Part 8 of the multi-part watchalong of Fushigi Yugi with Caitlin, Vrai, and Dee! As gods rise, characters fall, and the TV series comes to an explosive conclusion, the team discusses the highs and lows and argues for the show’s place in the anime canon. Tasuki and Chichiri have their Helm’s Deep Moment. Nakago woobies out. Miaka and Tamahome get by with a little help from their friends.
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 7th October 2017
Hosts: Dee, Caitlin, Vrai
0:02:16 Tamahome’s identity crisis
0:26:57 Good beats
0:34:54 Yui’s redemption
0:43:42 Nakago’s backstory
0:49:17 Nakago and Akio (Utena)
0:52:05 Miaka’s wish
0:54:34 The Post credits
1:00:48 Personal experiences
1:10:43 Comparisons to other series
1:15:10 The future
CAITLIN: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Caitlin, an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist as well as my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem. Vrai, Dee, why don’t you introduce yourselves today?
VRAI: Sure. My name’s Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor to Anime Feminist. You can find me on the internet and the things I do on Twitter, @writervrai, or the other podcast I co-host @trashpod.
DEE: Hi, I’m Dee Hogan, a writer and editor for Anime Feminist. I also run the anime blog, The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor. Spoiler alert: I’m running a fever today, so if my contribution to the podcast is 90% me fangirling about the scenes I really liked, I apologize in advance.
VRAI: That’s fine. I knew when you brought me on to this podcast that I was here to be the cranky one who was mad at things. And I can fill that today.
DEE: Oh, I think Caitlin and I are going to be mad at things, too.
CAITLIN: Oh, yes. Don’t worry. We’ll find things. But anyway, this is not the final watchalong of Fushigi Yugi, the penultimate one, with episodes 47-52, finishing up the TV series.
So, as the conclusion of the TV series would suggest, this sort of brings everyone’s arc to a close. And it starts off with Tamahome in the real world, because he’s been brought over by… some reason.
DEE: Feelings. [crosstalk] We discussed this last week. He was brought over by feelings.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s right. Feelings. Everything kind of happens according to feelings. And you know what? He looks really good in modern clothes—
DEE: [crosstalk; chuckles] Miaka agrees with you.
CAITLIN: —and he has to confront his past. Also, Keisuke fanboys really hard.
DEE: It’s adorable. Yeah, I guess, as far as opening arcs go, it’s Tamahome’s identity crisis, yeah? That’s kind of where we start off here.
CAITLIN: Yeah. “Just a character in a book!”
VRAI: It’s… a thing. He swirls dramatically in his trenchcoat. He walks past a rotoscoped concert.
CAITLIN: That concert footage was weird.
VRAI: Choices were made. I don’t know why, beyond the fact that these last episodes looked really cheap. But, bless their heart, they’re trying.
CAITLIN: I think they just blew out the budget.
DEE: I kind of feel that way too. They spent way too much money animating Hotohori’s nipple armor and not enough on these final fights. Sorry, his armor makes me laugh every time he’s on screen and I try to take it seriously, and then I’m like, “Why are there little nipples on there?! You don’t need those!”
VRAI: It’s empowering nipple armor.
DEE: You know, if Hotohori feels empowered in it, who am I to judge? No shade. I just don’t entirely understand the purpose. [laughs]
No, that concert scene, as a kid—and I’m going to be recollecting for y’all my 4 AM finale watchalong feels as we go, probably—that concert felt about five hours long, ’cause we were like, [fake-sobbing] “Why is this happening? Why is there a random concert in the middle of a cross-dimensional war?”
CAITLIN: [amused] Why is there anything?
DEE: I think the record label was like, “Hey. You need to put a spotlight on these singers who have been doing all of your insert songs.” And so the anime company said, “Okay, we’ll do that. You paid us a lot of money, Record Label.” Whatever you say.
VRAI: I will say that the part of the concert where it is scoring Tamahome’s dramatic run through the city and he looks a lot like Suzuki for a hot minute. And he’s jumping over cars and it’s stupid but kind of glorious.
DEE: He’s flying through traffic, yes. I giggled.
VRAI: It’s so fucking dumb, but it’s kind of good. That part I’m okay with. Why did you need diagetic sound for your grand—? I don’t know, but fine.
CAITLIN: It’s more angsty that way.
DEE: Yeah, I… I feel for Tamahome in this moment because I think that it’s a legit… How do I put this? It’s kind of cool to me that Fushigi Yugi decided to take the concept of “This is a fictional character in a book” as far as that concept will go.
These characters actually do have to reconcile with the fact that they’re technically made-up. And Tamahome trying to figure out: “what’s the meaning of everything shitty that’s happened to me or these memories I have of childhood if none of that is actually real?”
CAITLIN: Right. Honestly, if I were Tamahome, I would be really angry at the writer. “Why the fuck did you do this to me?!”
DEE: Which I think kind of circles back to the sort of—as much as I hate to bring it to Nakago, who I’m sure we’ll talk about plenty later—
VRAI: This fucker.
DEE: —it kind of circles back to this idea of the gods being kind of cruel, and the sense of: “how do you make meeting out of what seems like senseless suffering?” Which I think is a running theme throughout the show, but definitely in this back half, and in a lot of the episodes we’ve watched today.
Where it’s that idea of: “If I’m going to die, or if somebody needs to step up to protect somebody else, how do you make that moment mean something?” And we talked about that a little bit last week with Chiriko dying and Miaka trying to stop the Seiryuu ceremony to make that sacrifice count, and she fails, and so this…
I don’t know, there’s kind of a fascinating concept that I think is right under the surface of a lot of these later episodes of this fight between chaos and… I don’t know—
DEE: Not necessarily order, even. Just “what you do to give meaning to that,” I guess.
CAITLIN: It’s nihilism versus…
VRAI: Well, it’s hopeless versus hopeful nihilism.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah. There you go! Yeah.
VRAI: Like, “nothing matters and therefore everything matters,” or “nothing matters, and therefore destroy it all.”
DEE: Which is kind of the Tamahome-Nakago conflict, if we want to really dig into this from a philosophical perspective, I guess.
VRAI: Although Tamahome gets kind of fatalistic about it in a way that… [pained] I don’t know that the series knows how alarming it is?
DEE: His whole speech when he comes back and is like, “Well, it’s cool because it turns out I just exist entirely for you, Miaka. I live because of you.”
CAITLIN: That was…
DEE: I wrote “blegh” in my notes.
VRAI: They’ve come so far and now, and now… this is the note we’re ending on.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Tamahome is a good boyfriend, but the way the show sort of… I’ve never been able to really get behind how the show romanticizes codependence.
DEE: Yeah, that’s always kind of bugged me. I… There’s a part of me that—I get the fantasy that the series is playing with there. I get the fantasy of… and in a way kind of a gender role reversal, you know: the man who was born to love the woman and do anything for her and is there to serve her.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, that’s true.
DEE: So, you know, especially from an early-’90s perspective, I think there is something kind of cool about it? But then there’s also this bigger issue of: I just don’t care for stories like that. I want there to be more of a mutual support. So it doesn’t hold up and it makes me cringe and it makes me go “blegh.” [laughs]
DEE: But I can kind of appreciate it from that perspective of the romantic fantasy and the, I guess, “trope challenge” it’s doing there.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Although I did… When he was like, “Oh, you fell in love with me even though I was just a character in a book,” I’m just like: “Yeah, what teenage girl into anime hasn’t done that, though? Who did not have a crush on an anime character?”
