The Ring 0: Birthday
Art by MEIMU, original novel by Koji Suzuki, script by Hiroshi Takahashi, translated into English by Naomi Kakubo and Steven Hoffman. Published in English by Dark Horse Comics, and in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten Publishing.
I think that's enough information for citing in letters or things most of the time. If not, the ISBN should help you hunt down more information about that particular version.
Rewind 30 years. A female newspaper reporter named Miyaji is questioning Sadako's old elementary school teacher about her. She says she was very smart, very pretty, and oh, yeah, she tried to warn the rest of the class not to go swimming in the ocean one day and all fourteen kids ignored her and drowned from shock.
Meanwhile, Sadako is in a theatre troupe. She doesn't have a role, apparently, but she stares forlornly a lot at the girl who has the lead, Aiko. Aiko gets freaked and messes up her speech about rebirth a lot. And screams at Sadako. Because that's absolutely the best way to deal with someone who's freaking you out. Meanwhile one of the tech crew boys, Tohyama, has a crush on Sadako because she's lonely and pretty.
Sadako has a visit to her doctor and sees strange things. Seems he put her on tranquilizers to cut down on her seeing such things, but she lies when he asks whether she's had any lately. So he concludes it was "nerves", and recommends that she continue with the acting troupe, because "acting can be used as a treatment for mental problems, you know."
She's back at the troupe, hanging around, and Aiko is still freaked out by her. Despite the fact that someone else is there who just thinks that Sadako is studying Aiko, and Sadako affirms this and says that she doesn't mean to, but ends up doing it because she envies the role that Aiko has in the play. Like everyone else on set. Meanwhile Aiko and some weird lady with a bun are
Now it's an actual dress rehearsal, and Aiko is in the middle of the play's rebirth speech again (not symbolic! really! so not symbolic!). She sees a short blurred figure behind Sadako, resembling a small girl. She freaks, messes up her part, gets yelled at by the producer, and then yells at Sadako again-- "How dare you look at me like that!" Because, uh, everyone knows that looking at a person a particular way makes ghosts appear behind you. Yeah.
Then Sadako hallucinates Aiko as a corpse while she's being yelled at. A really ugly yucky zombie corpse. So SHE freaks out and covers her eyes. Then the producer yells at Aiko some more for being a psychobitch. Afterwards, in back of the set, Tohyama and Sadako have a little chat, and he cheers her up by being genuinely understanding and supportive. Then the producer insults Aiko some more and tells her she can't act, and Aiko hallucinates a small little child on set and promptly dies in the middle of rehearsal without anybody noticing until after its over.
Meanwhile, Miyaji has found Sadako's shrink. There is some babble about animals appearing to have some kind of innate forewarning before disasters and the possibility that some humans have this instinct as well. The doctor states, rather reasonably, that if any humans did have this ability, they would hide it to avoid being killed by those who feared that power, and uses the witch hunts of the 16th century as an example. Miyaji plays back a tape recording of the "public experiment of supernatural powers" at which Sadako's mother, Shizuko, was accused of being a faker by a reporter, who then promptly died on the spot. At the end of the tape, after a lot of screaming, someone cries out "monster!" and then "Sadako!" This is a great shock for Sadako's shrink, but he quickly recovers. Miyaji says that the journalist who died was her fiancé, and that every single other reporter who was there died over the next ten years. She then asks where Dr. Ikuma (Sadako's father) is, and then Sadako, and to both she gets a negative answer. (Apparently Dr. Kuno is a decent enough fellow to preserve his client's privacy and not give her location out to some lady out for blood. Go Dr. Kuno.)
Meanwhile the producer announces that Aiko is dead, the police will be doing an autospy, and the show must go on, so he gives Aiko's role to Sadako. Now everyone hates Sadako and thinks she killed Aiko, though they mumble and whisper about poisoning, not psychic p0wahz 0f d00m. Tohyama and Sadako talk behind stage again, and Sadako is freaked out because she read the script everyday, and really, really liked Aiko's role and wished it was hers. However, she's soon interrupted by a vision of Aiko's ghost behind Tohyama (whom she refuses to let turn around and look at said ghost). Ghost!Aiko is pissed. Sadako screams "It wasn't me!" and Tohyama snaps her out of it and gives her a good pep talk.
Then her shrink is yelling at someone he calls "Doctor" on the phone for not telling him about something (presumably the experiment). The reply he gets is, "Sadako doesn't remember any of it. Sadako of today is not Sadako then. Please look after Sadako."
Now Sadako practices her role and unlike Aiko, her rendition results in shoujo sparkles around Tohyama's head. Yay fuzzies. Then Tohyama shows another crew member something weird on the audio recording from the rehearsal that Aiko died at-- a voice saying "got killed".
