Two Pair: Kaitou Ace vs. Tuxedo Mask

The realm of similarities between Kaitou Ace and Tuxedo Kamen is a point that many fans are all-too-willing to point out. The most common opinion, I've found, is that Ace and Kamen are nearly identical. Supporters have called him "Minako's very own Tuxedo Kamen"; opposers have called him "a rip-off of Usagi's masked hero." It has become difficult to mention Ace without bringing Kamen up as well.1

These viewpoints, no matter which side one takes, undermine both Ace's and Kamen's strengths as distinct characters. True, there are noticeable parallels between the two men, but with closer inspection one can see that their ties are maybe not as prominent fans have made them to be.

First, let's review a few basics:

Tuxedo Kamen
Kaitou Ace
Mission to protect the moon princess Mission to protect Sailor V
White mask + black suit White mask + white suit
Represented by roses Represented by playing cards
Aids in awakening Princess Serenity Aids in awakening Sailor Venus
Past life as a prince Past life as a peasant
Destined to be with the woman he protects Falls short of reaching his love

The masked defenders are grouped together not without good reason. Kaitou Ace and Tuxedo Kamen embody the same roles in their respective series: that of the masked protector and destined lover. They maintain airs of mystery at first—swooping down to save the heroine at the last minute, brief run-ins where they reveal fragmented pieces of their princesses' puzzles—and do not fully realize their own destinies until crucial finales (for Ace it is the final battle with Sailor V; for Kamen it is the destruction of Queen Beryl). The roles of Ace and Kamen agree on several key points:

Their physical similarities are prominent. They are both thin and of similar heights and body types. The cuts and styles of their hair are akin, though Kamen's is more neatly groomed. Their eyes are differing hues of blue.

They carry themselves in similar fashions: they manage to appear and disappear quickly and quietly. They are agile, confident, and selectively aloof. (Though, really, what Takeuchi hero isn't tall, dark, and handsome?)

The mask is probably most commonly cited in the argument for their similarities.2 Ace and Kamen wear the same cat-eyed white masks. The masks most thoroughly seal away their civilian identities: in each case the removal of the mask marks the clearest unveiling in each hero's realization of identity.

The problem with this accusation is the appearance of the mask within several other unrelated contexts: those cat-eyed secret-keepers are not strictly specific to Ace and Kamen. In the early portion of the Infinity arc before Sailors Neptune and Uranus have aligned with the other soldiers, Sailor Uranus also dons the white mask. While connections between Ace and Kamen abound, little has been said of Sailor Uranus's possible tie to the two. If the mask makes Ace derivative of Kamen, does it also make Sailor Uranus derivative of Kamen? And since the masked Sailor Uranus was introduced within weeks of Ace,3 might that make one derivative of the other?

Masks are also worn by a number of female characters in the series. In her article on Kaitou Ace, Airi suggests that the mask might instead show his connection to Sailor V, who also wears a mask.

Supposed Enemies
Another point of consideration in the Ace vs. Kamen debate is the fact that both men were originally thought to be their respective heroine's enemy before being proven as protectors. In its simplest terms this argument is quite true: Luna suspected Kamen of being Sailor Moon's enemy since they were both seeking the ginzuishou, and Artemis suspected Ace of being Sailor V's enemy because of the idol's immense popularity. The conditions of each scenario, however, reveal very different motives.

The operative idea, in fact, is motive: while Kamen is at heart a hero mistaken briefly for a villain, Ace is a villain masquerading as a hero.

The idea of Kamen as a villain is hinted but never fully developed, and other than the fact that his entrances and exits are mysterious there is little to suggest that he is in any way involved with Sailor Moon's enemies. Besides Luna's suspicions, Kamen remains mostly quiet on the subject:

Luna: Who are you?! Why do you always appear before us?
Tuxedo Kamen: Because I am also searching for the ginzuishou.
Luna: Are you our enemy? Our ally?
Tuxedo Kamen: Who knows . . . If we're after the same thing, perhaps I'm your enemy.

Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon Volume 1, Act 4

Kamen presents an air of indifference when responding to Luna's questions. He does not yet know whether or not he is meant to be enemy or savior.

