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 Star, G 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.