Part 2 of the multi-part Fushigi Yugi watchalong with Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin! The series hits its stride as an engaging fantasy adventure and tackles some difficult topics, with… mixed results. Miaka flies solo. Hotohori sucks at his job. Chichiri is an effing adult.
CONTENT WARNING: Fushigi Yugi contains depictions of sexual assault, homophobia, and transphobia. The podcast will also discuss these topics when they arise.
0:12:27 Plot devices
0:19:20 Depiction of sexual assault
0:29:29 Changes in the dub
0:31:27 Scary bisexuals
0:36:15 International politics
0:42:55 Everyone are jerks
0:50:07 More Nuriko
0:52:51 Fan interpretations
0:55:38 Trash bandits
0:59:45 Miaka without Tamahome
Recorded Saturday 10th July 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee Hogan, a writer and editor for AniFem as well as the owner of the anime blog The Josei Next Door.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai Kaiser. I am an editor and contributor for Anime Feminist, and you can also find me pretty much everywhere online by throwing “Vrai Kaiser” into Google.
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I am also an editor and contributor for Anime Feminist, and I run the blog I Have a Heroine Problem.
DEE: And today, we are continuing our watchalong of the 1990s fantasy shoujo… classic? Guilty pleasure? Hot problematic mess?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] All of the above.
DEE: [crosstalk] However you want to think of it. All of the above. However you want to think of it, it is called Fushigi Yugi. Today we’re talking about episodes 8 through 14, which takes us from Miaka returning to the book world up to her helping a pair of bandits reclaim leadership of their gang. And, just as a heads-up, the show does tackle some difficult topics this week, so I want to include a content warning for discussions of rape and sexual assault.
As a reminder, all three of us did watch or read at least part of this series back in the day, so we’re familiar with the story. But watchalongs are intended to be newbie-friendly, so we’ll avoid any specific spoilers, and we’ll do our very best not to get ahead of ourselves.
That said, I did something silly and chose a stopping point this week where you don’t technically know the identity of Tasuki, the next Suzaku warrior. It’s debatable whether this counts as a spoiler since he’s in the opening theme.
DEE: But if you really don’t know and you really want it to be a surprise, then go ahead and watch the first, like, 15 minutes of the next episode, and then come back to this podcast. And we’ll go from there.
Okay, let’s get this show on the road.
VRAI: [crosstalk, laughing] It’s not just in the opening theme; it’s in the next episode preview, which, by the way, those are spoilerrific!
DEE: They know. They’re like, “You’ve all read the manga. You know.”
DEE: “You’re just here for the really good voice actors voicing these characters you’ve been crushing on for years. We know. We know why you’re here.”
VRAI: It shows him flashing the sign and everything.
DEE: That’s beautiful. Okay, I guess you could just go watch the episode preview then, and you’re good to go.
Anyway, so let’s start this off with some personal reactions. How did everyone like the episodes? Were they better or worse than the last batch we watched? Were they better or worse than what you remember? Just general thoughts going in.
CAITLIN: I think we’re hitting probably the best stretch of the show right now. For a while, it becomes a more straightforward adventure series with less melodrama, and that’s really what I think the show does best. When Miaka and Tamahome get separated, Miaka’s a much more interesting character. The character’s motivations make sense, and it’s not just like, “Everything is awful all the time!” It’s the most enjoyable the show is.
VRAI: Fushigi Yugi got good for a hot second.
VRAI: It’s amazing.
DEE: Yeah, my favorite part of the show is pretty much the episodes we watched here through basically the end of Part One, with some wiggle room in there. So I do feel like it’s starting to hit its stride. I noticed this time around—I try to take episode notes just to give myself an idea of things I wanna talk about as we go forward—there were a lot more all-caps notes this time around, both in terms of frustration and excitement. When characters would show up, I’d get all excited, and then sometimes I would yell at Miaka for things.
So, clearly this is the part where I start to get really invested, for better and for worse. It still has its fair share of problems, but I do agree with both of you that it’s genuinely a fun adventure story with an “eh” romantic backbone.
VRAI: Yeah, it is interesting. I think, Caitlin, you were the one who was telling me that Watase isn’t really interested in romance, and that was an editorial mandate. But at the same time, this stretch of episodes aside, it feels like the show would be absolutely gutted without that big, melodramatic sweeping element to it and the love triangle stuff.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s clearly a major part of the structure of the show, but Yuu Watase was really, really young when she wrote it. She was only 22 years old, and she clearly doesn’t have a lot of experience with it.
She talks in the notes for Genbu Kaiden about how writing romance is a lot less interesting to her because the characters are… everything becomes about the other person, which is a really limited idea of romance. So, I don’t really know what her experience with that is in real life, but it is reflected in how she writes Miaka and Tamahome in Fushigi Yugi, although Genbu Kaiden is better about that.
VRAI: It really is.
CAITLIN: But this isn’t about Genbu Kaiden; it’s about the original.
VRAI: [laughs] Someday. Someday that adaptation will come.
DEE: Yeah, you start to see in these early episodes, especially this first little early block we get. Again, I really like this stretch, but those first two, there’s a lot of frustration in them, especially because Miaka gets back to the book world and she and Tamahome start to become kind of a fusion of love-love? And that’s unfortunate. But it turns out being three months away will make you decide you are madly in love with a person.
VRAI: It is, on the one hand, kind of neat because I’m used to anime where they never actually get to characters who want to hug and kiss each other on screen; they just vaguely blush at each other until episode 25. So that’s kind of nice. But then, also: good God! What do you talk about when you’re not talking about how much you love each other?
CAITLIN: Yeah, and that’s always the sticking point in romance shows for me, not just in anime, but in pretty much anything, is that the characters don’t often have anything in common. I don’t know what Miaka and Tamahome have in common other than Suzaku.
CAITLIN: It’s all hormones.
DEE: It’s hard to know what they would talk about if they weren’t talking about all the wild drama currently going on around them in terms of summoning Suzaku and stuff. I mean, they have kind of a fun dynamic at times, a back-and-forth, like when Tamahome finds all her real-world stuff and tries to steal it. There’s some amusing moments between the two of them, but it’s all very much related to what is going on within the story.
CAITLIN: Right, and it’s like: after this is all over, what’s going to be left?
VRAI: Right. Like the fact that they’re from different eras of different nations. No? No, this show does not think about these things.
DEE: Well, in the characters’ defense, there’s always that line between “are we talking about the author, or are we talking about in the world itself.”
VRAI: No, I totally get why teenagers are not thinking about, “What are our strong moral standings that might fare us well through the decades of our time together?”
DEE: No, they’re thinking, “This person is cute, and I want to smooch them!”
