Trigger warning for sexual assault
Episode 3: The Seven Stars of Suzaku
The episode opens with Miaka’s third anxiety dream in as many episodes, this time about begging her older brother Keisuke to take her back home. He rebuffs her, telling her he isn’t her brother, then morphs into Tamahome as Miaka wakes up. I feel a little bad for Miaka, who clearly isn’t coping well with all the stress she’s under. Her life was stressful enough: high school exams are a huge deal and what high school you go to can play a major role in the course of the rest of your life, and she was clearly being pressured into aiming higher than she was comfortable with while getting zero support from her supposed friends. Now she’s been thrust into a position of authority in a world she doesn’t even begin to comprehend. She’s so far outside her comfort zone, it’s not even a dot on the horizon anymore. She’s confused and a little upset that Tamahome is in her room, which makes sense because every man in the kingdom seems to want to rape her the moment she’s in a vulnerable situation. Tamahome reassures her that he’s just worried about her, as is the emperor.
Smash cut to Hotohori staring in the mirror as his advisors watch. After several seconds, he just says, “I’m so beautiful it scares even me.” Just as Miaka is a glutton and Tamahome is a penny-pincher, Hotohori is vain, and I’m already weary of this show.
Miaka, meanwhile, is doing her best to pretend to be okay, probably because her friends cruelly mocked her weaknesses at every opportunity. She complains about needing to find clean underwear, and at that moment I feel her harder than I have ever felt her before, because being stuck in a situation without clean underwear is not fun. Tamahome pulls her into an embrace and reassures her that it’s okay for her to cry and OKAY I ADMIT IT it’s actually really sweet. But then he offers to be her big brother and it swings right back around to creepy, because we all know what’s going to happen between them. He suggests she gain the power of Suzaku so that she can wish herself home, which seems incredibly obvious. She runs straight to Hotohori and asks him how to obtain the power of Suzaku. Why doesn’t she know this yet? I know she didn’t think to ask what the job entailed before accepting because she’s none too bright, but you’d think they would have explained it to her before sending her off to bed. Hotohori pulls out a conveniently located scroll and explains to her that Suzaku is actually a group of seven constellations, and pulls aside his collar to reveal a glowing kanji on his neck that marks him as one of the seven warriors. Miaka must gather all seven
bishounen husbandos warriors in order to summon Suzaku.
Miaka asks Tamahome if he knew he was one of the seven warriors, and he responds with a matter-of-fact, “Well, yeah.” This was important information Tamahome, why wouldn’t you tell her that? No wonder Miaka makes terrible decisions all the time! Nobody tells her anything! She sighs, figuring that that’s the only reason the two are nice to her, because nobody has ever treated her kindly in her life without some ulterior motive. They decide to find the remaining five warriors as soon as possible, and Hotohori yells at no one to find the most gifted warriors and scholars in the country.
The guys they find are all very generic and stern-looking so of course none of them are the warriors because good people are all beautiful in the Universe of the Four Gods. Tamahome, beautiful meathead that he is, decides the best solution is to draw out their powers by beating the shit out of them because “it’s possible some of them don’t know they’re carriers,” phrasing it like they have dormant tuberculosis. He also hopes the other five are beautiful women, which makes it sound like try to find them by beating up random women. Nothing turns up, so Miaka decides to hurl verbal abuse at them because true warriors would never fight a girl, and also that’s how everyone in her life has tried to motivate her up until now.
A mysterious woman watches from the sidelines. She seems intrigued by Miaka and Hotohori’s relationship, including the baffling line in the dub, “They seem cozy, but she’s not the legal wife.” She also thinks Tamahome is hot. She is voiced by Mary McGlynn, who is too good for this terrible script.
Meanwhile, Miaka screams at the warriors enough to piss them all off until somehow they manage to throw a hammer to collapse a building on top of her, because the kingdom is made out of paper. (GET IT?) Yui, while reading in the library, gets a bloodstain on her skirt in the same spot as where Miaka’s leg was hurt. Meanwhile, Tamahome rescues Miaka for the fourth time by blocking the collapsing rubble with his body while Hotohori calls for men to help clear the rubble. Miaka tells him to stop before he hurts himself, but they’re pretty much at a point of no return with that. If he stops holding it up, it’ll just collapse over them and they’ll both die. It’s all very manufactured so Tamahome can look heroic and self-sacrificing because oh no he exists to protect her.
