Part 7 of the multi-part Fushigi Yugi watchalong with Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin! With the badlands safely behind them, the team returns to the show’s usual mixed bag of big adventure and even bigger emotions as the series heads into its action-packed home stretch. Yui phones home. Keisuke makes the Best Boy shortlist. Miaka’s thirst intensifies.
Content Warning: Fushigi Yugi contains depictions of sexual assault, homophobia, and transphobia. The podcast will also discuss these topics when they arise.
Date Recorded: Saturday 30th September 2017
Hosts: Caitlin, Dee, Vrai
0:01:00 Another breakup
0:07:19 The one true love trope
0:12:12 Sources of romantic drama
0:14:28 Plot-sensitive intelligence
0:17:13 Where they definitely do talk about Nakago
0:23:06 Soi’s unearned sacrifice
0:25:33 The boys are back in town
0:28:08 Anime-original content
0:40:38 Miaka and Yui
0:47:53 Seiryu is summoned
0:50:58 Hotohori’s back
0:55:04 Watase’s perspective and era mentality
0:57:04 They (don’t) bang
0:59:09 Sex in shoujo
1:01:37 Back to the real world and Keisuke
1:06:00 Miaka’s fictional boyfriend
1:08:42 Yui’s first Seiryu experience
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee Hogan, a writer and editor for AniFem. I also run the anime blog The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai Kaiser. I’m a contributor and editor at Anime Feminist. I run a blog called Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories, and I write all over the internet. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai or at the Twitter for my other podcast that I host @trashpod.
DEE: And today, we’re heading into the home stretch of our watchalong of the 1990 shoujo fantasy, Fushigi Yugi. This week’s podcast covers episodes 41 through 46, where everything happens: Miaka arrives in Sairou, she meets three geriatric Celestial Warriors, Yui summons Seiryu, multiple people die, and to top things off, Miaka, Yui, and Tamahome end up back in the real world. As that summary suggests, the plot is back, the supporting cast has returned, and we’re out of the badlands, just like we promised.
CAITLIN: [heaves a relieved sigh]
DEE: But that doesn’t mean we don’t have to wade through some bullshit along the way. The good news is most of the bullshit is frontloaded into the first episode of this stretch, which is my segue into the first episode of this stretch, where Miaka and Tamahome are pretty infuriating and we basically begin with the warriors reaching Sairou and Tamahome immediately breaking up with Miaka and not telling her why.
VRAI: Because we need more of this bullshit.
CAITLIN: Yeah, like, “Hey, Tamahome. Remember how pissed off you were when Miaka tried to break up with you for no reason out of nowhere? Why are you doing the same thing to her? Literally exactly the same thing.”
VRAI: “But mine’s different because Dad told me to.”
CAITLIN: “And I’m also immediately slobbering over another girl.”
VRAI: That… fucking… It was bad enough that we have to contrive another reason to keep them apart for a little bit longer so you can have the big reunion that’s dramatic, but also, Yuu Watase, not all women be competin’.
DEE: Xi Fang is hands-down the worst part of this one-episode stretch, because I think there is some genuine reality poking its head in, in terms of like, “We’re trying to date each other over two realities, basically, and one of us might be fictional.”
DEE: There’s a genuine issue there that these characters do need to work through, and maybe Tamahome could talk to Miaka.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I mean, listen. Been there, done that.
DEE: Yeah. It’s the ultimate long-distance relationship. And obviously, Tamahome should talk to her, which is super infuriating, and he’s kind of an asshole to her throughout this episode, which we can talk about a little bit later. But yeah, Xi Fang is 100% the worst part of this, because—
CAITLIN: She serves no purpose other than to make Miaka jealous.
DEE: Yeah! She is DTF and has no personality or point to the story other than forced drama. She just vanishes. She has no character once it becomes clear after an episode that Tamahome clearly still loves Miaka and isn’t just going to quit.
CAITLIN: [ironically] She can cook better! She’s better at being a girl.
DEE: God, and they have that obnoxious scene in the kitchen where they’re cattily sniping at each other over Tamahome, even though Xi Fang has hung out with him for, I guess, a day.
VRAI: It’s so bad.
DEE: And like Vrai said, it’s that… and the thing about Fushigi Yugi is the stuff with Miaka and Yui feels like it is attempting to push back against this “Women be competin’” idea. Miaka’s being forced into a situation she hates. She doesn’t want to compete with Yui, even though everyone tells her she has to, at every turn, like even back home when they were studying for exams.
DEE: So, I think there’s a part of the series that is dealing with that trope in a semi-critical way But then Xi Fang shows up, and it’s just that. It is just “Women be competin’.” And it’s really egregious.
VRAI: And then… [groans] I know this is a little bit further down and we’re going semi-chronologically, but then there’s another disposable woman who just exists in the background. I feel the empress very infuriating in a minor way.
DEE: Oh, we will absolutely get to Rebound Empress, because I do want to talk about that, once we get there, for sure. But for now, we’ll just focus on some of, again, the early bullshit, as I lovingly refer to it.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, no, fair.
DEE: And it’s frustrating, too, because ultimately it really doesn’t amount to anything. I think Tamahome having this crisis where he finds out about this Byakko Warrior situation where the priestess couldn’t be with the one she loved… I think them realizing that is a worthwhile plot point. It’s just the fact that they keep passing the bad communication ball back and forth, and Tamahome’s an ass!
VRAI: Right. There’s a way for this to be a problem for these characters and their relationship without arbitrarily making them not talk to each other.
DEE: Yeah, which you’d think at this point they would be past, because, as Caitlin pointed out, this shit has happened before and they don’t like it when it happens, so they should stop doing it. And Tamahome does—I guess I’ll give him some credit—when he finds Miaka, he’s like, “Look, I’m sorry, that was stupid of me. I should have told you what was going on. Let’s work this out” kind of thing. But say that from the beginning, dude.
CAITLIN: I think there’s interesting ways to do characters realizing that there’s this huge obstacle to their relationship coming down the line that could basically amount to a time limit, and then they spend facing a reality where they are spending their lives separated from the person they love. I think there’s a way to do that and have it be really effective.
DEE: Yeah, I agree.
CAITLIN: When that’s well done, that’s honestly one of my favorite sort of tragic romance tropes. But the way they do it is really… First of all, how Tamahome handles it is really eye-rolly, and it gets really pushed aside.
And also, one of the things that gets me—and this is one of the things that soured me against Fushigi Yugi for a long time—was the way they romanticize it. Spending your entire life longing for one person. Decades. Spending over 100 years longing for this one person that you loved.
DEE: Yeah, Tatara hung out in that shrine for 90 years.
DEE: Well, we’ll talk… I’m sure we’ll… You know what, we can go ahead and get into part of that now. I think this is a good moment to talk about that. Well, then on the flip side, Suzuno does move on her with life. She marries somebody else and has a kid.
VRAI: But it’s the same problem I have with the anime version of Paradise Kiss—which is a whole different rabbit hole—where, yes, another partner does exist; we never see them.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it doesn’t feel like Suzuno has moved on, even though she has clearly lived to marry and reproduce. It doesn’t feel like that because she and Tatara were reunited [speaking sarcastically] after life and it’s so romantic.
VRAI: [dryly] Fuck her husband, I guess, and also her descendants.
CAITLIN: Yeah, like her kids are watching like, “Wait, what about Dad?”
DEE: Yeah, I feel bad for Dad. One would hope they had a good, supportive marriage. You figure the time period they would’ve gotten married was like the ‘30s, so it totally could’ve been an arranged marriage. There’s some…
VRAI: I guess it tracks with… For example, I’ve read a lot about women who come out later in life as lesbians after they feel like they’ve done their duty of getting married and raising a family. So, I guess that’s a mindset that could be just an expected romance trope.
CAITLIN: But also, it’s going back to “First love is the best, most purest love, and the person you fall in love with when you’re 15 is the person that you’re destined to be with forever.”
