Ian Andreas Miller. 29 April 2002.
It is unfortunate that even some of the better sources on Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn claim that Usagi's full name ďliterallyĒ means rabbit of the moon. That notion is false now, and it was false ten years ago when somebody first came up with it. Other sources say that Usagiís name is a pun on a Japanese phrase that means rabbit of the moon, but they do not explain why her name does not literally mean that. Those who know about puns should understand that if Usagiís full name really meant rabbit of the moon, it would not be a pun. A pun has to do with a play on words, not with the literal meaning of a word.
The names of the other important characters in Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn are also often not adequately explained. When we look at how the Japanese write the names of the characters, we can see that many of the popular interpretations in books and on Web sites are clearly incorrect. Some fans may say that different people have different interpretations, but that excuse does not work when the written characters in question have nothing to do with those interpretations. Language exists to facilitate communication, not to hinder it. If everything were open to free interpretation, how would the Japanese understand each other? The answer is that they would not be able to communicate effectively. We cannot come up with any possible interpretation and consider it to be as accurate as the others. Some interpretations make sense, others do not.
This article explains the individual parts of the civilian names of several important characters in Bishjo Senshi Sr Mn. It also shows why some of the popular interpretations of those names are inaccurate. It is hoped that from now on, more sources will give thorough and accurate explanations of the names. We shall get a better understanding of the Japanese language and a better appreciation of Naoko Takeuchiís verbal dexterity if we take the time to examine the individual parts of the names of those characters.
When we look carefully at the Japanese characters that are used to write Usagiís full name, we would not find the possessive particle no1 that is often translated as of. The no in the name really means field or wilderness2. The kanji means moon or month3. The particle and the kanji are homophones. They are different characters that have different meanings, but they represent the same sound. English also has homophones. There is an English word that means unclothed and is written with the Roman letters bare. There is another English word, which sounds like bare, that refers to a kind of animal that lives in the woods. This other word is written with the Roman letters bear. If a person said one of those words aloud, others would not be able to tell the difference. They would know the difference in writing and in speech if they knew the context in which the word is used. If a Japanese person said no, it would be difficult for another Japanese person to understand what the speaker meant because no can mean different things in Japanese. If a Japanese person wrote the particle or the kanji , then other people who know how to read Japanese would know which word was meant.
(It should be understood that the does not always represent the possessive particle no. That hiragana character can also be used in different ways. For instance, it can be reduced in size and placed next to a kanji. Its purpose in that case is to show the reader the intended pronunciation associated with that kanji. In that case, it would serve as a furigana character4.)
Incidentally, the name Tsukino, when it is written with the kanji , is a real surname5. There may be people in Japan who have that surname. Ms. Takeuchi would not have been the one who created it. Even Usagi's personal name, when it is written with the characters , is a personal name. It may sound like the word for rabbit6, but people often use that term as a personal name7. There could very well be a person in Japan named Usagi. The surname Tsukino, if we read it literally, means moon field. However, it is very unlikely that Ms. Takeuchi wished for Usagiís full name to be read literally. My surname is Miller, but the word miller literally refers to a person who works at a mill. None of the Millers in my family are actual millers, though. Also, my motherís name is Rose, and the word rose literally refers to a kind of flower. However, her name is being used as a personal name for a human. The surname Miller and the personal name Rose should show us how the surname Tsukino and the personal name Usagi are being used. Usagi was a moon princess in her previous life, and in the twentieth century she was given a real Japanese name that sounds exactly like the Japanese phrase that means rabbit of the moon. That is what we mean when we say that Usagiís full name is a pun on that Japanese phrase. When the Japanese write down the Japanese phrase that means rabbit of the moon, they use the characters . The Japanese phrase hints at Usagiís role in the story.
Chibi Usaís birth name is evidently Princess Usagi Small Lady Serenity ( Purinsesu Usagi Sumru Redi Sereniti)8, but many of the characters in the twentieth century often call her Chibi Usa. Many people say that the Japanese term chibi is an adjective that means small. However, that term is really a noun that means dwarf, child, or runt9. The usa part of the name Chibi Usa is an abbreviation of the name Usagi (). Usa, by itself, does not have anything to do with rabbits.
Some fans say that the name Serenity should really be Selenity, a name that derives from the name of a Greek goddess of the moon, Selene. Ms. Takeuchi, in the manga, made a distinction between the name Selene and the name of the princess. The name of the goddess always appears as Serne in the anime and manga10. The second e sound is a long vowel. The name of the princess always appears as Sereniti11. There are no long vowels in the name. The and the would not sound alike to a Japanese person. If Ms. Takeuchi wanted to change the name Selene into Selenity, then she would have taken her way of writing the name Selene in Japanese ( Serne) and changed it to Serniti.
When we look at the second kanji in Amiís surname (), we should notice that it is the same one that means field or wilderness. In Amiís name, that kanji also represents the sound no. The first kanji in her name () has the reading mizu, and it means water12. Mizuno, when it is written as , is a real Japanese surname13.