CAITLIN: And it’s believable that they’re thrown together by hormones and drama and that’s what causes them to cling together. And the readers, that’s what they’re thinking about. We, however, are old.
DEE: Older. Older!
VRAI: And in fairness to us, The Olds, it totally makes sense in character logic, but then there’s also this total, overarching thing, that this is the grand, star-crossed lover thing. It places such importance.
DEE: And the early episodes, I thought, did a better job of making it feel like teenagers who have a crush, and now it’s starting to feel like this earth-shattering romance for the ages, and it’s a little hard to latch on to because, like you said, it’s hard to know exactly why they’re so into each other.
CAITLIN: It makes the jump very quickly, too.
DEE: Yeah, like she gets back and all of a sudden it’s bubbles and pop music in the background and mad declarations of eternal love.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, that song’s so bad.
DEE: Yeah, it’s a very sudden turn, which I did not remember it happening quite that quickly. They’re also very bad at communicating, which is, again, kind of realistic. One of the things I am appreciating about Fushigi Yugi this time around is, like, if My Love Story!! is a guidebook for how to have a healthy teen relationship, Fushigi Yugi in a lot of ways feels like how actual teen relationships tend to go down. [laughs]
VRAI: But with much bigger consequences. This was famously Bad Communication: The Manga back in the day. [laughs]
DEE: And we start to see that definitely this week with Miaka deciding that she just needs to go to Kutou by herself—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; dismayed] Oh my God.
DEE: —and she’s gonna lie to everybody on the way to that decision.
VRAI: And also the first of many instances of characters overhearing things in exactly the wrong context.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah. A major, major part of the plot hinges on that. And I’ve been going through this watch-through trying to give Miaka the benefit of the doubt generally, because it’s really common to hate on her, ‘cause she’s not very smart and she messes a lot of things up. But her actions and her choices, they make sense for a teenage girl. She’s very impulsive, and she’s always doing what seems right in the moment.
And when she is back in the real world, she’s waving wildly between “Oh, I need to get Yui back”—which, by the way, that’s a huge leap of logic for Miaka to make. It doesn’t make sense as a character that she would figure it out. She’s just like, “Where is Yui? Where is Yui?” and then it just comes to her in a flash: “Oh, she must be in the book still!”
VRAI: [Laughs] Which I do appreciate, but …
DEE: And I could kinda see it. Enough weird stuff has happened at this point that I… and she’s got the book on her mind anyway, and it’s really bizarre that Yui hasn’t gotten in touch with her since they were working together through the book not very long ago. So, I can kind of see how. Honestly, as a kid it bothered me that it took her as long as it did [laughs] to figure out what had happened.
CAITLIN: But it’s such a huge leap. She has no way of knowing that this could have happened. I don’t know. It seemed very convenient for me that she figured it out all of a sudden. But she’s also talking a lot about how she’s coming back for Tamahome, and she never really reconciles that she could be doing both.
And the fact that she switches back and forth between these two different motivations for going back, it drives the plot. One second, she’s going back for Yui and she’s excited to see her again and save her, and the next second, it’s all for Tamahome and then they make out in a dark temple in the rain. A lot. [laughs]
DEE: For an uncomfortably long amount of time. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Oh my God.
VRAI: At least there are no slurping sounds.
DEE: Ah, thank God. It’s not gross spit-drool anime makeouts.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; indignant] What is that?
DEE: I’d kind of remembered that that scene lasts for a while, and I think it used to bug me because it felt like they were just killing time, but watching it again, I was like, “No, I feel exactly as uncomfortable as Yui feels right now.” This is pretty solid pacing, all things considered.
CAITLIN: Yeah, but the question is, is it effective because it was intended to be like, “This is an uncomfortably long time for Yui to sit there and watch while her friends make out,” or is it just budget-saving and it’s actually supposed to be really romantic? And I think it’s the latter. It’s just fun to think of it the first way.
VRAI: Can’t it be both? [laughs]
DEE: I think it’s like the question of why did Miaka go back into the book. It can be both.
CAITLIN: That scene did actually have pretty good atmosphere with the rain and the lighting—
DEE: The music. I’m a sucker for music box backgrounds, too.
DEE: That was well done.
CAITLIN: Yeah, the music box. That’s gonna be important later. But yeah, I made note of the music box for sure.
DEE: One of the things [that] is frustrating is I really dislike love triangles, and it feels like Watase’s go-to in most of her stories, because I think she’s just not quite sure how to make… I feel like she approaches romance like you would approach a sports story or a shounen. Like, there’s gotta be a rival, right? Otherwise nothing important can happen.
As much as I tend to flinch at love triangles in general, I do think that what we see with Miaka here, in keeping with our talk last week about the book being this big, almost grand metaphor for teen anxieties, it is not a terrible representation of the struggle to balance romance with friendship that I think a lot of people start to fight with in high school, and responsibilities.
Romance, friendship, your social relationships, and the different kinds, and then you have these new responsibilities, and trying to figure out how you juggle all of that. It just happens to get real, real dramatic in this case.
VRAI: For sure. I do think that having Yui declare that she’s in love with Tamahome is, on the one hand, “Yeah, teens,” but also, it’s the weakest part when there was plenty of conflict to drive that otherwise. It’s so contrived.
DEE: It feels more like an excuse, like she’s just mad at Miaka and she knows that this is something important to her, so she’s like, “Well, fine, I guess I’m just gonna take that from you.”
VRAI: That seems the logical reaction, but also the anime decides to have those moments where she blurrily with a Gaussian frame remembers that time he looked at her that once.
DEE: Oh, yeah. She definitely thinks he’s cute.
CAITLIN: She’s definitely into him, big time. And she was from the start. Yui’s a really interesting character. I go back and forth on her because they definitely do put a lot of weight on how she really just wants Tamahome’s hot body, and she doesn’t know him well enough to really actually be in love with him. But he’s cute and he saved them from bandits, so she wants him.
VRAI: It makes me so depressed because to me: A) this stretch of episodes is a lot kinder to Yui than I remember. We’re gonna put a pin in that and come back to that in later episodes, but—
DEE: Yeah, I think we probably will. I’ll be curious if my memory is wrong on that front or not, though, so we’ll see.
VRAI: But for the most part, I really appreciated how much Miaka stands up for the seriousness of the trauma Yui underwent in this episode.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah.
VRAI: And that deserves so much more introspection. But after the reveal, the anime seems to default and shunt a lot of that to “Oh, well, that’s what caused her to decide to be evil, was her deep trauma over being assaulted and gaslit, by the way.” But it shunts a lot of that into “Oh, she wants Tamahome.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. Things get really, really raw with Yui. I think some of the series’s—I don’t want to say “best moments” because they’re actually really, really uncomfortable—but some of the series’s most effective moments happen with Yui in these two episodes, when they’re in the temple of Seiryuu and she first turns on Miaka and she’s just screaming at her and blaming her for her pain and everything she’s gone through.
