Part 4 of the Fushigi Yugi watchalong with Vrai, Dee, and Caitlin! The ensemble cast shines in another strong stretch, but there’s a storm on the horizon, and we ain’t just talking about Soi’s lightning powers. Chiriko gets real. Miaka straps on her chastity belt. Tamahome has a very bad week.
CONTENT WARNING: Fushigi Yugi contains depictions of sexual assault, homophobia, and transphobia. The podcast will also discuss these topics when they arise.
0:01:36 Tasuki hates girls?
0:07:48 Miaka’s suicide attempt
0:11:28 Hotohori is a creep
0:16:40 Noble sacrifices
0:23:21 The Love Triangle that isn’t
0:30:40 Meeting Fushigi Yugi halfway
0:35:10 Summoning ceremony / Sorry, homie
0:42:32 Chiriko joins the cast
0:49:42 Taiitsukun’s frustrating subplot
0:57:12 Chichiri’s advice corner
1:05:47 Yui’s tightrope
1:10:49 Dead toddlers
Recorded Saturday 10th September 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
DEE: Hello, homies, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast.
DEE: We’re off to a good start, right?
VRAI: [incoherent through laughter]
DEE: I’m Dee Hogan, a writer and [muffles laughter] editor for AniFem, as well as the owner of the friendly neighborhood anime blog, The Josei Next Door.
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I’m the owner of the blog, heroineproblem.com. And a writer and contributor for Anime Feminist.
VRAI: Hi, I’m Vrai Kaiser. I’m a writer and editor for Anime Feminist. I’ve died now. [through laughter] But you can still find me by putting “Vrai Kaiser” inside of Google, where I do all the things.
DEE: And, today, we are stumbling merrily forward in our watchalong of the 1990s shoujo fantasy, Fushigi Yugi. This week’s podcast covers episodes 21 through 27, which takes us through a warrior throwdown, a botched summoning ceremony, dead toddlers, and onto the end of part one.
In case you are just joining us—this is an odd place to do that, but, you know, you do you—all three of us have watched or read at least part of the series before. So, we know what’s coming. That said, we want these watchalongs to be newbie-friendly, so we’ll just be focusing on the events in these episodes and avoid future spoilers.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It—
DEE: —get the show on the road. I’m sorry, what’s up?
VRAI: In fairness, we’re getting to a point where there’s really only one other major spoiler I remember, so, at this point, the audience and I are kind of simpatico.
DEE: Yeah, we’re getting very close to you enjoying this experience with fresh eyes, which will be a super fun—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; amused] Ohhhh boooy!
DEE: Yeah. Okay, so, let’s get this show on the road. There is a lot to talk about this week. This batch of episodes is basically three mini-arcs that have kind of a domino effect on each other. So I do want to try to keep things chronological and discuss the plot points in order.
Having said that, I was thinking over our last podcast, and I kind of realized that, in our excitement about what a good, good boy Tasuki is—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] He’s so good.
VRAI: [whispering] So good.
DEE: We kind of just ignored the fact that he keeps talking about how he hates girls. And clearly none of us are bothered by this, because we never mentioned it. But this is Anime Feminist, so we should probably at least talk about why that’s not an issue for us.
VRAI: I mean…
CAITLIN: Well, it never manifests. It’s all lip service. He says it, but he doesn’t act disrespectful to Miaka.
DEE: Except for the weird opening where he tries to kiss her and then she punches him and then they’re fine. But yeah.
CAITLIN: But he’s like sixteen. It’s posturing.
DEE: [crosstalk] Seventeen, but yeah.
DEE: Yeah, he and Tamahome are the same age.
CAITLIN: Okay. Well, it’s posturing and nothing ever really happens with it. It’s a little creepy at first, but after they get that out of the way, then he’s fine with everyone. He’s perfectly respect—I mean, not respectful, but he treats Miaka as an equal. He jokes with her and teases her the same way he teases everyone else in the party.
VRAI: He’s a little bit of a jerk to Nuriko, but it feels like a give-and-take and they’re very cute.
DEE: Yeah, they razz each other back and forth kind of in the same way he and Tamahome start their bromance this week, where their whole thing is they just pick on each other. And, since it does have that give-and-take, it’s amusing instead of feeling mean.
VRAI: And, also, I tend to read Tasuki as closeted, like I usually do with the whole…
DEE: [crosstalk] Me too. [chuckles] I didn’t know I did until this time, and I’m like, “Yeah, kinda.”
Well, yeah. To me, it just feels more like…When he says it, it feels more just like an immaturity thing: like, “Ew, girls have cooties!” kind of nonsense. So, it doesn’t really feel like it’s misogyny so much as just somebody who is kind of a dumb kid and says a thing without meaning the thing he’s saying?
He also… I don’t think this comes up in the anime, but the reason he doesn’t… the reason he always talks about how he doesn’t like girls is he has five older sisters, and some of them are just, like, older sisters—kind of shitty to him in the way siblings can be kind of shitty to each other. One of them tricks him into giving her his ice cream that he bought that week, kind of stuff.
CAITLIN: Oh, no.
DEE: Yeah, and she’ll be like, “I’m sick, cough cough. The only thing that will make me better is this thing you bought.” And he’s like, [tearfully] “You can have it!”
There’s this really cute little side story—it’s cute and problematic—little side story that made it into… uh, I think it was the Perfect World manga magazine that ran for a while with Genbu Kaiden and Fushigi Yugi in it. And you get this side story that happens actually right about the time part one ends, where they’re on the boat and Miaka talks to Tasuki like, “Hey, why don’t you like girls?” And she’s like, “Maybe we just need to find the right type of girl for you.”
And she goes through all these types, and he’s like, “Oh, that reminds me of this other sister I had.” So he’s just not into it. And some of them are kind of funny. Some of them are actively awful. His oldest sister basically emotionally abused him.
CAITLIN and VRAI: Aww.
DEE: Like, just spent a lot of time telling him how awful and worthless he was. And then one of his sisters… [pained] I hesitate to call it “sexual assault,” but it’s pretty close. She was very busty and was very insistent that they keep taking baths together even when he was way too old for that.
DEE: And it’s played as kind of comedic in the script, and I read it and went, “This is uncomfortable.”
So, all that having been said, Tasuki sense of, like, [grouchy] “I hate girls!” kind of makes more sense too, I think.
CAITLIN: And I remember that his dad was really weak-willed and just let the whole family run roughshod over him.
DEE: They kind of just forget the dad exists. He does show up in the manga, never in the anime. And they’re like, “Where is your dad?” And he’s like, “I’m standing right here.”
So… so, yeah. Tasuki had this whole, [in a rough Midwestern dialect] “I got to go out and be a man!” thing going on when he ran off to the Reikaku bandits, and that’s kind of where he is when you meet him. I do think he has some subtle character growth throughout, in terms of being like, “Well, maybe hating girls is a bit much,” ’cause him and Miaka obviously have a pretty good relationship, so.
DEE: [crosstalk] They have a cute friendship.
CAITLIN: He’s gonna grow up and grow out of it. He’s going to have… He, honestly… I think he has some of the most balanced interactions with the rest of the cast. Does that make sense?
DEE: I agree. Yeah. I think he and Nuriko interact with the other characters very well and very differently, which is fun to watch.
CAITLIN: He teases everyone in a way that doesn’t feel malicious. And if he crosses a line—
DEE: [crosstalk] He gets punched into a wall.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] —people will give him shit right back. [laughs] Yeah.
DEE: He gets turned into a wall angel.
CAITLIN: [laughs] He’s sort of clueless in the way that…There’s no malice there.
VRAI: And, actually, the fact that he’s the comedy relief. Specifically with Nuriko, it doesn’t bother me when he teases them, because the punishment is immediate and karmic. And then there’s fucking Tamahome, who gets away with it every tiime, and I am growing slowly to hate him just a little.
DEE: Yeahhh. Most of what Tamahome does this week, I’m actually pretty okay with, and we’ll get into that too, in terms of—there was a moment about four episodes in when I wrote in my notes, “I like Tamahome?” With a question mark?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah! [laughs]
DEE: Didn’t see that coming. But we’ll kind of get to that as we go. I think that was when, during the summoning ceremony when he’s trying to steal everyone’s power-ups, and I was just having a really good time with that scene. I was like, “Dammit! You’re fun!”
VRAI: Okay, that was a cute scene.
DEE: It was. Okay, but, yeah. So, I did want us to have a little conversation about that, because I felt like it was something we should at least address. So, I’m glad we did that.
And with that covered, let’s move back into these episodes. Welcome back to Konan, Miaka! Your arm is broken and your boyfriend is evil. You’re in a really vulnerable place right now. How are you and your noble warriors going to handle that?
VRAI: “I’m going to Disneyland.”
