over there seem to prefer blades (Katanas, Wakizashis etc.) to modern firearms?

  8. They are to me, incantations. Just like spells. When interrupted (An attacking Sailor Moon using Princess Halation) it won’t “activate”. This also to me, explains why later in the series, Sailor Moon waits until she has a chance to send the finishing blow. The incantations must be completed for the spell to work. So when they have been interrupted, it was stopped. There’s plenty of instances where the incantations weren’t finished and nothing happened.

  9. I recently came up with the same idea as Alexander. It makes sense to me for them to call out their attacks and perform a particular dance or motion with their arms or body, regardless of the anime tradition, because they are magical girls.
    It’s like witches in western culture traditionally call out a spell and perform some motion in order for the spell to work.
    And like he says, I like how that explains why often Sailor Moon needs the enemy to be weakened before she can use her finishing move, because her magical “performance” takes more time.

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