Enter freely and of your own will.
For those who are already sufficiently corrupted to tell the difference, I am basing the following on the anime subtitled by Studio Chikashitsu (1-50) and VKLL (73-200), virtual cheers for each! When I have particular points based on the manga, I’ll be sure to tell you so. Japanese names are given in their Japanese form, surname first and given name second. These pages most definitely contain spoilers.
And now, on to our show…
As most of my visitors will already know, the anime Sailor Moon is based on the manga of the same name created by Takeuchi Naoko. An interesting factoid: the anime was created alongside the manga, about as close to simultaneously as possible, rather than being a late adaptation of the finished series. Most immediately, this is a story of Tsukino Usagi’s (Our Heroine, AKA Sailor Moon, AKA Princess Serenity) growth from the most unbearable whiner you could never hope to meet into a reasonable and really quite courageous human being (except for some serious backsliding in the fourth season). In the process, of course, there’s a good deal of running around among her fellow super-heroines, smiting enemies, moreso as she goes on, and defending the Earth.
Come to think of it, everyone seems to backslide in SuperS. I think there’s some kind of Law of Conservation of Maturity in effect: since maturity cannot be created, any maturity that Chibiusa displays must be taken from the other characters. That little piece of cotton candy was actually the least irritating character of that season.
For the heck of it, not that I refer to most of them in much depth, her fellow super-heroines are as follows below, in order of discovery. Each name, of course, comes with its own load of linguistic and mythological meaning (see the page on Myth and Symbol for details); most of them would be downright cruel to give to a normal child. Of course, they all do seem to be not only real but fairly common names. So I have no idea whether, as in English, these names are no longer really connected to their meanings (I find that a little hard to believe considering that many of these are also words in conversational circulation) or whether it’s just easier to deal with if a whole lot of other people also have meaningful names. But if my mother really had named me Cloud (which she says she contemplated), I would not be a happy camper.
No, not even once I got into FFVII.
Mizuno Ami / Sailor Mercury
Hino Rei / Sailor Mars
Kino Makoto / Sailor Jupiter
Aino Minako / Sailor Venus
Season Two, R
Chibiusa / Sailor Chibi Moon (Usagi and Mamoru’s future daughter–I don’t think we ever get her surname)
Meiou Setsuna / Sailor Pluto (although she does not acquire a civilian name until season three)
Season Three, S
Tennou Haruka / Sailor Uranus
Kaiou Michiru / Sailor Neptune (these two are discovered simultaneously–more on that later)
Tomoe Hotaru / Sailor Saturn
All Women All the Time, Sort Of
The perspicacious reader will notice that I haven’t mentioned men yet. That’s because there aren’t many. We have Usagi’s love/r, Chiba Mamoru (AKA Tuxedo Kamen, AKA Prince Endymion), and, oh yeah, one cat. That’s about it until the fifth season–at least among the good guys. There are plenty of bad guy guys and extras who have to be saved, but this is definitely a story for the women. And they’re damn well not pouring anyone’s tea either! In the fifth season (Stars) we do get the Three Lights/Starlights (also Sailor Senshi) who are introduced as male, but they manage to turn into women (leathergirls, too) when they gear up to fight evil so their inclusion is a bit ambiguous. In the manga, they are simply women disguised as men, and rumor has it that Takeuchi was not happy with the choice to make them bi-gendered for the anime, but I happen to like that little twist. The fact that this trio are particularly identified as performers adds a delightful philip to the arrangement. Anyone who’s been reading Judith Butler or Eve Sedgwick could get a lot of mileage out of that.
Oh, yes, their names are (from left to right in the above pic) Yaten Kou / Sailor Star Healer, Seiya Kou / Sailor Star Fighter, and Taiki Kou / Sailor Star Maker. According to VKLL those names translate respectively as Night Sky, Star Arrow and Air, though the more general consensus translates Seiya as star field. According to my own, admittedly amateur, dictionary searches, seiya does indeed mean starry or starlit night (as well as a clear or quiet night; I love this language), but broken down sei means star and ya means arrow (and night and open country, as in field, depending on how you write it). So take your pick. There is a good deal of debate out there as to whether Kou is the collective given name of these three or the collective surname. I throw in on the given name side; if you want to know why, check out the Lights-specific page. Now, from my point of view, the fun part of their names is the wordplay. First off, kou means (among many other things) light, giving us the bilingual cuteness of the group name Three Lights. And on the more traditional homonym side of punning, ko is a generally feminine name ending; kou–ko. Sneaky, hm? Personally, I like Yaten best; s/he’s such a wonderful bitch.
