Rewatching: Fushigi Yuugi

The first time I watched Fushigi Yuugi was in undergrad, when anime was one of the things I used to keep up with. Since the demise of Suncoast, that has waned, but I still like to visit my old favorites every now and again. I’ll spare you the details (or rather, force you to suffer with me by encouraging you to watch the English dubbed series online) to get to the point.

I remember loving this series. The ensemble cast, the humor, the fantasy – it hit all my soft spots. But I had a chance to watch it again, and . . . well, I’m not loving it so much anymore. Although I love the story and themes, the series has some serious gender issues. A short list:

  • The main character, Miaka, exhibits virtually no signs of intelligence or agency unless it revolves around Tamahome. No, really, you have a potential End of the World scenario here, and what’s most urgent and important to her is what her boyfriend is doing. As a matter of fact, she screams “TAMAHOME!!!!!” almost every five minutes for the first 40 episodes of the show.
  • For priestesses who will eventually decide the fate of the world, Miaka and Yui spend a lot of time being threatened with rape, escaping rape, and/or thinking they’ve been raped.
  • Nuriko – aka, the REAL star of the fucking show no matter what anybody says – got fucked over. At first it was all, “Wow! A fabulous trans woman with super strength! Yay!” Then it was, “Nuriko is a man who dressed up like a girl to take his dead sister’s place then got confused.” And my face was like: :-/.
  • Hotohori, the motherfucking emperor of the Good Guy Kingdom and supermodel^25 (often mistaken for a girl), is absent for most of the action and dies a stupid, meaningless death. Hrm. That’s another person who blurs gender lines who bites the dust without their heroic moment. Noticing the pattern here?
  • And of course the bad guy had to do what he did because he was forced into sex slavery by the emperor of Bad Guy Land. That makes so much sense as his primary motivation. As opposed to, say, the oppression and genocide of his people.
  • Yui fares a bit better as an antagonist. As a character, she’s more three-dimensional than Miaka; she undergoes a lot more growth, and her motives and actions make more sense in the context of what she experiences. Nevertheless, her characterization plays into the petty, jealous, catty stereotype of women.

That’s not to say that the series is bad. It’s just not as great as I remember it being. Do you have something that’s like that for you?