The multi-part Fushigi Yugi watchalong with Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin is back for a pair of bonus episodes covering the OVAs! Here in Part 1, the team talks Oni 1 and half of Oni 2. (Spoiler alert: It’s the angry half.) Studio Pierrot writes a drunken fanfic. Hotohori and Nuriko revisit some old haunts. Tasuki gets flamed.
Date Recorded: Sunday 3rd December 2017
Hosts: Caitlin, Dee, Vrai
0:01:44 Narrative value (or lack thereof)
0:04:11 Oni 1
0:11:11 Omakes (extras)
0:18:08 Oni 2 themes
0:22:40 Taka and age-gap relationships
0:54:36 “I’m a guy, after all”
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
DEE: Hello and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. I’m Dee Hogan, the managing editor at AniFem. I also run the anime blog The Josei Next Door, and you can find me on Twitter @joseinextdoor.
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I am an editor and contributor for Anime Feminist as well as running my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem. You can find me on Twitter @alltsun_nodere.
VRAI: That’s such a good name.
VRAI: Hey, I’m Vrai Kaiser. I’m an editor and contributor at Anime Feminist. I run a blog, Fashionable Tinfoil Accessories. You can find me on Twitter @WriterVrai or on the other podcast that I co-host @trashpod.
DEE: And this week, we’re wrapping up our very multipart watchalong of the 1990s shoujo fantasy, Fushigi Yugi, as we knock out all 13 episodes of the OVAs in one fell swoop. This includes the nine episodes commonly referred to as either the Oni arc or just the Fushigi Yugi OVAs, as well as the four episodes of Eikoden.
For those who don’t know, OVA stands for “original video animation” and refers to animated episodes released straight to video. They’re also sometimes called OAVs, or original animated videos. I don’t know which one’s right. I guess they’re both right.
The Fushigi Yugi ones have some weird history to them, so I will go ahead and provide that background information as we go. Vrai, did you want to hop in and say something here, or do you want me to go straight to Oni 1?
VRAI: Well, you know how at the end of the last podcast, I said that Fushigi Yugi’s not for me, but it’s an important work that we should respect and discuss? I think we can just go ahead and not apply that to these. I think these can go ahead and be forgotten to history.
DEE: All of them? All 13 of them, really?
DEE: [crosstalk] Wow. Okay.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Well, listen, there are some good bits, but I don’t know that it’s worth the pain.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] We’re going to have a fight.
VRAI: The good does not outweigh the pain in this case.
CAITLIN: I think that they were ultimately unnecessary. They do have some high points just fleshing out the background characters, but man, I could’ve lived happily with just the TV series. And I think if someone were to watch the TV series and love it, if they were to say, “Do I need to watch the OAVs?” I would probably go, [very hesitant] “Ehhh, mm, ehhh.” Exactly like that. [laughs]
DEE: [laughs] Okay, Oni 1, you can throw in the dumpster. Eikoden, you can throw in the dumpster. I will fight for the existence of Oni 2 to my dying breath, even though the thing that pisses me off the most about Fushigi Yugi is in that stretch of episodes.
I think it does some really good things, not just with fleshing out the supporting characters, but the way it tackles some of the themes of the series and attempts to rectify a little bit some of the things that maybe didn’t sit super well with me in the TV series. It’s very much a sequel. It’s not necessary, but if you care for the characters, I think that Oni 2 is something that you will enjoy, and I think it has a very emotionally satisfying ending.
I have watched Oni 2 every time I’ve watched the show. When I show it to friends, I always skip Oni 1, and I’m like, “You don’t need to worry about Eikoden. It’s fine.” But I always show them Oni 2 because I think there’s a lot in there that’s really good.
VRAI: The stuff that is good in this stretch is all undeniably concentrated there. Yeah.
DEE: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah.
DEE: But we are, I guess, going to talk about them each in turn, so we’ll start with the first one, which is Oni 1.
So, the Oni arc, these six OVA episodes, were released one episode at a time from 1996 through 1998, pretty much immediately after the TV series wrapped. They tend to all get packaged together, but as we’ve been talking about them just now, you kinda need to place them into two categories, because Oni 1 is the first three episodes and Oni 2 is the last six. That’s why they have different opening and ending themes and kind of a different vibe.
Oni 2 is an adaptation of part two of the manga, and we’ll get into that a little bit later. Oni 1 is 100% anime-original and is basically a drunken fanfic.
DEE: That’s the only way I can look at it. The story in the fanverse at the time went that the reason they made Oni 1 was because they felt like some of the minor changes they made at the end of the anime didn’t connect well with part two and that they needed a bridge arc to make them on the same canonical page.
DEE: That doesn’t really make sense to me, but that is the reasoning that I have heard, is that it was intended to bridge a perceived gap. Having read the manga, I don’t see the gap, but supposedly that is why Oni 1 exists.
CAITLIN: Mind the gap.
DEE: I’ve seen Oni 1, I think, twice, and I’ve watched the entire series six times. I usually skip it, and I tell everyone else to skip it, because it’s just incomprehensible and bad. I have almost nothing to say about this. Do you guys have anything you want to say about Oni 1?
VRAI: I—I—Mm. Wow, that—I mean, I’m glad it was anime-original, because the fucking shit with Nakago, I can’t. I can’t.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I think the first episode actually seemed like it was setting up something kind of cool.
VRAI: Yeah, the idea of “who carries on the legacies of these people who maybe don’t technically exists,” I think, is an interesting one. That’s a good fanfic. That’s a good fanfic.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And also: Tamahome is Nakago? What? What’s going on? It’s strange and it’s confusing, but then it just sort of handwaves that all with “Oh, it’s kodoku.”
DEE: [dryly] Oh, it’s illusions. Oh, none of that was real.
VRAI: [deyly] Tomo survived somehow.
CAITLIN: Yeah, Tomo survived somehow!
DEE: And then they killed off Amiboshi. Just so everyone knows: Amiboshi is alive and well, thank-you-very-much.
CAITLIN: Apparently, actually, the—
DEE: And so is Koji. So is Koji, damn it!
VRAI: Yeah, fuck!
CAITLIN: The Eikoden novels apparently actually establish that Amiboshi is alive, [laughs] despite what you may believe. And also, the second episode does have a pretty good fight between Tamahome and the bandits. I think, honestly, the first—
DEE: Oh, yeah. It’s dramatic as hell. The first time I watched it, I was like, “Oh, shit! This is pretty intense!”
CAITLIN: Yeah! The first episode and a half of it, I think, is actually setting up something really interesting and solid, and then it hits the midway point, and all of a sudden nothing makes any goddamn sense. Characters are coming and going for no reason. Tenkou is cackling, and you’re not sure why.
VRAI: Twincest is happening more explicitly this time.
CAITLIN: Yeah, there’s just fucking incest everywhere. [laughs] I don’t even remember what happened in the third episode because it’s such a crazy fucking jumble, right up to the end. Like, right up until the very end in the scene on the mountain, where it’s like, “Yeah, actually, Tamahome can’t live with you.” And that’s such a big retcon!
It also doesn’t seem to really totally make sense with the end of the TV series, because we already established that he can’t. Him just being Tamahome in her world doesn’t jibe with the end of the TV series. They have the ending where it’s like, “Oh, some dude with memories of when he was a child” at the end of the show. But then, in the first OAV, he’s just Tamahome.
CAITLIN: It’s incoherent, and it’s logically inconsistent, and it’s just bad!
