Trigger Warnings this installment: Blood, Homo/Transphobia
Episode 7: Going Home
Last time on Fushigi Yugi: Three idiots almost bleed to death, Nuriko is the only smart one.
Taiitsukun, after trying to murder all three of them, appears! Miaka and Hotohori are both extremely rude to her and make fun of her for being a wrinkled old woman, instead of giving the literal goddess the goddamn respect she deserves. Even powerful women are worthless if they’re not young and cute!
Taiitsukun reveals that yes, she was the one who sent Mirror Miaka after them. She wanted to “test their willingness to help one another.” This really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. If it was just a test, why did she cackle and say they “wouldn’t reach Mt. Taikyoku in one piece?” That smacks of malice. And how was Shadow Miaka supposed to create a willingness to help each other? She mostly sowed the seeds of strife in the group by outing Nuriko and flirting with Hotohori instead of Tamahome. This isn’t Persona, where they have some means of battling the shadow as a symbol of emotional support. Sure, they realized she wasn’t the real thing, but that’s not helping, that’s just knowing each other. And Taiitsukun herself said she was shocked by Miaka attempting suicide to stop her. How else was Miaka supposed to break free? Was she only one whose willingness to help the others being tested?
Taiitsukun takes them to her palace, explaining that Mt. Taikyoku is invitation-only. Yui continues to read in the library, somehow not bleeding out even though there’s no one to bandage her wounds. She wonders why she and Miaka are connected. The answer is convenience, Yui. That’s all there is to it.
In the palace, Taiitsukun summons a group of Nyan-Nyans, little green-haired girls dressed like Chinese stereotypes. They kind of wave their hands and chant “Heal! Heal!” and the wounded. Miaka asks Taiitsukun to treat Tamahome and Hotohori first, since they were injured on her behalf. She’s just being self-sacrificing for the sake of it, since there are enough Nyan-Nyans to go around. One goes up to Nuriko and offers to “fix her perversion”, and deservedly gets punched into the next universe. Ha ha ha transphobia is so funny, ha ha ha ha ha ha. Nyan-Nyans are fucking rude.
Taiitsukun says Miaka is too weak to return to her world just yet, even though Miaka really wants to get back so she can take her high school exams. Tamahome and Hotohori offer up their blood, even though they probably can’t afford to lose any more. Nuriko offers up her blood as well, but Taiitsukun, taking a page out of the Red Cross’s book, just snaps, “Save it.”
Taiitsukun puts them all in floaty bubbles, and tells them that the magic transfusion will hurt. Tamahome and Hotohori grunt and wince photogenically, and Miaka begs them to stop. No really, please stop before they die of blood loss, they’ve probably lost just as much blood as she has by now. The transfusion doesn’t seem to hurt Miaka, who instead feels warm and can “feel them flowing together inside of her” and describes how she is “becoming one with them.” Is it just me, or does it sound like a magical threesome?
Now that Miaka has been in the Universe of the Four Gods, Taiitsukun explains, it’s going to be a little trickier for her to get home. They need something that exists in both world, plus a strong emotional connection. The school uniform that she and Yui are both wearing will do handily. Yui starts screaming at the book for Miaka to come back, because she misses having a punching bag to take out her stress from exam preparation on. They also need the power of the Suzaku warriors, and having only three, two of whom are weakened from losing a lot of blood. If only there was someone who was uninjured who could have donated, Taiitsukun. They assure her they can do it, because that’s what the plot demands. Miaka, however, feels guilty about leaving them behind when they’ve done so much for her, even though their sacrifices would be totally wasted if she stayed. She’s about to give up when Yui starts screaming, “You idiot! When I say come back, you come back!” Apparently, being berated by her “friend” since kindergarten strikes a chord with Miaka, because dramatic music starts playing as Miaka flashes back to childhood memories the two share.
Things get all red and glowy as Suzaku appears and Miaka starts to float away. But what’s that blue flash descending as she ascends? Foreshadowing!
Miaka wakes up in the library, right as the closing announcement starts to play. But Yui’s missing!
As she walks home, Miaka runs into her two other rude friends, Fuu and Morin. Miaka is thrilled to see them, but they’re confused as to why she’s so excited. It’s only been two hours! They ask where Yui is. Yui’s smart, so she can slack off and get into Jonan. Not Miaka, though! She’ll fail! They laugh as they tell her this. They’re so goddamn shitty to her. Miaka ignores them and tries to make a call from a phone booth as inappropriately peppy music plays.
Episode 8: Brief Parting
Yui’s mother seems weirdly unconcerned that her daughter’s best friend is calling to search for her. I can see where Yui got her deep, deep compassion.
Miaka goes home to find her brother Keisuke, the only character in the show who is consistently kind to her, getting ready to chow down on some instant ramen like the college student he is. She asks if he’s ever heard of the Universe of the Four Gods. “No, what’s that?” he asks. Cue a budget-saving musical montage! Scenes from the previous seven episodes flash as Miaka sits in an “explaining” pose (while wearing a truly hideous jumper) and Keisuke slurps his ramen, his expression getting more and more incredulous.