CAITLIN: “I’m going to get hit on relentlessly by the emperor!”
VRAI: This fucker.
DEE: Yeah… Hotohori’s still trash. You know, every scene with Hotohori, I think about how they could have written him in a way to be kind of a sympathetic unrequited love… So, this kind of starts with Miaka pretending to—she’s putting on a brave face, which she has a tendency to do, but she’s very upset and kind of… I’m not even sure she realizes how upset she is until she walks by Tamahome’s empty room.
In the manga, it is very clear that walking into the pond is a suicide attempt.
CAITLIN: Yes! Yes.
DEE: In the anime, it kind of feels like she’s hallucinating and does it without realizing what she’s doing. [crosstalk] Which is interesting to me.
VRAI: Yeah. There’s not a lot of power to that scene, I feel like, in the anime, because it feels too like the earlier scene where she was just meeting Nuriko. Like an accident, like you said.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It was definitely a suicide attempt, and I honestly hate that trope because it feels like it is… Even when they are rescued and the characters are like, “Ohhh, you have so much to live for! Blah blah blah”… It feels like it’s romanticizing a bit. It’s romanticizing the idea that, “Oh no, I’ve broken up. I cannot stand to live and I’m gonna tragically commit suicide over my broken heart.”
DEE: One thing I will give—and the other thing about the manga is… Something they establish in the manga is that the hair ribbon she has, she gave one to Keisuke, and that was gonna be the way she could get home if she had to.
So, in the manga, she loses the hair ribbon in Kutou, so as she’s walking out in the rain, she’s thinking: “Tamahome’s gone. Yui hates me. I have no way of getting home. And we can’t even summon Suzaku because one of our warriors is functionally dead.” So, in the manga, it feels more like, “I’ve lost everything.” It’s not just like, “Oh, I’ve broken up with my boyfriend.”
And so I think it’s more powerful in that sense, but I think that’s also why it being a suicide attempt in the manga made more sense, whereas in the anime it’s more like she just kind of… I don’t know, like, it’s half-asleep, almost.
VRAI: Yeah. I was watching this batch of episodes with my partner, who does not care for this show. But she pointed out that this section is essentially the cliff-diving scene from the second Twilight book, where she’s so sad and depressed…
CAITLIN: Yes! That’s what I was thinking of.
DEE: Yeah. The way they play it in the anime, especially, I think it reads that way.
CAITLIN: Clearly Stephenie Meyer is a big fan of Fushigi Yugi.
CAITLIN: Fushigi Yugi came first.
DEE: Well, and the thing about it is Hotohori rescues her, which is great, and there’s a version of the scene afterwards where he could be like, “I know you feel like you’ve lost everything, but you’ve still got me. You’ve still got the other warriors. We’re here for you. Whatever you need.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, like “We’ll find a way.”
DEE: And she would have been like, “Oh, what a sweet guy.” He loves her and he’s being supportive. But, no. No, that is not how that scene goes.
CAITLIN: No, of course not.
DEE: The way that scene goes is Hotohori… Not only does he pretend like he’s been bottling up these feelings for her forever—
CAITLIN: Oh my God!
DEE: Every time Tamahome is gone, he makes out with her. [pained laughter]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That was so frustrating to me! That was so frustrating to me, ’cause, yeah, he’s acting like he’s been trying to conceal his feelings by fighting them off. He’s like, “Oh, I just can’t fight this feeling anymore. And I can’t remember what I started fighting them for!”
DEE: Thank you.
CAITLIN: No, but he acts like it’s just this big secret that he’s been concealing and no one has any idea, but he’s been very upfront and very aggressive about them. The whole time. It’s just really irritating.
DEE: I don’t know. There’s a version of this world—of reality in Hotohori’s head that is slightly to the left of the real one. And he just seems to think things did not go down the way they actually did. And he continues to not make things better. What were you gonna say?
VRAI: Either that, or he assumes that Miaka has the collective memory of a goldfish, and now that…
CAITLIN: Which, to be fair… [unintelligible under crosstalk]
DEE: [crosstalk] He did just find her in a lake, so…
VRAI: “He’s gone now. Maybe she forgot that I had the hots for her. I can try this again, right?”
DEE: “It’s been so long.” And I know part of that is also that time is not well-established in the anime. They were traveling for a while, and I think the last time he macked on her was right before they met Tasuki. But still, dude, you’ve not been subtle.
CAITLIN: Anime does not have a great sense of the passage of time. There’s been… I think they reference a couple times that it’s been a few months.
DEE: It has. It’s been at least a few months, and I think it was a few months before she left the first time, too, so… A significant amount of time has passed, but because we don’t necessarily get that feeling, like—maybe Hotohori hasn’t said anything about it for months, and so he does feel like… But it’s still shitty. It’s still shitty to pretend you’ve never told her that you care about her when you’ve told her at least twice. I think three times.
CAITLIN: And the moment Tamahome leaves view… He doesn’t—
DEE: She was in a really vulnerable place, too. He kind of takes advantage of the fact that Miaka is in a very vulnerable place when he does this.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, I don’t think he’s consciously taking advantage.
VRAI: No, but male privilege, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
DEE: Especially Hotohori. Especially “emperor privilege.”
CAITLIN: Ugh, yeah.
DEE: And then he continues to be very frustrating, because Bizarro Tamahome shows up to finally kill the priestess, and I totally don’t blame Hotohori for being like, “Fuck, that’s not going to happen. I’m going to stop him.” But then he locks her in a room.
DEE: He just… He denies Miaka agency in a way that the rest of the warriors don’t, and it’s very frustrating.
CAITLIN: Yeah. He’s clearly… He takes control of her a lot in a way that the other characters don’t. The other characters, they more-or-less respect her as their leader.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, they want to support her.
CAITLIN: Yeah, she’s kind of ditzy and there’s plenty of times where they have to be like, “Miaka! Miaka? No.” But she’s still very much the one calling the shots. Whereas Hotohori clearly thinks he knows best for her constantly, even though I don’t think he’s that much brighter than she is.
DEE: No. I would agree with that. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: And so he’s just trying to control her all the time. And I’m sure it has to do with him being the young emperor of a country, but it’s so not okay. And… ugh, I can’t believe… And he’s treated in the narrative as some tragic, romantic hero who’s just pining away without ever being called out.
VRAI: I think that’s the most uncomfortable part is that we’re implicitly supposed to feel for these actions he takes. If he was just the shitty guy who clearly didn’t respect her as a character, we could work with that. But no.
DEE: Or if he grew. Like if he… ‘Cause they kind of set up like there’s going to be an arc with him early on when he’s like, “I’ll order Nuriko to get along with you.” And Miaka’s like, “You can’t order people’s feelings, dude.”
CAITLIN: [through laughter] I mean, at the same time—
DEE: It feels like there’s supposed to be an arc. And there kind of is. And we will talk about that after we get through the Bizarro Tamahome stuff. Because I do want to talk about that final scene Miaka and Hotohori have together. But there’s not… It doesn’t feel like there’s—’cause it feels like he’s still doing a lot of the stuff that is frustrating about in terms of not letting other people make their choices.
So, he locks Miaka in a room and Miaka, not one to sit passively by—bless her for that, if nothing else—climbs out of a window to see if she can have something to do with this. See if she can stop this fight. [amused] And she kind of stops the fight by distracting Bizarro Tamahome long enough for Hotohori to stab him through the middle.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And then, you know, offers her life up so that… Why does she offer to let him kill her? Just ’cause she… just ’cause?
DEE: He’s dying, and she basically… She’s freaking out about the fact this guy she loves is dying, and she’s like, “Fine, you can kill me but you have to get better. I need you to…” Basically, it’s this sense of, “I don’t want you to die so much that I’m willing to die to make that happen.”
And, obviously, that has a lot of issues. But they both… I feel like they both do that. I feel like Fushigi Yugi really plays on this idea of, I guess, “sacrificial love.” I’m not sure if that’s quite the way I want to word it. But that’s the words that came out of my mouth.
CAITLIN: Which I’m not super huge on as a theme.
DEE: No, I’m not either. But, I dunno, in the moment of Tamahome bleeding out on the steps of the palace, I sympathize with her. I get why that is her reaction, like bargaining. “I’ll do anything. I just don’t want you to die.”
CAITLIN: I guess, I just… Yeah, no. Honestly, that trope has, since I left my “teen romantic” phase, been one of my big irritants.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah. No, I understand.
VRAI: And I think it’s harder to sell, too, because there’s no way that Tamahome’s gonna die.
DEE: Yeah, but at this point, he is still evil. We know Mitsukake is standing right there and can heal him, so he’s probably not going to die. But he is still a bad guy at that point. [dramatically] And then Miaka’s love makes him not bad anymore.
