Why Isn’t Minako’s Name Associated With Venus?

Sailor Venus and Her Forlorn Namesake Planet

Sailor Venus and Her Forlorn Namesake Planet

One of the first things anyone with even a passing interest in learning Japanese will notice is that the names of all of the (inner) Sailor Soldiers is that their names follow a pretty noticeable pattern. Even if you haven’t studied Japanese, you’ve likely read about their names and explanations thereof in countless numbers of profiles online. For the sake of a quick summary, the Japanese no (の) serves as a possessive and can mean something similar to “of” or signify ownership, much like ” ‘s ” in English. In this way, the last name of each of the characters makes a nice wordplay which signifies not only elemental affinity, but the celestial object they’re tied to. Though the English names for the planets are gaining traction in recent years, traditionally the other inner planets (excluding Earth) and Jupiter have been referred to by elements, which ties back into the elemental affinities of the inner soldiers.

Mercury to Jupiter, in Japanese

Mercury to Jupiter, in Japanese

Here you can see the Japanese names of the planets: Mercury (水星; suisei – water planet), Venus (金星; kinsei – metal planet), Earth (地球; chikyuu – earth globe), the Moon (; tsuki – Moon), Mars (火星; kasei – fire planet), and Jupiter (木星; mokusei – wood planet).

The same characters are found in the name of the Sailor Soldiers: 月野うさぎ (Tsukino, Usagi – Usagi/Rabbit of the Moon), 衛 (Chiba, Mamoru – Mamoru/Protector of the Earth), 水野亜美 (Mizuno, Ami – Ami of the Water), 火野レイ (Hino, Rei – Rei of the Fire), 木野まこと (Kino, Makoto – Makoto of Wood), and 愛野美奈子 (Aino, Minako – Minako of… Love). As you can see, Minako breaks out of this system in a pretty dramatic way and leaves us with the question of just why is it that Ms. Takeuchi decided to not follow the pattern with her in the first place.

The Sailor of Love and Beauty

The Sailor of Love and Beauty

The easiest answer, of course, is simply that Minako came first, as we talked about before in her debut in Sailor V, approximately half a year prior to her appearance in the Sailor Moon manga. Minako is the self-proclaimed Sailor Soldier of love and beauty, so it only makes sense that she has a name that matches, right? Obviously her character being created prior to the rest and before Ms. Takeuchi herself had the naming patter down clearly plays a roll in this, but there are several other reasons which likely played into the decision.

For one, in order to name Minako after the planet Venus (and to conform with the naming system of the rest of the Sailor Soldiers), she would have had to name her 金野美奈子 (Kin’no, Minako). This name unfortunately doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue in Japanese, and obviously is a little too close to comfort with Makoto’s name. The other reason is that, through a clever play on kanji readings, it turns out that Ms. Takeuchi already did manage to sneak Venus into her name, all without having to bother with using her last name to do it.

As you may know (and probably noticed above), Japanese kanji can generally be read at least two different ways, very often more. These readings are referred to as their on and kun readings.1 Taking Ami’s name, for example, her last name Mizuno (野) contains the same character as Suisei (星). The same applies to Hino (野) and Kasei (星), and Kino (野) and Mokusei (星). Well, if one were to take alternative readings for Minako‘s () first name, you can actually pronounce her name as Binasu2 – the older Japanese romanization of the English name “Venus.”

So while it might not be apparent on the surface, it turns out that Ms. Takeuchi did manage to slip the the planetary reference into Minako’s name! It’s amazing how far she really thought these things through…

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  1.  See the nice write-up on On’yomi and Kun’yomi (Tofugu)
  2. 美 as in 美人 (びじん); 奈 as in 奈良 (なら); 子 as in 様子 (ようす) = びなす

16 thoughts on “Why Isn’t Minako’s Name Associated With Venus?

      • I think we just noticed it odd that in the introduction picture to this article, Sailor Venus is making what in the West is considered to be an obscene gesture with her left hand. I do realize that this hand gesture can be completely meaningless or have a different meaning altogether in other cultures. I’d be interested to know the origin of the picture in question and why she was drawn that way. Depending on the context of where the actual picture of her came from, she could simply be using her middle finger to point at something behind her (it does appear a bit tilted toward something in back of her).

  1. I feel you should have mentioned that 愛野 itself is still a reference to Venus, but rather than to the Japanese name for the planet, it takes after the Roman god the English name comes from – Venus, the goddess of love, beauty, passion etc. 🙂

    • This is true. Thematically her name still fits her character, but it definitely follows a different pattern from the rest of the team.
      Good catch!

