The 10th and final installment of our Fushigi Yugi watchalong with Dee, Vrai, and Caitlin! The team finishes out the OVAs in trademark rollercoaster fashion as they bask in one of the series’ highest highs, suffer through one of its lowest lows, and still come out the other side fighting for this messy, sincere franchise. Taka finds himself. Chichiri needs a hug. Mayo does everything wrong.
Date Recorded: Sunday 3rd December 2017
Hosts: Caitlin, Dee, Vrai
0:01:46 Miaka used as a narrative tool
0:07:00 Chichiri overcoming a tragic backstory
0:17:16 Can friendship always survive?
0:18:58 Scars as shorthand for “damaged” characters
0:21:45 The ultimate threesome
0:29:45 Respecting Miaka’s choices
0:33:37 Eikoden exists
0:36:10 Punishing female agency
0:40:02 Pregnancy narratives
0:47:03 Mayo as a stand-in for Miaka
0:53:07 The thing Eikoden did right
0:58:30 Reincarnation in Fushigi Yugi
1:04:13 Closing thoughts
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.
Normally, this is the part where my co-hosts would introduce themselves, but you’re listening to the second half of a podcast that we originally thought would just be one episode. So I’m here to provide a quick little cold-open.
For those who stumbled upon this episode first, you’re going to be very confused, because you’re listening to part two of our watchalong of the Fushigi Yugi OVAs. This episode covers the second have of Oni 2 and the entirety of Eikoden. We’ll be picking up right where we left off last time, finishing our discussion about the no good, very bad Tasuki episode, and then moving into the extremely good, very nice Chichiri episode.
As a reminder, I’m joined on this podcast by my two lovely teammates, Caitlin and Vrai, who are both editors and writers for Anime Feminist. You can find Caitlin on Twitter at @alltsun_nodere and Vrai on Twitter @writervrai.
And with that out of the way, I’ll turn it over to, uh… myself from a few weeks ago. Take it away, me!
I… got some wine.
CAITLIN: [laughs] Need to calm down after that?
DEE: I took off my Angry Hat and I got some wine. I had some coffee before the show, and now I need the comedown, so… a little glass of wine.
I don’t know if I’ve ever told you guys this: conflict and anger makes me sleepy, which is why I generally don’t have a lot of it because I can’t be sleeping all the time. It’s very emotionally draining. So, now that I’ve taken my Angry Hat off and gotten myself a glass of wine, we should… Let’s talk about this with maybe a little less rage.
One thing I did find… I wouldn’t say I liked it, but I will say I found it kind of interesting, is that something we’ve talked about in the past is the way Tasuki has a very immature, stereotypical idea about what it means to, like, [in a gruff Midwestern accent] “be a real man.” He has these ideas about what “true strength” and “true manliness” is. And I feel like this arc directly addresses and confronts a lot of those ideas, and shows how, taken to the darkest timeline, I guess, how destructive that can be.
Because he very much sees strength as to mean physical protection, and he has this idea about how “love is something that you take.” And then when you use fantasy magic to create evil water and take that to its extreme, you get a situation where you’re overriding somebody else’s agency because you think you know better than you do. You’re objectifying them, like, “They belong to me.” And the other side of that is… He turns on Taka because he doesn’t match this idea he has of what a man should be. He sees him as unworthy.
CAITLIN: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. I don’t know.
VRAI: I think the big—
CAITLIN: Now, I’m getting really tired from [laughs]… You were talking before, but now I’m just getting tired about it.
VRAI: The entire existence of it, and its magical propagation of rape culture and its attempt to say a thing, is exhausting.
DEE: It is exhausting.
VRAI: I think any effect that it could have had is pretty well shot in the foot by the fact that, like you said, this isn’t Miaka’s story. Miaka has some good moments here, but it’s not her story, so she becomes an object in serving the dude’s story, which… So, the rape arc is bad, but at least it’s about her anxieties at the very base level. This isn’t about her at all.
CAITLIN: Right. Yeah. I mean…
DEE: No, it’s really not.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause, you know, Dee, you were talking about it. It addresses a sort of specific nightmare scenario, but if the series isn’t about Miaka the same way, it doesn’t come across like that. It doesn’t… That piece doesn’t fit into the whole picture. I agree, but also, it’s not… The TV series of Fushigi Yugi, it all honestly… It was a flawed series, but that part of it all fit together very well. And this doesn’t. You know what I mean?
DEE: [uncertainly] Mmm… Can you expand on that a little bit?
CAITLIN: So, you were saying that this is a nightmare scenario for a lot of girls. And Fushigi Yugi, the TV series, since it is Miaka’s story, it addresses a lot of anxious nightmare scenarios. But the OAV is not from Miaka’s perspective. It’s not about addressing her anxieties. Her story is wrapped up. It’s Taka’s story. So, it does not come across as much as it is about addressing her anxiety. If it was written that way, it is out of place.
DEE: Oh, no, I totally agree with you. I don’t think this… I think that’s one of the huge, huge things that sucks about this episode. One of the huge, huge weaknesses of it is that we don’t really get anything from Miaka’s perspective.
I think there’s an attempt to face Tasuki and Taka off as these kind of stereotypical toxic idea[s] of masculinity coming from poisoned Tasuki at this point and Taka, who is really not that… He’s not super comfortable with the fact that he’s not as powerful as Tamahome was, but he doesn’t feel like he’s unworthy of Miaka. At one point, he says, “I’ll be the most pathetic man in the world for her if that’s what it needs. That’s okay.”
And so it ends up being a story more about guys, I think? And I don’t think that’s inherently bad, but I think the fact that Miaka really doesn’t seem to have a role in this story is terrible.
Like, if you wanna just have Taka and Tasuki throw down and Miaka’s not involved in the throwdown, then I think you can more effectively explore some of these ideas that the series, to its credit, is rejecting. But the fact that she is there and is deeply involved in this and has been, you know, assaulted just a minute ago and then is kind of immediately ignored I think does a great disservice to her and what the story’s trying to do.
VRAI: Mm-hm, yeah. I definitely think that idea of toxic masculinity, even using Taka and Tasuki, yeah, that’s worth doing. But, boy, they did it bad.
DEE: Mm-hm. They did it real bad.
CAITLIN: So very bad.
DEE: That’s the end of that! I don’t like that story.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Nope!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s bad.
DEE: I wanted to talk about one of the things I thought it was trying to address because I think it is worth mentioning that the series is trying to reject that concept of manliness that Tasuki sort of had in his head for a while. But it does a poor, poor job of it.
VRAI: Let’s move on.
DEE: [quietly enthusiastic] Hey, guys? Guess what comes after the low, low point, though? Guess what comes after the low, low point?
CAITLIN: One of the best episodes of the whole franchise?
DEE: [laughs] The best episode—yes! One of the best, if not the best, episodes of the entire franchise. It’s very, very good. It is the Chichiri story episode. I love this episode. I love this character. I could talk about this for like 30 minutes. And it would be… I have a lot of notes, and it’s bad. So, we’ll start with this.
All of the stories that we talked about, you know, they talk about love, and I forgot to talk about this with Tasuki’s because I put on my Angry Hat.
DEE: The love there is more the destructive kind. It’s like a friendship that gets warped. Two different friendships, really. I think that story is as much about Taka as it is about Miaka. This one sort of mirrors that a little bit, but it focuses much more on the friendship angle of that. I think Watase does friendship narratives a thousand times better than she does romance. I could talk forever.
DEE: What would you guys like to say?
CAITLIN: [meandering] Ohhh, I don’t know.
VRAI: It—it good? It good.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s good. It’s really nice seeing it addressing Chichiri’s past in a more complete way, in a more detailed way, ’cause I feel like his backstory always deserved more focus because there’s a lot there. And it really, really informs who he is now.
So, yeah. It was really good to see that get fleshed out. And going on the theme of different kinds of love, like the way love can be twisted but also redeemed and recovered, because Chichiri is… He’s got so much anger, but he’s also never stopped loving them.
