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Observe the full moon sometime and take note of its shadows. If you look at it in a certain way, you may notice that its shape resembles that of a rabbit standing over a mortar.
This is the Moon Rabbit or Jade Rabbit. A myth that came from China, legend has it that the rabbit we see serves under the moon goddess and pounds the elixir of life for the immortals. The idea of a rabbit on the moon resonated so well that it spread to other countries like Japan and Korea, though in their version, the rabbit isn't pounding the elixir of life but simple rice cakes instead.
While the Asian version of this legend is the most widespread in modern times, they weren't the only ones who saw the rabbit in ancient times. The Aztecs and other Mesoamerican cultures also saw the Rabbit in the moon (minus mortar) and had their own tales on what it is and how it came to be. One of their most famous legends state that the rabbit we see was thrown there as an insult to the arrogant and cowardly Moon God, so that its luster will not be equal to the noble Sun God's.
A famous mythical figure, the Moon Rabbit appears in several popular media, either in the form of the actual creature or as a winking reference to the legend. They're mostly found in Asian media, but there have been sightings in non-Asian countries as well.
For the version more popular in Western culture, see The Man in the Moon.
Anime & Manga
- The main character of Sailor Moon is an obvious nod to this legend. For starters, her real name (As well as that Chibiusa's real name) of Tsukino Usagi is a pun on Rabbit of the Moon. Her hair (As well as Chibi-Usa's) is intended to look like a rabbit's ears.
- For those not familiar with Japanese, here's an explanation. Tsuki means "Moon", "No" can mean Field/Plain or "Of" depending on the character used (The former is the one actually used however) while Usagi, means "Rabbit/Bunny"
- Chibiusa's pink hair and eyes is also meant to be a reference to the pink eyes of albino rabbits.
- In Dragon Ball, after defeating the anthropomorphic rabbit Monster Carrot, Goku sends him to the moon where he's forced to pound treats for children.
- This came back to bite Toriyama in the butt later when it was revealed that Goku couldn't survive in space.
- Neither could Bardock; that didn't stop him.
- It also became Fridge Horror when Kame Sennin blew up the moon just a few chapters later. That poor anthropomorphic bunny didn't even know what hit him...
- Someone eventually thought of that and wrote him into one of the games. He apparently escaped just in time.
- This came back to bite Toriyama in the butt later when it was revealed that Goku couldn't survive in space.
- Amae Koromo of Saki was designed to resemble a rabbit (blame the bunny ears headband). Her powers are at its strongest when the moon is full and her Finishing Move is the "Haitei Raoyue", which means "To pull out the moon from the seabed".
- Incidentally, "Haitei Raoyue" is what it's called when the last tile on the wall is the winning tile. It's used colloquially to mean pulling off the impossible.
- Axis Powers Hetalia gives a nod to the legend when China first finds Japan. The two characters look to the moon and say that the rabbit is pounding "something," that something being what is most common in the country's respective legend.
- The ending song of Clannad, "Dango Daikazoku," is about a family of dumplings/rice cakes, and mentions bunnies waving to them from the moon.
- Beast Wars II has a robot rabbit, named Moon, living in the moon. Also present is a woman named Artemis, based on the same Chinese legend.
- Possibly referenced in the original Beast Wars as well; at the start of the second season, Waspinator looks at the remaining moon, quirks his head to a particular angle, comments about the markings, then declares that he "knows". Shortly afterwards, it's revealed that this is actually Prehistoric Earth.
- Transformers Zone has Moonradar and his partner Rabbicrater (rabbit + crater).
- In Muteki Kanban Musume, Show Within a Show Starranger has Hell's Bunny, a new villain character based on this concept. Megumi is able to play the part of her perfectly.
- Yaiba has Kaguya, one of the antagonists of the series. She's the bunny-eared Empress of the Moon who wears a Playboy Bunny outfit and has an army of anthropomorphic rabbits as her subjects.
- The Leitmotif of the Siestas is called "Dance of the Moon Rabbit".
- The opening for Tsukuyomi Moon Phase has Hazuki playfully dodging a pair of rabbits with mortars. Good luck understanding the rest of the opening.