VRAI: [pained] It’s really bad.
CAITLIN: It’s just bad!
DEE: Well, and, again, the reason a lot of the time I’m like, “Oh, you can just skip it” is because it has no actual effect on the story. By the end of that third episode—that, like you, Caitlin, I just kind of clocked out on because I was like, “I’m watching this, but I’m not even trying to make sense of it because there is way too much shit happening right now”—by the end of it, we just reset to where we were at the end of the TV series.
DEE: Tamahome’s reborn as a man of Miaka’s world, and that’s where we were. So, I don’t understand why somebody thought there needed to be this bridge arc. Especially when you could’ve taken those three episodes and fleshed out part two of the manga a little bit more, which ultimately I think a lot of the cuts they made were good cuts, but it wouldn’t have been a terrible thing to give it at least one more episode, I think.
CAITLIN: My memories of the second part—I’ve only read the second part of the manga once. My memories of it are not super clear.
DEE: I reread it as we were watching. They do a remarkable job of cramming five volumes into six episodes. It’s genuinely impressive how strategically they cut and what they keep and how they help things make sense even though they tend to be moving fairly quickly.
But there’s some stuff, especially in the early chapters, that we lose, that it would’ve been nice to have, that establishes what’s going on a little bit better. And there’s some really nice stuff in the early going where you see that Yui and Miaka’s friendship is very strong and supportive and cute.
DEE: And they had to just immediately dive into the story. So, you don’t get very much of that at all in the anime adaptation. Overall, though, I think it’s a really good adaptation because they also cut [sing-song] a lot of bullshit.
VRAI: Really? Really? That was the cut version of bullshit, because there is still some bullshit in there.
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah.
DEE: Yeah. No, there’s a whole extensive arc where—Oh, God. Okay, so are we done with Oni 1?
VRAI: Yeah, no, fuck Oni 1.
DEE: I should back up. Okay, no, Oni 1 is—don’t watch it, people. We watched it for the sake of completion.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; laughing] We can’t discuss it if we don’t even know what the fuck happened.
DEE: Well, and that’s the thing. There’s no real character development. There’s no real thematic purpose to it. As much as I don’t like Eikoden, I can at least talk about things it is trying to do. But with this, I’m like, “I have no idea. I’ve tried, and I got nothing.”
So, I guess, should we real briefly touch on the omakes? Did we want to talk—before we dive straight into Oni 2, we should probably touch on the omakes. And let’s go ahead and just talk about all of them for both Oni 1 and Oni 2.
Folks at home, “omake” basically just means an extra, and we’re referring specifically to the little goofy shorts that appear at the end of the episodes, after the credits and the next episode previews.
CAITLIN: Boy. [laughs nervously] I thought those Oni 1 omakes were hilarious when I was 13 or 14! [sighs]
DEE: Oh, boy. So did I.
VRAI: And, like—
DEE: I still think the first one’s pretty fun.
DEE: I think the first one, where they’re all just fucking around on the bus, is pretty good.
VRAI: Yeah, that one’s pretty good. And I prefer the style of omake that’s “our characters are actors, and here’s them OOC hanging out” to the Oni 2 ones that are basically gag reel flubbed takes, most of which I didn’t feel like landed.
CAITLIN: Mm-hm. Well, I feel like the gag reel ones actually had some pretty funny ones. They got dark.
DEE: Yeah, some of the gag reel ones I really like. There’s one that is 100 times better in English than it is in Japanese, which is an odd thing for me to say about this show.
CAITLIN: Oh, really?
DEE: Yeah, it’s the one… [through laughter] It’s the really mean one where Chichiri’s all sad in his bed, and Mitsukake’s talking to him about his past with Shouka. And in the subtitles, it’s just like, “Yeah, we were really in love, nothing like you guys.” In the dub, the actor just lets it go.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, yeah, Richard Epcar!
DEE: He’s like, “We were in love, love, love! Not like you guys!” It’s like, “Oh, my God!”
CAITLIN: Richard Epcar’s a really funny guy—
VRAI: [gasps] It’s Richard Epcar? Fuck, I love Richard Epcar!
CAITLIN: We had this conversation already!
VRAI: I know! I’ve forgotten!
DEE: We definitely did.
VRAI: It’s been a long time, you guys!
CAITLIN: Anyway. [laughs] But, no. He’s a funny guy. He’s got a dark sense of humor.
DEE: He clearly let it fly in that line. He was like, “Let’s just milk this for all its worth. I have to talk in a monotone the rest of the time, so I’m going to have fun here.”
DEE: So, yeah, the omakes are fun, and then there’s a man-in-a-dress joke because that third episode is just a train wreck all around. Even the omakes can’t be good. And it’s almost kind of cute—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] The one with Mitsukake is particularly mean.
DEE: Exactly. The part where they’re just all dressing up and it’s kind of fun, they’re like, “Oh, Chiriko, you’re so cute!” And I’m like, “Okay, this part’s kind of fun. They’re just enjoying wearing traditionally feminine clothes.” Yeah, and then the stuff with Mitsukake, then it gets deeply uncomfortable.
CAITLIN: Yeah, ‘cause at the time it was just like, “Ahaha. He doesn’t make a pretty woman.” And now, it’s like, “Ahahaha. Non-passing trans women.” Which is really, really hurtful.
VRAI: It’s not great. It’s not great. And also, it’s so much the capper on all the shitty stuff with Mitsukake, but also the whole death by snu-snu thing, I can’t.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah.
VRAI: I’m sorry. Am I wrong?
DEE: At least—
CAITLIN: [laughs] No.
DEE: I do find it kind of funny that in the manga, the death by snu-snu is framed as—
DEE: Horrifying. And in the omake, they’re like, “Woohoo! Death by snu-snu!” It’s a very different change of pace.
CAITLIN: Yep. And even Tamahome—[laughs] Tamahome in the OAVs is a lot like—he just is like, “Yeah, let’s go! Whatever, Miaka.” [laughs]
VRAI: “I’m fine with this, I guess.”
CAITLIN: “Goodbye to our loving and precious relationship.”
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, Mitsukake wasn’t fine with it, and nobody seems concerned about the fact that Mitsukake was not fine with this!
DEE: That’s not good!
CAITLIN: Oh, God!
DEE: So, yeah. It’s a mess. It caps a bad episode. That third episode of the OVA is maybe the worst episode in the entire series, and that is saying something, just in terms of “it accomplishes nothing and goes nowhere and doesn’t make sense.”
So, yeah, that’s Oni 1. We got like, what, 10 minutes out of that, I think. That’s kind of what I figured. It’s okay. We’re going to talk about Oni 2 forever, so…
CAITLIN: There’s a lot to unpack.
DEE: Yeah. Some quick background information on it. Like I said before, it is an anime adaptation of part two of the manga, which is volumes 14 through 18; five volumes of manga in six episodes of anime—shockingly well done, all things considered.
The main bullshit that I was talking about earlier that they cut out is there’s a bunch of stupid stuff with the woman, Miru, the female demon. Like, she strips Taka down and fakes like he forced himself on her, and—
CAITLIN: Oh, God.
VRAI: [exasperated] God!
DEE: Oh, it’s terrible.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, you’re bringing back memories I thought I had forgotten.
DEE: Yeah, and then there’s a whole subplot where Keisuke’s pissed off at Taka and doesn’t want him anywhere near Miaka—somewhat understandably so, given what he thinks has happened. And then Miaka’s mom finds out about them wandering around, and they were actually gone for like two solid months instead of the usual book time.
