Ask Ami: What is Naoko Takeuchi's religion? What are the religions of the Sailor Senshi?
There is no solid answer to either of these questions. Naoko Takeuchi has never gone on record to state her religious beliefs nor the religious beliefs of the Sailor Senshi. We can only try to come up with answers with what little evidence "Sailor Moon" can provide us.
Naoko Takeuchi's religion
Most fans of Naoko Takeuchi's work believe that, if Naoko Takeuchi has a religion, she would be a Christian because of the large amount of Christian symbols she uses in "Sailor Moon". There are several instances in the anime in which the Sailor Senshi are depicted as being crucified. For example, the Inner Senshi were hung on crystal crosses on Rubeus' ship in "Sailor Moon R" Episode 74. In the "Sailor Moon R movie", the Sailor Moon was held by a crucified position by Fiore. Also, in "Sailor Moon S" Episode 123, Hotaru was hung and tormented on a cross in Chibi-Usa's nightmare. However, crucifixion doesn't seem to signify that the character being crucified is symbolic of Jesus Christ. In "Sailor Moon", crucifixion conveys torture since those being crucified are usually screaming or unconscious and may not have any religious significance but the symbolism is definitely worth noting.
In "Sailor Moon S", Usagi is called the Messiah, or chosen one, who will save the world from destruction.
In the Holy Bible of Christianity, Jesus Christ was the Messiah who would deliver His people from evil and save them from their sins. Super Sailor Moon saved the world from destruction by evil and was able to save Hotaru from the evil within herself, Mistress 9. The parellel seems striking.
Also in "Sailor Moon S", the Holy Grail was the sacred cup that Sailor Moon used to become Super Sailor Moon. The Holy Grail was the cup that Jesus Christ used in The Last Supper, the supper before He was crucified. The myths surrounding the Holy Grail said that anyone who drank from the Holy Grail will have "the light of faith rushing into our heart and mind". Other myths said that King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, who acquired the sacred cup in 500, believed that anyone who drank from the Holy Grail would become immortal. In the manga, Mamoru told Usagi and Chibi-Usa the story of Sir Gallahad's quest for the Holy Grail. It's very interesting that Super Sailor Moon the Messiah receives her power from the Holy Grail. In the manga, power actually pours out of the Holy Grail and on to Sailor Moon's lips during her power-up transformation.
Cross necklaces are often worn by characters in "Sailor Moon" in both the anime and manga. In the anime, Haruka wears a cross necklace several times when she is wearing normal clothes. In the manga, Usagi and Haruka both adorn cross jewelry, though again Haruka wears it the most.
Though she is definitely not Christ, Usagi is a Christ-like figure. She saves the world over and over again from evil. She also always sacrifices herself to save others. For example, she used the power of the Silver Crystal to save everyone else in the first season against Queen Beryl and in "Sailor Moon R movie", even though she knew she would die using it. In "Sailor Moon S", she dove into Pharoh 90's dome to save Sailor Saturn. In "Sailor Moon SuperS", she threw herself over the building to save Sailor Chibi Moon. In "Sailor Moon SuperS movie", she jumped into the Black Dream Hole to save Sailor Chibi Moon though Peruru told her she wouldn't be able to return. In "Sailor Stars", she offered to let Queen Neherenia kill her so that Queen Neherenia could have peace in her life. In the manga, she sacrificed her own life by jumping into the Galaxy Cauldron to restore everyone else's lives. Sailor Moon is often referred to as a bright light that guides people to safety or into comfort. The last line of the manga is Mamoru saying, "For all eternity, you will be the most beautiful and brilliant light." Also, when Sailor Moon saved Galaxia, Galaxia reached up into a bright light. Jesus Christ called Himself "The way, the truth, and the light". However, it's important to emphasize again that Usagi is not Christ. She never claims to be divine in anyway, never referring to herself as a goddess, but she is the savior of the world, like Christ.
So all of this Christian imagary in "Sailor Moon" has led many fans to believe that Naoko Takeuchi is in fact Christian. Again, she has never stated that she was and in recently, Naoko Takeuchi was married and she had a traditional Shinto, the predominate religion in Japan, wedding. Some point to her wedding and say that this is evidence that she is not Christian. However, many Americans get married at a church even though they are not Christian because this is traditional for American culture. Having a Shinto wedding is traditional in Japanese culture so it is quite possible that Naoko Takeuchi just wanted to have a traditional wedding and doesn't actually believe in the Shinto religion.
Hitsuji of Takeuchi-Naoko.com firmly believes that Naoko Takeuchi is not Christian and had this to say about why Christian symbolism is prominent in her artwork:
"Ever notice that the Solider of Mystery, Sailormoon is the only one to really wear a cross? That most of the Christian symbolism surrounds her and not the other Senshi? In other anime, a lot of the dark, mysterious scenes happen in churches too.. So.. the simple explanation is that Christian symbols equals dark and mysterious. Takeuchi loves dark and mysterious."
