Crackpot Theory: Pluto’s Non-Linear Timeline
Sudden Conspiracy Alert Party Time
Today I’ll be outlining a fan theory I’ve pondered about for the last decade. This is not to say that I’m too attached to the theory, only that now seems like a good idea to lay it out in full and test for any corroborating or contradicting evidence. And here it is:
Is Sailor Pluto’s personal timeline in the show linear?
Or, in other words, does her appearances in each season of Sailor Moon follow her personal timeline as one would expect? Or does she appear from different periods of her life in a jumbled order, very much like an episode of Doctor Who but with more miniskirts?
Warning: this blog makes absolutely no sense, even to me.
While I’ve seen others posit this theory before, I’ve never seen one go into too much depth. It’s the right moment for it, as in the most recent episode of Sailor Moon S reviewed on this website a critical moment occurred in constructing this narrative.
The difference between the manga and the anime
It would be impossible to discuss whether Sailor Pluto is a goddamn Time Lord without first considering the treatment of her character in the manga. Without wanting to spoil too much, it’s pretty clear that Sailor Pluto’s timeline flows in a normal way, Black Moon arc -> Infinity arc -> Stars arc.
We can see fairly solid evidence for this from Act 32 – Three Soldiers in the Infinity Arc (which you can read here), which I will get around to breaking down after Sailor Moon S has been thoroughly reviewed.
The point of raising this is to say that if we are to impose a non-linear personal timeline to Sailor Pluto, it certainly would not be applicable in the manga, nor is it resolved by it. So this purely an original anime theory.
When Sailor Pluto breaks the “Great Taboo” (capitals added for emphasis – it just feels right you know?) by freezing time, allowing Uranus and Neptune to infiltrate Mugen Academy, she reveals that she will face an extreme punishment for having so defiled the laws of time and space. At this point, she quietly shuffles out of the show for another season (with a brief telepathic message to the pair, just the word “Talisman“. Chatty lady.)
We can assume, therefore, that her sentencing, her punishment, whatever it may be, begins at this moment. I’m fully aware that this is supposition, having never been explicitly stated, but it’s strong deduction at the very least.
Nothing too out there at the moment. It is the nature of this punishment which is never fully explored. When Sailor Pluto/Setsuna returns in Sailor Moon Stars, she makes no mention of her sentencing, where she’s been or what she’s been doing, so no answers there. But what if we’ve seen what the punishment was earlier in the series…
Sailor Pluto in Sailor Moon R
Sailor Pluto in Sailor Moon R bears several qualities to her character and circumstance that is worth considering.
2) She also knows Sailor Moon, but seems unsure of who she is upon meeting her, attacking her with the Garnet Rod before finally recognising Chibi-Usa
3) Artemis recounts what he knows of Sailor Pluto from what Queen Serenity told him back in the Silver Millennium, that she’s a solitary Senshi who cannot leave her post, as it is her job to defend the Space-Time Corridor to those who would misuse it. This is 3rd party reporting and cannot be taken as gospel, however
3) She’s dark and mysterious as ever, but the Senshi note how sad and lonely she is, so it certainly seems as though she’s been there for a while. Again, pure supposition.
4) She doesn’t appear to know what will happen past the point where the Sailor Senshi meet her. That is to say, she appears confused and surprised when Chibi-Usa, now Black Lady, passes the Space-Time Corridor without seeing her. However, we do not know her true intentions, and we know that she is forbidden at this point to interfere with the timeline.
Sailor Pluto in Sailor Moon S
When Setsuna, revealed to be Sailor Pluto, appears in Sailor Moon S, it’s quite a surprise to everybody, not least because it was assumed that she could not leave her post at the Space-Time Corridor. My own personal impression from the brief interaction with her in Sailor Moon R was that her presence there was as fundamental to the laws of the universe as time itself.