A Bit on Gender and Power
The song I would attach to this page is Peter Gabriel’s “Blood of Eden.” To listen to a RealAudio version while you read on, click here. The refrain is “In the blood of Eden / Lie the woman and the man / With the man in the woman / The woman in the man. / In the blood of Eden / Lie the woman and the man. / We wanted a union. / Oh, the union of the woman, / the woman and the man.” I believe he’s referring to one of the interpretations of the Hebrew Genesis story that says humans were first created androgynes–woman and man in one–and later separated. In many ways that seems quite appropriate to this show.
Gender dynamics in general are a bit odd in this story. Usagi is a strange mix of traditional and un-traditional; her goal is to be Mamoru’s bride but she utterly lacks the skills one would expect of a career wife (can’t cook, can’t sew, has a stunning lack of grace in general). These lacks are marked enough that Mamoru actually has occasion to tell her that it doesn’t matter to him, which results in a very touching scene (Episode 93). I’m rather tickled by the statement implicit in Usagi’s character, that it’s perfectly all right to be imperfect. She’s not notably good with kids, which makes it really strange that her future self (Neo-Queen Serenity) sends her daughter back for such frequent jaunts under the younger Usagi’s protection. And, of course, that brings up the point that Usagi is destined to be anything but a career wife. She’s destined to be Queen–Queen of the world, more or less. From what very little we see she seems to be doing a good job in the future.
The politics of that interest me: first the exaltation of Serenity as ruler, which flirts with imperialist associations, and second that the good ruler is not the imperial father but the monarchial mother. In fact, in Sailor Moon R, The Movie Chibiusa says that Usagi is everyone’s mother and will take care of everyone. I hesitate to use such a hackneyed word, but really, “empowerment” is the only suitable term I can come up with for this show’s agenda for women. For more on the question of gender in this show, see the Gender page. Having said that, traditional gender associations are not so much broken down as taken advantage of. Certainly Usagi’s power is the power of the heart–the heart that believes and trusts, sometimes to an extent that appears unreasonable but is vindicated nevertheless. The statement implicit in this is shattering, especially in a medium that has shown increasing levels of violence toward characters like Usagi; more on this on the Trust and Violence page. Trust is the power that moves (and saves) the world. Usagi’s power is unquestionably the strongest, when she truly releases her heart. Mamoru’s power is signally secondary to hers, but then that’s not his function. These are two points where the anime differs significantly from the manga; in the manga Usagi’s perseverance is what generally lets her win, not her trust, and Mamoru’s power, while better hidden, is established as equivalent to hers. The nuance works out very differently in the anime.
For one thing, the anime includes a lot more in the way of humor, particularly at our heroine’s or hero’s expense. Usagi is the easy example, but Mamoru comes in for his share as well. For starters, his entrance lines as Tuxedo Kamen can’t usually be classified as anything but corny. (Can anyone tell me if this is supposed to be a cross-reference to Kuno from Ranma 1/2?) And sometimes it’s more than that. Episode 146, in Season Four, for instance, where he throws his rose in front of the ball lemure to stop it and begins a typical entrance line only to be rudely interrupted when the lemure barrels right over top of his rose and mashes it. His tenure as the Moonlight Knight seemed particularly prone to this, possibly because the Moonlight Knight was even more pompous than Tuxedo Kamen. Episode 50 is is a good example. After (rather insultingly) telling Mamoru that no mere mortal can hope to deal with the Cardian (what a thing to hear from your own alter ego!), the Knight spouts off some more about a true hero not seeking fights but being ready for them when necessary, lops some tentacles off the Cardian, sheaths his sword with great melodrama and promptly gets grabbed by the other set of tentacles. Personally, I applauded. But back to Mamoru and Usagi.
That brings us to another major point that fascinates me in this story: the delicate and durable balances among the characters. It’s visible among the five Inner Senshi, of course, though not in quite the same way as among the couples; but the five of them shore up each other’s weaknesses and it is frequently reinforced that their strength is greatest when they work together. So far, so classic. It works out a bit differently on the individual level, but it’s a noticeable pattern. That Saturn is a healer is implicit in her position as destroyer; similarly, we can guess that Star Healer will be the most prickly of the Starlights precisely on account of being the most sensitive. This seems to be the same cultural principle that leads to Rei fighting constantly with Usagi despite/because of the fact that she is the one who’s closest to Usagi. I think this is why the Outers and the Starlights are established as such cold characters, really. In order, on the one hand, to balance the sweetness of the Inners which does indeed get them into endless trouble, and on the other to show up more clearly the fact that the colder approach doesn’t work on its own either. Takeuchi might not have liked it (and I can understand why) but arranging the characters that way does make a valid artistic point.