DEE: I feel like most teenagers have crushed on some kind of fictional person, whether that’s in anime or novels or what have you. At some time or another. So, yeah, it’s… Which, again, it plays into that sort of Hashtag Relatable teen experience of “I love this fictional person who I can’t actually be with, but they’re just so awesome!”
VRAI: And if they knew, they would be so grateful to you.
CAITLIN: Yeah. You go hang out with them on the astral plane.
VRAI: The Snape Wives would like a word. [snickers] Sorry.
DEE: No, it’s okay.
CAITLIN: Fushigi Yugi was around at the height of the “astral plane” thing, too. Which, to inform the uninformed, is the concept that all characters exist and if you love them—you really, really, love them—then you can access this plane where all of the worlds combine and you can meet the fictional character that you love and be together.
DEE: I was not aware of that.
CAITLIN: [surprised] Oh, no?
DEE: [crosstalk] No, I missed that memo at some point.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It was a big thing back in the day.
DEE: Well, I guess that’s basically what Fushigi Yugi is doing. Although—we’ll talk about this when we get towards the ending—it twists… it plays around with that a little bit.
CAITLIN: It does. So… And then, most of the finale takes place in Tokyo, but we do stop over into the Universe of the Four Gods a couple of times.
DEE: Mostly to watch people die.
CAITLIN: Exactly! Goddammit, you stole my line.
CAITLIN: I was gonna say exactly that.
VRAI: Some people die in these episodes. A few.
DEE: Yeah. This was the part where my friend and I became convinced that everyone was going to die, and we were just constantly—almost numb and just bracing ourselves for our most beloved characters to bite the bullet.
VRAI: It’s fine. The good boys are fine.
DEE: It’s a tense stretch. The good boys are fine, but… Okay, we’ll talk about that later. Caitlin, I’m guessing you were gonna spin that towards Mitsukake to start us off?
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, well, ’cause he was the first one to die in this stretch. But yeah, I can see why you thought everyone was going to die ’cause the deaths that we did visit were… pretty pointless.
DEE: [skeptical] Mm… We can talk about that a little bit.
CAITLIN: Yeah. ‘Cause Mitsukake is injured and he’s wearing himself out tending to these other injured people. He has no powers. And then someone comes along with a baby named Shouka, and he’s like, “Well, I’m gonna give my life to kill—” [catches self; laughs] not to kill—“to save all these people. I will kill myself to save all these people.”
And that kind of frustrated me because it was like, “Well, there’s gonna be more people tomorrow and there’s gonna be more people the day after that. This is a war, and you are genuinely a doctor. You know how to heal people other than just using your powers. While you are saving all of these people today, there’s going to be so many other people that won’t have anyone to help them now.”
VRAI: Right. And there’s no sense that he’s passed on his knowledge. Now they’ve got nothing. This is not him living on that way.
DEE: I assume there are other doctors in Konan, you guys. Mitsukake is not the only doctor in the entirety of Konan.
VRAI: In the emotional logic of this scene, it seems like he is.
CAITLIN: Yeah, ’cause there was no one else to help them, for some reason.
CAITLIN: And… Yeah. It just seemed… Yeah. It seemed pointless to me. And if you really, really reflect—I guess if you really, really reflect on his character, it makes sense. ‘Cause he’s definitely shown himself to be sensitive to mass suffering and he’s—like, in his backstory that we got, however many dozens of episodes ago—he’s sensitive to the suffering of groups of people. He never got over Shouka. So, it does make sense.
DEE: He wasn’t able to save Nuriko or Chiriko.
CAITLIN: He wasn’t able to save Nuriko or Chiriko.
DEE: And that is his job. His job on the team is to keep people from dying, and he feels like he failed that.
VRAI: Right. Well—
CAITLIN: And he saved other people so many times. He saved Tamahome.
DEE: Yeah, but, I mean, you can’t tell me that you’ve never been in a situation where all you could focus on were the things you did wrong rather than the things you did right.
CAITLIN: Oh, are you kidding? I have anxiety. [laughs]
DEE: [crosstalk] And Mitsukake is… very sad.
VRAI: If the anime even wanted to sell me on the fact that he’s quietly had a death wish since Shouka died, I’d buy that. Fine. But I don’t think… This has all been so, so, so backgrounded that it doesn’t feel earned, is my issue.
CAITLIN: Yeah. You have to really, really… It doesn’t feel natural. You have to really, really work on putting the pieces together for it to feel like it makes sense. For it to not feel pointless and just that it’s happening to make you sad.
VRAI: It’s kind of like Chiriko’s death, where I think both of those characters get more time in the manga and their arcs make a little more sense. But…
DEE: Mm, Mitsukake doesn’t really.
CAITLIN: Not really. Yeah.
DEE: His death scene is much better in the anime than the manga. In the manga it’s almost a footnote.
CAITLIN: He’s a big, burly manly-man. He is not Yuu Watase’s type.
VRAI: I was gonna say most of what makes his death scene effective here is the fact that it makes Chichiri sad.
DEE: Well, and I actually want to say: I think Chichiri would agree with Caitlin. He is… God, ugh! Okay, that entire—most of the stuff with Chichiri is not in the manga and I think it’s wonderful, and I have a running theory that someone on the anime staff—like, Chichiri is their favorite character—
DEE: —and we can get more into that in the OVA, because they definitely give him more to do in this last arc, which I appreciate.
No, his reaction to it is really good. It’s very raw in a way that we haven’t really seen from him? And I think that sense of “I am right here with this person trying to get them to not do this thing and I can’t stop them,” I think that hits him pretty hard. And he argues with Mitsukake, “It’s my fault they died.” And he’s like, “No, none of us could save them. This is not your fault.”
I… am going to disagree with you both. I admit I do have a lot of supplementary information in terms of the light novel and the visual novel that probably makes this scene hit a little bit harder for me.
That having been said, I think there’s a philosophical question at the core of this, which is either Mitsukake sits there and goes, “Well, I’m going to let these people today die, who I could save, for the possibility of maybe saving more people tomorrow, or do I save who I can when I can?” And there’s a lot of Buddhist imagery in this scene, which I think comes back to the idea of compassion for all. And when Chichiri’s trying to get Mitsukake to rest, he’s like, “Everybody’s important. I can’t look at somebody and just let them die.”
And so I think when you argue that his death is pointless, I think that’s really harsh, because he does save everyone within, like, a hundred-foot radius by doing this. And I think that kind of ties into that concept of: “How do sacrifices have meaning, or are given a point?”
And I think it ties into Chichiri’s rage during that scene when the soldiers get up and are like, “Oh, I guess we should go back to killing each other.” And so he kind of screams at them about this idea that, “No, you’re not going to make this meaningless. He did this to save everyone indiscriminately. Both sides of the conflict. You’re not going to make that be a waste.”
I think it’s a really fascinating and effective scene given how small it is, and I think that philosophical question of, like, again: “Do you let people in front of you suffer because maybe you can save someone else tomorrow, or do you do everything you can at that moment?” I think that’s a worthwhile question.
CAITLIN: Right. And I think that’s a decision that people have to make for real all the time. This is a real choice that people have to make. And, you know, my personal philosophy has been: “Do what you can in the day because tomorrow’s another day and you’re going to have to do what you can again that day.” That’s how I’ve always thought of it.
DEE: Sure. And again, I think Chichiri would very much agree with you. I think that’s his philosophy as well.
CAITLIN: Okay, so maybe it was harsh to say that it was pointless, because he did save a lot of people doing that.
You know what was pointless? Hotohori’s death!
DEE: He died the way he lived, Caitlin. He died the way he lived. Pointlessly.