The last two kanji in her name () represent Amiís personal name. That name is common in Japan14. The character that represents the a sound () in the name Ami has several different meanings15. Its usual meaning is subordinate or next after. That kanji can also be used as an abbreviation of Ajia, which refers to Asia. In other situations, that character can be used phonetically for the a sound16. The kanji represents the mi sound in Amiís name17. It means beautiful or beauty. When the Japanese write the name Ami with the kanji , they do not read them literally. Those kanji represent a Japanese name18. They are used for the sounds they represent, and the meanings of the individual kanji are ignored. Therefore, there is no reason to say that Amiís name was meant to mean ďasian beauty,Ē ďsubordinate beautiful,Ē or any of those other meanings that have been suggested.
Some fans claim that Amiís name is the French word for friend. There are two major problems with that claim, however. Ami is the masculine form of the French word, but amie is the feminine form19. In other words, since Ami is a girl, a French person would call her an amie, not an ami. If Amiís name is supposed to be the French word, then her name should be spelled Amie. Furthermore, Amiís name is written with kanji, not katakana characters. So, we can safely say that this particular Ami is a native Japanese name, not a foreign one. If the French words ami or amie were intended, then the katakana characters would have been used20. In Japanese, could mean friend of water if the katakana characters ami are meant to represent the French word amie.
Amiís full name sounds like the Japanese phrase () that means Ami of water. Ami becomes Sailor Mercury, and she has been given a Japanese name that sounds like a Japanese phrase that mentions water. Sailor Mercury wields the powers of water because one of the Japanese names of the planet Mercury is Suisei, which means Water Star21. Water is one of the five Asian elements22. Her surname hints at the name of the planet Mercury and her role as Sailor Mercury.
Reiís surname also contains that same kanji () that represents the sound no. It still literally means field or wilderness. The first kanji in her surname (), means fire23. The surname Hino, when the Japanese write it as , is a real surname24. Therefore, the Japanese do not read the characters literally as fire field.
Reiís personal name is written in katakana characters. Many people believe that the characters of the katakana syllabary represent only non-Japanese terms. That claim can be shown to be false when we notice that Japanese people sometimes write native Japanese terms and names in katakana characters. The name Yumemi, which is a native Japanese name, can be written as 25. The name Rei, when it is written as , is common in Japan26. The katakana characters represent the sounds in the name Rei, but they do not give any indication of what the name means. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact meaning of the name because rei has many different meanings in Japanese. I have compiled a list of terms that sound like Reiís name. The kanji in red are clickable.
The common translation of Reiís personal name is spirit. My list shows that spirit is not the only possible meaning of her name. It may be difficult to determine the origin of Reiís name, but it is clear that it is native Japanese.
The name Hino Rei () sounds like the Japanese phrase () that means Rei of fire. Rei has the ability to become Sailor Mars. Sailor Mars controls the power of fire because the Japanese often the planet Mars Kasei, which means Fire Star27. Fire is also one of the five Asian elements28. The fire kanji in Reiís surname hints at the name of the planet Mars and her role as Sailor Mars.
By now, readers should be able to recognize the no kanji (). Even in Makotoís surname, that kanji means field or wilderness. The first kanji in her surname () represents the sound ki. It means tree or wood29. Kino, when it is written with the kanji , is a Japanese surname30. Therefore, the Japanese do not read the two kanji literally as tree field or wood field.
The characters represent the sounds in Makotoís personal name. There is a Japanese word makoto that means truth or faith31. Makoto may literally mean truth or faith, but in Makotoís case, it is being used as a personal name.
The name Kino Makoto () sounds like a Japanese phrase that means Makoto of wood (). Makoto has been given the ability to become Sailor Jupiter. Sailor Jupiter wields the power of wood, trees, and plants because the Japanese often call the planet Jupiter Mokusei, which means Wood Star32. Wood is one of the five Asian elements33. Makotoís surname hints at the name of the planet Jupiter and at Sailor Jupiterís powers that have to do with wood.
Minakoís surname contains the familiar no kanji (). It also contains the kanji that represents the sound ai (). That kanji means love34. Aino () is a real Japanese surname35. Therefore, the kanji are not usually read literally as love field.
Minakoís personal name is written in Japanese as . The first kanji represents the sound mi. It means beautiful or beauty36. It is the same mi kanji in Amiís personal name! The second kanji in Minakoís name () represents the sound na37. It can refer to question words like what, but it is often used phonetically for the na sound. The third kanji () means child and it represents the sound ko38. Minako () is a real personal name39. Therefore, the three kanji are not to be read literally.
The name Aino Minako () sounds like a Japanese phrase that means Minako of love (). There is no way that the kanji could ever mean beautiful little child of love. The Japanese phrase for beautiful little child of love is really ai no utsukushii to chiisa na kodomo. That phrase does not look or sound anything like the name Aino Minako ().
Minako has the ability to become Sailor Venus, and Venus was the Roman goddess of love and beauty. Minakoís surname hints at the role of the goddess. The Japanese do not call any of the planets in the solar system Aisei. The Asian element Metal is associated with the planet Venus, and the Japanese call that planet Kinsei, which means Metal Star40. (The kanji can also mean gold.) Ms. Takeuchi first used Minakoís full name before she decided to use surnames that contain the kanji that refer to the Asian elements. That is why Minakoís surname is Aino instead of Kaneno ()41.