Fushigi Yuugi

September 27, 2007

Years ago, when I was first getting online and discovering the larger fanbase of anime, one series that was hot at the time was Fushigi Yuugi. I had intended to take a look at it, but attempts at explaining its plot were always a bit confusing. Also, FY is a classic example of how insanely overpriced anime has been in the past. In fact, the tradition of FY being expensive continued into its DVD release. So, due to the high cost of entry and the fact that nobody could ever explain its plot in any way that did it justice, I never watched it. Recently I ran across some digisubs of it online, and decided to see what all the hype had been about.

Fushigi Yuugi is a “girl in another world” story, much like Inuyasha or Escaflowne or many others. It may have been the one to start this trend, but I can’t verify that. The tale goes that friends Miaka and Yui find a mysterious book called “Shijin Tenshou” (The Universe of the Four Gods). The two are pulled into the book, where they find themselves in a world much like ancient China. After they encounter a boy named Tamahome, Yui is sent back out of the book while Miaka continues to the city. There, as Yui follows along reading, Miaka discovers she’s the “Suzaku no Miko”, a priestess destined to summon the beast god Suzaku. Her mission is to find seven guardians, the Suzaku Shichiseishi, and once they’re assembled summon Suzaku. She quickly finds the first three are Tamahome, the emperor Hotohori, and one of the emperor’s consorts Nuriko. Miaka becomes ill though and needs to get back to her world, so with the help of the sage Taiitsukun, she contacts Yui and gets out of the book.

Yui, however, is pulled in Miaka’s place. She appears in the eastern lands, overseen by the warlike beast god Seiryu and is soon attacked and raped in the street. She’s saved by a man named Nakago, one of the Seiryu Shichiseishi and becomes the Seiryu no Miko. Once Miaka realizes Yui is missing, she goes back into the book. However, months have passed in the book’s time and Nakago has convinced Yui that Miaka abandoned her. When Miaka comes back, Yui believes that Miaka only came back to be with Tamahome, and reveals her intentions to summon Seiryu. What follows is an epic and often tragic story of friends pitted against each other, betrayal, revenge and star crossed love.

Up until the point Yui is pulled into the book, Fushigi Yuugi almost comes off as a comedy with a lot of sight gags and slapstick. These elements continue through the series, but almost serve just as a contrast that makes the darker parts of the story that much more disturbing. FY deals with some pretty heavy stuff between the rapes, Nakago’s psychological torment of Yui, major characters dying and even small children killed in cold blood. The series would almost be family friendly if not for these intensely dark moments. I can see why it had so much attention, as a series willing to do the things Fushigi Yuugi does is rare even today. I do think that sometimes it comes off a little forced and overdramatic, but overall the story doesn’t bog down too much.

I’m almost sad to say I liked it, since now I’m going to have to add it to the list of things to buy. I know box sets are available, it’s just a matter of finding them at a price I like. If you like shows of the vintage and style of Sailormoon, but want something a little more heavy hitting, give Fushigi Yuugi a try. And if you’re a fangirl, it’s got yaoi fodder aplenty.

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