And it’s so rough because she’s hurting so, so bad, and she just needs someone to blame, and their friendship already had cracks and Nakago found that and exploited it. And it hurt! It hurt to see. I didn’t love the way they talked to each other in those first few episodes. I think Yui was really rude and unnecessarily so to Miaka, but it—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Although I think that kind of coalesces here into more of a joking, teasing kind of relationship when they’re talking about going to high school and seeing who can get a boyfriend first. It sells that better as just their dynamic.
CAITLIN: Yeah, but… When she’s holding Miaka by the hair and crying and it’s all in this tight close-up… It hurt! And she was so excited about Miaka coming back, but she just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and—
DEE: And she had already been gaslit, as Vrai pointed out.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Nakago has been gaslighting her for months.
VRAI: And I wish that these episodes went into that more, because it mentions that he’s been telling her for months that she’s been forgotten and all of that. But there are clearly so many other factors to this because Yui makes the jump to “I’m cool with my friend dying” real fast, and as an adult it seems clear that clearly Nakago is still working on her and making this very possible while pretending to be her servant. But the anime never really hits on that, either.
DEE: I think it’s really difficult to talk about rape in fiction in general. And I think, in the realm of shoujo, where not that many years before this came out, you had a series like Please Save My Earth, where an explicit rape is the starting point for the central romance.
VRAI: I hate that series. [laughs]
DEE: Yeah. We won’t get into that, but I feel like it’s important to use that as an example of another very popular series that was not super-before that. It is a relief to see a series treating rape as a traumatic, terrible event because it is. And as far as that goes, I do think these episodes handle it remarkably well. It’s not sensationalized. You hear it and it’s very raw.
CAITLIN: Oh, God.
DEE: It’s really hard to listen to.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That made me nauseous.
DEE: [crosstalk] But they make a point of not showing it, which I think is important. The only thing about it that kind of bugged me is it very quickly—and they try to show you Yui later with Tamahome, which is another very raw scene where she finds out that they know and she just kinda collapses—but they do kind of use it as a springboard for Miaka’s growth, and I am not 100% sure how comfortable I am with that.
VRAI: Yeah, and like I said we’re going to have to talk about this as the episodes go on, but there’s even already a little bit of an inclination of: “If a woman is raped, it ruins her.”
DEE: So, here’s an interesting thing—and, again, we’ll be able to get into this more later as well—with these episodes in particular, very much I think that is the way Yui feels about it, but the characters around her don’t. They just feel bad for her. It’s not like they’re like, “Oh, you’ve been sullied,” or something awful like that. They’re very sympathetic. Miaka is horrified. Tamahome wants to help her and doesn’t know what to do.
VRAI: That’s why I was so surprised, is because, yeah, those elements are really much stronger than I remembered. At the same time, though… Increased sexualization after assault is a thing that happens for some people—it’s just down to an individual thing—but in fiction, it tends to turn into like, “Well, you had sex once, so now you’re a…” And she has that scene where she’s just lounging around in a shirt, and I don’t trust that the anime is doing this with the best intentions.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Yeah, I mean I feel like she spends a lot of time not wearing pants, now that she’s evil.
CAITLIN: I feel like that’s a thing…
DEE: [recovering from laughter] I wouldn’t say she’s evil. She’s become an antagonist.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Well, quote-unquote “evil.”
DEE: [crosstalk] I don’t think the series wants… Yeah, I gotcha.
VRAI: Like I said, it’s one of those things that I think is done relatively well here, but I am keeping a sharp side-eye on.
DEE: Oh, absolutely. We will keep an eye on that and see how it progresses.
CAITLIN: Because Fushigi Yugi is nothing if not inconsistent, and it does make a really heavy overuse of rape as an easy go-to for drama. Like, “Uh-oh, Miaka’s in trouble. First thing that happens is that she’s being sexually threatened.”
DEE: Freaking everybody tries to assault her.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s terrible. Um—
DEE: [crosstalk] I think—I’m sorry. Not everybody, asterisk! Not Chichiri! But—
VRAI: Chichiri is busy. He got shit to do.
CAITLIN: He’s busy being a fuckin’ adult. [laughs]
DEE: [laughs] He really is. I hope we spend some time with him. But keeping with this particular line of the assault, even the characters we’re supposed to like… What did I send you guys earlier today? “In the world of Fushigi Yugi, 90% of the men will either assault you, try to assault you, or stand passively by and watch somebody else assault you.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, Tamahome and Hotohori both push Miaka down on the bed and kiss her at some point, and that’s not cool. Don’t do that!
VRAI: It’s not romantic. It’s bad shit!
CAITLIN: ‘Cause they’re not doing it as like, “Oh, this is a moment where it seems like it might be appropriate.” Tamahome does it this time because she’s like, “Hey, no, we should keep our distance right now. Let’s just try to cool it for a bit.” And he responds by pushing her down and kissing her, and that’s not okay.
VRAI: [crosstalk] “Hey, cool boundary. I’m gonna ignore it.”
DEE: [crosstalk] And then she’s like, “Hey, quit,” and he’s like, “No, you have to explain this better.” I’m like, “Tamahome, shut up. You’re being an ass.”
CAITLIN: And then Hotohori comes in, and they just have their—
DEE: [crosstalk] Like he has the moral ground. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Yeah! He treats it like Tamahome has done this terrible thing when Hotohori was doing that exact thing a few episodes ago…
VRAI: And then does it later in the next episode. [laughs]
DEE: And at least Tamahome has the basis of “The two of us have declared our love for each other.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, they already have something…
DEE: It’s not okay, but at least there’s a relationship there. Hotohori doesn’t even have that!
CAITLIN: And then Hotohori comes in and starts waving his sword around, and they’re having this metaphorical dick-measuring contest.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh my God, that scene’s hilarious…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Like fragile masculinity…
DEE: Yeah, Miaka’s watching it, and I’m like, “Girl, you should just stay single.” [laughs]
CAITLIN: She’s not yours, Hotohori. She doesn’t fucking belong to you.
DEE: I do think it’s hilariously interesting—or fair game, I guess—in the world of Fushigi Yugi that, on the one hand, it’s not good that the female characters are defined by this romantic triangle love rivalry, but at the same time, the guys are, too. Like everybody in this stupid show… [unintelligible due to crosstalk]
VRAI: [crosstalk] Except for poor Nuriko, whose crush on Hotohori…
DEE: Well, but Nuriko was in that rivalry situation with Miaka in the early episodes. That has thankfully abated, as the two of them have become legitimately kind of cute friends, Nuriko and Miaka.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s real cute.