VRAI: This is definitely the case where… There are nice moments in the other side stories, I think, but this is the one that actually feels necessary to me. This is a wrap-up to his character that I was glad to have. And felt unresolved before.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s… [sighs] Yeah, it’s good. It’s real good. [laughs]
VRAI: I did roll my eyes a little bit at the whole… Like, ostensibly, yes, the whole, “She was sad because she cheated” is fine, but, boy, is it gendered. Boy, is it gendered.
DEE: I think it fits into… I think we see this a lot in FY, these kind of rigid rules of purity and how that can mess things up. Again, I don’t think the series is lauding it, because it clearly ended very poorly for everybody involved. But, yeah. It’s a little bit of a, “Oh, that’s what happened there?” kind of moment, I think.
DEE: Where Watase… I think it was Watase really didn’t want Kouran… I think Watase was trying to go out of her way to not make her seem like a villain. I think that was the goal there. Like, not an evil woman who broke up the boys. You know what I mean?
I think that was why they worked that in, where it was like: No, she didn’t actually betray you. She just felt like—like, a guy forced a kiss on her, and there were these very rigid rules about faithfulness and purity and she felt like she had broken those. And that was why she decided that she… She broke off the engagement.
Which, again, it’s such a damn tragedy because it’s one of those things where if there had been more time, they probably could have talked through that and worked it out. But sometimes, kind of like in the Nuriko story with Rokou, sometimes you don’t have a “someday.” Sometimes you don’t have extra time to work things out.
It’s… God, I love this episode. I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start!
VRAI: He didn’t let go of his hand, you guys.
DEE: [crosstalk; tearfully] He didn’t let go of his—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] He didn’t. “I’ll never let go!”
DEE: [crosstalk] I’m sorry. I’m gonna be okay. I’m hugging my Chichiri doll now. I have a Chichiri UFO doll, dear listeners, and I am hugging it, because Chichiri needs a lot of hugs. [laughs]
I feel like he gets some emotional hugs this episode, which is… First, one thing, Caitlin, real quick to talk about that you mentioned earlier, was getting more of that backstory. I really appreciate the way the series plays with perspective there, because when Chichiri tells the story, he’s like, “Yeah, I killed him. I killed my best friend. That’s what happened.” And, so, you hear that, and you’re like, “Oh, I guess they got in a fight and he stabbed him or something.”
CAITLIN: Yeah, ’cause the wound on his face made me think, like, a knife fight or something.
DEE: Yeah. And then you actually get to see it, and it turns out that… I think it does a nice job of playing with the idea of memory and guilt and the stories that we build for ourselves. And for him, he’s 100% the villain. And he is responsible, in part, for this, because if they weren’t fighting on the edge of a riverbank, he probably wouldn’t have fallen in. But it wasn’t like he actually killed him. It was an accident.
But I think it’s very important the character does not see it that way. And that, you know, influences the way he talks to Miaka, the relationship he has with some of the other warriors, his… God, his light novel is really good. Really kind of goes into a lot of the grief and guilt that he lived with before he eventually came out the other side as this, like, happy-go-lucky, big brother figure.
So, first of all, I have a really huge soft spot for stories about characters who kind of just quietly looked after everybody and never really made a big deal about it, and then suddenly they need those people to support them, and then those people step up and do exactly that without even needing to be asked. And then Dee dies because her heart grows three sizes and crushes her ribcage.
DEE: [laughs] And that’s one of the things I really like about this story is Mitsukake’s speech at the beginning, when Chichiri’s like, “Yeah, I can’t. There’s no way I can do this.” And he kind of speaks up and says, “No, you don’t have to do this alone. We’re all here for you.” And then all the other warriors kind of chime in and Taka’s like, “Yeah, you’ve been saving my ass for a long time, so if you need anything, we’re here for you.”
VRAI: It’s nice.
DEE: I think that’s wonderful, first of all, because I think you can draw some… There’s a lot of stories even in the Fushigi Yuuniverse, about villains who are sympathetic because of some kind of past trauma they’ve had, right? This idea of, “People aren’t just born evil. Events happen that cause them to go down that path.”
And that’s valid. Valuable, obviously. But if you have too many of those, it can turn into: “Past trauma makes you evil.” And that’s not good. That’s very bad. So I think it’s really good and important that Fushigi Yugi has stories like Chichiri’s about somebody who does have these unthinkable tragedies happen, and goes through a lot.
Again, in the light novel… The light novel opens with him trying to kill himself. That is how that book opens. And he does not succeed, and then he meets some people who help him and he slowly kind of becomes… makes semi-peace with his past and finds this new purpose to be a warrior and to help out these other people and then become—and then develop friendships.
And I adore stories like that because I think they’re very… I think they’re important for everyone to have. I mean, obviously I’ve never gone through anything like this, but I think having stories of people who do go through terrible things and come out the other side—after going through a lot of grief and guilt and self-harm and everything else—and they come out the other side, and they’re a good person. They can look after other people. They can be a member of the team, and have a new community. I just… [emotional] It’s just really good, you guys.
CAITLIN: Yeah. I still… I do, in a way, kind of wish that Chichiri still had that sort of… The idea of him being this huge force for good, like he’s a monk and he has this darkness inside of him that he could do something so malicious to his best friend, instead of just: he thought he let go but he didn’t. I mean, I would be okay with a more morally gray character than this OAV built him as.
But, at the same time, seeing him reach closure on that issue was really satisfying. ‘Cause, yeah, he’s sort of been the guy who has the most complicated backstory, and the most internal pain about it. So maybe he’ll finally be able to move on.
DEE: I like to think so.
Well, and I think this episode does a good job of reminding you that he has found this new group of people and is trying to… who is a member of that team. And it’s nice because I think something somewhat similar happens with Tamahome where, you know, I mean, his entire family is murdered and he goes through this unthinkable loss and doesn’t turn evil. He continues to be a member of this team and a good person. But Tamahome, his answer to this was just to devote his entire being to one person.
DEE: And we’ve talked before about how that’s maybe not so great.
CAITLIN: No. It’s not ideal.
DEE: That’s not a helpful answer. That’s, in many ways, like codependence and very unhealthy.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and that’s always sort of bothered me whenever he’s like, “I only exist for Miaka.” I’m just like, “Okay, dude. Slow your roll.”
DEE: Yeah, every time he says that, I just groan very loudly and then I go back to watching.
VRAI: Like, I get that it’s the fantasy for the assumed straight young woman watching, but [weary] h’ohhh, boy. Oh, boy.
CAITLIN: That would get very suffocating very fast.
DEE: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, and no one should have that. So, I like that we have a similar story of loss and tragedy here, but the meaning on the other side comes from a variety of different things. Community, the cause, the purpose, new abilities, et cetera.
So, I think in a lot of ways, it’s a more helpful and healthier story about that. And it allows him… I think it allowed him in the first arc to go out of his way to help Miaka and Yui in ways that were integral to them being able to repair their relationship. Which is kind of that sense of not allowing history to repeat itself, which is very good.
Oh! This, I think, is worth mentioning. It’s not… He and Hikou reconcile, but it’s not a cut-and-dried happy ending.
VRAI: [agreeing] Mm.
DEE: Hikou still dies, and almost the last thing he says to him is: “Were we even really best friends? We distrusted each other so quickly. Can you even say that we were actual friends?”
And so, there’s that sense of… I think there’s kind of that sense of you can never fully—some relationships can be fully repaired and some can’t. And sometimes it’s a matter of time and the fact that Hikou is dead; he’s not coming back. And sometimes it’s a matter of the relationship maybe was broken. And so I think the fact that it hangs you with that ending of, “It’s not that Chichiri and Hikou hugged it out and swore eternal love for each other as besties.”
DEE: It’s more like: at a certain point, you have to make peace with it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, that makes sense.
DEE: I appreciate stories that aren’t easy. I love that Miaka and Yui repaired their relationship. And I love that, you know, at the end, like we talked about, she’s not completely off the hook. It’s like, “I’m totally gonna yell about you later.”
But by the time we meet up with them again, their relationship is… They’re doing good. They’re best friends again. You don’t really get a feel for maybe some of the potential tension that might still linger.
And so I think it’s good that… It’s valuable that this story does that. That it points out that it’s not always gonna be simple or perfect, but that there’s still something on the other side. You’ve still got your new bro. Chichiri and Tasuki: Best Friends!
