Fushigi Yuugi (manga)

Fushigi Yuugi (manga)

IMG_0985.PNGMiaka Yuki and Yui Hongo are two middle school students who find a strange book titled The Universe of the Four Gods. Reading the book takes them to the novel’s universe, set in ancient China. Miaka discovers that she is the Priestess of Suzaku and that she must find her seven Celestial Warriors in order to summon Suzaku and obtain three wishes. She falls in love with one of her warriors, Tamahome, and her initial desire to use her wishes to enter the high school of her choice begins to wane in favour of Tamahome and his world in the novel. Meanwhile, Yui becomes the Priestess of Seiryuu and becomes Miaka’s enemy, wanting to destroy her happiness out of jealousy and revenge for the humiliation she was forced to suffer when she first arrived within the book.

Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yuugi is a well-known shoujo manga able to stand beside other classic titles such as Sailormoon, Cardcaptor Sakura and Fruits Basket. It’s a traditional girls manga with a bit of everything a girl could want: friendship, fantasy, romance and bishounen up the wazoo.

As you can imagine considering the synopsis, the initial premise is a fun one. There is the sense of adventure, action and the makings of some deep and complex relationships. Miaka struggles to accept the fact that she is a Priestess and tries to take on the responsibility of the position and trying to grow from a below-average achiever – but the execution of this concept long-term takes some startling and practically unbelievable turns.

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One of these is the tumultous romance between Miaka and Tamahome. Honestly, their lives would both be a lot easier if they hadn’t fallen in love (but then I guess that without it there wouldn’t be much of a manga here). Amidst all the questing, fighting and magic they are splitting up and getting back together to the extent where it almost looks like self-sabotage. Yui loves Tamahome, so Miaka martyrs herself for the girl (there is a lot of martyrdom in this manga) and the couple split up. Tamahome gets magical amnesia… and they split up again. Miaka thinks she’ll die and doesn’t want to hurt him by staying with him – another split. Tamahome play-acts liking someone else to get crucial information and Miaka believes his act. Miaka thinks someone else deserves him more. Tamahome thinks he doesn’t deserve her. Miaka thinks she doesn’t deserve him. Amongst all the god-summoning and battles, there is definitely a heavy side dish of melodrama just to complicate things further. Not that I dislike melodrama in my manga completely, but in this instance it was a little heavy even for my taste.

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My one problem with this manga – and it did turn out to be quite a big one – was Miaka herself. She is very much a Mary Sue. No matter what she does, it always seems to be exactly the right thing, and everyone adores her. And why shouldn’t they? She’s an adorably clumsy middle school girl who focuses on the best in everyone and loves unconditionally. Even though she acts rashly, causes trouble for her guardians, doesn’t listen to good advice ever and is always doing what she thinks best, regardless of any recent plot movement that obviously states otherwise. Towards the end, the deaths of several characters – both minor and major – are because of her actions. But does anyone blame her? Of course not. In fact, she is praised for being brave, which simply did not wash with me.

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What saved this manga for me were the guardians themselves. Despite their (in some cases) uncharacteristic adoration for Miaka, there are some very amusing scenes where the character relationships are built. The relationship between Tamahome and Miaka was overdone in my opinion. I would have loved to have seen some of that angst replaced by more chapters that focused on the guardians, particularly Tasuki, Mitsukake and Chiriko, whose characters I thought were the least fleshed-out.

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Fushigi Yuugi started out with a lot of promise, but it seemed that everything started to lose its drive and focus in the middle volumes. Things got too complex, things went unexplained, and thus the story started to unravel at an alarming pace and the ending was too good to be true (considering everything that had to happen in order to reach it). It’s meant to be a shoujo classic, but I would recommend reading other, better classics before attempting this one. Sadly, it just didn’t quite meet my expectations.