Our Naoko Update for 2001 & 2002
Naoko Takeuchi Working On New Sailormoon TV Series?
Anime or Saban Moon style?!!!
Naoko Takeuchi, as part of her monthly communication with younger Japanese fans, has been revealing recent developments concerning a new Sailormoon television series.
Then in January's "New Year" message, Naoko wrote, "Soshite kotoshi wa sailormoon no moshikashitara big news ga arukamo! (kotoshi kouhan). Kono koonaa de oshirase shite iku yotei nanode (futeiki dayo) ohima na kata wa zehizehi hime no page mo mitene." We have translated this to mean, "And this year maybe there is going to be big news about sailormoon. (In the last half of the year.) We are planning to make an announcement (unscheduled) in this corner. If you have time, please check my page." So although she doesn't say what kind of news this might be, it has been generally assumed in Japan that this concerns a new television series - though there is no confirmation of this.
English speaking fans should not send any email to Naoko's site unless they know the Japanese language (translation programs can easily produce messages that are unintentionally offensive). Ms. Takeuchi's website, messages, and responses are geared for Japanese children (under 13 years of age) and not for any other language or age group. Furthermore, too much email may crash the server(s) (with all those English language addresses pointing out the rogue nation).
No fans, English or Japanese speaking, should submit any new story ideas for Sailormoon at this time. Naoko's request for story ideas was made back in October and ended in November when that request got archived.
The SOS delayed the reporting of this story, in part, to give Japanese children the opportunity to communicate before the possibility of Ms. Takeuchi being besieged by hundreds of indecipherable messages from America. Besides, English speaking fans have already had the chance to suggest story ideas back in 1998. Also, it's been generally understood that her website has been a convenient, quiet way for Naoko to informally leak information (which no fan should want to disturb).
In hindsight, it becomes clearer why it has taken so long for another series to become a possibility (and why live action may be considered). Naoko Takeuchi, by plan or by happenstance, has waited until certain rights reverted back to her.
For the last few years Kodansha tried to renew the publishing rights (and all of the ancillary rights which spring forth from such rights) with Ms. Takeuchi. The original publishing contract concerning Sailormoon started in 1992 and was for 10 years. (Sailor V started in 1991.)
Naoko had what most believed to be a good relationship with the publisher until around the time the final manga and anime series were completed. Some associated with the property felt, "...Once she had the time to take a break also became the time for her to have a fight." Ms. Takeuchi took issue with how she had been treated and leaked it to her fans. Naoko, it now seems, gave up on the company as far as Sailormoon was concerned as far back as 1998.
While expecting a baby, Naoko was considering a return to drawing a manga and was tired of (or disappointed by the reaction to) her autobiographical works. After giving birth to a boy, her husband, Yoshihiro Togashi, documented the event in his own autobiographical manga published in Jump magazine.
There were more details about the birth in Naoko's story, "Hime to Ouji no Baby Punch," which appeared in the January 2001 issue of Shuu Ei Sha's (which in this English usage should be spelled "Shueisha's") Young You magazine.
With the publication (one year earlier) of a Settei Gengashuu on Sailormoon, and other later, unpublicized actions, Kodansha seemed to have met enough of Ms. Takeuchi's demands so that she could return to the company but under very different conditions. She gave the company the rights to reprint old Sailormoon mangas and to publish new (so far, non-Sailormoon) mangas. Kodansha would continue to administer some of the old ancillary rights established under the previous contract (1992-2002) but not the anime which is now administrated partly by Toei and TV Asahi (which includes Sailorstars).
Naoko would receive, in early 2002, the right to administer new ancillary rights to Sailormoon and in 2001, (this has not been confirmed) all of her new manga as well. This meant that Ms. Takeuchi would decide, among other rights:
In short, Naoko would make (or delegate) the decision of how much the different ancillary rights would be worth, how long they would last and what controls she would have. Naoko would now decide how her creations were to be produced in other media (anime, live action, theatrical, etc.). Naoko (or a delegate) would now have to seek out and/or negotiate with any new, interested companies.
All of the above (and more) was originally handled by Kodansha, which would submit most of these plans for her approval. Depending upon the deal, Kodansha received a fee and/or percentage of the money due to Ms. Takeuchi.
The transition was not smooth, with Kodansha informing companies with expiring agreements that they (Kodansha) could not renew them. Kodansha told companies that Takeuchi Naoko would soon have those rights and that they should contact her. It seemed to us that sometimes Kodansha gave the companies the right address or phone number and sometimes not. It's also highly likely that Naoko wasn't prepared for all the work involved and, in several instances, may not have returned phone calls or letters to interested parties.