Hotohori starts clearing away the rubble one tiny piece at a time while the dozens of warriors who caused the building to collapse stand around and watch. The mysterious woman comes over to help and, just as Tamahome’s last bit of strength is about to fail, she starts throwing huge pieces of the building as if they weigh nothing. Her name is Kourin, a member of the imperial harem, and Nuriko of the seven celestial warriors. She also doesn’t give two shits about Miaka, she informs everyone as she walks up and kisses Tamahome [sexual assault counter: three].
Miaka contemplates her dislike for Nuriko as she washes her clothes in her underwear, which isn’t fanservice-y at all (her bra actually fits!) but sets up for an annoying joke in a few minutes. She hates Nuriko because she
’s a brazen hussy kissed Tamahome without his consent. Not that she actually cares about the “without his consent” part. No, women can never be friends in Fushigi Yugi because they all end up fighting over men, despite the fact that male characters outnumber female by probably close to three to one. She determines that she should still try to be friends, since Nuriko is essential to her making it home. She decides to go see her after she finishes doing her laundry and takes off her bra, when Tamahome bursts in, fleeing from Nuriko’s affections. Nuriko comes in and lassoes Tamahome, laughing about how they’re playing a little game tying each other up. Miaka takes her words at face value and accepts that they’re just super-kinky, mad that they’re throwing it in her face.
Miaka offers to become Nuriko’s servant in order to become friends with her. Nuriko accepts and uses the situation to abuse Miaka by throwing water in her face, dirtying a floor she’s cleaning, and molesting Tamahome in front of her. When Tamahome calls her out, she starts crying and in general is horrible and manipulative. Nuriko is my favorite character in the show and probably the most likable to most people, but she’s awful in her first couple episodes because Watase seems to think that love rivalries turn women into horrible catty bitches. Men in the show seem to get along fine even when they’re pursuing the same woman, so it’s very telling that Watase can’t write the girls the same way.
Miaka sits alone in a pavilion, thinking again about how much she hates Nuriko. Tamahome finds her, and Miaka is shocked that he doesn’t enjoy her tying him up and sitting on him. “How do you think I could be happy in a relationship like that?” he asks her, and it’s a fair question. Miaka, who has no idea how functional relationships work because everyone is awful to her, says they seemed to be really happy. She tries to pursue him and falls down, creating a situation where he can be affectionately condescending and she’s vulnerable, because that’s how romance works in this show.
Episode Four: Missing Love
The dub of the opening narration/previous episode summary says Nuriko was “flaunting her craftiness and feminine wiles.” Nice gendered language.
Yui, still reading in the library, tells us about Miaka getting her leg bandaged by Tamahome. Miaka still thinks he’s cheating on Nuriko by doing this, and that he’s in love with her. He shrugs and says he can’t be, because he just met her, showing a far more sensible attitude than anyone else does about romance for the entire series.
He also says that she’s not his type, which you wouldn’t have guessed from his idiotic grin when they first met her. He takes Miaka’s anxiety to mean that she’s jealous, but too bad because he’s more interested in money than romance. We’re supposed to think he’s greedy, but really I wish more people would prioritize sensible things over love.
Nuriko sees this exchange, and decides to punish Miaka by sending her on a wild goose chase to find a glow-in-the-dark earring in a pond at night. Miaka agrees, and encounters Hotohori on her way to the pond. He’s been meeting with his advisors, who want him to pick a woman from the harem and get married. They even suggest Nuriko, but he’s more concerned about ruling the Empire than making babies and besides, she’s one of the celestial warriors and that would be inappropriate. These things are all blatant lies, as we’re about to find out – he doesn’t give a shit about either of those. It’s just that she’s not the woman he wants to make babies with – he’s had an ideal woman ever since he was a child…
And Miaka chooses this moment to pop up. Foreshadowing! His men have been
spying on them reporting back to him about the psychological warfare Nuriko has been waging against Miaka, and offers to order her to be nice. Miaka refuses, saying she wants to befriend her for real, but honestly the bullying is so bad that I think she would be justified in having an authority tell Nuriko to cut it out. I’ve had a few times in my life where someone was awful to me and for whatever reason, I craved their approval, so to be honest I can understand where Miaka is coming from on this one. Still, the message that you can and should try to win them over by acting subservient is awful. She runs off to the pond to look for the earring, and immediately gets tangled in the weeds and calls for – you guessed it – Tamahome.
