Why Does Sailor Pluto Look Different From the Rest?

Sailor Pluto looks a little... hmm.

Sailor Pluto looks a little… hmm.

Take a look at any lineup of the Sailor Soldiers and you’ll undoubtedly notice that, well… Setsuna – Sailor Pluto – tends to stand out just a bit from the other members of the Sailor Team. But just why is that?

One of the theories I’ve seen thrown around a lot is that Sailor Pluto isn’t Japanese, and that is why she differs in appearance from the rest of the cast. Well, today we’ll take a look at this question and more, and see what Ms. Takeuchi and the world of Sailor Moon can tell us about the Sailor Soldier of Time!

The Outer Soldiers

The Outer Soldiers

So is Sailor Pluto Japanese?

Of course not! She’s from Pluto! What’s more, she lived during the Silver Millennium, which existed hundreds – if not thousands – of years prior to the Japan we know today.1 But that’s not really what you’re asking, now is it?

How about Setsuna, then? Well, since we don’t really know anything about her life or family on Earth, I guess we’re open to interpret this however we wish. But I wouldn’t be so fast to assume that the color of her skin give us the proof we need to say that she’s not from Japan. After all, Japanese anime has typically not been subtle, shall we say, when a character is meant to be from a different country.2 She also has a Japanese name.

Manga Pu?

Manga Pu?

But the most important reason why this shouldn’t be significant is probably the fact that we’re talking about an anime where one of the main characters has pink hair, and nobody bats an eyelash.

While I find Sailor Moon to actually be fairly well-grounded in the real world, all things considered, we do have to accept that when it comes to character appearances, obviously some creative liberties were taken.

Now that we’ve gone way out of our way to explain why Setsuna is probably still supposed to be just as Japanese as our blonde-haired, blue-eyed moon bunny… is there any reason why she looks the way she does?

Fortunately, Ms. Takeuchi took it upon herself to answer that question for us in one of her many informative Punch! comic strips that appeared in the back of the remastered shinsouban editions of the manga.3

But don’t take my word for it. I think I’ll leave it up to Ms. Takeuchi to tell you.

Naoko discusses... Pluto!

Naoko discusses… Pluto!

I wanted to make Pluto a dark Soldier, so I gave her hair and skin a black tone.
That’s about all I remember!

I wanted to write about her unrequited love, so I write about it in Part 2. Sounds a little bit like an affair there, huh Pluto?

So basically, Ms. Takeuchi figured that Sailor Pluto was something of a dark and mysterious character, and thus a dark skin tone and dark green hair would suit her.  Personally, I appreciate the diversity in character designs, so good on her!

But most interesting to me is the side note at the bottom, written by Ms. Takeuchi. Glad to know that even she agreed that Sailor Pluto’s feelings toward the married Endymion were kinda… interesting.

But while we’re here listening to Ms. Takeuchi’s stories about Sailor Pluto, let’s finish up with what she has to say!

More about Pluto!

More about Pluto!

It was really tough to fill in her hair, add screentones to her skin, and draw her rod.
Naoko: So, whoever’d like to do Pluto, raise your hand!
Staff: Silence

For those of you who are like me and have no artistic sense, and thus no idea what screentones are, they’re a quick way of applying coloring or shading to a black-and-white drawing (often seen in manga) to save time.4

Just looking at pictures of the Time Rod makes my heart seize up, so I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to draw. Though it is interesting to see here one of the rare instances where Ms. Takeuchi discusses her having a staff that helped her draw Sailor Moon. It’s by no means uncommon, but it’s interesting to remember that the manga of Sailor Moon wasn’t done entirely at her hands. She probably did the initial line work and touch-ups, but the other details are often done by assistants.

Cool as usual

Cool as usual

So anyway! We’ve gone pretty far off course, but the summary of all this information is probably something like this: Sailor Pluto is intended to be no different than any of the other characters “in universe” – seeing, again, how the Sailor Soldiers live in a world where pink and blue hair are totally normal – but her darker skin tone and hair is supposed to be indicative of her darker personality. Considering how manga is a very visual medium, this is all pretty understandable!