There’s a lot of unnecessary complications in the manga that the anime streamlines down and goes, “You know what this story is about? This story is about these supporting characters and their arcs, and then there’s this one big arc with Miaka and Taka, and we’re just going to talk about that.” And I appreciate that.
Kind of a fun fact about part two of the manga: in Watase’s author’s notes, she says it was written quote-unquote “by request.”
DEE: And it is pretty heavily implied that her editor and maybe the publishing company were basically like, “Hey, keep milking this cash cow. It’s really successful. Keep writing stories about it.” So, it was not part of her original plan, and as a result, she’s like, “It looks like a continuation, but I think of it more as a sequel,” like “I wanted it to do its own thing and have its own feel.” And I think it does.
CAITLIN: Part one, it wrapped up. It wrapped up wonderfully.
DEE: It did. Absolutely. Yeah. So, one thing part two does well is it’s somebody going, “Well, if I am going to tell another story in this world with these characters, what am I going to do with it?” And I think you get the feeling that Watase had a better idea going in of exactly what she wanted to explore and talk about with this part, so I think thematically it’s a little bit more cohesive than part one.
Which doesn’t necessarily translate into a thrilling narrative, but I think it’s a little bit easier to pull some threads out right away. And I think, in some ways, that does speak to her growth as a writer, because it’s been like three years since she started writing the series at this point. So, I think she has a little bit of a better idea of structuring a story.
I think I really like about 90% of part two, to be honest. And I think the main reason is because it does that thing that the first half of the TV series did really well, which is integrate the entire cast into an ensemble story. Fushigi Yugi is better as an ensemble story, and I think part two focuses on that.
So, I wanted to go through each of the individual story episodes one at a time. But before we did, I thought it might be a good idea to talk about some of those thematic throughlines and what the series is discussing, because I think it pops up in pretty much every single story that we see. Sooo… let’s real quick brush on those and then we can dig into them as we go into the different storylines.
I feel like I’ve been talking for a while. Does [inaudible due to laughter] the floor about what sort of ideas you see recurring in the story; what you think this arc was about?
CAITLIN: I feel like I haven’t dug as deep into the OAVs as I have into the TV series. But I don’t know, maybe I’m just missing something…
VRAI: It’s got these themes of: the way we remember somebody versus the person that they actually were, and this idea of projected images of people, and the idea of grief and how it’s self-serving more than actually about the other person, since there’s a lot of shit about ghosts—which feels a little cheap, but only a little.
DEE: Yeah, the story is littered with literal ghosts. But I think it uses them well to have a conversation about essentially, “Hey, all this shit went down in part one, but life goes on and people have to deal with that.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. And I like that. I like that theme. There’s some “Is man good or evil?” really pat sort of stuff, which is always just like [mumbles skeptically].
DEE: Yeah, the stuff with Ren, or Shigyou—he’s got like three names… Akira Ishida. Akira Ishida’s character is… Which, I do love that the omakes have this running gag about Ishida trying to piss off the voice actress who plays Taiitsukun, who I’m guessing has been in the industry forever. That joke made no sense to me as a kid; now, I think it’s kind of amusing.
DEE: I went on an Ishida tangent. I’m sorry. [chuckles] But yeah, with his character, they do touch on these ideas of… And then some of the stuff with Hikou and a lot of the demons, it’s this idea of these people who have been wronged—or just bad stuff happened—and losing faith in humanity entirely because of that. And then contrasting that with our protagonists, who continue to try to have faith in others even when those bad things happen. So, that’s there. I don’t think it’s super-duper explored, but it exists, for sure.
VRAI: Like you said, it feels more cohesive than part one, which has some powerful moments, but they’re just coming out as they come out.
CAITLIN: I think probably the more thematically interesting parts of Oni 2 were the question of “What is the line between Tamahome and Taka?” The question of identity and reincarnation. Because that’s always something that’s been really fascinating to me.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, me too.
VRAI: And also, it’s this skeevy, unspoken thing of reincarnation series, like: “Are you a new person? No, you’re not. You’re exactly the same as this old person I liked.” Which, uh…
CAITLIN: Right. And I think—jumping ahead a little bit—that’s part of my issue with Eikoden, is that they have all these kids and they’re not regarded as new people at all within the thread of the story. They’re following the same patterns. They love the same people. They’re—
VRAI: [annoyed] Oh, I have something to say about that. We’ll get there.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah, we’ll get there.
DEE: We’ll get there.
CAITLIN: But Taka generally struggles with being Tamahome but also not being Tamahome.
VRAI: Right. Being thought of as Tamahome but not really being him.
CAITLIN: Yes, being treated like Tamahome! It was honestly kind of irritating to me that they kept calling him Tamahome. And if this was something that he was feeling insecure about, I think he deserved to have a moment when he turned around and he’s like, “I’m not Tamahome. I’m Taka. Maybe I was Tamahome, but I’m not anymore.”
DEE: And I don’t think he gets to a point where he feels that way until the very, very end. [hesitant] Yeah, I don’t want to jump—
CAITLIN: Okay. All right, sorry.
DEE: I guess we can talk about Taka now.
DEE: Yeah, I didn’t want to jump too much into specifics at this point. I kind of just wanted to talk general ideas, and that way, when we touch on them later, it doesn’t sound like they’re just coming out of nowhere.
DEE: The other part of that conversation about reincarnation, I think, is on this more meta level of the fiction and the reality. You find somebody who’s kind of like this character in a series that you really liked, and then you meet them in the real world, and Miaka ending up with this choice between the two.
And I think that Miaka—we’ll talk about it more later—Miaka doesn’t really have a proper arc in this one like she does in the TV show, I don’t think, and I think there’s reasons for that that aren’t necessarily bad.
CAITLIN: Her story’s pretty much settled.
DEE: Yeah. Well, and I don’t hate that, because I think it’s nice to have a character who has grown up, and then when you tell the sequel story, you get to see how that character has matured, and you get to see them as the person they became at the end of that first story in the stories of other people. ‘Cause I don’t think part two is really Miaka’s story. I think it belongs to Taka and the other warriors.
CAITLIN: I agree. I do want to say—going back to Oni 1 a little bit—the part at the end where she completely fell to pieces because she was getting the news that Tamahome couldn’t live in her world… It’s like, I get it, but I also was a little frustrated with it because it felt like it was walking back—
DEE: [crosstalk] It did! I didn’t like it either.
CAITLIN: —her development in a big way. In another context, it would have been this really powerful scene, but that’s already been settled. She already accepted that. So why are we rehashing this? And like I said, that’s part of what I don’t like about Oni 1, is it just walks things back to reestablish them again.
DEE: That’s why Oni 1 didn’t exist. Guys, just… here, it’s like Matrix 2 and 3. It didn’t exist.
DEE: Just wipe it from your memory! It’s fine. Though, that actually—talking about Miaka and her role in this arc—she kind of becomes this ringleader, kind of emotional core character, where she’s pushing people on and—we’ll talk about this later with the Chichiri arc—is encouraging people and talking to them and trying to help them work through things. And so, I like that you see that progression of her into the sort of responsible, empathetic person you could see her becoming in the show, and then you really get to see her be that.
