Part 6 of our Fushigi Yugi watchalong with Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin! The team enters the show’s infamous badlands, and only headcanon AUs, visual novel tangents, and copious amounts of alcohol can get them through it. Nakago levels up to Literal Worst. Tamahome boyfriends good. Miaka stabs her way to freedom.
CONTENT WARNING: Fushigi Yugi contains depictions of sexual assault, homophobia, and transphobia. The podcast will also discuss these topics when they arise.
0:01:48 The badlands
0:07:48 Miaka’s trauma
0:13:54 Tamahome’s not so bad
0:15:10 Punishing Miaka’s agency
0:22:28 Seiryu Seven (the Riff Raff riff)
0:27:25 Yui’s plight
0:30:02 The good(?) stuff
0:33:04 Visual novel time
0:41:56 Back to the bad
0:45:27 Virgin narratives
0:49:10 Seiryu weakness
0:54:47 Everything bad about Fushigi Yugi
Recorded Saturday 24th September 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
CAITLIN: Hi, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Caitlin, an editor and contributor for Anime Feminist as well as my own blog, Heroine Problem. Vrai, Dee, why don’t you introduce yourselves?
DEE: Hi, I’m Dee Hogan, a writer and editor for Anime Feminist, and I have had two delicious Free State Octoberfest beers and am in the middle of a very good margarita. I also run The Josei Next Door. You can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor.
CAITLIN: So, this week we are continuing our group watch of Fushigi Yugi with episodes 35 to 40, also known as The Badlands.
VRAI: It can’t hurt me anymore. I’ve ascended to a higher plane where none of this matters!
DEE: I’ve just written a headcanon alternate universe version of these episodes where, through a hilarious misunderstanding, they lose all their money and they all have to get work at a Hokkan café. And it’s adorable and funny and they all bond as a team, and Tasuki, Chichiri, Mitsukake, and Chiriko are actually fucking in the episodes, and nobody tries to rape anybody. It’s delightful. Join me. Join me in my headcanon, dear listeners.
CAITLIN: I want to go to there.
VRAI: Have you ever wondered why people remember Fushigi Yugi as the show where everybody tries to rape the main character?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes!
VRAI: This is why!
DEE: This is why.
CAITLIN: All right. So, yes, this is pretty much universally recognized as the weakest stretch of the show, and unfortunately, I think, in a lot of people’s minds, it is also the most defining stretch of the show.
So, why is this the weakest stretch of the show? I want to say it is because literally every source of conflict for these few episodes is rape. Everyone is trying to rape Miaka, and it’s in a way that is really—it doesn’t play it for laughs, but it’s really awkward, and there are some decent moments with it, but it’s just overdone and you become numb to it.
DEE: It becomes almost a parody of itself by the end
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It does. It does.
DEE: [crosstalk] By the time you get to the tail end of the last episode here—which I promise, you guys, five minutes into the next episode we’re out of The Badlands, but we didn’t quite end there with this one, because Fushigi Yugi loves to end on cliffhangers—but by the time Suboshi shows up and is like, “Now it’s my turn,” you’re like, “Oh, of fucking course!” There’s no tension or meaning there. It’s like when you say a word over and over and over again and it ceases to have any meaning.
VRAI: This character has a dick. A rape attempt is probably coming.
CAITLIN: Yeah, seriously.
DEE: I guess this is just our plot point now. It sucks, because I think there’s an argument to be made, and my argument is basically that none of these episodes needed to exist in the story. I kind of get what they’re trying to do in terms of some of Miaka’s character growth, but I think you could—
CAITLIN: It doesn’t advance the plot at all.
DEE: [crosstalk] No, I think you could just skip ‘em. There’s one thing that comes up with the bullshit with Tomo that does end up mattering later, but there are other ways you could have gotten there. Ultimately, you could skip these episodes, and it wouldn’t really have a bearing on the story, which is, again—
CAITLIN: Which you know because you skip these episodes every time you watch the show, normally.
DEE: Almost every time, yeah, except when I’m watching it with a friend and we can’t. And then I’m always surprised that it’s actually not as long as it is, because in my head… I watched this with my friend the first time at like 3 a.m., and we were just angry and tired because Tasuki and Chichiri were not on screen—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] How old were you?
DEE: Fourteen, I guess? Probably 13, 14 years old.
CAITLIN: Ah, God.
DEE: We did not, I don’t think, fully understand the gravity of what was happening, but it was also 3 a.m., our favorite characters were nowhere to be found, and in my head this stretch was like: “oh, Miaka stuck in Tomo’s illusion went on for like six episodes.” So, I’m always surprised when it’s only like an episode and a half.
CAITLIN: It feels so long.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s interminable.
CAITLIN: Last night, I was watching an episode, and I’m just checking the timestamp on my Roku just like, “Seriously? I have this much time left?” I think it was episode 38 that I was just like, “Oh my God!”
VRAI: I can confirm.
CAITLIN: Can we please get through it?
DEE: The first two… and I think we’ll dive into this a little bit, because there is some stuff I think we can talk about, in terms of some things it does well or some things it’s trying to do well, especially in the early going. But it’s that later stretch of three episodes where it’s just repetitive. It’s the same shit you already saw, and you’re really tired of seeing these characters suffer for basically no reason. And it’s just joyless.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It is!
DEE: The first half of Fushigi Yugi, even up to Nuriko’s death—we talked about it last week, and there’s a lot of shit in there—there are still these bursts of nice, fun, adventurous type things happening throughout it. My biggest gripe with this arc is I get to the point where I just don’t care.
CAITLIN: Well, what happened, I think, is, on top of all this awful, overused rape, melodrama that doesn’t advance the plot, the characters are separated.
VRAI: Separated arbitrarily and stupidly!
CAITLIN: Yeah, we’re not getting that group chemistry that is really what gives the show is charm.
DEE: [crosstalk] One of the strengths of the show.
CAITLIN: We talk about Tasuki and Chichiri in particular a lot, but it’s a solid ensemble cast. And without them together, without that interplay between the characters, it loses everything that really just makes it joyful. And this is especially right on the heels of losing Nuriko. These characters should be coming back together and healing, and we should be seeing them dealing with the tragedy. And we do see that a little bit, but [not]—I don’t think—as much as that warrants. And so, instead—
DEE: [crosstalk] 79 minutes and 46 seconds!
DEE: That’s how long we go without any of the other warriors having a line. Oh, I counted! I counted.
CAITLIN: [laughs] As we the viewers are still mourning Nuriko. Assuming if you’re enjoying the show, if you have an emotional investment in it, you probably love Nuriko. Everyone I’ve heard from who likes the show, Nuriko’s death was a huge blow.
