I suppose I should talk about a series that was one of the first anime series I ever watched, Fushigi Yuugi.
Fushigi Yuugi follows the exploits of a middle school girl named Miaka who, along with her best friend Yui, is dragged into a feudal Chinese-type world in a magic book called “The Universe of the Four Gods”. Miaka begins reading the book, is pulled into that universe and then must live/create the story through to the end. The world she finds herself in is ruled by four gods who occupy the four corners of the sky, Suzaku in the south, Genbu in the north, Byakou in the west and Seiyuu in the east. Each god is served by the seven constellations around them in the sky. Upon entering this world, Miaka becomes the Priestess of Suzaku, and she must find her seven protectors who bear the mark of the constellations and get them to fight with her to save the world. The first one she finds is the Ogre, Tamahome, and he helps her locate the rest.
Fushigi Yuugi is a love story between Miaka and Tamahome, but to call it just a love story is doing it an injustice. Along with her need to locate the seven stars of Suzaku, Miaka has another major problem. When Yui is dragged into the book world she ends up in much more dire circumstances than Miaka does. Yui eventually ends up as Priestess of Seiyuu. She originally tries to help Miaka, but because of jealousy and anger over their differences in circumstances, she and the seven stars of Seiyuu end up as the mortal enemies of Miaka-tachi. The two groups end up in a head-to-head battle to gain magic objects and control the destiny of the world.
Although the plot line is relatively straight-forward in this series, the size of the cast allows for several side-stories as well as clashes between the two groups along the way. At one point Tamahome is held captive and then enspelled to forget his love of Miaka. Miaka’s group is infiltrated by one of Yui’s along the way. Miaka’s brother, Keisuke, and his best friend begin trying to help Miaka by reading along in the book as they go and trying to manipulate things from the real world. So basically the story line is rich and fun to watch – right up until they begin killing the characters off.
The biggest negative about this series is the decimation of the cast. Yui’s group ends up with a few more left than Miaka’s does, but it’s a near thing. And the deaths of Miaka’s group are heart-wrenching and played for all the emotion that can be derived from them. I suppose a real middle school girl would long ago give up throughout all the tragedy they visit on her. And Yui’s group wins the battle for the magic objects, takes over the world and continues killing off Miaka’s friends while forcing Miaka back into the real world and following her there with the battle. In the very end, Miaka wins everything, and her life goes back to normal, entering high school, without the love of her life, Tamahome, who was a character in a book after all.
Fushigi Yuugi has a lot of the typical stereotypes that I’ve come to know in an anime series, but considering it was one of my first anime series, at the time I didn’t know how common the themes were. Like, Japanese middle-school girl that gets dragged into another reality and must then save herself and the world around her. Or the best-friend/best-enemy dichotomy. Or the harem anime type. Plus it was my first experience with the Japanese penchant for killing off characters, which I have to say was very much a shock to my system. For all that, it’s a good series and is worth watching.
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