Why is Rei So Different in the Anime and Manga?

Rei and Her Split Personality

Rei and Her Split Personality

This is a question that has been asked both by Japanese and international fans of Sailor Moon since time immemorial… or at least since the series first debuted in 1992. While there are little differences here and there in the intricacies of all the other characters’ personalities, Rei stands out in being simply so completely different between the anime and manga. How is it that the mature, self-assured, lady-like, and self-proclaimed man-hating1 young woman in the manga became the boy-hunting foil for Usagi in the anime? Even Ms. Takeuchi herself had complained about how the anime changed the character. So, what happened?

Rei Hino

Rei Hino

One of the simplest explanations for the change — and one that probably explains at least half of the story behind it — is that while the focus of the manga was on the story of young love and young girl fighting against the forces of evil (at least in the first season), the focus of the anime was more on friendship and the relationship between the five girls. The strength of their friendship, for example, is what gave Sailor Moon the strength to defeat Queen Metalia in the end.

Another contributing factor was due to the slightly younger intended audience of the anime and the fact that, unlike the solitary nature of a manga (where the reader engages in it by themselves), a television program is typically a group experience, perhaps watched with your family or with friends. For this reason, the anime team went with a decidedly more comedic route than what you saw in the original manga. Rei — the soldier of fire — seemed like as good of a candidate as any, I suppose, to play the opposite of Usagi and constantly push her, argue with her, and fight for the attentions of their shared love interest, Mamoru.

Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin - the Base for TA Catholic School

Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin – the Base for TA Catholic School

But perhaps there’s a slightly deeper reason for this, another reason why it is that the anime staff envisioned Rei as more of a wild, outgoing girl. There very well may be, and that reason could very well be tied directly into where the story takes place (and — more specifically — where Rei lives and plays).

Rei is said to go to T.A. Catholic School (a private all-girl’s school)2 which seems to be based on Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin (T from Toyo and the ei in Eiwa is pronounced “A” in Japanese, which would explain the name TA chosen by Naoko).3 The school is located in a part of Roppongi where there are quite a few embassies, high class restaurants, and has a vibe of what one could call the “upper crust part of town.”

Incidentally, TV Asahi (the station which carried the Sailor Moon anime during its original run) is also located in Roppongi, though despite being in the same area, the feeling of the town is incredibly different. Particularly at that time, in the late 1980s and early 1990s (and even today, to be honest), Roppongi was known for its discos and wild night-life entertainment. Late night drinking, women in short skirts, and dance clubs running late into the night were and are the norm. The most famous of which, Juliana’s,4 was located in Shibaura, in the same Minato ward and nearby to Roppongi.

Juliana's Tokyo in the Early 1990s

Juliana’s Tokyo in the Early 1990s

While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it was a misunderstanding by the anime staff when they were deciding how to interpret the characters from paper to the airwaves, I think the staff working on the series definitely had a different impression when they heard the words “Roppongi girl,” which could have led to at least some of the differences we see in Rei’s personality. While Ms. Takeuchi’s association was likely more in line with the private Catholic girls school, the embassies, and sky-rise apartments, the day to day experience of the TV Asahi directors and writers would have been very different and more akin to the night club life that Americans would more closely associate with Las Vegas.

This difference ultimately sorted itself back out in the live action show and Crystal, so it’s fair to say that the manga is obviously what would be considered to be the “correct” Rei Hino, but I for one find them both to be interesting in their own ways. Even if it was unintentional, I think it gives you a chance to enjoy the same character twice, even if I admittedly do prefer the manga!

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  1. As stated by Rei in the special side story, “Casablanca Memories.” First published in vol. 11 of the first run of the manga, and in the September 1993 edition of Nakayoshi
  2. This may seem a bit strange to some people for Rei to be attending a Catholic school, seeing as she is a Shinto priestess, but it’s not uncommon in Japan for Christian schools to simply be treated as a private school, nor is it uncommon to have multiple religions observed, at least in part, within the same household.
  3. Established in 1894 by Martha Cartmell, a Methodist missionary from Canada. See the History of Toyo Eiwa Jogakuin
  4. See Juliana’s (Wikipedia)

24 thoughts on “Why is Rei So Different in the Anime and Manga?

