SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
PRINCESS KAKYUU & THE SAILOR STARLIGHTS
Princess Kakyuu and the three Sailor Starlights, Sailor Star Fighter, Star Maker, and Star Healer, are characters introduced in the fifth and final story arc, Sailor Stars. They take a supporting role in the manga, but are pretty much co-lead characters with the Inner Senshi in the anime. They are alien travellers from the planet Kinmoku, which had been destroyed by Sailor Galaxia. The planet’s name is a pun on the Japanese name (“kinmokusei”) for an olive shrub, which means “golden osmanthus.” The flower motifs in Princess Kakyuu’s character design mimic the orange flowers of the plant. We don’t know much about Kinmoku itself, other than that it is outside our solar system and somewhere in the galaxy. Note that I will be using gender-neutral “they/them” pronouns to describe the Starlights due to their unique representation/depiction of gender roles and performativity.
THE SAILOR STARLIGHTS
Sailor Star Fighter, Maker, and Healer came to Earth in search of Princess Kakyuu, who had escaped Kinmoku just before its destruction and had fled to Earth in hopes of finding The Light of Hope. (Who turned out to be Chibi-Chibi) They decided that the best way to find Princess Kakyuu was to send out a message to her through music, so they disguised themselves as a male boy band, The Three Lights, and wrote their songs around apologizing for letting her down, and asking her to contact them. They reasoned that appearing as men would be an easier way to get the necessary attention of women.
The major difference between the Starlights of the manga and the Starlights of the anime (besides their heavily expanded role in the anime) is one of gender. In the manga, the Three Lights cross-dress as men, and have androgynous appearances. In the anime, they physically become men while in civilian form, and regain a female form when they transform. Effectively, both versions of the Starlights have them spending at least half of their lives living as men. This is one reason why the Starlights are often considered metaphorical transgender characters. The physical change is fairly absolute – not only do you see them shirtless with male chests, their voices are significantly lower while in civilian form. It’s never actually said how the Three Lights become male in civilian form, but some have theorized it might be similar to Usagi’s disguise pen powers. (In the manga, both Usagi and Minako were able to disguise themselves as boys.)
Why was this change made? We don’t really know. We could theorize that perhaps the animators/writers wanted a male (presenting) presence in the series since Mamoru had been more-or-less written out of the Stars story. Though considering how reluctantly the animators/writers used Mamoru’s character and how his powers were completely neutered, I’m not so sure that’s the reason. Others theorize that since a major plot point in Stars is Seiya’s love for Usagi, making Seiya physically male made their possible relationship with Usagi “seem” more heterosexual. The anime does not change that Seiya was originally female and therefore most likely a lesbian, but it is notable that most of Seiya’s courting of Usagi is in civilian form rather than as Sailor Star Fighter. Usagi isn’t 100% straight in the manga, but she appears to be straight in the anime.
She is said to smell sweetly like olive flowers, which references the “kinmokusei” plant once again. Her name literally translates to “Princess Fireball” (or “Meteor”) but it’s important to call her Kakyuu, not Fireball. Given names should not be literally translated like items or terms would be, otherwise we would be referring to Hotaru as “Firefly” or Mamoru as “Protector.” She is meant to directly compare to Princess Serenity, as she has similar powers and occupies a similar role. Star Fighter makes a vague reference to Princess Kakyuu having the power to heal corrupted Phages like Eternal Sailor Moon teaches herself to do. Without Kakyuu’s healing power, the Starlights are forced to execute Phages. The Starlights occupy a protective role much like the Guardian Senshi do. Kakyuu also makes reference to her lover being murdered by Galaxia in the manga, much like how Mamoru was also murdered by her.
Her role in the anime is brief. The Starlights search for her the entire season, then once she is found, she appears for two episodes, then her Star Seed is taken by Galaxia while she was protecting the others. She offers an explanation of the Sailor Wars to the Solar System Senshi, as well as briefly recognizing before she dies that Sailor Chibi Chibi Moon is The Light of Hope. She basically only occupies an expository role in the anime and that’s it. In the manga, her role is much larger. The Starlights’ Sailor Crystals are taken relatively early on, but Kakyuu sticks around for a while. Comparatively, the Starlights survive the entire battle in the anime. She transforms into Sailor Kakyuu (interestingly enough, not Sailor Kinmoku, suggesting that perhaps the planet has more Senshi than the four we meet) and she has a pair of attacks, “Starlight Royal Straight Flush” and “Kinmoku Fusion Tempest.” She is eventually killed by manga-exclusive character Sailor Chi, and dies in Sailor Moon’s arms. Her last words in the manga were of her looking forward to Galaxia’s defeat, and saying that she and all her friends would be reincarnated.