Usagi and Mamoru’s Balance
The couples are more vivid examples. We only have two permanent couples: Usagi and Mamoru, and Haruka and Michiru (yes, the latter two are both women, though you’d be amazed the number of people out there who try to ignore or get around that fact). Mamoru is Usagi’s balance; he’s the one who keeps perspective when she wallows in enthusiasm, remembers the future when she is consumed by the present, is constant where she is changeable. His main roles as a hero are to appear at the crucial moment and pull Usagi’s chestnuts out of the fire, and to distract the enemy while the Senshi prepare attacks; he is also her directive force, the one who tells her when to make her move. She is the leader, though, where he is the follower. Hers is the motivating force, and she does not hesitate to act counter to Mamoru’s advice when her heart dictates it. Usagi presses on while Mamoru guards her back. She goes out to save the world while he holds the fort. She is his balance, as well. The tension between her youth and his maturity (substantially heightened in the anime version) highlights these dynamics; it is the younger not the elder that is most in touch with Truth and Glory in this world. That is an area where cultural expectations are broken down–with a sledgehammer–not uncommon for any anime originally directed at the younger set. What interests me is that despite adults getting the short end of the stick, adults still like the show. But onward. In the final analysis I would not say that either of them is primary or secondary–they balance. And that’s an outstanding artistic accomplishment; all congratulations to its authors.
I’ll be interested to see what happens if/when DiC acquires Stars to dub into English (which should happen about a week after hell freezes over, by my calculations, though I hold out more hope for Cloverway and Pioneer these days). By US standards, I suspect Seiya will seem a better match for Usagi than Mamoru if they stick to the characters as written. S/he isn’t as good a balance for her, but s/he sure has a better sense of humor than Mamoru. Seiya and Usagi are closer in personality, and just personally I think they would do each other good in the mutual ego-deflation department. I more than half suspect DiC would downplay their apparent compatibility in order to downplay the romantic tragedy aspect. Especially seeing as, if they picked up Stars at all, they would have to deal with the gender-bending aspects of that romance first. This is, again, significantly different than the manga, in which Usagi is less of a ditz, Mamoru is less of a stiff-rod and Seiya is not played up nearly so much as a possible lover. (Though Mamoru’s much livelier in Season One, I was always very taken with his chuckle when he’s being provoking; he gets a bit dull as time goes on–sweet, but dull) But, onward…
Haruka and Michiru’s Balance
Our other couple balances also, though in different ways. I admit, I like Haruka and Michiru better than I do Usagi and Mamoru. Usagi gives Mamoru such a hard time as she grows up that I find myself feeling rather sorry for him. Haruka and Michiru, however, are another story. They’re a beautiful couple with a charmingly complex relationship. Yes, I’m partial.
At first glance we might take Haruka as the dominant partner. She’s the one who tends to present as a male (which results in some entertaining passages all through Season Three). Hers is the lower voice (done by Ogata Megumi, simply velvet, does insouciant very well; also did the voices of Petz, and young Mamoru in the R movie) and she tends far more to decided and absolute statements than Michiru. The faces she most commonly shows are wicked and determined. Haruka argues most strongly for the mission of the Outer Senshi being thoroughly separate from that of the Inner Senshi; all the Outers seem to have a certain gentle contempt for the Inners, but it’s most often Haruka who says so outright. (That’s right, tell your princess she’s nothing but trouble… usually true, but not stunningly diplomatic.) She is certainly the best fighter among the senshi (including the Starlights); no one in this whole series, with the possible exception of Galaxia, goes hand-to-hand with Haruka and wins. (I consider Usagi a special case; she wins by not fighting. See again the side discussion on trust and violence for details.) The statement, frequently appearing on sites dedicated to Haruka, that she kicks ass is far from metaphorical. She also seems to have a very strong says-who reflex, especially where Mamoru is concerned. See here for her typical response to his arguments–you can almost hear the “hmph.”