  1. I unashamedly adore the anime version of Rei. I admit she came across as a bit ‘full on’ at the start, but she grew on me over time when I saw more sides to her. I enjoyed the sibling like relationship she had with Usagi. For me, the character fit’s better with the whole ‘God of War’ aspect of Mars.

    On the other hand I personally found the prim/proper/stoic depiction that purists constantly tell me to accept as superior, rather dull. Plus I dislike how she encourages that tedious belief that misandry makes you empowered, somehow…
    Sorry, but that kind of attitude just makes me cringe.

    And Crystal watered everything down to such an extent that it didn’t seem like she had any kind of personality at all. At least the current musicals are keeping her spirited.

    A small compromise, I thought the live action series did a decent enough job with the character. Largely thanks to Keiko Kitagawa’s performance.

    • Rei is one of those characters in the manga that feels like she could have been really interesting if she was ever really developed… but wasn’t. Kinda like Setsuna / Pluto. I get where Ms. Takeuchi was going with her character – the mysterious, distant beauty kinda thing – but it came across to me as closer to “cold and detached” rather than “intriguing and mysterious.”

      I know that a lot of people complain about how much they despise the love/hate relationship with Usagi, but I always found it refreshing since she was adored by absolutely everyone in the manga, which felt a bit too unrealistic (never mind that we’re talking about transforming magical girls here and complaining that “being popular” is “unrealistic”).

      After all, isn’t war and fighting all about passion? I think the musicals did a good job capturing that aspect of the character!

      • Very good point- I found the manga character a bit dull, too. An odd combination of “too flawless” and “too few interesting aspects”.

  2. It’s puzzling the way a lot of people consider their relationship abusive, but then detractors like to twist things out of proportion.

    Given that Usagi was essentially Naoko’s idealised self-insert, the universal adoration she received did make me wince quite a bit. But even she admitted that her work on the Manga could have been much better.

    Personally I think the general concept of Sailor Moon provides just enough basic material for you to interpret and present in different ways. Which is why I don’t really believe in a ‘true version’.

    • At the risk of going far into a “in the Japanese culture…” analysis (which I actively try to avoid), I think there is something to say for the phenomenon of talking the worst about people you really and truly care for. It’s not even an explicitly Japanese trait, in my opinion, though it definitely is common here to hear parents describe their own children as “stupid” or wife as “ugly.”

      I think the harsh remarks Rei makes about Usagi are actually more just her being like an over-bearing sibling, wanting and expecting the best from her friend and not tolerating Usagi’s sometimes half-hearted efforts.

      Or at least that’s how I look at it, I suppose!

  3. I to have a fondness for anime Rei.

    And I’d like to say I’ve long grown tired of ignorant people writing her off as things like shallow, hateful and boy-crazy (as if that was the only/most important thing in her life). While playing down or completely ignoring things like her hard-working ambitiousness, her loyalty to Usagi and others, and all the times she’s shown genuine kindness and yes, even maturity.
    Heck, even Naoko herself came round to her in the end.
    In every good group dynamic, you need at-least one character to act as a bit of a foil. She’s basically the equivalent of Raphael from TMNT.

    Frankly dismissing an entire gender because of one not exactly traumatic experience strikes me as more petty then tragic. I don’t think Casablanca Memories handled the subject very well.
    I’d much rather have got more focus on the relationship with her deceased mother, or her supernatural powers. As those were far more interesting things to explore.

    • Yes yes yes. I really wish they had expanded on her parents more (actually, more on the parents and personal lives of the senshi in general.)

      • One of the places where I think the live action series really excelled. Though I don’t think it’s easily transferable to the anime/manga universe, at least it does give you a different look at the lives of the Sailor Team.

        • There is the problem when it comes to Minako, as her family is basically a prototype for Usagi’s. Hence why we never really see them outside of Sailor V. Even the Live Action series eschewed them.

          I found it odd that the same series also dropped certain characters like Umino, and in particular Rei’s Grandpa. I mean, what happened to him? Are we to assume he’s off-screen, because otherwise that means Rei seemingly lives at, and runs an entire shrine on her own.