So, we as the viewers are still dealing with that, and the response is to just leap into this awful… I keep saying melodrama, and I don’t think melodrama is necessarily a bad thing, but, like you said, Dee, it’s joyless.
VRAI: I don’t think it helps that… To dip into it a little bit, one of the things that at least the first two episodes are trying to do is deal with Miaka going through drama. It wants to do that in an interesting, responsible way. Boy, that episode wants to have comedy. It wants to have comedy in the most screeching, joyless, tone-deaf way in between spates of her self-loathing.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, God, yeah.
DEE: [crosstalk] Bringing in the cat is not good.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I’ve blocked that out.
VRAI: It’s so bad.
DEE: It’s weird because it’s one of those moments where, when you read it in the manga and there’s these little beats of comedy, it’s in the margins of one tiny panel, so it doesn’t feel as jarring, I think. And sometimes I think that’s the problem with adapting from manga to anime, that sense of “It’s gonna be full-screen no matter what you do.”
One of the scenes is like, Miaka punches Tamahome in the water comically in the midst of this very real and very upsetting and resonant moment where she’s trying to clean herself off in the water.
And that is the thing. As bad as this arc gets, those early episodes where they’re dealing with the idea that Nakago has raped Miaka is very well handled. A lot of shows do not do that well. Most shows do it very poorly.
CAITLIN: But then they keep doing it!
DEE: And that’s the problem. So, it’s very hard to talk about these early episodes in the vacuum of “Wow, this was very good. It was good that you addressed the fact that Miaka feels like she’s been sullied and doesn’t deserve to be with Tamahome and wants to get clean again, and then Tamahome’s a really good guy and just tells her, ‘No, you’re fine. It’s not your fault. I don’t blame you for what happened.’”
I think it’s really good and important, and I think it deals… Fushigi Yugi [is] that sort of fantastical pure, unfiltered teenage anxieties. I think it deals with that very well in that moment, but it’s so hard to talk about that because: A, it’s basically a fake-out.
VRAI: Oh my God!
DEE: And once it turns out that that wasn’t the case, everyone’s fine! As if she wasn’t—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Trauma erased! No problem.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Trauma gone!
DEE: [crosstalk] She was still assaulted! That’s not how it works, and it’s one of those things where… There’s a few things. First of all, if you just cut out the Tomo arc entirely, and then if Miaka came to realize that “Yes, this wasn’t my fault and it is okay for me to still be with Tamahome” on her own, I think that fake-out would’ve been like, “Ugh, okay, whatever,” but I could’ve worked with it. But she’s still like, “I’m never going to be with Tamahome again because of this thing that happened,” until she finds out that she hasn’t actually been raped and that she’s okay.
VRAI: [dryly] Remember, it’s only rape if there was penetration! [groans]
CAITLIN: Yeah. I can understand some relief, but she goes straight from depression to joy. It’s weird.
VRAI: That reaction is bad—oh, my God, is it bad—but it doesn’t help that in between then, they have that really nice scene between her and Tamahome, which is still a little bit like, “You’re fine because your boyfriend says you’re fine.” Which, whatever, that’s specifically what she was worried about, so I can forgive it a little.
DEE: Well, and I think in that situation, it’s one of those moments where having the whole cast together might have made things better.
DEE: But he’s the only person around. So, the fact that he’s just very nice about it is, I think, really good.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I think that is an appropriate place and way for him to step in and to comfort her and to reassure her. I’m just as opposed to “Oh, the boy says this, so it’s fine,” but at the same time, your partner is a major source of emotional support. I think it was a totally appropriate way for him to comfort her. And honestly—
VRAI: No, yeah, it’s one of those… This trope bugs me in general, but in this specific instance I think it pulled it off okay. But then after that, she still is like, “No, I must continue to run away and feel worthless even though we had this nice moment, because Drama! Drama says so.”
DEE: She fell down a fucking hole, you guys. [laughs]
VRAI: You’re right.
CAITLIN: “I got attacked by a giant weasel!”
DEE: [laughing] A giant weasel.
VRAI: [laughing] A giant weasel!
CAITLIN: But also, I do—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Rodents of Unusual Size.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, I had a friend who just started throwing stuffed animals at the screen at that point. They were just done. [laughs]
CAITLIN: But I do want to add to the discussion of Tamahome in that moment. I’ve been reading a lot of shoujo lately, good and bad, and a lot of the bad shoujo boyfriends, they would not have reacted as well as Tamahome would have in that moment.
DEE: I think a lot of real-life boyfriends wouldn’t have reacted as well as Tamahome does in that moment.
CAITLIN: Yeah. But a lot of them would’ve treated her like she was sullied or thrown a giant tantrum or said that… I don’t want this to sound like victim-blaming. She did go out looking for trouble specifically and things went really badly, and she felt horrible about it, and she absolutely was assaulted, and Nakago attacked her and took advantage of her.
DEE: I think if you’re going to draw any kind of real-world comparisons in the fantastical world of Fushigi Yugi, it’s kind of date rape is what happens.
CAITLIN: It is, yeah.
DEE: She goes planning to have intercourse and then goes, “No, I don’t want to do that.” And then he forces it on her.
CAITLIN: And she was honest [to] Tamahome about her plan, and he was still really sweet and understanding about it, which is great. I don’t know. I was so down on Tamahome when we started this project, but he really has been good to Miaka since they became a couple.
DEE: He has. He’s 17 and he’s not perfect, and he does some dumb shit, and he was also created in 1995, but yeah. He’s not a perfect character, but I agree with you. I gave him a lot of crap growing up, and I take a lot of that back because he’s actually a good boyfriend, for the most part.
VRAI: I think we’ve talked a lot about the fact that Fushigi Yugi is raw and the flip side of that is that it’s not always responsible. And I think this is one of the moments where it’s aspirational for a male character, but it is a good role model moment that Tamahome depicts right here. And that’s fair. Yeah, that’s good. Then it fucks it up with all the rest of the stuff, but that’s a nice moment.
DEE: [sighs] Yeah
DEE: It does.
CAITLIN: Tamahome’s a good boy.
VRAI: [crosstalk] He tried.
DEE: [crosstalk] He is. He tried.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] He’s a good boy.
DEE: That’s one of the frustrating things about watching these episodes especially, and I’m comparing it to my early reactions to the show: I think all the characters, especially on the Suzaku side, are good characters. I think Miaka and Tamahome are good characters. I just think the narrative sometimes treats them like shit and forces them into… And those are things you don’t think about when you’re younger, like in terms of separating the author forcing characters to do things for the sake of drama.