The SOS started to receive more than the usual number of inquiries from potential licensees starting in late 2001 and was able to assist only a few. We were not able to confirm exactly what was happening until we pressed Kodansha on the matter in 2002 (and by that time, Kodansha seemed so infuriated with the situation that they may have stopped providing a forwarding address or phone number for Naoko altogether). (They might have been tired of doing her work and not getting paid for it.) Indeed, we had started to muse that maybe we should go into business with Naoko in creating a website that listed all the available licensing rights and whom to contact. But some of us had schoolwork or had to do the lawn (and we didn't want to miss summer vacation) so nothing came of it. But briefly back to 2001.....
The first new manga under the agreement was Toki*Meka, the story of a 12 year old girl genius who builds a female robot. Only one chapter was published in Kodansha's Nakayoshi magazine because of the lack of public interest.
Naoko then started Love Witch, the story of a 13 year old girl who becomes a witch. This had a better run with 3 chapters and 1 off-shoot published, but as of this writing (January 2003) seems to have stopped.
But the year truly started with the ancillary rights to Sailormoon expiring and Naoko, finally, forming the Japanese equivalent of a DBA ("Doing Business As" - a fictional name for an individual which is not a partnership or corporation). Naoko created PNP, which stands for "Princess Naoko Planning." The business usage of the word "planning" is a very common practice in Japan but is usually reserved for when different partnerships or corporations want to get together on a project without having to swap stock or money.
The fact that Naoko chose the words "Princess Naoko" to help define her business name seemed to surprise none of her former and current business associates but caused more than a few to roll their eyes. Several complained to one of our members of how she (Naoko) now wanted to be in charge of everything and took exception to Naoko's claim that she could get better deals. But even when asked if they could be quoted anonymously, all of them refused for fear of the quote being traced back to them. (Editor's Note: See?! There are no quotes here!)
Many companies and individuals have complained that once PNP took over the rights to Sailormoon that all deals and negotiations stopped. It was not a matter of disagreeing on licenses or contracts but the simple problem of no response to phone calls and proposals. The creation of PNP seemed to have no affect on the situation which started in 2001. PNP does seem to have been able to continue some existing agreements (such as Bandai's Sera-Myu) but not others (such as The Guardians Of Order). To date, we haven't seen a single, completely new deal started and finished by PNP.
And this is one of the reasons why we had to go (again) suddenly slow on our quest for getting Sailorstars dubbed and subtitled into English. The SOS did not want fans to waste their time convincing a network or company to make a commitment only to get the deal killed by PNP's inaction. Even though contractually a deal would still be up to Cloverway/Toei, PNP could still kill the deal by simply failing to approve it.
A really good example of this concerns Sera-Myu. Bandai America directly (or indirectly through Bandai of Japan) wanted to release English subtitled versions of the Japanese Home Videos because of strong consumer interest in the United States (just like with Sailorstars). Bandai, in mid 2002, informally told us that they had to abandon the effort when Toei Animation would not (or could not) negotiate a change in the Sera-Myu deal. The original deal for Sera-Myu was for Japan only, so any change in the deal would need the approval of Ms. Takeuchi.
Toei partly administrated the Sera-Myu deal since the musicals are partly based on elements from their anime productions.
We believe that Toei was completely in favor of making more money but could not get Naoko to agree or to return their calls and letters. In Ms. Takeuchi's defense, we would understand her reluctance to tell one of current business partners, "No." Furthermore, her reasons for not going ahead with a deal could include:
Today, this has slightly changed. With an English language version of a live action feature now only a remote possibility, the protection of a live action television series becomes more likely.
We hope that the problems with PNP are being addressed. There are still a number of companies which would like to make deals concerning Sailormoon.
In early May 2002, an online site (now defunct) listed a Sailormoon X series for broadcast in the fall. The listing was noted by a contributor to Anime on DVD.com which then started a flurry of rumors. Meanwhile, other sites in Japan picked up the listing which sparked their own set of rumors. The SOS did not post any of the rumors since we knew they were not true but we also did not refute them as we were a little tired of having to do this sort of thing over and over again.
All of this might have prompted (for the first time) a denial of sorts from Naoko Takeuchi. On Friday, May 17, she posted on her site, "Toei-san, nanka ima atarashii daihon tsukutteru rashii kedo (chinami ni naiyou wa Mugen Gakuen o butai ni shita mono datta) jikai wa zehi yoroshiku," which we translated (but did not post) as, "I heard that Toei is currently working on a new script (by the way the content was about things that happened at Mugen Gakuen) for next time, yoroshiku!"
