Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I Was Also Considering Calling This "Princess Sailor V's Return to Society Punch!"

Here is is! The second part of Minako Aino's spoiler-heavy backstory! My apologies for the delay. I've been visiting my parents in PG and trying to apply for part-time college teaching job, so the majority of my time has focused on those two things. Plus, this turned out to be quite a bit longer and harder to write than I imagined it would be. But never mind. . . on with the show!

If I Wrote the Sailor Moon Movie #20: The Disappearance of Minako Aino Part #2

Minako Aino had gotten used to total absurdity. She was already an over imaginative schoolgirl when, one day, a talking cat came out of no-where and told her, essentially, that she's a superhero. A superhero who wore a sailor outfit, whose magic weapons were disguised as pens and compact mirrors, and whose (first) archenemy frequently used evil celebrity idols to execute their plans. Hell, she was so comfortable with it that travelling to the north pole to fight an ancient evil kingdom, or being driven into hiding by a mysterious and powerful enemy who would see gladly see her dead, were damn near comforting ideas next to the pure mundanity of work and school. Her recent brush with reality-- living with a broken family crushed by a dying economy, like so many others-- frightened her to the very core. This was perhaps why she was able to suggest, so casually, the idea of turning her life, as Sailor V, into a manga.

Artemis-- once he stopped laughing and realized, to his horror, that Minako was completely serious-- hated the idea. A manga? A manga?! It was an idea too stupid for actual superhero comics! The best Peter Parker was able to do was take pictures of Spider-man and sell them to a tabloid newspaper, and even then readers and writers alike had to pretend that no-one would ever put the very big one and the other very big one together and figure out who he was. Ozymandias (of Watchmen) did market his superhero identity. . . but only after revealing his true identity. And yet, here's Minako Aino-- the alter ego of a hero forced into hiding by her enemies-- talking about bringing Sailor V to life as a manga character! Sure, Artemis knew that others had already tried to do the very same. He knew that a few small time publishing companies were already telling their own stories of the mysterious figure that had suddenly appeared on the streets of Tokyo (in Japan, even trademarked characters are vulnerable to blatant imitation of a kind that would elsewhere be considered plagaristic). It didn't matter. The details of these rip-offs were all utterly wrong, and that suited Artemis just fine.

Still. . . the idea seemed to pull Minako out of her depression, so Artemis was willing to tolerate it, for a little while. This would pass, he thought. Yet a few days after running away to the train station, Minako was already getting in contact with a manga artist, known affectionately by her fans and friends as "Marie-sensei." The author of the famous, long-running Aurora Wedding, Marie-sensei's own oft-mentioned life story was nearly as famous as her work: A preternaturally talented artist and writer, she was discovered in the eighth grade after submitting the first Aurora Wedding story to a competition for young manga-ka, and was quickly offered the opportunity to publish her work while she was still in school. It was an inspiring tale that deeply appealed to her fans, including Minako. Who better, she thought, to tell the story of Sailor V?

So it was that fourteen year old schoolgirl Minako Aino-- a girl who had been fired from her last two part-time entry-level jobs-- was quickly hired as Marie-sensei's assistant. The circumstances were appropriately ludicrous: she (as Sailor V) had once saved Marie-sensei's life from an evil energy-sapping dog (you heard me). In the process, she (as Minako) had been (very temporarily) hired as a "copy assistant". . . a job which, as far as she could tell, was some strange combination of editor, secretary and maid. You see, at the time Marie was in a serious creative slump, and was unable to complete the final volume of Aurora Wedding. In addition, her personal life was in such a shambles that she couldn't even keep her home cleaned up. Thus, Marie's boss, Shinrou Baishaku, in desperation, spontaneously hired Minako (who, really, just happened to be in the vicinity of Marie at the time) as copy assistant. Of course, the job didn't last. With Minako/Sailor V's help, Marie regained her confidence, completed the final volume of Aurora Wedding, confessed her love to Shinrou Baishaku, and lived, everyone assumed, happily ever after.