VRAI: That’s what I’m saying, though, is those moments that are stupid but…
CAITLIN: Can we just insert a clip of the Huey Lewis and the News song, “That’s the Power of Love,” right here?
DEE: Yes! I don’t think we have the rights to that, but, you know…
Listeners, just go find it on Spotify or YouTube and just play it.
DEE: I have to admit, though, that scene when he comes back to himself and clearly doesn’t remember anything, but is like, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and she’s like, “It’s okay, the moon’s up now.” And… it gets me. It gets me, you guys.
DEE: I’m a big… We talked about this before. They’re not a great couple. Most of the time, I’m not really rooting for them or feeling anything about their relationship. But something about that fucking scene, every time I watch it, it hits me. I don’t know. I like it. It’s very well-played.
VRAI: Yeah, no, the bit where he wakes up is nice.
DEE: And that’s the end of Bizzaro Tamahome. They heal him. Tasuki has to go another day with multiple broken bones and contusions. [crosstalk] Poor Tasuki.
VRAI: Yeah, apparently, fuck Tasuki.
DEE: Well, Mitsukake can only do it one per day, and I don’t know… If I were Miaka, I would have said, “Hey, that guy’s bleeding internally. Help him. I just have a broken arm. It’ll be okay.” But…
VRAI: Mitsukake is terrible at conserving his spell slots.
DEE: He only has one spell slot, is the thing! And Tamahome was bleeding out, so they really didn’t have a choice on that one.
The other thing is… We don’t see it, but I could totally see Tasuki being like, “No, help her first. I’m fine.”
CAITLIN: Tasuki makes a big show of… Tasuki’s totally the kind of guy who makes a big show about whining and complaining, but then is like, “No, no, no. It’s good. Take care of her. I’m just gonna sit here and bitch for another few hours.”
VRAI: I wish we could have seen that.
DEE: I do love that little scene of Mitsukake bandaging him up and he’s yelling at him. Mitsukake is like… lists off all his injuries and he’s like, “Nothing I can do will kill you.”
DEE: “You’re unkillable. I have decided.” So… And I hope that is true.
CAITLIN: I wish we had gotten to see more of Mitsukake, by the way. I’m sorry. I’m leading us on a tangent, but—
DEE: [crosstalk] No, no. I agree with you.
CAITLIN: He’s so… He’s just got this very dry sense of humor
DEE: He really does. It’s very good. I’ve talked about [how] in the visual novel, you get a little bit more of the Mitsukake sass, and the fact that he’s kind of just Done.
There’s a pretty good scene on the boat where Tasuki spends the entire trip seasick and he just keeps complaining to Mitsukake to fix him, and Mitsukake’s like, “I’m not burning my one spell slot every day on your seasickness and I don’t have a lot of ingredients for medicines out here.” So he basically says, “We may as well let him drink himself stupid everyday.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Don’t drink, kids.
DEE: And Tasuki’s like, “Shut up! You’re not my Ma!” And they have this really fun clearly do-not-like-each-other kind of dynamic. And then Chichiri comes out and trolls Tasuki for a while, and it’s a fun scene. I wish there was more of that in the anime itself. The visual novel lets the characters kind of—the ensemble cast—fool around, and it’s really good.
CAITLIN: I should play. I should play the visual novel.
DEE: You’d have… I think you’d have a good time. It is not without its issues. Some of the plot points… They streamline things, and it’s stupid. But they handle Nuriko a lot better in the visual novel, as long as you don’t play their route. If you play their route, there’s a lot of that, “Well, I feel like a man now because I like a girl.”
DEE: Which is really frustrating. But if you don’t play Nuriko’s route… You could theoretically play the game without finding out that Nuriko is assigned male at birth.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh that sounds wonderful.
DEE: And then they’re just a lady the whole time. But the characters are a lot nicer and there’s no shitty jokes, really. Tasuki makes a couple of comments, but they’re vague enough that it doesn’t necessarily—it feels like it could just be them… It could just be Tasuki giving Nuriko shit about being super-strong and kind of temperamental.
But, yeah. The visual novel is fun. And there’s a translation out there for you, Caitlin! So.
CAITLIN: Okay. Hook me up with that later.
DEE: That would help a little bit, I guess. But, yeah, no, the stuff with Mitsukake in the game is fun and it helps supplement the fact that he really doesn’t get to do anything in the anime.
But, yeah. Okay. So, that’s the first kind of arc. Bizarro Tamahome. And then we’re revving up for the summoning ceremony, but before we can get to that, we get to what I like to call “the love triangle that isn’t.” Which is… Because… I really…
There’s this sense in Fushigi Yugi that someone told Watase she had to have a love triangle in this story, and she went, “Fine. I guess.” And then really just kind of played with the tropes. Because—Caitlin, you were mentioning this in the Slack group we chat in—that Miaka is never really into Hotohori, like at all.
CAITLIN: No. There’s never any question who she’s going to go with. It’s always Tamahome, all the time. She never looks away from him. The only time she ever remotely considers straying is when he’s evil and has attacked her and she’s vulnerable and Hotohori’s like, “Hey. Come settle for me.”
DEE: Yeah. It’s that song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
“Settle for me…” It’s a good song. Everyone should YouTube that, too. That’s Hotohori in these moments.
And I like that Watase’s like, “The boys have to fight over her,” but works it in such a way where one of them is cursed, so it’s not even really like a stupid romance triangle fighting over the girl. It’s like: this guy’s evil right now. I do like the way the love triangle does not really follow the typical, very tired love-triangle pattern.
CAITLIN: You see that sometimes in shoujo manga, where it does feel like it was the editor forced an issue. I saw that From Far Away as well. There was a very brief love triangle that resolves itself pretty much immediately. That sort of felt like the editor being like, “Nope! You gotta have a love triangle.” Because that is the sort of trope that editors do demand to have.
DEE: Yeah. It’s like, “This is how we inject conflict into this romance.” So, anytime series can subvert or play with that, I appreciate it, ’cause I’m not a huge fan of the… I’m not a huge fan of love triangles in general. I’m okay with an unrequited love situation, but when you play it as a triangle, it gets obnoxious. [crosstalk] It has to be done really well.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It reminds me of how in The Hunger Games, apparently, Gale was originally supposed to be Katniss’ cousin.
DEE: Oh. I did not know that.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, this is… I don’t know how confirmed this is. But I read a thing on the internet, which we all know is the most reliable source of information.
VRAI: I mean, I’d buy it. Because all of his scenes that are supposed to be romantic feel super forced.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Gale was supposed to be Katniss’ cousin, but the editors were like, “Hey. You know what’s really popular right now? Twilight. You know what Twilight has that people like arguing about? A love triangle.”
DEE: [grumbling] A garbage love triangle. [laughs]
DEE: Yeahh. We shouldn’t go down that… I was like: “I’m about to launch into a Twilight rant. No one wants to hear that. It’s been years. It’s not even really relevant anymore. We can slide past that.”
DEE: So, I did want to kind of talk about… It’s the one scene where Hotohori does a not-terrible thing. Miaka goes to talk to him before the summoning ceremony to basically be like, “Hey, so, this is probably obvious, but I’m not into you and Tamahome and I are together and that’s how it is.”
And she frames it in a way that is very relatable, in that she apologizes for not liking him back. And kind of talks about how she feels like he’s given her so much… assault. [pained laughter] She doesn’t add that part. I added that part. But she feels like he’s given her so much, and that she hasn’t given him anything back.
And I will give Hotohori credit here. He does not realize that he’s been a shitheel this whole time, but he tells her, “No. You don’t have to apologize. Those are your feelings, and those are fine.” And he’s like, “You know, you’re gonna save my kingdom. And that’s something. That’s a lot.”
So, I do have to give him some credit for not doing that shitty thing that happens a lot of the time in both fiction and real life where it’s like, “But I love you! Why don’t you love me back, you asshole?”
VRAI: I will give him credit if that holds.
DEE: Well, he’s written out of the show by the end of part one!
They get on a boat and they leave his ass.
CAITLIN: Yeah. He is not there for a long time, which actually kind of makes me wonder if they just didn’t know how to write him if he’s not pursuing Miaka. [crosstalk] Like, “We can’t continue this.”
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah. Watase might have been done with this.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] “We can’t continue this love triangle.”
VRAI: But he has so many other great character traits, like, um… like, he’s very vain.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Pretty hair!
DEE: [crosstalk] Very entitled.
CAITLIN: He has pretty hair!
DEE: He does have pretty hair. And stupid shoes.
CAITLIN: I mean, that’s just historical. [laughs]
DEE: [through laughter] I know, but they’re still stupid.
Yeah, so, I was watching that scene going, “Well, Hotohori, you done good there. I’m kind of proud of you for, at the very least, not blaming Miaka for not wanting to hook up with you.”
