Fushigi Yuugi: The Mysterious Play

Fushigi Yuugi is a 52-episode anime series based on the 18-volume manga by Yuu Watase. The anime was produced by Studio Pierrot in 1995, and was licensed and released by Geneon (Pioneer) on eight discs (about 6-7 episodes per disc), as Fushigi Yuugi: The Mysterious Play.

Miaka and Yui, two average middle school students, discover an old book in the local library called The Universe of the Four Gods. The two girls begin reading what they believe to be a fairy tale about ancient China, when they are suddenly sucked into its pages and dropped into the middle of nowhere, somewhere inside the book's world. After they are rescued from a group of men by a young man named Tamahome, Yui is transported back to their world, leaving Miaka behind. She follows the man to the capital of Konan, where she is taken to the palace and discovers that she is the priestess of the beast who guards the southern lands, Suzaku. The emperor of Konan, Hotohori, and Tamahome are members of the Suzaku Seven, celestial warriors who embody the seven southern stars and are charged with protecting the priestess. Hotohori then asks Miaka to travel the land to discover the other members of the Suzaku Seven, so that they can summon Suzaku and bring peace to Konan. Meanwhile, Yui reads about Miaka's adventures in the book as they occur, and when she attempts to bring an ill Miaka back, she is pulled back into the book, where she is rescued by a man named Nagako (a member of the Seiryuu Seven), taken back to the land of Kutou, and becomes the Priestess of Seiryuu. Miaki returns to find that her best friend is now her worst enemy.

From then on it's a race between the two countries to discover the Celestial Warriors and summon their respective beast god. A misguided Yui turns against her best friend time and again, jealous over the relationship Miaka has with Tamahome, while Miaka desperately tries to save her friend and find a way to stay by Tamahome's side forever.

Oh hey, guess what. It's a reverse harem! Every single member of the Suzaku Seven is a devastatingly beautiful male. No surprise there. It is quite surprising when one of the Seiryuu Seven turns out to be female. Love triangles abound as Hotohori and Tamahome fight over Miaka, cross-dressing (Suzaku warrior) Nuriko fights for Hotohori's attention, Yui tries to steal Tamahome away, (Seiryuu warrior) Suboshi tries to turn Yui's thoughts away from Tamahome, and (Seiryuu warrior) Soi tries to melt Nakago's icy heart. It's every bit as melodramatic as it sounds.

But it's not all lovers spats and making out. There's action to be had. These are warriors after all, and they are all in the middle of a massive war between Konan and Kutou. Summoning the beast gods isn't easy. Especially when you screw it up the first time and have to find another way (hey, there's 52 episodes here, and Miaka finds all seven warriors in the first two discs, so they have to keep it going somehow). There are plenty of fights between the opposing Celestial Warriors, though Tamahome and Nakago do a majority of the fighting. Tamahome even goes a little super saiyan, which actually seems rather overboard and out of place, to be honest. But expect more romantic angst than bloody battles.

It's not a bad show really. The concept is built up OK, but the show does have its problems. For example, there's like ten episodes in the second half of the series, where the Seiryuu are just trying different ways of raping Miaka. It's really ridiculous. And Tamahome and Miaka are continuously coming up with reasons to push the other away. It always ends the same way, so I kind of wished they'd just stop it. I guess it's supposed to provide romantic tension, but like I said, it ends the same way each time. There's no question that they won't end up together; the only question is if they'll be allowed to stay together. The animation is OK. The show is from 1995-1996, so the animation is a little dated. The biggest problem is an over use of unnecessary flashbacks (like showing an event that just happened a minute ago within the same episode), recycled animations (like a character running through a crowd which is just looped every two seconds), things of that nature. Some flashbacks serve to recap the series (about halfway through, which is normal for a long show), or as a replay of a character's life upon their death. But there also seems to be a lot of scenes replayed or sequences reused simply to fill time. There's a lot of repetitious dialog as well, and the plot sometimes goes around in circles.

I watched it in English, which was tolerable. Actually it was better than I was expecting, but there were a lot of weird inflections and bad translations. Music was alright. The opening animation is fairly nice; the ending uses Watase's art on one side, and replays scenes from the episodes on the other. And I will say this for Miaka: she really changes throughout the course of the story; she grows a lot and has learned quite a bit by the end. Which is more than I can say for a lot of heroines of this genre. And way more than I can say for the heroine of Watase's other work I've seen, Absolute Boyfriend.