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Manga / Mink

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Mink, originally Cyber Idol Mink, is a Magical Girl manga series by Megumi Tachikawa that ran in Nakayoshi from 1999 to 2002.

Ordinary 14-year-old Mink Shiraishi is a Shrinking Violet who admires the entertainment world. One day, she and her two friends Mahoko and Kanoka accidentally pick up a CD-ROM from the year 2099 with a software called "WANNA-BE" that can temporarily transform Mink into her "ideal self", a more confident and energetic "cyber idol". Shortly after, Mink learns that Mahoko's older brother Motoharu runs a talent agency that's in danger of closing; having fallen in Love at First Sight with him, Mink decides to take up life as an idol to help him. But because using software from the future is a serious crime worth deletion, Mink has to keep her identity a secret from anyone, with only Mahoko and Kanoka as her support.

Thus begins Mink's new secret life as an idol, backed by the power of Cyberspace to help her navigate the entertainment world. But stardom isn't easy, and Mink soon has to find herself up against rivals, scandals, and all other kinds of trouble. Fortunately, Mink has Motoharu on her side, and he's determined to do whatever it takes to make Mink succeed... but as the two deepen their relationship, Mink is forced to confront the realization that no matter how she feels about him, she may not be able to ever show him her real "lesser" self.

And on top of that, it turns out that the WANNA-BE program being left in the past may not have been an accident, and its creator may have other plans for it...

The series is often considered to be a successor to Tachikawa's previous Magical Girl series Kaitou Saint Tail, being a revisiting of the themes surrounding the psychological toll of having a secret identity that were a prominent part of Saint Tail's latter half. Compared to Saint Tail using its Phantom Thief motifs as a metaphor for human connection, Mink focuses more on using Cyberspace as a motif to describe the effect of anonymity on how one presents themself.

This series provides examples of:

