Third Anniversary Thank You!!
Xadium's Third Anniversary Thank YouRecently, a few Suburban Senshi fans invaded the Otakon 2005 convention, and came back bearing much treasure. And in a display of unbelievable generosity and kindness, they actually sent some of that treasure to me, along with some great sketches from some really talented artists!
This is my thank-you to those wonderful folks who chipped in to get me these wonderful gifts and mementos when they absolutely did not have to. SaturnGrl, Wolfwood, Solarchos, Senshi Guardian, Indigo-- You guys rock! It's also a reflection on what it feels like to actually hold a piece of Sailor Moon in my hands and what the whole phenomenon of Suburban Senshi means to me, three years after its inception.
Gifts from everyone (The Venus Gashopon and figure were mine proper)
In addition to the wonderful Sakura Taisen Gashopon figures
(here's a hint to anyone thinking of buying them for themselves-- if you ever buy Gashopon figures, be sure to buy a bottle of Krazy Glue to help them stay together, because they will fall apart otherwise-- they make a new "brushable" container which makes the glue much easier to apply and doesn't waste so much of it)
I was sent some wonderful flat Sailor Moon keychains of Uranus, Neptune and Venus (I would so use them for puppet theatre if I wasn't averse to taking them out of the packages),as well as two criminally cute Venus UFO catcher dolls, one of which is the famous BSM-30 type (which has a thriving subculture behind it, wherein it is placed in odd locales and photographed-- thanks to you guys Suburban Senshi will soon join the BSM-30 club!!).
All these wonderful gifts aside, however, the one that had the most impact on me was ironically, probably one of the simplest-- an animation cel of Minako laughing.
Aside from holding much meaning to me as a gift from cherished friends, the cel is so much more.
For almost half a decade now, my relationship to Sailor Moon has been a long and storied one. I have gone from being a fan of the dub, to a connoisseur of the subtitled version, taken the leap from bring writer of a fanfic series (in the form of Suburban Senshi in all its forms) based on the show, to even a published author examining the series' reflections of Japan.
In all this time, I experienced the show as most do, watching the finished product on television or via fansub.
But when I opened that Otakon package, that long slim envelope, I was expecting to find a sketch, or photos, or a flyer. I never in a million years expected to find an animation cel Of Minako-- my favourite senshi-- no less.
To seasoned collectors I suppose such a thing is commonplace, almost blase. But to me, here was something purely magical. A real piece of the show that has taken up so much of my life these past few years.
More than just a piece of plastic with paint on it, this was a fundamental part of the thing which had captured my imagination, a slice of the magic that had gone into the production of the episode.
Yes, I know it's really just roughly 1/420940800th of all the cels made, but to me it doesn't matter. More real than the fansubs or the videos, or the reprinted posters, here was the anime itself-- a fleeting 30th of a second of the real thing.
In fact, if you think about it, it's the closest anyone would have to the "real" Aino Minako, considering she arises from a collection of these cels plus the talents of a wonderful seiyuu.
To actually possess a piece of the show... something I'd long considered doing but held back on because of lack of funds... it's a profound thing that probably sounds silly to those who aren't "fans." But I don't care. I am touched, deeply and honestly.
And with this sentiment in mind, I look back on Suburban Senshi as a whole, as we stand just beyond its third anniversary date of August 25th.
Suburban Senshi actually started back at the beginning of 2002, as a series of regular fanfic postings on the newsgroup alt.fan.sailor-moon, in which the original vision was to be the depiction of sitcom-style television episodes chronicling the REAL lives of the senshi-- as people, not superpowered heroines.
In fact, the senshi were never even supposed to transform over the course of the series-- tension was o have been derived from their personality quirks, not their magical powers.
Obviously, things changed. Writing one new fic a week was tiring, even a bit annoying after a while, and the gap between episodes got longer and longer, making my dream of providing some kind of weekly staple for the USENET crowd more and more of a distant reality.
I didn't have the time or the creativity to punch out totally new and original full length comedic plots at that pace. I wanted to keep going, but didn't see how. It was at about this time that "blogging" -- weblogging-- started to take off. From "Blogger" to "Livejournal", everyone was getting on the internet, and posting up the details of their lives for everyone to see, a new tidbit every day.
Hmm, new tidbits of private life every day, eh? Sounded like the perfect fit for someone who wanted to do nothing more than depict tiny slices of life of the senshi.
Thus it was that in August 2003, using my Tripod webspace, Ten'ou Haruka went and got herself a "blog". Using a deliberately mishmashed layout that stole elements from various Japanese websites and slashdot.org, it was a site where Haruka had planned to post only bits about her life on the internet. Predictably, the other sub.senshi immediately caught wind of this, and got in on the act.
The early history of the site was somewhat boring, with a clunky format in which one senshi at a time would post an article or review, and the other senshi would comment below. (This was inspired in large part by the Amazoness Quartet review site, where the AQ would pan or praise other SM sites.) This version of Sub. Senshi was slow going, and somewhat annoying, as it was too difficult to accurately capture the flavour of the senshi doing the posting.