And I do… The flashbacks of him, like—we’ve talked about the fact that he’s put her on a pedestal, and he’s really in love with the idea of the Priestess of Suzaku and not with Miaka herself, and how that sucks and is probably one of the main reasons Miaka doesn’t like him.
But the flashbacks of him as a lonely little kid do make me kind of… I find him a little pitiable. Because he’s like, “Maybe someone will love me for myself and not for this title I have.” Even though he does that to her. And I don’t think he—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] But that’s so hypocritical!
DEE: It really is.
CAITLIN: He’s literally loving her because she is the Priestess of Suzaku and not who she is. And maybe he did… If the show had addressed: “Yeah, first I was in love with you because you’re the Priestess of Suzaku and you’re this idea, but then actually I did come to fall in love with your personality and fall in love with you for you.” But there’s so much in the show, that it’s just on the edge of being good and handling things well, but then it just doesn’t quite close the deal.
And, I mean, Yuu Watase was a really young writer when she made it. This was only her second series. But it’s so frustrating sometimes, ’cause, you know, like I said, I think we’re a lot softer on this show than a lot of people are. I think most people who are looking at it through a critical eye are much harsher about it than we are.
VRAI: Oh, yes. I hear about it on the weekly.
DEE: Oh, boy.
CAITLIN: But… You know, there’s still so much stuff that’s like: “Just seal the deal, please. Come on. You’re so close.”
DEE: Yeah. It’s a series… It’s one of those series where… I learned this term from Vrai when we were talking about Lovecraft a while back. It’s like there’s a “fix-fic” quality to it, where if I could reboot anything it would be Fushigi Yugi, because it’s so close to being really great
and if we just made these changes we could have a really…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I mean… Genbu Kaiden does exist.
DEE: Genbu Kaiden does exist. It’s not exactly a reboot, but it does improve upon the central structure of the story in a lot of ways.
VRAI: I mean, there is good stuff in Fushigi Yugi. And I think it’s worth talking about and engaging with. But you do have to meet the series more than halfway [through laughter] like a lot of the time.
DEE: You do. And I think… Well, you have to be aware that it was written in ’92, animated in ’96? ’97?
CAITLIN: I think it’s ’95.
DEE: There’s a lot of flaws in terms of… sometimes with the narrative, especially in the second half, which we’ll get to eventually. And sometimes with the… not necessarily the things the characters do, but the way the series frames what they do, if that makes sense. Like, it’s okay to have characters who are kind of shitty, but then if you don’t—if you act like that’s okay, you’ve got a narrative flaw.
DEE: But there’s a lot of emotional honesty and rawness to it, which I think is what drew me to it and still, rewatching it now, I’m like: There’s still a lot here to like as long as you kind of go into it knowing, “Okay, well, it’s messy. It was written by a 22-year-old. It was written in 1992. It was this, that.” And I think that helps a little bit. Or that could just be nostalgia talking, ’cause I still have fond memories of it, for sure.
CAITLIN: I completely agree. ‘Cause, like I’ve said, I was 12 when I started watching Fushigi Yugi. And I think that rawness was what drew me to the series, and I think Fushigi Yugi was majorly instrumental into me becoming a longtime anime fan.
DEE: Same here, for sure.
CAITLIN: Because there was this edge to it. There was this emotionality to it that you really didn’t get in American cartoons so much.
DEE: But it still had all the action-adventure and the “lots of stuff happening,” too. So…
CAITLIN: Yeah! But American cartoons in the ‘90s was… what? Kids’ shows, The Simpsons, and Disney movies. And Disney movies… I don’t want to trash on Disney. They have a lot of good stuff about them. I grew up watching Disney. I love Disney.
DEE: Yeah, me too.
CAITLIN: But it’s very polished. There’s not a lot of rawness to it. Which Fushigi Yugi is raw, which… It is much closer to an actual teenager mindset, which is to its benefit and to its detriment, I think. Because, like I said, that rawness is really appealing to teen audiences, but as adults, you can look at it and be like, “Oh, these are actually not great ideas that it’s putting through. This is not something I would be comfortable with it teaching teenagers.”
VRAI: Right. It feels like in exchange for the rawness of the bigger, more cutting emotional moments is this fact that it did not polish some of the more harmful messages that were maybe packaged in with that.
DEE: Yeah. The sense I get is more that it wasn’t… The series isn’t…
How do I put this? We talked about this a couple weeks ago, too. Like, how My Love Story really feels like it’s trying to be a guidebook for teens in terms of romance. And Fushigi Yugi feels more like it’s a snapshot, I guess. It doesn’t feel like it’s necessarily lauding things as it is just: “this is kind of how it feels.”
CAITLIN: Right. And art imitates life, but then life also imitates art.
So where do you draw the line?
DEE: Right. I still think you need to be able to take some kind of a stance and steer a story in a particular direction, and I don’t think Fushigi Yugi does that especially well all the time. Every once in a while, I think it hits on some pretty nice stuff, but yeah. There are some issues. And we’re gonna get into some of those going forward. We still have quite a bit of the story to talk about.
The next plot point… I wrote down “summoning ceremony,” and then my discussion notes for this section just say, “Sorry, homie!” And then I started giggling again and I couldn’t stop.
VRAI: Sometimes I’m sorry I’m not watching the dub.
DEE: There are some good things. Yeah, so, for our listeners who don’t know, I tweeted about this, then I talked to Vrai and Caitlin about it in our group chat, toon the dub, there’s a part where Tamahome and Tasuki are chasing Amiboshi as he’s trying to escape. And Tasuki busts out his tessen and he’s like, “Rekka Shin’en!” and he uses his fire, and he roasts Tamahome. And it’s basically like him getting revenge for Tamahome beating the shit out of him back when he was evil.
So, Tamahome grabs him and is like, “What the hell, man?” And, in the sub, Tasuki just says, “Sorry, Tama, I had to do that.” The dub could have changed this line to make it clearer what he’s talking about. The second part of this line is “payback’s hell,” and I actually think that’s a pretty good translation. I think that’s a fun shift.
But instead of “Sorry, Tama,” Tasuki gets to say, “Sorry, homie. Payback’s hell.”
DEE: And these are the unique joys of a 1999 dub that you just can’t get anywhere else.
VRAI: I hope that there’s fanart out there of Tasuki wearing parachute pants and a backwards baseball cap.
DEE: “Tasuki the hip-hop bandit, reminding you kids to stay in school! Yo yo yo!”
CAITLIN: But anyway… Yeah, about that summoning ceremony… That is actually sort of goes back to that rawness, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show where the main characters fuck up quite this badly.
DEE: Mm-hm. It’s real bad.
CAITLIN: And, so, just that feeling of, “Oh, no. Oh my God. This is a mistake that they cannot just fix. There is no turning back from this point.”
DEE: Yeah. And it turns out there is something they can still do, so it’s not like it’s the end of the road. But it’s going to be hard. It’s not like they can just snap their fingers and this failure will go away.
CAITLIN: Yeah. They fucked up in a big way. And that’s… I think that was handled really well, just this sense of… They’re lost for a minute. They’re like, “What are we going to do now?”
DEE: And Miaka has this feeling of: “A lot of people went through a lot to get us to this point. And now it feels like that pain meant nothing.” And so… Yeah, I think it’s a very rough moment for her. And I think as a character she shoulders a little bit too much responsibility here.
VRAI: A little bit self-flagellating.
DEE: [crosstalk] And she does that. She’s always done that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That’s just Miaka.
DEE: But it is good to see her go: “We screwed up and now this thing we were building towards is gone and I’m so frustrated and angry at myself for this.” It is good to see her taking some—again, I think she’s way too hard on herself here, but it’s good to see her taking responsibility for this.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And—
DEE: Especially when you think about the early episodes when she was like, “Ahh, sweet! Yeah, I can ask the gods to summon a horde of hotties for me and I can pass my school tests without having to try.” I think she has grown, for sure.
CAITLIN: And even though they can go back and get the shinzaho… To put it in a way that is not spoiler-y but still… The sacrifices that they end up having to make that they wouldn’t have had to do otherwise? They are huge.
DEE: Yeah. They’re going to go through a lot because they screwed up. The repercussions are significant in a way that, like you said, in a lot of fiction that it doesn’t happen that way, where you fuck up and you really have to live with those consequences.
VRAI: Yeah, it’s… And it’s one of those scenes that I really like with the in-universe… All these characters have no reason to believe that anything is going wrong. I think the wishes segment is very cute. I cry a little for Nuriko because I’m so sorry, baby. I’m so sorry that there isn’t reassignment surgery for you in Ancient China. I’m so sorry.
DEE: [sympathetic] I know.