- Kinnikuman references this in the final preliminary of the 20th Choujin Olympics; the competitors must fly to the moon and bring back a rabbit as proof. The titular Idiot Hero laughs at this until told that the rabbits are not only stuffed toys, but were planted there ahead of time.
- IIRC, Doraemon had an episode discussing moon rabbits and visit a future amusement park on the Moon to find them.
- Bleach has a more indirect reference. Rukia has a strong moon theme (described by the author in art as the "white moon" to Ichigo's "black sun"). Her zanpakutou is a snow/ice-type weapon that is also moon-themed (with at least one of its known attack powers being moon-based). She is utterly obsessed with rabbits to the point where she even draws picture boards of other characters as bunnies and the special soul that looks after her false body when she goes off fighting is the bunny-themed "Chappy"-soul.
- The Soratami from the Magic: The Gathering Kamigawa block; they aren't as obviously rabbitish as some of the examples, but you can definitely see it in the ears. Plus, they were directly inspired by the Japanese rabbit/moon legend.
- In the Batman Lovers and Madmen comic, when the Joker first emerges from the chemical vat that warps his mind and appearance (not that he wasn't a sociopathic criminal already in this continuity) the first thing he sees is "a bunny in the moon...that's crazy!" Then he bursts out his first real bout of maniacal laughter.
- The Grim Reaper/God of the Underworld in Watership Down is called the Black Rabbit of Inle, and Inle is the rabbits' word for moon. It is unsure if he actually lives there, as opposed to just being associated with it.
- Likely the latter as rabbits in Watership Down believe the sun to be God and the giver of all life, and in one folktale, El-ahrairah visits the Black Rabbit and doesn't go to the moon to find his home.
- Luna Lovegood's hare Patronus is related to legends of lunar lagomorphs.
- In Frank Herbert's Dune, the second moon of Arrakis has a kangaroo mouse-shaped pattern on it.
- A children's book titled The Rice-Cake Rabbit by Betty Jean Lifton is based upon a Japanese folk tale.
- This idea appears in Kit William's puzzle-book Masquerade.
- American electric music group, Rabbit In The Moon got their name from this legend.
- What was the big hit for Echo and the Bunnymen as featured in Grosse Pointe Blank ? "The killing moon" Coincidence? I think not!
- Records containing references to the moon rabbit dates all the way back in texts found during the Warring States period of Ancient China, which talks of a rabbit in the moon pounding herbs for the immortals. This makes the legend at least Older Than Feudalism.
- As mentioned in the main text, another version of the Moon Rabbit could be found in the creation story in Aztec Mythology. There are two versions of how the rabbit came to be. In one version, the god Tecciztecatl sacrificed himself as a rabbit when he became the new moon, and the rabbit we see is the god himself. In another version of the myth, the beautiful and wealthy god Tecciztecatl volunteered to be the light of our current world but feared the sacrificial fire when the time came for the ritual to turn him into the sun. In his place, the sickly and blistered Nanahuatzin stepped forward and bravely stepped into the flames to become the new sun, and now shamed, Tecciztecatl followed her. Angered at his cowardice, the gods believed that Tecciztecatl shouldn't glow brighter than Nanahuatzin and threw a rabbit at his face to dim his luster.
- Buddhist folklore gives a different explanation for the rabbit. Once upon a time, several animals resolved to practice charity, believing that great virtue will lead to great reward. When an old man came, the other animals offered it food that they had gathered. However, since the rabbit was only capable of gathering grass, it sacrificed itself for the old man by jumping into the fire the old man built. But the rabbit wasn't burned, and the old man revealed himself to be the deity Sakra, who was so touched by the rabbit's virtue that it drew its likeness on the moon for all to see.
- A similar tale could be found in Mexican folklore. According to Aztec legend, the god Quetzalcoatl lived in Earth as a man and while he was on a journey, he found himself hungry and tired with no food around. Just when he thought he was going to die, a nearby rabbit came to him and offered himself as food. Moved by the rabbit's gesture, Quetzacoatl placed its likeness on the moon, telling him "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all men and for all times."
