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.


Cait said...

Poor Minako!

That was so fun to read!! It was sad, yes, but it definitely kept my interest. Can't wait for the next update!!

Jeremy K. said...

Glad you enjoyed it. The next update will most likely be the latest part of the script. I'd like to have it done before new year, but as always, no promises can be made.

As for Minako. . . well, let's just say things are gonna get worse for her. Much worse. And more surprising.

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