More rarely, we see her troubled or, very rarely and rather ruefully, tender. Michiru is nearly the only one who can bring out this face (I suspect she teases Haruka so much with just that intention), though Usagi sometimes can too–usually un-intentionally.
That’s one of the more interesting points to Haruka’s character; as Michiru notes late in the third season (Episode 118), Haruka believes in Sailor Moon more strongly than either Michiru or Setsuna does. Thus, of course, Haruka is the one who gets into the most quarrels with Usagi, in parallel with Rei. Haruka seems to have very strong beliefs in general, more on that later.
Michiru, on the other hand, appears to be the sweetest, gentlest girl you could ever meet. Over against Haruka’s athleticism, Michiru is a musician and artist. She plays a very melodic violin, nothing too experimental–this isn’t Yo Yo Ma we’re talking about here. She paints lovely pictures that are also notably pastel and fantasy-like. She laughs, where Haruka rarely even chuckles out loud. She is the one with tendencies toward cooperation and shows far more sympathy than Haruka is wont to. She is certainly the more demonstrative of the two. Unlike the manga version, the only time we actually see Haruka holding Michiru is when they dance. The rest of the time it’s Michiru who initiates any touching.
For all that sweetness and gentleness, however, she has a definite cold streak, witness her gesture to seduce Seiya, presumably in order to get information about the Lights’ origins out of hir (fifth season). She seems to have no scruples about using her lovely manners and soft looks to accomplish whatever needs doing. Go Mata Hari! Her determination is quite the equal of Haruka’s, for all that she’s more polite about it.
She is also perfectly capable of very sharp anger; in a sort of reciprocity, Haruka seems to be the one who brings this side out most.
So, based on first presentation, we might expect Michiru to be the more submissive of the two, but she isn’t. She seems, in fact, the more self-sufficient one. Her comments generally get more of a rise out of Haruka than vice versa. This is not a simple reversal of appearance, however. Michiru is more yielding than Haruka, but by that very token she exerts an equal influence over their joint efforts because Haruka invariably listens when Michiru does speak up. This is not an easy case of the stream shaping the mountain that carries it or the willow that yields to the wind while blocking it–more of the the wind and the sea that create the storm between them. It’s just delightful to watch to two of them together; their teamwork is outstanding and not because one or the other of them controls it. Their awareness is shared. And that’s a pretty impressive nuance to show in animation, too.
This is not, of course, to say that they don’t have their own little relationship problems. However resigned to it she may be, Michiru would probably be happier if Haruka wasn’t so exclusively focused on Duty At All Costs. Consider, for example, her expression outside Marine Cathedral (Episode 110), when she says they should ignore each other’s danger from here on in and concentrate on getting the Talismans, and Haruka laughs and says she didn’t need reminding. Ow. The flirting, I’m not sure how to take. It seems to be more a source of exasperation than irritation. Not that Haruka isn’t really pissed off to find Seiya in Michiru’s dressing room (Episode 180), but after the invader is evicted Haruka seems about to apologize to Michiru for her reaction. Equally, when Haruka flirts with Usagi (Episode 101), Michiru certainly sighs quite expressively while murmuring “Haruka, not again,” and there does seem to be a touch of malice in it when she asks what will happen if Usagi is a Talisman holder. But she doesn’t seem to actually be jealous. At any rate, I don’t see any path left open for them to deal with issues like these. If I have one regret for how these two were handled in the anime it’s that we have a pair of nicely complex characters who are not given the opportunity to grow and develop at all. In writing the plot forward in my mind, I’ve toyed with ways to bring that about. The most daring one is to break them up. It also offers the most possibilities for interestingly complex subplots. It’s a pretty extreme step, though.
Toying with Religion
To return briefly to the issue of belief. One of those little symbolic puzzles that only delight the heart of a literary scholar or a rabid fan (who honestly don’t differ much a lot of the time): Haruka sometimes wears a cross, implying that she may be Christian. Ever since I first saw that I’ve been ruminating over why it appears. The explanation I think likeliest is simply that it’s to associate Haruka with the religious… enthusiasm… generally ascribed to Christians in Japan. (The survey Sophia University put out in 1980 is a good source of info on religion in general and Christianity in particular, as long as you pay more attention to the data than to their analysis.) Haruka’s Christianity certainly reinforces the aspect of her strong belief in Sailor Moon and offers an explanation for her recurring visions of Usagi/Sailor Moon as the Messiah (and I’m not at all sure that term was used without any intention to appeal to JC as well as other Chosen figures–Usagi’s brief is pretty New Testament in character).
