The Lemures Files
  Guest Article: December 15, 2001

The Japanese Way

By: Raven

Recently I finished reading a very interesting German book about Japan, “Reisegast in Japan”. What I learned about the Japanese and their way of life helped me to understand certain aspects of Sailormoon that I always wondered about.

Public and private
For traditional Japanese it is very important to wear a kind of mask when they are in public. They are friendly but distant, smiling but never laughing loudly. Showing happiness and sadness to strangers is considered a weakness and lack of self-discipline. It disturbs the Japanese ideal of harmony and therefore Japanese don’t feel comfortable around anyone who cannot control his feelings in public. That does not mean that the Japanese have no feelings at all, they just have a lot more self control than western people. In private, among family and very close friends, they show how they feel.

Considering this traditional view of behaving properly in public you can imagine that Usagi seems to be the opposite of the ideal Japanese girl. Ami is much more a “good” Japanese girl, than Usagi. But what about Usagi’s other identities?

Moon Princess Serenity seems to represent the public mask that is proper for traditional Japanese. She is calm, smiling, and serene and has the kind of dignity that Usagi lacks. Usagi, the crybaby, who can start laughing loudly when reading a comic in a shop, does not carry the proper smiling mask, she shows her private self to everyone. No wonder that her friends sometimes feel ashamed (sweat drops) when she acts that way in public. She matures during the series and in the last season Usagi seems to be able to put on that mask, otherwise she would not been able to hide her worries.

Sailormoon is kind of a strange mixture between the private self (Usagi) and the public self (Serenity). At the beginning the senshi of love and justice behaves like a crybaby and the way she shows her crush for Tuxedo Kamen is a lot more like Usagi than like Serenity. But there are situations where Sailormoon acts mature and calm and has the dignity that I dub worthy of a princess or a future queen.

Did you ever wonder why neither Usagi nor Sailormoon try to give royal orders to Uranus, Neptune or Pluto. She is their princess, and will be their queen but they don’t care a bit what she thinks and wants (considering their attitude towards Hotaru and later the StarLights). She does not order them around and they do not obey, because neither Usagi nor Sailormoon wears the public mask that is necessary to represent royalty. Only after the attack at the end of Sailormoon S, when the golden light surrounds Sailormoon and she refuses to fight, acting and commands them to stop this unnecessary fight, they respect her and bow their knees.

Neo Queen Serenity seems to be very royal, the perfect monarch, just like the Moon Princess, serene, calm, and mature. That is her public mask and she wears it well. But from the tales of ChibiUsa and Diana we know that the private Neo Queen Serenity is much like Usagi in the present world, the private Queen likes to skip official duties and the way she writes letters to her daughter and present day Usagi (with the little funny sketches and incorrect kanji) show also that her private self is quite different from the perfect mask of dignity and harmony that she wears in public.

That may explain the rankings that sometimes show up in manga, readers have ranked all the forms of all the characters separately. The Japanese seem to consider these different roles much more important than we would do.

I don’t believe that Mamoru’s “cold” behavior in public, when he has a date with Usagi, is the result of a lack of social experience, because he has lost his parents when he was very young. In my opinion he shows exactly the kind of “proper” behavior (he is calm, distant, self-disciplined) his parents would have taught him if they were still alive. Poor Mamoru, he is hated and disliked by many fans just, because he represents a more realistic view of a typical Japanese guy than other male anime characters do.

Seiya, on the other hand, is not Japanese. He comes from another planet and so he has never been taught how to behave the proper traditional way in public. Further he is a famous idol and improper behavior is more likely to be forgiven if it is shown by a popular idol than by the average Japanese like Mamoru. But even Seiya cannot completely escape the role he has to play because he has chosen to use a fake Japanese name. The number one fan of The Three Lights fan club tells him what she thinks about his “selfishness” when he spends too much time with Usagi or shows his affection for her openly.

During the R-movie, all senshi have flash backs, showing them the loneliest parts of their lives before they met Usagi. Minako’s memories show that she was not popular at her school, although she was a cheerful, kind and pretty girl and also good at volleyball. She did not found a friend there. One of the reasons may be that she has to be distant in order to keep her secret (Sailor V).

But more likely there is another reason too. Minako is not accepted, because she has spent quite some time in “exile” abroad, in England. Children who have lived for a longer period of time outside of Japan often have problems when they come back to Japan because they do not fit in any more. They have forgotten how to behave properly. Minako is not a “good” Japanese girl who is calm, smiling, and not showing too much of her feelings in public. She is cheerful, energetic and a lot like Usagi. In contrast to Usagi she does not have the luck of having a close friend like Naru at school.

These are just a few of the aspects that I never thought about before reading this book. It is fascinating to learn about the Japanese culture and the more I learn the more I am aware of my lack of knowledge.

Comments on this article can be sent to: Raven.

Comments made on this page are opinions of the author. They are not necessarily shared by Tripod and the Amazoness Quartet.

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