DEE: I honestly love the scene where Miaka comes back and she’s like, “Nuriko, you’re just as gay as ever!” and Nuriko’s like, “You’re just as dumb as ever.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s got a good give-and-take in that scene.
VRAI: Mm-hm. On the one hand, it’s not my favorite because holy shit, the homophobia in this stretch of episodes, but also just as far as it reflects their cute bickering dynamic, I’m all about it.
DEE: Yeah, and I mean there are people who would be okay with that. You have to have a certain comfort level with people; you don’t just do that with someone you just met a week ago. But I know people who that would be totally acceptable to say to them playfully.
VRAI: I think there is a level of trust in there that makes it more okay for them. It’s just—
DEE: Well, and it’s one of those things that would be just straight-up cute, I think, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s all these other bits running the gamut from insensitive to just straight-up mean-spirited homophobia within the show, that every time it comes up is so jarring. I think a part of me has an impulse to go, “Well, it was the ‘90s,” but that’s not a good excuse, and I shouldn’t give it leeway because of that.
VRAI: I get that inclination because this is a show you love, but also: what the fuck, Fushigi Yugi? [laughs]
CAITLIN: Yeah, it was the ‘90s, and it’s not that it was okay, but people were more ignorant; it wasn’t as well exposed. Is it that it’s still ignorance? I don’t know. It’s not a cut-and-dried thing. It’s a product of its time.
CAITLIN: But yeah. Oh, God, Hotohori is obsessed.
VRAI: [crosstalk] And of course there’s certainly the fact that somebody like Togashi was a lot more progressive on certain issues but wasn’t able to do certain things based on editorial mandate for a long while and… all that stuff.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I… Listen, I hate Bakuman.
VRAI: [whispering] Fuck it.
CAITLIN: But Bakuman does occasionally give some interesting insights into the industry, and one of them is the amount of control that editors have over the output. And I don’t know how dramatized it is, but there’s definitely at least a grain of truth in it.
VRAI: Yeah, one gets the impression that if there was progressive thought, it was squashed while the really horrible shit was either encouraged or just allowed to go ahead.
DEE: Yeah, I always get the sense wit … I know I said last week that I felt like Watase’s heart was in the right place. I don’t know if that’s exactly the right way to word it. Nuriko is a very likeable character, and I think that is worth mentioning, but there are also a lot of issues with the development along the way. And the fact that you have a character like Chichiri who is basically defined as being almost too nice—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Saying this rude shit.
DEE: [crosstalk] Even him making a really nasty remark tells you that it’s not like, “Well, there are characters in this world that are homophobic.” It’s like it’s baked into the writer. Does that make sense?
VRAI: That was the moment that was honestly the most shocking for me because it was Chichiri.
VRAI: It was like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
CAITLIN: “Chichiri, I thought you were better than this!”
DEE: I hate that line. I hate that line because it’s very out-of-character, and it tells you that somebody—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Do we want to specify the line for our listeners?
VRAI: Yeah, Nuriko calls him a weirdo, and Chichiri responds, “Better weird than gay.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. In the dub he says, “Hey, I’ll be weird and you’ll be gay. How’s that?” Which is so much a better line.
DEE: The dub softens a few things, which I think is really interesting. The dub came out a little bit after the anime, so there’s a little bit of a time gap there as well. There—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It was when dubs took a couple of years to get made.
DEE: Yeah. And it does feel like, with some of the changes they made, it feels like there was a conscious decision on somebody’s part to make it a little more sensitive without, like… ‘cause at a certain point, there’s only so much you can do.
DEE: But the scene when Miaka finds out Nuriko was assigned male at birth, the dub straight-up changes one of the lines, ‘cause Miaka’s like, “Wait, you’re a dude, but you’re in love with Hotohori?” And in the sub, Nuriko says something like, “I’ve forsaken the path of manliness for love,” or something like that, which is a weird line that goes into that idea that sexuality and gender are the same thing, that Fushigi Yugi has an ongoing problem with. But in the dub, Nuriko says, I think the line is like, “Sex doesn’t matter where love is involved.”
VRAI: I like Nuriko so much.
CAITLIN: [groans appreciatively]
DEE: Which is good. But it’s much better, and clearly somebody looked at that and went, “Okay, we’re just gonna make Nuriko gay, and it’s gonna be all right,” essentially was the decision that I feel like was made with that dub change. The video game also does a much better job of handling that whole scene and their relationship, and Nuriko doesn’t get ragged on for being genderqueer or trans or… I think there’s some flexibility in how you interpret Nuriko, but they don’t get… It’s much nicer.
VRAI: [crosstalk] That’s one area where I will give a little bit of credit for trying but not as far along, because trans rights have come along so far so fast.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Very true.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, and not just rights, but how people understand it and even know that it’s a thing.
VRAI: That’s a case where I’ll give credit for the attempt. And then there’s stuff like… I’m pretty sure that the weird, awful shit between Nakago and Tamahome is because Watase thinks it’s hot. There are multiple author notes—this I do recall—where she quietly tries to nudge people into making doujin of them. But—
DEE: Oh, yeah. Watase loves her doujin.
VRAI: But then also, you done made a scary bisexual villain, is what you did.
DEE: Yeah, he’s very… We get that one scene where he grabs Tamahome’s chin and he says something like “I like you,” and I’m like, “Oh, no!”
DEE: It’s very concerning.
CAITLIN: And then Tamahome just sasses him and gets slapped.
VRAI: This is entirely: “You’re a fujoshi, and you thought it would be fun to put this in here and you didn’t think at all about how it affects real people.”
DEE: As kind of a fun fact—I believe I read this interview somewhere—Watase’s favorite non-canonical ‘ship is Tamahome/Tasuki.
DEE: So, make of that what you will as we move forward in the story. Yes.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, interesting. I never thought of that one.
DEE: She likes that one, when the obvious answer is Tasuki/Koji because it’s really the best ‘ship in the entire show.
VRAI: It’s very good. They admire one another platonically! [laughs]
DEE: I should share this with our listeners. You can find translations of several of the light novels online via an old-ass Angelfire website, if you wanna go searching for those. It’s great. They’re in multi-colors, and it’s very early 2000s internet. But I was re-reading the Tasuki one in preparation for this podcast, and it’s bad, first of all. There’s a really cool spunky female character in it, but it’s got a lot of sexual predator villains who are also gay this time, so, you know.
DEE: And then there’s so much No Homo-ing between Tasuki and Koji. There’s a scene that I shared with Caitlin and Vrai before we did the cast where they look deeply into each other’s eyes and Koji’s like, “I’ll take as many scars for you as you want. I’ll follow you anywhere. I admire you.” And then it’s like, “You know, platonically. As a leader! As a friend!”
