a.k.a. The Mysterious Play
The story begins with the pre-high school life of Yuuki Miaka and Hongo Yui. They are both trying out for a prestigious high school, Jonan Academy. Miaka and Yui go to the library to study one day and accidentally stumble into the important documents room. While there, they find the ancient Chinese book “The Universe of the Four Gods”. Yui begins to read the book and suddenly they are both transported into the story and are trapped in feudal China. Before the two even realize where they are, a group of bandits jump them…
summary by Kei
Highs: Good animation; draws you into the plot; entertaining
Lows: Overuse of the “I love you, but I can’t love you” theme
For starters, this was my first shoujo anime experience. I must say, it was a good one to start with. It has something for all anime lovers, shoujo fans or not. It has romance, brilliant action scenes, and still manages to keep up a sense of humor along the way.
The character development in this anime was truly superb. I actually began to care for these characters as the story went on, hoping nothing would happen to them and they would all be safe. On the flip side, the villains were total bastards. All of them. I truly started to hate the baddies based on the way they acted. Watase Yuu wrote the story so well, that she actually made me feel hate and love for fictional characters. You really knew them each by the time the series ended.
And it was not a short series. At 52 episodes, Fushigi Yuugi was one of the few anime that kept me totally occupied within the two-season span. As for the technical side for this anime, the animation is smooth and bright. The music is superb, as well. I went out and bought the OSTs for this anime, mainly for the opening and ending themes alone. As mentioned above, this is clearly the most emotional anime I’ve ever watched. Be prepared to laugh and cry.
There are a few drawbacks to this series, the main one being a bit overuse of the popular shoujo “I love you, but I can’t love you” theme. It just happened once too many times in this series. In general, you should enjoy this series. I haven’t heard anyone speak bad of this anime (at least not around me…). Having saw this anime a long time ago, it is still my favorite.
Highs: Pleasant art and animation; generally good seiyuu work
Lows: Character usage; storytelling devices
Love is always a hard subject to capture in cinematic terms. Well-made love stories manage to utilize the conventions of their genre and add something new to the mix. Such was not the case with Fushigi Yuugi. What could have been a fresh new breath in an ancient genre became a culmination of misfires.
In a story as long as this, a lot depends on the characters. The seiyuu here definitely provide decent performances for their respected characters. Not really award-winning voice work, but it’s at least a cut above the rest. Too bad the characters they play are so uninspired that it really works against them. I found that much of the main cast did not strike me as endearing. None of them really had something that makes you want to root for them along the course of the story. What makes it worse is the size of the cast. Why make it so large when only two characters matter? There have been a lot of anime that have been able to sustain casts this size, so there is no excuse.
Speaking of length, I have to say, for a series this long there definitely were some shining moments on the technical side of things. The art and animation were vivid and played very well on the screen. Too bad the writers couldn’t work as well as the artists. More times than I could count, this series fell into several pitfalls that romantic stories fall into. There is a big difference between someone saying they love you and someone showing that they love you. It takes effort for someone to show love, not a whole lot, but when that effort is used it hits dramatic gold. Instead we get unexplained events, awkward jokes, fan service, plot holes and other slipped-up script devices.
I kept thinking that there was some essence of love in this production that would show up some time and completely blow me away. It never came. This is a product that could have been sky-high, but since it lacked the proper foundations of good storytelling, it collapsed upon its own ideas; a pretty little rubble heap.
Fushigi Yuugi can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.