VRAI: [enthusiastically] Besties!
DEE: Oh! Quick sidenote. And I’m… hmm. I don’t know how much I should get into this ’cause it’s not my topic of expertise, but I think it is kind of worth mentioning. Scars and disabilities in a lot of media tend to be depicted as either a mark of evil or a mark of a tainted past. Does that make sense?
And I think Fushigi Yugi starts off doing that. Chichiri’s not a bad guy. Everyone I found… I didn’t realize disability and scars and things like that were shitty tropes, necessarily, that marked people as villains. And a lot of it was because this was an early character model of that. And I was like, “But he’s the best person in the show! I don’t understand!”
But I do think there is that element of: it’s a shorthand physical representation that the character is quote-unquote “damaged.” Does that make sense?
DEE: I think it starts with that. The one thing I think is nice about Fushigi Yugi that I had not really considered until this watch-through… It gets glossed over a little bit in the OVA, but it comes up in Eikoden. Mitsukake gives Chichiri his healing water and is like, “Hey, hang on to this. In a year or so, or whenever you feel better about it, you can use this to heal your eye.” And he never does.
And I think that’s kind of… Again, I don’t know 100% how to talk about it. I think that’s a good thing? I think it’s nice that a character who has made peace with that—like, it’s not just a shorthand for him being “damaged.” It’s just a part of who he is and that’s okay. You know what I mean? He doesn’t have to “fix”—quote-unquote—his physical disabilities. ‘Cause, I mean, he is one-eyed.
VRAI: Yeah. No, no, I am not an expert either, but I think I follow what you’re saying with the intent there.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah that makes sense.
DEE: I always kind of liked the fact that he never… I sort of wish that he had dropped the mask at one point. I thought that would have been nice. More of an understanding of, “I don’t need this to get people to accept me” kind of thing. “I’m good as I am.” He does wear it less in the OVA, so maybe that speaks to him being more comfortable around the rest of the warriors after this moment. But I always thought it was worth noting and important that he kept that with him, I guess. So.
VRAI: Yeah. I feel ya.
DEE: [very apologetic] Okay. I’m sorry. I talked so long about Chichiri. I warned you guys that I would. I’m sorry, listeners. I hope you enjoyed. [through embarrassed laughter] I hope you enjoyed listening to me talk about my favorite anime character of all time. So.
VRAI: She has feelings.
DEE: I like him a lot. He’s very… I think he’s really, really well-written, especially over the scope of the entire franchise, which—and I haven’t been able to talk about him at all up to this point, because it’s really hard to talk about him without knowing the full backstory and spoilers. So I just had to let it all out in oooone go. But, anyway. I am going to stop talking for a while.
VRAI: All right. All right, recover.
DEE: I’m gonna ask y’all what you think… So, we get through the best episode in the entire series. Fight me.
DEE: And we get to, uh… Tamahome, I guess, appears?
VRAI: Boy, this…
DEE: I have one fun story and then I’m gonna shut up and let you guys talk about the Taka/Tamahome/Miaka stuff that happens here at the end. I was watching this with a friend—a couple of friends. Tamahome shows up and my friend goes, “Wow, they could… ” and then my friend blushes and goes, “Nevermind.” And my other friend goes, “Have an awesome threesome?”
CAITLIN: [cracking up]
DEE: And she was like, [wincing] “Yeahhhh!”
DEE: And, uh… that’s what I think about when he shows up, so I call them “The Ultimate Threesome.” [laughs] Anyway, have some thoughts. Have some discussions about it. I’ll chime in occasionally, but mostly, I’m going to drink some wine and recover from having a lot of emotions about my favorite boy.
VRAI: It’s all good. It’s all good. I don’t know if the manga did it better, but boy, who is this other… ? Boy, the Four Kings of Heaven—the Four Fallen Kings, or whatever—is awfully rushed in the OVA. It serves its purpose, but it doesn’t really… It’s like, “Okay. The reasoning is he’s just not… [resigned] Okay, fine.”
CAITLIN: I barely remember anything about them, honestly. I know this was all part of Tenkou’s thing, but I barely remember anything about the four kings, except that Chichiri’s friend was one of them.
DEE: They were all supposed to be people who had basically died in a way that left them with a lot of lingering rage and anger, and Tenkou was—this is a running thing in Fushigi Yugi: the bad guy takes people who have this anger and rage, often justified, and twists it and manipulates it. So then they become his demon minions, functionally. So, we had the incest siblings, and then you had Hikou and then you had this guy—I think his name’s Yosui—he doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have a personality.
VRAI: He exists to be “not Takahome.”
DEE: [quietly amused] “Takahome.” Yes.
CAITLIN: Right. And it’s like—okay, when Tamahome showed up, it was obvious to me as the viewer that, yes, Taka was the real one and this was a ruse. But it seemed like his personality was… He was not acting like Tamahome.
VRAI: Mm-hm. It’s one of those cases where obviously there’s the problem of “people in Dracula don’t know they’re in Dracula,” but that doesn’t apply here. He is clearly acting different. And they have had enough shenanigans of people impersonating other people.
CAITLIN: Yeah. He’s… Just him looking at Taka and being, like, [casually] “Well, thanks for taking care of my girl! Peace!” That’s not how… that’s not who Tamahome is. He’s not that flippant about things like that.
VRAI: It’s definitely like, “Ah, shit. We need a third act misunderstanding. Well, this’ll work.”
CAITLIN: I mean, it sort of makes sense as the finale of, like… The fiction versus reality sort of thing. It makes sense. If there had been more ambiguity about whether that guy was really Tamahome, it would have been more powerful?
VRAI: I think the moment it exists to set up, where Miaka embraces that she really likes this guy and talks about how it took her a long time to call him “Taka” and… I think all of that is nice. I do. But I just think the lead-up is so nakedly mechanical. Usually this series is better at hiding that shit.
DEE: Yeah. Some of it was that it was a little bit rushed. They were cramming an entire volume of manga into that last episode, so… Which, again, I think they did a remarkably good job of it, all things considered.
CAITLIN: It’s the Paradise Kiss Final Episode Syndrome.
DEE: But they definitely rushed through the early bit. The part where Miaka realizes that she loves Taka and they call out to each other across worlds, and then she greets him and there’s a pretty manga panel of them hugging… I couldn’t believe it this time through, but I was like, “Aww!”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, she loves—
DEE: [crosstalk] I actually started to care.
CAITLIN: She doesn’t just love Taka as a repeat of Tamahome. She loves Taka as Taka. And I wish—
VRAI: [crosstalk; emotional] And it’s nice.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it’s really nice! And, like I keep saying, I really wish they had worked more on that and driven that home more: Taka as a separate entity from Tamahome. Because they’re making him recover all these memories, but what if he doesn’t necessarily want those memories? He has his own life. Why does he have to be… Why does he have to be a repeat of Tamahome? Why does he have to take on this identity that is not him anymore?
It looks at his feeling of inferiority, which is absolutely a valid thing. But I just really wanted more about Taka’s identity as Taka. And the way everyone treats him like someone who he isn’t. And him wanting to assert who he is as his own person. That was really what I wanted.
And—okay, so, Dee. In the manga, they said that Taka would disappear without his jewels of memory because he was basically a construct, and they did not go into this at all in the anime. But then you mentioned—
DEE: Which is good, because at the end of the manga, they backtrack.
CAITLIN: So why would he disappear? If they backtrack on this and it’s like, “No, Taka was a person who was born in this world; who lived a real life.” Why would he disappear from both worlds? Is that something that is explained?
DEE: [drawn-out] Uhhhh… maybe? [laughs] I’m having a… Probably not, no. I don’t think it really is.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause the OAVs—
DEE: I think you can kind of squint and come up with something. This is one of the things I think the anime kind of does well is it doesn’t really talk about him… Oh! [snaps fingers] I think I kind of remember what it was. It was basically all a big trick by Tenkou.
VRAI: [somewhere between amused and exasperated] Pssssh.
CAITLIN: Tenkou’s making him disappear?