And this arc very much feels like these good characters, who you’ve seen be pretty good to each other, just do these very frustrating things for the sake of drama, like Miaka running away. And I get it. She feels like she’s let everyone down and disappointed the team and can’t do any of the things she said she was going to do.
CAITLIN: She always takes things upon herself. She always blames herself for everything that goes wrong.
DEE: She does. And one thing I will give this arc credit for… Again, it’s really the shit with Tomo that I just lose all patience. Even the Amiboshi arc, there’s some stuff in there that I can kind of see why it’s there, like the fact that Miaka has this opportunity to basically hit a reset button and say, “Nope, I’m good. I’m done. This is too much. It’s too much pain. I’ve lost friends. I’ve lost important parts of myself,” I guess you would say. That’s probably poorly worded.
And she has this moment, and then she says, “You know what, no. I’m going to face it. I’m going to find another solution.” And she comes up with the idea herself: “I’m going to go to Yui and explain to her that Nakago is a piece of shit who’s been manipulating her, and we still have a way to keep people from dying at least. Maybe I can’t summon Suzaku, but maybe we can stop this war and we can keep more people we care about from being hurt.” And I think all of that’s pretty good. It’s just, again, it’s wrapped up in a lot of joyless, melodramatic bullshit.
CAITLIN: And I feel like throughout the narrative, a lot of the times, Miaka is punished for trying to be proactive. And I think that’s one of the longstanding issues that the series has, and this is where it’s at its worst, where Miaka decides she’s going to do something. It seems like a good plan at a time, but either she doesn’t think things through or some things don’t go according to plan, and she is punished for it.
And now everything is all messed up because of a decision that Miaka made, and I don’t think that any of the other characters have equivalent issues with that, where their decisions are constantly regarded as the worst decision. “Oh, something went awry.” And that has always been a source of frustration for me with Fushigi Yugi, and I feel like this sort of distills that.
DEE: I think it’s very bad in this stretch. I think there are stretches where Miaka gets punished for the decisions she makes and then other stretches where, by being active and in a role of agency, she does some good, like when she picks up Hotohori’s sword and is like, “Imma fight Soi!”
VRAI: Good scene.
DEE: It’s a good scene. We talked about that last week, how there’s a few moments in that stretch where she exercises some agency and ends up being rewarded for it, but I do agree with you. In this particular stretch, it does feel like the series is going… It’s especially when she runs off and does things on her own, rather than staying with the team and helping out within the team environment.
And I guess, if you squint your eyes, you can look at that as a narrative thread of “Don’t feel like you have to take everything on by yourself. You don’t have to play the martyr. You can rely on others at times and be a member of a group.”
VRAI: But because she’s the only girl on the team, it comes across as, “You dumb girl, you shouldn’t try to do anything on your own.”
DEE: It can, especially in this arc. Although, again, she’s on her own, and she… Every once in a while, she has these good moments, like when she breaks out of the illusion on her own—well, kind of on her own. She figures it out on her own, and then Amiboshi helps her break free. She decides that she’s going to keep fighting. She has these bursts of good amidst all this unpleasant nonsense. And then of course this stretch of six episodes ends with her screaming for Tamahome to help her.
CAITLIN: Well, I think that tends to happen more when they’re in a corner where something convenient has to happen, and it happens through Miaka because Suzaku Powers. It’s just low-level background. It happened most in this stretch, but also early in the series. She does some really dumb shit, like going all alone when she knows people are after her life, stuff like that.
VRAI: And at this point, where you would think maybe she’d still be trying to act on her own but she’d be smarter about it, as opposed to running off into the wilderness. Thanks, This Arc.
DEE: Yeah. There are moments in this arc where it feels like they’re trying to show us that Miaka has grown as a character, like some of the decisions she personally makes to turn and fight and keep going and not run away. Whereas in some of the early arcs, like after Nuriko died, she had to be dragged back into it. But then, at the same time, again, she continues to make these very rash, poor decisions that you’d think at this point she’d be over a little bit, and she is not.
CAITLIN: This is like when she decided she was going to run off and rescue Yui in the beginning of the series.
DEE: Yes! And it didn’t work out then!
CAITLIN: There’s a lot of parallels to that, because she’s got these people who support her who are emotionally willing and also obligated by destiny to help her out with it, and she’s like, “Nope, I’m going to go take off.” But now, since it’s later in the series, it has to be grimdark and rapey.
DEE: It also makes no sense that nobody else chases Ashitare in the beginning. It makes no sense, you guys!
CAITLIN: Oh, that chase scene was so good, though!
DEE: Okay, it’s ridiculously animated, just a bunch of still scenes with that [imitates an intense tune] music running in the background.
DEE: But Tamahome’s a martial artist. Chichiri can fucking teleport. Y’all, Tasuki’s seishi power is literally speed. Literally, it is speed. It is not the tessen; that’s a whole different thing. It’s speed! But for some damn reason, Miaka’s the only one who’s like, “Imma chase after this wolf.”
CAITLIN: I guess boys aren’t really better runners than girls. Sorry, Fushigi Yugi manga!
VRAI: Which, can we talk about the Seiryuu Seven, because I wanted to die!
DEE: [pained] Yeah, we can… Okay.
CAITLIN: Oh my God. Yeah, the Seiryuu Seven. So, as you know, pretty people are good and redeemable; strange-looking people are not.
VRAI: That’s right.
CAITLIN: For example, Ashitare gets killed, very quickly.
DEE: Fuck Nakago. I feel so bad for Ashitare. I like that even Soi in the background is like, “Dude, that’s a bit much.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, Soi… God, we’ll talk about…
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, my God, Soi.
CAITLIN: But, Tomo, he’s got that funny-looking makeup, and in the dub at least, he talks like Riff—
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait, are we gonna do this? If we’re gonna do this segment, we should have an introduction. [imitates original DuckTales opening theme] Dub Tales, woo-woo!
CAITLIN: Okay, anyway. But Tomo in the dub sounds exactly like Riff Raff from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
VRAI: Tomo is an evil gay. Fuck!
CAITLIN: He’s an evil gay! He is! He’s terrible! But he sounds like… Not just his voice, but his cadence, his intonation. It sounds like a bad Riff Raff impression.
DEE: So, my memory of him is [nasal voice] kind of up here like this.
DEE: And I have a story from my younger years, when I was in middle school. My friend was watching this on her own, and her mom walks into the living room while she’s watching some Tomo episodes.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, no!
