Myth & Symbol

The names and attributes of the Sailor Moon characters all have their loads of symbolic meaning, some obvious and some less so. This is my running tabulation of the associations I have found. My source for all the classical references is Classical Mythology, fifth edition, by Mark P. O. Morford and Robert J. Lenardon. Other sources are listed as I go along.

I have put astrology and blood types on a separate page, the Divination page, because they constitute a pretty hefty chunk of symbol systems in and of themselves. This page would be unmanageably long if I tried to put it all here. Take a look; it works out very neatly, all things considered. I was impressed when I finally got it all laid out.

Cannon Fodder

Every episode includes cannon fodder: youmas or cardians or droids or daimons or lemures or phages who have no purpose but to get blown to bits, or, if they were originally human, pounded on a bit before being cured. “Lemures”, by the way, is a Roman word for the unhappy spirits of the dead–very appropriate to the Dead Moon Circus, as even Neherenia describes them as walking dead. Most of the rest of the category names are simpler, though I have to take the translators’ words for it that youma means demon. Cardians, of course, come out of vaguely tarot-like cards. Droid seems to have become a stock science fiction reference for mindless constructs. Daimon is probably a transliteration of the English word demon–youmas take two; the only interesting thing there is that the original Greek daemons were benevolent. These seem to be more in line with later Christianized use of the term to refer to evil spirits in general. And last we have phage, which carries the delightful implication that those lightning balls that extract star seeds are some kind of invasive disease.

At any rate, the naming conventions for them are usually quite simple: some word or phrase or onomatopoeia that refers to their attributes. Every now and then it’s a pun, as with Episode 26 and the priest (bokushi if I recall correctly) who gets turned into a boxer (Boxy); actually, that was another episode that had me in giggles. After running around for a while saying “I’m a champion!”, Boxy stops and says, in English and with great enunciation, “I am king of kings”. Sometimes the names are taken from classical mythology; Queen Beryl’s youma who gets herself toasted for Jadite’s sake in Episode 12 is called Thetis, but I think that was a slip of the tongue. This youma has power over sea water, and Thetis was the mother of Achilles and not associated with the sea in any way. I think it was supposed to be Tethys (an easy mistake), the Titan-generation sea goddess. News Flash, 6/14/01: A correspondent pointed out that Thetis was, in fact a Nereid, a sea nymph, and thus did have a water connection; she also pointed out that the pronunciation of this name is really somewhere around “Tetis” which gives us a name that, like Demando and Elusion which I mention further on, can be read two ways, as either Thetis or Tethys. Thanks to Abby!

Every now and then we get names that are holdovers from the manga, especially in the intermediate villains who are one step up from cannon fodder. In Season Five, the names of Sailors Iron Mouse, Lead Crow, etc. were all significant; the manga plot explained that these weren’t true Sailor Senshi but rather imitators of fallen Senshi from the cats’ planet or the crows’ planet and so forth. None of this appears in the anime, and, in fact, Princess Kakyuu tells us in Episode 195 that Sailor Tin Nyanko was once a true senshi, but the names are the same. (Actually, that holds true for Princess Kakyuu as well–in the manga, her planet’s name is written kinmokusei, meaning both ‘the planet Kinmoku’ and ‘fragrant olives’, which gives us her other title, Princess of Fragrant Olives. Thanks to the anonymous manga-translator for this explanation. The planet’s name is not specifically mentioned in the anime but we still get the title, and her scent is referred to several times as an identifier.)


Inner Sailor Senshi

As I said in the main discussion, Castle in the Sky does a good job of summing up the meanings of the senshi’s names, and while this is my personal take on how it fits together, that site is my source for translations. My other sources for translations, and for the elemental associations of the kanji in names are the Sailor Moon FAQ by Ken Arromdee and Sheer Lunacy: A Nitpicker’s Guide to the Sailor Moon Universe, particularly the page on puns. For another page on the names by someone who knows what he’s talking about and has done his homework, check Ian Andreas Miller.