DEE: Uh, yeah. Functionally, Tenkou is kind of pulling the strings on this one. He did lose these memories and having them back is advantageous because of, like, having his powers and abilities back from the other world. But Tenkou essentially set this whole thing in motion because he’s fueled by negative emotion. So he was like, “Well, I can use these guys and put them through shit and they can make me stronger.” And so the jewels were his way of doing that.
DEE: And I think that was pretty much how they rolled with that storyline? I’m not even sure Taka was ever actually going to disappear. I think that was all a ruse.
CAITLIN: ‘Cause that’s something they do in Eikoden, too!
VRAI: [exasperated sigh]
CAITLIN: [crosstalk; sarcastically] “Oh, the character’s randomly disappearing, because… I don’t know!”
DEE: It’s really [unintelligible beneath crosstalk]. And there’s… At the tail end, when Miaka jumps out in front to protect Taka and seems to die and Taka kind of snaps, I think it’s Chichiri [who] figures out—he says to Tenkou something to the effect of, “Oh, this is what you meant by making him disappear.”
And Tenkou’s like, “Yeah, I can’t actually disappear people, but the role of a god is to basically make people do stuff”? Essentially. You can’t directly do it, but you can influence them. And, so, by “disappear,” he meant he was going to essentially destroy Miaka and Taka via emotions, I guess? I dunno. Feelings?
VRAI: [resigned sigh]
DEE: The ending is very emotionally resonant to me, so I don’t sweat it too much on the plot stuff.
DEE: One thing I will mention this real quick, ’cause we’re getting ready to skip past it… When Tamahome’s all, “Hey, let’s be together,” and Miaka’s like, “No, it’s Taka.” I realized the series does a really nice job of framing so much of the story based on Miaka having a choice and the story respecting that choice, and I really like that? That was it. Just a random aside.
DEE: She picks Taka. She decides to become the priestess. She decides to go after the shinzaho. There’s moments periodically throughout the story where it’s like, “Well, what do you want to do?” And then Miaka’s like, “Well, here’s my decision here.”
CAITLIN: Right. Yeah, no, I agree.
DEE: So, I think that’s nice that that keeps happening, ’cause there’s a lot of stories out there—not just shoujo, but we’re talking about shoujo, so—that is very much “the female characters just stumble into situations” and it’s pretty much framed entirely against their will almost the entire time.
CAITLIN: I mean, which is a lot of Fushigi Yugi TV series.
DEE: [crosstalk] Like, Miaka stumbles into the book, but then she makes several conscious choices to keep being a part of the book. I think that’s good. That’s it. I just wanted to add that.
VRAI: It’s nice. It’s a nice thing.
DEE: So, yeah. They defeat Tenkou with their emotions and their friendship.
VRAI: And their feelings.
DEE: And then Miaka has a big speech about how much she loves them and how they’ll always have each other, and then Dee cries a little bit. [chuckles]
DEE: That music box instrumental comes in, and I just turn into a biiiig, blubbery sap. [embarrassed laughter]
VRAI: Again, they are now, I guess, the personification of love, because Suzaku is the god of love, and I’m a little bit like: Okay, you’ve battered me over the head enough with their super-destined love and I actually kind of believe in Miaka and Taka, so… fine. [faux-annoyed] Fine!
DEE: I do! It got to the point where I was like, [through laughter] “They’ve been through so much! Yes, go be happy, please! I really want that for you now.”
CAITLIN: I still… I don’t love his whole “I only exist for Miaka.” Especially since—
DEE: Oh, I hate it.
CAITLIN: —as Taka, he has a life as Taka. He has been around for, like, 18 years before he met Miaka. And he may have had memories of her, but he’s had time to form his own identity outside of that, and that’s… I’m sorry. Questions of identity in fiction—stories about that are really my jam. But yeah, it’s… it doesn’t go… that whole thing, I feel like, kind of undermines itself.
VRAI: I feel ya. I feel ya. Like I said, to a certain—when he is a book character, I get it; it’s playing into the fantasy of the partner who exists only for you. But then you’re supposed to break out from that when he’s a real people.
CAITLIN: Yeah. When he’s in the book, he does exist for her. He is Tamahome, yes. But Taka’s not… Yeah, so. [sighs] That’s a thing.
VRAI: [disappointed] Yeah.
DEE: Yeah. I wish they’d done it better. I almost wish he had not… I understand the idea of accepting who you were in your previous existence kind of thing, like when he brings Tamahome into him and they become one person at the end. I get what it was going for with that.
I almost wish that hadn’t happened, though, and it had been like, “No, Taka never got those memories back. And it’s fine. He doesn’t need them.” ‘Cause that is the arc they were going for with him. He’s like, “No, I am my own person.” But then he still ends up… fusing, I guess, [laughs] with Tamahome. Now I’m imagining them doing the little fusion dance from Dragonball Z.
DEE: It’s adorable in my head.
So, I think that does kind of undermine it, yeah. But, you know, all the characters had their… [semi-apologetic] I like it. I like Oni 2.
VRAI: It has some nice feelings.
DEE: [crosstalk] Again, I think it hit its ending very well.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It definitely has some real high points.
DEE: And it’s real hard for me to talk about why my favorite character ever is Chichiri without that episode, so people should watch Oni 2. That’s all I’m saying.
CAITLIN: Yeah. But you know what people shouldn’t watch?
VRAI: [groans loudly]
DEE: They probably should just forget Eikoden ever existed. It’s so… This is the thing I hate the most about Eikoden: we just had a big, emotional finale, and we should just be done. That should be where we wrap up and we finish our conversation. But we still have to talk about Eikoden, and Eikodeeeen… exists? [disappointed] It sure does exist.
The anime was—here, I’ll give you guys some background. The anime was released between the end of 2001 and the beginning of 2002 which was, coincidentally, the exact time I was discovering the series.
DEE: Yeah. It is based on three light novels: the two-part Eikoden, which was published in 2000 and is the main story here of Mayo going into the book; and then, just for funsies, they also crammed in sections of Suzaku Hiden, which was—technically it’s Hotohori’s light novel, but it’s told pretty much exclusively from Houki’s perspective.
It’s about their relationship and this older brother of his that she knew, and then they had this whole conflict that gets crammed into five minutes and is very badly done. You sure can tell they were cramming three books into four episodes in Eikoden.
It also—fun fact: only anime in the series that has a different director. It’s not Kamegaki—I think that’s his name. Yeah, Hajime Kamegaki was the director of everything up until this point, and then, for whatever reason, they switched to a different director. It’s Shimazaki Namako. And it’s nice that they got a woman to direct it, but I think you can very much tell that it’s directed by somebody else who does not have as good a grasp on the franchise, and I think that really hurts in the long run.
Okay. So, Eikoden.
VRAI: It sucks!
DEE: [crosstalk; chuckling] What do you guys wanna say about Eikoden?
VRAI: Thanks! I hate it!
CAITLIN: Yeah, no. It’s… it’s bad. I honestly felt really betrayed by it, because it took me a long time to get the chance to see it. And I was so excited for it. And it was just the world’s biggest letdown. So, yeah. [sighs] Mayo is awful. And the series asks us to fucking sympathize with her.
DEE: And does a really bad job of explaining to us why we should.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It is rushed. And… it’s just so flat and lifeless, and it just has… I feel like the OAVs were very hit-or-miss; the ones previous to this. But this was all… It had none of the magic of the TV series.
VRAI: It feels so mean-spirited.
CAITLIN: It is! It’s mean! And the whole last episode is trying to explain why it’s not, but you can’t just walk that back.
VRAI: Yeah, like, at the end, it’s like, “Oh, no, no, no, no, no. This is really… It’s just… Here’s what we’re actually trying to say, is that you should do things responsibly and you don’t understand.” But the first two-thirds of this OVA is about a girl from a bad home life trying to escape, literally, into fiction, and how she’s stupid and bitchy and mean for doing that.
We were talking about how Miaka makes choices and is proactive later on, but she does kind of “accidentally” herself into the book. And it feels like it’s punishing Mayo for making the active choice to do something rather than happening to be into something.
CAITLIN: Oh my God! The final episode. It really does just—when it tries to turn around and justify everything, it takes away the female characters’—it takes away all their agency in the matter.