CAITLIN: No homo. Can you No Homo any harder than that?
DEE: [recovering from laughter] Yeah, I’m like, “Come on. Clearly you want to lean into this, light novel. Just lean into it! Let it happen!”
VRAI: [almost whispering] “They’re separated for the series. It’s fine!”
DEE: “Yeah, it’s all good.” They’re fun. Okay, so should we go on to talking about the new characters that we get to meet this week, or should we go back so that Caitlin can yell about Hotohori some more?
VRAI: No, let’s yell about Hotohori.
CAITLIN: Yes, let’s yell about Hotohori because the way he behaves in these episodes is just absolutely inexcusable.
DEE: Let’s start with the episode that I like to call “The Adults Frantically Try to Keep the Teenagers from Starting International Incidents.”
DEE: So, Miaka runs off to Kutou, which is a bad decision, but I will give her… This watch-through, I think I finally understood the logic behind it, which is she hears “You need to be more responsible” and she takes that to mean “I need to do everything on my own.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Which is less responsible.
DEE: [crosstalk] Which is definitely a high school thing, I feel. What were you gonna say?
CAITLIN: It’s so much less responsible ‘cause, Miaka, millions of people are depending on you!
DEE: And it would be one thing if Tamahome was like, “No, you can’t. I won’t let you,” and she’s like, “Fuck you, I’m gonna go get my friend.” But he doesn’t. He’s like, “Just let me come with you. I want to come with you and help you do this thing you’re trying to do.” And she still won’t do it because she’s like, “No, I can’t ever put anyone else in danger ever again.” And she gets a real bad martyr complex, which started last week and is continuing.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And that’s something that I really liked about this stretch of episodes is… I mean it’s not great that Yui’s assault was used as a springboard for Miaka’s growth, but that growth was there, and it was important and she starts to realize the impact she has on this world and that she is important and just her staying alive is really important and people are depending on her.
DEE: And I think the series does a pretty decent job of that. What happens to Yui is part of it, but you can already see her moving in that direction, pretty much from the moment Chichiri drops those phat wisdom beats on her, that she starts to think, “Oh, wait, there’s more going on. I need to be…” So then she finally goes, “Okay, no, this is real. I have to take this seriously,” after a combination of things happen.
VRAI: It is definitely very lucky that Miaka is in a broad-sweeps melodrama series, because she just gets dropped into this and assumes that she’s on the right side of this international conflict because that’s where the hot people are.
DEE: That is a point.
CAITLIN: Yeah, evil people are ugly. Didn’t you know? [laughs]
DEE: Yeah. They’re either ugly or they’re foreign, so… [laughs] Nakago.
CAITLIN: Nakago is very, very strongly coded as being Anglo-looking.
VRAI: Blond hair and blue eyes. The Foreigner.
CAITLIN: I know everyone in this series has crazy, different-colored hair and that’s always the discussion. None of them look Japanese, but he’s got—
DEE: Or Chinese, I guess, in the context of the book. But yeah.
CAITLIN: East Asian. But he’s got that foreigner coding. Foreigners in anime tend to be drawn as shiny, shiny blond hair, big—even bigger—blue eyes, and, if it’s a woman, big boobs, and, if it’s a man, a larger build in general—
VRAI: And unfortunately, historically, she couldn’t give him a gun, so he’s just got huge shoulder pads.
CAITLIN: —or just saying “fuck” all the time.
DEE: [crosstalk] He can fire off chi blasts. That’s kind of like a gun. [Laughs]
VRAI: [crosstalk, laughing] That’s true.
CAITLIN: Yeah, so, Nakago is very much coded as being visibly foreign compared to everyone else.
DEE: And he’s almost The Worst. Okay, he is The Worst, but we have a couple of characters who are The Worst. Which circles back a little bit to what I was getting to with Miaka running off to Kutou.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Sorry. [laughs] I took another tangent.
DEE: [crosstalk] No, it’s okay. We had a really good tangent there, and I’m cool with it.
So, Miaka goes to Kutou, and one thing that I thought was interesting, watching this again, is how every other character reacts to Miaka’s attempts to be proactive even though she doesn’t really know what she’s doing. Tamahome’s cool with it, but he wants to go with her. Even though she tells him she doesn’t want him to, he’s very insistent that he’s going to go with her. Nuriko kind of just lets it happen…
CAITLIN: Yeah, I wish Nuriko were more active. Nuriko tends to be—
DEE: In these episodes, yeah.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] —in general, very passive.
DEE: [crosstalk] Nuriko gets plenty to do later. But they do get sidelined a little bit here. Chichiri does what possibly a good parent would do, which is goes: “Okay, well, you’re an adult. You have some wiggle room here in terms of agency, but I’m gonna keep an eye on you, so if things get bad, I can be here to support you and get you out of trouble.”
So, all three of those reactions, I think we can talk about the levels of good there, but to me they’re all pretty decent in terms of respecting what Miaka wants to do. Hotohori, meanwhile, goes, “I’m going to go after her and bring her back.”
VRAI: This fucker.
DEE: [laughs] Yes. This poor, beleaguered—I can only imagine—very stressed-out advisor has to go, “Dude, you will start a war. You do know that, right? You do remember you are the emperor, right?”
VRAI: And then when Chichiri-Dad tries to enable this bad, bad, fucking awful decision, Hotohori slaps an additional Dick Card down. [laughs] One more!
DEE: Explain that. Explain that.
VRAI: Because he’s like, “I’ll pose as you so you can go do this stupid, stupid, stupid thing.” And then Hotohori, instead of being grateful, is like, “You don’t look sexy enough to be me.”
DEE: Yes, right! He’s such an asshole about it! It’s like, this guy felt bad for you because you’re clearly sad that you can’t go on adventures with your new friends. “I’m gonna do you a solid. Thank God I took that poli-sci course in college. I got this!”
DEE: Actually, sorry, can I share some of my useless Fushigi Yugi knowledge?
CAITLIN: Of course.
DEE: This is a paper-thin reason why Chichiri deciding that he can be the emperor for like a month is maybe not the worst idea ever and has some logic in-world. And this will never come up in the anime, so I can just mention it here. It’s just in the light novel. There is a throwaway line in the light novel—I realized this last time I was re-reading it and just started chuckling—where it’s offhandedly mentioned that his family were well-to-do government officials.
DEE: So, there’s a pretty good chance that that’s what he was gonna do, and now he’s a monk—and we’ll get into why, eventually. So, there is at least kind of a reason there where he could think to himself, “Well, I kinda know about politics. I can probably do this. I am a fucking adult, which is more than I can say about this asshole.”
DEE: “I’m not gonna run off to another country and possibly start a war because of my feelings.”