The names of Our Heroines are mapped on both elemental lines and Greco-Roman mythological lines. Curiously enough, the element system here seems to lean more toward the Buddhist and Western one (water, fire, earth, air) rather than the Taoist and Shinto one (wood, metal, fire, water, earth), though there are undoubtedly linguistic nuances I’m missing because I don’t read or speak Japanese. This apparently Western arrangement may be due to the use of Western astrological symbolism which is based on the four-element system. The kind of attacks they use can slide toward either side of the elemental-mythological equation (and I will try to draw out the Asian elemental associations as I recognize them). For instance, Mizuno Ami translates as friend of water (if you go with the idea that her given name has a French origin; if you go with the Japanese translation it’s more like lesser beauty of water) and Ami’s attacks as Sailor Mercury are all water oriented despite the fact that the myths of Mercury don’t particularly associate him with water, nor does Western astrology. The kanji associated with that planet is also, I understand, the one for water. The deity Mercury is, however, strongly associated with cleverness and with science which is very appropriate to Ami. Similarly, Hino indicates fire’s (I think rei was soul) and Rei’s attacks as Mars are all fire attacks. Again, the kanji for that planet is fire linked And while Mars himself is only passingly associated with fire, he is certainly remarkable for a short temper. Minako goes the other way. Her Western elemental association is almost nonexistent until you get to her astrological sign (Libra, cardinal air); inside the plot, she can be assumed to have an air association only by process of elimination–because the other three have such associations and air is all that’s left for Minako. Her surname, Aino, seems to come out to either lovely or beloved (her given name is something like beautiful child), and her attacks as Venus are all exceedingly close to what Venus the goddess acted like–that is, using her beauty as a weapon. This is very little different from Minako’s civilian behavior. I would note that the attack, Venus Love-Me Chain, could be an elemental reference to metal; also the kanji for the planet Venus includes the one for gold. Kino Makoto fluctuates still more among her available associations. Her name translates, loosely, as faithfulness of a tree, which supports the Western elemental association to earth, and her third tier attack, Oak Evolution, is on the same lines. These are also the strongest association with a specifically Asian element–wood. Her first two attacks, however, are both more closely associated with Jupiter’s mythology, Jupiter being lord of the sky and master of lightning (Scott points out that Oak Evolution could also link to Zeus, as his tree was the Oak). Makoto’s character, however, is more closely associated with her element (either of them; note, though, that on the Asian system it’s the planet Saturn which is associated with earth)–grounded, stable. The only two associations I can make with Jupiter on that score are 1) her strength, since Jupiter was after all the strongest of the gods of Olympus, and 2) her tendency to trail after one crush after another, as Jupiter was notoriously promiscuous.

If you want to use the Buddhist and Western five element model, which includes spirit as the fifth, then Usagi also fits in, though the proliferation of moon deities in this show makes her association to any one of them difficult. Possibly this is why her super identity was simply left at Sailor Moon rather than naming one of the goddesses in particular.




Episode 44 offers us a possible goddess association for Usagi. Her mother says that she is the incarnation of the moon goddess Serena, Queen Serenity. Since the el sound doesn’t really exist in Japanese r is usually substituted. (Actually, this is misleading, one of their r sounds is very close to our el sound, and anyway the strong distinction between r and el is a peculiarity of Germanic languages, English included; the Romance languages put those sounds much closer; but, anyway, the lay explanation is that Japanese doesn’t have an el sound.) This means that Serena is the same as Selena. Selene (which sounds very close to Selena) is a Greek goddess of the moon, specifically the aspect of the full moon in later versions. (Curious that Usagi’s deity is Greek, while the other Inner Senshi got the Roman versions.) As such she is not a virgin (like Diana/Artemis) and is eligible to be a mother. Part of her mythology also has her falling in love with a shepherd lad named, coincidentally enough, Endymion. This is one of those things that makes me think Usagi really is set up as the same person as her mother–after all, they’re both Serenities too. That aside, in the myth, Endymion gets put to sleep for a long time which may have been the inspiration for the first Queen Serenity’s action in sending the spirits of her dead people, senshi, daughter and prospective son-in-law to sleep for such a long time before being reincarnated. While there are multiple versions of the Selene/Endymion story, they all end with Zeus bestowing eternal youth on Endymion by keeping him eternally asleep, either to keep him out of everyone’s hair so Selene will get back to her job instead of making time with this shepherd or at Selene’s request so she can have her love with her for all time. Those details don’t seem to figure in Sailor Moon; really, most of the details of the Greco-Roman myths don’t. Considering how unpleasant most of them are, I can see why. Genealogically, though, Selene is senior to almost all the other deities used in this series. See the bottom of the page for the Greek genealogy of deities.

9/02: I now think that Usagi, or more precisely Sailor Moon and Serenity, is also performing a recognizable Shinto function: harae, or purification. Harae retrieves the one who is purified from the danger of tsumi, or sin, and restores her/him to what Christianity might call a state of grace, except that Shinto theory considers this the natural ground state for humans. Sailor Moon’s attacks are all purifications when directed at humans, and return the human in question to her/his original condition after being taken over by an evil spirit; this is a classic Shinto-esque conception of what causes sin and how one should deal with it. She even has a wand, though it doesn’t bear a huge resemblance to the haraigushi. It’s an even bigger stretch to consider her recitation of attack as a norito, the recitation of offerings and offer-ers that the priest makes for harae, but her attack names do seem to march with the idea of beautiful words. Basic Terms of Shinto is a wonderful site.