To his credit, he doesn’t insult her intelligence or accuse her of making things up. Instead, he tells her that if what she’s saying is true, the book is probably a spell. He warns her that such magic generally involves sacrifice, goofily acting out a black magic ritual. Miaka refuses to believe him, despite all the danger she’s been in, because Tamahome. She doesn’t think he believes her, because who would? At least he’s not being an asshole about it. He just warns her that she should focus on her exams and not let the book distract her. He manages to remind her of this without chortling about how she’s so dumb, so if she doesn’t study constantly, she’ll fail! He’s really sweet about it. Her mom thinks it’s a coping mechanism, like how Keisuke started doing nothing but looking at porno mags during his exam period.
Miaka, however, ignores this advice because Tamahome. His face keeps appearing in her mind, she doodles his name in her notebook, she even hallucinates him standing next to her at her desk. This whole scene only seems to add credence to her mother’s theory about it being stress-related.
She starts crying because, “no matter how much I love him, he only exists inside that book!” I agree, Miaka. Having a crush on a fictional character can be hard. Too bad the only thing you can do is try to move on and live a normal life, instead of obsessing singularly over a man and giving up the rest of your young life to a fictional construct.
She sits up suddenly with an uncharacteristic flash of insight: Yui must have fallen into the book! She calls Yui’s home, where her still-calm mother says that she hasn’t come back yet. Honestly, I’m not buying this whole part. It feels shoehorned in, so that she seems like a less crummy friend for being mostly concerned about getting back to Tamahome – this becomes relevant later. I don’t want to trash on Miaka’s intelligence like everyone in the show does, but she’s not particularly perceptive. Realizing Yui must have been sucked into the book takes a huge leap of logic because it doesn’t really fit with anything we know about the world so far. Yui was already ejected from the story, and Taiitsukun didn’t say anything about the possibility of them switching. She created the damn world! She should know the rules.
Miaka slips back into her school uniform and packs a bag. Keisuke is out driving with his friend Tetsuya, who is driving with his sunglasses on at night. Do they have a suicide pact? A death wish? Miaka runs past on her way back to the library, where the book is glowing red. Moments before she opens the book, Keisuke catches up to her and asks her, panting, “What are you doing in the library after hours in your school uniform?” Well, Keisuke, when you put it like that, the situation does sound a little absurd, doesn’t it?
Miaka says it’s not just about Yui, and she’ll never be able to escape. She’s “known it since she first met Tamahome.” Wow, way to fucking up and admit you’re prioritizing a boy over your best friend? She opens the book and disappears in a flash of red light as Keisuke watches in amazement.
Miaka appears on top of Hotohori in the middle of a meeting. Everyone is super-excited that the Priestess of Suzaku, but none so much as the emperor, who pulls her into an embrace. Apparently, in the three months that have passed in the book, shit has gone south between Konan and the neighboring Kutou Empire. They need her to find the remaining four warriors ASAP, instead I guess of sitting around the palace eating fancy food? It’s never made clear if the Priestess has duties other than finding the Suzaku warriors that the hunt would take precedence over. Miaka is concerned about Yui getting caught up in the war. Hotohori tells her that if she finds the remaining four warriors, they can stop the war. He doesn’t seem terribly concerned about searching for Yui, but Miaka accepts his request as an alternate path to saving her. I feel like it would be easier to find one terribly out-of-place teenage girl in foreign clothes than four people who have lived in Konan all their lives, but okay.
Nuriko is excited to see Miaka, but after about five seconds of giggling and jumping up and down, Miaka cuts it short and asks where Tamahome is. Priorities! Way to make your friend feel loved. Fuck it, Miaka is just a bad as friend as the rest of them. Tamahome isn’t at the palace anymore, so she decides to drag Nuriko with her to find him. Nuriko dresses in masculine clothes for the occasion, and Miaka refers to her as “her” and corrects herself to “him.”
Years ago, I read a manga volume with a lengthy editor’s note about having to choose which pronouns to use for Nuriko in English, since in Japanese it was specifically written to be ambiguous. The editor decided to go with female pronouns, since they felt it was more respectful. This was the first time I ever encountered this sort of dilemma, and to this day, I’m going to continue with that. Despite all the casual misgendering, the way Nuriko is written matches more closely with transness than homosexuality. This isn’t unproblematic – we’ll see that later in the show – but there’s really no right answer here, with how the writers don’t seem to understand that gender identity and sexual orientation are two entirely separate things.
They ride off to find Tamahome, who was off earning money. Miaka thinks him continuing his life for a quarter of a year is a sign he doesn’t care, but Nuriko tells her about how zoned out and sad he was after she left. He’s in love with her, but Miaka has trouble believing it because he said he didn’t. As they ride, it gets dark weirdly fast. Nuriko’s horse throws Miaka for no reason other than that a man with a scythe can stand over her threateningly. But when he demands to know who’s there, she recognizes his voice! And he recognizes hers! Cue touching reunion, where the two are so wrapped up in each other they forget the dozen other people there. This will be a recurring theme. One of the villagers asks who they are. Tamahome introduces Miaka as the Priestess of Suzaku and Nuriko as, “this guy’s gay,” a line I thought was super funny as a dumb uninformed teen, and now realize is really disrespectful! Don’t fucking out her to complete strangers. Tamahome has been earning money guarding villages, since the war has been having a bad effect even on civilians. The torch goes out and a pair of hands reach out of the darkness and grab Miaka! Gasp! The effect is totally ruined by the inappropriately peppy music.
Next time: An assassin attacks! But it’s okay, because another Suzaku warrior is there to rescue Miaka.