MMF: Manga vs. Anime, or Who Is Hino Rei?

I touched yesterday on the differences between the source manga and its anime adaptation when I discussed villains. Of course, it doesn’t get limited just to them. Any anime adapted from a manga is going to need to expand and add in order to make it viable. 23 minutes of screen time vs. 30-40 odd pages means you need to figure out ways to remain true to your material while exploring new boundaries. And given that the original manga is 52 chapters, and the anime counterpart is 200 episodes… there’s a lot of stuff that can best be categorized as “anime only”. There’s added on plot arcs, like Ail and Ann; there’s changing events to make things more dramatic for television, such as the end of the first arc. And sometimes, there’s changes of the main characters themselves.

Sometimes this cam be small. Usagi cries a lot more in the anime, but this isn’t really that out of character for her. Likewise, Minako’s ditziness gets really ramped up as the series goes on, but you never find yourself thinking “Wait, she’d never do something like that.” There are three characters, however, that I’d argue the anime alters enough so that fan opinion on them changes depending on what people are more familiar with. And let’s be honest, for 95% of Sailor Moon fans, that’s the anime.

Mamoru and Usagi end up falling for each other straight away. And in the manga, despite the occasional ‘being possessed by evil’ that happens to love interests all the time, this is never in doubt. The series is not really about “will they get together or not?”, especially after the second arc shows us the future in Crystal Tokyo. As a result, one main element used to pad out an anime is missing from the manga – romantic tension. Not to worry, though. Simply have Mamoru be far more aloof and unconcerned with Usagi’s feelings, and have Usagi be even more insecure and jealous than she is in the original. Plus throw in a few rivals for their love. Presto! … Of course, the problem is that this makes Mamoru look like a jerk at times. Thus, for those who grew up with the anime, it’s not “wow, look at their beautiful love” but “what does she see in him?”

(I haven’t been able to track down a source, but several folks have noted that the director of Sailor Moon R, S, and Super S, Kunihiko Ikuhara (better known for Utena and Mawaru Penguindrum these days) has openly stated he couldn’t stand Mamoru, and wanted Usagi to end up with Rei.)

Mamoru, of course, is still at heart a “nice guy”, meaning that it’s harder to hammer on his character flaws the way one can with crybaby Usagi or impulsive Minako. Sometimes, though, when a character does have known character flaws, hammering on them TOO much can cause issues. This is what happened, to a certain degree, with Chibi-Usa in the anime. She is, especially in her debut, meant to be a bratty kid who glomps on to Mamoru and doesn’t like Usagi. While this improves in future seasons, like “crybaby Usagi”, her default seems to be “bratty Chibi-Usa”. And fans, as a whole, tend not to like bratty kids that much. She’s a bit bratty in the manga as well, but it makes her shyer as well, and gives her a lot more bonding moments with Usagi. But again, we run into what happens when you have to fill time. Need to have conflict in an episode? Have Chibi-Usa fighting with Usagi. I like to think that the two of them are finally getting less hatred from fandom, but it was quite bad for a time.

Sailor Mars, aka Hino Rei, is quite different. With a few exceptions, she never got the hate that a lot of folks had for Mamoru and Chibi-Usa. Of course, she was also dealing with a different problem. Mamoru and Chibi-Usa were still recognizably their manga characters, just with several negative traits brought to the fore. But Rei… Rei was *changed*. In the manga she may get angry with Usagi at times, but it’s more of a grumpy irritation, and in general Rei epitomizes the “cool and aloof” type. She also shows no interest in Mamoru whatsoever, and in fact notes a few times that she doesn’t like men. (I think that’s meant to be more of a “teenage boys are immature” thing than a yuri thing, not that that’s stopped anyone.) In the anime, however, she’s an angry hothead whose fiery temper matches her element. And she’s the main rival to Usagi for Mamoru’s affection in the first season.

Why the huge change? Again, it could be to add conflict. It’s not as if Usagi was going to get into shouting matches with Ami, after all. And what’s more, Makoto doesn’t show up till episode 25, leaving a lot of space where it’s just Usagi, Ami and Rei. Someone has to offset the others. What’s more, Rei’s loud and angry persona gives her more easily exploitable flaws – it’s shows right off the bat that she and Usagi are more alike than they want to admit – and also allows them to grow closer as friends once this is discovered. Usagi and Rei grow to be best friends in the anime, whereas in the manga I’m not sure that’s the case. (Rei in the manga tends to match up with Minako, who displays many of the same qualities and has the same ability to drive Rei nuts.)

As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, one thing that’s been driven into my head is that canon is fluid, and it’s really best to be able to keep several conflicting realities in your head at once rather than remain wedded to one to the exclusion of everything else. The Sailor Moon anime and manga both have strengths and weaknesses, several of which actually offset each other quite well. But in the end, I think fans are still going to have to clarify when they’re debating a pairing or a plot point, “Are you talking about the anime personality or the manga one?” And let’s not even get into Minako’s changes in the live-action series…

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  1. And here’s me replying to a year old blog because google!
    I know what you mean about Rei’s character changes! This is the one of the main reasons why I like the anime more than the manga, despite it’s flaws. If there’s one thing I like about Sailor Moon, it’s the Usagi/Rei friendship. Seriously, that’s the number one for me.
    Also, the anime’s actual artwork is often way better than the manga. Much more mature art in terms of anatomy and aesthetics.

  2. Well I frankly agree with Kunihiko Ikuhara, I never liked Mamoru, at least in the anime. Mamoru never seemed to care about Usagi very much and he appeared to be a huge jerk at times, he even went so far as to cancel their dates randomly, only giving her the excuse that she needed to focus on school and bring her grades up first. In the manga he actually did seem to love her so I don’t hate his manga counterpart. Rei in the anime seemed to love Usagi more then anyone, always supporting her, protecting her, bringing the best out in her, and comforting her when she needed it the most. I have always been a rei/usagi fan and I think that Usagi SHOULD have ended up with Rei (at least in the anime) considering Rei was the one that kept Usagi strong.


  1. […] speaking of the anime and its influence, I take a look at Mamoru, Chibi-Usa and Rei and the changes they made – some quite significant! – going from page to […]

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