Villains, Seasons One and Two

The bad guys for the first two seasons are nice and straightforward. They’re all named after minerals, except for the Villain in Chief. Queen Metallia might be intended to carry connotations of coldness or simply inhumanity. Queen Beryl, Jadite, Nephrite, Zoisite and Kunzite are all named for green gemstones (though, actually, kunzite is pink; hiddenite is the green variety of that mineral; check out; nevertheless, I agree that Kunzite makes a better name). Remembering that, in the manga, the four generals started out as Prince Endymion’s bodyguards/friends (and, in fact, return to that role albeit as spirits), this could indicate that the four of them are all corrupted or subsumed by Beryl–they’re all the same color as she is.

6/02: Apparently the Shitennou refer to Buddhist figures. For some more details see Aurorean or this art and architecture site. Starting in the East and moving clockwise they are Jikokuten, the guardian or watcher, who carries a sword; Zouchoten, the one who enlarges/grows (ideally wisdom), who carries spear and sword or halberd and sword; Koumokuten, the one who sees all, with brush and scroll or fist and three pronged spear; and Tamonten, who hears all things, with stupa and umbrella or halberd or spear, also sometimes a mongoose. Note that this is how they appear in Japanese iconography; their appearance in other traditions is different.

The second season has more variety, what with diamond, sapphire, emerald and ruby. Really, the gemstone associations for these four seem to work better with the anime versions of the characters. Diamond, for instance, implies extreme hardness (same root as adamant–hard, impervious–possibly from a+daman–unbreakable, untamable) and brilliance, as well as primacy–the most precious of gems. The unbreakable aspect is a bit more suitable to the anime Dimando who is killed but not suborned as is the manga version. Diamonds are also cold to the touch (being heat conductors), which certainly matches Dimando’s attitude. The fact that the anime Dimando wants primarily to help his people and is deceived though this desire makes me wonder if the more popular associations like purity and innocence might also come in here (though those associations are actually pretty long-standing; one Hindu myth explains diamond’s origin as the bones of a very pure and courageous sacrificial volunteer). Sapphire is associated, etymologically, with Saturn and, in folklore, with wisdom or clear thinking and healing; both of those latter are probably part and parcel of the Saturn association. Roman Saturn was a much nicer fellow than the Greek Cronus for all they got associated with each other. This matches far better with the anime Saffir, who seems to be the most thoughtful of all the Black Moon family, than with the manga Saffir, who was more of a mad-scientist character. Actually, many precious stones are associated with healing; emerald is as well. The interesting point about emerald is that it was also, traditionally, supposed to be of use both in childbirth and in the preservation of chastity. This could be why it’s popularly associated with love today. Thus, perhaps, Esmeraudo’s (a close match to the older French word) plot position as the one hopelessly in love with Prince Dimando. I have yet to find much interesting about ruby, besides the fact that it’s chemically the same stone as sapphire (corundum, the second hardest mineral after diamond), only with chromium instead of iron or titanium impurities coloring it. (The American Heritage Dictionary is a wonderful resource, as is the website of the American Museum of Natural History, and the online Encyclopedia Britannica.) Wiseman/The Death Phantom seems, again, to be a reference to something both unliving and inimical to life; that’s a common thread among all the Villains in Chief, to want to erase all that messy life from the universe.

Petz, Karaberas, Beruche and Cooan I have yet to figure out besides the fact that they’re obvious parallels to the Inners, thus supporting the idea that Black Moon is some kind of dark reflection of Serenity’s people. However, Arromdee, of the FAQ noted above, suggests the following mineral associations based on merchandising info: Cooan-kermesite, Beruche-berthierite, Karaberas (calaveris)-calaverite, Petz-petzite. According to, these are all actual minerals. Kermesite is a red mineral, and berthierite a gray or brown one, both associated with stubite. Calaverite and petzite are both tellurides, that is ore minerals that bear silver and gold.


Outer Sailor Senshi

The associations here are a lot looser than among the Inners, though the civilian names line up better with their super identities. Meiou, for example, translates as the underworld king–Pluto/Hades. Where the association with time came from I’m not sure (note the given name–Setsuna or moment-in-time). It is much more common for Cronus/Saturn to be associated with time but those two seem to be divided in any case for this show. Chibiusa calls on Cronus to guide her through the time corridor, but Saturn is someone else altogether. (One possibility that strikes me as horribly likely, supposing an appropriate saying exists in Japan or that the English saying has migrated: Pluto is the god of wealth; and, after all, time is money. Thanks to Brian for this appalling suggestion.) Pluto’s attack, however, Dead Scream, works very well with her associated mythology, Pluto the god being in charge of the dead. The all-inclusiveness of Hades’ realm, being the final destination of all life and containing both options of reward and retribution might, I suppose, be associated with Pluto’s post as watcher over all of time. Hades is also supposed to be a fairly contemplative, sober, even severe sort of deity, so Setsuna’s character may also match reasonably.