  2. Well, 金野 can also be read as Kanano, Kaneno, etc. so I do not think hard pronunciation is not a reason to break the naming system.

    • Also Konno, though most of the pronunciations for the last name don’t quite fit with the simple and clean (reference intended) naming pattern in Sailor Moon.

  3. In retrospect, one thing that really saddens me is how much of this nuance was lost in the Itaian dub of the anime, which is the version I grew up with. Of course they removed the surnames entirely (except for Hotaru, considering her father mostly went by hus surname, and weirdly they kept the original Tomoe) and changed most of the names. Except for Usagi, who became “Bunny”, most were pretty random, just sounding somewhat similar to the original, but a couple were downright stupid: Mamoru and Minako became “Marzio” and “Marta” respectively, which are both derived from Mars and make no sense whatsoever. Minako’s case is particularly jarring because we’ve got our very own, Italian “Mina”, which is also the name of a very famous Italian singer and would have tied in perfectly with Minako’s idol aspirations. The only one who made any sense was Rei, who became “Rea” (as in Rea Silvia, Mars’ lover who bore him Romulus and Remus, but given how careless the translators were with the other names, I’d chalk it up to pure dumb luck).
    Interestingly, while the Solar System Senshi changed civillian names but kept their Sailor names, the exact opposite happened to the Starlights, who kept their Japanese-sounding names but became the totally random “Sailor Star Regina del Coraggio” (“Sailor Star Queen of Courage”, Star Fighter), “Sailor Star Polvere di Stelle” (“Sailor Star Stardust”, Star Maker) and “Sailor Star Cuore del Futuro” (“Sailor Star Heart of the Future”, Star Healer), which were nonsensical AND an absolute mouthful. Why they had to do somthing like that is totally beyond me, considering the English names were fine with the rest of the Senshi…

    The villains had it even worse: with the exception of the seasonal big bads who were more or less unscathered, only the Black Moon Clan and the Amazon Trio kept their mineral-related names (translated more or less directly to their Italian counterpart), while the Shitennou and Kaolinite were changed to totally random, mundane names, the Witches Five and Amazoness Quartet got bad romanizations that made their respective mineral and asteroid connections less evident, and the Animamates were all over the place with the stupidest inventions they could come up with (in order, Sailor “Cuore di Ferro” = “Iron Heart”, “Fantasia”, “Vulcania”, “Metallia”, wtf?!). Like, I totally get why Galaxia was so frustrated with them: go and try to sound menacing with such absurdly named minions.
    I find that particularly jarring because they were freaking aliens and whatnot, they didn’t need to have mundane names, if they were just named after minerals they would have been all the more threatening!

    • That was interesting to read, I like finding out what other countries named them.
      In North America, our first dub was pretty random, too, though some of the names made sense, I guess.

      Usagi became Serena Tsukino (Bunny in the manga)
      Ami became Amy Anderson/Mizuno
      Rei became Rei Hino
      Makoto became Lita Kino
      Minako became Mina
      Mamoru became Darien Shields
      Haruka became Amara (though the outers all kept their same names in the manga).
      Michiru became Michelle
      Setsuna became Trista Meioh
      Hotaru stayed Hotaru, but her last name was pronounced “Toh-moh” instead of “Toh-moh-ay”.
      We never got the Star Lights, but the manga kept their surnames and changed their first name to “Light” instead of “Kou”.
      Perhaps the stupidest change was that Serena and Darien had the same names in their past life, though later they did correct this.

      As for villains:
      Beryl stayed the same.
      Metalia became “The Nega Force”
      Jadeite= Jedite
      Nephrite= Nephlite
      Zoisite= Zoysite
      Kunzite= Malachite (supposedly because Kunzite was copyrighted and because of some bad English swears that sound similar depending on the pronunciation)
      The Dead Moon just translated the gems to English words, which was fine.
      But the sisters were BUTCHERED.
      Koan= Catzi
      Berthier= Bertie
      Petz= Prizma
      Calaveras= Avery

      The Witches 5 used the same names as Japan, slightly modified, which made them lose their connections to gems. I think this was done by mistake:
      Eudial= Eugeal
      Mimete= Mimet
      Tellu= Telulu
      Viluy= Byruit
      Cyprine= Cyprin
      Ptilol= Petiroll

      Season 4 also had a ton of mistakes, probably due to little research and a bad script provided by Toei:
      Amazon Trio and Zirconia were fine and the same.
      The Quartet though:
      Palla-Palla= Parapara
      Ves-Ves= Besubesu
      Jun-jun= Same
      Cere-cere= Celecele
      and Nehelenia was the same in the anime, but oddly called “Nephrenia” in the manga.

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