          Given that her father is a high ranking politician, they’re could be potential for certain enemies to target her in order to get to him. There’s a plot idea.

          • I feel that a character like Umino would be really hard to do in a live action setting without just making him a collection of stereotypes playing out one after the other. In an anime/manga setting you can kinda get away with stuff like that since it’s comical and, I mean, c’mon… he has swirly eyes! But it’s a bit harder to do in real life.

            As for Rei’s grandpa, I think it couldn’t have hurt to at least have a one-short appearance in the background or something. Otherwise, it does come off as really weird an unnatural.

    • The bell of doom
      Your username

      Now back to this,
      Rei (not crystal anime but other anime) is just completely different!
      She’s more mean to the leader then the manga, and she is for some reason pursuing mamoru for any random reason!

      PS: Rei has less details then crystal and manga…
      See you later!
      I’m broke I can’t buy you coffee! D:

      • My, that’s a very deep, well thought out and thought provoking case you make there, Gretchyn Miller. You’ve completely changed my entire perspective on the subject. 😛

  4. I’m somewhat curious to what the general Japanese fans stance on Rei is like.

    From what I’ve seen, she doesn’t seem to generate the same level of polarisation like in the english speaking world.
    And Michie Tomizawa seems to be quite well regarded by them. I wonder what her opinions are on how different the character is. Given how much influence she had on the personality.

    Are there any interviews that might shed light on it?

  5. I wrote about this briefly, but I think that the Rei/Usagi relationship in the anime strengthened Sailor Moon. Rei was always pushing Usagi to be better, stronger, wiser, etc. Yes, they fought all the time. But she was Usagi’s reality check. (Luna too, to some degree, but Usagi ignored Luna a lot.)

    And, it is Rei who she clings to at towards the end of Stars when the inners are dying.

    • She is also the last one standing between enemies and Usagi in season 1 AND season 5 final fights; she is the one who Usagi gives her Moon Stick with the silver crystal to (!!! if that is not a show of the deepest trust, i don’t know what is), she is the one Usagi thinks of when she gets bad grades (I know that moment was more of a joke, but still, shows that Usagi values Rei’s opinion), Rei is the one Usagi finally opens up to and tells that Mamoru has been silent since he left for US. Rei is the one telling Seiya to act on his feelings even though she should be like Haruka- protecting the “future that is set in stone”, but she puts that aside because to her Usagi’s happiness is more important.
      I feel like Rei is Usagi’s inner trigger. Usagi counts on Rei’s mental and physical power during the battle, even if Mamoru or others are hurt, but the moment Rei is out of the picture, Usagi snaps and lets the full force of her Moon power come out.

  6. I love Rei Hino in the anime and PGSM, but I’ll never understand why the Manga version of Rei is one people are so devoted to. In the manga we never really see many standout moments from her and her dynamic in the group is a lot less fun. She essentially just stoic and resolute and that’s really all that we get from her.

    In the anime Rei’s got so much heart. She’s mean sometimes but it’s all out of having high expectations for the people she loves to be the best they can be. I don’t get how people can see the friendship between Usagi and Rei and think there’s any animosity between the two. Rei teases Usagi but she’s not cruel or heartless, whenever Usagi is at her lowest point it’s Rei she counts on for encouragement. And I find it really admirable how Rei is the biggest supporter of Usagi and Mamoru being together. She cares about both of them both and wants their happiness.

    • I think some of it is, without the knowledge in-house of the changes, outwardly it’s doesn’t just look like a change in personality but a deliberate ‘softening’ of a hard-nosed, atypical shoujo character purely to be more palatable to a mainstream audience. So the perception is we went from someone actually graceful to trendy wanna-be, someone disinterested in boys to someone who was downright goofy around them, someone who had a legit temper to a louder-yet-more-coded-comedic tsundere role, etc.

      It’s not necessarily a problem with the personality per se, but that it was applied over an *existing* character; a lot of people liked original Rei’s rougher edge. It’d be like changing Michiru’s personality into that; not necessarily ruining the character, but understandable if someone complained.