CAITLIN: And for context for our listeners, ‘cause this is never actually mentioned in this series, Chichiri’s 24 years old.
DEE: Yeah, that never comes up in the series itself. It’s kinda hinted at based on how much time has passed between some other stuff you find out later. But yeah, he is 24. He is an adult, significantly so.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Nakago is older too. He’s like—
DEE: He’s in his twenties. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, quote-unquote “older.” But other than them, Hotohori is the oldest character and he’s eighteen.
DEE: [crosstalk] Actually, I think Nuriko’s a year older than Hotohori.
CAITLIN: No, I think—
DEE: Don’t quote me on that. I think Nuriko’s nineteen.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I think they’re the same age.
DEE: Okay. And there’s a couple characters later who are older, but Chichiri is noticeably older than them, and you can tell by the way he acts.
VRAI: [Laughs] ‘Cause these are dumb children with the fate of millions of lives in their hands.
DEE: The good news, team, is he has been training for three years for this, and I’m not joking. Again, in the light novel—this isn’t in the anime, I can talk about it—his training under Taiitsukun is basically following a Nyan-Nyan around as she keeps getting into trouble and he keeps rescuing her.
DEE: So, he’s prepared! He’s prepared for children running off and getting into trouble.
VRAI: As of this episode, I officially hate Taiitsukun and everything to do with…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That’s fair.
VRAI: Because between the Nyan-Nyan’s horrible homophobia towards Nuriko and in this episode her talking Miaka out of her trauma by being like, “Yui just had bad luck being raped.” I hate you. I hate you! I officially hate you now. [laughs]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I don’t think that’s wrong …
DEE: It’s one thing to say, “Hey, don’t blame yourself,” but good God.
CAITLIN: I mean in a way it was bad luck, though. Miaka was lucky. Yui did have bad luck and horrible things happened because of that bad luck…
VRAI: I mean it’s one of those things of “You’re not wrong; you’re just an asshole.”
DEE: Yeah, it’s so callous the way Taiitsukun goes about it, which is very bothersome. Yeah, Taiitsukun’s a jerk, turns out.
CAITLIN: Well, she is a god, and traditionally gods are assholes.
VRAI: Point. Point.
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s also fair.
VRAI: Anyway, Hotohori being an asshole. [laughs]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Speaking of assholes.
DEE: Oh yeah, was there anything else you wanted to add to that, Caitlin?
DEE: I know you’re coming down from the fact that you used to really like him, and now you’re like, “Why?” So, you probably have a lot here.
CAITLIN: He just acts so entitled to Miaka and so tone-deaf for everything she’s going through and her every emotion. And he just wants to protect her, and he says he loves her, but like we said last episode, he loves the idea of her. But he still will not fucking leave her alone, and he doesn’t treat her like she has any kind of agency.
And it really came to a head for me when they were in the forest, Tamahome had just gone to Kutou, Miaka’s understandably super upset. And Hotohori shows her a note that he left that said he loves her and then immediately makes a move on her!
DEE: Right? It’s worse in the manga, by the way. In the anime he just hugs her. In the manga he straight-up kisses her.
CAITLIN: He tries to kiss her. She stops him, but he starts moving in for the kiss, and it’s like “Hotohori?”
VRAI: [crosstalk] What the fuck, dude?
CAITLIN: [aghast] Hotohori?
DEE: Hotohori has no concept of… It’s kind of interesting to me because in the context of an emperor figuring out he likes somebody, I think the way he behaves is kind of on-point, but this series doesn’t seem to realize he’s being awful. Not as much as it should.
Like, Miaka does push him away and she’s like, “No, quit it,” and she clearly doesn’t want it, so the series makes that. But there’s still this sense that Hotohori is still being painted as this—
CAITLIN: It’s a sad love triangle.
DEE: —this sad, lonely, unrequited love thing. And it’s like, “He’s also being an asshole.” So, there’s that.
VRAI: And there’s that moment later where Miaka then feels guilty because his unwanted feelings are causing him pain, and that is such a real thing and I felt for her so much.
DEE: [crosstalk] It is, yeah.
VRAI: He’s made it her problem.
DEE: Yeah, and that’s really unfair. He does at least acknowledge that he knows it’s unfair, but if you know it’s unfair, then don’t do it.
CAITLIN: Yeah! Keep your goddamn mouth shut! Why do you have to tell her now?
CAITLIN: When she’s got so much on her plate already!
DEE: Because this is his chance, Caitlin! This is his chance! Tamahome’s gone!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Her best friend has betrayed her, her boyfriend is a prisoner in an enemy country, and now she’s got this fucker being like, “Hey, I love you.” And she’s totally the type to internalize everything—
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah. Because, again, martyr complex.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] —and considers everything her fault. And so now, she’s got guilt on this on top of everything else! What the fuck, Hotohori?! Not okay!
DEE: He’s awful.
CAITLIN: Oh my God!
VRAI: It’s real bad.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] And you know what, he is old enough to know better than that.
DEE: I agree. I am inclined to agree with you that at eighteen, you should have your shit more together than he does, especially if he’s the emperor. He clearly would’ve had to grow up fast.
CAITLIN: He didn’t, though.
VRAI: He super didn’t.
DEE: Oh, gosh, you’re right because his mom kinda did everything for him, so I guess not.
VRAI: He is a large child. They’re all children.
CAITLIN: Except for…
DEE: Except Chichiri.
VRAI: And also, kudos in comparison to Taisuki, the guy who’s trying to go out and villains gonna—
VRAI: Sorry, yeah. Tasuki, who’s trying to go out and be like, “Villains gotta vill. I gotta make an example of you. Eh, maybe not, though.” He’s better at this shit than Hotohori is while trying to be awful. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Oh, man.
CAITLIN: Speaking of adults who are not assholes, what’d you guys think of Keisuke? I wanna talk about Keisuke a little bit.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, Miaka’s brother?
DEE: That’s good. I’ve always kinda liked him. He very much reads like: just an older brother. I like that when she tells him the story of the book, he clearly doesn’t believe her, but he kind of humors her. He’s like, “Okay, assuming this is true…” Which I thought was really a nice thing to do, because why would you ever believe that?
CAITLIN: Right! But everyone else in the real world treats her like an idiot, and he doesn’t! He’s so super respectful to her, and it’s very, very sweet. And he’s such a nice, good big brother, who’s very supportive of her, and I love him.
DEE: But at the same time, he’s also still a brother. So, on the one hand I feel really bad for him having to read all these really awkward romance scenes with his sister… [laughs]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; laughing] I think they go into that. He’s so uncomfortable, I think.
VRAI: But he’s remarkably nonplussed by all the horrible things happening to his sister.