Note: one of my respondents points out that crosses are also worn in Japan simply as cool jewelry, which would certainly explain the artbooks; thanks to Lianne. I still suspect Haruka and Michiru are supposed to be actual Christians; see below for further reasoning.
On top of this, Michiru tells Usagi and Unazuki (Episode 94) that the first couple to ever kiss were Adam and Eve (instead of, say, Izanagi and Izanami) and refers to the “cross” she and Haruka were given as senshi (fifth season, Episode 198). I am entertained by the possibility that Takeuchi and/or Our Directors are being deliberately subversive by identifying the lesbian couple as Christians, that religion being, of late, notoriously, hysterically, intolerant of same-sex desire. Haruka and Michiru’s relationship is both passionate and unabashed. The first time I noticed Haruka’s cross I smirked through the rest of the show.
And there are, of course, the outside possibilities: that Haruka is being identified with the West (which resonates strangely with her name, as Tennou is also the title of that very nationalist figure generally translated as Emperor in English), or that Haruka is being specifically identified as upper class (which the size of their apartment and number of expensive vehicles would certainly bear out; I want her cars), or, if an historical reference is intended, that she is being marked especially as a warrior. I consider those less likely to be used deliberately but fun to play with.
One of my correspondents suggests that we take this further and read Haruka as a representative of Christianity in the abstract. Other associations he suggests are Michiru as Judaism, Setsuna as Islam, Hotaru as Hinduism (Kali, to be precise), Usagi as Buddhism, Ami as Confucianism, Minako as Taoism and Rei as Shintoism (thanks to Dan Smith!). I’m inclined not to read them as deliberate mappings, but it’s a provocative idea, isn’t it?
Well, if you’ve stuck it out to the end, congratulations, I’m impressed. Let me invite you to respond, if you so desire, to the rambling reflections above; my email link is at the bottom of the page.
Alternatively, you could check out these interesting links. Well, I think they’re interesting, anyway.
If you are searching for in-depth info I highly recommend Castle in the Sky which has some good basic cultural background for clueless Westerners and Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon which has synopses of the entire anime run plus a fair bit of tech info. If you are looking for answers to series-information questions I recommend Save Our Sailors (while we have some political and aesthetic differences of opinion, they are generally a good site for news and updates) or Sheer Lunacy: A Nitpicker’s Guide to the Sailor Moon Universe, which features the ever-useful Ultimate Sailor Moon Encyclopedia. Another page that does mythological and symbolic analysis is Aurorean. A superb page by someone who loves details as much as I do and has a better knowledge base for talking about Japanese details is Dies Gaudii; go read it right now.
Nephrite and Naru’s Place has some well-thought-out essays on the issue of fanfiction, canon couples and invention vs. respect. Good fanfic, too.
Or you could (when I find it again) take a look at Lady Wren’s site, which has an outstanding manga image-gallery (which she graciously allows downloads from, many thanks) and a good set of annotated commercial links. Other good image archives I have found include Anime Genesis‘s Sailor Moon gallery. Cyprine’s Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon Anime & Manga page also has a very nice image gallery of artbook pictures–some of the ones you don’t see as much.
If you are looking for music, I strongly recommend Sailormusic.net; it’s the only archive of MP3s I’ve found that’s consistently operational, though it does seem to be shrinking lately. Beej’s Compleat Sailor Moon CD List is a wonderful resource of what’s where; his archives’ availability has always tended to fluctuate unpredictably, though. Among lesser sites, SailorMoon’s Sanctuary has a nice selection.
Or you could nip over to Anime Turnpike. They have a reasonably comprehensive and very well indexed list of pages on Sailor Moon and other nifty anime. I’ve found them an especially good reference point for when I’m trying to navigate through multiple Sailor Moon pages; at least you know they update their link list regularly.
OK, most of you probably know the drill. These characters and images are originated by Takeuchi Naoko and Co. and are used here as illustrations to a critical analysis with no commercial infringement.
Fansource credits: The anime pics of Haruka and Michiru are from Castle In The Sky. The manga images are all from Lady Wren’s site. The artbook image of the generals/Inners is from Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Anime and Manga. The anime screen shot pictures that are a bit curved at the edges, or have curious lines running across them, or have slightly disjointed places are the ones I edited up with digital camera and GIMP.