I also think it helps in some ways—I don’t know if “rectify part one’s shortcomings” is exactly the way I want to word it—but it creates a little bit of gender parity with some of the things in part one that maybe irritated me. This gets lost a little bit in the anime. I think it’s a lot stronger in the manga. There’s a focus on Miaka really wanting to be the one to protect Taka this time and save him and make him be safe; whereas in part one, a lot of it—Miaka does save the day in the end, but a lot of that is her being protected and saved by other people up until that point. So, I like that switch.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I would’ve loved to see more of that.
DEE: I like that all of the love triangles this time are with dudes, and the men be competin’. And the one female friendship we have is just loving and nice and simple. And then Taka has the Miaka arc of needing to gain confidence in himself and figure out who he wants to be and what he’s going to do through the support of these other people. So, those are some things I like about it.
And then, I think the big—the big, big, big—overarching idea at the heart of part two is Watase wanting to explore love in all its many forms and the fact that it can be both productive and destructive almost simultaneously. And I think every story we get touches on that in a different way, whether it’s families—and that can be parents and their children or spouses or siblings—friends, lovers, or people you maybe think you want to be your lover? [groans angrily] We’ll get there.
VRAI: [groans angrily]
DEE: [laughs] And I think it does that really well in all the stories it tells. And so, thematically, I think it is very cohesive in that regard. I really, really like that it’s a story about love and it’s not just about romance. It spends a lot of time on these other relationships that are depicted as being just as valid and powerful and important to people.
CAITLIN: That’s true, that’s true. Absolutely.
DEE: And I think Watase’s [through gritted teeth] better at those other kinds of relationships—
VRAI: She is much better.
DEE: —in general, which is why a lot of these stories we get about the supporting characters, I think, end up hitting a little harder than the main story. Although by the end—damn it—somehow, I am devoted to or committed—what’s the word?
DEE: I’ll think of it. I’m invested! Thank you! At a certain point, I find myself invested in Miaka and Taka, so it happened, I guess. You go through enough shit, and your audience is like, “Oh, yeah, I actually do want you guys to be happy. You’ve been through a lot.”
VRAI: I don’t know how I feel about them being the literal embodiment of love, but you know what? Fine, I’ve spent enough time with them at this point. Fine.
DEE: [laughs] “You kids go have your happy ending.” So, yeah. I hope that was okay to you guys that we talked about it in these broader terms and then we can zero in on the individual stories. I thought that would be easier than constantly rehashing what was going on as we went, so hopefully that was okay for our readers, too—listeners. Whoops. Words are hard.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Very hard.
DEE: Before we get into the book stuff, there are a few things happening in the real world. I think we’ve actually discussed a lot of them. There’s the whole student council plotline and the mob mentality stuff that doesn’t really go anywhere, but it exists.
VRAI: Yeah, I liked it better when it was called Yurikuma Arashi.
DEE: Yeah, and it feels like Watase kind of wants to hit on this idea of—and maybe it’s part of that overarching idea of “any emotion can be both productive or destructive”—so, like, communities. We have this really loving and supporting community with the warriors, but then we see these other communities that band together to destroy people who are different. And so maybe that was what the attempt was there.
The other thing: Miaka and Yui and friends now, which is nice.
VRAI: It’s very good.
CAITLIN: Yeah! No, they’re—
DEE: We’ve kind of already talked about that, but if you guys wanted to say something…
CAITLIN: I like how Yui is in this version. ‘Cause she’s still a little bit of her snarky self, but we actually get to see her being supportive and loving to Miaka in addition. Like, the part where Taka and Miaka appear, she’s like, “Yeah, they’re here in my room. They’re making out right in front of me.”
DEE: [laughs] I loved that.
DEE: That took me right back to high school.
VRAI: [crosstalk] It’s good.
CAITLIN: Oh, God! Ugh.
VRAI: [pained laughter] I want Yui to have a good time, and she has such a bad time in these OVAs!
DEE: They pull her as far out of the story as they can. I almost feel like that was an attempt to have her have less of a bad time, because everyone who’s deeply invested in these stories has a much worse time than Yui does.
VRAI: It’s true. It’s true.
DEE: She doesn’t have a great time.
CAITLIN: It’s definitely… She’s more of a support character, alongside Keisuke and Tetsuya. which, you know what, it makes sense. Her arc is also settled, and she doesn’t have all this unfinished business with her warriors because they were garbage.
VRAI: Yeah, shitbags.
DEE: And they all died.
CAITLIN: They also all died.
DEE: Or lost their memories.
DEE: So, yeah, there’s not… Although, I guess death means nothing in this world. They could’ve come back as ghosts. They just chose not to.
CAITLIN: I mean, they did in Oni 1.
DEE: They did. They kind of do in one of the light novels, kind of. Nakago gets stuck protecting the Shinzaho, ‘cause a spirit has to protect the Shinzaho.
DEE: So, he shows up in one of the light novels for a little bit because of that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That actually sounds kind of interesting.
DEE: That light novel is good. In that light novel, Tasuki and Chichiri briefly join the circus.
CAITLIN: That sounds really good, actually!
DEE: I want that light novel to be… It’s Sanbou Den. It was a part one and two—oh, no, I’m going on a tangent! It’s a bridge story between part one and part two of the manga, so it’s like, “What were Tasuki and Chichiri up to during these two years?”
And the plot’s kind of convoluted; it involves the Shinzaho. But they meet up with these two girls who used to belong in a circus, and they’ve got a hold of the Shinzaho, and they’re causing some troubles. But the girls are pretty fun, and there’s a vengeful ghost of a dude, so the guy dies this time and the girls live, which is great. That’s not always the case in the light novels.
DEE: Anyway, Tasuki and Chichiri get into scrapes. Koji’s in it a lot. And then, at the very end, the girls go back to the circus, and Tasuki and Chichiri travel with them for a little bit.
DEE: And I’m like, “Why couldn’t you have animated that one? I want to see that story.”
VRAI: It has besties and bandit husbands, and we didn’t get this?
CAITLIN: [sighs] Man.
DEE: [in a pained whisper] I knooow!
CAITLIN: Okay, so, do you think we should briefly touch on the elephant in the room, which is Yui and Tetsuya’s relationship?
VRAI: I hate it!
CAITLIN: Also, Taka’s the same age as them, it seems like.
VRAI: I don’t care for that either.
DEE: The manga establishes that Taka is eighteen. He’s in college, but he just entered college.
CAITLIN: Okay. Yeah, still, mmm…
DEE: Well, if you want to get really technical, Miaka and Yui were in the book for a year. So Miaka celebrates her quote-unquote “sixteenth” birthday in the manga, but she’s seventeen, so they’re basically a year apart. [responding to crosstalk] Yes?
VRAI: We had this convo, I think, more offscreen, if you will, and we’ll probably post a version of it on the website. My short version of is Miaka and Taka, I guess, don’t really bother me because they were 15 and 17 when they got together, and now they’re transitioning together; whereas Yui and Tetsuya kind of bother me because he was much older and more mature and a legal adult before they became a thing.
CAITLIN: Right. And he is a legal adult in Japan terms. I looked it up on the Wiki—and maybe that’s not the most reliable source, but that’s the only source we have—and according to that, he’s 20 in the TV series, and Yui is fifteen. Tetsuya and Yui’s relationship is pretty sketch.
DEE: Okay, listeners, we had a conversation about this, the day before we recorded this, that was pretty extensive about age-gap relationships in general and also talking about Yui and Tetsuya here. We are definitely going to post that. By the time this goes live, it should’ve been posted a few days prior. So, we’ll link it in the actual post for this on AniFem. You can go to the website and probably just search for Fushigi Yugi, and you can track it down that way.