. . . or not. The manga business, to put it in detective novel-esque terms, is a fickle bitch. Rather than being allowed to rest on her laurels, or even to take a year's break, Marie-sensei was now under pressure to come up with a new manga. Being involved with a manga editor only added to her stress, as Baishaku-san felt the need to consistently remind her of the realities of the business. "Do you see other manga-ka 'taking a break?' Don't think for a moment that you can exploit your one and only hit manga for the rest for your life. Believe me, your readers will forget about you!" Marie's health deteriorated. She woke up every morning to find her face completely flushed. When walking down the street, she would spontaneously break out into hives; eventually, it got so bad that she needed daily injections to them in check. She needed help.

Enter Minako. Having already served at her side once before, Minako was quickly hired as Marie-sensei's new "senior copy assistant," "senior" in that Minako now had nursing duty on top of being a secretary, editor, and maid. That, and the pay was even better. Great, Artemis thought, Minako's finally making some money! She doesn't have to worry about taking care of her family anymore. . . And I don't have to worry about that stupid manga idea of hers.

If only. It wasn't just the need for money that brought on Minako's manga idea. All around Tokyo, people were making a profit off of the legend of Sailor V. But what did Minako get out of it? Nearly getting killed? Spending months in hiding? Waiting for some unfulfilled prophecy (even after the Dark Kingdom was destroyed, there was still no sign of the princess or the other warriors who were supposed to join her)? As far as Minako was concerned, Sailor V owed her a thing or two. And besides, Marie-sensei was struggling for a new idea. In a sense-- however tenuous-- Sailor V was actually coming to someone's rescue again. So Minako, as gently as she knew how, planted the idea for a sailor-suited magical girl warrior-- inspired by actual events, to boot!-- into Marie-sensei's head.

Flash forward a few years. Codename wa Sailor V is one of the biggest manga in Japanese history, even bigger than Aurora Wedding, owing both to Marie-sensei's rejuvenated artistry and the story's implied real-life basis. Marie-sensei, despite being busier than ever, and despite getting hassled a bit by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, is the happiest she's ever been. She's married, her manga (and the anime based upon it) are famous not just in Japan but around the world, and she's one of the richest women in the country. And her old "senior copy assistant" Minako, by all appearances, ain't doing too badly either, having managed to make a pretty penny of off Sailor V herself.

But how? Obviously, she couldn't exactly claim likeness rights, even if her old, fearsome enemies hadn't shown their faces in years. Instead, she earned her revenue through a more indirect, yet also strangely fitting, avenue: music. One of Minako's many, many childhood dreams was to become a J-pop idol. While it turned out she didn't quite have the voice to become a superstar, she did discover a talent for writing and composing music. So, thanks to her close relationship with the 'creator' of Codename wa Sailor V, Minako was able to secure music contracts with the producers of the anime, composing the show's hit theme song, as well as so-called "character singles" and incidental music. Owing to various factors-- the somewhat "embellished" salarys these contracts paid, the need to avoid the appearance of nepotism, the lingering negative connotations of the name "Minako Aino" (see Part #1) and, of course, the lingering (if hidden) threat of the arch-enemies who tried to kill her-- Minako adopted various pseudonyms; in doing so, she developed an appreciation for really clever nicknames.

Even though Minako continued to support her family financially, she hadn't spoken with her mother or younger brother for years-- after the night at the train station, Minako's relationship with them never quite recovered. As for Artemis. . . while he was happy to see Minako doing something for which she had a real talent, and that she was successful, he still hated the fact that she exploited her identity the way she did-- the life of a senshi is a calling, and simply being one is a reward in and of itself. What's more, Minako was so focused on her "image making" that her actual senshi duties were being sorely neglected. Artemis really thought that Minako had changed after she regained the memories of her past life, and learned the true scope of her mission-- maybe she had, at least for a little while. But now, she was as cavalier about her duties as she was as a young teen. Instead of seeking out her enemies (as she had tried to do in the months following the attack on the Dark Kingdom), she was writing songs, shopping, going to parties, and dating all kinds of different men (and never for very long). She would, occasionally, don the mask and suit of Sailor V on a few occasions, such as when she witnessed a crime being committed or, more self-servingly, when ratings and manga sales took a dip and she needed to drum up some publicity. But, as far as Minako was concerned, the mission was over. To Artemis, it seemed that after having gone through so much to remember who she was, a part of Minako simply wanted to forget.

