What’s In a Name: Chibiusa

Okay, same thing as “What’s in a name?” last time. What in Heaven’s name does that name mean?

It’s routine now for anime presented in the west to retain their original Japanese names, unlike the olden days when Gally could be called Alita so American audiences would find her easier to relate to.

Or Chibiusa from Sailor Moon to be called “Rini,” for whatever reason. It’s not like “Rini” is more American than Chibiusa.

Of course, we know a couple things about Chibiusa. Her name is actually Usagi Small Lady Serenity, she’s a princess, and she’s the daughter of Usagi Tsukino and Mamoru Chiba.

Chibiusa is the girl, of course. The cat is Luna

The thing about Chibiusa’s name is that it’s a portmanteau, a word invented by glueing two other words together, Chibi and Usagi.

The idea of Chibi, or small, is relatively common in manga and anime. It’s not even a trope; it’s a convention. At times characters are drawn as small, or immature, to indicate that they feel small or are acting childish. You see this in The Ancient Magus’ Bride, for instance. Both Chise and Elias have chibi forms; when Elias reminds Chise she is acting childish we see her in her chibi form, while we see his when he is humbled by his lack of understanding of humanity.

Chibi Elias is so cute he has thousands of loyal admirers

The joke here is that Chibiusa does not HAVE a chibi form. She IS a chibi form. She’s not just Usagi’s daughter, she’s also her Mini Me. They act exactly alike, even though Chibiusa is a five-year-old child and Usagi is a high school student. Part of Chibiusa’s function in the series is to highlight Usagi’s immaturity.

So Chibiusa is chibi Usagi. It’s like one of those word puzzles: chibi + usagi – gi = ?

Cute.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Through Chibiusa’s first plot arc she’s the target of the Dark Forces. Repeatedly minions are told, “Bring us the Rabbit. Bring us Lady Rabbit.”

We know who the Rabbit is, because they keep chasing after Chibiusa. But it’s sort of a strange thing to call her. I mean, she’s a princess and all that. Why don’t they say, “Bring us the Princess? Bring us Princess Usagi?”

That made no sense to me until I reached the animals page in the book I was learning Japanese from, and there, right on the page, was the explanation.

Usagi.

うさぎ。Usagi. Rabbit

Rabbit.

They call her Lady Rabbit because her name is Rabbit!

Now, why the Dark Forces don’t get Chibiusa confused with Usagi I don’t know. I mean, Chibiusa is named after her mom, so her mom’s name is Rabbit, too!

But it’s cool to me that Chibiusa’s name is not one but TWO inside jokes. Almost makes all those hours slaving over a hot Duolingo worth it.

I always look at comments and feedback, and I’m sure I’m not the first to see what I’ve seen, so have at it. Just keep it clean and keep it on target…no personal attacks, okay? Thanks.

2 thoughts on “What’s In a Name: Chibiusa

  1. Rini was definitely an interesting choice for Chibiusa’s english dub name. It took me years to realize it was supposed to be a shortened form of Serena. Maybe they thought calling her Rena would be too obvious? Or maybe they went with Rini because it sounds more cutsie?

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