Fushigi Yugi: Being Kind to Teens and Their Stories

After much thought, I’ve decided to officially end my recaps of Fushigi Yugi.

I started them as a way of exploring the problems I had with my once-favorite series. The homo- and transphobia, poor animation, overwrought melodrama, and awkward dub script had soured it in my mind over the years. When it came out on Crunchyroll, watching and mocking it became something of a trend in my little corner of Anitwitter, and I was more than happy to jump on that train.

However, over the past couple months, I’ve been working on a different project related to it as a part of Anime Feminist, collaborating with fellow contributors Dee of Josei Next Door and Vrai Kaiser. Going back over it with my fellow feminists who grew up with the series like I did started to remind me of why I loved the series so fervently as a teenager. While it’s a flawed work, there’s a power to it that spoke to me that I don’t want to discount.

Snark can be great fun and occasionally incisive, but in the end it’s a low form of criticism that is devoted more toward tearing down than anything constructive. I purport to want to build up and support teenage girls and young women – how is mocking an influential series aimed at them remotely productive? That’s not to say media aimed at that demographic should be immune to criticism, and there’s plenty to criticize about Fushigi Yugi, but making fun of teenage characters for acting like teenagers isn’t the way to do it. Instead, in my mockery, I was showing my disdain for the whole age group and, more than anything else, myself at that age.

There are tons of shows from the 90s aimed at boys that are at least as ridiculous as Fushigi Yugi that are viewed with nostalgia and fondness, not scorn. Shows like Outlaw StarG Gundam, and Dragonball Z are at least as ridiculous, but most fan discussion surrounding them are warm and affectionate. Doesn’t media aimed at young women deserve the same, or is Sailor Moon the only one that deserves such amnesty? There’s a rawness to Fushigi Yugi – everything is so much larger than life, every emotion so extreme. It’s messy and overwrought, but that’s how being a teenager often feels. Fushigi Yugi deserves to be celebrated for capturing that feeling.

So much of the world is devoted to tearing down teenage girls at every opportunity, and as an adult, an educator, and a feminist, I must strive to be better and act as a supporter for girls of all ages. That means supporting their stories. Fushigi Yugi was written by a 22-year-old woman, aimed at girls not much younger. It deserves more respect than I’ve been giving it.

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7 thoughts on “Fushigi Yugi: Being Kind to Teens and Their Stories

  1. Clare

    I literally just found these recaps yesterday and laughed my ass off, so I’m a bit disheartened to see this, but I totally get it. I’ve been revisiting Fushigi Yuugi in the last month or so, having loved it deeply when I was fourteen. That’s a little over half my life ago now. In the wake of starting my fourth year of teaching, I needed nostalgia and tore through the series in a weekend with an appreciation I haven’t had before. That appreciation of how important it was to me at the time I first fell in love and how very much the characters are all stupid kids trying to solve problems way bigger than they are without guidance.

    Somehow that rewatch wasn’t enough, though, so I’ve been looking for any good commentary or analysis and sadly there seems to be very little at all. The recaps are snarky, sure, but it was great to get another adult perspective digging into the many and layered problems with the series instead of just leaving it at “it’s sappy and dumb,” which seems to be most of what I come across. Just as an example, Hotohori was and is my favorite and while I recognized that so much of what he did with regard to his feelings for Miaka was Not Okay, there were implications (like him being an authority figure in that awkward pushing her down on the bed scene) that I just completely missed for whatever reason.

    So thank you for what you did complete of this project. I needed it. It’s helped me with my progression from “I love this show” to “This is stupid crap” to “I LOVE this stupid crap.”

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment, and I’m glad that you found a lot of meaning in my recaps. It sounds like your relationship with the show is pretty similar to mine, so it means a lot to me that you got so much out of my writing.
      I’m not completely leaving behind my criticism of Fushigi Yugi – the AniFem project I’ve been working on is a series of podcast episodes where we talk about the show six or seven episodes at a time. They’re not as detailed as these recaps, but they cover a lot of similar ground, with the bonus of Dee being EXTREMELY well read on the supplemental light novels. There is MUCH shouting about how terrible Hotohori is, how good Nuriko and Tasuki are, and so on.
      I’m not ruling out coming back to these someday. Until I do, I want to take some time and look back over what this show means to me and how I approach it.

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      1. treeofjessie

        Tasuki was good until the OAVs ruined him and made him a rapist, tho… my heart is still severely broken over this.

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  2. Much as I enjoy (or well, reading people) tearing down horrible shows, mocking and insulting something that clearly means a lot for a certain section of the fandom is something I don’t like either. I know since I often been the one on the other end (I really like particular type of stories). So, thank you for sharing the same thought!

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    1. I want to move away from snarking at things aimed at teenage girls and move toward honest criticism (aside from the occasional bad anatomy joke on Twitter), though I probably won’t hesitate to snark at things aimed at other demographics. 🙂

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  3. I’m reading Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden right now and I could rip it to shreds, but I think sometimes media needs to be criticized in a particular way. While snark is funny, it doesn’t necessarily see the bigger picture. Like, for example, there just comes a time when you realize that a gender swapping character is much more in the tradition of treating same sex spaces as “safe spaces” rather than a comment on homosexuality or gender fluidity *coughLimbocough*

    Anyway, I can’t wait to hear the podcast!

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