Episode 9: Enemies Unseen
Last time on Fushigi Yugi: Miaka jumped back in the book in order to
make out with Tamahome rescue Yui, and finds that relations between Kutou and Konan have gone sour, while her best friend is nowhere to be found. HMMM I WONDER WHERE SHE COULD BE????????
The episode opens just after the touching reunion between Miaka and Tamahome, when lights flash from the trees and a pair of hands reach out of the woods and pull her… somewhere? There’s literally no background drawn so it looks like she’s in another dimension. She bites the hand of her supposed attacker, hard, proving once again that she does have some fight in her when convenient. Her abductor, a fox-faced, goofy-voiced man informs her that she was under attack – in the English version he snarks that he should have asked before rescuing her, while in the Japanese version he just says he doesn’t blame her. Why is the dub so mean? He disappears into his hat, and despite all the strange things Miaka has seen, she’s confused.
Just as Tamahome finds her, they hear a scream come from the woods and go running back to find Nuriko pinned to the tree by arrows while all the
redshirts villagers Tamahome was protecting dead. That seems like an awful waste of arrows to kill just one girl! Nuriko says they got hit just after Tamahome went to find Miaka. I guess she waited five minutes to start screaming? Miaka is shocked and horrified that the position she’s in means that sometimes, other people get hurt because of her.
The trio continues on to the village, where Miaka snarfs down food as Tamahome explains that of course the enemy would be targeting her, since she protect the empire during wartime. Miaka wilts a little, like she hadn’t thought of this when impulsively taking on the role as the head religious figure of the country. He promises to protect her, and Miaka mentally sighs his name while surrounded by shoujo bubbles. It really isn’t romantic, however, considering that’s literally the role he was born to along with six other warriors, so it seems like he’s getting an awful lot of brownie points for merely stating facts. However, their touching moment is interrupted when someone comes to tell Tamahome that bandits are attacking the village yet again, and he gleefully trots off to fight them. Nuriko grumbles about his mercenary tendencies, and when the local man tells them that he charges very little for his services, Nuriko yells that he should do it for free. Nuriko, honey, the worldbuilding in the Universe of the Four Gods is weak as hell, but it appears to have some degree of a free market. It’s weird [read: bad writing] that she and Miaka condemn Tamahome for the mere act of trying to support himself. He must have some sort of motive other than paying for things like food and lodging, right?
That’s the conclusion Nuriko and Miaka come to, anyway, so the next day they decide to follow Tamahome and spy on him instead of, you know, ASKING him what the money’s for or just minding their own goddamn business. Turns out, he has an ailing father, a heap of siblings, and a failing farm to support. They sit weeping outside his window, moved by his noble heart, when his youngest sister Yuiren faints dramatically from a fever! Miaka jumps into the window and tells them to cover her with blankets so she can sweat it out, which is actually a terrible idea. When someone has a fever, it’s an internal issue caused by the immune system fighting harmful bacteria and viruses, so there’s really not much you can do – if anything, you should remove layers to try to at least superficially lower their temperature. She also seems to have some sort of fever reducing medicine on her, which is actually helpful. There’s some banter about his other little sister asking if Miaka is his wife and ugh, it’s just so forcedly precious. It’s always so obvious when fictional children are written by someone who has no idea what real children are like – asking conveniently cute-but-awkward questions and so on. Luckily, Miaka takes the opportunity to get some water for Yuiren from the lake.
Did I say luckily? Sorry, I misspoke. It was actually incredibly thoughtless of her! Due to her complete inability to recognize patterns, Miaka fails to realize that if someone tried to murder her last night and failed, they just might try again next time she’s alone. Instead, she’s consumed by thoughts of Tamahome and how happy she is that she was mistaken for his wife – even if he is a character in a book. What about those men who died last night, Miaka? Were they just characters in a book, and thus their lives don’t matter? Either they’re real people whose lives and feelings are just as authentic as yours, or they’re just fictional ephemera. One of those characters in a book appears to threaten Miaka’s very real life, but luckily Tamahome is there to save day! Except not, because, another guy pops up out of the bushes. You can tell he’s really evil because he’s ugly and has a big black coat!
Just as he looms threateningly over Miaka, the fox-faced guy from earlier appears out of a hat and dispatches him quickly, then scolds Tamahome for not sensing that there were enemies among them. Miaka tries to thank him, but he scolds her as well, telling her that she needs to realize her thoughtlessness could get other people killed. Miaka is shocked, apparently having learned nothing from the night before. I so, so want to defend Miaka, but her complete inability to learn in this episode is particularly frustrating. In her life before, she may have felt powerless with being overwhelmed by school and her mother’s high expectations and the cruel mockery of her friend, but here in the Universe of the Four Gods, people have tried to impress upon her over and over that she actually bears a lot of responsibility, and none of it makes a single impression.