DEE: And her mom hears Tomo’s voice, and he’s talking about Nakago, and he’s like, [nasal voice] “Lord Nakago!” [normal voice] And her mom just busts out laughing, cannot stop. And so, any time we watched anime from that point on, if she pops in the room, she’s like, [nasal voice] “Lord Nakago!”
DEE: Pops out again!
CAITLIN: Oh, I bet that was really frustrating as a teenager.
DEE: It was one of those where it was like, “Well, yeah.” I mean, we knew he had a dumb voice. We were aware.
CAITLIN: But have you ever seen Rocky Horror Picture Show?
VRAI: [crosstalk; incredulous] Have I seen Rocky Horror.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s been a while, but yeah. I’m usually not sober. But I know Rocky Horror. I have not been sober when I’ve seen it, but, yes, I have seen it.
CAITLIN: Just take a minute at some point and compare their voices, and it’s really… [laughs] It’s really striking. It can’t have been unintentional, because dub people are theater people and theater people all know Rocky Horror Picture Show.
DEE: That is legit.
CAITLIN: But yeah. Tomo wears funny-looking makeup, so he gets killed.
DEE: [crosstalk] Tamahome insults his fashion sense. Yeah, and like Vrai said, he’s an evil gay and it’s so shitty.
CAITLIN: Whereas Nakago…
DEE: [crosstalk] An evil bi.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] We’ll get into it later. Evil bi.
DEE: Well, I’m not sure Nakago likes sex, period, but…
CAITLIN: [flustered] Um… well…
DEE: [crosstalk] But that’s a different thing.
CAITLIN: That’ll come later. That’s a discussion we can have [unintelligible due to crosstalk].
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, boy, is it.
CAITLIN: But basically, all the pretty people get character development and redemption arcs in the Seiryuu Seven. I so desperately want to like Soi.
VRAI: You mean the woman who is evil, which is why she does lots of sex?
DEE: Well, the thing is, I don’t think Soi is evil, though. I think of all the Seiryuu warriors, with the exception of Amiboshi, she’s the most redeemable. She’s still kind of a bad trope in that a lot of what she does, she does for the man she loves, Nakago in this case.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah. That’s why I want to like Soi.
DEE: Yeah. But she helps out Miaka out of nowhere, is like, “You guys seem like you have a nice relationship, and I’m kind of envious of that, so here’s where your boyfriend is. Go help him.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. “Although, if you had slept with Nakago, I would murder you because I am a crazy lady in love with a bad man.”
DEE: [crosstalk] Ugh, yeah.
VRAI: [crosstalk] You know, women be competin’ and all.
DEE: Both Soi and Tomo are crazy-in-love with a bad man.
VRAI: [pained groan]
DEE: You get a little bit more of that in the light novels as to why that is. Neither of them were in good situations, and Nakago helped them out of it. Not for good reasons, but he did.
CAITLIN: I don’t know if the anime goes into Soi’s backstory. I remember it—
DEE: [crosstalk] It does a little bit, so we probably shouldn’t… But I know Tomo doesn’t get any backstory in the anime. I’m not sure he gets any backstory in the manga. I think it’s pretty much all in bits and pieces in some of the light novels that you find out a little more about him.
VRAI: Well, he’s an evil gay. What is there to know?
DEE: You know, he was molested as a child, because of course he was.
VRAI: Of course he was.
DEE: You know. And that’s all I remember. I did not actually read the Nakago light novel. I just vaguely remember that it exists. I don’t care about—
VRAI: Because Nakago is The Worst.
DEE: I don’t care about Nakago. I don’t want to know more about his life. He’s awful.
CAITLIN: Oh, but we’re going to get to learn so much about his life in the last couple episodes.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, my God, I have a rant. I remember that! That, I remember.
DEE: Regardless of how that ends: cool motive, still murder.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Cool motive, still rape. Cool motive, still gaslighting.
DEE: And, God, this episode he just straight-up admits it. He’s like, “Yeah, I gaslighted her for months,” and Miaka’s like, “Holy shit. This is so much worse than I thought.”
VRAI: That has been the best part of rewatching this, realizing that the story is much, much kinder to Yui than I remembered. That’s been a nice surprise.
DEE: It is. Yeah, Yui very much throughout this arc… Miaka reaches a point when she’s hanging out with Amiboshi where she goes, “I really did not understand what you went through. I thought I did, but I didn’t,” which I think is—I hesitate to use the word “good,” because a lot of shit has gone down for that to be the case—but I think it’s important of her to realize that and then to have that—
CAITLIN: It’s a silver lining.
DEE: Yeah, it’s a silver lining. And to go, “Nakago is absolutely the bad guy here, and that’s what I thought, and my best friend has been gaslighted and manipulated this whole time, and I have to let her know that she’s being lied to.”
VRAI: You know, the Tomo Illusion Hell Episode is approximately nine years long, but it is nice in that I think it achieves a more even idea of the give-and-take that Yui and Miaka had than the first couple episodes were probably going for.
DEE: Yeah, there’s a little more good-natured joshing in that stretch than there was in the early going. But part of that was because, in the fantasy world, Miaka is a good student with good grades, and so Yui teasing her about being dumb doesn’t feel like it has the weight it does in the early stretch because she’s actually doing pretty well in school.
VRAI: That’s true.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it’s funny, and the teasing her by pretending to be her and Tomo… That was one of those things that seemed really weird when I first watched the show, because it’s like, “Why is she freaking out over them being like, ‘Oh, let’s kiss.’” It’s like, “Oh, well, in Japan, kissing in public is about equivalent to…” I don’t know.
VRAI: Full-tongue makeout?
CAITLIN: I would say it’s more than full-on makeout in public because, especially at the age they are, seeing constant makeouts everywhere on the school yard… At least that’s what I saw.
CAITLIN: Not what I experienced, but what I saw.
DEE: One thing I do… Again, during the nine years that was the Tomo illusion bullshit… which, 2017 has been 20 years, so we are really old now, is what has happened this year.
CAITLIN: Oh, God. Is that why my back hurts?
DEE: That is exactly why. We’re all in our 50s, turns out. Sorry, guys.
CAITLIN: Well, I look great, so…
DEE: We are bangin’ at 50, so we’ve got that going for us.
DEE: No, one thing I do, during this nine-year episode, there’s a couple of things I [inhales through teeth] like about it? I hate using that word. One is that I like that Miaka is a thirsty teenager—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, I like that.