CAITLIN: We’re gonna have so much Fushigi Yugi content.
DEE: We are. It’s gonna be great! All Fushigi Yugi all the time! Okay, maybe not that much.
VRAI: Not quite that much.
DEE: Lots of Fushigi Yugi content. But yeah, so, we go into this discussion quite a bit more in-depth there. We’ve got a lot of other stuff we want to talk about on this podcast, so we decided that since we’d already talked about it, we’re not gonna spend a ton of time on it here.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Anyway, all right. Let’s move on.
CAITLIN: Dee, what do we want to talk about next?
DEE: We are going to go from that into… the first of the major arcs in the book world, which is Hotohori’s story. It is the story of spouses and children. That’s the love we’re exploring today.
CAITLIN: I was hoping that this one would hit me harder than it actually did, but there were just parts of it that were so ridiculous.
DEE: [delighted] I know. It’s great.
CAITLIN: There were some moments that were like, “Aww.” But I really expecting it to be like, “Oh, my gosh, this character Hotohori has a son. He’s a dad.” And I don’t think I’ve talked about it too much on the podcast: there’s a running joke that I have a thing about dads, and I kind of do. But a lot of it is more to do with the whole transformation from being just a person to a person and a parent. Does that make sense?
CAITLIN: Like, you suddenly have this different role in this tiny person’s life. So, I was really, really hoping for it to hit me hard, ‘cause as much as Hotohori irritated me constantly, I still have some affection for him, just like I have some affection for everyone in Fushigi Yugi except for Nakago. [laughs]
VRAI: Fuck that guy.
CAITLIN: So, yeah, I was a little bit disappointed that all the absolutely insane shit kind of distracted from that.
VRAI: I kind of dug it. I mean, it’s dumb. It’s unquestionably dumb, but it’s dumb in that very sincere Fushigi Yugi way that I kind of respect.
CAITLIN: [laughs] I guess.
DEE: Yeah. There’s a certain magic to Fushigi Yugi—and I realized it as I was watching this episode; and I think this is true of a lot of anime that I enjoy—where I can be just neck-deep in a scene that’s very emotionally affecting. Hotohori leans down, and his kid sees him, and his kid toddles towards him and then falls through him and can’t actually hug him.
VRAI: That’s a good moment!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That was a powerful moment.
DEE: And I’m like, [horrified] “Oh, no!” I say, feeling lots of emotions. I also dig the… [reluctantly] metaphor—sorry for talking about metaphors in Fushigi Yugi—
CAITLIN: No, always welcome.
DEE: —this idea of deceased parents—or really any relative, but I think parents in particular—this idea of “You can hear stories about them, you can see pictures of them, you can sort of see them, but you still can’t touch them.” And I think that moment really hammers on that really hard: this idea that, no, there is this level of separation there.
DEE: They thankfully have fantasy magic, so they can kind of work around this briefly, but then that’s what’s going to happen again. This is a very short reunion moment. The magic of Fushigi Yugi—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] See, I was distracted by—
DEE: —and so much anime—
CAITLIN: [laughs] I was distracted by Taka!
DEE: Exactly! No, the magic of it is that I’m sitting there like, [emotional] “Ohh!” and I’m sad, and I’m almost tearing up, and then Taka’s like, “Enter me!”
DEE: And I chuckle, and I start laughing. And then Hotohori gets to hold his son, and I’m immediately back into being emotionally, like, “Ohh, this is sweet!” And the fact that it didn’t completely pull me out of the scene, I was like, “There is something amazing about—”
I think a lot of anime does that, where something just ridiculous will happen, and you’ll kind of snort, but you’re still in it, like “I’m still in this moment.” So, whatever you did…
CAITLIN: The English line… [chuckles] The English line was “Come into me, please. Use my body.”
CAITLIN: That was just too funny. [laughs]
VRAI: No, see, it’s a callback to the blood threesome. This is all very [through laughter] intentional.
VRAI: No, I’ll never forget that weird, weird scene.
CAITLIN: And that was just building on… I mean, first, it was like, this is my weird “I have knowledge of child development that most people don’t necessarily.” But when they’re like, “Oh, he’s a year and a half old, and he’s never said a word in his young life.” And I’m just like, [baffled] “So? So?”
DEE: Well, I think they said he’s not made a sound.
CAITLIN: Oh, see, in the English version, I’m pretty sure they said he hasn’t said anything.
DEE: Well, yeah, but “said anything…” I don’t think it’s like, “Oh, he hasn’t said his first word yet.” I think it’s more a matter of like, “He’s never even made cooing noises or babbles,” which would be surprising at that age.
CAITLIN: Yeah, that would be strange. Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. But the ridiculous things just kept stacking up. And maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but when they’re being suspended by tentacles and begging this baby to put down his teddy bear…
CAITLIN: And then Hotohori possesses him, and now he is a baby with a sword.
DEE: Oh, God, Hotohori’s voice coming out of that child never fails to just make me crack up hysterically.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Oh, God! I died!
DEE: [deepens voice; dramatically] “Houuuukiiiii!”
DEE: I’m like, “Oh, no.”
CAITLIN: The whole episode was so ridiculous. But some moments did really hit, like his speech at the end, too. And I don’t know if it was just a difference in the performances, ‘cause his dub actor generally does a pretty good job, but his speech to Boushin at the end…
And I get it. You just had this moment to pack in so much that you want to say. But it was really, really maudlin, up until the very, very end, where he’s sitting there like… The whole speech is like, “Be a good emperor. Be good to the country in the way that I couldn’t have been.” But at the end, when he’s just talking about how much he loves him, that was what hit.
DEE: [moved] Mm-hm. Mm-hm.
VRAI: The sub sells it better, I think. And also—
DEE: Yeah. Koyasu Takehito is a very, very good voice actor, so I’m sure that helps.
VRAI: Mm-hm. I also appreciate Hotohori acknowledging that he’s a shit person. That was good and reaffirming.
DEE: [crosstalk] Right?
DEE: He kind of gets forced to confront the fact that “Oh, I died pointlessly and I left people behind who really cared about me and, in the case of a child, kind of depended on me.” So, yeah, for him to admit that: “Wow, I’m a bad father. I’m so sorry for leaving you guys” was—
Again, the thing with Hotohori wasn’t like with some of the other character deaths where there wasn’t really a choice. Hotohori definitely had a choice, and he made a really, really bad one. So, for the series to force him to confront that was very satisfying to me.
VRAI: Yes, it was good and I approved of it. But yeah, it is absolutely a fine balance that I can see tipping either way, because small baby with an adult man’s voice is very silly.
DEE: [delighted] It’s so good, though. I love shit like that. I just love it. I love it when ridiculous shit like that gets blended in with these very genuine, honest, emotional stories. It just makes me—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] That is Fushigi Yugi.
DEE: [laughs] It just makes me so happy.
VRAI: Good news, you’re in the right place.
DEE: I know! I know! Again, I think that’s not just a Fushigi Yugi thing. I think that’s frequently an anime thing, where it’s like, “Well, this premise is ridiculous, but these characters resonate, so let’s roll with it.”
CAITLIN: “Oh, it’s a very emotional moment while her boobs are bouncing all over the place.”
DEE: Well, I don’t know about that one. I was thinking more like, absurd cosmic forces are taking over the planet, but—
VRAI: The fate of the world will be decided by this children’s card game!