VRAI: [cracks up]
CAITLIN: And like, ‘cause— [trails off into laughter]
DEE: And Vrai cackles!
VRAI: [through laughter] Fuck this guy! I’m done with him!
CAITLIN: It was such a fucking idiot move. There was nothing gained by it. He, the sole emperor of a company with no heir yet…
DEE: [crosstalk; correcting] Country.
CAITLIN: Houki’s pregnant, but infant mortality. So, no current heir. Pregnant wife. Goes to confront their incredibly powerful enemy alone when he, personally, has no powers. And he gets his ass kicked! And it makes no difference! [crosstalk] He does nothing!
DEE: No! He gives Nakago a scratch. He sacrifices himself—like you said, leaves his country without a ruler, his wife without a husband, his unborn son without a father—to give somebody a scratch.
And it’s not like it was unavoidable. It’s not like Nakago was at the gates of the palace and Hotohori had no choice but to stand there and fight him in an attempt to give people a chance to escape. Nakago was like, “We’re withdrawing. We out. You get to keep your country. Bye.” He did not have to do that. And he knew he wasn’t gonna win.
And I get his anger. I totally get Hotohori’s rage in this moment, because Nakago’s basically like, “Yeah, I murdered a bunch of your people because I needed a distraction, so I could turn around and murder another emperor.” Nakago’s really good at killing emperors, by the way. [crosstalk] His Roaring Rampage of Regicide, this week.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s on his resume. It’s right there at the top.
DEE: Yeah! [laughs] So, I understand the anger. I understand the fear about, “Oh, he’s going after Miaka—‘cause that’s how he taunts him. But why would he go and confront him in the first place out on this battlefield? Again, he knows he has the responsibility to a country…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] There’s. No. Difference—
DEE: And then he just throws it all away for, I guess, this concept of nobly giving his life for Miaka. I, personally, think Hotohori kind of had a death wish too, [through laughter] to be honest.
CAITLIN: Yeah, he had a hard life.
VRAI: It’s so frustrating, because it seems like, before his arc was learning that he can’t, in fact, forsake his duties as ruler and go running off with the Suzaku Seven, until this time when it’s fine and it gets him killed.
[annoyed] And guess what? Guess what, Hotohori? Now there are two power vacuums in two countries. And you know what? Houki’s back will be first against the wall when the revolution comes.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Jesus!
CAITLIN: Houki did nothing to deserve that!
VRAI: No, she didn’t, but guess what? She’s the symbol of the old regime now!
CAITLIN: [through laughter] Oh, God!
VRAI: You have killed your wife and child!
DEE: Generally speaking, the people of Konan seemed pretty happy with Hotohori? I mean, he wasn’t a tyrant. We talk about what a shitty emperor he was, but he was not the Kutou emperor. He’ll be a footnote in history, in the long run. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Yeah. Apparently they have strong enough infrastructure that didn’t really matter that he was… [crosstalk] you know, running off on an impulse.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Send Chichiri there to be an adult!
DEE: I really don’t think Chichiri wants to run the country.
CAITLIN: Oh, God. But, yeah. The death scene was very sad.
DEE: Yeah, the death scene itself is…
CAITLIN: I did feel an emotion!
DEE: So did I.
CAITLIN: Just like in the tagline.
DEE: We had emotions. Well, I had a lot of anger, and then he held up the picture and Takehito Koyasu’s voice got really sad and wobbly and then Miaka—Kae Araki, the voice actress there…
VRAI: She was very good in this scene.
DEE: She was, yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It was a genuinely sad scene.
DEE: It is. But the lead-up to it is anger. And then they do the flashback reel and I’m like, “Oh, that’s right! [through laughter] You kind of sucked. I’m remembering all these moments when you kind of sucked.”
VRAI: Thanks for reminding me.
CAITLIN: There’s so many things in this stretch of episodes—and this show in general, but I feel like it was particularly noticeable in the last few episodes—where things just happened that had no basis in logic, that did nothing to drive the plot, but they were there to make you feel something.
You know, when Tamahome’s fighting Suboshi, his family holding Suboshi’s limbs…
VRAI: [crosstalk] The dumbest fucking thing.
DEE: [crosstalk] Anime-original. Yes.
CAITLIN: It made no sense!
DEE: It doesn’t.
CAITLIN: It made no sense! I mean… And, Hotohori’s death, it was pointless, but it was enough to make me feel sad. You know? That—Tamahome’s family just appearing was just fucking stupid.
VRAI: A cynical person might call it emotionally manipulative.
DEE: And, I mean, there is a very fine line between emotionally affecting and emotionally manipulative. I would agree with… This moment felt manipulative, because it was like, “I don’t understand why… that happened?”
CAITLIN: To make you have an emotion.
VRAI: Fushigi Yugi is a very emotionally-based series, but I think, in its best moments, its emotional moments run on their own internal logic. Like, why does Tamahome come to the real world with Miaka? Because of feelings. But also, at the very beginning of the series, even if they’re both destined or whatever, Yui and Miaka are holding onto each other.
So, whatever. It’s planting and payoff. It’s emotions. But stuff like the family… This has no basis in anything. Why is this happening? What am?
CAITLIN: Why are they are here? What are they doing?
DEE: No, that scene really doesn’t work for me. At all. Which, again: anime original. Someone on the anime staff was like, “We should add ghosts to this scene.” And maybe they wanted to set the stage for the fact that there would be ghosts later. But I feel like the Genbu Warriors already set the stage for the fact that ghosts were a thing, so we didn’t necessarily need them. But they happened. So…
DEE: So Suboshi dies and I’m not sad. Sorry, Suboshi.
VRAI: No, fuck that guy.
CAITLIN: I wasn’t sad this time. I’m over him.
DEE: There was a time in my life when I was sad about it. I think I told you guys this; I don’t think I’ve said this on the podcast. When I was watching this with a group of friends back in college, one of the friends I was watching it with had seen the show as a kid, and she kind of liked Suboshi.
When we got to that part, she was like, “Aw, I liked Suboshi.” And my other friend just turns to her and goes, [horrified] “He murdered children!”
DEE: And that’s kind of where I am with Suboshi. He murdered children.
VRAI: Well, and also, I think the point of sympathy they’re trying to sell is that he’s super in love with Yui, but he never listens to anything she tells him, ever.
DEE: Yeah, she told him not to kill Miaka. And he was like, [enraged] “I have to kill Miaka!”
CAITLIN: Yeah. He’s just kind of obsessed with her.
DEE: He is. Suboshi has an obsessive personality, with both her and his brother.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Although, I did not love the part with Amiboshi being like, “Why am I sad? Oh, it’s like a part of me disappeared. Actually, no. It’s like a part of me came back,” and I’m like, “Fuck you! Twins are not two halves of a whole. We are individuals. Separate people.”
DEE: Oh, gosh. That probably does get really obnoxious for you, huh?
CAITLIN: Oh, God. I hate it. [groans] It’s like, “Oh, twins have a special relationship.”
DEE: [crosstalk] It’s such a common trope.
CAITLIN: Whatever. I’m over it. Yeah, some twins do. I don’t with my sister. I barely talk to her. But I don’t care about that, but “two halves of a whole.” It’s like, “Fuck… off.” Ugh. Anyway… That’s neither here nor there.
DEE: See Vrai, we told you we’d find things to be angry about, too.
VRAI: Suboshi died as he lived: annoying.
CAITLIN: A couple of the emotional beats that really did work with me… There were two really major: This is happening largely because “emotions,” but they still worked for me. Tamahome’s sort of semi-afterlife dream with the wedding.