SAILOR STAR FIGHTER
I’ve already discussed Seiya’s relationship with Usagi a few times, so I’m just going to briefly talk about their character. (I am going with anime continuity for the most part, since their roles are greatly expanded in it) They are cocky, brash, friendly and easygoing, in strong contrast to Taiki and Yaten. Their full civilian name is Seiya Kou. Note that Kou is the FIRST name of the Three Lights, not their surname, so the Three Lights are not siblings. Japanese people (and students especially) often refer to each other solely by their last names as a matter of politeness, so having the Inners refer to the Three Lights by their surnames goes along with this custom.
Like Mamoru, Seiya is symbolized by a red rose. The main colour of their Sailor uniform is black, with dark blue accents. Their attack is “Star Serious Laser.” The Starlights are unusual in that they get multiple animation sequences for their transformations and attacks. (The Outers don’t even get transformations for their Super forms. This is why I’m somewhat resentful of the Starlights.) They also do NOT get along with Haruka, who resented and distrusted Seiya for heavily flirting with Michiru. (They nearly come to blows at one point) Unlike their two comrades, Seiya seems entirely comfortable living as a man – they even walk out wearing only a towel around their waist after showering at Usagi’s place. (Chibi-Chibi tried to take off this towel as it belonged to her.)
SAILOR STAR MAKER
Taiki is an intellectual who is often cold and aloof to others. They mainly interact with fellow intellectual Ami, but they often clash on matters where Taiki is a cynical realist and Ami is romantic/idealistic. Taiki contrasts heavily with Ami as they approaches all matters with a cold and emotionally detached logic. Taiki is not without a sense of humour or kindness, however, as they help Seiya play an ill-fated prank on the girls, and even lets their carefully formed persona crack once in a while (especially in the case of a seriously ill Three Lights fan). I suspect that a lot of Taiki’s coldness is an act (and it may be partly caused by heartbreak/trauma) they make because they know they are only on Earth temporarily, and is single-mindedly devoted to their mission to locate Princess Kakyuu. Taiki carries a white rose. The accent colour of Taiki’s uniform is a reddish purple, and their attack is “Star Gentle Uterus.” Yup. Star Gentle Uterus. If you ever had doubt that Sailor Moon is a feminist show, one character literally attacks with the power of female anatomy. 😉
SAILOR STAR HEALER
Where Taiki is cold, Yaten is hot-headed. They are extremely blunt and often very rude and confrontational. Yaten has very little patience for Seiya’s antics or for the Inners’, and is the one who generally demands that Seiya should stay away from Usagi. They interact with Minako fairly often. Yaten knows Minako has a crush on her, and is openly contemptuous of Minako choosing to follow her dreams of being an idol instead of solely devoting herself to her duties as a Senshi. They even cause Mako to lash out and punch them for being rude about Usagi and for bullying Chibi-Chibi, but Yaten catches the punch. However, Yaten is not all brashness, because they have genuine affection for Luna. Luna, for her part, has a huge crush on Yaten because they are uncharacteristically charming towards her. Yaten has a particular power amongst the three in terms of being able to detect when a “star has gone out.” (Meaning that Healer can tell when Galaxia has taken yet another Star Seed) Yaten holds a yellow rose. The accent colour of their uniform is a yellowish green, and their attack is “Star Sensitive Inferno.” (Which, oddly enough, appears to be more electrical than fire-based in appearance)
There is also some fan theorizing that the Fighter/Maker/Healer names are a reference to the Hindu Trimurti. I am not knowledgable on this topic, so I will instead link to another fan’s analysis: http://www.genvid.com/diesgaudii/articles/starlights/index.html
The poll topic that won that week was “Princess Kakyuu and the Sailor Starlights.” Pretty general topic, so I focused on being more informative rather than doing direct “mythbusting.” And, I’ll be honest, the Starlights are among my least favourite characters, so while I could expand more on this topic, I am not the ideal person to do so. I also am cisgender, so I am also limited in my knowledge of transgender issues (though I do my best to educate myself).