DEE: —because so, so much, especially in shoujo, the heroines are very innocent and naive and don’t even basically know what a kiss is, much less want to have them. And so, the fact that after this guy tells Miaka that he likes her she’s drooling into her cereal is kind of wonderful. And she’s like, “Yeah, let’s make out! Yeah, let’s do this! Yeah!”
CAITLIN: And he’s like, “Hey, come to my house.”
DEE: And she’s like, “Mm, okay.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] She’s like, “Oh, no, a pervert! Okay!”
DEE: Okay, yeah! [laughs]
VRAI: It’s one of those things where I’m a little bit of two minds about it. Because, yes, it’s super cool that she is just allowed thirst relentlessly, but then there’s this undercurrent of “Be careful with your special treasure because the boy might be trying to trick you.”
DEE: Because the boy might be trying to rob you of your ability to summon a god.
CAITLIN: Yeah, but I did like, also, that she just fuckin’ stabbed him in the forehead when she realized what was going on.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, God, yes. That was good. That was a good ending. In fact—
CAITLIN: That was badass!
DEE: I wrote, “Nice job, Miaka! Stab his stupid face.” Those are my notes for that stretch. That was it.
DEE: The other thing that’s kind of neat about that arc, as much as it’s terrible, is this reversal from the early episodes where her real life has become the fantasy, and she wants to go back to that. And instead of jumping into the fantasy like she did in the early episodes—she was like, “Fuck yes, I will summon Suzaku. Let’s do this!”—she recognizes the responsibilities that she needs to take care of and bust herself out of this fantasy world. So, it’s got that going for it, I guess.
CAITLIN: I think it’s important to note that real life is the fantasy, but it is with all of her anxieties—
DEE: [crosstalk] Idealized. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s idealized. Everything that’s making her anxious in the beginning of the series is removed, so she doesn’t need The Universe of the Four Gods, because she doesn’t have to deal with all of that.
DEE: Yeah. That’s kind of what The Universe of the Four Gods was at the beginning, too. It was like, “Hey, all those anxieties you had? They gone! Be a priestess. Have some hot dudes fawn over you. Have fun.” And then it did not quite go that direction.
Sorry, because it’s me, can I talk about the visual novel a little bit?
VRAI: Of course! I love this part of the show.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Sure, always.
DEE: Okay. I don’t think I actually got a chance to mention this last week, but you can play the visual novel in such a way that Nuriko doesn’t die. So, that’s great. In fact, it’s super fun. You can decide to go up the mountain with your whole team, and then Ashitare shows up, and all your warriors just beat the shit out of him. It’s amazing.
CAITLIN: Oh, so good!
DEE: And Nuriko gets the finishing blow, which is nice. But Ashitare’s like, “I’m gonna take the Shinzaho,” and they’re all like, “Lol.” And they just beat the shit out of him. And that’s that.
CAITLIN: You know what that is? That’s fanservice!
DEE: A little bit, yeah. And it’s making character decisions that affect the story, because if you go up the mountain with anybody but Nuriko, then Nuriko dies, and if you go up the mountain with Nuriko but you don’t have a certain amount of “like” points, Nuriko dies. But if you all go up together [laughs], it’s ass-kicking time, which is beautiful.
VRAI: I’ll take it. Give me this visual novel! Make it better!
DEE: [crosstalk] Hell, yeah!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Let’s do it! Let’s go! Let’s play it, all together.
CAITLIN: Let’s all hang out on each other’s couches and play it.
DEE: I mean I’ve done it already. I’ll do it again. Why not? I’ve done it twice. Twice I’ve done it.
Anyway, the other thing is you get to Sairou and it’s still a bunch of bullshit, but there is 100% less attempted rape, which is great. And the stuff with Tomo is he just traps you in this world to, I guess, keep you there until you starve to death. But there’s none of the creepy “I’m going to assault you a lot.”
So, it’s nice. I appreciated that about the visual novel. But I did have to translate math problems, so I’m also angry at it.
CAITLIN: Yeah. God. When I say that beating up Ashitare and having everyone survive is fanservice, I mean it’s cathartic because, like I said, if you’re emotionally invested in this series, you probably love Nuriko because Nuriko is great.
VRAI: Best character. Yes.
CAITLIN: So, it’s probably a moment of feeling powerful, like, “I can save Nuriko. I can stop Nuriko from dying.” So, yeah, that’s cool.
DEE: It’s very nice. It is kind of fanservice. There’s a few other moments in the game where you could… Well, I mentioned earlier than you can keep Amiboshi from falling in the river, which is also nice. And then Tamahome’s dad doesn’t have to die.
VRAI: So, the trick is, save everybody but don’t date Nuriko so you don’t have to experience all of that bullshit, and everybody wins.
DEE: Yeah, and I have not played the entirety of Nuriko’s route, so I don’t know how that resolves itself. But if you don’t play that route, then Nuriko is a genderfluid and/or trans character, and that’s it. [laughs] It’s great.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yay!
DEE: They’re wonderful. They have a wonderful back-and-forth relationship with Tamahome and Tasuki, which Tamahome is… I warmed up to Tamahome while playing that game because of the relationship he has to some of the side characters. My biggest gripe with him in the anime is that once you find out he has a family, he’s kind of perfect. It’s like, “Oh, that’s why he wanted money. I guess he’s perfect now.”
In the visual novel, they still do some fun stuff with him. His big thing is he kind of wants to be the team leader, and he kind of has a crush on the protagonist even if you don’t play his route, so Nuriko and Tasuki just give him shit about that all the time.
VRAI: Ah, this sounds amazing.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh my God.
DEE: And it’s kind of great. Like when you’re in Touran, the capital city of Hokkan, and you are going to go out and look for stuff, and Tamahome’s like, “Well, I guess I’ll come with you to make sure you don’t get into any trouble, because you’re kind of a danger magnet.” And Nuriko and Tasuki are like, “Oho! Look at him signing up to hang out with the priestess, you big kiss-up!” And they talk you into “Well, you should pick one other person to go with you,” and Tasuki and Nuriko both really want to be the person who goes with you. And you can pick one other character and you get “like” points or whatever. But it’s little moments like that.
When you’re heading up Mount Black, all three of them start giving each other shit because you can’t find the entrance to the Genbu grotto. None of you can track it down, and so they’re like, “Tasuki, you’re a mountain bandit. This should be your area.” And Tasuki’s like, “Well, Nuriko, what’s wrong with your women’s intuition? Is it broken?” And Tamahome’s like, “Man, I can’t count on you guys for anything.” And they’re like, “Excuse me? Aren’t you supposed to be able to sniff out money?” And they all get into a big fight with each other.
