Naoko Update & Other Events In Japan
When we last left the creator of Sailormoon, Naoko Takeuchi was drawing a monthly graphic journal entitled, "Takeuchi Naoko Hime no Shakai Fukki Punch" ("Princess Naoko's Return To Work Punch"). After finishing "Round Four" (as translated on the web by Alex Glover) in the March 1999 issue of Young You magazine, the series was advertised to continue with the April edition as "Hime to Ouji no Kekkon Punch" ("Princess and Prince's Marriage Punch"). But the deal was unceremoniously terminated (with none of the fanfare associated with the premiere).
Besides interest from rival publisher Kodansha to renegotiate a deal with Ms. Takeuchi, the series may have been ended because of reader reaction. One Japanese fan may have summed up the situation best when they wrote to us:
"It's just boring. She only writes about her own married life and nothing exciting. I stopped buying this magazine a while ago. I don't know if anybody enjoys reading this..... sorry! Maybe my expectation is high for her but it's almost like "she gets paid for doing this??!" level of work."
Naoko's next public endeavor turned out to be a doujinshi (a self-published comic book) co-created with her husband, Yoshihiro Togashi, for the August Comiket (Comic Market--the largest doujinshi convention in Japan). A different fan perhaps gave the best perspective:
"The table had two big Sailormoon SuperS movie posters hanging up behind it, and already a line had formed. We looked up at the table, but Naoko wasn't there herself, instead there were just three women selling the doujinshi. We tried to get into the line, but they kept saying that the line was "closed". Frustrated, (we) just stood there for a while. Everyone else who wasn't in line took off because they thought that they had missed out by not getting in the first line.
"(We) looked behind their table and realized that they still had LOTS of books for sale, and so (we) waited. Then, all of a sudden, they opened the line back up!! YAY!! We were the first in line for the next group. Since we were in the second group, we got to buy ALL of the products for sale."
"The goods were:
1. Prince Yoshihiro and Princess Naoko No. 37-38
2. Hunter X Hunter Notebook
3. Sailormoon Notebook
4. Togashi Kingdom Notebook (LoveLove Notebook)
5. Sailormoon Artbook Volume Infinity
We had heard that most, if not all, of the Sailormoon related merchandise had completely sold out--signalling, even then, the returning public interest in the property.
Way before this Comiket, as we previously reported, Kodansha, Toei and Bandai had entered into talks with one another and with Naoko about creating more Sailormoon productions and merchandise. Kodansha, Bandai & Naoko came to an agreement; Toei, did not. The agreement left Naoko with as little work as possible. The deal was to take the stories from Sera-Myu and publish them in anime style. Naoko did not have to write any new stories or make any new drawings.
Later, the toys were made available at Toys R Us locations in Japan and other retail stores. The line was broadened to include non-affiliated Sera-Myu products. The campaign name, "Sailormoon World," allowed the line to be open-ended and not restricted to Sera-Myu only.
One of our members visited the Seibu Department store in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo. Seibu had literally set-up a miniature "Sailormoon World" with all the familiar merchandise and witnessed a telltale phenomenon:
They were showing the R movie on a small TV with a VCR. Some kids were already watching before I got there and then even more kids started to gather and sat down to watch the video. Those kids (even boys!) were glued to the TV! One boy who wanted to stay to watch the show was forced and dragged by his mom to go with her!
This was a very good sign that the new campaign helped increase renewed interest in the property overall and introduced the stories to a new generation of Japanese children. In a very unusual acknowledgment of this renewed interest and the public's desire for more Sailormoon anime, Bandai (of all companies) advertised in it's television commercials for the Winter 1999 Sera-Myu this revealing tag line, "Ima Sailor Moon ni aeru nowa musical dake!" ("You can meet Sailor Moon only at the musical right now.")
Just a few weeks earlier, on March 18, 2000 (in anticipation of the rerun) at the Tokyo Toy Show, Bandai and Toei had adjoining booths displaying lots of new "Sailormoon" toys & merchandise to be released later in the year. Plus, they were handing out full-color flyers announcing the rerun of the series on TV.
Kodansha also finally published the long overdue Settei Gengashuu (material artbook) also known, in this case, as the Settei shiryou shuu--which Ms. Takeuchi listed as a condition for her return to Kodansha. Such a book is also sometimes known as a Data Book and contains information about an anime series or manga with hereunto unsaid past histories of characters, revelations of homages and other behind-the-scenes trivia. Naoko included a short manga at the end which parodied her own characters. The manga concerned the five daughters of the five Inner Soldiers and was not written in the tone of her other stories. It appeared to be an opportunity for Naoko to explore a possible avenue for a future Sailormoon story without having to be taken seriously--if it should be poorly received.
After adapting two Sera-Myu stories ("Kaguya-shima Densetsu" from 1999 and "Usagi Ai no senshi e no michi" from 1994) for "Sailormoon World," Kodansha switched over to selecting stories from the anime (perhaps to take advantage of the current re-running of the series). Kodansha started with the first season of "Pretty Soldier Sailormoon" and appears to be going forward in time--covering episodes not derived from a previously published Naoko Takeuchi manga.
At this Summer's Comiket, Naoko & Togashi were very obvious no-shows. Many fans were disappointed that they did not make an appearance or send a representative or have a doujinshi for sale.
Later, at the Amusement Machine Show (held on September 23 & 24) Banprest, the leading toy company for arcade games in Japan, had a booth and presented a mini show with the Sera-Myu cast on Sunday.
Also in September, in Issue #37 of Figure Oh magazine ("Oh" or "Ou" means King in Japanese) there was a feature on the returning popularity of Sailormoon via the TV reruns and musicals. They also conducted an extensive interview with Naoko and Mr. Osano (her original Kodansha Editor and known by his nickname "Osabu") asking them why Sailormoon was such a big hit worldwide.
The repeats of the anime series continue and are heavily advertised. The campaign even appears to this day on Nakayoshi's site.
No. There is no such plan.
The reason for Kodansha's swift and decisive response (as opposed to the past) is because, in American business terms, it is currently "Put up or shut up" for Naoko Takeuchi and Sailormoon. Kodansha, Toei & Bandai have done everything they could to lead up to a new Sailormoon story IF they could come to an agreement with Naoko Takeuchi.
At first, starting back in 1998, the companies seemed to want a new anime series. Toei did not come to an agreement but the other companies did (to further exploit Sera-Myu via "Sailormoon World"). Later, when Toei still couldn't come to an agreement the companies involved settled for merely repeating the old anime series on broadcast television. All of this build-up is about to run out, so this is why it's now "Put up or shut up." If Ms. Takeuchi should not come to an agreement the companies will let the current campaigns run their course and work on other projects.
Though we have no first-hand knowledge, it appears to us that the companies have acted on good faith and did not put forth bad or unreasonable agreements. In the past Ms. Takeuchi had complained about Kodansha and briefly left them only to return. We have not heard of any complaints since then.
Fans should also understand Ms. Takeuchi's position. If there is not a good story to tell, or should she lack the passion to return to the property, Naoko would be better served not to create or allow a substandard Sailormoon to be produced. There could be personal reasons as well.
While we would like there to be more Sailormoon (if it's good) we would understand if the companies and Naoko should not come to an agreement. If they shouldn't come to an agreement, then we would like to see them explore the possibility of making the stories from Sera-Myu into an anime series.