DEE: That is a perpetual annoyance for me, and I’ve just had to learn to accept it because a lot of fiction works with that trope, and a lot of stories I like work with it. And so, it’s annoying and there are days where I have to go, “Well, okay.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, that is one of the things that I can almost pinpoint, like, “This is something that made me make choices in my life that I probably shouldn’t have.”
DEE: I understand what you mean, that sense of romanticizing that one true love and “You can only really love one person.” And it’s very damaging, for a lot of reasons. But yeah, it can…
VRAI: Like that one line where she’s like, “There won’t be high school for me,” and I’m like, “No!”
DEE: You know what really frustrates me about that is, initially, Miaka decides to live in the book world: one, kind of on a spur-of-the-moment emotional decision, but two, because she doesn’t think there’s any way Tamahome can come back to her world.
First of all, I did like that Tamahome basically says, “Okay, if Miaka can’t live here, I’ll just find a way to live at her place. That’s fine.” So, there is a kind of a balance there where they’re both willing to give something up for each other. But then Miaka doesn’t think, “Tamahome’s in my world now. I don’t have to live in the book forever.” She never really considers that option, which is very frustrating to me, that she wouldn’t even think it.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Right. Tamahome’s whole family is dead. [laughs]
DEE: Yeah, Tamahome isn’t really leaving… I understand them wanting to get back—and we’re jumping ahead a little bit, it’s fine.
DEE: I understand them wanting to get back to the book at that moment in time, because they feel like they’ve deserted their friends in the middle of a war and they don’t want to abandon them.
CAITLIN: Yeah, they sort of need to take care of that business.
DEE: Yeah. So I understand the focus there of “No, we need to go back, and we need to help resolve this however it gets resolved, because we don’t want to just be like, ‘Sorry, guys! Have fun! Take all the responsibility. We out here makin’ out.’”
DEE: So, I get it at that moment. But the fact that there is not even a consideration on Miaka’s part of “Hey, Tamahome’s here, so we could live here. This is an option. He seems down for this option” is frustrating to me, because, as we talked about a few weeks ago, the idea of the woman giving up everything is very common, and the fact that the series doesn’t seem to be challenging that at all is frustrating, I think.
VRAI: It’s a bummer, especially when… If the writing of the plot overarching weren’t so frustrating, Tamahome as a character has really grown a lot.
VRAI: It’s just that there’s all this bullshit.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I mean, Miaka as a character I think has grown a lot, too, except for when the plot calls for her to make the same dumb mistakes.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Like running off on her own again.
DEE: [crosstalk] She just has to run off on her own. Yeah, I just have that as a note and then the word “again” is in all caps, and you can feel the rage emanating from my computer screen. The only benefit to that is she does get to slap Nakago.
VRAI: Which is good.
DEE: I liked it. I was like, “Do it again!”
CAITLIN: But on the other hand, Chiriko does get killed.
DEE: Yes. Let’s put a pin in that. We’re going to get to that, but I want to talk about some other stuff before we do.
VRAI: Well, one more thing on Miaka and Tamahome before we talk about… I think what I find frustrating about them is I really crave stories that have the couple get together early on and then spend the rest of the story working out issues in their relationship as it develops, and this feels like it should be that.
But then the manufactured drama, all of it in its various forms, seems to exist to force them to come back to these major culminations that are equivalent to the big first love confession or “big first” moment, over and over again, rather than the more mundane, mature, less exciting developments that an actual relationship would have.
DEE: Settling into a more comfortable rhythm with each other. I do agree with that. It does very much feel like Watase’s pretty sure there’s only one way you can generate drama or interest or just conflict in general between a couple, and that is to keep ripping them apart for Reasons, usually involving poor communication.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and that’s pretty common in shoujo manga, I think. There’s a lot of stories where all the tension is based on like, “They can’t get together” or “They do get together; they can’t communicate” or “One of them wants to have sex, and the other one doesn’t want to have sex” or “They do want to have sex, but they can’t have sex for some reason.” And that is the main conflict of probably 50-to-60-percent of the shoujo manga that I’ve been reading, if not more. I’ve been reading a lot of shoujo manga lately.
VRAI: [crosstalk] This is making me miss Mars.
CAITLIN: Oh, god, Mars! But that is completely off-topic.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah, it is very much a shoujo thing. One of the things… and this may be completely accidental, but there’s a lot of little lines in these two episodes that kind of made the bullshit bearable for me, because it almost felt like the characters were becoming aware of their own bullshit.
VRAI: Yeah, I think I know what you mean.
DEE: Tetsuya calls it a trend. He’s like, “This is just like a trendy drama.” And I’m like, “It is, Tetsuya. You are correct.”
DEE: I have a couple of lines noted here. Tamahome says a line about how we just keep missing each other, like “Why are we always missing each other?” Miaka notes that she runs off on her own without thinking, and then Nakago—damn him, I actually agreed with him—when Miaka runs off on her own into the temple and he runs into her, he’s like, “You just lack the ability to learn, don’t you?”
And that’s very much how I felt. He’s being an asshole—fuck you, Nakago—but that was very much how I felt at that moment, too. I’m like, “Come on, Miaka. You should know by now this does not end well.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. And like I said, I feel like it’s inconsistent characterization because a lot of this show has been her learning to accept her responsibility and grow into her role as the priestess. But then every time they need a plot beat to happen, she just fucking goes and runs off.
And then it’s like, “Miaka. Okay, you have two choices here: stop running the fuck off, because every time you do, someone gets killed; or learn how to defend yourself, because you are a completely helpless baby. Which I’m not going to fault you for it. You’re a 15-year-old girl from modern-day Japan. It’s totally normal that you don’t know how to fight. But you’ve been there for months. You can learn how to poke someone with a knife.”
DEE: And she technically has the sword that she never carries with her. She just leaves it in their luggage all the time.
DEE: If a character makes the conscious decision to say… If Miaka does not want to be a fighter, I don’t want to fault her for that. But then you make sure you put yourself in situations where you’re not going to need to fight your way out.
CAITLIN: Yeah. You have to stop running off on your own.
DEE: Yeah. And, like when she first sees Yui and Nakago, I get the impulse there of “I should see where they’re going.” But then she gets to the temple, and I’m like, “Okay, this would be a good time to rendezvous with your pals and explain to them what’s going on.” And she doesn’t. She just runs into the temple and, naturally, gets captured because Nakago can sense life forces.
CAITLIN: Because Nakago has completely convenient space powers.
DEE: He’s so overpowered.
DEE: Okay, I wasn’t going to talk about Nakago ‘til later. Do we wanna—no, let’s wait. We’ll talk about Nakago later. But yeah, he is frustratingly overpowered, and it starts to get really bad this stretch of episodes.
On the one hand, I do like the concept of a hero team who are just completely outclassed. None of them are particularly well-trained. They’re talented, but the Seiryuu warriors are significantly better than them.
And I think that’s an interesting idea, because I don’t think you see that in fiction all that often. Usually it’s a little bit more evenly balanced. So it forces the characters to find ways around, like they just can’t face people head-on. But it also ends up leading to this sense of “Nakago can just do everything, I guess.”
VRAI: And it’s severely tainted by knowing that Nakago is Watase’s favorite character. It starts to reek significantly of bullshit.
DEE: [crosstalk] God, yeah. The amount that she likes him is… I think, as a writer, you do have to have a certain fondness for your terrible villains—
DEE: —because I think that’s part of writing. But yeah, the amount of affection that she has for him is a little… Reading the author’s notes, it starts to get a little eye-rolly at times. It’s like, “Come on. You know he’s awful, right? He’s absolutely terrible.”
VRAI: Again, I always like the terrible characters, and I cannot stand this fucker.
CAITLIN: No amount of tragic childhood trauma will excuse that.
DEE: Yeah, and I… Shit. Okay, you know what? Screw it, let’s just talk about it now.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Let’s talk Nakago.