Honestly, I’ve always loved Sailor Pluto as a character, but was always sad to see that she really never got any proper characterization in the anime or the manga.

Since we don’t have much in the way of canon answers to talk about Sailor Pluto / Setsuna’s life, I’d love to hear your theories!

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  1. It’s a bit of a dicey question as to when “Japan” came to be, as you could argue that it’s been Japan since the Nara (710-794) period, or the later date when the country was reunified and many of the boundaries we know today began to get set, around the 1600s under the Tokugawa Shogunate; see Japan Timeline: 1600s
  2. I mean, take a look at basically anyone from Ranma 1/2, or Dr. Slump. Gundam Wing was also pretty obvious.
  3.  See p. 245 of vol. 4 of the shinsouban release
  4.  See Screentone (Wikipedia)

22 thoughts on “Why Does Sailor Pluto Look Different From the Rest?

  1. Funny thing is that she is my favorite Scout (with Jupiter)… maybe because I had my headcanons and all (and one of those is canon now with this article!). The headcanon-that-evolved-to-canon is her feelings toward Endymion.

    Like you, I was always sad to see that she really never got any proper characterization in the anime or the manga. I still hoping for Takeuchi doing that characterization…

    • It’d be great if Sailor Moon Crystal would take a little time in the Dead Moon Circus story arc to add a little more to Setsuna’s character, but unfortunately it seems like they try to avoid straying from the manga.
      At the very least, I guess we have the musicals as an alternate source of characterization for her, even if I don’t really consider them canon!

  2. Thank you for this post! I think it’s cool that she is distinctly different from the others, because really, for everyone to be Japanese is a bit of a stretch. She’s such a great character.

    That being said, the side note about King Endymion! I never wanted to read too much into Pluto/Endymion but it did always seem there was something odd going on in their conversations.

    • It makes Sailor Pluto even more of a tragic character, I guess. Not only is she locked away outside of space and time where she has to watch over the gate for all of eternity, but she’s also fallen in love with a married man.

      Though that does lead to an interesting question of if she fell in love with Prince Endymion (back in the Silver Millennium), Mamoru (in “modern” times), or King Endymion (in Crystal Tokyo). For some reason, I always assumed it was just his future king-ly self, but I’m not really sure if that distinction even matters.

      • I also always thought it was with King Endymion, only. When she is re-incarnated at the present day Tokyo, she don’t show the same atitude towards Mamoru…like that with her death and rebirth she was “cured” from this feeling.
        Prince Endymion seems to not be of her interest either (maybe because he can only awaken 1 unrequited love per time? And we already had Beryl in love for him and pretty jealous bc Endymion was in love with Serenity).

        I guess it was because King Endymion was the only man she has ever interacted in eons. He took time to talk to her, even if briefly. He is a pretty handsome always-young man, gentle, polite….Pluto is a human being (coming from Pluto, okies, but she has feelings!), completelly lonely. She couldn’t help.
        When she is back, at her 2nd life in modern Tokyo, she is not acting the same towards him, bc even if we don’t see her backstory (sadly), she may had been birth into this word, which means at some point, she may has had a father, so man figure at her life. And unless she went to all girl school, she may had boys collegues. She sure have them at collegue. There is a panel at manga where Setsuna is interacting with professors, that are men. She is also a nurse at Hotaru’s school.

        I somewhat relate Pluto X Endymion, to Wonder Woman. When Diana interacts with Steve she is amazed, as she has never had seen a man before. Same applies to Pluto. She may had seen them through the Time Gates, but she never interacted with one. See the paralel I’m poorly trying to explain?

      • I also think it was King Endymion and not really any of his previous identities. For Pluto to have lived as long as she has, I just have trouble seeing her fall for a young Prince Endymion or Mamoru. Maybe I’m wrong. But he probably met her when he was king.

        • That’s true. It’s always been unclear to me just how public the Princess Serenity and Prince Endymion relationship was back in the Moon Kingdom. It’s possible that Sailor Pluto never met him back then.