VRAI: But, stepping back from a narrative position, it can be kind of frustrating because all the characters are absolutely acting to the best of their knowledge. But, as a viewer, it’s like, “Clearly, this fucker isn’t supposed to be here.”
DEE: Yeah. Well, the manga was probably a big shock, because you didn’t have an opening theme assuring you that this character wasn’t supposed to be here. So, I bet it was more of a surprise for manga readers.
DEE: “Oh, I never suspected that either!” So, you could kind of have that feeling with Miaka as well. Whereas, I think, for the anime viewers, it was more like, “I knew something was up with that guy!” So… And then, Miaka has this brief moment where she kind of tries to… She has faith in Amiboshi in a way that is probably not earned, but then he falls into a river. So, that’s that.
CAITLIN: Miaka definitely has… People don’t need to earn her faith in them. Miaka’s very trusting.
DEE: And it’s very hard for them to lose her faith. She doesn’t… I don’t think she finally decides that Nakago is an irredeemable asshole until after Tamahome’s family gets murdered. I think that’s how long it took for her to go, “Oh, Nakago is the absolute worst and we have to stop him.”
She has a lot of—I wrote in my notes, “naivete versus faith,” and there’s a thin line there. But she’s very convinced that they can talk Amiboshi down off this cliff—and, fun fact, in the visual novel, if you get a couple of favorability points with him, you can! And he turns himself in and becomes a prisoner of war and then Suboshi doesn’t murder anybody.
VRAI: Oh! Oh, so they…
DEE: And it’s great. It’s great! He actually doesn’t murder the kids in the visual novel. The visual novel was like, “That’s a bit much, ya’ll.” But he will… If Amiboshi falls in the river—if you fuck that up and he falls in the river—Suboshi will kill Tamahome’s dad. But the kids are okay. ‘Cause Suboshi has standards! [laughs] [crosstalk] “I’ll murder a sick old man—
VRAI: He realized, “All right, this is a bit blatant heartstring-tugging. This is a little much.”
DEE: —but I draw the line at toddlers!”
And it’s a very sad scene. I’ve played both versions in the visual novel, and it’s really nice when Suboshi doesn’t kill anybody. You still meet him in the village. He’s doing some recon work and he fights you a little bit. He’s like, “Return my brother to me. How dare you take him prisoner?” But he’s not that upset.
And then the other version where Tamahome’s dad is dead is very sad because Miyano Mamoru plays Tamahome, and he acts very well. So… But then the kids are like… The kids comfort him and they have a little—it’s kind of sweet in its sadness. So, he’s able to take his family back to the capital. And the kids don’t die. And it’s nice.
CAITLIN: Oh, good.
DEE: [crosstalk] That does not happen in the anime.
VRAI: [crosstalk] This is not that universe.
DEE: No, this is not that universe. In this universe, Amiboshi falls in the river, and a lot of toddlers die. But we will get there.
The other thing that happens in this bit is Chiriko joins the cast. Chiriko—the actual Chiriko please stands up—and they are—she—God, he… So, when I watched the anime, I was convinced Chiriko was going to be a girl based on the character design. Then they started talking, and I was like, “Oh, it’s a girl,” and they were like “he” and I was like, “Oh? Okay.” So, I still have this part of my brain that wants to use the pronoun “she” on Chiriko.
But he joins the cast. He is played by Kawakami Tomoko, who you will know is Utena.
CAITLIN: Ohh, rest in peace.
DEE: Yeah, rest in peace. As soon as I heard her voice, I got real happy. And then I got a little sad, too. But, yeah, Kawakami Tomoko joins the cast as Chiriko, and I really have nothing else to add. Chiriko doesn’t really get much of an introduction.
CAITLIN: Oh, God, he doesn’t do anything.
DEE: He’s very smart, he saves them with a leaf whistle, and I guess he kind of helps Hotohori plan their trip up North, and that’s about all you get out of him this week.
VRAI: He was the next town over and is psychic but couldn’t think to get there an hour earlier.
CAITLIN: I know, right?
DEE: He’s not psychic. He’s very intelligent and can read the stars, which in this universe means that you actually can predict the future, but he is not actually psychic. He’s just a genius.
And—so the anime does a very bad job of establishing this, so I’m gonna go ahead and talk about it here. But Chiriko’s symbol… Because he’s only 13, he doesn’t have a good grip on his powers, and his symbol disappears and reappears without his say. And when it’s gone, he’s just a kid. And he’s actually more immature than a regular 13-year-old.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah. He’s not a very bright kid.
DEE: Kind of ’cause he leaned on his intelligence. So, he’s not… He’s not very bright. And he’s kind of a crybaby. And in the manga, at one point in the manga he admits—and again, this isn’t in the anime, so I’m not spoiling anything—he admits that the reason he didn’t show up early wasn’t because he was busy studying; it was because he felt like he wasn’t good enough yet because his symbol kept flickering in and out.
So, he was like, “Oh, I shouldn’t join them just yet. I’m not quite ready.” And he kept pushing it back, pushing it back… Then finally went, “Oh, shit. They’re in trouble. Now I have to go.”
VRAI: That would have been nice to have been included.
DEE: Yeah. It’s a good little bit of character development that, again, the anime doesn’t ever really address. And it comes up later in the manga. Quite a bit later. But, again, I didn’t feel like it was a big deal for me to mention it here since it’s not in the anime.
Yeah, Chiriko doesn’t have a lot to do. So, I don’t really have anything else to say about them, unless you guys do.
CAITLIN: No. He does nothing. He shows up and then we don’t see him again. He barely even spends any time on camera.
DEE: Yeah. He doesn’t even really get any cute scenes. There’s one scene where Nuriko teases Tasuki about how he could learn a thing or two from Chiriko, and, you know, devote himself to studying. But I don’t even think Chiriko’s in that scene, so you don’t really get…
Chiriko and Tasuki end up having kind of a cute little friendship in the manga that doesn’t really show up in the anime, which is kind of a bummer. I mean, it’s very in-the-margins-of-the-panels, but… Yeah. Keep an eye on glimpses of that in the anime, ’cause blink and you will miss them.
But that’s Chiriko, which is a shame, ’cause I think both Chiriko and Mitsukake could have been really fun characters, and we have, thus far anyway—I don’t want to spoil too much—haven’t gotten much from either of them. It’s a big cast, so.
VRAI: I will say, before we… Very briefly before we move on to toddler murder, I love the star festival scene, and I just want every episode to be Nuriko and Tasuki’s rom-com, because I love them.
DEE: It was delightful.
CAITLIN: Yeah. There’s a lot of really good ensemble chemistry in this episodes, I feel like.
DEE: Yes. I think the friendships are better than the romances in Fushigi Yugi.
CAITLIN: Yes. Oh, absolutely. And they… ’cause they really start to nail… They’re still… For Mitsukake and Chiriko standing on the sidelines, not really participating in anything. Not being invited along. It’s very sad. But, I mean, Chiriko’s a child. Mitsukake’s an adult.
DEE: Well, I like to imagine that Chichiri and Mitsukake were drinking sake on a porch somewhere, just chatting about their dead girlfriends.
CAITLIN: But they… The rest of the group, they really start to nail their interactions. They really feel like friends. They don’t… Early in the series, one of my complaints is how Miaka and her friends interact with each other. Her friends are too mean to her. It doesn’t…
DEE: There doesn’t seem to be a give-and-take.
CAITLIN: Yeah. There’s no give-and-take. They’re just kind of teasing her for being dumb all the time.
DEE: And it’s not like she’s teasing them back. Because some friendships are built on teasing or arguing or—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah, absolutely.
DEE: You know, I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I definitely have friendships like that. But it has to be back-and-forth or it’s just mean.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Like my five-year relationship is founded on us aggressively flirting by teasing each other.
CAITLIN: But yeah. So, here we really start to get a sense that they’re teasing each other back-and-forth, but there’s a lot of affection there. And I really… I was really appreciating it during these episodes, ’cause I kind of have spent the last few years dragging Fushigi Yugi for a lot of its character writing and a lot of its dynamics, and I forgot that there are parts where it’s really good.
And, once again, this is a major part of the show that I fell in love with when I was 12, 13 years old, is that the characters seemed like they genuinely had fun with each other.
DEE: Oh, yeah. I did not give two shits about Tamahome and Miaka, even as a 13-year-old watching this. But I loved the side characters, and I loved their dynamics with each other, and I just wanted them to hang out forever.
DEE: So yeah, no, I agree with that. Although—sorry, what were you gonna say, Vrai?
VRAI: Oh, no, no. Please say it. ‘Cause mine was going to shift a little bit.
DEE: Oh, I was gonna shift us, too. I was going to say that we’re not at “dead toddlers” just yet.