DEE: Yeah. This is the week where… I mean, obviously we talked last week about how there’s really no way that you can make Nakago sympathetic. And this is the arc where… There are a few characters in fiction where they come on screen and at a certain point, my middle finger just flips at the television reflexively.
DEE: Somewhere between Nakago hurting my boy and his whole “Dance, puppets! Dance!” speech, when he’s facing off with Miaka and Tamahome, that’s the moment where it’s like, “And middle finger’s up! And it’s just going to be up every time you talk. I really don’t give a damn about your backstory, Nakago.” Which we—
VRAI: Oh, God! The whole moment of: “Really? Now you’re asking about his motivations? Now, when we have a dozen episodes till the end of the series? I don’t care.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. Like, you fucking burned all those bridges. There’s no “why” to it.
DEE: I get the curiosity of “Why the hell would you be helping the country that exterminated your people?” I understand the bafflement that is in that question, but the fact that it comes up now?
VRAI: Yeah. For the character, yes. For the narrative, this is poorly paced. It’s a bad decision.
DEE: This is the first hint we get of Nakago having, perhaps, a tragic backstory. Certainly, his people, the Hin tribe, were wiped out 14 years ago. So, yeah, it’s real late in the game, but it’s there.
VRAI: Also, did you forget that he’s an evil bisexual? He’s an evil bisexual.
DEE: Oh, yeah, him kissing Tamahome. Just to fuck with him, basically.
CAITLIN: When Soi is like, “Why do you never take off your heart’s armor for me?” He’s like, “There’s only one person who I would want to stand by like that.” So, I think that you’re supposed to think the answer is Yui, but my brain immediately went to “Tamahome?”
DEE: He has this… And, again, his interest in Tamahome feels more like this “Look at this sweet, naive kid. I want to destroy him.” Does that make sense?
VRAI: Yes, it’s…
DEE: It’s very icky.
VRAI: And also, the fact that Nakago is probably like 30 and Tamahome is 17.
DEE: He’s 25, I think. But yeah.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Eh. Somewhere in his 20s.
DEE: There’s still a decent age gap between them.
VRAI: An age gap specifically at a very important maturity juncture.
DEE: [crosstalk] Truth.
CAITLIN: Nakago is a goddamn adult, and Tamahome is a child.
DEE: Yeah. I mean, he’s had to grow up pretty fast, but I know what you mean when you say that, for sure.
VRAI: All of this aside of the fact that also Nakago is terrible. And again, I’m a very large fan of Hannibal. I’m here for murder husbands, but he doesn’t deserve this shit. Nakago sucks and he’s terribly written.
DEE: Well, he’s not a charismatic villain. The reason that he is dangerous comes almost exclusively from the fact that he is dealing with teenagers. Does that make sense?
CAITLIN: No, it does.
DEE: Because of the situation and time that he met Yui, that’s where a lot of his danger comes from, is because now she is very dependent on him, because he’s gaslighted her into believing that she can’t trust anybody else.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And he’s really good at manipulating vulnerable people. Even Soi, it is implied through flashbacks in these episodes that she was abused and now she’s totally devoted to Nakago, who couldn’t give less of a shit about her.
So, he’s someone who finds vulnerable people and uses them to his advantage. And he’s just shit. I don’t have anything more eloquent to say about it off the top of my head. He’s just a garbage man.
VRAI: I think it doesn’t help that his… Because he’s kind of effective as a villain in that first season, but he’s effective as a force of nature, not as a villain with flaws and motivations. So now it’s trying to make us feel bad, like, “Oh, no! He might regret that he lost his toy, because she died.” I don’t care. You’re not a character who… You are a force for our characters to react to.
DEE: [crosstalk] Oh, when Soi sacrifices herself for him?
VRAI: Uh-huh. Yeah, and he carries the body instead of discarding it. Yeah, and it’s like, “I don’t care.”
DEE: And he has this shocked moment when she jumps in front of the sword, and it’s like, “You really have not done enough here to get me to really buy into this.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s not earned.
CAITLIN: We know so little about Soi, and I wish we knew more, because I feel like I could’ve liked her as a character if she had more to her than just lightning powers and obsessively in love with Nakago.
VRAI: Right. She plays so hard into the Evil Sexy Woman trope for so much of her screen time. Then this.
DEE: And then she becomes Sympathetic Woman because she devoted herself entirely to a man who didn’t give a shit about her. So her character is defined entirely by her relationship to Nakago.
CAITLIN: Yes. And there are hints at an interesting character there. The moment where she tells Miaka where Tamahome is, even though them dying would’ve been completely to her advantage as a Seiryuu warrior. There was a hint at a psychologically complex character right at that moment. But they just leave that behind, and it’s all her wanting Nakago to love her.
VRAI: Yeah. Soi is the bones of a character type that I really, really like, but she’s just not well developed.
DEE: No. And most of the villains, I think, don’t get—with the semi-exception of the twins—most of the villains don’t get developed early enough or in-depth enough for you to really care about them. There is a light novel that—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Or they’re just fucking straight-up evil.
DEE: Yeah. Or they’re just straight-up evil and they’re just cackling bad guys, and that is the end of them. One thing I do want to say about these early episodes, as we slide into the Sairou arc well and truly, is that in spite of the frustrating bullshit in the early going, it’s kind of made bearable by the fact that the supporting cast is back, thank God—
CAITLIN: Yay! The boys are back in town.
DEE: The boys are back in town, and that allows them to have characters play off each other a little bit better. You get some moments where Miaka can have a slapsticky moments with Chichiri. And then Hotohori shows up again, and I kind of thought she’d go “Wah!” and throw the mirror and break it.
VRAI: Hotohori is decent for the first time.
DEE: So, the last couple of stretches of episodes—this one and the one following—I remember mostly for the dramatic action beats, and I forget that there’s still pretty good jokes in here. I have to say, the part where the Byakko Warrior Tokaki is seriously talking to Tamahome and then is like, “There’s something else I must tell you: that wood is rotten; you shouldn’t lean on it.”
DEE: And the balcony collapses and Tamahome falls over. That got a full belly laugh out of me, because I had completely forgotten that scene was there. Moments like that, I think, help with the story. And, again, it’s because Tamahome and Miaka have other people they can bounce off of and it gives you some breathers from the relationship drama.
And Tasuki, sweet Tasuki, actually calls Tamahome out on his shit, which you need characters like that. Again, I miss Nuriko, but I am glad that Tasuki is able to step in and be like, “Dude, why aren’t you talking to her? What’s going on?”
VRAI: He’s such a good boy.
DEE: “Stop being a dick.” Yeah.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] He is such a good boy.
DEE: He’s very good. So, yeah, I think that helped. Speaking—
VRAI: And his boyfriend comes back, which is nice.
DEE: Yes! [claps excitedly] Yes! Tasuki’s boyfriend is back!
CAITLIN: [sing-song] His boyfriend’s back~
CAITLIN: How many ridiculous musical references can I make? [laughs]
DEE: At least one per episode. Keep the number coming, Caitlin. I approve. Yeah, no, Koji returns to help fight in the war because he and Tasuki are the best ship in the entire show. So, that’s great.
VRAI: Well, they are now. [laughs] I’m sorry. I’m still very sad.
DEE: But yeah, speaking of supporting characters, there’s another one who’s back. And we also have, this time around, some Byakko Warriors.
DEE: So, I figured we could talk about them. We’ve kind of already talked about Tatara and Suzuno. Although, one thing I do want to say that I thought was really interesting is: I was reading the manga while watching it, and it’s very different, because all the stuff with Keisuke and Tetsuya sleuthing around, trying to figure out what’s going on with the past priestesses, that does not get shown in the manga.
DEE: It happens, because when Miaka gets back to the real world, Keisuke basically just sits her down and infodumps for like two pages of the manga on her, and there’s a bunch of big speech bubbles where he talks about what they did. So, the fact that they wove that in, I think, was a good choice.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I agree.