- Unsurprisingly due to its penchant for Asian myth, the Touhou series contains moon rabbits. Also unsurprisingly due to its penchant for Cute Monster Girls, the moon rabbits are bunny girls. The most famous of them is Reisen Udongein Inaba. Ironically, she's being made the Butt Monkey by an Earth Rabbit named Tewi. The elixir of life, known as the Hourai Elixir, is the reason that Kaguya and Mokou are immortal.
- In Okami, the Rabbit spirit of the Eastern Zodiac gives Amaterasu powers over the moon, and is first seen pounding rice cakes, with Ammy kneading the pounded rice between thumps.
- The Untwist in Dark Cloud is that those hooded little guys with the big long ears who are from the moon are rabbits.
- NES Widget Series Shoot'Em Up Gun Nac has the moon for its first stage. Naturally, the enemies are dominantly rabbits, complete with a giant rabbit mecha stage boss that shoots carrot missiles.
- Gokujyou Parodius is another Shoot'Em Up with a moon bunny level. Complete with dodging mallets and that Asian lady... with a twist.
- Gaia Online's evolving item Hermes' Moon uses this myth as a basis for its various poses.
- The Rayman Widget Series spinoff Rabbids Go Home features a group of psychotic bunnies trying to "go home," which they have decided is on the moon. This game, however, is made in France and the developers haven't said whether or not the legends inspired them, so this may or may not have been an accidental reference.
- This is the reason why you get to chase Space Bunnies around on planetoids in Super Mario Galaxy.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past has the moon pearl, which prevents Link from being turned into a bunny in the Dark World.
- In Final Fantasy IV, a colony of Hummingway, small rabbit-like creatures that only speak by humming, live on the Moon. One of its residents, Namingway, came to live on the Blue Planet.
- In Phantasy Star Zero, NPC Newman costumes and nearly every possible PC Newman costume have a distinct "bunny" motif, with long ear-like projections on the headgear or similar. Just guess where they've been hiding out since The End of the World as We Know It.
- In the Kingdom Hearts series, one of the members of Organization XIII, Saïx, whose attribute is moon, has a Joke Weapon based off of the myth: a claymore with a rocket-ship and moon design that "expands" into a blade shaped like a rabbit head when he gets angry.
- Lunamon, introduced in Digimon World: Dusk, is a rabbit-like Digimon with moon designs on her body and powers related to darkness and the moon. Her final form is Dianamon, named for the Roman goddess of the moon (a.k.a. Artemis to the Greeks).
- Referenced in Mr Driller Drill Spirits, the last character, Usagi, is unlocked on the moon stage. He's a rabbit.
- Usagi is actually unlockable in all Mr. Driller games. Appropriately, he's a rabbit alien from the moon.
- The Pokémon Umbreon is based upon the legends of the moon rabbit.
- A bizarre variation in the already insane shooter Deae Tonosama - Appare Ichiban: alien moon rabbits... on Mars.
- Being a Korean MMORPG, Maple Story has the bunny-pounding-rice-cake variant. Except that the bunnies are not always on the moon.
- As Perry Bible Fellowship notes, that would have to be a very large rabbit.
- In a Gunnerkrigg Court chapter dealing with short stories from supporting characters, Chang'E visits the court with her rabbit to discuss the mysterious fingerprint shape that appeared on the moon in a prior chapter.
- Parodied in the Angry Marine's retelling of Ruby Quest and double-parodied in The Weaver's Déjà Vu Ruby special.
- Another possibly accidental reference: in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Out to Launch," Dr. Doofenshmirtz's evil scheme is to make shadow puppets on the moon. The only one he is shown making is a rabbit.
- In the Looney Tunes short Haredevil Hare (1948) Bugs Bunny gets sent to the moon on a rocket.
Bugs Bunny: No, no, don't leave. There's a beautiful Earth out tonight.
- As an aside, during the moon landing, one of the requests to the astronauts was for them to keep an eye out for a beautiful Chinese lady and her giant rabbit.