DEE: But then you freakin’ get into it. I love that about anime, where it’s like, “We’re going to ask you to accept kind of an absurd premise, and believe it or not, you’re going to be super-duper into it by the time this is over.” And I mean, some fiction outside of anime does that as well, but I think anime does it often and excellently. So, I enjoyed it.
So, any other thoughts about the Hotohori arc there and the conversation they’re having about parents and kids? We didn’t really talk about Houki at all, who probably has postpartum depression?
CAITLIN: Yeah, they were selling it as “Oh, she’s so sad about Hotohori dying,” but I definitely read it as postpartum depression.
DEE: And she shows up in, again, that bridge light novel Sanbou Den. She shows up at the beginning, when Tasuki and Chichiri get back, and the three of them chat for a little bit. And she is… I mean, she’s pregnant. She’s basically holding it together and trying to run the kingdom. And she’s clearly very sad, but she’s doing her best, which to me also suggests that having Boushin had triggered—like she was already struggling, and then this just made it worse, so.
I really like Houki. I wish she had more screen time, because I think there’s a really good character in there.
CAITLIN: I agree.
DEE: The light novels, again, kind of touch on the fact that I think she’s a very good character. We just don’t get to see very much of it in the anime.
VRAI: That was definitely a thing I liked about the OVAs, is getting to spend a little more time with her. I like her.
CAITLIN: Yeah, she’s good.
DEE: Houki’s a good ‘un. [crosstalk] There’s a reason I made her a supporting character in—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I mean, Nuriko likes her, so…
DEE: Yeah, they’re besties! It’s great.
VRAI: Yeah, that—ah! Mm! Mm.
DEE: Speaking of Nuriko…
VRAI: Yeah, we’ll get back to that.
DEE: Okay. Speaking of Nuriko, that brings us to the next arc in Oni 2, which is Nuriko’s story. It is the love of family, specifically siblings. And, kinda like Hotohori’s story, deals with the realities of death and what that means to the people who loved you.
VRAI: Did they retcon in an entire older sibling for Nuriko, or was I just not paying attention?
CAITLIN: I mean, they didn’t mention him before, but I don’t know if it would be a retcon so much as an omission.
VRAI: [skeptically] Mmm, ‘kay.
DEE: I can’t remember if—in the manga, they do those character profiles. I can’t remember if it was mentioned that Nuriko had an older brother. I think it was.
CAITLIN: I think so.
DEE: I think the profile, which is in one of the first volumes of the manga, I think it says, “older brother,” “younger sister,” and then “deceased” next to “younger sister.” So, I think Watase had it in her head that Nuriko had a couple of siblings and just figured, “Well, this older brother, they weren’t that close, and it’s not going to come up in the story.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. She mentioned that Hotohori had an older brother in the character profile. That didn’t come into the picture until Eikoden’s light novel.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Until they had to pull it directly from their ass. Sorry.
DEE: We’ll get to that.
VRAI: Sorry, I just—
DEE: We’ll get to that. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: Yeah, but we’ll get to it. Anyway, first of all, I love having Chichiri—er, not Chichiri. I love having Chichiri around, but I also love having Chiriko around [laughs] and actually getting to know his character a little bit better.
VRAI: He had one this time.
DEE: This was an anime change that I really liked. In the manga, they’ve got a Nyan-Nyan just traveling with them for the entire thing and Chiriko doesn’t meet up with him until the very end. The manga does some stuff with Chiriko’s character, but it’s very different, and I prefer what the anime did.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I personally like to think that this was what his personality always was; we just didn’t get to see it, where he’s kind of a—
CAITLIN: [laughs] How do I put it? Not bratty, but…
VRAI: He’s like Yui. He’s a beautiful snark teen. And I’m here for it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, he’s just kind of temperamental. Because that felt more like authentically 13 years old than anything that Chiriko has done at any point, because he’s drawn and written more like he’s ten.
DEE: Yeah. Or, when his power activates, he’s super mature because he’s extremely intelligent—which isn’t how maturity works, but that’s okay.
CAITLIN: I know some very smart people who are very immature.
DEE: Yeah. So, that’s an element of the story that’s probably worth criticizing. Yeah, there’s a lot of… and I think you get a little bit of that sense of Chiriko’s frustration in the manga when he’s upset because his symbol doesn’t always appear, and so he’s really frustrated that he can’t always be a member of the team, and he feels useless when he doesn’t have that. And so, I think a lot of that pent-up frustration definitely manifests in this interaction with Rokou, who is alive but not really living, and Chiriko’s very angry about that.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, it’s… I wrote…
VRAI: Unexpected, but nice.
CAITLIN: I actually wrote a fanfiction about Rokou—
CAITLIN: —many, many years ago. Over half my life ago. What is time?
DEE: What even is time?
CAITLIN: What is time?
DEE: It’s weird. Anyway… [laughs]
CAITLIN: Anyway… [laughs]
DEE: We’re going to have that conversation multiple times during this, probably.
CAITLIN: [laughs] But anyway, I think he’s more interesting as a concept than an actual character.
CAITLIN: I think he’s extremely unlikable as a character.
DEE: He’s very frustrating.
CAITLIN: He’s very frustrating.
DEE: [crosstalk] Chiriko is understandably frustrated with him.
CAITLIN: Because he’s such a… And I mean, his whole thing is that he’s a coward, but he’s just… Ugh.
VRAI: We don’t know him well enough to sympathize with his obstinance, so he is just a plot block.
CAITLIN: Right. Yeah, exactly! There you go. He’s just an obstacle. But if Nuriko had talked at least somewhat fondly of his positive qualities ahead of the time—like, I get Nuriko being annoyed and being like, “He’s always been a coward,” but just being like, “Oh, yeah. We’re gonna go see my brother. I remember this, this, and this about my brother.” But no, he’s just a fucking whiny-ass obstacle.
VRAI: He kind of sucks, yeah.
DEE: I feel… kind of bad for him, I guess. I can sympathize with somebody losing a family member who—you kind of get the sense they weren’t even super close, but—
CAITLIN: Yeah, he was kind of on the outside of Nuriko and Kourin.
DEE: And I think a lot of—whatever little bit of an arc we get with Rokou here and his relationship with Nuriko, really, to me, a lot of it comes down to this idea of: “Oh, I had it in my head that someday I would be a good older brother to you, and someday we’d be closer, and someday this and that.”
And so, dealing with this idea of: “Oh, shit. That’s never going to happen now.” And then clinging to this memory that arguably maybe didn’t even exist. [pained laughter]
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I think it’s an interesting choice that he calls Nuriko “Ryuuen,” whereas… I’m not even going to get into the deadnaming thing, ‘cause, you know, it’s the ‘90s. It’s not great.
VRAI: Boy, is this show not that sensitive.
DEE: Yeah. Also, in Rokou’s defense somewhat on this point, it would be really hard to call one of your siblings by your other dead sibling’s name.
CAITLIN: Yeah. No, I mean, listen.
DEE: [crosstalk] That complicates things.
CAITLIN: That’s not [what] I’m criticizing him for. But everyone calls the Celestial Warriors by their warrior names. Like, Tamahome’s dad and his siblings call him Tamahome.
And I think that speaks to who he is, is that he has this very rigid idea of not just who he wants to be to Nuriko, but who Nuriko is, and he just perceives him as his little brother, Ryuuen, not the person living as Kourin, not as the Celestial Warrior, Nuriko. He’s Ryuuen.