  • And the Adventure Continues: Once the issues of Kyo and Cyber Security are dealt with, Mink chooses to continue being an idol with a Secret Identity, with the only difference being that Motoharu knows her identity now and is in an under-the-table relationship with her.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Kyo created the WANNA-BE program with genuine intentions, but his resentment over seeing his hard work be banned as "dangerous" led him to send the software back in time to try and prove its worth. Once things don't go the way he wants, he ends up trying to brainwash the masses by sending around the upgraded version of the program via a Chain Letter, thus making it into the exact kind of dangerous program it was originally accused of being. Mink eventually calls him out with an Armor-Piercing Question asking if this was really what he wanted his work to be used for.
  • By the Power of Grayskull!: "WANNA-BE Stand By, Set Up!"
  • Contractual Purity: In-universe. As an Idol Singer, Mink has to worry about getting involved in love life scandals, with Azumi and Johnny trying to get her in compromising positions with Illiya and later Motoharu. She and Motoharu eventually get around it with a Relationship Upgrade after he learns her identity; while both of them would get in hot water if they tried to date as "an idol and her manager", there's nothing wrong with him dating a normal girl at his school who just happens to be his younger sister's friend.
  • Contrasting Sequel Main Character: Mink and Motoharu carry over a large number of traits from Kaitou Saint Tail's Meimi and Asuka Jr., ranging from their dynamic of "Magical Girl with identity crisis and singlemindedly devoted Hot-Blooded boy determined to protect her at all costs" to even their hair colors, but they don't have the self-worth issues their predecessors did (or at least not to the same level of severity) and are much more emotionally put-together as a result, albeit partially because they don't have to deal with throwing themselves into danger as much. Their relationship also doesn't start off with as many hurdles or communication issues, and the two get along extremely well from the very beginning, but while Meimi and Asuka Jr. knew each other personally enough that Asuka Jr. had only ever been in love with Meimi and Meimi's belief that he only cared about her alter ego was all in her head, Motoharu really does know Mink in her idol form significantly better than he knows her as a civilian, and the two aren't able to emotionally bond as much as they'd like due to their work positions until the end of the series, when it turns out that Motoharu has the same desire to know Mink better Beneath the Mask that his predecessor did with Meimi.
  • Cute Machines: Om, the WANNA-BE mascot who assists Mink in using the software's functions.
  • Date My Avatar: Mink considers herself to have effectively created a "fake" version of herself to get closer to Motoharu and believes that she won't be able to stay with him anymore if her "lie" is revealed. Eventually, he turns out to be fine with her Beneath the Mask, with him continuing to see her this way even while she continues using the idol persona.
  • Declaration of Protection: Motoharu will take care of Mink, no matter what he has to do for it or what he has to endure, and he will make sure you know it.
  • Devoted to You: Played with. Motoharu is obviously entranced by Mink and is insistent on protecting her from just about everything, but due to their nature as work colleagues, they're both forced to keep it within the range of him taking his manager duties as really Serious Business. Nevertheless, he does clearly favor Mink over any of his other charges and is deeply emotionally attached to her. It's only after he sees Mink in her civilian form and figures out her feelings for him when he's able to actually respond to it properly in kind.
  • Fangirl: Mink starts off as a diehard Illiya fan, and she finds the WANNA-BE program when trying to get one of his CDs. The series is quick to point out early on that there's a difference between a Celeb Crush and an actual romantic interest, especially when Mink falls for Motoharu very quickly, but Illiya's own interest in Mink and Mink's own complicated history with the issue result in a Love Triangle forming between them.
  • Freudian Slip: Motoharu is two years Mink's senior at the same school, so Mink instinctively addresses him as her "senior" even in her idol form. When he asks about it, she passes it off as him being her "senior in the entertainment industry", and the habit sticks.
  • Groupie Brigade: Azumi and Johnny manage to get Mink in trouble with Illiya's fangirl posse by engineering a scandal regarding suspicions of them being involved in a relationship. Illiya manages to get them off his case by claiming that it was a publicity stunt for his production of Mink's first album.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Ultimately, Kyo's motives amount to him throwing a tantrum over the fact that he perceives Minkle using the WANNA-BE program outside his expectations to be breaking the boundaries of his "software" and taking control away from him, and Mink realizes that he's not that different from her in that he just wants people to accept him and his hard work. Minkle manages to get through to him by offering him actual sympathy and kindness, and Kyo eventually acknowledges them as his first real friends.