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
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.