VRAI: [frustrated] Oh, and also, apparently, fuck Yui, again, I guess. It’s all her fault because she was jealous. Like, holy shit, this is not… I think it wants to say a thing about how it’s sad and harmful that jealousy comes between female friendships, but it never actually brings men or power structures into this.
So, it’s not like, “Isn’t it sad that we have a system that forces women into competition and that sucks and female friendship is important?” Which I feel like the series tried really hard to do. This is just like, [sarcastically] “Man, doesn’t it suck how women are shallow and jealous, bitchy harpies? They should stop doin’ that!”
CAITLIN: If it really is because they summoned Seiryuu too early, it’s not Yui’s fault. It’s Nakago’s fault! He’s the one who forced the issue. [angrily] He’s the one who gaslit her into becomi—Nakago ruins everything!
VRAI: I hate this! I hate it!
DEE: Everyone else tells Yui it’s not her fault, so, there’s that, at least.
CAITLIN: True. But it’s like, “Oh, goddamn it.” [sighs]
DEE: And Miaka basically runs the show the entire time, turns out. Although they make a big deal about it being subconscious, which I thought was weird. If you want this to be a story about Miaka quietly supporting some young girl who’s in a similar situation to where she was and trying to help her save the world and believe in herself, then this is not the way to do that.
VRAI: Yeah, maybe you don’t make that the third-act twist. Maybe you seed that throughout.
DEE: Well, and if you want to make Miaka the third-act twist, then you gotta make Mayo more sympathetic earlier in the story. I mean, I haven’t… I think I’ve only ever read a summary… No, I read the light novels a long, long time ago, but they’re not available online anymore.
I reread the summary, though, and the light novel, at least—it’s not particularly good either, but it at least establishes everything that’s going on with Mayo early. So you can at least kind of understand why she would be so gung-ho about this situation. And it also does a slightly better job of pointing out that Mayo truly sees everyone in this as a fictional character, which is why, like, murdering a baby doesn’t bother her.
VRAI: Right. She’s got Ken Ichijouji syndrome.
DEE: Can you explain that?
VRAI: Sorry, in Digimon—in the second season of Digimon—there’s this character who spends the first season as the villain because he thinks all of this is a computer simulation that isn’t real, so it’s totally cool for him to use it as escapism and hurt a bunch of actually-sentient beings.
DEE: Yeah. So… That’s kind of what the light novel was going for. And then as she starts to meet and spend time with Boushin and Houki, she starts to realize, “Oh, well, they’re fictional, but they’re still people and they still matter and I don’t actually want to hurt them.” But I say all this with the understanding that the anime does [sing-song] a piss-poor job of conveying any of this.
VRAI: Yeah. It wants… I wanted to meet it halfway on the scene where Mayo and Houki have a moment, ’cause I like Houki and… But, boy.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, me too.
VRAI: But, boy, does it not—it does not earn that moment. It does not earn suddenly having this awful, awful character in tears and sympathizing with others, and [building frustration] oh my God!
CAITLIN: Yeah, listen. I am all for offering compassion to troubled teens. But I gotta say, if someone talked that way to a child in my care, I would’ve kicked their ass up and down the hallway.
CAITLIN: [furious] That is super—that is fucked up to sit there and tell a 12-year-old that his dad was actually a sh—to tell him a falsified version of it… I would have. Ruined. Her.
CAITLIN: That is such an awful thing to do.
VRAI: Well, especially ’cause in the anime, there’s not… Okay, first of all, it puts the reveal that her parents are getting divorced afterwards. Secondly, I guess you can read into it after the fact that her dad probably was unfaithful? But that’s not evident in the flashbacks, nor is it… It’s so badly told. It’s so bad.
CAITLIN: And she’s also like… She gets the line [frustrated laughter], and this is an amazing line, but also, she’s awful. “They can’t even kill a baby?!”
DEE: [giggling in the background]
CAITLIN: She’s threatening to force a miscarriage of Tamahome and Miaka’s child. And listen: gray area, but they want this goddamn baby. “I will try to murder this child that you want so badly.” What the hell?!
VRAI: And also, listen, I… mmm… It’s such a fine line to walk with pregnancy narratives, but the fact that Miaka is no longer allowed to be active until she’s the third-act twist because she’s pregnant—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] And even then—!
VRAI: —and also this teenage girl is using a baby trap to get the man she wants, [pained] and, oh my God, the layers of bullshit!
CAITLIN: And even then, it’s all stuff Miaka did subconsciously.
VRAI: [quietly] Yep.
CAITLIN: She says it’s subconsciously. She did not make a choice, like, “Oh, the Universe of the Four Gods is in trouble. They need a new priestess to summon Suzaku, so I’m going to find a new priestess and she’s going to come into that world and she’s going to be the caretaker of my baby, who is the shinzaho”—which is also really weird!
VRAI: [crosstalk] Mm-hm. The baby’s a real weird plot Macguffin.
DEE: [crosstalk] Yeah, it’s really weird.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Also really weird!
DEE: Shinzahos are supposed to… [baffled] You’re supposed to have them on you when you summoned your god.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, like the rings!
DEE: Okay, so: in that light novel where Tasuki and Chichiri join the circus, the implication is that their shinzaho was intangible and it was love—which they definitely had with them when they summoned Suzaku, [sarcastically] I’ll give them that.
So, I guess if you want to squint, the idea is that the baby is a physical manifestation of their love, so…
DEE: It’s real stupid weird, though. [laughs] Don’t get me wrong. I explained this to you with a chuckle in my voice.
VRAI: Yeah. And then there’s the Looney Tunes Babies roundup, which is…
DEE: [through laughter] I like the cute baby seishi. [crosstalk] I like the cute baby warriors.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I didn’t.
VRAI: I don’t hate—well, I hate part of it. But it’s just… mm, mm… the way they do it is not… mm. Like, I was kind of excited to see them living in their new lives, but that lasts about five seconds before they’re just their old selves again.
CAITLIN: Yeah. [stunned] And then they’re taking these children out of their homes?!
DEE: [through laughter] And then they take Nuriko without asking! Which is the funniest fucking thing.
DEE: They’re like, “Well, there’s demons in the village, so I guess we just kidnapped a child. Oops!” [laughing] Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen!
CAITLIN: It’s just… It’s so laughably bad. And, like I said, they’re not living new lives, really. They’re just following the same patterns; falling in love with the same people.
VRAI: And also, I… mmm, every—Nuriko.
CAITLIN: Are you… Nuriko being born as a girl?
VRAI: Well, on the one hand, in character logic, I’m very happy for her. On the other hand, the fact that that—in tandem with the fact that she is still in love with Hotohori, who she’s so much better than; and the fact that, you know, now the assembled Suzaku warriors are like, “Aww, idn’t that cute,” when before, they gave her so much shit in her previous life.
And also combined with the very implication that the end of Nuriko’s life was about exploring this more fluid gender identity and wanting to be a man for Miaka or whatever. But they were reborn in the bodies they wanted, so… [emphatic] What the fuck?
CAITLIN: [laughs] Yeah. It’s like… I mean, for what it’s worth, these were not written by Yuu Watase.
DEE: Watase sketches out the outline for them, though.
CAITLIN: Oh, okay.
DEE: She came up with the basic idea and she would work with Nishizaki, and then Nishizaki would fill in some of the gaps. And I don’t dislike—Nishizaki’s not an amazing writer, but I don’t dislike the way she characterizes the warriors through some of the other light novels. So I don’t know how much of this I want to blame on the light novels and how much of it is just a very, very bad anime adaptation.
CAITLIN: Yeah, I mean, that’s fair.
VRAI: I will give them that baby Nuriko is precious and I want to hug her.
CAITLIN: Oh, she’s very cute. She’s—
DEE: Immediately starts trolling Tasuki. It’s so good.
VRAI: So good. Oh, it’s so good.
CAITLIN: Oh, and how about pointing a sword at poor reincarnated Hotohori’s throat? Yes, let’s just traumatize this 11-year-old child to make his previous life come out.
DEE: Yeah, I remember that’s not how it went down in the light novel. They completely changed that. [whispers] I don’t know why.
