As part of our Name Origins series of articles, this page intends to try and explain the names of the main characters of Sailor Moon. Like many other fiction authors, Naoko Takeuchi seems to strive to put some meaning or pun into the names of her characters, though some names are less clear than others.
The following has not been confirmed by Naoko Takeuchi or anyone officially connected to the Sailor Moon series and are speculation based on evidence and knowledge of the Japanese language. Take the following with a grain of salt as it may or may not have been the intention of the original creator.
(月野うさぎ Tsukino Usagi)
The undeniably most well-known pun of the series is the main character herself. Her name, like most of the other Solar System Soldiers contains the kanji (Chinese characters used by the Japanese) identifying her celestial body, in this case, “tsuki” (月) for “Moon”. The second character in her family name “no” (野) means “fields”. Thus, making the literal meaning of Tsukino, “Moon Fields”. 野 is also a character that can mean “private” or “civilian life”, which is fitting given these are the civilian guises of the characters. Usagi is written with the hiragana writing system and means “rabbit”.Her full name is a pun on the phrase “Rabbit of the Moon”, this is because the character (野) is pronounced the same way as the possessive particle “no” (の), so Tsukino Usagi becomes Tsuki-no-Usagi (Rabbit of the Moon).
In Japanese folklore, it is said that on the Moon there is a rabbit pounding ingredients to make a rice cake (mochi). This is due to the dark and light parts of the moon looking like a rabbit shape, similiar to the Western idea of the “Man in the Moon”. Usagi’s hairstyle is supposed to make her appear rabbit-like, additionally Makoto makes the “Rabbit of the Moon” pun in the manga when they first go to the Moon. To further the pun, Usagi’s room is covered in rabbit merchandise and in the Sailor Moon anime, she sometimes sports clothing bearing the kanji for rabbit (still pronounced “usagi” 兔).
(水野亜美 Mizuno Ami)
Ami’s name, like most of the other characters, is written with kanji. “Mizuno” is the same sort of pun as “Tsukino”. In this case, it is a pun on “mizu-no” 水の (of water). The character “mizu” can also be read as “sui” and is the kanji identified with Planet Mercury, in Japanese “suisei” 水星 (literally Water Star).
In Eastern Astrology, the five ancient planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are associated with the Chinese elements Water, Metal, Fire, Wood and Earth respectively. This is the reason why Sailor Mercury is associated with water attacks. The “suisei” pun is extended further in the musical “The New Legend of Kaguya Island” where Ami makes a brief speech on comets, which in Japanese are also pronounced “suisei” with a different kanji (彗星).
Ami’s given name is harder to give an exact reason. The “mi” is straight forward and means “beauty”, however the character 亜 for “a” is most commonly used as an ateji. An ateji is a kanji character that is used to represent a sound. These were used before the widespread use of katakana. This kanji representing the sound “a” is very rarely seen alone, but is sometimes seen in girls names. The character 亜 does not hold much meaning on its own and many people will tell you that it means nothing. However, that is untrue and merely an oversimplification of its use as an ateji. 亜 is used to represent a lower rank, particularly in chemical compounds, to register that they are of a lower oxidation state (Sulphurous Acid as opposed to Sulphuric Acid).
Its other use is as an uncommon way for the word “Asia”. I will point out now, that some people will tell you that it does not mean Asia, it just appears in compounds with “a”, historically, that happen to be about Asia. So basically 亜 does not directly mean Asia, but is used in words referring to Asia and is connotative towards the meaning “Asia”. 亜 is also derived from the Chinese character “yà” (亞), which means Asia. It also appears in compounds such as “toua” 東亜 for “East Asia”. So the best literal meaning for Ami’s full name would be “Water Fields Asian Beauty”. However, keep in mind that it is a name and like in English, we do not always concentrate on the actual meaning of the name.
The reasoning for the name “Asian Beauty” possibly stems from Noriko Sakai, a pop idol who Ms. Takeuchi noted Ami resembles. Even in Ami’s original appearance in the original manga (removed in the rerelease), Usagi comments on Ami’s physical appearance, comparing her to the character Miss Rain from another of Naoko Takeuchi’s work. Other possibilities on Ami are on puns for the French word for friend “ami” or “amie” which are both approximated as “ami” (アミ) in Japanese. This would reflect her kind and caring nature to all people. “Ami” (網) which is used for knitting or braiding, might also explain why Ami is seen knitting many times during the live-action series. In both these cases, the use of the kanji would be to “mask” the true intention of her name and make the pun less obvious, just because a word is written in a different writing system does not make a pun non-existent.
(火野レイ Hino Rei）
Hino is the same idea as Tsukino and Mizuno, instead it is a pun on “fire” and “Mars” (kasei 火星). However, her first name is quite different, unlike all the other characters in the main cast (barring Luna, Artemis and Diana whose names are from foreign languages), Rei’s name is written in katakana, a writing system used mainly for approximately foreign words. In this case, it most likely reflects her connection to traditional Japan by being a priestess. It is rather old-fashioned to name a daughter with katakana. There are many words with the pronunciation “rei” and one stands out more than the others. 霊 which refers to spirits, ghosts or souls, something that as a Shinto Priestess with a supernatural sense, Rei is very familiar with.
(木野まこと Kino Makoto)
Again, Kino follows suit and refers to “wood” and “Jupiter” mokusei 木星. This explains Jupiter’s attacks such as Flower Hurricane and Jupiter Coconuts Cyclone. Makoto’s name is written in hiragana, making it rather ambiguous since there is a variety of ways one can make the name “Makoto” from kanji. The name “Makoto” is often a rather boyish name. This may be a reference to how people often mistakenly judge Makoto as being masculine and tough when she is actually very feminine. As a word itself “makoto” (誠 or 真) refers to “truth”, “sincerity”, “faithf
ul”, “reality” and “honesty”. Japanese groups all these words as a single idea, but it is harder to grasp a single meaning in English. Giving Makoto this name may be a nod towards her dedication as a Soldier and loyalty as a genuine friend. There are very many kanji combinations that make can make “Makoto” but without any indication of which ones to look at, there are too many to consider.
(愛野美奈子 Aino Minako)
Minako breaks the tradition of the other main characters, likely because she was created much earlier. She retains the same “no” pun but “ai” does not directly refer to Venus, 金星 (kinsei). For her name to pun on this, it would probably be something along the lines of Kaneno 金の. Ai ( 愛) means “love”, rather than making her name a pun on Minako of Venus, it is a pun on Minako of Love, which is fitting as Venus in Roman mythology is the Goddess of Love.
Her given name, like Ami’s is in kanji and seems to be part of an elaborate pun, again like Ami, the “mi” 美 means beauty, most likely as Venus was a goddess of Love and Beauty. “Ko” 子is a common name ending for girl names and means “child” or “girl”. The character “na” 奈is more difficult to place a meaning of, it really just represents the sound “na”. It also appears in a few inquisitive words and in the city of Nara’s name. For Minako’s name, it is really just used probably to make the “na” sound to make a pun work. The kanji “mi” can also be pronounced “bi” while the kanji “ko” can also be pronounced “su”, making an alternative reading of the kanji in Minako’s name “binasu”, which is one way to approximate the English word “Venus” (ビナス）into Japanese, so the full pun in her name is “Venus of Love”.
Written by: Akiko Hime
Edited by: Hikari-Sama