They hear some conveniently-timed screams coming from Tamahome’s house, and run back to find that those pesky assassins have tied up his family and Nuriko in a web of ties. It’s supposed to look threatening, but mostly it looks like an aerial silks class gone terribly awry.
The assassin tries to convince Miaka to sacrifice her life to save the family, but there’s never really much chance to build up much tension because the fox-faced man steps in quickly. The assassin throws a knife which happens to tear his clothes in the exact location of his red kanji marking him as a warrior of Suzaku in a plot twist exactly zero people didn’t see coming. He uses his powers to disappear the aerial silks, and Nuriko tries to pump the assassin for information but, before she can actually do anything useful this episode, arrows fly in and kill him.
It’s okay though, because the warrior – Chichiri – already knows everything they needed to know. He wastes no time in shitting on Nuriko, telling her, “Better weird than gay,” before revealing that Kutou is trying to gather their own warriors and find a priestess for themselves. Miaka chuckles about what a coincidence it would have to be, for them to find another girl from a different world, but then she realizes that she, too, is searching for a girl from another world. Having once again learned absolutely nothing, she decides to sneak off to Kutou herself. What does she hope to gain by entering hostile territory by herself, instead of with three trained warriors destined to protect her? She seems to think that going alone will protect her, rather than putting Tamahome, Nuriko, and Chichiri in the position of having to search for her and pull her out of a dangerous situation instead of being able to protect her from outside threats ahead of time. The inappropriately peppy theme music starts up as Miaka runs off crying and alone.
Episode 10: Looking for Yui
We start the episode off by checking in on Hotohori. Hey dude, how’s it going? Not so hot, apparenly. He’s praying to Suzaku for Miaka’s safety, since he can’t accompany her without abandoning his throne. He says he’s “filled with foreboding” – sensible, considering Miaka doesn’t have a lick of sense. Hotohori feeling restricted by his place as the emperor is a recurring character point and probably one of the stronger bits of development in the series. He can’t just up and go with the others, since he’s ruling a country at war and is desperately needed in the capital, but he feels drawn to his duties as a Suzaku warrior. He knows Miaka is stepping into a dangerous situation and can’t do anything about it. If only he knew exactly how dangerous a situation she was in.
Meanwhile, Tamahome realizes Miaka is taking way too long to come back. Nuriko implies she may be on the rag, but Tama isn’t buying it – he decides to take off after her after yelling at Nuriko and Chichiri to take care of his family. Hey Tamahome, how bout you take care of your own family and let the warrior with super-strength take care of things? Nuriko, of course, is chagrined at being left behind, because she is once again removed from the action for no good reason. Chichiri, on the other hand, just uses his monk powers to disappear into his hat again, because when you have magic, why just follow from a few paces behind?
Miaka gets directions to go through a forest from a random peasant played by a bored-sounding production assistant, and only minutes later Tamahome comes along and yells at him. “The forest is dangerous!” “Oh… yeah,” says the bored production assistant, getting the first laugh from me for a while.
As Miaka is wandering through the forest, a tiger appears! Tamahome wasn’t kidding about it being dangerous, jeez. She flops to the ground to play dead, but then pops back up, saying, “That only works on bears and boring boys!” eliciting the second laugh of the episode from me. I can’t help imagining some guy trying to chat her up and her just… falling over. It’s an incredible image. She starts to yell for Tamahome, but decides this is going to be the time to defend herself. Against a tiger. That wants to eat her. Just as she’s about to become tiger chow, a wild split screen appears and Tamahome’s foot makes short work of the tiger, which decides to go find a less well-defended damsel to eat.
Miaka tries to walk away, but Tamahome rightly reminds her that protecting her life is his duty and essential to the survival of their country. A soppy 90’s J-Pop ballad starts to play as Tamahome embraces her from behind and tells her how much he missed her. Seriously, after all the flirting these two have been doing and they still haven’t realized their feelings are mutual? Still, she’s convinced that Chichiri’s warning about her actions having consequences for other people means she should run off to Kutou alone and defenseless. It’s so frustrating, because she’s doing exactly the opposite of what she needs to do – instead of surrounding herself with experienced, capable bodyguards who can sense danger and defend her before the situation becomes dire, she’s putting herself at huge risk and forcing them to leap in at the last second, endangering herself and them. She’s convinced that if Tamahome gets hurt, his family will starve to death and thus she should put the entire empire at risk. She’s spent her whole life being treated so worthless, she can’t even fathom how essential her survival is to millions of people. She lies to Tamahome and convinces him to go back to her horse so that she can, once again, thoughtlessly run off. Luckily, Chichiri is watching from the tree.