VRAI: [emotional] It’s so cheap but it was so good. Oh my God. Sorry, go on.
CAITLIN: Yeah. No, it was cheap, but when he was sitting and talking to his father, I was tearing up.
DEE: Mm-hm. That part was really sweet. I kind of got… ugh. I was really enjoying it, and then they just had to shit on Nuriko one last time for the road.
VRAI: Yeah. Fuck. [groans]
DEE: And I was so angry that it was hard for me to enjoy the rest of the scene. ‘Cause we—I was like, “I thought we had moved past this!” But apparently, no. Apparently we had to get in one last dig.
VRAI: [crosstalk] “Nuriko is just Nuriko except when we can be shitty.”
DEE: [crosstalk] Even though Nuriko looked amazing in that outfit. Nuriko was rocking that outfit.
CAITLIN: Nuriko looked like an enka singer.
VRAI: Ah, it was so good. It was really good.
DEE: But, yes, it’s a very… It’s a sweet scene where everybody’s back, and there’s that sense of what could have been in Tamahome’s perfect world.
VRAI: I think that’s what they were going for with Nuriko’s horrible, horrible death date fantasy, and it actually mostly worked here until, again, they were terrible to Nuriko.
DEE: Ugh, yeah.
CAITLIN: Yeah, but this scene where he was… The part in particular where he was just sitting and talking to his dad was what really got to me.
DEE: His dad was talking about how proud he was of him and wished him happiness, and I was like, “Aww. I’m glad Tamahome got that ghost closure.”
CAITLIN: And maybe my personal context made it more meaningful right now. But, yeah. It was… But the big one… the big part that actually did make me cry was when the ghosts of the ones that died came back, and Miaka sees Nuriko, and she just walks over to them and just leans into them. And it was just…
DEE: Yeah. I knew it was coming, and I was still like, “Aaah!” when it happened.
CAITLIN: I mean, everyone appearing was really good, and Nuriko catching that building was really good, but just… I feel like, in that gesture, in that little bit of body language, there was so much love and trust and support being communicated.
And that’s really what Nuriko, as a character, is really… I feel like when you watch it… Like, when I watched it young, it was like, “Oh, Nuriko’s really funny. There’s a lot of funny jokes about them and they interact in a fun way with other characters.” But as I’ve gotten older, just… Nuriko has become like the Mom Friend, and they treat the other characters with so much love. And seeing that communicated so strongly in that one moment was really touching.
DEE: Yeah, the reunion scene is very good. There’s a background shot of Tasuki giving Chiriko the biggest hug—
CAITLIN and VRAI: [crosstalk] Awww!
DEE: And I was like: “Oh, I died a little bit on the inside!” That was so good!
CAITLIN: He’s like, “Hey, kid. How are you doing?” Chiriko’s like, “I’m dead, Tasuki.”
DEE: “I was dead!”
VRAI: So, like, not great.
DEE: “Chiriko, you’re okay!” “No, I was dead.” But it’s… Yeah. It’s a very sweet moment.
Well, and, again, I freaking love… So, there’s a lot of things in that final stretch of episodes that is stuff I really like. And one of them is that the group comes together, and through the power of emotions and caring and support, they feed their energy into the hero to give them the strength to take down the bad guy. It’s in Sailor Moon all over the place, too.
But I like that sense of “You can’t do it alone,” and I think this final stretch of episodes does a pretty good job in terms of… It’s clearly still, like, Miaka and Tamahome are the heroes, and so Miaka summons the god and has the mental fortitude to survive this influx of power. And Tamahome’s the one who gets to punch a hole through Nakago, which seems fair.
VRAI: Yeah. What with all the sexual assault and all.
DEE: But neither of them does it alone. The other warriors are there and they’re… Neither of them could do that without the support of the other people looking after them and caring about them. And I… [bashfully] I really like that in my stories. And I think we see that not just with them but a lot of the other characters.
The other thing… So, I actually… Okay. Hotohori’s death scene pisses me off because it is a pointless noble sacrifice. The theme or concept of the willingness to put yourself out there for someone or something that is the most important thing to you, I really like, though.
And to compare Hotohori’s pointless scene to the very good scene of Tasuki and Chichiri going, “Well, we’re gonna die, but we need to buy Miaka time, so let’s do this,” is like a “hoo-rah” moment for me. I clenched my fist… My friend and I looked at each other, ’cause they were our favorite characters and it was 4 AM and we were very tired and we were like, [tearfully] “At least they’re gonna go out fighting! At least they’re gonna go out together!” [laughs] I love that scene. I might have watched it, like, three times.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Did you get a flood of relief when you first realized that they were going to make it?
DEE: Yeah! When Miaka started chanting—’cause I figured Miaka was gonna make it, but I thought they were gonna die buying her enough time to make it to whatever was going on next. I thought they would die buying her time. And I was like, “Ohhh, this suuucks, but at least it’s gonna be…”
‘Cause to me, that is actually a noble sacrifice. That would have accomplished something. They had no other choice. Their only other choice was to stand aside and let Nakago kill Miaka. And they’re not gonna do that. So, in that kind of “noble last stand ” scene to me is very affecting. And then when Miaka starts summoning Suzaku, I was like: [giddy] “Oh my God! Yes!” We might have high-fived each other. It was a big deal.
CAITLIN: Yes. This watchthrough was like… I legitimately got chills when Miaka started the chant.
VRAI: Yeah. Araki’s voice-acting is really good in this last stretch. It’s really good.
DEE: She’s very good. She’s done a good job of slowly imbuing Miaka with some maturity and inner strength, and I think you really feel that in this last stretch to the point where it feels like she has had a proper character arc and she’s grown a lot and she’s to a point where she can handle withstanding the injuries to try to help Yui and then to summon this god to save her friends and the world. So when she starts to stand up and say that chant and there’s just so much raw anger and determination in her voice, [whispers] it’s very good.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s really just… [takes a breath] And the scene with Miaka and Yui confronting each other when they reconcile.
VRAI: [emotional] My heart! Oh my God, it got me.
DEE: I really liked it. Yeah.
CAITLIN: Well, I know you have a particular affection for Yui.
VRAI: And it’s really… Because she definitely had things to atone for, and I thought the anime handled it really well, because she did. She sacrificed herself thinking that that would be it, and that’s what she had to do to make up for what she had done, and she meant it sincerely. And then the show didn’t write her off as: “Well, I guess it’s sad she died. Oh well.” [emotional] The fact that she gets a second chance is really good, and their friendship is so good, and…
DEE: They fight for each other. And Yui acknowledges the mistakes she’s made. The only… I… Nakago’s a piece of shit because Yui confronts him and he goes, “No, this was all your decision. I just facilitated for you.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. That’s more abuse! Sitting there, being like, “Nope! I may have lied to you, but you made all of these choices on your own.” It’s like: No, she is a child and you are an adult and you knew exactly what you were doing when you were manipulating her into every choice she made, and that was… yeah.
DEE: And for him to be like, “You should be grateful to me for saving you.” I was like, “Oh, fuck off, Nakago!”
VRAI: I hate him so much. [pained laughter]
DEE: I kind of wish the series had been a little bit more explicit in Yui acknowledging how much Nakago had done wrong to her? And I say “explicitly.” I think implicitly it does a very good job of that, because Yui does turn against him and is willing to sacrifice herself to help Miaka, and to put an end to what she has… semi-accidentally caused, here.
So, yeah, I wish… I really just want Yui to punch Nakago across his stupid face.
VRAI: God, yes.