VRAI: [whines appreciatively]
DEE: And then Mitsukake basically breaks them up. Mitsukake’s basically like, “Kids, kids, you’re all very talented. Please stop fighting.” It’s so nice!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, man.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, I want it! I want it!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Okay, after we finish the group watch, can we just do a stream of playing the game?
DEE: I mean, it’s in Japanese, so I don’t know what the value of that would be, but there’s—
CAITLIN: Oh, do they not have a fan translation out?
DEE: I mean, I do, but it’s not encoded into a game. It’s just in a PDF file, basically.
CAITLIN and VRAI: [crosstalk; disappointed] Oh.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Worth looking into.
VRAI: [crosstalk] All right, who knows how to code?
CAITLIN: Not me!
DEE: I have the translation, folks, if you want to code it. I haven’t translated all the routes, though. Just Tasuki and Chichiri’s, predictably. And part of Nuriko’s, because I had a friend helping me out.
VRAI: [deadpan] I’m shocked. You didn’t do Hotohori’s?
DEE: No, Hotohori is a piece of shit to translate, and I hate him.
DEE: I hate him. [laughs]
VRAI: You could have just said he’s a piece of shit, full stop.
DEE: Tasuki’s kansai accent is less frustrating than Hotohori’s stick-up-his-ass speech patterns.
CAITLIN: Well, that’s because kansai accents are great.
DEE: They are great.
CAITLIN: I actually understand the kansai accent pretty well. Humblebrag.
CAITLIN: No, because I lived in Kansai.
DEE: Oh, that would give it to you for sure.
VRAI: We’re just dreaming about it extra hard this week because we want to forget about the things we’ve watched, because they were bad.
CAITLIN: Ah, yeah.
DEE: Yeah, I know we went off on a little bit of a tangent there, but I wanted to talk about the universe where it wasn’t just a constant melodramatic rape-fest, so I’m glad that exists in the universe.
VRAI: Also, the fact that we reach a point during this arc where the fact that Amiboshi is living with two people who tried to drug him to replace their dead son, that doesn’t even ping on the weirdness radar.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah!
CAITLIN: That’s a good point.
DEE: I had a friend point that out. We were watching, and he was like, “You know, they’re kind of a creepy couple when you think about it.”
DEE: I was like, “Oh, damn, you’re right.”
VRAI: “Don’t worry, Miaka. You’ll be very happy as his wife once we force you to forget your entire life before this.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Jesus. Oh my God.
DEE: Yeah, the mom panics and is like, “I think the best thing to do here would just be to drug you,” and that’s not okay, lady. That’s definitely not okay.
VRAI: But we’re so far into The Badlands, that it doesn’t matter! None of this matters!
DEE: It’s one of the least weird things that happens during that arc.
VRAI: You know what else isn’t as weird as it should be? The twincest. [laughs]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, God.
DEE: Little bit of twincest. There is some twins kissing, kind of. I mean, kind of. But yeah.
CAITLIN: I mean, it is transferring liquid from mouth to mouth, which is not enough of a kiss for it to actually register as incest, but enough for all the incest fangirls to be like, [fawning nasal voice] “Ooh! They look the same! It’s sexy!” [normal voice] I’m sorry. That was mean. I shouldn’t talk like that. I’m just… Twincest, it’s a big no for me.
DEE: It’s a little squicky, yeah. There’s definitely some art out there that’s a bit suggestive that has been drawn by Watase herself, so…
VRAI: [crosstalk] I was about to say, they’re playing this up themselves.
DEE: A little bit, yeah. And Miaka even says at one point, when she wakes up, she’s like, “It’s a love scene, but with all the same faces.” Which is a pretty good line, actually.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that… [laughs] Oh, man, that was… Miaka, Miaka, Miaka.
DEE: She tries. Again, I think the story is shit to her in this arc, but I am surprised at how much I still kind of like her. I thought that would go away at some point, but she’s 15 and she’s doing her best.
VRAI: She try.
DEE: She does, and I mostly understand the things she does, even if she does fall down a fucking hole every so often [unintelligible due to crosstalk].
VRAI: And then Tamahome falls down the fucking hole, because apparently this land is full of fucking plot holes, literally!
DEE: Yeah. Well, I think there’s supposed to be a cliff face in this desert area that they’re in, and they keep falling of the same fucking cliff face! [laughs]
VRAI: Nobody taught them how to do a spot check?
DEE: At the very end of this stretch, Miaka’s like, “I will throw myself into that hole,” and I’m like, “You should, Miaka. You’ll be fine. If this arc has taught me anything, it’s that falling into holes, you’re fine.”
DEE: Light bruising. That’s it.
CAITLIN: So, Dee, I can hear the ice cubes in your glass clinking.
CAITLIN: I’m the only person who watched these episodes with no alcoholic help.
DEE: Good for you. I should send you a sticker or something.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I’m not saying that to brag, but just to be like, sometimes a lot of people need chemicals. If I had the window of opportunity to watch them drunk, I would have, but I was mostly drinking them—cramming them in after a long workday before going out to do something life-related. Jared’s grandparents are here. I can’t get drunk before I go see Jared’s grandparents.
DEE: That’s fair.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Damn adult responsibilities.
DEE: You probably shouldn’t do that. I am proud of you for getting through these, because…
CAITLIN: So, I’m more envious than anything else.
DEE: You know, here’s the thing, though: they’re still not good episodes.
DEE: [crosstalk] It doesn’t matter!
VRAI: Also, we’re grasping at straws for what to talk about. We watched six episodes that were six years long.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh my God. Nothing happened.
DEE: [crosstalk] Well, it’s just they get so repetitive. There’s not a lot to talk about. Again, the early stuff, there’s some things we can discuss, and then it’s basically that over and over and over again. And there’s no point for these episodes, because the few things they kind of do in terms of Miaka’s character, I guess, are things that you basically had already done up to this point.
VRAI: [crosstalk] “Now with more rape!”
DEE: So, we don’t need this. We could easily skip the desert episodes. It’s great that the episodes that are so dry for content and enjoyment are literally taking place in a desert.
DEE: But you could skip ‘em, and I really don’t think it would change the story much. Again, there’s one plot nugget that gets dropped later that will be relevant, and that’s about it.
You know who I’m really jealous of? Keisuke. Keisuke slept through this whole arc.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, God!
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yes!
CAITLIN: Good boy Keisuke and good boy Tetsuya!
DEE: [crosstalk] Tetsuya, good friend that he is, is like, “I’m just not gonna tell him what’s going on in these chapters. You go back to sleep, buddy.” And I’m like, “I wish I could also go back to sleep, Keisuke.”