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Notably, there's no evidence that Motoharu would ever actually think of civilian Mink as uninteresting or useless the way she believes he would; it's just that since he talks about idol Mink like she's a "diamond" or "angel", Mink is self-conscious about the idea that she would be ordinary and disappointing in comparison. Everything the reader is shown about Motoharu hints otherwise, with his comparative distance from civilian Mink purely being because he thinks he doesn't know her that well; notably, when Mink offers him a mangled piece of Valentine's chocolate that she compares to her "small and tiny" self, he appreciates it just fine. Ultimately, him learning Mink's identity doesn't change the way he sees idol Mink at all, and in fact he would prefer it if she didn't hide things from him.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Cyber Security gives up on their attempt to remove everyone's memories of Minkle when their bond with Motoharu and their fans proves to be just too strong for them to do anything about.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Mink works closely with Motoharu and forms a strong bond with him while lamenting that she'll never be able to get him to look the same way at her civilian self: on top of Mink considering her real self to be unremarkable and useless to him compared to her more confident and flashy idol persona, the fact she can't reveal her identity to him means that he only sees her as a friend of his younger sister instead of the girl he's been working with. On the flip side, his relationship with her as an idol still has its own limitations: she can't pursue her feelings for him too aggressively due to her position as an idol, and the fact she has to keep so many secrets about her personal life means that their relationship can never go past a superficial level. Once the need for her to maintain the Masquerade is lifted, she decides that she'd rather confess to him as "Mink Shiraishi" instead of her idol self, but still worries that he might resent her for "lying" with a false version of herself if he ever finds out the truth; fortunately, when an accident results in him finding out anyway, it turns out that he was also dissatisfied with how superficial his relationship with her was and is happy to finally see her Beneath the Mask, allowing them to move onto a proper Relationship Upgrade.
  • Magic from Technology: The WANNA-BE CD-ROM is technically just advanced programming that taps into the power of Cyberspace, but in practice it functions like a usual Magical Girl's range of abilities.
  • Magic Idol Singer: Mink. Mahoko and Kanoka later join her to form a trio unit called Minkle, taking the names "Maco" and "Canon" respectively.
  • Magic Music: Minkle can use their songs to counter Kyo's brainwashing, although their "magic" is technically within the range of it working off the same tech he uses.
  • Martyr Without a Cause: Motoharu doesn't even hesitate to protect Mink from potential danger with his own body and will easily pay absolutely no concern towards things like getting injured to the point of bleeding. Commentary from Tachikawa states that he has unusually high pain tolerance compared to the average person.
  • Mask of Confidence: It's ambiguous how much Mink's confidence boost after transforming comes from an inherent part of the WANNA-BE program and how much of it comes from the benefit of being able to hide behind an anonymous persona, but the Cyberspace motif suggests that it's at least partially the latter.
  • Masquerade: Mink can't tell anyone about her secret identity at risk of facing digital death, since Cyber Security will come after her if they find out about illegal use of future software in the past. Eventually, once the concerns about Cyber Security have been lifted, she continues using the WANNA-BE program and keeping her identity a secret for the most part, although she's finally able to tell Motoharu about it.
  • Meaningful Name: Kyo's name is written with the kanji for "mirror", fitting his development of a software intended to make a "reflection" of oneself, and he even appears in a mirror at one point.
  • Meet Cute: Mink met Motoharu when he shielded her (very painfully) from falling CDs cardboard stand of Illiya, and it was Love at First Sight from there.
  • More than Mind Control: Kyo uses the upgraded WANNA-BE program to feed off of people's desire for attention and acceptance to brainwash them into Cyberoids that do his bidding.
  • Ret-Gone: Mink and her idol form will be "erased" if Cyber Security finds out about her. They finally show up in the end in response to Kyo's mayhem and attempt to settle for erasing everyone's memories of Minkle, but ultimately call it quits when it doesn't work out and everyone manages to remember them anyway.
  • The Rival: Azumi Mizuhara, a rival idol who does anything she can to sabotage Mink's career, even to the point of forming an alliance with Johnny in the hopes of getting Mink involved in some scandal. Ironically, Mink had been jealous of Azumi co-starring with Illiya at the beginning of the series, but once she actually enters the industry, she's too nice to do much against Azumi's malicious intent besides defend herself.
  • Romantic False Lead: Illiya, Mink's producer and initial Celeb Crush, is clearly taken by Mink and even gets close to swaying her to him over Motoharu during a Moment of Weakness when she's convinced he's lost interest in her, but after his advances on Mink end up getting both of them in a scandal, he realizes that his actions had caused more damage to her and her career than his and steps back for her sake.