DEE: But I understand why that didn’t happen. Within the characters, it makes sense for that not to happen. So, yeah. I think the way they handled it was really good because it doesn’t absolve Yui of everything, but it does a very good job of showing what a rat-bastard Nakago is and how much of this is on him.
VRAI: Well and I think it’s important to the show’s attempts to make her flawed and semi-complicit but also a victim [is] the fact that she doesn’t die, which I think would imply there’s this concept of “filthiness” that, yeah, she could never come back from. Which would be really unfortunate given the things they deal with in her character arc.
CAITLIN: Right. “Tragic figure who is only absolved by death.”
DEE: [crosstalk] The fact that Miaka fights for her and… Go ahead.
CAITLIN: I think living on to have to fix her mistakes and face the damage she did is much more satisfying.
DEE: And that moment where she says to Miaka, “You must be so angry.” And Miaka’s like, “I’ll yell at you later.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s good. It’s good.
DEE: [crosstalk] I thought that was a really sweet moment.
VRAI: Yes, Miaka does get to yell at her, but also: they friends.
CAITLIN: And I do like that Miaka’s not like, “Oh, it’s okay. I’m over it.” It’s like: No. Yui’s gonna hear it from her later, but that’s not what matters in that moment.
DEE: “We’ll have time to talk this out and sort it through and we’ll get angry and then we’ll still have a relationship.” And that’s really important.
Vrai, I feel like there was something you wanted to say and we kept talking over each other?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, sorry.
VRAI: No, no. It’s all good. I think this might lead us into the other thing, is that, you know, at the very, very end when Miaka and Yui are talking and Yui mentions that Nakago is the part of herself that she’s kind of scared of. I think that’s a really interesting idea that they just kind of… They deal with it a little bit implicitly but they just kind of shove it in there at the end, and it makes me angry, [through frustrated laughter] because everything about how Nakago’s character is makes me angry. [sighs]
DEE: Is that a segue into Nakago? [crosstalk] Sorry, Caitlin, do you have something else?
CAITLIN: Yeah, I do have one more thing I wanted to say about that. The whole thing with Miaka and Yui is that I feel like, in a lot of entertainment, the refrain is: “if these fucking people would sit down and fucking talk to each other, everything could be figured out.” And the moment that Yui and Miaka sit down and talk to each other, like really talk, that Yui’s ready to listen, they do figure everything out.
DEE: I think that “ready to listen” is important though, because there are times in the past when Miaka tried to talk to her, and Yui was just too… was just in too much of a hurt, raw place to really care what Miaka had to say, I think.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Well, and that Yui had some distance between her and Nakago. Everything between Nakago and Yui is very… It’s honestly—and, you know, I’ve done a lot of research about depictions of abuse in fiction. I’ve spent a lot of time with it.
The way Nakago manipulates and gaslights and abuses Yui is honestly a really, really good portrayal. Everything about it. Parts of it, maybe, are exaggerated, because everything Fushigi Yugi is kind of hyper-real, hyper-exaggerated…
DEE: Yeah. Welcome to anime.
CAITLIN: But his tactics are real tactics that people use. And the reality is that once people get a little bit of distance between themselves and their abusers, they are more likely to listen to people who sit down and say, “Hey. This is fucked up.” So just that last little bit, I thought, brought it to a really good conclusion. Just that particular piece of their arc.
DEE: Yeah, I agree with you. And I know that was something in the early episodes where we were going off some hazy, several-years-old memories. And I think we were preparing for that to be really bad, and for them to vilify Yui and turn this into a “Oh, she’s awful” kind of story. And it really never did.
We’ve talked a lot about that line they walked between not making her nothing but—like, not making her just a passive victim, but also having a lot of sympathy for her. And I think they brought the conclusion to that… It was strong. I think they did a really good job with that central story of the girls’ friendship.
Which is so nice to see that as a major focal point of the series. And the fact that Yui and Miaka are able to kind of, through much fantastical trauma and adventure, are able to work through that and still be friends.
It’s good. It’s important. Especially when we consider all the media about women competing and their friendships being destroyed over the man… that Fushigi Yugi pushed back against that narrative and found a way for them to work through that is really valuable.
CAITLIN: Yeah. There are definitely things about Fushigi Yugi that are a lot more clever than people give it credit for. And that… You know, my whole thing—Fushigi Yugi is sort of about teenage anxieties, and the tension between things that are desirable but also the scary, dark sides of that.
And I think that really shows in the way things are reconciled. ‘Cause Miaka, in the end of the show, she also comes to embrace those responsibilities and those hopes and those fears. It’s no longer about being pressured into things. It’s about choices that she’s making.
So, yeah. I think Fushigi Yugi messes a lot of things up, such as… We’ll wrap that around to Nakago in just a second. Fushigi Yugi fucks a lot of things up, but there are very, very clever things about it if you dig under the surface.
But, yeah. Speaking of things that get fucked up: how ‘bout that Nakago backstory?
VRAI: How ‘bout this evil bisexual? Fuck!
DEE: Okay. Do we wanna do Nakago and circle back around to the finale and Miaka’s final wish and how that works out? [crosstalk] Do we want to finish with Miaka?
VRAI: [crosstalk] Sounds good.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah.
DEE: Okay. So we’ll do Nakago now and then we’ll shift over. Okay… Go. [laughs]
VRAI: I hate it.
CAITLIN: It’s bullshit. It sucks.
DEE: I assume we’re talking specifically about Nakago’s backstory. I would also like to point out that he was carrying around Soi’s corpse for like a week and that really creeps me out.
CAITLIN: Oh, God. She must have gotten so stinky.
DEE: I don’t know why… I don’t know who thought that was a good idea. It’s very in-line with Nakago being creepily, I guess… a romantic gesture? I don’t know!
VRAI: It’s brilliant in a way I’m pretty sure the show didn’t intend. Because I think the show means it to be: “Oh, he really loved her and just didn’t realize and he can’t let go of the corpse.” But I was sitting here reading it as: “Oh, he cares more about the fact that he has something to cling onto and it’s about him and not giving her a death and burial with any kind of dignity.” Cool.
CAITLIN: Damn. It true, though.
DEE: It true. [Brief pause] He’s a bad man. And then we get his backstory in the last episode.
VRAI: And I am angry because, in theory, Nakago is the kind of character that I like, but fuck this guy though.
DEE: There is a universe where Nakago’s backstory is introduced a lot sooner and we see him as a sympathetic villain.
VRAI: Right. As a more overt foil to Yui.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause he could be an interesting character if that had been introduced earlier. All of his very understandable rage and how he’s manipulating the situation for this one final conclusion and that everything is motivated by revenge for all the suffering he had to go through as a child.
VRAI: Or if he had ever seen any of himself in Yui and felt a scrap of remorse about that.
CAITLIN: It’s A) totally shoehorned in. One of those moments where this makes no fucking sense, but emotions! Right? ‘Cause Tamahome can somehow look at his memories because he punched through him in the cleanest impalement ever. Tamahome’s hand should be nasty after that.
DEE: Well, Nakago bleeds cherry blossoms, so, it’s okay.
CAITLIN: But, yeah. There’s so much about that part that is mishandled that could have been done really well, and it’s really disappointing.
VRAI: [in a dry sing-song] Also the implication that he’s queer because he was molested~
CAITLIN: Yeah. Oh, God, and the way that the harem girls were giggling. Like, “Oh, what’s he gonna do with this kid?” Ew! Girls, please. Have some fucking sympathy for the poor child. [groans] Yeah.
