Thursday, January 7, 2010

So anyway. . .

Reasons Why I Should Write the Sailor Moon Movie #4: Ami Mizuno

Can't Japan make up it's mind?

In Part #3, I proposed to have four of the Sailor Senshi (Usagi, Ami, Rei, and Makoto) meet each other for the first time in afterschool detention. Out of curiosity, I decided to investigate, via Google, what detention is like is the Japanese middle school system. As it turns out, Google doesn't know. In fact, Google is not even sure whether or not there exists such a thing as detention in Japanese schools.

On the one hand, Google produces a couple of websites claiming that there is no equivalent to North American style detention in Japan (the rest of the sites it gives are about Japanese-American Internment during the Second World War). On the other hand, in the "video results" section, Google produces none other then episode 52 of Sailor Moon-- the one in which Usagi is thrown into afterschool detention!

Oh well. . . since the anime established the precedent of detention existing in Sailor Moon's Japan, I'm sticking with the idea for now. There are still few details that need to be worked out (such as Cait's question of how star student Ami would find herself in detention to begin with, or how Rei could end up in the same detention as the others when she attends an entirely different school!) but I'll worry about those later. The main point I wanted to make with the detention idea was how futile it would be for a movie to follow the same pattern of introducing the senshi that the other versions.

The other thing I wanted to discuss in the last post, but chose to put off due to my paper finally getting accepted, was how I would handle the characters of Ami, Rei, and Makoto. That's what I'll be doing in the next three parts. I was going to do it all in one, but I realized that would be way too much for one post. So instead, I'm going to give character sketches for each of the three senshi in separate posts.

As I said in the last post, my approach is going pretty revisionist. It's also going to be a little more political than what you would expect from an adaptation of Sailor Moon. Still, commentators have read into Sailor Moon a sort of subtle social commentary anyway, so hopefully the political elements won't be too jarring.

Before I begin, a note about casting. Apart from Abigail Breslin, and one other actress whose identity I wish to keep a secret for now, I don't really have a very solid idea about who I would want to play the roles of the senshi. However, I do know that I would want Ami, Rei, and Makoto to be Japanese, and to be close to the age of the characters they play.

So with that, let's begin!

Ami Mizuno

If there's one word to describe Ami Mizuno, it's smart. She earned this reputation by always achieving perfect marks in class, which is no small feat in a country as academically competitive as Japan. Because of her academic feats, everyone in Sailor Moon seems to imagine Ami as being possessed of a sort of transcendental genius, even going so far as to claim that she has a 300 IQ.

And yet, the real Ami falls far short of this kind of exaltation. Ami, as typically presented in previous incarnations of Sailor Moon, never comes off as more than a hard worker with brains. Her exceptional marks come not just as a result of intelligence, but extreme effort. Hours of studying out of class, in addition to attending cram school, have yielded scholarly success, but at the cost of anything even remotely resembling a full life. On the nerd scale, she's less Brainac 5 and more Willow Rosenberg.

Suppose, then, that Ami really was the genius everyone made her out to be. For your consideration:

Ami Mizuno is the daughter of a well known oncologist and a talented but struggling artist. A healthy, if somewhat timid, child, she shocked her parents when, at the age of two months, she spoke her first word, "mizu." Whether she was trying to say her family name or simply asking for a cup of water, it became clear after this that their daughter was profoundly gifted. By her first birthday, she could hold conversations with her parents; at age two, largely by self-instruction, she had mastered arithmetic, was able to read at the sixth grade level (meaning she could understand just over 1000 kanji) and could speak English; by age three, she was an expert in geometry and algebra, and had virtually memorized her mother's medical school textbooks. It was at this age that she decided to follow in her mother's footsteps and become a doctor. She set the goal of entering the prestigious University of Tokyo's medical school-- at age six no less! Given her progress up until then, it seemed like nothing could stop her. . . but something did.

Raising a prodigious child is an exceptional challenge, and Ami's parents could rarely agree on the right approach to take: Ami's mother always pushed her into new activities, never allowing her mental development and education to slow; Ami's slightly hippy-ish father, however, never imposed the kinds of demands on her mother did, instead preferring to let Ami find her own way and, occasionally, encouraging Ami to immerse herself in the particular joys of childhood. Neither approach on it's own was perfect for Ami, but taken together they worked well for her. Unfortunately, her parents didn't realize this. As Ami reached the age of five, their arguments over which direction Ami's development should take became ever more heated. These disagreements, along with other factors, ultimately led to the unravelling of their marriage. Divorce is a painful process for a child even when handled ideally by the parents-- and typically, it's not even handled close to ideally. Indeed, it can reveal a pretty ugly side to human nature. In the warped reality that is divorce, parents will often use children as a way of hurting their ex-partners, and will play petty mind games with their children, who they unconsciously see not so much as human beings than as the ultimate trophies to won. Ami's parents did all of this, and the fact that she was smart enough to see through it all only made it hurt all the more. After the divorce, custody of Ami was granted to her mother, as is almost always the case in Japan.

Ami was never quite the same after her parents broke up. She tried to take the entrance exams for university, but failed spectacularly. Though she still displayed great intelligence, she was unable to retain what she learned at quite the same level that she did before. Ami's mother nonetheless had high expectations of her. Ami entered junior high at the age of eight (or so) and she felt a pressure to be academically superior. She achieved top marks, but only through hours if study and attendance at cram school. Her remaining free time was spent on swimming (something she had enjoyed since she was a toddler) and on taking care of herself when her mother was absent, which was often the case. Her academic success, combined with her youth, intimidated some students, and others misinterpreted her timidity (which was exacerbated by her parent's painful divorce) for arrogance. Thus, she is quite lonely by the time she meets Usagi in detention. . .

Yes, I would write Ami Mizuno as a child, roughly 8-10 years old by the time the movie takes place. In some respects, the character of Ami is quite fearful (fear, after all, is the emotion associated with the planet Mercury in the Chinese elemental system, upon which the senshi were partly based), and being a pre-adolescent in junior high would emphasize this characteristic. Plus, it would serve as a sort of subtle allusion to Chibiusa.

There's way more to discuss, but that'll have to wait until another post. Next time: Rei!


Cait said...

Wow! What a different take on Ami's character. It would definitely be refreshing to see a different version of her character (or, any/all of the characters :P). I'm not sure how many fans would go for this version of her character, but I can see how tweaking each character would be a good thing. Having grown up on the dub, watching the subs, and devouring PGSM...I found that each time, the characters were almost exactly the same. Of course, they were a bit more realistic in the live action, but even then only very slightly so.

I can't wait to hear your ideas for the other senshi!

Jeremy K. said...


I'm working on Rei's post right now, and it should be up early this week.

Naomi said...

Post faster!

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