VRAI: [whispering] Nice.
VRAI: Also, Keisuke has that one line defending Yui, where he’s like, “She’s been through a lot, okay?” And I’m like, “Oh. Oh, you are a good boy.”
CAITLIN: Yes! Oh my God, that was actually really sweet.
DEE: Yeah, Tetsuya comes in without any real context and is like, “Why is Yui such a jerk?” And Keisuke’s like, “Dude, seriously!”
CAITLIN: Keisuke’s such a good boy.
DEE: He is. Keisuke’s a very good brother. And Tetsuya is all right, too.
VRAI: He’s still a non-entity, but he does save Keisuke from having to read about all these men trying to rape his sister.
DEE: That’s a good thing.
CAITLIN: Those two, they didn’t do much, but they brought some joy to these episodes.
DEE: A little bit, yeah.
CAITLIN: I enjoy them.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I do have a question.
DEE: [crosstalk] And there’s an actual forward progression with them. They are going someplace to investigate whatever happened with the Genbu priestess. So, there’s a scrap of progression there. Vrai, what’s your question?
VRAI: What is stopping them from flipping ahead in the book?
CAITLIN: The words don’t appear.
VRAI: Ah. Okay.
DEE: Yeah, they appear as you read.
VRAI: You’ve solved my word puzzle, Show.
CAITLIN: So, I do have a philosophical question.
VRAI: Go ahead.
CAITLIN: Probably not actually philosophical. So, the show made a big plot point out of Miaka’s virginity. It was emphasized earlier. I don’t know if it was done with this arc in mind. But when a show makes a big deal about the virginity of the main characters as a source of power, is some degree of this sort of storyline inevitable?
VRAI: I don’t… I think it’s far more likely, but I think you can… Yeah, especially when it’s with the power, I there are ways to do stories about virginity that can be about basically a less contrived version of what Miaka and Tamahome have going on of “We really want each other, but we have to show restraint because of our responsibilities.” That’s the least shitty way to do it, I think.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, absolutely.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, I love Genbu Kaiden. Continue.
CAITLIN: But yeah, the way it was set up… [inhales] I am not defending this in any way. I think this arc is terrible, but it does feel like a natural progression from what the show was setting up.
VRAI: Oh, it is a perfectly logical tactical move on the part of the Seiryuu warriors, but all this says to me is: “We should abolish stories where virginity is a source of specifically a female character’s power. We should do that.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, that is true. It never leads to good things. It just continues that crappy cultural upholding of virginity, even if it is historically accurate or whatever for “Can’t have sex if you’re gonna deal with the gods, because the gods are grossed out by body fluids.”
VRAI: At least this episode is mercifully brief in doing the bullshit where Tamahome and Nakago have a dick-waving contest over Miaka, who is an object between them. That goes away quickly, thankfully.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that’s true.
VRAI: Does it come back?
DEE: I don’t think that’s the way Tamahome sees it at all. I think the fact that his first reaction to all of this was “I need to be there to support and make sure Miaka’s okay” is really important because it wasn’t like a [Midwestern drawl] “How dare he touch my woman? I’m gon’ go kick his ass!” [normal voice] That was not his first thought.
CAITLIN: It’s like, “Oh, my God, he hurt her…”
DEE: [crosstalk] “I need to make sure she’s okay.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] The fact that he prioritizes her is real good. It’s one of those things where you did a better version of the thing, but you still kind of fell into the thing for a minute there. And certainly Nakago is angling for that.
DEE: Oh, yeah, Nakago treats everyone like objects, for sure.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah. I think it does show a degree of character growth for Tamahome, because early in the show, there was a whole lot of dick-waving.
DEE: That’s true.
CAITLIN: He and Hotohori were just waving each other’s dicks at each other constantly—
DEE: [laughs] I like the image of them waving each other’s dicks at each other, Caitlin.
VRAI: I mean have you forgotten the blood threesome already, so soon?
DEE: I think that got a little slash, a little faster than maybe you expected.
CAITLIN: Oh, I’m sure there’s a lot of that out there.
DEE: Oh, I’m sure.
CAITLIN: But yeah, Tamahome and Hotohori… Tamahome was really insecure, so he and Hotohori were just constantly… And Hotohori was constantly hitting on his girlfriend.
VRAI: Being really gross about her boundaries. Have we mentioned that even in episodes where Hotohori isn’t it, he’s The Worst?
DEE: Okay, no, here’s the thing: Nakago is worse than Hotohori.
CAITLIN: Nakago is The Worst. But Hotohori is—
VRAI: Worst of the good guys.
CAITLIN: Nakago is the actual worst.
DEE: [crosstalk] Still a garbage emperor.
CAITLIN: But Hotohori’s just The Worst. You know what I mean?
CAITLIN: Anyway, it shows a degree of growth that his concern was for Miaka and not for someone else touching his woman or whatever. He’s more secure in their relationship, which is great. I think it’s really wonderful. We’re kind of looping back around. It’s wonderful that he’s not threatened by it; he’s just angry—
DEE: Yeah, or victim-blaming or any of that.
CAITLIN: —and concerned. Yeah.
DEE: Their relationship has slowly become… Again, it’s still a very messy adolescent, “We’re not super good at communicating all the time” kind of relationship, but it does feel like it is improving, to a point, and I think that is kind of good to see with them.
DEE: Ugh, I have so many frustrations with this arc, and a lot of it is that it really just becomes the Miaka and Tamahome Show, which is rough to watch at times, especially because… I’m thinking about the way this arc ends and how Amiboshi decides he doesn’t want to be a Seiryuu warrior anymore, basically. He’s like, “I’m leaving your club,” which, good for you, Amiboshi. They’re shitheads. Good job.
So, Amiboshi wants to leave the club and he attacks Tomo. And then Suboshi shows up and is like, “Get your goddamn hands off my brother,” and throws him out the airlock like in Aliens. But, no [laughs], sorry, he—
CAITLIN: Throws him out of a moving plane and then shoots him in the head for good measure.
DEE: Yes. He kills the hell out of Tomo.
CAITLIN: Is no one getting that? Was that too obscure? [laughs] I’m sorry. I don’t know what people look at.
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s okay. What was that reference?
CAITLIN: That was Gundam Wing.
DEE: Oh! I’ve never finished that whole show.
CAITLIN: Which is contemporary with Fushigi Yugi.
VRAI: Somewhere Dorothy is very happy. She doesn’t know it, though.