VRAI: [frustrated groans] And isn’t there… Now, it’s been a while. But isn’t there a bit in the manga where it reunites him with his mother as he’s dying in the afterlife or some shit because he had a sad childhood so he gets a happy conclusion.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I don’t remember that.
DEE: There’s an implication in one of the final pages where… I mean, it could just be him imagining it before he dies. But it does kind of look like his mom and Soi are welcoming him into heaven. Ah… So that happened.
VRAI: [enraged groan]
CAITLIN: Soi, you deserve better.
DEE: Yeah, it’s one of those things where the backstory is too little to late. And like I said last week: Cool motive, still murder!
CAITLIN: Cool motive, still murder and abuse…
DEE: Yeah. It’s still… The things he did are still unconscionable, unforgivable things. Even if you want to make him—even if they wanted to make him the kind of villain where you could see where it was coming from, I don’t think there’s… I still don’t think there’s any way that I would feel really bad for him in this final moment.
I think he could make a very interesting mirror to the Suzaku Warriors, which we’ve talked about a little bit before, as this idea of the sorrow and cruelty in your life—which, there are other characters in the story who have had bad things happen to them in their pasts—and whether you try to move on from that and grow stronger and find some hope and try to find some meaning in that, or whether you just get angry and lash out and decide “Fuck the entire world. Fuck everybody.”
And, again, I understand why Nakago would feel that way after everything that happened to him. But if you want to tell that story, you gotta put in the legwork a lot earlier.
VRAI: Right, and even if… It would still be… He would still be an unconscionable character, like you said, no matter what. But I am totally in mourning for this lost plotline where they really hammered hard on his parallels to Yui and this is her looking at him and realizing that this is what she’s being pushed toward becoming, and him realizing that he has become the same thing that was done to him and is repeating a cycle, or deliberately refusing to realize this… Mmm, the wasted potential!
DEE: Yeah. It’s… This is a weird comparison. Nakago and Akio, to me, are somewhat similar characters.
CAITLIN: No, I see it.
DEE: In that they’re both manipulative gaslighters who prey on children. Both of them have backstory issues that explain why they are the way they are that can be sympathetic in the right light. The difference is that I think Akio is very compelling, and I think Nakago is just a piece of shit. I do flip off the screen when both of them are on, all the time. But—sorry, when I say that, I mean the narrative that is told with Akio is more compelling, I think the way they do it.
CAITLIN: Well, and I don’t think Utena ever tried to make excuses for Akio.
DEE: Oh, no. That’s the other thing. Utena does not forgive him. Utena explains why he is the way he is, but it does not forgive that behavior. And it starts to feel, in this finale, like they want us to just feel bad for [Nakago].
CAITLIN: Yeah. “Oh, he’s doing all of this because he’s so tragic. [deadpan] Oh, so tragic.”
VRAI: God. He had a sad childhood.
DEE: So did like 90% of the characters in this show. Most of them did not go on a Roaring Rampage of Regicide.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Nice alliteration there!
DEE: Thank you. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: Yeah. No, anyway. I think… Is there anything else to say about Nakago?
CAITLIN: Fuck him.
DEE: He’s disappointing.
CAITLIN: Eat shit, Nakago.
DEE: Yeah, you’re The Worst.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Anyway. So, then, moving on to the finale of Miaka and Tamahome.
VRAI: Oh no, wait. I do have one more thing to say. One more thing to say. Hey, remember weeks ago when we mentioned—or I mentioned—Yuu Watase in her notes for the manga kept asking for Nakago/Tamahome doujinshi? I want y’all to think about that and sit with that. [quietly] That’s all I’m saying.
CAITLIN: [groans] Why would you do that to us?
DEE: I had burned the lick from my memory, and then it happened. I was like, “Oh no! I forgot about the lick!” It was so icky. I did not like it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, there’s… Gross. Gross. ‘Cause there’s no way for that to be not gross.
VRAI: [pained laughter] Not sexual assault? From an adult to a teenager?
CAITLIN: I wasn’t gonna go there, but, yeah.
DEE: Par for the Nakago course. He’s… he’s terrible.
VRAI: Anyway. Good things. Good things.
CAITLIN: I mean, not necessarily. So… But the… ‘Cause the conclusion between Miaka and Tamahome, I have never been satisfied with it.
DEE: [surprised] Really? Which part doesn’t satisfy you? Because… First of all, there is kind of a significa—most of the changes between the anime and the manga aren’t super duper significant, like they change the framing a little bit, but they still get basically the same general story across. There’s one kind of major change, which is that Miaka’s final wish is completely different.
CAITLIN: What was it in the manga?
DEE: So, in the manga, after they seal Seiryuu and kill Nakago, everything just kind of starts going back into the book on its own, and their world just kind of gets automatically fixed because Reasons. So, Miaka’s final wish is for Tamahome to come to her world; to be able to exist in her world. And… But then he disappears, and she’s sad. And then the very, very end is the same, where this guy who has memories of a past life shows up and flashes the ring, and she’s like, “Oh my God, he’s back!”
In the anime, though, the world doesn’t go back to normal on its own, so Miaka’s final wish is… I like it better in the anime because I think it shows her character growth a lot better, in that sense of “I need to take responsibility for the… probably deaths, given the number of buildings they destroyed in downtown Tokyo. But also the property damage.” You know, the sense of: “I need to take responsibility for that. I need to fix this. And Tamahome and I, like… it would be selfish of us to wish for our own happiness when all of this around us has happened.”
And I think that does a much better job of putting a cap on Miaka’s arc in terms of finding a balance between this martyrdom thing she had going on versus being really selfish, and then being able to take responsibility and accept living in her own world.
CAITLIN: I agree.
VRAI: Yeah. It’s real good.
DEE: So, I find that ending satisfying when Miaka… When they make that wish and Tamahome’s okay with it. They’re like, “This is what we’re gonna do. We’ll figure it out.” They had their little goodbyes with everybody, and they’re very cute. [crosstalk] Tasuki promises not to say he hates girls anymore. Yay. [laughs]
VRAI: I liked that part. It’s the—and I know it was an editorial mandate, but it doesn’t make it less stupid.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah. You’re about to go where I was gonna go. Go ahead.
DEE: [crosstalk] To the post-credits?
VRAI: Go ahead. Please go.
CAITLIN: Okay. So. I have never cared for… No. That’s not true. The particular way Fushigi Yugi does it, where love makes miracles happen. I’ve gotten over a lot of what I decided I hated in my cynical phase. I’m more accepting of certain sentimentalities.
But love conquering all just because… I have never really cared for. I think that probably originated when I was a small child and I told my dad that love was the most powerful thing in the world and he said, “No, because what if someone loves murdering people?”
CAITLIN: I think I was seven when this conversation happened.
DEE: Thanks, Dad!
VRAI: Wake up, child!
CAITLIN: My dad said a lot of weird shit like that. One time I asked him, when I was a very small child, I asked him if we were Native American ’cause we were talking about it in class, but they didn’t really explain what “Native American” was, and he goes, “Well, all of us were born in America, so we are native to America.” And my small child brain was like, “What?” So, thanks, Dad. Thanks for saying some really weird, confusing things. [laughs]
But anyway. Yeah. That has always been something that stuck with me, is not caring for the: “miracle because love.” So, I would have been more satisfied with an ending—and also of meeting your true love when you’re a teenager. “First love is the truest, strongest love.” I would have preferred an ending where they are separated and Miaka kind of has to move on with her life. Because, yeah, it’s sentimental in a way that doesn’t work for me.