      • Depends. Personally i think this comparison doesn’t work because imho anime Rei’s changes were an improvement, while hypothetical Michiru’s changes would not be. Mostly it is due to the fact that our opinions of which version of Rei is better are exactly the opposite. Admittedly though, it is because manga Rei has much less character to her, than the few traits, like “stoic” and “graceful”. Seriously, if the biggest addition to the character’s background, story, features, etc comes from the special side story, it is usually not a good sign. Plus i don’t think her manga-self was an atypical shoujo character. Actually i think it might be a trope of its own. Or i am just an idiot. Please forgive my poor english and take care.

        • To be fair, Michiru had virtually no presence or character at all in the manga to start with. All she did was just follow Haruka around and carry the mirror, which had more of a meaningful role in the storyline then she did. :/
          The anime and subsequent adaptions made her more cheeky and playful, as well as putting more of an emphasises on her and Haruka’s relationship.

          Likewise, Rei was a really-really minor character in the source material as well (and pretty much anyone who wasn’t Usagi/Mamoru/Chibi Usa falls into a similar position). We were given a few basic traits, and that was it. 95% of any real development happened in a side story, and even then it wasn’t particularly all that well executed., and IMO largely failed in making her a tragic character, especially the flimsy reason behind her dislike of men. While the more interesting thing with her father was treated as little more then a footnote.

          And frankly I find this snobbish elitism exhibited by manga purists really grating at times, like the format is meant for a more ‘sophisticated’ audience. And that any deviation from the ‘sacred text’ is like going up to the Mona Lisa and drawing on a beard and glasses.
          Even Naoko herself has gone on record that she wasn’t happy with how her work turned out, and that there was a lot of thing she would have handled better (you could have done so much Crystal…).
          The Anime may not have been perfect, as indeed very few things are. But it allowed a lot more fleshing out and exposure for a number of the supporting cast that the rapid fire pacing of the Manga couldn’t really provide, plus some plain fun filler episodes.

          And I just love Usagi and Rei’s friendship. For me it is still one of the best platonic girl/girl relationships in a kids series.

  7. Gotta say, for me its anime Rei all the way.
    To me, manga Rei’s characterization and backstory are glued together from every classic tragically romantic trope imaginable and the whole doesn’t at all fit a soldier of fire and passion who should really be at least partially a soldier of war and masculinity.
    Mother died at birth? Check.
    A beautiful black-haired female who is reserved and stoic? Check.
    Hatred of men for no really wellfounded reason? Check.
    Ad to that the Rei/Minako lesbian teasing which isn’t really founded on naturally evolving attraction between the two characters and which never develops into a relationship that goes further than literally teasing the audience and I can’t really believe in that characterization of Rei. It’s just too lacking in originality and life.

    Life that anime Rei has in spades.
    Her personality is much more fitting for a soldier of fire and passion and even for a soldier of war and masculinity.
    It even seems that her characterization is more fitting for a shrine maiden in the nineteen eighties.
    And her personality as suggested is also far more interesting in terms of plot-drive.

  8. Having only been a Sailor Moon fan for 4 years, I’m glad to have read all of the manga in that time, although I’m still yet to read Codename: Sailor V and the short stories. As for the 90s anime, I’ve never had the chance to check out it, apart from clips on YouTube. This is due to me being from and living in the United Kingdom where the 90s anime isn’t widely available. Hopefully one day the Viz dub of the anime as well as Sailor Moon Crystal will get an official UK DVD/Blu-Ray release.

    Regarding the topic of this article, I mostly agree, now that I look back at the manga, with the consensus in the comments that Rei’s portrayal in the manga is rather dull. From what I’ve seen of the anime, she can be a bit much at times, I still find her alright. She’s honestly like the Doctor Who character Tegan Jovanka. Hopefully watching the 90s anime will help me form a stronger opinion on her.

    I honestly don’t understand as to why people consider Rei and Usagi’s relationship to be abusive. I always thought Usagi received more abuse from her mother and Ms. Haruna. Thankfully, Ikuko became nicer to her as the manga progressed. As for Haruna, I must admit that I was glad to see the back of her.

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