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s a very good reference. There are definitely listeners who are chuckling. [laughs] So, don’t worry about it. You’re good. I’m just one of those—
CAITLIN: [laughs] Listeners, if you’re chuckling, let me know in the comments, just a little “Lol.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] I’ve only seen one Gundam, and it was a terrible one that I still kind of like a little.
DEE: I’m gonna finish it one of these days, but I have not actually. I caught a few episodes on Toonami, and that was the extent of it.
CAITLIN: Oh, Gundam Wing was a wonderful train wreck.
DEE: So, Suboshi shows up at the end and he’s like, “Well, I guess I’m just gonna kill Tomo.” This is his ally, who is supposedly helping him to achieve their goals. And he does not even hesitate to tear the dude apart.
So, there’s this scene at the end of this stretch of episodes that [shows] the greatest weakness of the Seiryuu warriors is that there is no real loyalty or love between them. Soi has a little bit for Nakago, but not so much that she’s not going to try to help Miaka in the moment that she gets. Suboshi straight-up murders Tomo. Nakago kills Ashitare. There’s not that sense of camaraderie that we have seen in the past that is between the Suzaku warriors.
But you know what would’ve made that a lot more noticeable in this arc? If the rest of the fucking Suzaku warriors had been in it!
VRAI: [Laughs] That might’ve helped, yes!
DEE: Maybe. They could’ve been doing a thing. And here’s the thing. If you want to trap them in an illusion in a desert world and you want to separate Miaka and say, “What does Miaka do when she’s alone and she doesn’t have her warriors around to constantly protect her and support her?” Okay, I get it. If you want to do the same thing with Tamahome, fine. Okay, I get it. But do something with the rest of your main cast.
And I admit that that’s a problem of me as a writer, that when I create a character, I don’t want to just let them wander off on their own; I want to talk about what they’re doing. But what are they doing? Did they figure out a way to solve the illusion puzzle? Are they also fighting their own battles? There’s nothing there; they just get sidelined.
CAITLIN: Are they dying slowly in the desert?
DEE: Apparently, yes! And it’s been several days, I think, so I’m impressed that they haven’t collapsed yet.
CAITLIN: They should be dead of dehydration by now.
DEE: The next episode, they’re just husks in the desert, and that’s the end of the show! Sorry, guys!
DEE: I’m kidding. I’m kidding. That’s not the next episode.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; laughing] I mean Miaka can still get the Shinzaho with Tamahome.
DEE: You can. You don’t need all the warriors. We do know that. That would be unfun.
DEE: That is not what happens. Don’t worry, folks. They’re still alive, I promise.
CAITLIN: God, I don’t even remember how they get out of that one.
DEE: They don’t, really. Spoiler alert, but when Tomo dies—
VRAI: It’s fine; it’s better now.
DEE: When Tomo dies, his illusions fail. That is how that arc ends. That’s it.
DEE: And it breaks, and they’re all like, “Well, we feel like assholes,” and then that’s pretty much it.
VRAI: [crosstalk] “Let us never speak of this again.”
DEE: They’re so useless during this stretch, and it’s 100% just the narrative needs to sideline them. It’s not that they’re actually useless characters, because they aren’t. We’ve seen them be cool in previous arcs. It’s just that the narrative is like, “No, we don’t need you involved in this storyline, so you’re going to be useless and stupid for a little while.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, Fushigi Yugi has, I think, always had a little bit of an issue with things happening for convenience, and this arc takes everything that is weak about the series and just mushes it all in together and then just carefully extracts everything that’s good about the series, so there’s…
CAITLIN: They leave a little bit in.
VRAI: They couldn’t quite get it all.
CAITLIN: But it’s just concentrated bad. It’s just concentrated bad.
DEE: It’s very frustrating and unfun. It is just not fun. And that’s the thing. Even when the episodes have been messy in the past, they’ve been kind of fun. You could get into the big melodramatic adventure of these characters running around and finding each other and getting into scrapes. And it’s just not fun; you just want it to be over.
And thankfully, it is. We made it. We made it, guys.
CAITLIN: We did it. We survived!
DEE: We made it through the desert, yay!
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I think, going forward, as I remember, the parts that are more intense actually are fairly resonant.
DEE: Our joking motto has been “Fushigi Yugi: You will have an emotion,” and I guess I technically had emotions during these episodes, but it was like…
CAITLIN: No, it’s true, I… [laughs]
VRAI: Not me. I was a dried-out husk of misery!
DEE: And that’s the thing!
CAITLIN: You were more of a dried-out husk than the Fushigi Yugi warriors.
DEE: In their desert village.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s all over.
DEE: And that’s the thing. There’s a point in this arc where you just stop really feeling for anybody because it’s just the same fucking thing over and over and over again. And the good news is that we’ll get out of this stretch, and we will start having emotions again, I assure you.
And to me, a strength and a weakness of Fushigi Yugi is that it is very raw and emotional, but it does at least keep you engaged in the story. And this stretch loses you, especially in that last three episodes. It’s just nine years long. I mean I needed alcohol to get through it.
CAITLIN: God, we haven’t even been recording for an hour. We’re just out of things to talk about.
DEE: Much like these episodes, this recording has also been nine years long. I think it’s fine—
VRAI: We’re sorry, listeners.
DEE: You know what? We’ve gone over an hour several times. I think it’s probably okay if we’re just straight out at 58 minutes or whatever it is at this point and we end it a little bit early, give folks back a little bit of their day. I’m sure we’ll be back to talk about lots of shit next time, so…
CAITLIN: We’re going to be getting back into the “Everything happens so much” part of the show.
DEE: And the characters who I love are going to finally be back in the damn story, so that’ll help.
CAITLIN: Yay. Okay. All right, let’s wrap this up, then.
DEE: Good call.
CAITLIN: This has been Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. Thanks for listening. Next week, we’ll be watching episodes 41 through 46. And if you like listening, enjoyed this podcast, please tell all your friends, every single one of them, even the ones who hate anime, and ask them to donate to our Patreon—
CAITLIN: —because it really goes a long way towards making our site sustainable. We’re really devoted to making sure all of the writers and all of the editors get paid without resorting to advertising. So, donate to Patreon, like and review us on iTunes. Is that it? Is that all I have to do?
DEE: Well, I guess you could tell them where they could find more of our shit, if you want to.
CAITLIN: Oh, yes.
VRAI: [laughs] It’s been a long six years.
CAITLIN: Yes. All right. Thanks for bearing with us through this very interesting episode, and we’ll see you again next week. Thanks.
DEE: Don’t fall into any holes, folks.
CAITLIN: Don’t fall into any holes. [laughs] And feel lots of emotions.