VRAI: Right. Yeah, ’cause you mentioned Chichiri’s dead girlfriend, and dead toddlers are so omnipresent that I forgot that this was also his sad backstory moment.
DEE: Chichiri’s Advice Corner and Backstory Bodega! Yeah. I do want to talk about that. I guess we can… No, I want to talk about that after we talk about one other thing, because it’ll dovetail into some other stuff. So, we’ll put a pin in that and we will get to Chichir, ’cause y’all know I love talkin’ about that boy. [chuckles]
VRAI: He’s a good boy.
CAITLIN: It’s ya boy, Chichiri!
DEE: “It’s ya boy! No da.”
DEE: So, before we get into that, I do want to talk about Taiitsukun pulling Miaka aside and telling her she’s gotta keep it in her pants.
VRAI: This fucking subplot.
DEE: Yeah. It’s a very frustrating subplot. Taiitsukun tells Miaka that she needs to be—that the priestess has to be a virgin in order to summon the god, and has to be quote-unquote “unspoiled.”
The Japanese word for that, just to bring this up, she’s not supposed to be “kegare,” which… I actually did a bunch of research on this word for an episode of Yurikuma Arashi, like, two years ago, so I have a lot of notes on that. It’s not quite… I don’t want people to think of it quite in the same way that the concept of “sin” and “you gotta be a virgin before marriage,” like, in the Western world, because it’s not exactly that. It’s more tied to this concept of… what’s the word?… cleanliness, almost.
So, things that are kegare aren’t just sex. It’s also blood, childbirth, bodily fluids in general. Dirt can make you kegare. And, so, it’s less like a sin—like, it’s not necessarily like, “Oh, I did something bad.” It’s more like, “The gods don’t like things that are kegare, so if you want to talk to the gods, you have to cleanse yourself.”
And a lot of that was based out of early ways of making sure people stayed clean and didn’t bring a bunch of diseases into everyone’s house.
CAITLIN: “Hey, guys. Hygiene is important, ’cause the gods like it!”
DEE: Exactly. But, over time, and with the introduction of some Confucian ideals, and even a little bit of Buddhism, it did end up having some sexist connotations to it in terms of, “Oh, women are just constantly kegare ’cause of that menstruation.” Which is… So, I mean, I don’t want to pretend like there’s nothing slightly sexist or this idea of “virgin purity” being idealized, because I think that is built into it. But it’s a little different? So, I feel like it’s important to kind of keep those cultural contexts in mind.
It’s also the fact that it does not matter that they’re… it’s not because they’re unmarried. Miaka and Tamahome could get married tomorrow and have sex purely for the sake of procreation and it would still be kegare and the gods would not be into it.
CAITLIN: Because there are body fluids involved.
DEE: Yes. So… Yeah. Taiitsukun tells Miaka that you can’t do this thing. And, again, none of this really changes that a lot of this comes down to “Sex is bad! The gods won’t like you!” But I do want to frame it in the context of the actual culture where this would be coming from.
So, I wanted to start with all that, and then I wanted to add that… Personally, as a kid who was not super into physical intimacy… I shouldn’t just say “was.” Isn’t. I—this kind of made me happy, ’cause I was like, “Oh, man, I could go into this book and just be awesome at this!”
Which, you know, I mean, I was in middle school getting ready to go into high school. A lot of people around me were all like, “Let’s make out!” or sometimes more than that, [wincing] even though they were, like, 14 and probably shouldn’t have been.
So, having a story where you got to be the hero if you weren’t into bangin’ made me sort of happy. But that’s a personal note that has nothing to do with the fact that this is culturally and socially kind of bullshit.
VRAI: No, I mean, that’s cute. Fushigi Yugi as a secret stealth power fantasy for ace kids is cute.
DEE: [pumped up] Yeahhh!
VRAI: I would have liked that version of the story.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah, that’s what it was. That was Watase’s plan all along.
VRAI: [laughs] “If we kiss, even once, we’re gonna bone down, so I have to break up with you under false pretenses.”
DEE: Yeah. Miaka’s response to this is very silly, because—
CAITLIN: Because she doesn’t talk to him? [crosstalk] She doesn’t communicate with him?
DEE: She doesn’t explain it to him. She doesn’t tell him what’s going on. She finally does when Tamahome forces the issue, which is the one time a guy being… Like, I think he’s a little too aggressive? [crosstalk] He doesn’t push her up against the wall, but he kinda does.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Punching the wall is not okay.
DEE: It’s crossing a line, but I completely understand his frustration. Because he’s like, “We were clearly very much in love, like, a day ago. What is going on?” And he even goes, “What did Taiitsukun tell you? Come on. What did she say?”
And then Miaka still tries to play it off. And then… I will give Tamahome credit. After Miaka explains it, he’s like, “Okay. If that’s what we have to do, okay. It’s gonna suck.”
CAITLIN: He’s like, “That sucks!”
VRAI: I wish we could have skipped straight to that as opposed to the bullshit beforehand that only lasts ten minutes.
DEE: Thankfully it’s only one episode, but it is bullshit. And the one thing I will—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That—
DEE: Sorry, go ahead Caitlin.
CAITLIN: I mean, it was all about inserting dramatic tension. I do wanna say: that scene has probably the most expressive animation in… Like, that whole episode is 90% garbage animation, but then that one scene has incredible expressive animation. Just every… They’re expressing their emotions with every inch of their bodies.
DEE: Yeah. They’re very frustrated about the fact that they’re super horny.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Which is, like, just the best in the whole stretch of episodes.
DEE: Yeah. It does look very good. And the one thing I will say for this is, obviously, this kind of “putting virginity on a pedestal” stuff is bullshit. The thing I will kind of give Fushigi Yugi is Miaka and Tamahome’s reactions to it are basically like, “Yeah, this is bullshit.” And I do kind of like that.
It’s… We’ve talked about how Fushigi Yugi kind of has a snapshot quality to it. And Taiitsukun telling Miaka “you can’t do this thing” very much feels like the social-cultural pressures enforced on teenagers by these outside authority figures. And the sense of, “Oh, well, we can’t do this, because if we do, we’ll be shunned or judged or et cetera.”
And the fact that they’re frustrated by it and they hate it is… I don’t know. I guess it is at least true-to-life, if not the best message, necessarily.
VRAI: Oh, yeah. I think that holds together until some of the later stuff involving the virginity subplot, at which point, it gets a lot more skeevy.
DEE: Yeah, we’ll get there. I’m just talking about in this particular moment, I did… ‘Cause in my head, I had forgotten how angry Miaka and Tamahome are about the fact that they can’t bone down. And I’m like, “Guys. They just said ‘virginity.’ You can still make out ferociously. You been smooching up to this point. You can keep smooching. Clearly, that hasn’t had an effect.”
But they apparently decide that they just would never be able to control themselves, so they decide to temporarily break up, I guess is the way I would describe it.
And that’s… Again, I definitely wanted to talk about that. I feel like I sort of said all the words. Do you guys have anything else you want to add?
VRAI: Yeah, no, I think that’s a good point. Just looking at it where it is, that works.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Yeah. Yeah. And I did want to talk about the scene where Miaka—Chichiri’s fishing, and Miaka comes over and sits down next to him and starts talking about her… What she’s been going through. I think it’s one of the most emotionally honest scenes in the whole series.
‘Cause, you know, she’s very much about keeping up a brave front until it cracks, and then it’s all kind of histrionics. Everything is very, very strong with her. So, this quiet moment where she actually sits down with him and talks about calmly what she’s going through, and her insecurities, and how hard it is for her. But she’s not weeping and wailing… I really like that quiet moment.
And then I think that quiet moment is what allows Chicheri to open up about what happened to him. Because if everything is… You know, he’s an adult. [laughs]
DEE: [crosstalk] He is a fucking adult, yes.
CAITLIN: And he’s surrounded by teenage hysterics all the time. He’s not gonna have any time to talk about himself.
DEE: Yeah, and I think up to this point… He’s clearly kind of a guy who keeps things close to his chest.
CAITLIN: Yes, that’s true.
DEE: I mean, literally wears a mask. So, there’s that to start with. I think he’s not the kind of person who opens up willy-nilly anyway. And then, like you said, up to this point, it’s been the sense of, “Well, I’m babysitting the kids! No time for me!”
And I think he opens up as much to help Miaka as he does—like, I don’t think this is for him, at all. He’s like, “I feel comfortable enough to tell her this thing, but I’m also telling her to give her almost a worst-case scenario and then to say, ‘Communication is important—and not lashing out. So, good on you.'”
CAITLIN: Yeah, just… This quiet moment of mentorship, which I thought was really nice.