Tamahome feels her calling for him, and conveniently overhears Nuriko cackling about how she went to a pond where Nuriko isn’t even allowed to be near. She took advantage of Miaka’s lack of knowledge of etiquette to send her on a fool’s errand. Tamahome bursts in to yell at her and then tries to run off, but Nuriko grabs a hold of him – Miaka annoys her because Hotohori is in love with her but never noticed her. “She isn’t even a woman yet!” she says, and that’s a fair point, because Hotohori is 18 and Miaka is 15. That’s not super appropriate. Miaka appears, having freed herself from the weeds she was tangled in and not needing to be rescued for once, and Nuriko airs her grievances. Her problems with Miaka sound a lot like common complaints against Mary Sue characters – she just showed up one day and everyone was in love with her, even though she’s completely unremarkable. We’re supposed to think of it as a romantic rivalry, though, and Nuriko’s supposed to be being jealous, rather than understandably baffled by why everyone is blown away by a girl who is specifically written as pretty stupid and ordinary. They slap each other, and Miaka offers to help set her up with Hotohori. Nuriko bursts into tears and Tamahome asks, “What about me?” No, seriously. Sometimes it’s not about you, dude.
Cut to Miaka talking to Hotohori in his bedroom, both of them dressed for bed for some reason. Why would you change into your bedroom and then go talk to Hotohori about another woman, Miaka? Hotohori says no, he’s in love with another woman, and gives her a significant look. Then he pushes her down onto his bed [sexual assault counter: four] and tells her about how he’s in love with her because she’s the Priestess of Suzaku and I hate this scene so much. He was full of shit when he told his advisers he wanted to focus on running the kingdom instead of finding a wife, since he constantly drops everything when it comes to Miaka. He’s been in love with the concept of the Priestess, of the woman he was born to protect, but the figure he was in love with was an empty space. He’s projecting his fantasies onto Miaka, even though he doesn’t know her at all. He’s three years older, she knows nothing about his culture, he’s an authority figure, and everything about this situation screams power imbalance. Then he leans down to kiss her, but she imagines Tamahome. He stops, not because he winces, but to cut down a wall Nuriko and Tamahome were listening at.
He admonishes Tamahome for cockblocking him, even though Miaka had been showing him very clear signals that she wasn’t interested. When she asks to go back to her own room, he proposes and says that although she isn’t interested yet, he’ll find a way to make her fall in love with him. Then he orders her to sleep in his room and augh it’s so creepy and so in violation of Miaka’s every boundary.
The next day, she runs into Tamahome, who is super cold to her, then Nuriko, who is furious. She blames Miaka for what happened, even though Hotohori ordered her to spend the night with him, and runs forward to catch up with Tamahome. Miaka follows the two of them into town, baffled at how Nuriko flirts with Tamahome despite her being in love with Hotohori. Tamahome starts shouting at the crowd about how he knows the Priestess and starts trying to sell her gum. They start to question the veracity of his claims, and Miaka jumps out to defend him. The crowd mobs them, and they escape to an alley, apparently abandoning Nuriko to the rabble because they don’t give a shit about anything but each other.
Some punks accost them and demand protection money. When Tamahome refuses, they grab Miaka and threaten to take her as payment [sexual assault counter: five], even though they know that she’s the Priestess of Suzaku and personally knows the Emperor. Nuriko appears on the sidelines, whispering that she’ll let the two of them handle it. Nuriko, you have super strength.
You could bust in and throw these assholes over the walls and end it in thirty seconds. Tamahome starts haggling over how much Miaka should cost, and the boss gets frustrated and threatens to cut her to pieces, prompting Tamahome to beat them up. This whole situation is just so manufactured so that he can heroically punch some bad dudes and lead up to Miaka dramatically shouting that she loves him in the rain.
He turns around and says that he doesn’t feel anything for her, and that he only protects her because she’s the Priestess of Suzaku. He’s weirdly cold about it, too. He’s generally been sweet enough to her that you’d think he’s let her down easily, but no. He just turns around and starts to walk away. He was protecting her well before she accepted becoming the Priestess, too, so what’s with the sudden brick wall? Everyone blows so hot and cold. But it does make it nice and dramatic as Miaka PASSIONATELY FAINTS IN THE RAIN as the inappropriately peppy ending theme starts to play.