VRAI: See, my issue with it was more that… In case you’re just listening to us but haven’t watched the episodes, it ends with a carbon copy of Tamahome being reborn who has all these dreams of a previous life. So, essentially, he’s a different person, but not really! [annoyed] So, there’s no change there even though this is a completely different human being, and I hate that.
DEE: He’s real-world Tamahome. Yeah.
CAITLIN: He’s AU Tamahome, where the AU is actually the real world.
VRAI: Right. But this is a different person who grew up under different circumstances. But it’s okay because he remembers all the things from their last relationship, so it’ll be exactly the same.
CAITLIN: So… [makes a bunch of uncertain, hesitant noises] Is it a spoiler for me to say this actually gets covered in the OVAs?
DEE: Yeah. Part Two of the manga, which is the second… which is “Oni 2” in the OVAs… will talk about who this guy is and what he’s like and et cetera. [crosstalk] We’ll get into that a little bit more.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, other than just being Tamahome. Yeah. That part bothers me, too. The concept of… And I know people in here have complicated feelings about Please Save My Earth.
VRAI: [enraged groans]
CAITLIN: That was one of the things that I liked about that series, is like, “Are you defined by your memories of a past life? Are you the same person?”
VRAI: And the answer is “only ‘no’ if you got reborn as two boys.” God I frickin’… Sorry, please go on.
DEE: I was gonna say, we can’t go on a rant about Please Save My Earth in the middle of this. [laughs]
CAITLIN: But yeah. So… That is definitely something else that has gotten to me over the years as well.
DEE: I… am a sap. And a sucker. And I love the idea of people being karmically connected to each other over multiple lives and finding each other throughout the centuries over various reincarnations. That is very deeply tied into a lot of classic Chinese and Japanese literature, and I’ve always found it fucking beautiful.
[slips into mild Midwestern twang] And so when reincarnated Tamahome shows up at the end and Miaka starts tearing up, I don’t even care about their relationship that much, but I tear up, too.
VRAI: Okay, here’s my caveat…
DEE: Because I am a sap and a sucker.
VRAI: No, no. I think… I get it. I’d hate this trope less if they had both been reborn or if Tamahome from the book had just magically found a way, through love, to appear for her. It’s the specific fact that she is the same but he is a reincarnated version of that person that feels uneven to me in this case. Sorry. Please go on.
CAITLIN: And also: what happened to Tamahome after the events of the series? Did he go back to the book and continue to live his life and then was reincarnated? Did he just disappear into the ether? What happened?
DEE: I mean, technically, he was fictional, sooo…
CAITLIN: [laughs] I mean…
DEE: But I don’t like to think about that, because that means all the other characters disappeared into the ether, too.
VRAI: Oh, no, no.
DEE: No, it’s headcanon time, y’all. If there is a real-world version of everybody, then that means there’s a real-world version of everybody else. Maybe someday they’ll all come together and they’ll have a big party again. It’ll be great.
CAITLIN: But… To get really personal, when I was… a few years ago—God, five years ago, ‘cause life is short, y’all—five years ago, I was falling in love again. And, like I said, I spent too long with my first boyfriend because I romanticized the idea of being with one person for your entire life, right? And for some reason or another, I was thinking about Fushigi Yugi, and just how that ending really didn’t work for me.
I actually sat down and wrote, in one night, a whole fanfiction about: what if Taka did not magically appear? What if Miaka did have to move on with her life and sort of have to go through a grieving process about that relationship and about losing her life in the book? If she… Who she could have been without that. And the stages of her grief. And the story starts when she’s turning 30 and pregnant with her second child and she’s married to a guy that she met in college.
So I wrote that as a way of working through what—the feelings that Fushigi Yugi had left me with and the ideas, and how certain ideals had fallen apart through the course of my life.
VRAI: Fanfiction is good, y’all.
CAITLIN: Yeah. [laughs]
DEE: It can be very cathartic, for sure.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I have a very strong connection to this series, its flaws and strengths alike. So that was definitely something that I had to actually work through.
VRAI: This series doesn’t… I mean… I read this series as a kid, but it didn’t mean as much to me as it does to you guys. But that doesn’t—and I’ve come out the other side of this thinking, “It’s okay.” There’s high-highs and low-lows and a bunch of stuff in between, and ultimately it’s maybe not for me; I won’t watch it again.
But the fact that it is so important to you is… is important. That’s good. And just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean that it’s a worthless show. It’s good and it’s very good at speaking to a certain emotional mindspace.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And, you know, the other day as I was talking about finishing up the show, Jared—my boyfriend who I was first starting out with when I wrote that fanfic—he asked me: “Do you think it holds up?” And I was like, “That’s actually a more complicated question than one would think.”
Because it’s like… When I watch it, does it still stir a lot of emotions in me? Do I still love it? Yes. Would I—do I love it in the same way I did when I was 13 years old? No. Would I recommend it to someone who has never seen it before? Probably not. [quiet chuckle]
So, you know, that was an interesting question for me.
VRAI: It’s definitely a hard sell to a modern viewer, at least from my perspective.
DEE: It’s… Yeah. That’s my… So, I mentioned this in a tweet the other day, but I’ll say it here, too, ‘cause probably most people didn’t see that. I went into this—I suggested this watchalong to you guys.
And I really went into it thinking: “This will be my last hurrah with Fushigi Yugi and I will realize exactly how bad and problematic it is and how it absolutely doesn’t hold up, and it’ll be—and we’ll give it some good-natured ribbing and some criticisms, and it’ll be like my breakup date with this show that has been a large part of my life for the better part of 15 years.”
And we got into it, and the opening theme played that first episode, and I was like, “Oh no, I think I still love this.” And then the ending theme played in this final episode and their rings glittered and I was like, “Oh no. [through laughter] I definitely still love this.” And, if anything, it rekindled the flame. I finished it and I was like, “I should go write Fushigi Yugi fanfic. [chuckles] That’s what I should go do.”
VRAI: I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. Genuinely. I think this has been a good and healthy process that everybody should do with things they have on sacred pedestals, is go back and give them a hard look and be harsh to them, but without feeling the need to give up those feelings and those moments that are important to you and the stuff that works. I truly do.
DEE: Yeah. And I think what really surprised me about this rewatch is a lot of things that, in my head, I had, I guess, misremembered into being a lot worse than they were, or a lot better? So that made it harder for me to break up with it. Like, the stuff with Miaka and Yui, and that pushing back against the “competition” narrative, was much better than I remembered.
On the other hand, there was stuff that was much worse than what I remembered, like them being relentlessly crappy to Nuriko, especially in those early episodes. Despite the fact that I think Nuriko was still a very likable character. They did a character poll halfway through the Genbu Kaiden manga and they had every character on it and Nuriko was still like in the top two. So…
VRAI: Because they’re the best. They’re the best character objectively.
DEE: They’re great! Which, is again, that complicated balance. And it’s frustrating, because, like Caitlin said, it’s a hard one for me to… I can’t really recommend it without a lot of caveats, because it is very messy, and there is a lot of stuff about it that, twenty years later, does not hold up particularly well.
It is a show that makes an effort to tackle some progressive feminist issues. Some of them it tackles better than others. All of them, I would say, are flawed in some aspect. But it’s not like Sailor Moon or Utena, which I think still hold up pretty well. There’s a few things with Sailor Moon that haven’t aged well, but overall, it’s not hard to pitch it to 13, 14-year-olds, I think, nowadays.