Mugen Gakuen was the name of the school in the anime series Sailor Moon S and most recently was the subject of a Sera-Myu musical. "Yoroshiku" is a hard word to translate (so we haven't done it). It can mean many different things (and sometimes nothing); in this case it could be translated as, "Please be nice!"
Naoko also wrote about attending a Morning Musume concert (a famous, all girl JPop group that she likes a lot) and revealed that at one time there was a plan to make a live action Sailormoon movie with them. We can guess why a feature wasn't made - it would be over the soundtrack rights. Both properties (Sailormoon and Morning Musume) have had very popular songs with a lot of the same demographic. If they did a project together the total CD sales would not be that much more than what they were each used to getting AND because they'd have to split the profits, they would make far less money.
But Ms. Takeuchi's interest in a live action Sailormoon is clear. Sera-Myu has been very successful for Naoko (and she doesn't have to change or approve a single drawing). A live action project doesn't have to be with Morning Musume and it doesn't have to be a feature. We don't know what Ms. Takeuchi is considering right now but from other developments (which we can't post) it seems that while she could easily return to anime, the door has been left open for a live action series as well.
Naoko chose her words very carefully: She had "heard" of Toei working on a script (which means she didn't know if it was true and therefore could not have even approved of it) and mentioned an old, dead project (perhaps if that were the cause of some confusion).
We posted, in part, the following on our tickertape the same day Naoko made her posting:
"Ms. Takeuchi may have been prompted to make a statement since a false report on the internet appeared suggesting that a new "Sailormoon" production was to premiere this Fall. New anime series generally do not premiere in Japan in the Fall (they premiere in April). Further, anime series need at least 6 to 9 months to produce before they can air. Toei refuses to claim that any production has started on any "Sailormoon" anime (series, home video, or feature). As we have previously reported, new "Sailormoon" productions have been discussed with Naoko in the past. However, this first public acknowledgment from Naoko may be a signal that she may approve a new production of "Sailormoon" or possibly another property of hers. More premature, false rumors will not help this situation."
Within a few days all the rumors thankfully stopped.
New merchandise continues from Bandai as well as Gashapon. Our bicoastal correspondent remarked, "Most of the merchandise is for kids but there are a couple of things good enough for grownup fans to buy. (I got them of course.)" Of special interest are the Gashapon figures, such as "HGIF #1" which includes Sailors Moon, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus and Black Lady. "HGIF #2" contains Sailors Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Chibi Moon, Saturn and Mistress Nine. "HGIF #3" has not yet been released but we've already seen some of the figures (and this might be the must buy). It includes a Sailor V and one of Rei in her robes!
Can't afford figures? Gashapon also puts out stickers!
And you might notice a (new?) warning for Sailormoon merchandise. On the Sera-Myu trading card boxes it reads, "FOR SALE IN JAPAN ONLY" which could be a signal that PNP (& Bandai?) may be planning a foreign release of Sera-Myu. (Or maybe, because of the loss of Irwin Toys, they are upset with the rapid increase of unauthorized U.S. sales.)
Your Bonus 2003 Section!
And although this report is supposed to cover only those events in 2001 and 2002, we'll get a little bit into 2003 with the latest Sera-Myu (which we alluded to way earlier in this report). The "2003 Winter Special Musical, Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon, Mugen Gakuen - Mistress Labyrinth (Revision)" started on January 2 and finished on January 14.
In the souvenir program book, Naoko Takeuchi wrote the following to the Sera-Myu audience: "Again we were able to welcome the new year with a Sailormoon musical. For the year 2003, we are planning many new projects. Renewal of the homepage and a reprint of the manga with new covers (artwork). And also ... a secret project! And of course we are planning to create a new and fun world for the musical, even more so than the previous ones. I hope we can create many wonderful memories again with Sailormoon in 2003. Please let me borrow your power, also. Sailor team is there because of everyone's support. Naoko Takeuchi 2003"
While the SOS believes that there's going to be a lot of Sailormoon and Sailor Moon developments this year, we're going to try to stay focused on the news and events which might affect the dubbing and subtitling of Sailorstars and the specials. As always, if any of the companies or individuals want special publicity or need to debunk the latest rumor, we're here to help. We hope we've answered a lot of your (the fans' and companies') questions with this report.