    • There's also Yuka, an idol who joins Motoharu's agency part of the way into the story and the main cause of the aforementioned Moment of Weakness, since Yuka's aggressive clinginess gets Mink to start feeling that Motoharu is ignoring her in favor of Yuka. In fact, while Motoharu does take his role as Yuka's manager seriously, he has no intention of abandoning Mink, and Yuka ends up being used as an Unwitting Pawn by Azumi and Johnny to engineer Mink's scandal with Illiya.
  • Secret-Identity Identity: Like Kaitou Saint Tail before it, Mink warns of the dangers of getting too obsessed with one's alter ego to the point of losing self-worth. Notably, the series uses its Cyberspace theme to focus on both the negative and positive sides of the issue by likening it to an anonymous online persona: while it shouldn't be treated as a "better" replacement for oneself to the point of self-hatred, it can also help people do things they wouldn't be able to otherwise, and Mink is grateful that she can use her idol persona to help Motoharu. In the end, contrary to her belief that her idol persona is nothing but a "lie" that covers up her real self, the final chapter draws a parallel to an island that had been falsely reported as having "monsters" on it by the locals; the lie was told to protect the beautiful but vulnerable star sand on the island, and Motoharu likewise takes care to acknowledge and value the existence of civilian Mink even when she's in her idol form.
  • Secret Public Identity: Mink uses the same name in both forms (with the only difference being that she writes her name in hiragana as a civilian and in Roman characters as an idol), although she manages to convince Motoharu that the shared name is just a strange coincidence. Once he does find out her identity, he makes use of this to jump straight to First-Name Basis with her (since he was technically already calling her that anyway), and the manga text has him continue to address "Mink" in hiragana even when she's in her idol form, indicating that he's actually addressing her Beneath the Mask.
  • Selective Obliviousness: When Mink first starts working under Motoharu, she extracts a promise out of him to never ask about her identity or look too deeply into it, and he takes it so seriously that he deliberately stops himself from thinking about it anytime he gets close to figuring something out, no matter how curious he is. Thanks to that, Mink is able to get away with falling back on very flimsy excuses to cover up her identity. Eventually, he ends up finding out anyway when an incident of Power Incontinence causes too many hints to come together and she reverts to her civilian form in front of him, but fortunately the need for her to uphold the Masquerade isn't in play anymore by that point.
  • Shipper on Deck: Both Mahoko and Kanoka are very in support of Mink's feelings for Motoharu, with Mahoko's position as his younger sister proving useful in him getting to know Mink even in her civilian form.
  • Shrinking Violet: As a civilian, Mink is so sensitive and easily flustered that she has a perpetual Luminescent Blush on her face, and the fact she becomes significantly more assertive and confident in her idol form is a big reason she considers her civilian self to be unremarkable in comparison to her idol self. Ironically, once Motoharu learns her identity, this is what tips him off about her feelings before she's even made her Love Confession; her unusual behavior hadn't made sense when he only knew her as his sister's friend who shouldn't know him very well, but once he had the context that she was the idol he'd been helping the entire time, the fact she'd acted so emotionally vulnerable towards him in a way she didn't in her idol form was a dead giveaway.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Mink's complicated feelings about her Loves My Alter Ego problem result in her having a nightmare about her interrupting a wedding between Motoharu and... herself, or more specifically her idol self. It ends up becoming a factor in why she chooses to make her Love Confession to him in her civilian form, even despite the fact he doesn't know "her" as anything but an acquaintance.
  • Umbrella of Togetherness: After an incident in which Motoharu injures his hand for Mink's sake, Mink later sees him in the rain while in her civilian form and insists on walking him home with her umbrella, secretly distressed that she can't do more for him and forced to keep quiet because of her identity. When her identity is accidentally revealed to him, Motoharu remembers the incident and is able to put two and two together regarding her actual feelings for him.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Cyber Security allows Minkle to hold one last concert before their idol personas are deleted and have all memories related to them wiped at midnight on New Year's, with them even having it be Cinderella-themed and Mink leaving behind a single slipper for good measure.
  • Wrap It Up: While chapter 26 resolves the core plot and ends on a somewhat conclusive note, it still leaves open the elephant-in-the-room issues of Mink still having a derogatory opinion of her "real" self, Motoharu still being unaware of her identity, and their relationship still being on unresolved terms; in actuality, this was a result of Tachikawa's health issues working on the series forcing serialization to stop early, and a more proper conclusion was included as a two-part "bonus chapter" in a special issue and the volume 6 release.
  • Zeerust: Not only is future technology from 2099 on a CD-ROM, it also apparently takes up only 650 megabytes, a size that seems rather incredibly small for something that can create an entire Magical Girl persona.