Utena‘s easy, like, there’s really nothing—I don’t think there’s anything in Utena that I’m like, “Ehhh, it doesn’t age well.” That show was way ahead of its time. Utena is, like… The Unicorn! [laughs]
VRAI: Right. The only trouble with Utena is its getting further from the tropes it was commenting on. So, you have to give it more context. But it’s still a damn fine show.
CAITLIN: And even then, I think there’s still a lot that holds up.
DEE: Yeah, and with Fushigi Yugi, I think so much of it is rather than being kind of… As we talked about before, rather than, like—it challenges some narratives, but a lot of it is really just trying to encapsulate that feeling of being that age in that time period. And because of that, it doesn’t age as well. It’s very much a product of early-90s Japan.
Which is so frustrating to me, because, again, I love this series. And I love being able to share the things I love with people. And even after this rewatch and the realization that it’s maybe not as bad as my memory had made it out to be, there’s still that sense of… I just don’t know if—I don’t think modern teenagers would necessarily be able to connect with it as well. [pointedly] Which is why it’s my number one show that I want somebody to remake and make some big changes to it. ‘Cause I would love to be able to share that with people.
VRAI: The one thing I will say is: I don’t know that I would… [slightly frantic] especially for queer and trans kids today, don’t. Maybe don’t. Maybe don’t.
But I do think that this show—as you were saying about, you know, you’ve remembered things worse than they were, and I certainly did, too. And I think that’s evident in past episodes where I was kind of half-remembering shit. But this show does deserve to be talked about. I think it gets dismissed a lot, and that I don’t think is fair to it. Like, it’s a hot mess but it was real important and real ambitious.
DEE: Yes. Yeah. And the fact that it tries and doesn’t succeed, I think… You can at least have a conversation. Where shows that don’t even try, you can’t—there’s nothing really to talk about.
VRAI: Yeah. If we could still be talking about Evangelion, which is also a hot mess that I love, we can talk about Fushigi Yugi.
CAITLIN: People will never stop talking about Evangelion. And I think people are also a lot harsher on it. I did these quick, very unscientific polls on Twitter last night, that was like, “How do you feel about Fushigi Yugi? I love it; it’s okay; or it’s garbage.” And not affectionate-calling-it-garbage. “It is a series that I dislike.”
And for a long time, “It’s garbage” had a very strong lead. It’s kind of evened out more overnight, but… And then I did a similar poll with Outlaw Star, which is another show a little later than Fushigi Yugi, but it had a lot of the same kind of problems. It was a messy narrative. It had some bad gender stuff. It had uneven animation. [crosstalk] Animation ranging from—
DEE: [sing-song] Two-dimensional gay joke character!
VRAI: [amused] ‘Sup, Fred?
DEE: I like Fred, but: two-dimensional gay joke. At least Nuriko has an arc and a personality and is more than just a punchline.
CAITLIN: Right. So it’s like… yeah, I mean, Fred’s just a gay panic character.
VRAI: Justice for Fred! [through laughter] I’m sorry. Please go on.
CAITLIN: And I would say that Fushigi Yugi has a lot more redeeming qualities than Outlaw Star. I like Outlaw Star.
DEE: Yeah. I haven’t watched it in a long time, but I have fond memories of it, for sure.
CAITLIN: But Outlaw Star got much… Like, no one thinks—very few people think Outlaw Star is garbage. Over a third of the people who answered to the poll on Fushigi Yugi said that it was garbage.
People are so much harsher on media aimed at teenage girls, I feel like. There’s almost like a—and this is something that I have been guilty of, too. There’s a certain “boys will be boys” mentality about stuff, but there’s no “girls will be girls.” It’s more like, “Ew, icky girl stuff.”
So I think people are particularly unkind to Fushigi Yugi over the years just because it is, of the shoujo from the ‘90s that has sort of quote-unquote “survived,” it is probably the most deeply flawed, but I feel like it deserves more than just that.
DEE: It shouldn’t be just consigned to a trash bin. I agree with you. Like Vrai said, it’s worth talking about and going over and remembering it as… Even if it is ultimately a product of its time, I think it is a valuable product of its time, and there’s a lot you can get from the experience of watching it with that knowledge: that it was a show written in the ‘90s by a 22-year-old.
CAITLIN: And this is literally why I decided that I’m not gonna just trash on media aimed at teenage girls. I’ll still criticize it.
DEE: And I think we’ve definitely done that. Fushigi Yugi has definite weak moments and we’ve certainly criticized it for those when they happen.
CAITLIN: But I’m not gonna sit there and say, “Oh, this is trash. It does this, this, this dumb thing. Ah-ha-ha-ha. Isn’t it so funny how bad it is.” I’m not… I’m over that. Because I almost thought about asking people about Dragonball Z. Which is—
VRAI: A hot garbage show that was part of my childhood. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Well, yeah. I don’t have any sentimental attachment to Dragonball Z. I didn’t watch it. But if I did that same poll with Dragonball Z, it would be, like, 90% “love it.”
VRAI: Absolutely. And it is… My God, that show is full of shit. And I can tell you about it because there’s some sitting on my bookcase right now. [laughs] To further serve your point.
CAITLIN: But, yeah. Anyway, we should probably wrap up.
DEE: We did run a little long. We’ll have a little bit more… I have a feeling our final OVA episode will be, like—we’ll be covering 13 episodes, so it’ll probably run kind of long too, and we can touch on this a little bit more. But I do think of the OVA episode as kind of a bonus episode.
This is definitely an ending. There’s more to be explored with these characters, and “Oni 2,” I think, does some good—and some bad—stuff in terms of fleshing out especially the supporting cast, so I’m looking forward to getting into that. But I kind of see it as a bonus episode. So, I think it’s good that we had this conversation at the end looking back on the series as whole, before we jumped into the rollercoaster that is upcoming.
Speaking of the OVA rollercoaster: listeners at home, if you are watching along with us and you’ve not seen this before and you want to get into the OVAs with it, we talk about there being three OVAs: Oni 1, Oni 2, and then Eikoden.
That’s typically how they’re considered, but the way they’re packaged, especially on Crunchyroll, if you’re watching it through their streaming—which I would imagine a lot of people are… They’re called “Fushigi Yugi OVA” and then “Fushigi Yugi Eikoden.” OVA is both Oni 1 and Oni 2, so you’d start with that, and then go to Eikoden after that. Which is kind of the sequel to the sequel.
The Oni OVAs have a weird history. The first one’s anime-original; the second one is based on the second part of the manga. We’ll get more into that when we actually do the podcast proper, but I did want to give people a feel for how to find it and what you should be looking for as you’re tracking that down. So, happy hunting.
VRAI: Yeah, and thanks for having me on for this. Genuinely, you guys. It’s… I know it’s… It’s been fun, and I loved sharing this thing that you love with you two.
DEE: I’ve enjoyed it. I’m glad you’ve been here to pull us back a little bit from fangirling unnecessarily at times, too. And I think we’ve had some good arguments and conversations.
VRAI: We’ve had some conversations that—
CAITLIN: Vrai, you are always welcome.
VRAI: I have definitely proposed doing a watchalong on my problematic ‘90s isekai anime, so you’ll get yours. You’ll get a chance to get back at me. [laughs]
DEE: Well, I think we like that one too, [laughs] so we’ll see… But yeah, we’ll watch your problematic fave as well.
CAITLIN: All right. Anyway. So, thank you for listening to Chatty AF. Next… At some point in the future, we will be covering the Fushigi Yugi OAVs, all in one go, as Dee explained.
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DEE: Thanks for listening, AniFam! We hope you join us for the bonus watchalong of the OVAs!
CAITLIN: Yeah. [hums the ending theme music as it plays the episode out]