  3. Strangely, I used to think Setsuna was Indian for some reason. Out of the cast she always felt distinctly the most Asian to me.
    Pluto has always been my personal favourite of the designated Outers. I have to say I also found her to be the most visually attractive out of the core Senshi, with her quiet withdrawn matureness.

    Of course since she unfortunately tends to be back-benched a lot, I’ve been obliged to scrape together every single bit of information about her that I can find. Which brings up some interesting results. Like her fear of cockroaches. And the third arc seems to suggest that she possess some kind of scientific degree.
    Though I could have done without the whole pining for Mamoru/Endymion thing. That felt very random and pointless to the story. Plus there was already more then enough people fawning over him.

    But I guess the main problem for poor Set, is she was pretty much a redundant character after the second arc. I mean, who’s guarding the Time Gate? Even her friendship with Chibi-Usa faded over time.
    Her appearance in the past is never really that well elaborated on. Was she reincarnated as a child, or just popped into existence as an adult. Is she human, or an actual offspring of a deity?
    She also didn’t really fit in that well with Haruka and Michiru’s dynamic. So that basically left Saturn to pair her off with. Though I did like how she acted as a kind of adopted mother towards Hotaru, even if it wasn’t as elaborated on as much as I’d like it too.
    And they’re both quickly (and unflatteringly) dispatched in the endgame of Stars. Not that the Manga was any fairer. 😛
    Though at least some of the Myu’s gave her a degree of love.

    Her ‘ethnicity’ has caused something on a minor controversy, with accusations of some kind of racist agenda to whitewash her going on. Even though there are coloured scans showing that even Naoko drew her with a white/lighter appearance.
    But the Anime never seemed able to settle on a specific tone for her. There were times where she even looked slightly orange, although that could be just a bad copy I watched.

    I can’t say I would have objected to her being fully black, since there are precious few like that in anime (who aren’t stereotyped). Given that Pluto was the ruler of the Underworld, I’m guessing that’s what the ‘dark’ aspect might have been referring too.
    But by the looks of it, and especially with the advent of Crystal. That’s what they’ve decidedly chosen to settle on.

    It’s interesting reading up on this thing the Japanese have with giving their fictional characters all manner of extravagant hairstyles and colours. Much of which stems from their own limited genetic variety, and obsession with western culture.
    Rei for example, represents the most typical and common appearance with her jet black hair. It’s probably no coincidence that she’s the one most associated with traditional Japanese values.
    It’s particularly amusing in the Live Action Series, where the core cast all had to wear wigs when transformed. Yet Keiko Kitagawa needn’t really have bothered.
    Likewise, a lot of the other characters hair is partially intended to reference their own personalities to an extent.

  4. Aditionally, I would love to see a post about whether Pluto died or not when Saturn lowered her Glaive back at the Silver Millenium’s Moon Kingdom. Manga left clear that Uranus and Neptune died then and later they were re-incarnated at present day Tokyo. But what about poor Pluto?

    • Pluto, I’m pretty sure, said that she lived straight on from the Silver Millennium through to Crystal Tokyo, before dying in the future and being reincarnated back in the “present.” However, that itself is an interesting article I’ve been meaning to write about!

      • Yes, that is what I thought, too. In the flashbacks Queen Serenity talks to a far too young Pluto girl about her responsibilities starting that day. So I don’t think that a pre-puterty girl would have fallen in love with anybody. Furthermore King Endymion clearly states that Pluto had been guarding the gate for a very long time which doesn’t sound like she had any out time. And she didn’t get affected by the Black Moon explosion, which is a fairly clear indication that she also lived through the end of Silver Millennium catastrophe. Talks about the gate being outside of time and place second that.

        As for the love thing, I have always felt it was purely unrequited love on Pluto’s behalf. Just because you’re in love with someone doesn’t mean you automatically turn Beryl. I actually had 2 blokes who were in love with me but I wasn’t. I respected them as friends and acknowledged their feelings but there was nothing else I could or wanted to do for them. Endymion seems to be quite similar. They were most certainly not cheating together on Serenity. Neither of them would ever do that to their beloved Serenity. And even though the whole thing was sad, I quite liked it. Besides Usagi/Mamoru and Haruka/Michiru Pluto was the only senshi to be deeply in love with anybody. The Urawa or Yuuichirou thingie was ridiculous.