VRAI: Yeah. I think there’s an interesting idea in there, in like, when you’re not close to somebody but when they die and, yeah, you mourn what you could’ve had and then performatively loving them after they’re gone, but…
DEE: No, he’s not a particularly likable character. I agree with that. I think that by the very end, he semi-redeems himself, and it’s like, “Oh, okay. You could be a decent fellow, now that you’re finally actually trying to become that person you said someday you would become.”
There’s also… There’s a little flashback of him as a kid calling out for his siblings’ names and not being able to find them that kind of got me, ‘cause…
DEE: It’s just sad. Anyone who loses family like that, I guess it just hits me a little bit.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I’ve never lost super close family. I’ve lost my grandfathers and an uncle, but never anyone that I was really close to, so it’s not something that hits me as hard within my realm of experience.
DEE: That’s fair. Overall, though, I thought Nuriko’s story was a nice one. I didn’t have a ton of commentary about it. I just enjoyed the idea of siblings who maybe never got along finally coming to some sort of a reconciliation at the very end. And they have their little moment where Nuriko’s like, “Well, you’ll always be my big brother,” and I was like, “Aw, that’s kind of sweet.”
DEE: So, yeah, that’s Nuriko’s story. One other point about Nuriko that I thought we would bring up now, before we dove into the next part and Dee put on her Angry Hat, is… in the episode after this, Nuriko has a conversation with Taka about the way he’s feeling and Nuriko kind of gives him a pep talk. And Caitlin, I think you wanted to talk about that a little bit, ‘cause you really enjoyed it, I think?
CAITLIN: Yeah. I really, really enjoyed that. Basically any time Nuriko sits down and has a chat with someone, it’s going to be really good.
I think Nuriko’s the only one in the series who really sits down and listens to Taka in the whole thing. And it is very poignant when they’re sitting there, and like, “Hey. Okay, you don’t feel like Tamahome. That’s fine. Then just be Taka. Be who you are.” And no one in the whole OAV takes the time to understand that except for Nuriko. And it’s really beautiful.
And Nuriko’s like, “Listen. You’re still alive. You’re still growing and changing. And I’m not. I am always going to be who I was at that moment when I died.” And then she just—[laughs] the way she’s animated in this scene is really funny, too, because she just sort of comes floating out of the tree. And then at the end of the conv— [chuckles]
VRAI: [crosstalk’ quietly] Nuriko is good, actually.
CAITLIN: Vrai, did you say something?
VRAI: No, just, Nuriko is good. Nuriko is good. All the time, Nuriko is good.
CAITLIN: Yeah! And then at the end of the conversation, they just float away, like, “Appreciate being aliiiiive.”
CAITLIN: Which, very good line delivery on Mary McGlynn’s part.
VRAI: I don’t—in fact, I’m pretty sure that Watase didn’t think this through, because of all of the history of how Nuriko is written. They’re just the cool, really supportive sibling character, which is great. But also, of course Nuriko is the one who is able to sympathize with Taka about somebody impressing a personhood that is not his on him. Like, of course they understand that.
CAITLIN: Yeah, of course.
DEE: Yeah, I thought about that.
CAITLIN: That’s a good point.
DEE: Yeah, I thought about that, too, when it was happening. I was like, “This is probably unintentional, but it’s still very good characterization.”
VRAI: Nuriko is your gay aunt, and it’s good. Understands. Gives good advice.
CAITLIN: But, yeah. The question of—like I said before—the question of Taka’s identity and “who is Taka versus who is Tamahome,” I feel like, was something that the series sort of underutilized. So it was really nice seeing Nuriko just sit down and take that moment and give an opportunity to explore that for a bit.
DEE: Mm-hm. And then to accept that. I mean, it’s a little unfortunate that Nuriko keeps referring to Taka as Tamahome after that scene.
CAITLIN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
DEE: And there’s an argument for “Well, it’s just habit, and most of the time, they’re in the middle of battle and danger, so you will default back to those modes.”
VRAI: But you’d think Nuriko would take care with that for those same reasons that names are important.
DEE: [crosstalk] You would, yeah. But it’s still good to have one of the warriors very wholeheartedly accept, like, “It’s okay for you to be Taka. That’s all right. Just do what you can do. You clearly love Miaka, and she clearly loves you, so…”
Which is especially apt and works as a sort of counterpoint to the other story that’s going on at the same time, [tone gets progressively sharper] which involves rejecting the concept of Taka and him not being Tamahome and why that is a problem for one of the characters thanks to Evil. Poison. Water. And I. Am going. To put on—
One sec, guys. Let me [makes knocking sounds] dust that off. I haven’t had to wear this in a while. I don’t know if I’ve ever worn it for a podcast.
DEE: I’m gonna have to put on my Angry Hat!
VRAI: What have they done? Why have they transformed my good boy into a Nice Guy?
VRAI: Why have they done this? I hate it! What about his bandit husband?
DEE: [pained] Well, that was always non-canonical. I mean, it’s there. It’s definitely there, but… You guys, I hate this scene.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s really bad. It’s really bad.
DEE: I hate this arc. I hate it. I… [breathes] Okay. Let’s talk about this. There’s a lot going on. Some of it, I think, maybe there’s a value, and we’ll talk about that in a minute, but right now my Angry Hat is on, so we’re going to focus on that.
DEE: This scene tackles—in a lot of ways, it kind of reminds me of the rape episodes in the TV series with Tomo, Nakago, and all that bullshit, in that I think it tackles a very real nightmare. The nightmare here is the nightmare of having a trusted friend who you have always had a really good relationship assault you. That is a nightmare that I think a lot of people, especially women, there’s this almost ever-present concern in the back of your heads when you start to make friends with somebody—
CAITLIN: Oh, always. Yeah.
DEE: —particularly men. And the scene in the room is so. Damn. Raw. It’s written so—Miaka wakes up and immediately knows that something’s wrong, and she’s trying to walk this line of “I need to get out of here, but I don’t want to piss him off, because I can tell right now that I’m in a very dangerous situation.”
DEE: And it’s very uncomfortable to watch. It—
VRAI: Yeah, I did think he—sorry, go on.
DEE: No, go ahead.
VRAI: Well, I’m really impressed by the scene before the actual physical assault, but I feel like the framing of the assault is very much in that sort of bad shoujo sexualized rape thing.
CAITLIN: Yeah, because it’s… My thing is that it’s like, “Yo, the water makes him do it,” but it still feels like there’s been a build-up where Tasuki’s—like, it’s not making him do something that he does not have some desire to do, where he’s like, “Oh, I could make Miaka happy. She’s so sad all the time when she’s with Taka, and I could take care of her.” And I think—
DEE: The anime really fucking plays that up, too. The anime plays that up like crazy. In the manga, the sense is more like, “This is a good friend I have. She’s clearly upset. I wish there was something I could do to make her feel better.”
CAITLIN: And then the water turns that into…
DEE: Yeah. Like, he doesn’t think to—the part in the anime where he thinks “If Miaka was my girlfriend, I’d never make her cry,” or something like that? In the manga, he just thinks, “If I fall in love, I’m never gonna make someone cry like that.”
DEE: And so, there’s much more distance to it, so that the evil poison water really shoves it in this direction of: “Oh, the solution to me making my friend feel better is for me to just take over, just take the place of.” And I really want to talk about that. I think there’s some interesting, valuable things in here, but can I just be angry for a little bit longer, guys?