She might have succeeded too, if it weren't for the break-in. A couple of years after the manga ended, Marie's apartment was broken into and ransacked. The culprits were never found. Marie, shocked by this crime, went into seclusion. Minako had no idea what to make of this. Was this just a random break-in? Was it an obsessive fan? If it was Sailor V's old enemies, then why break in now, years after they last met? Why break in when Marie wasn't at home? Why not go straight to Marie herself? It didn't make any sense. All Minako knew was that Marie was in hiding-- just like Minako was all those years ago-- and to degree or another, Sailor V was to blame for that.

This should have marked the triumphant return of Sailor V, back to once again seek out her foes and, this time, eliminate them once and for all. Instead, it was followed by a more devastating piece of news: Minako had cancer. Moreover, her particular cancer was of a seemingly very rare kind, resistant to all conventional treatments. If the cancer did not regress, Minako's doctors were convinced that she wouldn't last longer than a year. The first year passed. . . then the second, the cancer slowly but inevitably progressing, held back only as a result of Minako focusing more and more of her senshi powers toward combating the disease (she didn't know exactly why it worked, and she didn't much care at that point either). Eventually, so much of her own energy was focused on the disease that she had difficulty even transforming into Sailor V anymore. . . so much for finding her enemies.

Minako's disease cast a shadow over every aspect of her life. She had enough money saved up to maintain an outwardly respectable lifestyle, and she seemed healthy and vigorous enough thanks to her, ahem, "home remedy." Privately, though, she was miserable. A vague dread came over her, a sense that she was gradually losing herself. Not just in the slow consumption of her body by the weird alien thing inside of her, but in the loss of her identity. She was, in some way, forgetting herself. Her family members were either dead or estranged, her "mission" was a long string of failures and broken promises. Even as she faced prolonged and painful death, she found it somehow comforting, somehow that slightest bit more bearable, to put out of her mind the life she would be losing, the person who would soon be no more.

But then, from the most unexpected of places, hope. Hope in the form of . . . . well, that would be telling.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Camera Can Do Things

My first official credit as a cinematographer!

Seriously, my sister Naomi has formed a new band with her friend Torie, called Pocket Knife. This is their second video, filmed by me outside a convinience store on the same block as our house. I thought I'd do my part in boosting views for the video and increasing Pocket Knife's profile even further by posting it on my blog. So, enjoy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is What I Do When I'm Stuck Writing One Story. . . Spoil Another One!

Hi Everyone,

As I mentioned earlier, one of the character sketches that I've been itching to write is also one that might spoil things later on in the script. Granted, all the character sketches I've written so far are spoilers in a sense, but this one contains particularly sensitive information. After scribbling out a rough draft that avoids giving away anything in a blatantly obvious way, I've decided to write up the sketch and post it. Hopefully, if you do decide to read it, it'll be subtle enough to peak your interest without revealing too much.

. . . though, now that I think about it, the very fact that I mentioned that this sketch contains spoilers may allow people to guess what's about to happen. A similar thing happened to me when people mentioned that The Sixth Sense had a "twist ending". . . I guessed the ending before I even saw the movie. Do they have a name for that? The "Shayamalan Effect?"

Anyway, be warned. Here there be spoilers.

. . . and yes, I know this come perilously close to Peter Parker territory near the end, but it'll get better afterward, I promise.