CAITLIN: That’s not…
DEE: Well, and the thing about Eikoden that I think bugs me the most is there is an interesting story buried somewhere in Eikoden, [laughs] and we don’t get to see it. And this, to me, this moment with Hotohori is a really good example of wasted potential, is his past lives’ wife and son are outside the room. If you want to wake him up, them calling to him would probably be an emotionally affecting way to do it. [laughing] But, no, let’s just point a sword at him—
VRAI: And then also—
DEE: —and scare him awake.
VRAI: Smaller thing, but we finally got to see Nuriko and Houki interact on-screen and there is a one-line acknowledgement that they know each other and are friendly, and whoosh, we’re moving on.
CAITLIN: I mean, I thought it was stronger than that. They seemed really excited to see each other. It was cute. [crosstalk] Maybe that was the dub.
DEE: Yeah, I liked that moment. Well, I thought it was cute that Houki immediately was like, [excitedly] “Oh my God, I recognize that voice!” [laughs] And they had a little moment through the door. The bigger issue, though, is that none of that was ever adapted, so I guess they just assumed the audience would know they were really good friends at one point.
CAITLIN: Yeah, so there’s all…
DEE: It’s not a very good story.
VRAI: Nah, it’s… And bringing in Mayo’s friend because we’re just admitting now that Mayo is a pale, pale copy of Miaka, so here’s her Yui, and I have no emotional investment in this friendship at all.
CAITLIN: Yeah. We didn’t… Did we even see them interact before Mayo went into the book?
DEE: There’s a brief scene at the beginning of the very first episode, but, really, no. You don’t get much there, at all. Which sucks because I think the idea of being pulled back because of a friendship is, again, one of those moments where the series tries to balance romance and friendship, and maybe friendship even takes greater priority. But we don’t know who this character is. We don’t know their relationship. So, it doesn’t really matter.
VRAI: I do see the potential for an interesting story in here, but… No.
CAITLIN: Yeah, it’s like—
DEE: I think—
CAITLIN: Oh, I just… This part of the discussion is getting so tattered ’cause we’re just sort of yelling whatever pops into our heads.
DEE: It’s fine. I don’t have a lot of notes for Eikoden, so… [crosstalk; chuckling] Let’s just: anywhere we wanna go.
CAITLIN: But it’s like… Taka talking on his fucking cell phone. [laughs]
VRAI: [through laughter] In the other world where he gets reception!
DEE: For some reason! Yeah, that part makes me laugh. And it’s one of those… That’s, to me, one of those stupid, ridiculous moments in the series where, if everything else around it is working, I just chuckle, and I’m like, “Okay, it’s fine. Let’s move on.”
CAITLIN: But nothing else around it is working.
DEE: No, not so much.
CAITLIN: All right, so I do want to… I want to talk a little bit more coherently about the big ending plot twist-slash-asspull at the end where it is basically removing—it is making Mayo blameless and removing basically all her agency. ‘Cause Nuriko’s like, “Oh, Mayo did nothing wrong.” And it’s like, “First of all, no. Mayo did everything wrong.”
DEE: [chuckling] Mayo did so many things wrong.
VRAI: [whispers] So many.
CAITLIN: Mayo did a lot of things wrong. For example: trying to murder baby Chiriko. But, “Oh, she was just pulled in… Miaka gave her the baby to protect it because it’s the shinzaho.” It’s like, “Okay, wouldn’t Miaka choose a better candidate?”
CAITLIN: Compassion only goes so far. Even if Miaka knew Mayo and saw that she was troubled…
DEE: [dryly] She caught the bouquet, Caitlin. [chuckles]
CAITLIN: [sarcastically] She caught the bouquet! “If this bouquet doesn’t bring happiness to whoever caught it, I’ll feel so guilty.” And, I mean, that is a very Miaka thing to say.
DEE: It absolutely is.
CAITLIN: But it’s like, “You put your child in danger with this horrible, spiteful girl. And you put Taka through so much, having to deal with this girl who’s obsessed with him in a very unhealthy way.”
DEE: And then Miaka and Taka both sort of take the responsibility for it. And, I mean, again, she’s, what, 16, so to a certain point, I get adults wanting to be responsible adults.
CAITLIN: [whisper-hissing] But she is so…
DEE: But Taka’s even like, “Oh, if I’d only noticed, maybe I could have talked to her and let her down easy or something.” And I’m like, “Dude, it’s not your fault you didn’t notice that a teenager was crushing on you.”
CAITLIN: Yeah! So, anyway, Mayo essentially becomes a vessel. She’s not… she didn’t gather the Suzaku warriors. She didn’t have to actually go through anything in the Universe of the Four Gods. She didn’t have any real growth except because Houki told her a sad story.
DEE: And she got manipulated by a [ominous sing-song] e-vil demo-o-on~!
CAITLIN: Right. You could say, “Oh, Mayo’s not responsible for all of the things that have happened.” That’s fair and that is a problem. Saying she did nothing wrong is absolutely wrong and incorrect. She’s a horrible, spiteful, horrible, horrible, spiteful person.
DEE: And there is arguably—you guys kind of touched on this when you first started the conversation and then we spiraled off into some other direction—there is arguably an idea at the heart of this that is about fans and fandom and how the kind of… ‘cause Mayo is kind of like a fangirl of the Universe of the Four Gods, and she takes the story and decides that she wants to write her own—or add her own—story to it at the beginning, which is how things start out.
And there is something buried in here that I think would be an interesting conversation that a story like Fushigi Yugi that directly deals with a fictional universe would be really interesting to talk about, which is like… That selfishness of, “Oh, I don’t wanna share this story with anybody else. I want to have it all to myself.” Or the idea of… that same thing that comes up in the OVAs in Oni 2 about how love can be both destructive and productive, and making sure that you choose the one that’s not destructive.
But I think that if… [sighs] If it wanted to tell that story and make Mayo almost like a reader stand-in, then you have to give her some kind of agency at the end where she realizes, “Oh, you’re right. It’s important that we keep telling this story because otherwise the story dies, but it’s also important to do so responsibly.” But then Mayo actually needs to be able to wield some of that storyteller power. And she doesn’t at all.
CAITLIN: No. She lies on the futon as they summon Suzaku.
VRAI: Well, I think you could tell a neat story here about—especially if you’re telling a story about fandom—about internalized misogyny and the fact that… I read fanfiction in the early 2000s and there was a lot of: “This female character is such a shallow bitch who doesn’t deserve this boy because I do or I want to pair him with this other boy.” So, you could—
DEE: Yeah, nobody liked Miaka. I mean, I shouldn’t say “nobody.” Miaka was not well-liked. It was not…
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No, she was not.
DEE: At least in the English-speaking fandom world. People did not care for her.
VRAI: So you could totally tell a story about her going into this book with this expectation and then maybe psychically talking to Miaka and getting closer to Houki and forming all these nice, positive relationships with women, and maybe we would give a damn about her relationship with her best friend in the real world. And that would be nice. [frustrated] But we can’t have nice things, because this is Eikoden.
CAITLIN: [chuckles] You know what the anime did do right? It cut out a certain thing.
DEE: Oh, yes. God. [groans]
CAITLIN: It cut out the fact that, apparently, Keisuke had feelings for Mayo.
DEE: It’s not okay. Not okay.
VRAI: No! No, he’s even older than Taka! No!
DEE: And! And. This, to me, matters more than the age gap: He’s her teacher, coach, person!
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] He’s her teacher!
DEE: He has a position of authority over her and he is significantly older than her. I think a solid decade.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] She is a vulnerable, vulnerable, girl who’s going through a hard time in her life. I’ll give her that. Even if they totally oversell the whole, “She’s damaged by her parent’s divorce.” Having parents who fight all the goddamn time sucks, and it is not good for your mental health. She is going through a hard time right now. She does not… [horrified] Keisuke! Keisuke! My good, precious boy.
DEE: Keisuke’s another good boy. [pained laughter] Like Tasuki, he’s a good boy.
CAITLIN: He’s a good boy!
VRAI: He should know better than to prey on teenage girls!
DEE: Yeah, don’t sully him like this, Writers.
DEE: It’s frustrating. So, it’s a good thing the anime just left that out entirely, and he’s just a concerned coach who happens to get dragged into this and does his best to help her out. So, you know, I guess that’s good at least.