One of the original style posts circa October 2002
This lasted for about a year, and the hits were low (about 40 a day). I think the bulk came from curious USENET visitors, as I had placed the site's url in my .signature and on the Suburban Senshi fics, which were still running in parallel to the site.
Litttle did I know that one of those hits was from a fan named Jay, who, by his own admission, was a fan of the series long before the blog mode, and who graciously agreed to host me on his website. From there, Suburban Senshi's exposure grew by leaps and bounds.
It was then the revolution came, thanks to Kim Jong Il. Someone, in a stroke of genius, had made a LiveJournal site in which MSN conversations between the insane North Korean Leader and his equally mentally-challenged western counterparts, both living and dead, were chronicled. It was so fast, furious and funny, that I knew this was worth incorporating into the site. The realtime immediacy of a chat was just so much better than the old "post-response" method on the site.
One of the Illmatic's MSN style conversations
But the MSN format was big, and clunky. Back then I didn't know how to properly simulate it (I could now, but have no wish to, although it might be fun to try one day.), so the idea languished in the back of my head.
At the same time, I was a regular lurker on the newsgroup alt.fan.dragonball, and one of the regular, amusing features of the group was a series of postings from the group's associated (real) irc channel, #afd, in which humourous quotes from channel denizen ksennin were often posted to the newsgroup:
From a Post to alt.fan.dragonball, September 8th, 2002
Like Peanut Butter and Jelly, the two concepts suddenly merged in my mind. Instead of MSN, where the norm was one on one conversation, why not IRC, where you had fast, insane freeform conversation, channel bots, joins, parts, the whole 9 yards? With several senshi in mind, the concept should, in theory, work a lot better.
The idea was first tested on a whim on March 29th, 2003, with the IRC style Suburban Senshi fic, "IRC Phun", which set most of the style and tone for what would become IRC mode Suburban Senshi. This also marked the end of regular postings to alt.fan.sailor-moon, even though one or two newsgroup-only chats were posted there to advertise the site after its transition to IRC mode, which occurred formally on March 31st / April 1st, 2003.
The Original Control Panel (never before seen)
This led to the IRC-style format that finally "broke out" Suburban Senshi, with the senshi finally able to quickly react and banter back and forth in a style that was part fanfic, part something new. Now instead of having to worry about large scale plots, with setups, buildups, and payoffs, the Senshi could just be themselves, talking, being random, and yet somehow emerging an enjoyable read with interconnecting threads forming from the chaos. Truly it was a new style unlike anything seen before.
IRC Blog Entry from March 2003
Month after month Suburban Senshi picked up steam, but it was just me putting entries out into the ether. I didn't know if anyone really read the site, aside from the comments that occasionally got posted under the entries.
After a time I dropped in a small shoutbox sidebar onto the site, and fans would occasionally chat back and forth with one another. But then, after I decided that I wanted the shoutbox to more closely mirror the IRC experience of the main chats, I began to slowly rewrite the code piece by piece. At the same time in my mind, I was tired of using the cut and paste system to make the IRC entries. I decided to fork the shoutbox code into two parts- the small part used to run the sidebar chat, and a larger, more ambitious project... to make an entry generator in PHP.
After perfecting the mechanics of it, I posted a "live chat" box on the top of the webpage, where the senshi's live chats could be posted when I was off on vacation or something. A functional copy of this actually still exists on this site here. (It's not really updated, though I might fold it back into the site for emergencies later).
Eventually, I folded back the significant improvements to the shoutbox code that I had made in order to produce this live chat engine into the sidebar chat. Thus, #suburbansenshi2, the real-time live chat experience, was born-- an area where the sub.senshi could (and do) directly interact with site visitors.
This moment was when the extended Suburban Senshi family began-- when the visitors went from just being visitors to being a community. A community that I value and cherish greatly. This site wouldn't be possible without all of you, your contributions of art, of fiction, and of friendship-- which is so rare to find these days.
With the increase in chat traffic came an increase in bandwith and I made the decision to move out on my own, to the site as it is today, on kasterborus.net.
Suburban Senshi might not be the most popular Sailor Moon site around, but it's one of the most active in its own way. The site has become a clearinghouse for the imagination, where fans of any genre as well as Sailor Moon can get together and create something new-- an expansion of the paradigm that I had started with the switch to IRC mode that continually bears new and exciting fruit.
As Suburban Senshi enters its fourth(!) year, I want to thank you all for your support, your kindness and your community. What started as a gag site that I figured I'd lose interest in in a matter of weeks has become something that I look forward to updating every day. When you do the math, I've probably churned out several novels worth of material in the years since I started-- and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Suburban Senshi will continue. And, so, in a silly little way, will a piece of Sailor Moon.
Here's to another four years, and see you online!