Similarly, Haruka’s tendency to be highhanded could be considered similar to the god Uranus’ (though very toned down), just as her surname, Tennou, is a nice clear reference to the sky king (probably why it’s also the title of the Emperor, but that’s a different line of symbolism and I haven’t seen any sign of Amaterasu in this series yet excepting the use of her traditional treasures as the three Talismans…come to that, where is Sailor Sol?). It’s possible to equate Uranus’ attack, World Shaking, to part of the mythology of Uranus (who kept his offspring mewed up in the Earth, causing her to shudder frequently in discomfort), but I’m more inclined to think Our Directors just couldn’t come up with a sufficiently viscerally powerful attack using air (curious for people who live with ocean storms). It is the wind that Haruka hears whispering, so I don’t think a permanent earth association was intended. Haruka’s given name, which comes out to distant, seems more related to her general personality.

With Neptune, of course, they had more latitude. Poseidon/Neptune wasn’t all that often featured in classical tales, so the lack of significant links between Michiru’s character and her ‘patron’s’ is easily overlooked. I suppose the fact that Poseidon was a rather sharp-tempered fellow could match up with the edge of temper Michiru shows every so often. And, after all, her attack matches just fine. Though it’s a curious point that it’s Poseidon who’s called The Earthshaker, so that Uranus’ attack might more classically be associated with Neptune. The thing that interested me about these three was that more effort seemed to be made to link them to the attributes of their physical planets than to their mythological antecedents: Neptune and the “sea of sand” for instance. As seems appropriate, since they’re a pair, Michiru’s name also relates to her overall personality, meaning complete or full (as in a tide).

Then there’s Saturn, the odd one out. Again, if we delve a little into the mythology there is precedent for her powers of destruction; after all, it was Cronus who initiated the tradition of throwing down the preceding generation of gods to take their place. For the most part, though, her attributes seem more connected to the Roman Saturn, who tended to get associated with wisdom and time and, sometimes, healing (especially of hangovers for some reason–possibly the result of so many of them following his early festival, the Saturnalia). Thus, perhaps, her ability to power up the other Outers, and to prophecy, as well as to heal. I was also greatly entertained by Hotaru referring, at the beginning of Season Five, to Haruka as “Haruka-papa” since Uranus is, indeed, the father of Cronus. I hesitate to take that too far, though, since the next one down the line is Zeus/Jupiter and that just doesn’t work at all. Saturn’s civilian name is also an odd one; Hotaru means firefly and Tomoe comes more or less to rising from the earth. This could be an Asian elemental reference (earth being the element of Saturn) or a rebirth reference if we read firefly as a metaphor for the spirit.


The Nines

I have no idea whatsoever what to make of Pharaoh 90 and Mistress 9. I suppose there’s the tradition in Christianity that three threes make a particularly holy number, and certainly Season Three is rife with Christian imagery, but I can’t get that line to go anywhere. And why Pharaoh? Is this an Egypt (land of slavery for the Children of Israel) reference? An astronomical reference, perhaps?

I can’t make much of the mid-level villains either, unless we go back to minerals again. Kaolinite is a mineral, but I couldn’t find any information on it. Eudial matches with eudialyte, a fairly rare mineral that comes in a variety of colors. Mimete might be a simple reference to mimicry, as in someone who doesn’t have much in the way of her own ideas or someone with an obviously false front. I really don’t think it could be a reference to Mimir, the Norse god in charge of the waters of wisdom, but mimetite is a yellow mineral which would at least give us a color match. Teruru is another blank; the only possible mineral there is tellurium which, as noted above, is an ore bearing mineral, usually white. Viluy might possibly be based on Vili, another of the Norse gods; he was one of Odin’s brothers, and was responsible for giving reason to the newly created humans. This would fit with Viluy’s scientific orientation, and the Norse root might help explain the snowflake motif in her costume. There don’t seem to be any mineral matches. Correction 9/02: Rachel Brewster tells me there is a mineral called Villiaumite. Cyprine and Puchirol are also blanks for me. The only mineral reference I can come up with is citrine. Correction 9/02: Rachel also points out the minerals Cyprine and Pucherite; thanks to Rachel! At this point, the minerals seem to have lost any particular significance to the characters. But we, once again, have a parallel to the Inners. Eudial, red, fights with flame. Mimete, gold, is the vain one who wants to be an idol. Teruru, green, fights with plants (similar to, say, Oak Evolution). Viluy, blue, is the intellectual one.


