(Um... Don't mind Strike... He keeps popping up for some reason...)
Anime Reviews 2
Manga Reviews 2
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My Tribute to Fushigi Yugi!
NOTE: This page is based on the first thirteen volumes of the manga, as I haven't had the occasion to read the rest or see the TV series or OAVs. I'm told that the aforementioned volumes correspond to the TV series.
Fushigi Yugi is a story of many cliches. The premise of a young girl being transported into a strange realm (Rayearth, anyone?) is nothing new, and a lot of the characters seem to be deja-vu anime stereotypes. And then they all fall in love with this annoying ditz who in real life wouldn't be considered girlfriend material by any guy worth his salt, but she finds her one true love (at the age of fifteen, no less! To just how many people does this happen?) and they go through about a gigazillion break-ups before finally getting together, most likely through tragic events including the death of one, or the other or both or someone else. This could be the plot of about a million different shoujo stories out there, with the most notable example being Sailor Moon.
So why then, is Fushigi Yugi so bloody popular?
Well, many reasons, of course.
To start with the superficial aspects, the thing is beautiful to look at. I've seen snapshots of the anime, and it's nice and all, but Watase's art is wonderful. I know some people complain that all her guys are effeminate, but I don't mind that, although it's nice that she gives Tamahome, essentially the hero of the story, a short haircut. It takes away from the bishounen cliche. And it's also nice that Miaka is not a knock-out of a girl, with proportions somewhat skewed at the chest and legs area, but a very ordinary looking, albeit cute one. The art is one reason for Fushigi Yugi's popularity, I think, because a lot of fans just like to drool over Tamahome, Tasuki, Hotohori etc.
Then the other reasons. One thing that really shocked me about this series is just how violent it is. It starts out as an ordinary cute fantasy/comedy, and then... wow. And it's all the more poignant because it isn't the explosions, blown to bits, pieces of brain and intestines flying around kind of violence, but barely shown, terrible glimpses and suggestions that stick out in the mind for a long time. The first time that I was jerked out of my seat was when ***spoiler*** broke Miaka's arm. All that we saw there was a splash of blood on her sleeve, and her face, but it was enough to make me shiver. Scenes like these show that Yu Watase is a talented mangaka, for knowing how to draw and having a good story isn't enough, these have to be presented it in an efficient way, or it's all for nothing. She also has an uncanny way of getting emotions across using the character's faces, and I practically couldn't bear to look into Miaka's eyes in that scene. The violence is good because it makes Fushigi Yugi stand out among the plethora of cute shoujo manga out there, and it gives the series just that touch of realism.
Of course, some people like Fushigi Yugi because they're just romantics. I can't resist a good love story either, and I'm a sucker for kissing (and more) scenes, but I hate mush. And sap. And Fushigi Yugi is just full of mushy and sappy. It wasn't so bad for the first five or six volumes, but my cool Tamahome became not-so-nifty-anymore-Tamahome when he started moaning about how he couldn't live without Miaka etc. Yes, OK, all that's good and stuff, but there are other things in life besides girls, no? Like other girls who wouldn't mind having Tamahome, wink wink nudge nudge but I'm saying nothing about myself of course! The one thing that really irked me was Miaka ending up naked after almost all the major events. You can't really blame Tamahome for wanting to have sex, can you? I mean, what would you feel if your boyfriend/girlfriend threw themselves naked into your arms every 6.2 seconds?
Yet, for all their sappiness, there is this raw quality to some of Tamahome and Miaka's scenes that appealed to me, and made me say "yeah, that's the kind of romance that I like!". I'm gonna give examples now, but they're full of spoilers, so skip the next paragraph if you don't want to be spoiled.
The first one was when Tamahome discovers Miaka, just after she has been "raped" by Nakago. I tried to imagine myself as a guy and think what it'd feel like if I discovered my girlfriend in that situation, and... Well, let's just say it wasn't very pleasant. And Yu Watase just gave Tamahome this expression that went straight to my heart and cut off a piece of it. Seeing his kindness to Miaka later on when he tries to comfort her was so touching that I nearly cried. Make that really cried.
I could go on with examples, but I don't want to ruin anything. This striking feeling is in fact present in most of the manga's important moments, and many were the times when I found myself gasping out loud (to my embarrassment) or with shivers down my spine, with a variety of emotions. Definitely a strong point of the series, and one, which for me, was a determining factor in establishing its quality.
I said before that the characters were cliche, and they are. From the ditzy, gluttonous heroine to the kick-ass martial artist, the moneygrubber (both the same person here, but among the kick-ass martial artists one can immediately point to Ranma whereas the moneygrubbers include Nanami, Nabiki etc.) the drag-queen (Makoto from El Hazard, for one), the "quiet guy", the smart kid (one of the essential components of any five-person mecha-driving team) and Tasuki who reminds me a lot of Ryouga... Yup, stereotypes. Yet, stereotypes with an amazing depth behind them. These characters suffer, a lot, but the way they deal with that suffering has many-a-time made me change my opinion of them. In the character profiles, you'll often read "Initially I didn't like this character but then..." The author herself writes that she thought it was good for the heroes of the story to suffer, and I wholeheartedly agree with her here, for though it is very painful to see them hurt so much, it also makes them... not real, but like splendid characters in an enchanting book.
Speaking of the author, she was another reason that pushed up the fun factor of this manga! She writes of all her experiences and feelings in little coloumns, once per chapter, and she just sounds so likeable! I don't know, but she appeared like a really funny sort of person to me, and I enjoyed those coloumns as much as the rest of the manga.
Fushigi Yugi is then, a somewhat cliche, but very well done, gorgeously drawn, sappy and occasionally violent shoujo manga.
Yes, but it's also a comedy. And one of the funniest that I've read, at that. I know that all that I've written until now has made this series seem like darker than the night, but it's not. Because another talent of Yu Watase's is... Super-Deformed humor! These are great, both in the way they are drawn and in the way that they occur in even the grimmest moments. The characters have this uncanny way of switching from serious to funny that is just hilarious. Watase uses her wonderful humor to lighten up the darker moments, so that this manga never becomes "that" serious, and if you're the really emotional type, it will leave you laughing and crying at the same time. Tasuki, Tamahome and Miaka are the funniest characters, but where humor is concerned I like Tasuki's and Tamahome's bickering best!
And then there's Nakago too, of course.
You see, I really really like Nakago. He's my favorite character of the series, though Tamahome comes in a close second. I won't explain why here, just go check out his character profile, but he's too darn cool. I even got an e-mail from the Nakago fan club! I use that only for personal stuff, though, so it's not the e-mail you'll find on these pages.
All that is good, but you want to know the real reason why I love Fushigi?
Lean in close and I'll tell you.
Because it's just a bunch of super cool handsome guys!
Ha! And there you thought I was some kind of deep analytical chick. But I'm tired of writing now.
Disclaimer: Fushigi Yugi is owned by Yu Watase and Studio Pierrot and also the people who published the manga. I'm not one of them, but don't sue me. I've said all these good things about it.