Then the producer is in Sadako's room with her and he's now being a creepy bastard, manhandling her mother's photo, ignoring her when she asks him to leave (twice), and telling her he'll help her becoming "a top-notch actress". And then we get an artsy shot of the empty hallway and stuff. (I got the impression that this was an implied rape.)
The girl that Tohyama showed the weird tape-record anomaly to tells him to stay away from Sadako because she also had the weird dream with the well with the crack and the stairs of d00m. Tohyama doesn't say anything. Later he runs into the producer, who says he's "just tired". Which Tohyama obviously doesn't buy. Then that crew-girl from before runs up, says Aiko's costume was taken by a child (who is automatically assumed to be Sadako by everyone but Tohyama). They find Sadako sitting in a dark corner with her head bent low, her hair in full Cousin It mode, and with Aiko's dress in her lap. Crew-girl starts to yell at her, but Tohyama stops her, as Sadako is acting shell-shocked and stuff. She tells Tohyama that sometimes she does things that she doesn't remember. As an example, she tells him that the producer visited the night before, but that she doesn't remember what happened. Then she starts talking about "someone right next to me", "She's not a stranger. I feel like I met her a long time ago, but..." [cue weird dream sequence version of the experiment]
And then she wakes up in Tohyama's bed. Uh, not like that. Seems she fainted and he carried her back to his place so she could rest. He offers her coffee and reassures her that he didn't "touch" her while she was passed out. Which Sadako seems to rightfully appreciate. He also asks her "There's no one else here, right?" which results in some minor poltergeisty stuff before Sadako says yes. It's not actually a creepy scene, but a weird kind of warm-and-fuzzy moment between a cute psychic girl and a guy who apparently finds nothing wrong with that. Then Sadako hallucinates blood on Tohyama's hands when he's setting down the cups of coffee, and she runs away in a fright while mentally reciting part of the rebirth speech from the play, now including the next couple of lines which end in "The morning light will reveal my true self. But I still want to tell you that I love you."
Then Miyaji's photographer at Dr. Kuno's hospital again, and Dr. Kuno is still refusing to break confidentiality, even though now he's being bugged by crew-girl. However, she drops a playbill for the troupe's play on the floor, which has the name "Sadako Yamamura" in a prominent place on it, and Miyaji's photographer finds it.
Then everyone's setting up the stage for the actual production, and the director starts being a creepy bastard at Sadako again, correctly guessing that Sadako spent the night at Tohyama's (and insinuates more), ending it with "I want to talk to you later." So then she hallucinates his creepy face all bloodied, and is now very scared. Miyaji and her photographer show up, claiming to want an interview with Sadako for a newspaper's culture section, and her photographer's flash catches Sadako by surprise. The flash explodes, and Sadako runs away. Miyaji makes a scary face and goes "I finally found you, Sadako Yamamura!" in a dramatic thought bubble. Then they stalk the crew-girl.
Back at the office, Miyaji gets visited by Sadako's elementary school teacher again, who tells her about the time she went to the Yamamura household when Shizuko was "not normal then" (which apparently means "she looked freakin' creepy, wore a lot of eyeliner, and brushed her hair a lot"). She finds herself somehow alone in the hallway, sees some creepy things, and another little Sadako. Then she says she was scared of "Sada" after that, and also says, "I even wondered which Sada would come to school. Such foolish thoughts." Miyaji looks at the photograph taken of Sadako before the flash blew up, in which there's a fuzzy image of a young girl behind her, and decides that she's cursed.
Then the producer is trying to blackmail Sadako with the experiment, saying, "You're the type of woman who would do anything to get what you want. [...] I was looking for a woman like you. An ideal actress. I can understand you better than anyone. Better than Tohyama. You can't live in this world without me. You are mine!!" But then the stage lights make noises and he decides she's going to kill him instead, so he attacks her. Tohyama, however, saw the whole thing, so he gallantly jumps in and gets the crap beaten out of him. Sadako freaks and suddenly the producer has ebola and is hemorrhaging from everywhere possible. However, apparently it also partially got Tohyama. Later, at Dr. Kuno's office, she heals the bandaged Tohyama right in front of Dr. Kuno. This is apparently scary.
Cut for a short interlude with Miyaji cleaning a gun and talking to a picture of her dead fiancé.
Now back to Sadako and Tohyama, who's now conscious. Tohyama wants to turn himself in to the police to save Sadako. Sadako refuses and claims it's her fault because she's a "monster". He insists she's not a monster because she did it to save him. And he also says he wants to be with her forever, so now Sadako has the shoujo sparkles.