Nehalenia/Nehrenia (and Zirconia)

This villainess I have a precedent for, but it’s really far out. Nehalennia is the name of a Gaulish goddess (thanks to Scott for finding this at a now defunct site). She was one of those earth-mother types who provides abundant harvests and was particularly associated with watching over travelers (as in the traveling circus?). The symbol for this latter attribute was dolphins, and in a very loose chain of association we might consider the water surrounding the dolphins to be the source of Neherenia’s fascination with mirrors. Like I said, it’s far out. On the other hand, she definitely has some Snow White Evil Queen touches. In the last few episodes of Season Four, especially, there are bits that sound an awful lot like variations on “mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”. I think looking for mirror associations is more likely to bear fruit with this character than casting about for name references; certainly her distaste for having the pure of heart look at her resonates to the idea of the eyes as ‘mirrors of the soul’. As an aside, I was impressed by what a sophisticated account of narcissism we have in Neherenia. Her story, in Episode 172, of how she was lonely until she found her mirror and then became her own companion, of how using the mirror to save herself from loneliness meant she had to be beautiful forever, of how she was cast back into loneliness upon losing the mirror, is a bit chilling.

Now, with Zirconia, we’re back to the meaningful minerals. I was entertained by this choice, which implies falseness (Genuine Cubic Zirconia!). There are also the interesting hints we get that Zirconia is somehow a part or extension of Neherenia herself; recall Episode 166, where a new Zirconia extends out of Neherenia’s body? So, is Zirconia the false side of Neherenia (the side presented by the mirror to frighten her–remember that it’s many Zirconias we see reflected with Neherenia after she’s possessed or whatever by her mirror), or a true reflection, turning Zirconia’s name on it’s head, and possibly implying that it’s Neherenia herself who’s a false jewel? Trivia fact: Zirconia’s flying eye, Zircon, is named for a genuine gemstone not a synthetic, though the name cubic zirconia did probably come from the fact that zircons are very similar to diamonds and have been used as diamond substitutes.


The Amazon Trio

These I can’t find specific precedents for. The idea of animals turning into humans pops up in just about any culture’s folklore, but I have never run across any story that seems to match these particular ones. If they were foxes or racoon/badgers, now, that would have made sense (kitsune and tanuki–shapechangers). But a hawk, a tiger and a fish I don’t know about.

There do seem to be some parallels between them and the Inners. Fish Eye is associated with water and the color blue, just as Mercury is. Tigers Eye could be connected with Venus via the color gold and general vanity. Hawks Eye doesn’t fit as well, though his pink could be aligned with Mars’ red and they both attack with fire. On the other hand, he’s the one who tends toward physical confrontations which is more in Jupiter’s line. It isn’t a very good fit, though.

Ah, a note about the Amazon thing. One theory is that this is intended to link both the Trio and the Quartet to minerals (amazonite). Personally, I throw in with Doi’s idea that it’s a reference to the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. While the animals could certainly come from any sufficiently northern Asian ecosystem, the Quartet are shown running though what looks remarkably like a jungle in Episode 164 where we get the flashback to when they met Neherenia. Given that Brazil is one significant source of immigration to Japan, the presence of such a reference makes sense to me. Also note that the Quartet use “Amazon stones” and that Sere-Sere says one of her flowers is “born in the Amazon” (Episode 154).


The Amazoness Quartet

That CD whose title I still can’t recall, that I borrowed from Kay, suggests an origin for the Quartet that I find likely. It goes thus: Jun-Jun is Juno (Hera, the Queen of Olympus), though where she gets her tendency to gymnastics from I’m not sure. Hera is mostly famous for being vengefully pissed off over Zeus’ philandering. But the fact that Jun-Jun is the most independent and thoughtful of the Quartet would fit in. So would her somewhat nasty sense of humor (closing someone in with a bear to get him over the box horse, Episode 155). And I suppose one could take her hat as similar to a peacock’s tail, the peacock being one of Hera’s animals. Para-Para gets transliterated to Palla-Palla, as in Pallas Athene (Minerva to the Romans). This one is also a little strange, as Athene is supposed to be a goddess of wisdom as well as artisans. On the other hand, the part of her name that got used, Pallas, does come from an episode where Athene acted rather hastily; she was sparring with her friend Pallas and wound up killing her by accident. This was when Athene added her friend’s name to her own to honor her. And, when you get right down to it, Athene is also the war goddess. So, while her typical character isn’t very like Para-Para’s, she does have episodes that might match better with Para-Para’s rather psychotic nature. Beth-Beth is extrapolated as a reference to Vesta (the Greek Hestia), goddess of hearth and home. Again, where she gets the animals from, I’m not sure. I suppose, on a stretch, there could be a connection between Hestia’s particular emblem, fire, and the wildness of the animals; as Hestia tames and guards the fire (this was a very big deal in the days before matches), so Beth-Beth tames animals. The only one that I thought fit really well was Sere-Sere, or Ceres (Demeter to the Greeks) the goddess of fields and harvest. Sere-Sere’s way with plants certainly matches with the mythology here. These four names are also the names of the four greater asteroids in astrological computations (thus, probably, the Quartet’s transformation, see below) which lends considerable weight to this interpretation.

