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
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Anime & Manga
- In Pet Shop of Horrors Count D tries to explain to Chris why technology can be a burden by using the Moon Rabbit as an example, saying that humans "killed" the Moon Rabbit, the Moon Princess, and all the other mythological creatures by landing on the moon and showing none of them are real. Chris then cheerily replies "That's not true! They were all hiding!" which is appropriate considering Count D's shop is full of "mythical" creatures masquerading as pets. Seeing Chris' faith helps Count D gain more faith in Humanity in general which is good as Count D himself is actually monitoring mankind to see if/when they will be ready to join the rest of the animal world in harmony and very appropriate considering one version of the Moon Rabbit has the rabbit pounding medicine to heal Humanity's wickedness and "wounds".
- 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 means "Rabbit of the Moon" and her hair (As well as Chibi-Usa's) is intended to look like a rabbit's ears. 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. 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.
- 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 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.
- Medaka Box: The master of ceremonies of the Jet Black Wedding Feast (a battle for the hand of genius Medaka and control of her family's company) is dressed like a Bunny Girl. The third fight will evidently take place on the moon.
- Kurousagi of Problem Children are Coming from Another World, aren't they? is a moon rabbit, complete with the ability to teleport a group of people to the moon.
- Adventures of the Little Koala: The episode "The Moon Goddess" has the eponymous character take the form of a cute rabbit girl.
- 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.
- In the Harry Potter books, Luna Lovegood's Patronus spell takes the form of a hare.
- 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.
- Lunatyx from Ultraman Ace might be a reference to the legend.
- 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.
- And there is a rather large group of Moon Rabbits dedicated to mostly pounding mochi in the moon; some serve in the Lunar Defense Corps. They're a bunch of slackers, and not even the Watatsuki sisters' Training from Hell is enough to whip them into shape. A single one tried to flee the moon to escape her mochi-pounding duties and actually reached Gensokyo, but was quickly sent back by Eirin, adopted by the Watatsukis and turned into their Butt Monkey du jour.
- In Ōkami, 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.
- As well, Kaguya, who is originally from the moon, has green rabbit ears — or at least they look an awful lot like rabbit ears.
- Ōkamiden has a Humongous Mecha in the shape of a rabbit, built by, you guessed it, the Moon Tribe.
- The Untwist in Dark Cloud is that those hooded little guys with the big long ears who are from the moon are rabbits.
- 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.
- 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.
- Actually, the Golden Rabbit was first seen in Mario 64. Most likely it'sjust another accidental reference.
- 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, MapleStory has the bunny-pounding-rice-cake variant. Except that the bunnies are not always on the moon.
- One of the villagers in Animal Crossing is a rabbit named Ruby - or Luna in the original Japanese version. With her house being moon/space-themed and containing a mochi pestle, she seems to reference this.
- While the Chiesters are modeled after Playboy Bunnies rather than this trope, their Leitmotif is called "Dance of the Moon Rabbit".
- In Virtue's Last Reward, the AI called Zero III which addresses the characters during the game takes the form of a rabbit and the Nonary Game takes place on the moon. Zero III's original name, Lagomorph is a direct reference to hares/rabbits.
- Used in Persona 4 Golden and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, in which Kaguya Himenote curiously has rabbit ears. This is a reference to a famous Japanese folk story, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, in which Kaguya Hime is the main character who later is revealed to belong to a group of celestial beings that live on the moon.
- 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, leading to the following exchange:
Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning, is one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit. An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-O has been living there for 4,000 years. It seems she was banished to the Moon because she stole the pill of immortality from her husband. You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is always standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not reported. Michael Collins: Okay. We'll keep a close eye out for the bunny girl.
- China had launched 2 lunar satelites named Chang'e by 2014 and the second one landed a rover, Jade Rabbit 1.