While I cannot use the manga to bolster this argument whatsoever, I will point to this being made a little more explicit in the Black Moon arc of the manga, where Sailor Pluto can only leave to help the Senshi because Diana offers to take her place, if only for a little while. It cannot use it to support any argument here, but at least it helps understand the nature of Sailor Pluto’s role.
So, in Sailor Moon S, Pluto has the following characteristics.
1) She is evidentially able to spend time on Earth in the 20th Century, and thus to leave the Space-Time door
2) She appears to have some kind of normal life there, since she has a civilian name, Meioh Setsuna, has normal-enough civilian clothes, and most of all appears to have a house, a greenhouse and a research lab of her very own
3) She knows who Sailor Moon and Usagi is, as well as Chibi-Usa/Chibi-Moon. She has a strong attachment to Chibi-Usa, but other than this it is not clear whether she has met any of the other Senshi before, as there are no references to their three previous encounters in Sailor Moon R
4) She breaks the Great Taboo by freezing time, claims she will undergo a harsh sentence, and disappears, without this sentence ever being determined
Sailor Pluto in Sailor Moon Stars
Nothing that happens to Sailor Pluto seems pre-known to her. She doesn’t dwell on her punishment for breaking the Taboo at all, she just mysteriously appears, gets her ass kicked a couple of times and that’s pretty much it. She appears to have no more to play as he role of “omniscient and mysterious harbinger” which she has played so often previously.
Despite being apparently from the future, it appears that Pluto is completely ignorant of any of the events in this series. it’s a possibility that Galaxia’s attack on Earth is actually a time paradox, which would also allow for certain paradoxes centering around Sailor Chibi-Moon fading in and out of existence at multiple points
This is pure interpretation, but I think it’s fair to say that Sailor Pluto is as unknowing and unprepared as all the other Senshi in Sailor Moon Stars. It may very well be that this represents an end to whatever timeline she’s leading, whether linear or otherwise.
OK, a whole lot of suppositions here, but I think the following narrative is neat and interesting, even if it’s not true. I hold it as an interesting construction we might play with even if it’s probably not the case.
So here’s my case.
Sailor Pluto, having broken the Great Taboo, is sentenced by Chronos or Mecha-Jesus whatever to be the guardian of the Space-Time Door, to stand there eternally, alone. As such, I find it intriguing to consider that the Pluto we meet in Sailor Moon R is in fact in the middle of her sentence for breaking the Taboo in Sailor Moon S.
Which is just rad.
So this is how I might propose Sailor Pluto’s personal timeline, based upon her behaviour, her knowledge and certain important events. At a stretch, with your eyes squinted, I think it could work.
1. Sailor Pluto makes friends with Chibi-Usa in the 30th Century. This is the most difficult event to resolve with all the other contradictory evidence, but I deduce that this has to exist here for her relationship with Chibi-Usa to make sense in Sailor Moon S
2. Sailor Pluto comes to the 20th Century sometime before the start of the first season and begins living there, getting a house with a lab, and before the Black Moon attack on Crystal Tokyo
3. The events of Sailor Moon S occur, where she fights the Death Busters and breaks the Great Taboo
4. Sailor Pluto is sentenced to guard the Door of Time for a long stretch, and at all times must remain at the door. She is no longer able to fight alongside the other Senshi – she is forbidden in intervene in the normal timeline.
5. The events of Sailor Moon R occur. The Black Moon attacks, Chibi-Usa flees through the Space-Time Corridor to the 20th Century, and Sailor Pluto, unable to leave her post, tells her to find Sailor Moon
6. Sailor Moon et al. make their way to the Space-Time Door and meet Sailor Pluto in person for the first time.
7. Not a lot happens to her for a while
8. After a long period of time, Sailor Pluto is freed from her duty. She returns to the 20th Century to reawaken Sailor Saturn in the knowledge that great peril is to come
9. The Events of Sailor Moon Stars occur
There is a decent argument to be made that this interpretation of the events of Sailor Moon breaks Occam’s Razor of preferring the most simple explanation. However, this is art, this is fiction, and artists create meaning in things they never intended. That being said, there are some flat-out problems with the non-linear theory.