There’s also the level of parallels with the Inners. This seems to be mostly a hold-over from the manga, in which the Quartet become the Asteroids when they are redeemed. The Asteroids are then Chibiusa’s senshi and bodyguards just as the Inners are for Serenity (as the four generals were/are for Endymion; it all lines up). Our Directors do seem to leave this possibility open for the anime as well. At any rate, if you match up the colors, the personalities start falling into line in interesting ways. Beth-Beth, for instance, is the red one and matches up with Mars (and there is our fire reference for Vesta); they’re certainly both the hasty and hot-tempered ones. Jun-Jun, in green, lines up with Jupiter (one of the places where the symbolism really matches, Juno being the wife of Jupiter mythologically speaking); they’re both the physically active and strong ones and both have a more thoughtful, stable side that the rest of their respective groups tend to lean on. Sere-Sere and Venus both come up gold, though I found less personality match for those two. The only significant one I could find was that they’re both vain (which certainly matches mythologically for Venus, but not for Ceres that I ever heard). And then there’s the strange pair, Para-Para and Mercury, in blue. In some ways, I think their primary similarity is that they are both a little set apart from their groups–Para-Para because of her alternating childishness and psychotic violence, and Ami because of her intellectual approach. Both their titular deities are associated with intelligence, though. If you watch Episode 160, these matches are demonstrated. Para-Para can tell that the draped banner isn’t proportioned right while it’s Ami who knows what she means and how to fix it. Jun-Jun is the first one to leap out onto the catwalk, totally unafraid of the height, while Makoto is the one who cranks a falling sign back up (both demonstrations of physical prowess). And when the two sides start fighting, each of them matches up with her color partner.


Elios/Helios and Elusion

This was an easy one. Elios, of course, equates to Helios, one of the sun gods. Helios is the son of Hyperion (also a sun god) and one of his best known stories eventually got subsumed into Apollo’s mythology–the one about his son Phaeton. This story seems to illustrate parts of Elios’ character well. Helios had a son, Phaeton, with a mortal woman and, due to some taunts, Phaeton eventually seeks out his father to confirm his own origins. Helios, happy to see his son, assures Phaeton that Helios is indeed his father and swears to grant any request the boy cares to make in order to reassure him of this. Phaeton wants to drive Helios’ sun-chariot. While Helios is distressed at this, correctly believing that Phaeton won’t be able to control it, his oath compels him to agree. Of course, Phaeton loses control of the chariot and Zeus blows him out of the sky before he sets all the earth on fire. The idea of honoring one’s obligations certainly translates into Elios’ character.

I was also tickled by the name of Elios’ realm: Elusion. The same trick is played with pronunciation here as was used with Prince Dimando’s name (pronounced closer to Demando–demand and diamond at the same time). On the one hand, Elusion sounds like “illusion”, appropriate enough for the realm of dreams. And on the other, it sounds like Elysian, the name of the Greek paradise within Hades’ underworld realm.


The Starlights

These, I don’t have any good ideas about. If there were four of them I would suspect Christian archangel symbolism. As there are three I suppose, at a stretch, it could be trinity symbolism. I’m almost more inclined, though, to take them as the feminine threesome that pops up every so often, for example as the Fates: maiden (fighter?), mother (maker?) and crone (healer?). If you go with Western European color associations, their hair colors (white, red, black) match this configuration–though if we map it that way it reverses the order I just suggested. That’s really iffy, too, though. And they aren’t precisely set up in parallel with the Inners, via out-of-uniform color associations, like similar groups. Although Taiki is generally associated with blue (Ami), Seiya winds up with red and I don’t think s/he’s supposed to be Rei’s parallel–and those two swap colors in Episode 198. Yaten fluctuates between green and yellow but neither hir connection with Makoto nor with Minako is particularly strong (aside from getting into fights with both of them). The author of Star of Creation, Jennifer S., suggests looking in Hindu mythology; she could be right. 6/8/02: found a source that definitely suggests Hindu symbolism. Michelle Rogers’ site, Aurorean, notes the associations of the Trimurti, the Hindu trio who make up the prime godhead. In shorthand it goes thus: Shiva, the Destroyer, red, Fighter; Brahma, the Creator, blue, Maker; Vishnu, the Preserver, yellow, Healer. For the details follow the link, but I think this one is a pretty good bet. Michelle also found what looks like a solid connection to Shinto.