Hitsuji goes on to say that the mystery surrounding Christian symbols is the same mystery that Westerners attach to Asian symbols like the Yin Yang or Buddhist beads. Many Americans wear Yin Yang necklaces, have a bracelet of Buddhist beads, or enjoy looking at Zen gardens though they don't believe in Feng Shui, Buddhism, or Zen. Hitsuji argues that Naoko Takeuchi and other manga/anime artist use Christian symbols in the same way to convey mystery. In Japan, less than 2% of the population are Christian so Christianity is mysterious in itself. He further argued:
"So, Takeuchi-sensei, in accordance with the Japanese culture, is wearing a cross as we would wear a yin-yang symbol in accordance with our culture. She plasters it all over Sailormoon to give it a mysterious feel for
the Japanese people. It's the way it is, not the way you want, or think it should be, that's how the culture is. The majority [of Japanese people] are not religious. Often in Japanese shrines you can find Holy Virgin Mary right next to...say...Ameratsu [the Japanese sun goddess]. Very few Japanese are Christian. Most have no religion at
all. They may use bits of various religions for ceremonies, but most are mixtures of all of them, and
incorporate [various religions] in every day life. So, for example, they might get married in a church, but the real ceremony where they get officially married is in a Shinto shrine. They might get baptized, but then they will be buried in the manor of the Buddhists. It's their culture..."
So Hitsuji believes that Naoko Takeuchi is no more Christian for using Christian symbolism than Americans are Chinese for using Chinese characters on their candles.
The arguments for and against whether or not Naoko Takeuchi is in fact Christian are both strong and well supported. So, what is Naoko Takeuchi's religion? No one can be sure until she tells us.
The Sailor Senshi's religions
Sailor Mars' religion, Shinto, is the only one that is specifically stated. Shinto is the dominate religion of Japan. Even though Rei attends a Catholic private school, she is definitely Shinto because she is a priestess of a Shinto temple. According to BSSM Manga Guide's Mythology and Religion section:
"Shinto holds a belief in the life of the soul after death, but it has no moral teachings. It has no original iconography, that it, it does not depict its gods and goddesses. Shintoists believe that every natural thing has a kami (kaa-mee), which is a soul or spirit. The religion is based on nature and ancestor worship. When Buddhism became popular in Japan, Shinto worship developed icons and the sun goddess and her family became the cornerstone of worship."
Other than Rei's religion, there is almost no evidence on the religion of each Sailor Senshi. Religion is never specifically discussed by "Sailor Moon" characters so trying to figure out their beliefs is almost impossible. At best, we can only come up with some guesses.
Some fans have also suggested that Usagi is Christian because of the crosses she has worn in the manga (mentioned in the section about Naoko Takeuchi's religion) and because she is often depicted as praying both in the manga and anime. Usagi often prays before or during a big battle in the manga.
In Ravenwood's Illustrated Discussions of Sailor Moon, Ravenwood believes that Sailor Neptune and Uranus are Christians because:
"Haruka sometimes wears a cross, implying that she is Christian. Ever since I first saw that I've been ruminating over why it appears. The explanation I think likeliest is simply that it's to associate Haruka with the religious...enthusiasm...generally ascribed to Christians in Japan. (The survey Sophia University put out in 1980 is a good source of info on religion in general and Christianity in particular, as long as you pay more attention to the data than to their analysis.) Haruka's Christianity certainly reinforces the aspect of her strong belief in Sailor Moon and offers an explanation for her recurring visions of Usagi/Sailor Moon as the Messiah (and I'm not at all sure that term was used without any intention to appeal to JC as well as other Chosen figures--Usagi's brief is pretty New Testament in character and the more I get acquainted with the manga the more I suspect Takeuchi herself is Christian; take a look at all the crosses that show up in the artbooks). There is a lesser implication that Michiru, also, is Christian; at least she tells Usagi and Unazuki in Episode 94 that the first couple to ever kiss were Adam and Eve (instead of, say, Izanagi and Izanami) and refers to the 'cross' she and Haruka were given as Sailor Senshi (fifth season, Episode 198). Now, what entertains me is the possibility that Takeuchi and/or our directors are being deliberately subversive by identifying the lesbian couple as Christians, that religion being notoriously, hysterically, intolerant of same-sex desire...And there are, of course, the outside possibilities: that Haruka is being identified with the West (which reacts strangely with her name, as Tenoh is also the title of that very nationalist figure generally translated as Emperor in English), or that Haruka is being specifically identified as upper class (which the size of their apartment and number of expensive vehicles would certainly bear out; I want her cars), or, if an historical reference is intended, that she is being marked especially as a warrior. I consider those less likely to be used deliberately but fun to play with. One of my correspondents suggests that we take this further and read Haruka as a representative of Christianity in the abstract."
Ravenwood's correspondents and visitors suggest that the religions of the other Sailor Senshi are as follows: Michiru's religion is Christian or Judaism, Setsuna's is Islam, Hotaru's is Kali Hinduism, Usagi's is Buddhism, Ami's is Confucianism, and Minako's is Taoism. However, she doesn't provide any further evidence of why those religions were chosen for the Sailor Senshi so I'm not sure of how likely the characters identify with those religions.
Holy Grail Resource Material
Ravenwood's Illustrated Discussions of Sailor Moon
BSSM Manga Guide
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