I don’t know. Anything else you like about the OVAs? I think the cute baby seishi are kind of fun.
VRAI: They’re kind of cute.
DEE: I like that Chichiri seems very happy about being reunited with his cat. And, yes, it’s his cat.
VRAI: It is his cat.
DEE: I hadn’t really noticed it, but as I was watching it, I was like, “God, every time they’re in this house, he finds an excuse to pick up the cat.” [amused] Like, Shouka is dying and they cut back to the warriors and Chichiri’s got the cat in his arms, and I’m like, “You know what? That’s extremely relatable. I agree.” [crosstalk] “I should snuggle this cat right now.”
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] If there were a cat around and something sad were happening, I would hold the cat.
DEE: Hell yeah! I would hold my reincarnated cat, especially. It’s like, “I missed you!” [laughs]
VRAI: Also, Koji is fine. He didn’t make the cut, but he’s fine. He’s fine.
DEE: Koji’s in the light novel. He’s not in the anime. But he and Tasuki are happily married in light-novel canon. [laughs] I mean, okay, the marriage part is not canon. But we all know it’s true. They’re quote-unquote “confirmed bachelors.” So.
CAITLIN: This isn’t Eikoden, but I forgot until now. The omake that made me laugh the hardest. You want to know? It was the one at the end of Oni 2 where… [chuckles]
DEE: Baby Tasuki?
CAITLIN: Baby Tasuki.
DEE: Yes! [laughs]
CAITLIN: [laughs] And it’s awful. It’s so dark. So, I just… In the midst of my just, like… Dee, you said in the chat that, for you, Eikoden just kind of exists. But for me it was… It did feel like a betrayal. When I first saw that trailer for it on my VHS anime, I got so excited.
DEE: [sadly] Yeah. [crosstalk] See, my experience was completely different. Oh, sorry, you can say—
CAITLIN: [Crosstalk] —I was so excited. [pained] It broke my heart that it was so terrible.
DEE: That it’s not… Yeah. I went into it knowing what I was getting. I was aware of the light novels and I had read at least a summary at that point, if not the actual translations. So, I knew what kind of a story it was, and I wasn’t really expecting much from it. I was honestly mostly just hoping it did well and then they would animate some of the other light novels; the ones that I actually liked a lot more.
So, I knew. I knew going in what it was. And I watched it and was like, “Eh, it was fine. I get to see cute baby seishi. It was fine.” That’s kind of the extent of my feelings on it. Given the choice to watch it or, let’s say, Oni 1, [through laughter] I think I would pick Eikoden. So I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the canon, but I don’t have—I think it’s utterly unnecessary. I have no… I really don’t have a lot of feelings about it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no. It. Does. Nothing.
DEE: It doesn’t… It’s like, “Oh, we’ll give you a glimpse into what the seishi are like now,” and other than Mitsukake, who is an adorable little crybaby—
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yes!
DEE: —you don’t really get a feel for anybody else’s—and Nuriko’s cute—but you don’t really get a feel for who they are and what their lives are like, because shit is happening so quickly. So it’s not like a, “Well, let’s see how these characters develop in new lives with a new set of memories.”
It’s not… It doesn’t really spend a lot of time with Taka or Tasuki or Chichiri, so it’s not really like a: “Let’s see how these guys grew up.” Like, ten years is a long time. A lot can happen there. And we really don’t get any insight into what they’ve been up to.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and it’s such an essentialist thing, ’cause it’s like… Like I’ve said before, they’re falling under the same patterns. They’re falling in love with the same people. And it’s like, “Do their experiences not shape who they are at all?” It’s such a sad thing that’s like: you cannot help who you are. You will always be the same person no matter what your circumstances.
DEE: Well, and I think there’s an idea there about the concept of the soul and how there’s a certain part of you that carries on even when your memories are different.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Well, yeah.
DEE: Like, you’re predisposed to certain kinds of reactions to events or behaviors or what have you. But at the same time, there should be some kind of a difference, and I know partly there’s—I forget—oh, I’m probably gonna get this quote wrong and somebody’s gonna tell me I got it wrong.
There is a commonly held belief that was something to the effect of: “The karmic bonds of a husband and wife last through, like, three lifetimes or something, and the bonds of parents last two lifetimes,” or something to that effect. So, I kind of—when Mitsukake was reborn right next to Shouka, I thought that was really cute.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yeah, Mitsukake was…
DEE: But then when the same thing… Mitsukake’s a Shouka-sexual. He’s only attracted to Shouka. [laughs]
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I think that had a…
DEE: [crosstalk] And sort of that idea of maintaining a karmic bond—
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Mitsukake was the best of the bunch.
DEE: Yeah, Mitsukake has the closest thing to an actual arc; and this idea of how these past bonds can affect you, but you’re not the same person, sort of thing. But then—
CAITLIN: And he’s the only one who responded to, “Hey, we’re gonna take you away from your family and the people that care about…”
DEE: [crosstalk] He’s like, [horrified] “No!”
CAITLIN: And everyone else is just like, [mumbling] “Oh well, I dunno, okay, I’ll go, I guess.”
DEE: Yeah. He gets the best arc, which is good, ’cause he got, you know, pretty ignored in the TV show. But then you get to Nuriko and Hotoho—Nuriko still crushing on reincarnated Hotohori—it’s like: I thought we were over that. I thought we had moved past that and why would this particular relationship carry forward in exactly the same way?
‘Cause then it gets to the point where it’s not just like, “Well, sometimes there are unique circumstances.” It’s like, “No, you’re just this thing.” It’s bothersome.
CAITLIN: I love these characters and I wanted to see them again, but not like this. And I think it’s really telling that when Nuriko’s voice chimes in and everyone’s just like,”Wait a second. I know that voice,” I felt nothing. [dejectedly] And I should always be excited to see Nuriko. And that was the saddest part of it for me. ‘Cause, I mean… That wasn’t the saddest part for me, but that was very telling.
DEE: [crosstalk] ‘Cause “Fushigi Yugi—
CAITLIN: That was very telling.
DEE: —You will have an emotion.”
CAITLIN: Yeah. I had… I had none at that moment. And it’s just…
VRAI: [whispers] Yeah.
DEE: Yeah. That’s why I say Eikoden just exists. ‘Cause I don’t really have any strong— [chuckles] [mumbles; wishy-washy] “Yeah, it is there.”
CAITLIN: [exasperated] I was just tired. I just wanted to be done with it. And that’s not how a series that I have as strong feelings as I do for Fushigi Yugi… That’s not how it should end.
CAITLIN: And I hate that that was it. I hate that that is probably the last bit of Fushigi Yugi content that is gonna be made, ’cause the franchise has run its course.
VRAI: Well, Genbu Kaiden.
CAITLIN: Well, animated Fushigi Yugi content.
DEE: I’m still holding out hope [through laughter] that they’re gonna animate Genbu Kaiden.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, specifically about this group.
DEE: I went back after finishing Eikoden last night—and I woke up this morning, and I was like, “That’s not really the note Fushigi Yugi should end on.” And I went back and rewatched the last ten minutes of Oni 2, because that finale where Miaka and Taka say goodbye to everybody and then she wakes up in the real world and the music box music comes in. [cheering up] And I’m like, “Yeah, this is what I needed.” [chuckles]
This is a finale. I mean, we can debate whether or not Oni 2 is necessary—and we have, I think—but it at least ends on an emotional punch-note, where you’re reminded of the fact that you’ve been through a lot with these characters and you care about them and you want them to be happy. So, for me, it accomplishes what the ending of the TV show did.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] I mean, like—
DEE: It ended and I’m smiling, and I’m like, “Yay!”
CAITLIN: Yeah. The end of Oni 2 is resonant. And I do think it is a powerful statement that sort of ties back to what I wanted out of it: that Miaka and Taka chose to come back to the real world ‘cause that’s Taka’s home. And that is him choosing not to just be Tamahome forever.
DEE: And Miaka’s home too.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And Miaka’s home, too. But it’s like… Taka says, “This is our home.” And I think that is him choosing to be Taka and not just Tamahome: The Sequel.
DEE: 2.0. Yeah.
CAITLIN: But, anyway, I just wanted to get that in.