Galaxia and Chaos

With Galaxia, I’m inclined to think all the symbolism is internal. Having established that lots of stars/planets have guardian senshi, Our Directors simply introduce us to the one in charge of the whole galaxy. Chaos, however, could be another classical reference. After all, Chaos was supposed to be the initial state of things, and the first progenitor/creator. This would march with the idea the Chaos has always been present, though not with the idea that Chaos arises from the minds/hearts/souls of life unless we’re going with a pretty sophisticated view of myths and deities. That is, of course, a possibility. Certainly the ending, with Chaos going back into the minds/hearts/souls of life “where it belongs,” and the admonition Sailor Moon addresses to Galaxia-redeemed to trust in people to defeat it, is a pretty sophisticated view of ethics. As sophisticated, really, as the idea that shows up at the end of both Season Five story arcs, about going back and doing it over again. At first glance this sounds like fantasy wish fulfillment, but it’s based on a deeper truth. The nature of any mistake or trauma is to stop progress, to freeze. So not only is the past, at the point of the mistake, always there to return to, it is utterly necessary to go back to that point and live from it again in order to find a new way forward. Philosophically, psychologically, historically, this is a constant of life; and it’s beautifully expressed in Episode 200, and never fails to make me cry when I watch it.



Notes of interest–at least to me.

Our Directors seem to like games; of course decoding symbolism is always kind of like playing conceptual dominos, but in this case the authors are clearly setting some of it up really deliberately. For instance, the Elios-Peruru-Yaten chain. Both Elios and Peruru are love interests for Chibiusa, and Sakamoto Chika did the voices of both Peruru and Yaten. Elios and Peruru are both generally otherworldly beings in charge of guarding dreams. Peruru and Yaten both like cats and are both musicians. And, of course, all three look remarkably similar–short (relative to, say Mamoru) and silver haired.

It’s similar to the way Mamoru and Seiya are set up as equivalent. They’re about equally obnoxious when Usagi first meets each of them; they both take the liberty of calling her Odango which mightily annoys her to begin with; they’re both black haired and blue eyed (though Mamoru’s eyes are also drawn as grey).

And, speaking of parallels, from the start of the second arc of Season Five, Seiya’s earrings are crescent moons, echoing the ones Sailor Moon wears. In Episode 198, Uranus’ earrings, which are usually hoops, are drawn to look remarkably crescent-like and appear very similar to the crescent earrings Fighter is intermittently drawn as wearing (instead of her more usual stars). This is, of course, the episode in which Uranus and Fighter finally bury the hatchet (albeit on death’s doorstep) and acknowledge that they are both motivated by a desire to protect Usagi.

More on earrings: did you ever notice how much Tigers Eye’s earrings look like razor blades? I’m inclined to think this is deliberate, to reinforce the perception that what he’s doing is both violent and cruel. (Rachel Brewster confirms that they are supposed to be razor blades; info from the Materials Collection artbook. More thanks to Rachel!)

A puzzle: all the Sailor Senshi we meet are women. The explanation of the senshi is that they are each in charge of or the incarnation of a particular star or planet. So far, so good. The most common explanation for why there is no senshi for Earth is that Mamoru is Earth’s protector (it’s right there in his name, after all). But he sure doesn’t seem to be one of the senshi… (excuse me, I had to stop and pick myself up again after falling out of my chair laughing at the picture of Mamoru in one of those mini-skirted sailor suits.) But he does seem to fit into the same continuum, as it were. In Episode 197, Galaxia says that star seeds with eternal shine are those of senshi in charge of stars and planets; and she’s talking about Mamoru’s star seed when she says this. A curiosity.

And I really want to know why Minako’s character was altered so much in the anime. The first season she’s quite similar to her manga-self; she’s a leader, an initiator, and her romantic experience is referred to mostly as an indication of maturity–having lived through a little more than the other girls. But as the seasons go by she becomes less and less a leader and more and more unstable. That laugh of hers gets more unbalanced each season. But this also seems to be a source of strength for her; her bout of two timing in Episode 141 is a good example. She’s so pissed off over being deceived by Tigers Eye and Hawks Eye when she thought she was tricking them that it gives her the strength to break out of De Sade’s pool table. As Artemis says, “Scary!” So what’s the message here? There’s strength in mildly insane arrogance? Someone who really believes in the most destructive aspects of the beauty-and-marrige industry can conquer all? Or that one can win by taking advantage of the system while keeping its artificiality in mind? All of the above? I’m a little inclined toward that last, given the dramatic alterations of personality Minako can show, which seem to indicate that she really does have higher values than get-a-man… sometimes. But the girl is a little to fond of poison for my comfort. (Rachel makes the very good point that Season One Minako has been used to operating alone, and that it would be reasonable for her to relax from mature-and-serious mode once she finds the rest of the team and doesn’t have to do everything herself any more.)