Ace, quite to the contrary, began as a villain and later adopted the role of masked defender. This can be gleaned from Adonis's confession that he was "born into this world again" and that, according to fate, he is the enemy of Sailor Venus.4 He is mentioned as the villain Danburite five volumes before he is introduced as Kaitou or Saijou Ace (though the fact that these three identities are one and the same is not revealed until the series's conclusion).5

While Kamen's presence as a possible enemy stems from a lack of knowledge of both his and Sailor Moon's past identities, Ace's ploy as Danburite is a deliberate ruse. Kamen does not know and is indifferent; Ace is fully aware of his actions for and against Sailor V.

These two masked defenders do much to accelerate their respective plots. While initially presented in small pieces, the men prove to be absolutely essential to the larger story arcs. Ace and Kamen play important roles in helping to awaken their maidens.

While Usagi tackles the problem of her past life from scratch, it becomes evident that Mamoru knows more than he lets on. He realizes the importance of finding the ginzushou inasmuch that it will restore memories of his past. The extent of his knowledge at the beginning of the series, however, is never fully explained. His pull towards Usagi is most easily attributed to destiny.

Regardless of the amount of his knowledge, Tuxedo Kamen's aid in awakening the moon princess is distinct. His presence begins to stir blurry memories in Sailor Moon, and his constant protection encourages her to return the service, an act which would ultimately bring forth her true role as the princess.

This plot formula—mystery man stirs memories leading to ultimate realization—is perhaps what connects Kaitou Ace to Tuxedo Kamen most strongly. The story arcs in CNSV and the first season of BSSM parallel in this way.

Kaitou Ace's role in helping to awaken Sailor Venus, however, is much more evident than Kamen's role with Sailor Moon. It becomes clear that he knows more about the origins of Sailor V than he lets on. At first his comments about Minako "awakening" from childhood seem flighty: in reality, these are hints of what is to come. Their first correspondence in Volume 15 previews the realization Minako would have later in the same chapter. Saijou likens Minako's youth and playfulness with love to an awakening from childhood to womanhood. This relation is fraught with undertones: the awakening also relates to the metamorphosis from civilian to soldier.6

Minako learns about her past life through Kaitou Ace. Before their final battle he explains her life during the Silver Millennium. After Ace's body disintegrates Sailor V realizes that the voice calling to her in her dreams is the true princess of the moon and that she must leave her life as Sailor V behind and search for the other senshi as Sailor Venus.

Again, the key difference is the extent of each character's knowledge. Though Kamen initially knows more about their past than Sailor Moon, he continues to learn as the story progresses. Ace, on the other hand, knows the complete puzzle before ever confronting Sailor V.

My intent in writing this article is not to defend Kaitou Ace or Tuxedo Kamen as radically different characters. Sure, there is a plethora of characteristics that both share; put pictures of the two side-by-side and it becomes fairly obvious that Takeuchi conceived of the characters at a similar time and in a similar vein. It is unproductive to take sides in this argument. To say that they are identical displays a lack of attention to their stories; to say that they are polar opposites demonstrates ignorance. Instead, I celebrate the qualities that they share and those that make them differ. My intention is to juxtapose the finer points of their personalities and actions and to urge fans to more closely examine two men who at face value appear to be two sides of the same coin. And that is the conclusion I draw: they parallel but do not mimic.

1 In her Ace feature Iris even introduces each of Ace's personae by likening them to the different forms of Chiba Mamoru first.
2 For further reading see Kaitou Alterna.
3 The masked Sailor Uranus first appears in Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon Act 25: "Eternity Two - Ripples," which was published 2 November 1994. Ace first appears in Codename wa Sailor V Volume 9: "Sailor V versus Debrine," which was published 22 October 1994. Given the proximity of these release dates, it's hard to say which idea came first, but it's almost certain that Takeuchi developed the characters in tandem.
4 CNSV Volume 15: "A New Journey Begins."
5 Danburite is mentioned by name in CNSV Volume 5: "The Dark Agency's Plot." Kaitou and Saijou Ace are introduced in CNSV Volume 10: "Sailor V in a Pinch? Kaitou Ace Appears."
6 For further reading see Cruel Medium.

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