DEE: He’s reasonably chill about it. And there’s a line early on where he’s almost not sure that it’s actually her. I screencapped it because I thought it was kind of hilarious. He’s like, “Is Miaka really the princess of Suzaku?” And there’s a pause. He’s like, “Why is she so popular?”
CAITLIN: He doesn’t actually believe it’s not her. He’s just like, “Seriously? This is my sister? What?”
VRAI: You saw her vanish into a book, my dude.
VRAI: Like, at that point …
CAITLIN: Keisuke’s really good.
DEE: I do like Keisuke. He’s a good older brother in a genre that doesn’t always have good older brothers.
VRAI: In a genre that often—even in Yuu Watase works—in a genre where the older brother frequently wants to do inappropriate things to their sisters.
DEE: Yes. [laughs] Frequently.
VRAI: Low bar.
DEE: Low bar, but cleared. He cleared it. [unintelligible due to crosstalk]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yay!
DEE: He cleared it with ease, too, so he’s got that going for him. Let’s see, we’ve touched on pretty much everyone. Nuriko continues to be awesome, right?
DEE: Nuriko’s kinda sidelined in these episodes, so I feel like we can at least mention that Nuriko’s still pretty great.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I love them so much. I love them so much. And I feel for them because their traveling outfit is excellent, but also the fact that they immediately go back to female dress as soon as they’re back in court hurts my heart a little bit.
DEE: Aw, that’s a good point, yeah. I do like that their road clothes are masculine in the sense that women just didn’t wear pants in this time period, but there is a gender-neutral quality to them in that, there is that long skirt thing going on with it—
VRAI: And pank.
VRAI: And paink.
DEE: And pink. It’s very pink, [dryly] which as we know is The Color of the Ladies.
VRAI: It’s true.
DEE: [laughs] So, thank you.
VRAI: It’s a very cute look that they’re rocking.
DEE: It is. I like it. One thing I really like about Nuriko is I feel like, in some ways, they not only improved the story just be existing in it, but they improve the other characters. The couple of moments I almost enjoy Hotohori is where they’re interacting with Nuriko.
DEE: Like when he is getting ready to chase after Miaka and Nuriko gives him shit about it, like, “Oh, you run away so well!”
VRAI: [Laughs] God, he’s so good.
DEE: [crosstalk] And he’s like, “I wasn’t running away!” “Sure, you weren’t.” It’s kinda cute that, as Nuriko spends time with Hotohori, there’s less of that starry-eyed teen idol thing going on with him and their relationship is developing in a way that would be really fun if the series…
CAITLIN: Weren’t just so shitty to Nuriko.
DEE: And gay characters in general Like that poor cute bandit, who just… He just liked Hotohori, okay?
CAITLIN: It doesn’t matter if he’s a man or a woman! He’s just beautiful.
VRAI: It pisses me off because they could’ve so easily had him get a crush on Nuriko instead, but that might have been in danger of being reciprocal, so we can’t have that. We only have sad gays and evil bisexuals.
DEE: [sighs] So far.
CAITLIN: I mentioned this in the chat, but there was a shrine for that character back in the day, before probably some of you listeners were born, when the internet was made up largely of fan-maintained pages—
DEE: Yeah, I remember that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] —about individual characters and stuff like that.
DEE: [crosstalk] There was a whole page for him.
CAITLIN: Did you find it through the Anime Web Turnpike? [Laughs]
DEE: Oh, God, maybe.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh my God. [Laughs]
DEE: That’s highly likely. I was neck-deep in the Fushigi fandom, so I had a lot of links getting thrown at me for a while there. The way fandoms interpret works is always interesting.
In light of how neck-deep I was in Fushigi Yugi, and—I think I mentioned this to you guys in one of our chats, too—my memory of this series is such a jumble of multiple translations, the video game, the light novels, the manga versus the anime, and then also on top of that, fanfiction and fandom headcanons.
So, there’s a lot of stuff I’d kinda just forgotten about, like the fact that the series is so mean to queer folks in general, casually so. And part of it is, like, I remember this bandit, but—and, again, part of it was just the time period—but there was that sense of… I don’t remember anyone looking at it and going, “Oh, this is like, ‘LOL gay panic. It’s so shitty.’” People just looked at it like, “Ah, he’s so cute! He needs a boyfriend. It’s too bad Hotohori doesn’t like guys.”
And it’s very interesting to me that almost inherent softening that you sometimes do when you really like a product or a show or something; and also the way that people looked at media in general ten years ago-ish—and then some—versus nowadays.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Like, have you read even from the early 2000s slash fic, now?
VRAI: [crosstalk] It is a trip.
CAITLIN: No, I never got into slash fandom, a million years ago.
DEE: [crosstalk] Me neither, really.
VRAI: It’s something.
CAITLIN: I’m more into watching boys kiss at 30 than I was at fifteen.
VRAI: So, I didn’t bat an eye at it then, of course, because I was a dumb, small child, but there’s so much about “the tragedy of being gay,” or the central point around so many stories about prejudice and coming out, and this martyring effect that is about casting it basically as a melodrama rather than any kind of real-world thing. It’s just very interesting, this sense of “Not only do none of you know what sex is, but also you’ve never met an actual gay person. This is thirdhand, isn’t it?”
DEE: And I remember… I didn’t read a lot of slash, but I was aware of it, and I remember the few I read, it bugged me because it just felt so inaccurate. It wasn’t like I had a deep background in it either; it just felt kind of off to me. So I think I know what you mean about that.
On the other hand, I wasted a lot of years of my life not ‘shipping Tasuki and Koji, and I regret this now.
VRAI: They’re very good and adorable, and Tasuki is a good character here. I like him.
DEE: Yeah, let’s talk about our trash bandits to finish off, because we get one episode with ‘em. And they’re enjoyable despite also being problematic, like pretty much everything in this show.
I think it’s really, again, interesting in terms of the time period and maybe what it tells you about Watase’s feelings about guys in general, in that we’re supposed to immediately… How do I put this? So, the stuff with Eiken, the evil Reikaku boss who immediately tries and halfway succeeds in sexually assaulting Miaka—so Caitlin got to add that to our counter—
DEE: —is clearly an awful person. And the other bandits are automatically coded as being slightly better because they just want Nuriko and Hotohori to serve them tea and hang out with them. On the other hand—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] And they talk about what a creep Eiken is.
DEE: Sorry, what?
CAITLIN: They do talk about what a creep he is.
DEE: Yeah. And then you get the shot of Koji walking away and he pauses and he clearly is emphatically Not Okay with what’s happening and feels very upset and bad about it. But at the same time, they all just let it happen.
