Winter 2016 Anime Roundup: Part 1

A popular thing to do among anibloggers is to watch the first episode of every new show each season. Me, I don’t roll that way. I simply don’t have the time or energy to watch four or five new episodes of anime each night – I tried it once and I didn’t even enjoy the ones I felt like I should have, because I burned out so fast. I prefer to watch whatever catches my eye and/or is getting good word of mouth. Sometimes they’re everything I was hoping for, but just as often, they’re duds… but at least I didn’t waste my time watching shows I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. This season, I’m also on the lookout for shows that would be worth giving weekly coverage from the point of view of the blog.

Without further ado, let’s look at the shows!

Continue reading “Winter 2016 Anime Roundup: Part 1”

Fushigi Yugi: Going Home/Brief Parting

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?

Continue reading “Fushigi Yugi: Going Home/Brief Parting”

Fushigi Yugi: Bewildered Heartbeat/If I Die…

Trigger warnings this installment: Suicide, transphobia/misgendering

Episode Five: Bewildered Heartbeat

We’re back at the palace. Miaka is in bed, suddenly so weak she needs to have water dripped into her mouth instead of drinking it out of a glass. Hotohori somehow blames Tamahome for Miaka falling ill, and Tamahome somehow blames himself because he rejected her. I would say it’s more likely culture shock and the repeated sexual assault attempts against her than a boy saying he doesn’t like her. An adviser jumps in to say that she’s suffering from physical and mental exhaustion, and summoning Suzaku could kill her. She might recover physically, but mentally she’s going to continue marching straight toward a nervous breakdown which, considering all the anxiety dreams, she was probably heading toward from the beginning. Poor girl! I really do feel sorry for her at this point. She was already under a lot of stress before she got to the Universe of the Four Gods, and the pressure has only gotten worse. Miaka starts calling for her family in her sleep, and Hotohori, Tamahome, and Nuriko decide to take her to Mt. Taikyoku to see Taiitsukun, who created this world and gave the emperors their scrolls of The Universe of the Four Gods.

Continue reading “Fushigi Yugi: Bewildered Heartbeat/If I Die…”

Fushigi Yuugi: The Seven Stars of Suzaku/Missing Love

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.

Continue reading “Fushigi Yuugi: The Seven Stars of Suzaku/Missing Love”

Fushigi Yugi: The Girl of Legend/The Priestess of Suzaku

Trigger Warning for sexual assault

Episode One: The Girl of Legend

The first episode of the infamous Fushigi Yugi kicks off with one of the best opening themes of the mid-90’s. Seriously, go watch it – it starts off ethereal and atmospheric as Miaka, dressed in priestess robes, moves through a palace and greets each of her guardian warriors. It turns into a more standard, but still catchy pop theme. It’s beautiful and well-animated, unlike the rest of the show.

Who is Miaka? Well, she’s an ordinary third-year middle-schooler and currently dreaming of food that she commands to get into her belly. The dream turns into a nightmare as the food disappears and bright lights begin to harangue about how she should be studying instead of eating. She freaks out and throws her desk, hitting her teacher, who makes her hold the desk out in the hall. (TRUE 90’s kids will remember how “holding heavy things in the hallway” was a common punishment in anime during that decade. Not sure how much basis that has in reality.) Continue reading “Fushigi Yugi: The Girl of Legend/The Priestess of Suzaku”

Fushigi Yugi Simulwatchathon

Fushigi_Yugi_-_Suzaku_Seven

Watch Fushigi Yugi on Crunchyroll

I got into anime in seventh grade. This was in the late 90’s, back when you paid $30 for two or three episodes on a VHS tape, four if you were lucky. Sub vs. dub wars were still relevant since you had to choose one or the other, and buying was largely through mail-order catalogues. Most anime out during this period was firmly male-oriented, so much so that the dictionary definition of anime for years denoted “of a violent and sexual nature.” When a friend lent me a VHS of Fushigi Yugi she had bought at Suncoast, I fell in love instantly. It seemed to hold everything anime had to offer a girl like me: an adventure-filled melodramatic plotline, dreamy bishounen, slapstick comedy, fantastic worlds, and that certain something, that edge that American cartoons lacked. There was never an assurance that things would be okay in the end. Actions had consequences, mistakes could be made, and characters could die. I was smitten.

That was more than half my lifetime ago. I’ve grown up, my tastes have changed, and I’ve learned a lot about storytelling, character development, and specifically how women are written. In retrospect, Fushigi Yugi was awful. A helpless heroine who is constantly threatened with assault, sexual or otherwise, trans- and homophobic humor, and a story where everything seems to happen more for the sake of convenience than anything else. The dub script is so stilted even normally talented actors such as David Hayter and Mary McGlynn sound halting and confused half the time, and the animation is just as bad. But somehow, doubtless in no small part because of girls like me who wouldn’t know quality if it bit them on the nose, it was a Big Deal in anime fandom back then. Like I said, there wasn’t much anime out there at the time to appeal to teenage girls, and Fushigi Yugi was one of the few aimed squarely at a demographic that was starving to be marketed to.

To be honest, I’ve been dying to write about it since I started this blog. It was a landmark show, and so full of damaging messages to young women, it felt like an obligation to my past self. Nowadays it seems unlikely that many impressionable girls will stumble on it – it’s licensed but only available on DVD or through illegal means (edit: now it’s on Crunchyroll but seems to be most popular with adults reliving the 90s) – but there’s a lot of poison to get out for those of us who did watch it. Plus, nothing gets page views like snark and negativity, which I feel towards the show in spades.

So here’s how it’s going to work. On intermittent Sunday or Thursday evenings, I will announce a stream around a half hour ahead of time on the tumblr. We’ll watch two episodes at a time, and the next day I’ll post a recap/discussion of the episodes we watched. Fushigi Yugi really is an important piece of historical context for the modern-day shoujo fandom, especially those who enjoyed the similar but vastly superior Yona of the Dawn. I’m excited to have you enjoy me on my journey through the Konan Empire.