Have you noticed the distinct populist slant of the morals in this show? We’ve already noted Sailor Moon’s admonition to redeemed!Galaxia to trust the people to defeat Chaos within themselves. It’s even more noticeable at the end of Season Four, Episode 165. The point that Prince Endymion makes to Elios, and Elios makes to Sailor Chibi Moon, and she acts on, is that the strength of the people cannot be totally crushed. And it’s the power of all those people we’ve spent the entire season seeing jerked around, clamped to pool tables and shot with billiard balls that activates the Golden Crystal and saves the day. Interesting, hm?

Dan Smith points out that, if you look at Saturn’s Glaive from a figure/ground perspective, the ground between the blades forms the shape of a rabbit. He suggests the implication that anyone facing Saturn has a choice: the cuddly or the edged. I would also suggest that this might have been a reference to the confusion between Hotaru and Usagi, as to who’s the Messiah. The rabbit, being very much Usagi’s symbol, could indicate that these two characters are conflated all through Season Three. Dan also notes that the characters’ colors, especially if you look at the Princesses picture, are lined up nicely according to a chromaticity diagram by wavelengths. In his own words,

Red, golden yellow, green, turquoise, cyan-blue, indigo, violet-purple, and magenta space out evenly (with white & black orthogonally representing Usagi & Setsuna).. …and not only do these colors space out evenly, but one finds that the saturation of each of these colors matches the way the scouts fit into the story. Minako(yellow) is closest to Usagi, with Rei(red), Makoto(green), then Ami(cyan-blue).. …Michiru(turquoise) a bit further.. …then Haruka(indigo) and Hotaru(violet-purple) the farthest away. (Chibiusa is a special case, as she`s really pink rather than magenta, making her somewhat indeterminate)####…another interesting parallel is that all of the colors from red to indigo can be uniquely characterized by specific wavelengths, whereas violet, purple, and magenta are composed of combinations of wavelengths . This singles out Hotaru & Chibiusa as different,somehow…####. (personal email)

This suggests to me that Takeuchi may have had more reason to make Chibiusa so terribly pink than causing nausea; a great relief.


Footnote: Genealogy

Here is one of the more common Greek genealogies, mostly based on Hesiod, so that we can all keep this straight.


Next tier


Next tier, now involving sexual rather than asexual creation,


There’s a lot of duplication here; for instance, both Oceanus and Tethys are ocean deities, and both Hyperion and Theia are sun deities. Most such instances seem to involve the deities being mates. Hyperion and Theia, for instance, produce Helios (another sun god), Selene and Eos (dawn). As a side note, Coeus and Phoebe produced Leto, who mated with Zeus and bore Apollo and Artemis.

Now, here’s one of the places it gets ugly; Uranus despises his children and hides them within the earth (Gaia) which pisses her off. So she makes a sickle and asks her children to help her by killing their father. Cronus agrees and, using the sickle, cuts off Uranus’ genitals (not precisely killing him but dethroning him) and throws them into the ocean. They mingle with the sea foam and produce Aphrodite (Venus). Cronus then mates with Rhea (I should point out at this stage that, just as Uranus and Gaia were the sky and the earth, so are Cronus and Rhea; this is not uncommon in early mythology, for one generation to merge into or overthrow and replace the preceding one) and that gets us the next tier.


Now Cronus learns from his parents that one of his own children is destined to overthrow him in turn and, apparently not having learned a thing from his own history, he proceeds to eat each of his offspring as it is born. This offends Rhea and she sets out to thwart him. She succeeds in concealing the last child, Zeus, giving Cronus a stone instead which he ingests. Eventually, Zeus overthrows his father and forces him to disgorge Zeus’ siblings (who are all hale and hearty, digestion being insufficient to destroy gods). At this point the next generation divide up the world. Zeus gets the sky, Poseidon gets the seas and Hades gets the underworld. Demeter kind of inherits Rhea’s place, becoming the goddess of land and harvest, Hestia takes charge of home and hearth, thus becoming the only one who seems to give a rip about the welfare of mortals, and Hera marries Zeus. Next tier.


Like I said, Zeus ran around a lot, so his other unions also produced:






This last, obviously, is an alternate origin for Aphrodite (Homeric, I believe); Hesiod’s version with the sea foam is more prevalent though the more squeamish versions leave out Uranus’ genitals. There were also a lot of other entities that resulted in Zeus’ profligacy, too many to list here.

So that finally gives us the fourteen Olympian gods that the Greeks and Romans had more or less in common, Greek names first, Roman names second: Zeus/Jupiter, Hera/Juno, Poseidon/Neptune, Hades/Pluto, Hestia/Vesta, Hephastus/Vulcan, Ares/Mars, Apollo, Artemis/Diana, Demeter/Ceres, Aphrodite/Venus, Athena/Minerva, Hermes/Mercury and Dionysus/Bacchus.

Send a comment to the author

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> in your comment.
* = required field
Email will not be disclosed

Last Modified: Aug 22, 08
Posted: Jul 21, 00