  5. My favorite characters are the outer soldiers, although I like the inner soldiers as well. One of my favorites is Pluto. But I think the anime and the manga really lost an opportunity to expand on the story of the characters. The only family we see is usagi, and they show Rei’s grandfather, hotaru’s mom and dad, makoto’s parents passed (like mamoru?) and I think ami’s mother. Other than that, neither the manga or anime explore the other character’s backgrounds. Did no one else have family? We don’t really find out. I always wanted to know a lot of things about setsuna. Like did Setsuna always exist and she only awoken as Pluto because her future version died? I wanted to know if she had a mom and dad. Did she never die? Or was her future self a reincarnation. I always thought she was reborn in the past so she could experience life, after she was reborn as a guardian of the door during the silver millennium death, and died saving everyone in the dark moon arc. This is just my own idea. It’s sad that she was not the same age as haruka and michiru in the present because I think that people involved might not have done as much with her because she was older. I mean what the is up with that storyline where she is a nurse? Very random and makes no sense. This is the same reason I think they kind of dropped Saturn (younger) and Pluto (older) from the story. I mean in general the outer were pushed in favor of the star lights in the anime. We never got to see her doing anything in fashion or any of the extra details the manga author could have shown in the manga that she put as notes. Those would have been great in addition to have her be interested in science.

    On Pluto liking Endymion, I have mixed feelings. I don’t like the idea, but I guess it speaks to her loneliness as well.

    I would have preferred her and Saturn to have been the same age as Uranus and Neptune. Maybe then we could have more stories about them, but seeing as the manga and the anime did not even give the Inners much background, I guess it might have turned out the same. For the anime they focused way too many episodes on random people that never showed up again, which is fine if those characters at least contributed to developing the main characters more, but they were just victims or one shot characters. Wish there had been more story about the main characters. I wonder if they do another anime would we finally get some more background on setsuna and the other girls. I guess the only way for that to happen is probably change some of the story and relationships. They probably would have benefitted from in between season/story arc between the death busters/s and dream/supers to give more stories. Stars in both the manga and the anime was too much going on at once and not enough development.

    I like certain aspects about Pluto’s design, her black main color and darker skin ( in some versions, some version appear lighter) but her bow color? Brown (her eternal outfit had a nice light red bow or just any shade of red would be better) and her shoe looking like sailor mecury and moon felt boring. Also her hairstyle could have been more interesting it felt like it was the same design again. Her original sleeveless design is nice though. I hope they release some special episodes that explore the characters more, but I doubt that is going to happen.

  6. My guess is people from Pluto have a darker skintone. Very disappointing that Crystal made Pluto’s skin so light

    • That does raise an interesting question about the makeup of people of the Silver Millennium. JunJun (Sailor Junos) was a bit darker too, if I recall.

  7. I always heard people say that Setsuna was of Romani or Gypsy ancestry however I don’t know if that is actually true.

  8. I think it was a subtle change from her earlier concept for Pluto. In this concept art,
    It would seem that Naoko had planned her to have Gray or somewhat an ash skin-tone. But since she most likely thought it wouldn’t bode well (as she’d look really evil), she still carried on with the concept of a “dark” skin-tone albeit, realistic. Though her official statements don’t link to this in any way, I guess there’s really no connection but it’s fun to speculate.

  9. I really like how distinct she is. I think she is beautiful. I also love how different her accessories are. Like her earrings. <3

  10. Old thread but some Japanese people are darker skinned! She would not be out of place in Japan. If she actually grew up there she might feel some kind of way about it because super fair skin is always emphasized as beautiful there and she might have been bullied but her skintone is completely within the range of folks there. I have a Japanese-American friend about her color and you’ll find people in Okinawa that dark too.

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