Tamahome gets back to his house and realizes he’s been had. He starts to take off after her, but Nuriko bursts out and scolds him for taking off without saying anything to his family. Apparently, his whole life he’s been thinking of nothing but them, but now that Miaka’s here he just totally forgets to say goodbye when he leaves to go chase her. This is pretty par for the two’s romance – nothing matters but the other one. It’s obsessive and unhealthy… but right now he’s absolutely right to chase after her. Miaka has the survival skills of a concussed toddler.
Miaka stows away on the back of a wagon and passes out after some intense navelgazing. The very nice cart driver and his newlywed wife welcome her into their home and feed her. The next morning, after eating them out of house and home, the two send her off in another wagon for the border.
Nuriko, it seems, decided to return to the palace after Tamahome took off on his own, and informs Hotohori of Miaka’s constant stream of poor decision-making. Hotohori gets all in a fluster and almost takes off for the border himself, until his advisors remind him that would basically be an act of war and blow up the tense situation between the countries. Hotohori relents with a hint of petulance – hey, he’s only eighteen years old – and sits back down. The camera zooms in on Nuriko’s face. Is it foreshadowing? Is it stretching out the cheap animation to save costs? Who can tell now?
Tamahome approaches the home of the young newlyweds, where the wife is standing outside and scrutinizing every passerby. Apparently, Miaka left a few days ago – has she just been standing outside and staring at the road since then? Apparently, Miaka asked them to tell him not to follow her; same shit, different day. Tamahome completely ignores them and rides off at a gallop toward the border, where Miaka is coincidentally trying to cross without a passport. She’s utterly puzzled that there would be border security between two countries almost at war with each other, and claims to be the Priestess of Seiryuu to get herself through. A foreign-coded man with blond hair, blue eyes, armor, and a mask rides up to take her just as Tamahome arrives at the border and starts screaming at them to let him through. How is time even working in this? How long has it been? Miaka gets ahead of Tamahome by days but then they coincidentally arrive at the border at the same time. It’s all according to what creates the most dramatic tension!
The border guards, of course, refuse to let Tamahome through, and Miaka shows a rare bit of forethought in realizing that responding to him would put him in even more danger. She’s past the point of no return – she can’t very well just change her mind and turn around without getting someone killed anymore. She’s stuck. Luckily, Chichiri realizes what she’s up to and how badly Tamahome’s little tantrum is endangering all of their lives, and drags him away. Have I mentioned that Chichiri is the only adult among the major characters so far? He’s twenty-four years old! I wonder if he feels uncomfortable hanging around all these dumbass hormonal teenagers all the time.
The blond man takes Miaka to the Emperor of Kutou, who she rudely grimaces at for not being as hot as Hotohori. It’s okay, though, because in Fushigi Yuugi, ugly means evil, so this guy is bad news. The blonde man takes off his mask and reveals himself to be bishounen supreme Nakago.
He introduces Miaka as the Priestess of Seiryuu and the Evil Emperor chuckles at being able to defeat Hotohori easily. You know. Because he’s evil. Which we know because he’s ugly. Unlike Hotohori, who is pretty, so we know that he’s a good guy! It’s simple! Nakago has someone else to introduce with an ironic little smirk, and out steps…
WAIT FOR IT
YOU’LL BE SHOCKED
Miaka bursts into tears and grabs her in a hug, in a surprisingly nice bit of animation with a sense of weight behind it. You know what else has a sense of weight? The shot of Miaka dropping her bag and the scroll of The Universe of the Four Gods falling out. Miaka doesn’t notice, however, in the midst of their tearful reunion, in which she explains that she came back for her best friend. Yui asks, “You came back just for me?” and Miaka conveniently forgets to mention that no, she also really wanted to smooch that hot boy too. I honestly don’t fault Miaka here – people can have more than one reason for doing things! And while she was tempted to come back because of Tamahome, realizing that Yui was in there was what clinched it for her. However, spoiler alert, this declaration comes back to bite her in the ass.
Dropping her bag also bites her in the ass, as Nakago picks up the scroll and realizes what she has. Inappropriately peppy music plays as the emperor summons guards to come take Miaka away!
Next time: The narrator asks, “What could ruin Yui and Miaka’s friendship?” Could it be the way Yui constantly talks down to Miaka? Nah, probably not.