VRAI: I want to know what’s going on with the oddly informed taxi driver. What’s his anime like?
DEE: He’s an anime-original character, and he’s fascinating!
DEE: Let’s give him a spinoff light novel.
And the other thing is the big, dramatic, like, “Tatara and Suzuno reunited in death and their ghosts hang out together,” is anime-original as well.
VRAI: Okay, I wondered, because while I was watching that bit, I was like, “Well, I bet this is interesting in Genbu Kaiden.”
DEE: Oh, well, no, Genbu Kaiden’s the different priestess. This is the Byakko priestess. Watase, I believe, is currently writing the Byakko arc—
CAITLIN: [cheering] Yeah!
DEE: —which she said she was eventually going to do. I really need Shojo Beat to license it, and then I want to read the crap out of it because I’m curious to see how she develops that story as well, and then we finally have all the priestesses.
CAITLIN: Yeah, because I really enjoyed the Byakko characters.
DEE: [crosstalk] Well…
CAITLIN: Well, I enjoyed Subaru, and—
DEE: I love Subaru. Yeah, this is kind of what I wanted to talk about with these characters specifically. Subaru seems very cool.
DEE: She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but I like that she has a little bit of a mentor relationship with Miaka off and on.
VRAI: I would’ve liked more of that. It was very good.
DEE: Yeah. And then when they decide to age themselves down, when he’s like, “Age me down!” she’s like, “You ain’t doing this alone.” He’s like, “Yeah, I couldn’t talk you out of it anyway.” And I’m like, “You seem neat. I like you, Subaru.”
DEE: On the other hand, Tokaki, Tamahome’s master, is a crappy Pervy Old Man trope, and I don’t like it. I don’t care for Tokaki.
CAITLIN: I don’t know. For some reason, I was warmer on him than I usually am on these sorts of characters. It’s not something that I can easily explain. But I think it’ll be really cool seeing these characters in their own story. And for some reason, I was thinking about it, because in all of the ones we’ve had, their full story is told. It was mostly the warriors falling in love with the priestess, right?
CAITLIN: And I would like to see a story where it’s not all about the warriors falling in love with the priestess; two of the warriors themselves fall in love.
DEE: Oh, yeah. That is a good point. Spoiler alert: you don’t see that in Genbu Kaiden either.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Because there is one female warrior in Genbu, and she’s awesome, but she’s not a romantic lead sort of character, for a variety of reasons. But yeah, seeing Tokaki and Subaru—seeing their story, I think, will be interesting because them having something in their lives that does not just center around the priestess. So yeah, bring on Byakko Ibun.
DEE: Yeah, I agree. I am excited for that.
Okay, so as we move forward in the narrative, I guess we’re to the part where we talk about Chiriko—and Miboshi, I guess. I have one thing about Miboshi. My friend and I call him the floating baby.
DEE: And that’s all I got. I’m like, “Why did you put a baby in charge of your temple? This seems like a mistake, Sairou.” And that’s all I have on Miboshi. He doesn’t have a character. He possesses people. That’s his character. He seems like a bad dude.
CAITLIN: Yeah. He’s evil.
VRAI: I had a very weird déjà vu, because I swear I didn’t read this far, but also when that scene came, I was like, “Oh, yeah, he does die, doesn’t he? Eh.” It was weird.
DEE: And it might be just one of those things that you picked up by existing in anime fandom, you know.
VRAI: Quite possibly.
DEE: Yeah, so it’s—
CAITLIN: Well, so, this also gave me flashbacks because I remembered the way I learned about Miboshi’s character is not from the anime. Pioneer, about 10 million years ago, when they were first printing out the series and when they were called Pioneer instead of Geneon and they existed as a company—
VRAI: [laughs] Right, and when Geneon still existed, children…
DEE: [laughs] Many eons ago.
CAITLIN: They had trading cards with character profiles on them.
DEE: Oh, okay.
CAITLIN: And that is how I learned about Miboshi and how I learned about Soi’s backstory. And so, watching this, it was like, “Oh, yeah! That was a thing that existed. There was a period when Pioneer/Geneon was actually trying to make this happen, because I also had some from AX.” [laughs]
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, AX.
DEE: Oh, yeah, they were throwing in some bonuses, which is kind of neat.
CAITLIN: I lined up at the booth at Anime Expo to get those cards.
DEE: [laughs] Aw, that’s adorable. Memories.
Yeah, that’s all I have on Miboshi, but I think we can definitely talk about Chiriko. One of the bummers of this stretch of episodes is that Tasuki and Chiriko have a pretty cute relationship in the manga that just gets left on the cutting room floor because there’s a lot of other stuff there they wanted to do instead. But it’s a very intense sequence, and I thought that episode was surprisingly… I think most of the time—obviously Fushigi Yugi has its “Quality” moments that we tease it about—but I think most of the time, it looks fine.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, mostly it looks okay.
DEE: That episode looked good.
DEE: There were a lot of pretty fluid action sequences. The detail work on the characters’ faces, especially during the death scene, was intense and very—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It was very expressive animation.
DEE: Yeah. It was really expressive.
VRAI: I was going to make a terrible joke that “Seriously, nobody can put this child out of his misery a little faster?” [laughs]
DEE: Yeah. It was a lot more intense in the anime. And in the manga, it’s pretty much just like, “Tell everyone: ‘Thank you.’ [Imitates dramatic last breath]” And here, they really hit hard at the fact that Chiriko put himself through a lot of pain in order to save his friends.
CAITLIN: Which I think he deserves, but…
VRAI: Yeah, it’s not a bad death scene, but I think the problem is that Chiriko is kind of a non-character in the anime. So, he talks about feeling like he can do this, even without his mark, but we never really go into the fact, in the anime, that part of the reason he didn’t feel worthy was because his mark appeared inconsistently. I wouldn’t have noticed it at all if you hadn’t brought it up while we were recording.
And his relationships to the other characters, too, I feel like they try to cram it in a lot in the episodes running up to this one, and especially in the little comedy scenes, but it’s a lot of “Too little, too late.” It’s a well-executed scene, but it doesn’t feel earned in a lot of ways.
CAITLIN: I agree. I agree. It did not hit me nearly as hard as Nuriko’s death, where I was just lying on the couch sobbing.
DEE: No, Nuriko’s death is devastating.
CAITLIN: But it was more like, “Oh! This is sad.”
DEE: [crosstalk] Kids.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Child dying.
VRAI: [crosstalk] A child’s dead.
DEE: Yeah. And again, it’s—
CAITLIN: The part that really got me was when he was like, “Oh, you can go on without me,” and Mitsukake and Tasuki were sitting there with him like, “We can stay. We don’t want you to be alone right now.” That was what got me.
DEE: Yeah, me too. And I think sometimes you end up with these—and this is true with fiction just because you can’t necessarily flesh out every single character—sometimes you have deaths that are impactful and emotional because you were really attached to that character, which Nuriko would be that. Sometimes you have deaths that are emotional because characters you care about are upset.
VRAI: Tasuki’s reactions are pretty good in that they’re sad.
DEE: Yeah. And so Mitsukake’s staying with him even though he can’t actually heal him and Tasuki being very upset about Chiriko dying and telling him how brave he is. That’s where the resonance of that scene comes from, is these characters you like being upset.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I agree.
DEE: And in that sense, I think that the anime in particular—because you get that in the manga, but the manga really rushes through a lot of this stuff—the anime gives these moments time to breathe. And so I think the anime is able to hit that resonance a little bit better because we have some time watching everyone realize this kid’s going to die and how hard that is on them.
VRAI: Via what appears to be some kind of internal perforation, because he is not bleeding enough for it to be blood loss.
DEE: Well, he’s holding the thing in his heart, so I’m pretty sure he stabbed himself with that. There’s an official name for it, and I should know what that’s called, and I don’t, and now I feel shitty that I don’t. I’ll look it up at some point. But yeah, he stabs himself with that, and so he dies from it being in his heart, I’m pretty sure, which is rough.