If I Wrote the Sailor Moon Movie #19: The Disappearance of Minako Aino, Part #1

Minako Aino, or rather Sailor V, barely escaped Eudial and Mimet's treacherous attack following the defeat of Queen Beryl and the Dark Kingdom. Weakened by the attack, she did not dare try to confront them immediately-- she knew that even at her peak she was no match against the combined might of her new foes. Instead, she made her way back to Tokyo, the hard way: knowing that the portal that took her to D-point would be under guard, she pushed her senshi abilities to their limit and made the 3500 kilometer journey to Japan directly, transversing the vast Siberian tundra, sneaking through the Koreas, stowing away aboard a JAL airliner, and finally allowing herself to be "caught" by Japanese customs in Osaka. . . all of it in eight days, with the Cold War still stubbornly lurching on.

Minako Aino was an athletic, attractive and popular schoolgirl-- naturally, her disappearance during those eight days became national news. Police throughout Japan, along with authorities in foreign ports of entry, were kept on high alert. Minako's school picture was broadcast on Japanese TV every day and night. Politicians and pundits across the spectrum exploited her disappearance to suit their own pet causes. To some, "Minako-chan's" disappearance (a few media figures in Japan took to addressing her as Minako-chan) was a direct consequence of the collapse of traditional family and societal structure in the face of rampant modernization; to others, it was a result of increasing police corruption and the growing influence of organized crime at all levels of society. Some even went so far as to accuse the North Koreans of kidnapping her. The cover story Minako had concocted-- that she was following a famous J-pop idol on her east-Asian tour-- did little to help matters (indeed, said singer's career actually suffered a setback as a result of the controversy). Minako Aino, affectionately known as "Minako-chan" while she was missing, was decried nationwide as a symbol of modern youth's irresponsibility after she was found.

Minako had bigger things to worry about than her reputation, though. She had travelled three and a half thousand kilometers to avoid being discovered by her enemies, only to find the national media announcing her disappearance-- one which just happened to occur on the same day as the attack on the Dark Kingdom. The last thing she needed was fifteen minutes of infamy. Knowing how intelligent her enemies were, she was sure that they would find her soon enough. . . except, they didn't. Days passed, and then weeks, with no sign of the enemy. Only after a month's passing was Minako finally certain that her enemies, for one reason or another, were not coming for her after all.

Whatever relief she may have felt was short-lived. Whether or not they were after Minako personally, they were still out there, and she needed to find them. Minako knew that the only reason she was still alive was because her enemies believed her to have been killed. Thus, "Sailor V" was temporarily retired, while Minako did her best to investigate the enemy without being discovered. Unfortunately, her enemies proved to be too cunning for her. Whoever or whatever they were, they left not a single trace of their existence. Even the portal which she had used to travel to D-point had vanished-- whether it was destroyed or re-located, she couldn't know. For all intents and purposes, they were simply gone.

Minako's search for the enemy became her top priority. Everything else came second-- family, school, friends. . . whatever semblance of a personal life she had, she maintained only as a cover for her true mission. No-one was more surprised by this-- or more disturbed-- than her mentor, Artemis. When he first met Minako, Artemis had to pressure her into performing her senshi duties. Now, she was letting her life fall by the wayside for the sake of the mission. Minako's relationship with her family, in particular, suffered heavily, much to Artemis' dismay. Minako's mother, Ikuko, had always thought her daughter was irresponsible, but she never thought she would do something as reckless as to run away from home to follow some singer on tour. Minako's aloof attitude following her return only made things worse. Does Minako not even care about what she put her family through?, she wondered. Does she think only of herself?