VRAI: Yeah. No, there’s the horrible—oh, my God, I don’t—maybe it is partly the way the anime decides to frame it, but boy, hey, how about all that “All men secretly want to rape their friends deep down” implication?
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Oh, my God. Yeah, what the hell?
DEE: Yes! Yes! Fuck. Off. With. That! Because—and this is speaking as somebody who has a lot of really close male friends. We’ve been friends for years. We’ve shared couches and beds together. And, guess what, it was fine!
This arc really punches personally to me more than, I think, a lot of the arcs in this series—and, I think, a lot more than it did when I was 14. Like, I didn’t love it the first time I saw it. I did not care for this episode. But this time through, I just found myself getting very angry.
And Watase’s author’s notes do not help, because—God, I should have shared them with you guys, because her author’s notes during this piece are just atrocious. It’s very hard to read. It made me want to throw things out windows. But there’s one line that she essentially says, “Just because he’s a friend, it doesn’t mean you should let your guard down.”
[Everyone groans angrily]
CAITLIN: I see that so much in shoujo manga, where it’s like, “Oh, I’m still a guy, you know.”
VRAI: Yeah, I hate that line. I hate it.
CAITLIN: That’s that—guys—like, “They’re all just like rapists in waiting, waiting for a girl to let her guard down around them, and it doesn’t matter who. If there’s a girl and she’s vulnerable. They may hold themselves back, but they’re just barely keeping themselves from assaulting her.”
VRAI: [crosstalk] Like, this is offensive to everyone!
DEE: [crosstalk] And that’s obviously fucking bullshit!
CAITLIN: That’s honestly one of the things I like about Yona—going on a tangent a little bit—is that she trusts her warriors, and she sleeps in a tent with them, and it’s never a thing. Because it’s so common in shoujo of all stripes, and I can think of so many different iterations of it. And it’s basically victim-blaming for acquaintance rape, like, [sarcastically] “Well, if you trust these guys too much, what do you think’s gonna happen?”
DEE: I always hate story arcs like these in general, but there is a part of me that understands that this is a conversation that, unfortunately, you do kinda need to have with teen girls—with young girls. It sucks, but there’s always that sense of “When you first meet somebody, be careful because you don’t necessarily know.” So, you can have that conversation in fiction, but at the same time, if you portray fucking every dude as just—
VRAI: Waitin’ for that rape.
DEE: —barely containing themselves and they all have these base urges that they might lose control of, that’s some bullshit. It perpetuates terrible stereotypes for everyone and sets up this expectation that—because boys are reading this, too. I want to point that out. Watase talks in her author’s notes a lot about how she has actually a lot of male fans, and she’s kind of surprised about that.
But boys are also reading this, and there’s very much this… Tell a story that isn’t that. If you want to have a guy do that, fine, but then can you have some stories where not every guy Miaka meets—and can she have one male friend who doesn’t want to fuck her?
DEE: Can she just have one who doesn’t try to assault her?
CAITLIN: [ironically] But didn’t you know, men and women can’t really be friends.
VRAI: Aspirational fiction is the place where “Not all men” applies.
DEE: [pained laughter]
CAITLIN: [ironically] Oh, yeah, that’s some aspirational fiction: men are not all garbage.
DEE: I have a lot of male friends, and I like them a lot. We’re very close. We have very good relationships. This is not… [whisper-yelling] These people exist!
CAITLIN: Yeah. [laughs] I mean, I say that out of frustration. No, I do have some very close male friends, who I value very much. But, it’s… Ugh.
DEE: And you know the thing that I think pisses me off the most about this story? It’s bad enough that it’s Tasuki, who we know, we have established, is a very good boy.
VRAI: He’s an extremely good boy!
DEE: But here’s the part that really gets me. Here’s why I hate this episode so much. If you’re going to tell this story, if you’re going to tell this story of the friend you think is your friend, who then assaults you, then you have to fucking commit to that story.
CAITLIN: Yeah, instead of this—
DEE: You don’t get to just blame evil poison water, and then Miaka and Taka are fine, and they act like nothing happens afterwards. That’s not how it works. That’s really irresponsible. If you’re going to tell that kind of a story, which is very difficult and hard and, again, has a lot of implications to it, then you better commit to that damn story.
CAITLIN: Well, it’s like in Kiss Him, Not Me, when what’s-his-face got delirious and assaults Kae. At least that had the dignity to be like, even after he apologized and it established that he wasn’t himself—like whatever; they’re excusing it that way; that sucks, oh well, moving on—she’s still like, “I’m still not comfortable with you.” Like, it takes time.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, ‘cause that trust is broken now.
DEE: Yeah. And maybe over time, they can eventually get back to that, but yeah, that’s going to significantly damage the relationship. And I will—
CAITLIN: It is not something that you can just consciously say, “Oh, well, he was under the influence of poison water, and that wasn’t really him.” It is something that is traumatic. It triggers a response. He could very potentially become a trigger. It’s— [sighs] Yeah.
DEE: And they barely interact after that point, [dryly] so maybe that’s the way the story’s decided to deal with it. But they don’t. Taka and Tasuki, their relationship is fine pretty much after that—
VRAI: They take cute bro naps!
DEE: —because Tasuki’s accepted Taka! And I guess the one thing I will give them is that the experience absolutely affects Tasuki. It significantly influences the way he behaves and the decisions he makes for the rest of the story. But the fact that it doesn’t seem to have any effect on Miaka and Taka, the people who were assaulted in various ways, is really, really frustrating to me.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it all started with that—you know what starts it? You know what kicks it off? That fucking sexy mouth-to-mouth scene.
DEE: [mutters] Mouth-to-mouth is not sexy. Okay, so—[laughs] There’s one thing I do kind of like about that moment, which is my headcanon image of Chichiri walking up from a distance and seeing this and going, [panicked] “No, no, no, no, no!” and immediately busting into the scene and ruining the moment, which he does.
CAITLIN: Mouth-to-mouth is not sexy!
DEE: [crosstalk] Because I would like you to know—
VRAI: [crosstalk] That is the one omake that made me laugh.
DEE: Oh, when it’s like, “Welp, she’s dead! Oh, well!”
CAITLIN: “Oh well, there’s also other girls out there!”
CAITLIN: Yeah, that one was actually really funny. It was dark, but it was pretty funny.
DEE: Yeah. Uhhhh… Okay. I’m tired now, you guys. This is why I don’t wear my Angry Hat very often.
VRAI: It takes a lot of energy. You have to work up to being angry.
DEE: Actually, can we break briefly? I’m going to take my Angry Hat off, and then I do kind of want to keep talking about this episode, because as much as I visc-er-al-ly hate it, I think there are some things we can talk about that are kind of interesting in what it’s doing that might not suck.
Hey, AniFam! Dee here, your managing editor and Fushigi Yugi OVA MC. We had originally planned to release the OVAs as a single bonus podcast, but it turned out there was a lot more to discuss than we had expected. Long story short, by the time we were done, we had been recording for almost three solid hours. What can I say? We are dedicated to our craft.
So, we decided it’d be best to split the watchalong into two podcasts instead. Sorry for the kind of awkward stopping point, but it’s the closest thing to a midway spot that we had, and since we took a recording break at that point, too, it kinda made sense to give you folks a listening break here, as well.
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Okay, that is the end of my adverts. Thanks again for listening, AniFam, and be sure to tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion of our Fushigi Yugi watchalong, where I have a lot of feelings about Chichiri and everybody gets real salty about Eikoden. See you then.