CAITLIN: It is not realistic in any way. If he stabbed himself in the heart, he would probably have died a lot faster.
VRAI: But then we couldn’t have a last sad speech.
DEE: One last thing about Chiriko dying that I did want to talk about, just in terms of my memory of this show, is I was much sadder when Nuriko died; I was much more surprised when Chiriko died. Because… I mean, I’d read the Redwall books as a kid. I was accustomed to a beloved character dying in adventure stories. But it was usually one character, and it was a big, emotional moment, and then pretty much everyone else made it.
So, when Chiriko dies, there was this sense all of a sudden that “Oh, shit. Nobody’s safe. Oh, shit, what if everybody dies?” Especially because, very shortly after this, they lose. The good guys lose. They don’t summon a god; they get their powers sapped.
Suddenly, with Chiriko dying, my friend and I looked at each other. We were like, “Oh, no. Who’s going to die next?” And it became almost like a steeling-ourselves guessing game for who else was screwed. And I very much remember that because, again, at the time I had watched this series, that wasn’t something that really happened in young adult fiction in particular.
CAITLIN: Right! And this is going back to… Fushigi Yugi, part of the draw of it when you’re young is it has this edge that not a lot of fiction that we had encountered before was—
DEE: And its willingness to go, “No, when you fuck up, there are consequences, sometimes really bad ones. And those things just happen, and you have to find some way to push past them.” And this recurring theme of “You have to give these sacrifices meaning” comes up again here as Miaka runs off to try to stop the ceremony, which she does not do.
I was going to say that might be a good place to segue into talking about Miaka and Yui in this stretch of episodes, since we’re getting towards the summoning ceremony itself.
VRAI: I will say two things. First of all, I’ve been trying to hold really hard to the fact that Miaka and Yui’s relationship is a really good story about friendship, and they’re very cute, and they’re good friends. There is a moment where—I think it’s Nakago—somebody is like, “Are you jealous of Miaka or Tamahome, that they’re together?” And I’m like, “All right, are you trying to make me ship it now, because…”
VRAI: “I’ve been trying to be good. But also…”
CAITLIN: You wouldn’t be the first one.
DEE: No, and I think within the context of the story, they try to make it very clear that it is a very close friendship. And “How do you deal with your friend suddenly having this other relationship that’s very different from yours?” And Yui feeling like she’s been abandoned and Miaka has chosen Tamahome over her, even though from Miaka’s perspective, she loves them an equal amount, just in different ways, which—
VRAI: Right, which is a good and important story. That happens, I think, a lot to teenagers.
DEE: [crosstalk] I really like that that’s here.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Hashtag relatable.
DEE: Yeah, and I really like that Fushigi Yugi makes a point of saying, “No, these two relationships are equally important to this character,” because I think you very much get this in a lot of fiction—maybe more so in Western media than in anime—
[Thunder rumbles in background]
DEE: Oh, it is getting rumbly over here.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I heard that loud and clear.
DEE: Yeah. We’re summoning Seiryuu! [laughs]
DEE: [laughs] No, I think you get this more in Western fiction: this idea of the “just friends”; this idea that being “more than” friends or friendship not being as important. So I think the fact that Miaka is trying very hard to have both these very important relationships is good and valuable in a story that’s also this first love, romantic teen drama thing.
VRAI: Definitely. The other thing I wanted to say is that, in this stretch of episodes, I, the podcast’s number one Yui cheerleader, started to get a little frustrated.
DEE: Yeah. No, this is Yui, I think, at her most intentionally nasty, and it is right before the series and Yui herself start… It’s like she’s pushed herself to this point of “I’m a bad guy now. I’m a bad guy now.” And then she really does something that… I mean, she just plays and tricks her friend, and then immediately after that starts to realize the consequences of this very angry, hurt battle she’s been having with her friend.
And once she starts summoning Seiryuu, she starts to feel like she’s maybe making a mistake, like “Did I really love Tamahome, or am I just upset because Miaka abandoned me, or because I feel like Miaka abandoned me?”
VRAI: Not even that. I think… The traitor thing aside, which I group under the “Fuck, Lord, yet another thing of forced miscommunication.” Fine, whatever. The—
DEE: And Miaka conveniently loses her voice.
VRAI: Uh-huh. I meant specifically the moment where Yui is lurking under the window while they embrace like it’s a damn scene from Dynasty, and I’m like, “[groans] God, come on!”
DEE: Yeah… Yeah, that convenient dramatic timing is a little eye roll-worthy, I think, and sort of frustrating. What I think might be worth taking from that is the fact that Yui appears to have been going over to Miaka’s house to have a conversation with her, finally.
VRAI: [fondly] Aww… Well, now you made it sad.
DEE: And so, the fact that she then sees Tamahome… Like, the fact that she is there suggests that she came to check with Miaka. Which I think, again, is one of those moments that sneakily tells you how Yui actually feels, as the show has been pretty hard at hammering, “No, you do love Miaka. She is still your best friend, despite Nakago’s constant, endless gaslighting.” And he can feel her pushing away, I think, in this stretch of episodes, and so then he really digs his claws in.
VRAI: Right, like: “Here’s a special memento of me that you can use to talk to me at any time you want.”
DEE: And he tells her what she really wants to hear, which is “I love you. I’m never going to abandon you. I trust you. All you need is me,” basically, and he insulates her. Aw, it’s terrible.
CAITLIN: He manipulates her, and he has her convinced that they are in love.
VRAI: Mm-hm. Ah, this poor child.
CAITLIN: And honestly, the amount of fiction I read where there are romances between girls in their teens and adult men that honestly treats it like it ain’t no thing is huge. So I honestly, actually appreciate that the genuine romances are between teenagers—or the honest crushes—while the “romance”—and I just did finger quotes—between an adult and a teenager is: “He is manipulating her for his own ends. He has no genuine interest in her.”
DEE: Yeah. And the series does not play that moment where he says, “I love you,” and kisses her—ugh—does not play it as romantic. It’s in the dark, there’s all these… The framing in that scene is really good.
DEE: There’s all these tangled-up trellises, latticework on the windows, and it’s very much this sense of Yui being caged and trapped and him pulling her in. And it is ominous. It is an ominous scene. It does not play it as “Oh, look at this love blossoming between Yui and Nakago.” It’s not that at all. So, give the story credit for that, for sure.
VRAI: Absolutely. For the most part, I feel like some of those elements of Yui’s arc are certainly very unusually daringly handled for the day.
DEE: Yeah, it’s a lot better than I think I remembered it being. I thought at a certain point Yui went Full Cackling Villain, and she doesn’t. The series does a very good job of, again, not necessarily 100% excusing everything she does—like when Tamahome leaves after she drugs him and he’s like, “This was a bad thing you did. I feel sympathy for you, but this was still a bad thing you did”—while still having that sympathy and being very upfront about—upfront? Yeah, I guess that’s word—for how Nakago is manipulating her. And Miaka wants to help her get out of this very toxic, dangerous relationship she’s in with this guy, who’s been lying to her from day one.
In the meanwhile, despite Yui’s wavering, she does summon Seiryuu. As I said, our heroes lose badly, which, again, is pretty wild. Usually in fiction, there are hiccups and roadblocks. But they go into this war, and there’s very much the sense of “Welp, we’re all screwed. They outnumber us three-to-one. I guess we’re just going to die.”
VRAI: This show seems to think that a war is one really big battle where everybody gets on their horses. Like, okay.
DEE: Yeah, it is not well depicted. There is a fort in the background—I’m not sure that “fort” is the exact right word, but a castle town sort of thing—that they’re trying to defend on the border that ends up falling. And yeah, the war element is kind of weird, but it’s fine. It’s all drama. Anyway…
VRAI: It’s just there so you can have the dramatic moment where Nakago is entirely overpowered and then they… Ugh.