DEE: No, I think it is. I think there’s a lot of really good stuff that comes out of it. I think Miaka vocalizes a lot of things we’ve talked about about her character, like how she kind of wishes she had a mask that she could wear to smile all the time, which is very much that part of her that feels like she can’t tell anyone about when she’s upset.
And how she… She talks a couple times in this episode about this idea of, “Is it asking too much to want to have both Tamahome and Yui? To have a close romance and a close friendship?” And I think that a lot of her conversation with Chicheri spins back to that central frustration of hers. That, like: “I don’t want to have to compete even though everyone’s telling me I’m supposed to.”
CAITLIN: Right, and the show recognizes that she’s stuck. There’s no easy answers for her at that moment. If you just do the right thing, you’ll get what you want. You’ll live happily ever after with everyone who loves you. That may not… I feel like a lot of series aimed at teenagers have this very gung-ho idea like, “Well, if you just do your best, everyone will understand and you’ll figure it out and you’ll get what you want in the end, ’cause you have honest intentions.” And the show’s takes a moment, like, “Maybe it won’t work out that way.”
DEE: Yeah. If nothing else, they’re like, “It’s a lot more complicated than just ‘be honest and everything’s fine.'” And I do… I think a lot of the stuff… I think what Chichiri talks about is very important. He says, “You didn’t do anything wrong.” He’s like, “I don’t think Yui really did either.” [skeptically] And we’ll talk about that in a minute. But I think at the very… at least, early on, Yui didn’t do anything wrong. I absolutely agree with that.
And… it’s… it’s a good moment. It makes me sad, ’cause I love my boy. And, watching the show the first time through, I remember getting to this point, and—he was already my favorite character, because he was goofy and kinda fun, and then this happened, and I was like, “Oh, no! He’s sad, too!”
DEE: And then my heart had been handed over, and that was that.
I can’t get into it too much, because one thing that’s very interesting about this is—not to spoil anything, but we will return to this. We will get this story again from a different angle, is what I will say. And it’s interesting… What is interesting about what we’re told right now is that this is from his perspective. This is what he tells Miaka, the way he sees this going down. And we will get it from a more distant perspective later, and that will kind of change things. So, I don’t want to talk too terribly much about the specifics.
But I think the important parts about it are: a warning to Miaka; also, it sheds a light on a lot of Chichiri’s past actions, where you were like, “Oh, he’s just a nice guy.” And he is a nice guy. But also, his sympathy for Hotohori, his willingness to really let Miaka put her life in danger anytime Yui’s involved. Like, when Miaka gets captured and he’s like, “Yui’s not gonna let her die. It’s fine. Don’t worry.”
I think a lot of that comes into light when you get more of his own backstory experiences and this sense of, “I would like these kids to not make the same mistakes I did if I can do that.” So… This is why it’s important to have a mentor figure around.
The one thing he does say that I did sort of highlight is he makes a point of… He says, “Whichever one you take, you’ll lose the other.” Which I think is very sharply colored by his own experiences and is what Miaka is trying to avoid? So, I think, the question going forward is if Miaka is able to find a way where you don’t have to choose between love and friendship. If there is a way to bridge those gaps and find a way to repair both those relationships.
And the final, really important thing he says is: “I guarantee Yui loves you. And that’s why, in the end, I think the two of you will—you’ll be able to save her.” And I think that’s what Miaka needed to hear in that moment. I think he said some stuff that she needed to hear that’s harsh, and then he also tells her some things that are true that she maybe didn’t know. And I think that one’s really important.
Because, at this point, they are going to be directly competing for the shinzaho, and so I think it’s gonna be harder and harder for Miaka not to see Yui as an enemy, and so having that assurance from somebody else who has kind of met Yui… I think that’s good for her, too.
VRAI: Well, and it’s set up as a nice contrast to the Yui scene, which is essentially the same mentor pep-talk, but relentless gaslighting.
DEE: Yeah, Nakago is terrible. There’s a lot of interesting mirror work done this week between Miaka and Yui. There’s the moment early on where Miaka… where Hotohori starts to mack on Miaka and then Bizzaro Tamahome’s macking on Yui, and they’re very similar-looking scenes. And then, like you said, with the different mentors. And it’s like, “Oh, one of these mentors is a good person and the other one is the worst!”
VRAI: Not even a fun trash boy. Just an asshole.
DEE: No, Nakago’s—Watase likes him for reasons I do not [sing-song] comprehe-e-end. He’s terrible.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause he’s pretty.
VRAI: [snickers] No, but—
DEE: I mean… [uncertain] ehhh…
CAITLIN: You can tell when she likes the villain character ’cause they’re pretty.
DEE: Yeah, maybe that’s it. But I did… So, actually, I think this is a good—sorry, Vrai, did you have anything else to say about…?
VRAI: No, there’s nothing more we can… No. I think you guys covered it well.
DEE: Cool. I like that scene a lot, and he is my… It’s possible I’ve seen that scene an obscene number of times because it’s possible I wrote a lot of fanfiction.
DEE: But anyway. That’s neither here nor there. No, I think that’s a good dovetail into Yui and the stuff going on in Kutou, which we haven’t had a chance to talk about yet. And then, finally, we will cap with dead toddlers.
VRAI: [snickers] The event you’ve been waiting for.
DEE: I do want to definitely touch on Yui and her Seiryuu… her trash—her garbage Seiryuu family. That’s better. “Trash” can be good. “Garbage” is not. So, there are two kinds of things with Yui that I was personally wanting to discuss.
One of them was… I think the series walks a very careful tightrope with this idea of “feelings versus actions,” I guess is how I would word it. There’s a moment when Tamahome’s leaving—when he’s no longer bizarro and he’s leaving, and he says to Yui, “I sympathize with what happened to you, but I can’t”—and he uses the word yurusu, which the subtitles translate as “forgive,” but I think it’s probably better to be something closer to “I can’t excuse what you’ve done to me and to Miaka.”
And I think that’s… I think it’s really easy when you have characters who have gone through the kind of trauma that Yui has… I think it’s really easy to either completely vilify them or completely woobify them. And make it like, “Oh, nothing they do is their fault! Poor babies! They’re just acting out!” And I—it’s a real careful tightrope, but I think Fushigi Yugi is trying to walk this line of going, “No, what happened to you is absolutely terrible. That having been said, she did drug this guy and force him to become her love slave.” And that’s not cool.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Not cool!
DEE: Just because… Your own hurt does not excuse you hurting others.
VRAI and CAITLIN: Right.
DEE: I think is what’s sort of happening there.
VRAI: Right. And I think it’s interesting because he’s talking specifically about what she did to him, which is definitely an act she takes on her own. Because I do—I’m so almost defensively Team Yui at this point, because I keep… I just like her so much.
But… And yeah, she pulled some bullshit with Tamahome, and I think that’s… Yeah. She broke up their relationship and she tried to override somebody’s own will because she liked them. But then a lot of the larger actions she takes, Nakago is always around pushing her to do things against her better judgment.
DEE: Yeah. No, and there’s absolutely an aspect of a lot of Yui’s character in that she is being manipulated and gaslighted, as we have talked about, by, a—what? I think Nakago is, like, ten years older than her? I mean, he’s in his twenties, at least. He might not be quite that much older.
CAITLIN: He’s… I think he’s the oldest character.
DEE: By an adult. I mean, she is… My point being: [manipulated] by an adult character, who is very much… Every scene we see of him, he is working her in some way.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Whenever he says something to her, the scene ends with him sort of smiling sinisterly.
DEE: Yeah. Pretty much. So, again, we always have a “Yui Watch.” Is the show turning her into a straight-up villain, and how does that play into what we know about her as a character?
So, I think at this point, she doesn’t read as “nothing but a victim,” which I think is good?, but I also don’t think she reads like a villain. Especially after the conversation Miaka and Chicheri have. I think that conversation really frames it in, like, “There’s a lot going on here, but she’s not a bad person and you can still help her and get her out of this terrible situation, hopefully.”
VRAI: She’s done bad things that are unquestionably bad things she should atone for, but she hasn’t done anything unforgivable, because Miaka and Tamahome are together again. I mean, he died, but…
DEE: And she’s fifteen, so… I mean, he bled out a little bit. He didn’t actually die.
DEE: You know, he was only mostly dead. I’ve learned from The Princess Bride there’s a big difference.
But, you know, for all that, Yui is… she’s very kind to Suboshi after he loses his brother, which I think is a good scene to have there. Yui being like, “I completely understand the trauma you’re going through. Go ahead and cry.” I think Yui needed somebody to do that for her and they didn’t. It’s a damn shame Nakago then immediately gets in Suboshi’s head and works him the way he works Yui.
CAITLIN: Yeah. [sing-song] Speaking of woobified villains~
DEE: You said that the first time you watched this, Suboshi was a big woobie to you, right?