VRAI: Yeah, no, I think, with as much anime as there is out there now, it seems a shame for people to, honestly, waste time on Eikoden when Fushigi Yugi is a worthwhile trip but pretty long already on its own.
DEE: It is. It is. Again, the only… Vrai, if you or Caitlin had never seen Fushigi Yugi before and I was like, “Oh, we’re totally gonna watch Fushigi Yugi,” I would have sat you down and watched the TV show, and then I would have made you watch Oni 2, [emphatically] because again, it has the best episode in the entire series; you’re watching Oni 2 with me. [laughs]
And, again, I think with the final episode of Oni 2, I think you end it and there is a feeling of satisfaction. There is a feeling of emotional resonance.
VRAI: [crosstalk] Yeah, I don’t think you necessarily—
DEE: A feeling of completion.
VRAI: —need that second ending, but I don’t think it’s bad.
DEE: Yeah. But I always skip OVA 1—I always skip Oni 1. And I pretty much always skip Eikoden. I’ll usually give people a choice. I’m like, “Okay, it’s not great. There’s a couple of cute things in it. Do you really want to watch it? We can. Just don’t expect it to be a proper finale, ’cause it’s really not.”
VRAI: [pained] Yeah.
DEE: So, that’s… Those were the OVAs! They were the rollercoaster we promised.
CAITLIN: Do we want to do just closing thoughts about Fushigi Yugi as a whole?
DEE: Yeah, we kind of did that last time? This episode—we definitely pitched this episode as a bonus, because we sort of did a sign-off “Thanks everyone” thing at the end of the last one.
So, if we wanna… I mean, real quick, I think it was nice that we were able to circle back to Oni 2 a little bit at the end and end on a little bit more positive note, because Eikoden‘s not—again, Eikoden‘s a weird place for the series to end, so I almost told you guys, “Let’s do Oni 1 and then Eikoden and then Oni 2.” [laughs] But that would’ve been really complicated and confusing for our listeners, so I ended up not doing it that way.
Yeah, I mean, do you guys have any final thoughts for this… I guess this two-part bonus episode that we’re subjecting our listeners to?
CAITLIN: I just… I just wanna say: thank you, listeners.
VRAI: Yes! Thank you for bearing with us.
DEE: [crosstalk] Thank youuuu!
CAITLIN: But also I want to say: Fushigi Yugi is a series that has come to be maligned over the last few years. And it is a flawed series, but it is a series that is much smarter than a lot of people give it credit for. And I think if people want to go into it with an open heart, I think that is good. But I also think that if people don’t want to go into it with an open heart: just don’t. Just don’t. You know what I mean?
VRAI: I mean, there is some shit in here. I think it’s an overall worthwhile series. I do.
CAITLIN: I mean, listen: no, no. There’s stuff to criticize. I’m not saying that it’s a perfect series. But I think when people go in with the intention just to make fun of it, I think they are depriving themselves of actually enjoying what the series has to offer. And also just…
DEE: It’s not a series that should be dismissed, I think is what you’re saying there.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] No, yeah. It’s sort of—
DEE: There are absolutely things about it that are ridiculous, and we… It’s one of those shows that, as much as I love it, I also really enjoy poking fun at it, but it always comes from a place of, “I love it, [through laughter] but Hotohori’s voice coming out of a baby is hysterical!” You know?
VRAI: I think it deserves at least as fair a shake as nostalgic shounen series get. I’ll say that.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] Yes. Yes.
DEE: Absolutely. And, again, there are 100% things in it—it comes with a lot of big asterisks and there are things in it that are very much a product of its time and things in it that are absolutely worth criticizing. And I think we’ve tried, at least—I’ve tried to take my Nostalgia Goggles off and get on it when it really fucks up.
CAITLIN: I mean, and all the time that I sit there and I yell about Hotohori, that is… That is all the Nostalgia Goggles just flying right off.
DEE: [laughs] Yeah, no. That’s also true. And that was kind of an interesting thing about this rewatch was watching it so much later, and how different—things that I think I had dismissed when I was younger that I now find more resonant or worthwhile, in terms of Miaka in particular.
I think it’s one of those shows that I would get… I’m absolutely willing to talk about it from a critical standpoint, but people who are just going to be dismissive of it completely out of hand, like, [mimicking a bro] “Oh, it’s just a melodramatic shoujo bullshit,” then I’m going to have to bust out my Angry Hat again.
DEE: I’ll have to dust it off. [laughs]
VRAI: I think it’s an unfortunate thing that, by dealing with some messy issues in imperfect ways—which I have yelled at a lot about on this watchalong.
DEE: [crosstalk; amused] Oh, yeah. We all have.
VRAI: But there is a certain bravery to that. And I think what allows shounen to have a rosier tint to it in people’s minds is that it never tried.
DEE: [crosstalk] A lot of it did not, yeah.
VRAI: It’s easier to pat it on its head and call it a product of its time because it didn’t truly wade into some messy, fraught shit and do some of it in ways that have aged badly. But it also didn’t bother to include anybody that wasn’t its target audience.
DEE: Yeah. Fushigi Yugi is very messy and very imperfect, but it does, at least, make an effort to address some very real issues that I think are not addressed in fiction enough.
VRAI: Yeah, and I respect it for that. I do.
CAITLIN: And it treats teenage girls with respect, which is also not common in media.
DEE: With respect, and then, again, also, I think it does a better job than a lot of other media that… Not all other media, obviously, but some of the stuff, especially, that was coming out around the same time period… Kind of putting into focus the idea of making decisions for yourself and fighting for what you believe in and fucking up, but learning and figuring out ways to move on. And I think that it’s a product of its time, but there is something worthwhile about that.
I used to—I know as a kid, it always bugged me—I always felt like Miaka didn’t do anything because she wasn’t in the front lines wielding a sword. And watching it again this time, I’m like, “No, Miaka definitely did stuff and characters don’t have to physically kick ass for them to be worthy of emulation in certain ways or for them to resonate with you,” I guess.
And I think Fushigi Yugi toes that line between having a non-combatant main character who is still somebody who, in a lot of ways, can encourage people to get up again and keep fighting and learn and become more responsible and empathetic… I think, in the end, that’s valuable, flaws and all.
VRAI: Yeah, I do. I do. Like I said in the last wrap-up, I won’t probably visit this series again, but I’m glad that I sat down and talked about it with you guys. I am. I respect a lot about this series. [laughs]
DEE: Yeah. [through laughter] And we’re very glad that you sat down and talked to us with our Nostalgia Goggles on.
VRAI: [amused] Somebody had to be the cranky raincloud while you guys had your joy.
DEE: No, but it was good. I absolutely did not want to do this without—when we initially talked about this, I was like, “It’s gotta be me, Vrai, and Caitlin. That’s the group that’s gotta talk about this one.” And so I was really… I’m happy with the way it turned out. I hope our listeners were, too.
And I look forward to, you know, maybe another five-to-ten years from now, revisiting this series and seeing what I think about it then, because I’m definitely not breaking up with it like I thought I would. I was ready to dismiss it, I think, and, rewatching it, I realized that that was not what the show deserved and that was not my relationship with it at this point. So, I’m… Yeah, I’m grateful for this watchalong for that as well.
So, yeah. This concludes… I feel a little… I’m a little choked up saying that.
DEE: This concludes our Fushigi Yugi watchalong.
VRAI: [crosstalk] We’ll think of another one. It’ll be fun.
CAITLIN: [crosstalk] It’s been a journey.
DEE: It’s been a journey. We’ll find another watchalong to do together for sure. We’ll tackle maybe some other old series. Folks, let us know in the comments if you enjoy us doing some of these older classic titles and we’ll definitely keep that in mind going forward. Yeah, let us know your thoughts, for sure.
Thank you so much for joining us for this very-multi-part watchalong. We had fun. I hope you had fun. If you did enjoy this episode of Chatty AF, we would love it if you would tell your friends or leave a nice review for us on iTunes.
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[grandly] Thus concludeth our watchalong. Thanks for listening, AniFam.
CAITLIN: Thanks guys!
VRAI: Thanks everybody!
DEE: Let us know your thoughts in the comments! We love you all!
VRAI: Have a feeling.