Sailor Moon Symbolism: Butterflies
Butterflies are a common, reoccurring emblem throughout the Sailor Moon series. Butterflies are seen as:
- A distinctive part of Super Sailor Moon’s fuku and transformation. Not only does the back bow of her fuku shaped like a butterfly, butterfly wings appear behind her during her transformation and attacks and swarms of multicolored butterflies appear around her during many parts of the S arc.
- The Messiah, or the foretold savior of the world, is always depicted with butterfly wings.
- Neo-Queen Serenity, like Super Sailor Moon, has a back bow that’s shaped like a butterfly, though hers is even more pronounced.
- Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon, the Soul Hunter and final member of the Sailor Animamates, has her appearance entirely based on a butterfly. ”Papillon” is even French for “butterfly.”
- Princess Kakyuu’s aura was symbolized by a butterfly (or sometimes, an entire swarm of butterflies) made of red light. Before she made her first physical appearance, they signified her presence.
- Star Seeds are also associated with butterflies. Sailor Galaxia’s Star Seed, the Light of Hope, took on the form of a butterfly made of pink light. In the manga, the souls that Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon looked after also took on butterfly forms.
The butterfly is most commonly associated with the soul, rebirth, and a profound, powerful transformation (or metamorphosis). Butterflies are most commonly associated with these concepts because of their life cycle; born as chubby, slow-moving caterpillars that do nothing but eat and try to avoid predators, they experience a total transformation after wrapping themselves in a chrysalis for a couple of weeks. When they finally emerge, the metamorphosis is complete; instead of caterpillars, they are now elegant, beautiful butterflies that are free to travel anywhere they please. In a sense, the caterpillar has experienced rebirth. The purpose of the life of every butterfly is to set everything that was once known aside and to embrace an entire new way of being.
These concepts are heavily present in Sailor Moon. The butterflies surrounding Super Sailor Moon represent her powerful transformation from Sailor Moon to Super Sailor Moon as well as symbolizing the strength of her soul. Similarly, Neo-Queen Serenity’s butterfly wings represent her change from the ordinary Usagi Tsukino to the Queen of Earth, Neo-Queen Serenity. The Messiah’s (or, Usagi Tsukino) wings signify her role as the savior of Earth; not only did she save Earth, she actually caused it to be reborn after the Silence.
The other butterflies represent souls. As a Star Seed is essentially the soul and essence of its carrier, it makes perfect sense for it to be represented by the butterfly. Similarly, red butterflies represented Princess Kakyuu’s aura, or soul. Finally, Sailor Heavy Metal Papillon was known as the “Soul Hunter;” her role within Shadow Galactica was to watch over the remnants of the souls that had been reaped by Galaxia. Fittingly, she was stationed in a graveyard, the final resting place of the dead before they went on to the next life.