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah.
DEE: You were just like, “Poor baby! He’s so sad!”
CAITLIN: Yeahhhh. It’s…
DEE: Once again, it goes back to, “I sympathize with what happened to you, but I can’t excuse what you did.” [laughs]
VRAI: Speaking up bad versus unforgivable actions…
DEE: Yeahhh. Which, I think, you know… Hey, actually, this is the segue, you guys. We found the segue. Nakago uses Suboshi’s raw teenager feelings to spin them into the most destructive possible outlet. Which, again… just because Suboshi’s being manipulated does not excuse what he does.
So, Suboshi decides that he’s going to go to Tamahome’s house and murder his entire family. And then we, the audience, get to experience that as it’s happening. A li’l bit.
So, here we are, guys. Here we are at the end of part one. Dead toddlers. Thoughts?
VRAI: [laughs] Umm… I kind of find it relentlessly emotionally manipulative. I find the scene where he’s burying them a lot more effective than the actual dying toddler moment.
DEE: It is. The actual “dying toddler” is—I don’t think it’s ever—maybe the first time I watched the show, it got me, but…
CAITLIN: I hate Yuiren. She is my least-favorite character in this whole thing.
DEE: His little sister, who… [sighs]
CAITLIN: She does not act remotely like a five-year-old. She’s the most—she’s just sort of there to say cutesy things and make the… And, when she’s alive, she does it to make: “Oh, Miaka and Tamahome are blushing and embarrassed.” And then, now… Oh, God…
DEE: Yeah. She is sugary-cute, and the scene with her dying in his arms is… I agree. I find it relentlessly emotionally manipulative. And the whole thing is. But that scene, to me, feels the worst. Because it really does feel like, “What’s the saddest possible thing I can do here? Oh, yes. Dying toddler. That’s the one.”
DEE: But then there’s… I say it’s emotionally manipulative, but there’s still moments later on in the episode where, freaking every time, I tear up. It gets me.
CAITLIN: Oh, God. When he finds Chuei holding the knives.
DEE: And he realizes he tried to protect—in that moment. That moment wrecks me.
CAITLIN: That was what got me. That was the moment that really got me.
DEE: Yeah. That moment gets me, and then, like Vrai was saying, when he’s burying them, and Miaka comes out to try to comfort him, and he’s like, “I can’t stop crying and I really just need you to leave me alone.”
That, to me, is that rawness; that emotional honesty that I think when Fushigi Yugi nails, it’s very affecting. And that after-effect of Tamahome just being upset, and not playing it in the way that a lot of romance series play it, where Miaka hugs him back to being better. He’s like, “No, I need some time right now.”
That was really good. As opposed to the very… I guess just cliche, calculated Yuiren dying in his arms. That feels very calculated to me, and a lot of the rest of it feels… Even if the event, itself, is so very calculated, like, “Let’s cause Tamahome some pain!”
VRAI: Right. And also free him up to not worry about things besides Miaka now.
DEE: Yeah. Yeahhh, that’s something we’ll be able to get into more I think next week. Because we don’t really see a lot of the after-effects of this, at this point.
CAITLIN: By the way, why didn’t they move his family into the palace a lot earlier?
VRAI: Yeah, Hotohori. What the fuck?
DEE: [dryly] Well, ’cause they were still rivals in love, guys, and Hotohori couldn’t do anything nice, early.
No, I don’t know. Tamahome’s village is on the border. They should have moved his family into the city a long time ago.
CAITLIN: That is a massive plothole, honestly.
DEE: It was a mistake. I think maybe the idea was, “We don’t want to force them to leave their home. And Tamahome’s around. So it’s fine.”
VRAI: [laughs] Their beautiful, spacious home.
DEE: “And now Tamahome’s gonna be overseas, so…” Huh?
VRAI: Their beautiful, spacious home that they would love so much.
DEE: Well, I mean, it’s still home. I’m sure they’ve all grown up there. I’m sure they would be loathe to leave unless it was, you know… So, I can kind of see why it took a little while. But it should have at least been brought up sooner.
CAITLIN: That just seems like a justification, sorry.
DEE: It is. You’re right. [laughs] It is.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, it’s… That always irritated me. His family’s there, living in poverty. Sick dad. Tamahome’s in the goddamn palace. He’s basically a government employee by now. What are they doing? He is an essential person to the empire.
DEE: Yeah. And I get Tamahome not feeling like he could ask, but Hotohori should’ve—somebody should’ve—it should’ve been offered, at least. ‘Cause, yeah, he is basically a government employee at this point.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And this all could have been avoided.
VRAI: But then how would we be sad?
DEE: So, what you’re telling me is it’s all Hotohori’s fault?
VRAI: Yes. I’m willing to conform to this narrative.
CAITLIN: [through laughter] Everything is Hotohori’s fault.
DEE: That is, by consensus, the answer here.
CAITLIN: He is actually the villain of the series.
No, and it is… So, it’s emotionally manipulative. Agreed. And it’s kind of shitty that, essentially, it is there to forward… It’s the moment Miaka realizes that she’s willing to fight the Seiryuu Warriors. Not Yui, but the Seiryuu Warriors, because they’ve done something that is unforgivable. And… yeah. I’m gonna go with “unforgivable.”
And you get the sense—I don’t know how explicit it is in the narrative, but you definitely get the sense that that is why Nakago did it. That’s why he pointed the rage machine that was Suboshi in the direction of that family is to push Miaka towards actively—I mean, Yui is going to see it as her declaring war, because now they both…
Yui was willing to just give up if Miaka didn’t go after the shinzaho. And now Miaka is raring to go. And now Yui feels like, “Oh, well it’s a competition now and I can’t let her win, so if she’s gonna do it, then so am I.” Yui’s very reactive in that sense, and I think this ties into this idea that she’s working very, very hard to hate Miaka, that Chichiri talks about.
VRAI: Maybe that’s why I’m so willing to bend over backwards to see her side of things is because she is so frequently robbed of agency in basically everything.
DEE: She is. She frequently is, yeah. And some of it is—she kind of, herself, frames it that way, or willingly takes a semi-passive role. Like in this situation, where she goes, “Well, I’m not going to do anything until Miaka does.” And then Miaka does, and she goes, “Okay, well…”
VRAI: [crosstalk] “Now it’s okay if I do it.”
DEE: “Now I have to do something.” Yeah. So, she kind of tries to… I think… moments like that show you Yui’s mentality and how, from her perspective, Miaka’s the villain? A little bit.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] She sees Miaka as the aggressor.
DEE: [crosstalk] Or how she’s trying to see it that way. Miaka as the aggressor in this situation.
So, that will be the mentality of the characters as we barrel into part two. So, on the downside, we ended on some… a lot of dead toddlers.
DEE: On the bright side, Hotohori has been written out of the show.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Goodbye!
DEE: On the other downside, it’s very possible he was somehow the glue that held this messy-but-entertaining enterprise together. [laughs] But that is a story for another podcast, as we move into part two, which is… Again, we’re trying not to spoil anything, but we also don’t want people to be blindsided. Part two is… Part one is messy, but there’s a lot of positives and it is very fun, if nothing else. Part two loses a lot of those adjectives I just described, for at least part of it. Not for the whole thing, but part of it.
VRAI: Spoiler alert: I ask to lead next week.
DEE: Yeah. Vrai’s leading next week, and there might be, uh… Bring your margaritas, ’cause we got lots of salt.
DEE: Let me put it like that. So, next week things are probably going to take a more critical bent than they have up to this point. And knowing me and my horrible nostalgia goggles, I will probably still pull something emotional out of the damn thing, but, you know.
Any other thoughts?
VRAI: I don’t think so. We had a lot of feelings this time, apparently.
CAITLIN: Fushigi Yugi: it will make you feel an emotion. You will have an emotion.
DEE: “TM.” [laughs] Indeed. And I think that was very much the case this week.
Yeah, so that was… I think we got through everything that I had noted down, so if ya’ll are good, I can… And we did go over. So, I had a feeling we might. So that’s all good. I’ll talk—I have a lot of fun, supplementary material, but I’ll wedge that into one of our later podcasts when we’ll probably just shout for thirty minutes and then run out of things to talk about, so… It’ll be all good.
Okay, so that having been said, that’s gonna do it for [fumbles through words]… Ugh. I’ll start over. That’s gonna do it for today’s watchalong. For those of you following along at home, our next Fushigi Yugi podcast will cover episodes 28 through 35. So, it’s another seven-episoder. But, 28 is a recap episode, so there’s not really gonna be anything for us to talk about there. You can watch it if you need to, but it’s just a straight recap. There’s no extra material in it. After the recap is over, we will put on our parkas and head off for some adventures in the Frozen North with Miaka and her merry band of warriors.
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