Thursday, February 07, 2008

Anime Reviews: Fushigi Yūgi (SPOILERS)

Okay. Enough with the videos and memes and whatnot. It's time again for a POS -- a Piece Of Sh--

Wait, no.

A Post Of Substance.


I think I need a new acronym.

ANYway, I've gotten back into anime lately, so I thought I'd try to put down my thoughts about several series I've been watching lately, if only as a writing exercize. I'll be doing this as a series of reviews (assuming I can keep focused enough to do so), starting with the first new show I viewed this year.


I finished Fushigi Yūgi last month, and I was underwhelmed. It's not easy to write about it since it's no longer fresh in my mind, but I'll try to summarize what I felt was wrong with it.

The thing that really stuck in my craw was the show's constant use of sexual violence as a plot point. The villain turns the heroine's friend against her by convincing the young woman that the heroine abandoned her and allowed her to be raped and he came to her rescue, making him the only person she could trust (in fact he killed her attackers before they could rape her). Later, the same villain has the heroine cornered, threatens her with rape, knocks her out, and tells her that he raped her while she was unconscious (in fact her ill-defined magical powers protected her and zapped him when he tried). After that, not one but two of the villain's henchmen attempt to rape her again! 'Cause only a virgin can use her powers of the ancient bird-god and yadda yadda save the world or something. Why the hell do the gods care about the state of a woman's hymen?

In the end, the only person who actually was raped was the villain himself, when he was a boy, which is apparently why he turned into such an evil bastard. Or something.

All this in a series created by a woman and aimed at teenage girls. Phew.

Another thing that really bothered me was the lack of character development for several of the lead characters. Right up at the end of the series, two of the heroine's companions give their lives to help her, but we in the audience have no reason to care because they'd only been there as background characters and had what felt like less than ten lines between their introductions and their deaths. In fact, all the villain's henchmen end up more developed characters than the heroes! It's shameful.

And the ending... well, without spoiling anything, while reasonably action-packed, it relied too heavily on hastily contrived deus ex machinas.

Finally, the heroine, Miaka, ended up grating on my nerves a great deal. Anime fans will recognize a certain kind of female protagonist: Ditzy, clumsy, gluttonous, and boy-crazy, yet imbued with a bizarre martyr complex and an inexplicable charisma that makes every young man she meets fall head over heels in love with her. She's simultaneously a Mary Sue and a reflection of all the negative character traits young girls hate about themselves (at least as the writers perceive it). It's wholly appropriate that Miaka is voiced by the same actress as Sailor Moon, if you know what I mean.

I don't mean to say that the whole series is garbage because it's not. The first half is well-done, and I liked and cared about most of the main characters a great deal. When two of them died (not the two mentioned above), I was genuinely moved by their sacrifice.

Also, despite being a vile wannabe-rapist, the fact that the villain was basically the Goblin King from Labyrinth scored some points in my book. (This plus the fact that the show's plot is lifted wholesale from The Neverending Story makes me think the creator watched a few too many fantasy flicks in the '80s.)

But none of that saves Fushigi Yūgi from winding up as a wholly mediocre viewing experience. I've read some of the other works by creator Yū Watase, and I can say that in my opinion her best work is done when she ditches the pretentions at writing a great epic and just sticks to what she knows: Wish-fulfillment fantasies about dorky girls surrounded by hot guys who inexplicably love them, nothing more, nothing less.

Next up: Lucky☆Star.

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