DEE: [crosstalk; exasperated] Oh, my God.
DEE: Well, and at that point, nobody has abilities, so they’re riding up against a guy who is… they can’t even deflect his blows anymore. He’ll just freakin’ kill ‘em, which he… Let’s see, what happens there? He messes up Mitsukake. Mitsukake gets knocked off his horse pretty bad, and then Koji thankfully comes along and saves them.
Can I also point out that for some damn reason Chichiri’s the only one who doesn’t get armor and this annoys me? [laughs]
They all ride into battle and—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, he’s just a guy now! He needs armor now!
DEE: And they’ve all got armor, except him for some reason.
So, in the visual novel, it’s suggested that you don’t have to be a Celestial Warrior to use chi abilities, so he’s not nearly as powerful, but he can still do some stuff. In the anime, that is not made clear, if it’s even true at all. So, yeah, he’s kind of just a sitting duck out there. Good thing Mitsukake jumped in front of that blast with his armor on, I guess, because my boy would’ve died.
VRAI: Aw. I am a little bit upset at the anime for… because normally I hate that trope where it’s like, “No, you have to stay behind. I have to protect you.” But in this particular case, Miaka has no business on that battlefield.
DEE: There’s a few of them who go out to fight, and I’m like, “Why are you there?” Because, again, my friend and I were—the first time I watched this—to deal with our extreme anxiety over the fact that these characters we loved might die, specifically Tasuki and Chichiri, we started almost taking bets on who was going to go down next.
And we figured Hotohori would be okay—and we’ll talk about Hotohori in a minute—but we figured he’d be okay because he’d be at the palace. We figured Mitsukake would be in a wounded tent and he’d be fine. But then he rides to the front lines, too, and I’m like, “This seems like a mistake, Doctor Man.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, Mitsukake has never been a fighter.
DEE: No, but he puts on armor. He gets armor [breaks into laughter] and goes… Sorry, I don’t know why I’m hung up on that, but I am hung up on that.
Okay, a couple of things I did want to talk about in this last stretch of episodes, before we go back to the real world, which then we’ll touch on that a little bit, too. The first is that, as I just mentioned, Hotohori is back in the game. Welcome back, Hotohori.
VRAI: You’re bearable now.
DEE: Getting laid seems to have mellowed him out.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and when they lose their powers, his first response to Miaka is: “Hey, why don’t you try getting laid, too?”
DEE: [laughs] He’s like, “Miaka, you and…” He seems genuinely supportive of their relationship, so kudos, Hotohori, on getting over that, I suppose.
DEE: Okay, he’s still a bad emperor, you guys, because at the very end of this stretch of episodes, he’s like, “I’m going to go lead the army from the front lines,” and I’m like, “That is a terrible idea, Leader Of The Country Who Currently Does Not Have An Heir.”
VRAI: Right. So, you’re just going to create a power vacuum by trying to showboat, is what you’re saying.
DEE: Yeah. And once again, dude, you don’t have powers! You’re the leader of the country. You need to not die.
CAITLIN: Yeah. [laughs]
DEE: It’d be one thing if it was like, “The enemy is at the gates of the capital. They have stormed their way to the capital,” and Hotohori was like, “Welp, once more into the breach. I bid you stand, Men of the West. They make take our lives, but they’ll never take our Independence Day!”
DEE: You know, there could be a rousing “We’re doomed” moment at that point. But they’re not at the palace yet, and he’s like, “I’m going to go to the front lines,” and I’m like, “Please don’t.”
DEE: “Please don’t. That’s a mistake.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, please do not abandon your new wife and the country. Your new wife, who has only been running the country for a couple of months.
VRAI: Oh, my God! Oh, my God!
DEE: Yeah, let’s talk about Rebound Empress. Vrai, you sound like you want to talk about Rebound Empress.
VRAI: I don’t think I’m actually mad at Hotohori. I think I’m mad at Yuu Watase.
DEE: [laughs] That’s probably fair.
VRAI: “If only Nuriko had been possessed of a vagina, perhaps Hotohori would’ve learned to love them.” Fuck you!
DEE: Yeah. It’s shitty. I don’t want to get into this too much, because… Well, the big thing here is they get home and it’s like “Oh, by the way, I got married. Cheers!”
VRAI: Completely off-stage, to this character who is a non-character.
DEE: None of you have ever met this character. You know nothing about this character. There is a light novel that fills in all of the gaps there. I won’t get into it too much here, because one of the OVAs does actually tell part of that story.
The one element I will bring up is that Houki and Nuriko were friends in the palace harem. They met and were buddies, and their relationship is really cute.
DEE: Because Houki has, like, no interest in Hotohori. And then the fact that they realize how much they look alike. And Houki is just a farm girl who got dragged into this against her will, which was not super uncommon when creating harems at the time. But Nuriko looks after her, because she’s much more naive than Nuriko is. And yeah, it’s cute.
Throughout their travels with the warriors as they head towards Hokkan and when they’re running around the country, Nuriko sends letters back to Houki, so Houki gets to follow along on their adventure. It’s a sweet relationship.
VRAI: See, that’s all kind of nice, but—
DEE: It is.
VRAI: Here, though, she doesn’t have any character, so she’s literally just “What if Nuriko had been a cis girl?”
DEE: [crosstalk] No, she does not.
DEE: Yeah. No, I like Houki because of some of the supplementary material that eventually gets written for her, but as of this point in the anime, it’s like, “What the hell?”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Who?
DEE: Yeah. “Who are you?” And like you said, “If only Nuriko had had a vagina,” which was some bullshit.
VRAI: And maybe I’m extra mad because of that author’s note you posted in our Slack chat, which, my God, Yuu Watase!
DEE: Yeah, I wonder if I can sum this up for the readers. Basically, it’s very cringe-inducing in a lot of ways and, I think, is indicative of a mentality in the mid-90s in particular, where Watase’s like, “Yeah, I initially made Nuriko gay for comic relief and then I realized that they were actually a person and this was a legitimate character trait.” And I’m like, “Wow! Okay! That’s rough.” And then Watase goes on to talk about… “It’s not really homosexual love since Nuriko sees themselves as a woman, so it’s transsexual love,” which was the term at the time.
VRAI: Specifically, “Well, actually, Hotohori is a woman, so I guess it was more of…” [groans] You don’t underst—you don’t.
DEE: Yeah. Watase has no idea what she is attempting or doing with Nuriko’s character. That’s really the sense that you get from that author’s note, is like, “Watase doesn’t really know anything about queer issues and probably didn’t do much research beforehand other than a handful of manga that were probably not super educational.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, this is all pretty typical for the time.
DEE: It is. Yeah. But it’s one of those things where I think it is relevant from a historical perspective, but it makes it tough to pass the story forward in time. It dates it in a way that is noticeable and kind of painful.
VRAI: If we were still in 1992, I guess you could say, “How nice that Yuu Watase created a stereotype character and realized that the gays are people too.” But it’s 2017, and I’m tired.
DEE: Yeah. Yeah, it’s that very difficult line between the historical context of something versus how well it holds up in a modern context. And in that modern context, not so much, which we’ve talked about at length before.
VRAI: Definitely, yeah.
DEE: But it rears its head a little bit here, too.
One other thing happens before they go to war and get sucked back to the real world, which I wanted to talk about, and that is that Miaka and Tamahome decide that “Well, maybe we should just bang, now that we can. Let’s do it.” And I really like that scene, actually.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s neat! It’s a nice scene.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s actually really sweet!
DEE: It’s very… So, first of all, I like that Tamahome admits, “I know this is terrible and selfish of me, but in a way I’m kind of glad that you get to stay here and we can get married and consummate our relationship.” And he’s like, “This is a dumb thing to talk about before a battle. I should leave.” And I like that Miaka instigates it. She’s like, “No, stay. I want us to spend the night together.”
CAITLIN: “I want us to fuck.”