DEE: So, that kind of passivity there is sort of interesting to me in terms of rape culture in general, I think, and also the fact that Koji is being coded as a good guy who will help you out later in the story at that point. And that that’s our coding for a good guy: not 100% cool with just having your way with somebody. Which is a shame. And then, of course, Tasuki’s first thing is trying to kiss Miaka.
CAITLIN: [sighing deeply] Yeah.
DEE: Because I guess that’s just how everyone has to enter the story, is by assaulting somebody.
VRAI: And then he gets… ‘Cause he stops, but then his line about it is: “I don’t like girls who won’t even cry.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, that made it weird.
DEE: That’s a very troubling line. The line in the manga is a little bit more… I think it gets the point across of what’s attempting to go on there, is that he’s trying to scare her so she’ll be a good hostage. And the line in the manga is basically, like, “there’s no point in terrorizing you if it’s not gonna work,” basically. It’s still bad, but the line is at least not so rape-y. But then he’s immediately like, “I don’t even like girls, so whatever.”
DEE: He doesn’t even like girls, you guys. No homo, though! [laughs]
VRAI: [crosstalk, laughing] No homo, platonically! He admires him platonically.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s supposed to be like, “Oh, I’m kind of a misogynist,” not like, “Yeah, I’m super gay,” but…
VRAI: But also, Fushigi Yugi, I see you. [laughs]
DEE: Tasuki’s honestly a much more interesting character if you read him as a deeply closeted gay man in a country and a time period where that wouldn’t really be okay, because the—
VRAI: [crosstalk] I’m prepared to ‘ship him with Nuriko.
VRAI: With my very shitty memories of how things go.
DEE: I mean, I’ll fight you for him. I guess they can all share. Let’s just OT3 this.
VRAI: Good plan.
DEE: Koji can get in on it. It’ll be great. [laughs]
VRAI: [crosstalk] Good plan.
DEE: The weird way [Tasuki] goes out of his way—like you said, “Villains gotta vill”—at the beginning and just immediately drops it, to me, is much more interesting. It was this sense of: “Well, this is what you’re supposed to do in this situation, so I think that’s what I’m gonna do, even though I don’t actually really want to.”
But I guess on the plus side—and this might be a good place for us to end because we’re getting close to the end of episode, and we’re on the hour, too—it does give Miaka a chance to be proactive, which is cool.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes, I love that!
VRAI: [crosstalk] She’s so great during this arc. It’s good.
CAITLIN: She’s a much, much better character without Tamahome around because she has to rely a little bit more on herself. Yes, she’s got her warriors around, but when Tamahome’s around, she is all Tamahome all the time. And when he’s gone, she’s a little bit more aware of what’s going on around her and thinking more about what she can do in any given situation.
DEE: Yeah, I love that she just straight-up punches him when he tries to kiss her, and that’s—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] And then pretends to be a boxer. [laughs]
DEE: Yeah, and then she’s like, “I got this!” And then when she’s like, “Okay, I’ll help you guys do this,” and basically takes the lead on the “Let’s retake the mountain” quest.
That used to bug me… First of all, I also find that episode generally pretty funny. I think Watase has a very hit-and-miss sense of humor, but when it hits, it’s pretty good. And Tasuki and Koji are kinda supposed to be a manzai routine—which is fun, like, duet comedy from Osaka. But that arc really bugged me, when I was younger, that she wasted all those slips of paper on food.
But at the same time, I had not really realized this until watching it again this time, she basically is the one who takes back the mountain. Tasuki and Koji do next to nothing in that final fight against the other bandits.
CAITLIN: Yeah, she messes everything up, but she bails herself out a lot of the time. And when Tamahome’s [not] around, she bails herself by way of summoning Tamahome.
DEE: Which was smart, going, “Hey, this would be a good thing to call to the battlefield.” I’m not sure if she was thinking in those terms.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I don’t think she was thinking about that. [laughs]
DEE: I think she just thought it would be nice to see him again, but she did end up saving the day, sort of accidentally.
VRAI: And I think it’s one of the best moments of the series that balances her foibles with her ability to have agency and be well-meaning and to act within the logic of what can she do.
DEE: And to have more charisma than I think I gave her credit for, because Tasuki and Koji really are like, “Yeah, we’ll follow this kid we just met. Let’s do this. She can be on our team.”
CAITLIN: She’s very spunky and… [sighs appreciatively]
VRAI: And even when she misses Tamahome at the end there, it feels like an endpoint after she’s already done that and then is feeling her feelings as downtime. And it feels less soul-sucking and plot-eating, and it works okay. If only we could’ve had this Miaka for the entire series.
DEE: Yeah, extremely true. I am curious. I continue to like her more than I thought, and I’m very curious to see if that continues or if there is a particular point where I’m like, “Can’t do it anymore, guys. She’s a bad character now.” So, we’ll see how that goes as we go forward, I guess.
Which might be a good segue into our outro. Is there anything else you guys wanted to talk about today, or…?
VRAI: We didn’t talk about the plot device children, but I’m sure there will be an opportunity in the future.
DEE: Oh, Tamahome’s family! Yeah.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, we’ll talk about him later [unintelligible due to crosstalk].
DEE: [crosstalk] Tamahome’s perfect now, you guys. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Oh, God. I hate—
DEE: He doesn’t want money just to support himself. That would be selfish! He should save villages for the exposure.
DEE: Sorry, that was all I could think because I got mad at him. But yeah, we will have time—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Badly written, emotionally manipulative anime children. It’s a thing.
DEE: They’re adorable, and now we know he’s not greedy. He just loves his family, and it’s fine. He’s perfect now.
DEE: But yeah, we will definitely have time to talk about them later. So, if we feel like we hit the main points, we…
VRAI: Yeah, I think we’re good for this week.
DEE: Okay, cool!
CAITLIN: All right.
DEE: Then, folks at home, that is gonna do it for today’s watchalong podcast. If you are following along with us, our next Fushigi Yugi podcast will cover episodes 15 through 20. Just six this time. So, brace yourselves for more road trip adventures and some serious shit hitting several large fans.
DEE: If you enjoyed this episode of Chatty AF—and we hope you did—it would be great if you could tell your friends or leave a nice review for us on iTunes. And if you really enjoyed this episode, it would be even better if you could consider tossing a dollar or more to our Patreon each month. Your support really does go a long way towards making Anime Feminist happen both in print and in your earbuds.
If you’re interested in more from the team and our contributors, please check us out at www.animefeminist.com. We’re also on Facebook at AnimeFem, on Tumblr @animefeminist, and on Twitter @AnimeFeminist.
And that’s all I got! Thanks for listening, AniFam. Be sure to hit us with your piping hot takes in the comments, and we will catch you all next time.
CAITLIN: Thank you!
VRAI: See you later. Take care.
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