Back at the
And then, the moment Sadako walks on stage (wearing a mask that covers the right half of her face), the tape-recording of the experiment starts to play.3
Sadako's mother Shizuko suddenly appears on stage. Tohyama rushes to the sound booth to find out what the heck is going on up there, and uh, dramatic yelling happens. Now we see Shizuko's face, with one blank scary eye and one normal eye, as she turns to Sadako and says "Sadako's in trouble." Miyaji is creepy and has a gun, and Dr. Kuno tries to run in and intervene to stop Sadako from doing anything by calmly approaching her and talking pretty reasonably, but he reaches towards her and she hallucinates him as a bloody producer reaching towards her, so she screams and a light fixture comes loose and falls on top of him, setting him on-fire and killing him in a great conflagration.
The audience runs away in a stampede! Miyaji chases Sadako with her gun at the ready, but loses her because she stops to stare at the infamous fuzzy ghost girl in the smoke. However, the rest of the theatre troupe (sans Tohyama, who is caught in the audience stampede) chases her down, corners her, and beats her to a bloody pulp with pipes. In fact, she seems rather dead, and Tohyama is absolutely crushed when he finally gets there. But Miyaji reminds them all that they have to find "another Sadako" and kill her in order not to die from her curse. Then she conveniently finds a letter in an addressed envelope hidden in the frame of the photo of Shizuko in Sadako's room, and the address is that of Dr. Heihachiro Ikuma at a sanatorium. Begin Roadtrip!
End roadtrip. They brought Tohyama and Sadako's corpse with, and Tohyama's just sitting next to it looking forlorn, so of course, he must be kept under careful watch, lest he become a necrophiliac or something. Everyone else goes to the front door and meets
"Sadako was one, but after the public experiment of supernatural power, she split into two. Sadako could no longer tolerate herself. The only choice she had was to sever her dark side. One was very much like her mother, and the other was probably more like her natural father... Shizuko saw it, and it drove her insane. All I could do was stop the development of that horrible power using drugs."
The mob approaches the locked attic-closet that Other Sadako was apparently kept in, and Sadako's bloodied body suddenly comes alive again and she heals completely before Tohyama's eyes, and has a warm fuzzy moment that crew-girl sees, so she lets them escape, and stops creepy-bun-lady from chasing after them.
Meanwhile, the mob discovers that there's nothing in Other Sadako's closet-prison other than a television with static on the screen and an old plate of noodles and dumplings. Apparently bringing Sadako's body along was a bad thing. Oops.
Sadako and Tohyama hear the noise from people running around looking for them, and she has a creepy moment, and then does the whole "Go without me, leave me, get away from me as fast as you can," thing, and Tohyama refuses to, asking "What're you saying?!", to which he gets the reply, "I... lo... Tohyama..." as Sadako starts backing up towards the edge of a cliff on the sea. She goes "escape, escape", turns into Cousin It, and instead of getting scared, Tohyama professes love to her anyway, with shoujo sparkles and all.
That's the last we ever see of him, by the way. Now stuff blows up, trees go flying, and the heads of a few people in the search-mob pop off of their necks like the corks in champagne bottles. Miyaji and crew-girl run away, and Dr. Ikuma suddenly has the notion to get up from his desk and start looking for Sadako. More running away, and then some of Dr. Ikuma calling for Sadakooooh and telling her to stop it, looking less scared than disciplinary. Miyaji and crew-girl hide in a closet, and when Dr. Ikuma finds Sadako, she's crying next to the very gruesome and bloody corpses of Miyaji and crew-girl.
Back at the house near the well, Dr. Ikuma gives Sadako an injection, saying, "This should calm you down." She briefly asks, still very depressed, who her real father is, and just gets told that he's her father. She accepts this, and then jumps up in a panic because she suddenly feels like she's choking-- the injection was poison. Then he attacks her with a cleaver and dumps her into the well.
Sadako wakes up in Tohyama's bed again, and Tohyama (by the bedside) asks her if she had a nightmare. She reaches for him, and finds herself back in reality... at the bottom of the well. Completely healed, but with no way out.
Then, a little odd segment with Sadako lying in the water, and more words from the rebirth speech, "If this is all just a dream... when I wake up from this dream, if I could be with you... if I could be born again... even if... that's against god's will...
Fast forward thirty years, and now Kanae is putting the cursed video into the VCR.
1khongten's such a fanboy that when I first typed "A girl" he went "No, no, no, that's Kanae from the Ring 2 manga, see here," and blindly grabbed the volume out of a pile of junk to show me. So, uh, moral of the story is, those things are organized, believe it or not.
2Which means this is Movie Canon, not Book Canon or Manga Canon, khongten says, as she gets killed by somebody else in those. The Ring 2 is also apparently based on Movie Canon instead of Manga Canon. Blegh, so confusing.
3HAVE THESE PEOPLE NEVER HEARD OF "CARRIE"?!
Anyway, typical gothic good/evil split. Took too much time on the plot synopsis to write any analysis. (Plus, I was interrupted by a long phone conversation somehwere in the middle.)