Primarily, it is how/why/where/when is Sailor Pluto in the 30th Century to be able to make friends with Chibi-Usa? The simplest explanation would be that she is guarding the Space-Time corridor, but for Pluto to be able to recognise and have a relationship with Chibi-Usa in Sailor Moon S this cannot have happened yet.
There are also a few lines here and there which appear out of context unless one accepts the normal linear timeline of Sailor Pluto.
There is an answer to this, but it’s such a post-hoc moving-the-goal-posts logical fallacy of an argument that I’m ashamed to use it, but I shall:
The writers of Sailor Moon aren’t consistent. There are several all working on different episodes at the same time. I don’t think that they would worry too much about continuity.
That being said, the same exact argument can be used to say that there’s no way in hell the writers would use such a creative, unusual and years-ahead of its time concept as having one character who’s personal timeline didn’t match up with anyone else. The old “Time-Traveller’s Wife” scenario.
One final, simple complication
OK, this is really talking rubbish here, but I do like to talk grand underlying physics. This doesn’t weigh-in on the linear timeline argument at all, but I find it a fascinating topic to think about.
I like the idea that the Space-Time Corridor is set outside of time. It doesn’t flow there. Time becomes a physical dimension, which you traverse to time-travel. As such, it has always existed and will always exist.
Sailor Pluto’s tenure as Space-Time Door guardian, therefore, might have lasted for eternity – literally. This long sojourn explains her omniscience – she’s been watching the universe unfold.
So when she turns up in Sailor Moon S to help Uranus and Neptune, she’s already been guardian of time and space, and by the end of the series, she causes that punishment to happen all over again. Basically, what I’m saying is that time is cyclical, and Sailor Pluto, living outside of time, exists in an eternal cycle, forever committing the act that led to her incarceration.
As to why she looks shocked when something happens? Hey, I can’t answer everything. Maybe her memory is bad. Maybe her memory resets every single time. Maybe the capacity of the human brain, while utterly enormous, is still finite, and so as it experiences infinity memories eventually override themselves. I have no idea, I’m just spitballing here.
I know what you’re thinking: “What the fuck is he talking about!?” and I assure you I have no idea, although I think I had some idea before I began writing it down.
This blog has gone to hell, hasn’t it?
So where do I land? I love the idea of Sailor Pluto being all jumbled up in time. It’s clever, it’s interesting, it’s ahead of its time. It’s also something that I think the writers of Sailor Moon could do, although it’s unlikely.
The strongest argument to be made is that the non-linear theory explains Pluto’s punishment for breaking the Great Taboo, along with her confinement in Sailor Moon R, but that really is all it has going for it.
The response from a linear timeline perspective is simply that Pluto left the Space-Time Door for a bit, then had undefined and off-screen punishment for breaking the Great Taboo, before getting out in time for Sailor Moon Stars. It fits, although it’s not nearly as satisfying or mysterious.
More likely, I think, is that this entire endeavour to crowbar in this interpretation with the imperfect (albeit fantastic) writing of Sailor Moon is, in fact, anomaly hunting. I’m finding areas which have poor exposition, or a certain vagueness to them, and trying to match my preformed theory of non-linear time.
Also at play is confirmation bias, searching for corroborating evidence while dismissing any contradictory evidence.
Still, that doesn’t stop the theory being enjoyably batshit crazy. The only thing I would take away from this piece is that nothing in art is quite certain, but you need to know your limit. Post Modernism is, in fact, baloney, and there are limitations to interpretation. There’s real truth out there, I’m just not convinced that there’s enough within Sailor Moon to make a case for Pluto’s non-linear timeline.
If you have any arguments, for or against, please comment below. I would like to think this one out a bit, and I think conversation will help bash out these disconnected ideas.