Minako was on the lookout for two-and-a-half months. That's how long it took for the times to finally catch up to the Aino family. The asset bubble had burst, and Japan's once mighty economy was crumbling. Minako's father Kenji Aino, a man who had studied finance in England only to become a run-of-the-mill salaryman, was one of many who suddenly found themselves without a job. He could no longer support his family, and getting another job would be next to impossible-- bad economy or not, for a salaryman to lose his job was considered deeply shameful. So, like many at the time, he did the honourable thing: he left home to live on the streets of Tokyo, never to see his family again. Suddenly, the enemies who had nearly killed her all those months ago seemed incredibly distant. Whatever had motivated her to find her enemies-- was it a sense of duty? A thirst for revenge? Fear?-- vanished in an instant. Her family needed her now.

Ikuko managed to get a menial job, but this alone was not enough to support the family. Minako was unabale to find lasting part-time work; despite sincere intentions, she ended getting fired from her first two jobs. School, she decided, was getting in her way. She decided that she would talk to her mother about dropping out of school and going to work full time, at least until things started to get better. She waited in the kitchen for two hours that night, mentally preparing for the conversation while she cleaned things up. She expected her mother to vehemently object once she revealed her plan, but then relent once she saw how serious Minako was about helping the family.

Instead, she just laughed, and went to bed.

When Minako had disappeared all those months ago, she had lied about running away from home. That night, while her mother and younger brother slept, she came very close to running away for real. The only thing that stopped her, in fact, was Artemis, who found her huddled in a corner at a nearby train station, weeping.
Not that he said very much. What could he say? "Sorry that things didn't turn out as planned"? "Yeah, I know I told you that there would be other warriors that would fight by your side, but hey, them's the breaks"? "Hey, this is what you get for trying to save the world"? So the two sat in that train station for hours, virtually without speaking. Then Minako broke the silence.

"I think I'd like to introduce you to Mom."

Artemis quickly looked around to make sure no-one was listening, and then replied, "I think we've already met. Charming woman."

"I'd like to go back home."

"That's sounds like a good idea--"

"I'd like to knock on her door, wake her up, and transform, right there in front of her. Then, I could introduce you. 'Mom, you remember Artemis, right?' Then you say, 'So nice to finally meet you, Miss Aino. How do you do? And now that we've met, please allow me to introduce your daughter, Sailor V. Surely, you've heard of Sailor V, the crime-stopping vigilante? Well, I don't mean to take up your time, you two obviously have a lot to discuss. I just thought you might like to know that, whatever you might have thought, your daughter did believe in something. She did take something seriously. Yes, she failed at it. And no, it won't be any help to your family whatsoever. You'll still have struggle to keep the loan sharks off your backs, but at least. . .'"

Even as she spoke, those few words, "won't be any help," hung in her mind. It seemed ridiculous. All those people Sailor V saved, but she can't even help her own family. She didn't quite realize it then, but the germ of an idea was already beginning to grow in her head. Sailor V had been in hiding for too long. She was due for a comeback. . .

To be continued.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

On an Unrelated Note, I've Never Seen High Fidelity Until Tonight.

Hi Everyone,

It's been two weeks since my last post. My apologies for the delay. I've been trying to settle down in Victoria. Since the university and college aren't currently looking for anyone to fill any teaching roles, I've been submitting resumes to any place that's asking for them. Hopefully, I'll be at work within the next week or two, depending on things and whatnot.

On a more positive note. . . I mentioned in my last post that I'm going to attempt something new here in Canada, the specific nature of which I never mentioned. Since I'm back, and I'm blogging, and you're reading, I may as well mention it now. I've decided to write a short story and submit it to a writing contest in January. Depending on how this story goes, I may write more-- on top of my current story, I have four other story ideas kicking around. I may end up submitting my stories for publication as well.

Also, my apologies for not updating you on Sailor Moon. I want to write a new post to tide things over until the next piece of the script, but the subject I most want to write about is one that may really spoil things later on in the story. I'll see how it goes.

I'll also try to post new pictures and videos from Japan on Facebook and YouTube. I still have videos from back in July that still need to be posted, but I haven't been able to due to the size of some of the video files invovled. Hopefully, my sister's computer will be able to handle it.

Until next time.
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