DEE: Yeah, basically. Miaka’s thirsty, and we’ll talk about that a little bit later too, because it’s kind of wonderful. I like that. And then I think the scene of them almost having sex and then something goofy happening and them going, “You know what? Let’s wait. This isn’t the best time. Let’s just go to sleep.”
CAITLIN: It was very sweet.
DEE: It’s very cute, and it’s very honest, and I think it feels a lot like awkward teenagers trying to figure out how to do the sex.
VRAI: And also, I think there’s an idea in romance that all times when you start having sex, you must do the sex, and it will be good and amazing, mind-blowing. No, sometimes you just decide, “Let’s not.”
DEE: Yeah, sometimes you don’t even get started because somebody’s stomach growls very loudly. And Tamahome just laughing and being like, “Oh, that’s adorable. It’s fine. Let’s just go to sleep.”
VRAI: It’s nice.
DEE: Yeah, it is. It’s a nice moment.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s very sweet and affectionate. And the art in that moment and the way they were drawn together was very pretty and had a very intimate feeling to it. I don’t know. Everything came together for that scene.
DEE: It did. And, again—Caitlin, I know you’re with me on this one, too—I love shoujo manga. I love the genre, but you get a lot of relationship sequences where the girl gets pressured into it or sex just isn’t talked about, period. And so, to have a female character who is proactive about being attracted to somebody and wanting to be with them…
CAITLIN: Generally speaking, there’s a lot of like, the boy pressures her and she’s like, “Oh, no,” but inward, she’s like, “Oh, I actually really want this.” And it’s like, “Boy, there could not be a less healthy lesson in that one.”
DEE: And that’s baked very much into Japanese fiction in general, going back to the Heian era, is this idea that it was considered, in the great, elaborate—sorry, I read so much about the Heian era, so I have all this information that I’m now going to share some of with you.
In this elaborate courtship game that was played at the time, the woman was not supposed to seem too eager, or it was considered a turn-off, which is shitty for a lot of reasons. And Tale of Genji actually sort of accidentally touches on the reasons that’s shitty, and it’s shitty for both parties, truthfully.
But this idea of the woman not being into it but then actually being into it and going for it at the last second is baked very much into the literature, again, going back to the 900s at least—maybe further back than that, but definitely the Heian era. And then you see it in Edo period literature as well. So it actually is kind of a big deal that Watase goes, “No, this girl I have written is sexually—”
DEE: “—is DTF. She is sexually active, she likes this guy, and she wants to have sex with him. And she will make the first move.” And I appreciate that quite a bit about this stretch of episodes. But they end up not. They end up not. They just go to sleep, and Tasuki finds them curled up together the next morning, which is a bit awkward for him, but it’s amusing.
And then they go to war. And then Yui sends them home, and Tamahome comes with them, which doesn’t seem like it should happen, but it does, so that’s cool.
VRAI: Because of something something emotional plot logic.
DEE: Listen. Again, it’s shoujo. The answer is feelings. The answer is always feelings!
CAITLIN: It’s always feelings.
VRAI: You know what? Fine.
DEE: And I’m okay with this.
VRAI: [crosstalk] I’m fine, really. Really, I’m okay with it. It’s whatever. It’s feelings.
CAITLIN: And you know what? I love that kind of plot contrivance, so I was totally cool with it.
DEE: Yeah, I’m on board. This stretch of episodes is action-packed, and then they get back to the real world and we get a little bit of a breather, which is nice because it’s going to get action-packed again next week. Just heads-up, folks.
VRAI: Oh, I’d hope so. Next week is the finale, so…
DEE: Yeah, so you would expect the finale to be action-packed, and it definitely is. I did not really have much of a memory of that episode of them first getting back to the real world. I love that episode. Keisuke is so good.
CAITLIN: He is so good! He’s the best anime big brother.
VRAI: [crosstalk] He kind of became the audience surrogate character somewhere along the line.
DEE: Oh, absolutely. By virtue of reading the story the same way we were. So, yeah, he has that fanboy moment when he meets Tamahome, and then he gets really excited when he realizes he’s written in the book. He’s like, “I’m in the book! Yay!” [laughs]
CAITLIN: [laughs] And, you know, it’s interesting because he didn’t know what Tamahome looked like.
DEE: No, that’s true. He did not.
CAITLIN: So, when he sees Tamahome, he’s like, “Oh, my God, you’re even cooler than I imagined!” This is his first time making visual contact with this guy. All he’s had is this sketchy, old-fashioned line drawings in the book. So it’s a big fanboy moment for him.
DEE: When you think about big brothers in media in general, but definitely in anime, they’re either evil or they’re overprotective, and Keisuke’s really good with Tamahome being with Miaka. He teases them, but it’s very loving. Like when Miaka comes in to give Tamahome a kiss good morning and Keisuke’s in bed with him. So nice. “Hey there, newlyweds!”
DEE: But yeah, he’s pretty sweet and wants the best for the two of them and is trying to help them out. When he gives Tamahome a makeover and Miaka about loses her mind…
DEE: One of my favorite moments in the story, and it was a moment I had completely forgotten was in the story. But again, it was one of those really fun moments that I don’t think you see a lot of in fiction, where a female character is super turned on by how good her boyfriend looks. And I just liked it, and I thought it was cute that Keisuke was all excited about giving Tamahome a makeover.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Keisuke is a sweet, sweet boy who just wants his little sister to be happy. And since he’s been reading the book this whole time, he’s seen how genuine Tamahome is. He knows he doesn’t have to fight him off; he knows that he doesn’t have ill intent towards his little sister.
But also, throughout the whole series, he’s so consistently supportive to Miaka. I still remember, in the first episode where we meet him, Miaka’s telling him this crazy shit, and the look on his face is just like, “What are you talking about?” But he doesn’t sit there and tell her she’s crazy. He’s like, “Okay, so this is what’s—”
DEE: “Assuming this is true…” Yeah.
CAITLIN: “Okay, how are we going to respond to this?” So, yeah, I don’t know. He’s just so sweet, and there’s a real sense that he and Tamahome could be friends.
VRAI: Hey, remember when we could have big brothers in anime without a brother complex?
DEE: The good ol’ days.
DEE: [groans] Yeah, I remember those days.
CAITLIN: I want more anime like that.
DEE: Me too. I want more loving and supportive familial relationships in my anime. That sounds lovely. More of that, for sure.
So, yeah, that last episode’s mostly a breather. It gives us some time to have fun with Keisuke and Tamahome in the real world. There is some trouble on the horizon. At some point, they are going to have to let Tamahome know he is a character in a book. They keep it from him this week…
VRAI: Again, I thought we’d cover this, but sure. Fine. Whatever.
DEE: In this one instance, I understand why they’re not trying to explain it to him yet. Because he’s already been zipped out of his own world into this new world; he’s got culture shock. They don’t have the book with them, so it’s a lot harder to explain without the words in front of them. So I understand Keisuke’s reasoning of: “We’ll ease him into it. Once we have the book, then we can explain and he can see it and have the proof there.”
VRAI: But shouldn’t Keisuke know that Yui already confronted Tamahome with this fact?
DEE: Uh… yes? Mm, probably?
VRAI: Like I said, he should, but also, whatever.
DEE: [crosstalk] Tetsuya might have been reading the book at that point.
CAITLIN: I think she mentioned it, but they never really explained it, so it’s probably something that has been way in the back of his mind, but not something that he’s really tried to figure out what exactly she meant.
VRAI: I can accept that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] And also, I don’t know if… Did he talk about that with Miaka? Or did he just… I don’t know if Miaka—
VRAI: She asked what was wrong, and he changed the subject, because of course.
CAITLIN: Yeah, so she doesn’t know how much he knows.
DEE: No, Miaka doesn’t know. So, yeah, in this instance, I kind of understand that. But I think it is worth noting that Tamahome still doesn’t know, so that will probably come as a shock to him when it does finally happen.
