Foreign Friday: Fushigi Yugi the Mysterious Play

“Wo ai ni. That’s Chinese for ‘I love you.'” – Fushigi Yugi

This week’s Foreign Friday title is Fushigi Yugi the Mysterious Play by Yu Watase.

The Story

The discovery of a mysterious book transports middle-schooler Miaka and and her best friend Yui into a strange new world reminiscent of ancient China, where they befriend the dashing mercenary Tamahome. After becoming separated from Yui, Miaka begins to search for her friend, but finds that only when she has taken on the role of the country’s priestess, found her seven Celestial Warriors, and summoned the power of the god Suzaku will she save her friend, claim her true love, and get home safely.

The Characters

Miaka is a middle schooler who likes food, her friend Yui, and the dashing Tamahome. She’s usually optimistic, and deals with finding herself in a different world pretty easily. Yui, smart and beautiful while Miaka is just average, has a stubborn streak that can be both good and bad. Tamahome starts off looking like businessman who only cares about money, but changes steadily into Miaka’s most devoted Warrior.

What I Thought

Yu Watase’s series Fushigi Yugi the Mysterious Play is a popular title. It came highly recommended to me, and was even on the library’s middle school recommended reading list. It is written in the fantasy genre, with romance as one of it central themes. But to be perfectly honest…

I didn’t like it. I felt that the plot involved a lot of melodrama, each task Miaka set forth on seemed to involve blood and the loss of clothing, and the romance made me think of soap operas and reverse-harems. The comedic Celestial Warrior is killed halfway through the first major story arc, and by the end, three more are killed as if Watase just wanted them out of the way (they’re only given about a half a page to die, too). The introduction of their ghosts really didn’t satisfy me the reader, nor was their ghostly appearance enough to give good reason why I was suddenly mourning half the characters, especially ones that I’d only just met! Pant…pant… And yes, the whole sordid tale is available in English in the US, along with an anime series that follows the manga but ends short of the final arc.

As I said before, Fushigi Yugi is a popular series; Watase has written a prequel series called Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden. I haven’t read this, but the same sources that recommended The Mysterious Play also recommended Genbu Kaiden as well. So if you don’t agree with my manga reviews, here are two title’s you’ll love. Watase is an author who puts an interesting spin to her fantasy, but I feel that her shorter series Alice 19th was a better read.

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