There’s also some foreshadowing in the book that Nakago might be coming to this world. Thank you, Tetsuya, for reading the foreshadowing to Keisuke and letting us know that might be on the horizon.
CAITLIN: Yeah, he wants to be “like a god” because there was not already enough overpowered Nakago, right?
DEE: I was gonna say, because Nakago does not feel like he has all of the power yet. I mean, it’s very true to Nakago’s character, from what we know of him, is he’s very much about power and control. So him wanting to become a god fits with that. [crosstalk] Uh… should—
VRAI: [crosstalk] But also, it’s a very boring motivation.
DEE: It is.
CAITLIN: It is.
DEE: And I find it amazing that when Yui’s like, “Hey, I’ll save you a wish since you’ve been helping me out all this time. What’s your wish?” and he says, “I want to be a god,” she doesn’t go, “What?” She kind of just takes it in stride.
VRAI: Like, have you never read a book, Yui?
CAITLIN: I just remembered something that I thought I wanted to talk about it while I was watching the episode, but then I forgot until just this moment.
CAITLIN: The moment where [Yui] summons Seiryuu and he’s like, “I will now couple with you, and you will get your three wishes.”
DEE: Oh, yeah!
CAITLIN: And it’s not like he actually bones down with her, but when he enters her… her body language, her fingers curl, and it’s like, “Oh! Okay. This is very much a metaphor for sex right there. This is Yui having her first orgasm.” And I just thought that was an interesting thing, considering the way that the gods and sex have interplayed throughout the series.
DEE: And it comes back to that idea of the priestess needing to be pure.
CAITLIN: Yeah, exactly.
DEE: Because she’s giving herself to the god. And, I mean… Yeah.
VRAI: What’s up, virginity fetish!
CAITLIN: [laughs] Can I be incredibly foul for a second here?
VRAI: I wish you would.
DEE: Sure, why not?
CAITLIN: The gods do not want any sloppy seconds.
VRAI: I was thinking it, and I’m glad you said it.
DEE: I mean, yeah. You’re not wrong.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Which is a horrible thing to say.
VRAI: It’s a horrible thing! Yes! But also—
CAITLIN: But sometimes you just gotta be a little foul, right?
VRAI: My life.
DEE: Hey, when you are right, you are right.
CAITLIN: [laughs] No, but obviously there is nothing wrong with having sex with more than one person in your life.
VRAI: I think we’ve covered that this show’s sexual politics are kind of a hot mess.
DEE: Yeah. And, again, we have these really good moments, like Miaka and Tamahome’s scenes this week, and then we have these gross implications with the gods that maybe Watase did not think fully through.
By the way, Miboshi’s spindle is called a prayer wheel.
CAITLIN: Okay, that’s what I thought it might have been.
DEE: Yeah, it’s a prayer wheel. So, I feel better now. Sorry. It was bothering me that I did not know what that was. He’s a bad priest.
VRAI: [chuckles] Yes, I feel… Yes.
DEE: Sorry, I took us completely off-topic, but I wanted to get that in.
VRAI: No, but it does give us an opportunity to mention the single worst out-of-context screencap ever.
DEE: Oh, God! The subtitle team. Okay, so, let’s set the stage by saying that in the manga, the line is “Children are particularly easy to control,” I believe—or, “Children are particularly easy to possess.” When I was playing the visual novel, I translated it as “Children are particularly easy to control.” In the subtitles, the line is “Children are particularly easy to enter.”
DEE: And then I threw my head into my palms, and I buried it so deep, I just hid in the couch.
CAITLIN: You buried it so deep, you looked like the My Hero Academia villain.
DEE: Yes. Good reference, Caitlin.
CAITLIN: Yeah. In the dub, it was “easier to dominate.”
VRAI: That doesn’t help! That doesn’t help!
DEE: Also not great. Not great, Dub, but better. [laughs]
CAITLIN: A little bit.
VRAI: [high-pitched] Is it? Is it?
VRAI: [squeakily] Is it better? [laughs]
DEE: Phrasing. Phrasing, folks.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, we are way over… [laughs]
DEE: I wonder if there’s a translator somewhere who’s like, “Oh, no.” Still, to this day, they think about that line and they’re like, “Oh, no.” [laughs]
“What did I do?” Yeah.
VRAI: [laughs] Mistakes were made.
DEE: Mistakes were made, and now we have to live with those mistakes in subtitle form for, I guess, ever. Unless someday Funimation or somebody decides to redub and re-subtitle it, which does happen, it turns out, with shows. So, who knows?
CAITLIN: I don’t think it’s going to happen with Fushigi Yugi.
DEE: Who knows?
VRAI: [crosstalk] With all the kindness in my heart, I sincerely doubt it.
DEE: Our watchalong could spark a Fushigi renaissance. And the Byakko manga, too. All I’m saying is maybe we’re starting a movement here. I’m not being serious.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Well, Fujiko Mine did slightly re-spark an interest in Lupin in the United States, so I guess there’s precedent. I feel your pain, is what I’m saying.
CAITLIN: I mean, it re-spawned an interest in Lupin in Japanese.
VRAI: That, too.
CAITLIN: It revived a stagnating franchise.
VRAI: God, the TV specials. We can’t do that. We can’t do that. I can do that all day.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Okay.
DEE: Yeah, we’ll have a Fujiko Mine podcast. We swear that’s something we’ll do. But today is not that day.
I mean, we got through all of the things, you guys. We ran a little late, but that’s all right.
VRAI: People like it when we talk too much, right?
DEE: Well, it balances out, because last week we were really struggling to find things to talk about. I’m not sure we made it an hour last week, so it balances this way, I figure.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, last week we were a little short.
DEE: But yeah, that takes us—
VRAI: [crosstalk] The Badlands were bad.
DEE: The Badlands were bad, and now we’re back into some engaging, entertaining… Again, there’s some bullshit to wade through, but that’s par-for-the-course.
VRAI: It wouldn’t be Fushigi Yugi without at least a little bullshit.
DEE: Yeah. It’s the sweet and the sour, for sure.
VRAI: Yeah. Yeah.
DEE: But yeah, that takes us up to the end of the episodes we watched. Are there any other comments, critiques, things you wanted to call out, fun jokes?
VRAI: Koji was really good.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Koji is a good boy.
DEE: [crosstalk; delighted] I’m so glad Koji’s back! I love Koji. He’s another one of those characters, kind of like Houki, who gets fleshed out in the light novels a little bit, and I like him a whole lot. So it’s nice that Tasuki has a boyfriend who comes to help him in dire straits.
DEE: Yay, Tasuki. I wish the two of you nothing but happiness.
VRAI: I think that’s all.
DEE: [crosstalk] That’s all. We just—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Why don’t you play us out, Dee?
DEE: We just needed to remind everyone that the trash bandits are good boys. Yes. Okay, I’ll play us out, then.
Okay, folks, that’s a wrap for this week’s watchalong. If you’re following along at home, the next Fushigi Yugi podcast will cover episodes 47 through 52, also known as The Furious Finale! The Captivating Climax! The Dramatic Denouement!
VRAI: The last time I get to only watch six episodes instead of like 20.
DEE: Well, next week will be the end of the TV series, at least. We still have a basket-full of OVAs to tackle, and we will be tackling them. But for now, just focus on the first series ending, where I’m positive everyone will hug it out and let bygones be bygones. It’ll be fine, right? We’ll have a nice, chill final six episodes here.
DEE: Okay. If you enjoyed this episode of Chatty AF, we’d love it if you’d tell your friends or leave a nice review for us on iTunes. And if you really like what you heard, please consider tossing a dollar or more to our Patreon each month. Your support goes a long way towards making Anime Feminist happen, both in print and in your earbuds.
And that’s the show! Thanks for listening, AniFam. Stay away from any floating babies, and we’ll catch you next time.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Shoot!
VRAI: [laughing] Bye!