Fushigi Yugi: the ultimate seven

Fushigi Yugi: the ultimate seven

When I watched Fushigi Yugi‘s anime, by the time Miboshi, one of Yui’s seven seishi (celestial warriors), was introduced, it became obvious that Yui had gotten the short end of the stick. While Miaka’s celestial warriors upheld their duty to protect her and all care about her deeply, Yui’s team often put their own motives ahead of her well-being. Now that I’m reading Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden, I began to wonder: of all four sets of guardians, which seven celestial warriors would I want to be part of my team if I were a priestess trapped in the Universe of the Four Gods? I thought it might be fun to write about, so here are my picks:

Tamahome

Status: Suzaku Celestial Warrior

Reason: I chose Tamahome because above all, he’s fiercly loyal to Miaka and willing to do anything to protect her. He always bends over backwards for his teammates, and is a great big brother to his many siblings. Tamahome is very kind, and basically the perfect boyfriend – not to mention the fact that’s he’s hot doesn’t hurt either.

Tasuki

Status: Suzaku Celestial Warrior

Reason: Tasuki controls fire, which is a great advantage to have on your side. But aside from his power, Tasuki is a funny character who is quick to anger, and while he always puts on a tough guy act it’s obvious that he cares deeply about his comrades. And despite the fact that he claims to hate women, he cares very much about Miaka’s feelings, which is evident not long after he is introduced and gets his ass kicked when he refuses to fight a brainwashed Tamahome at Miaka’s request.

Nuriko

Status: Suzaku Celestial Warrior

Reason: Because Nuriko is probably my favorite character in all of Fushigi Yugi. He’s haughty yet somehow wise, and he is usually the shoulder Miaka turns to cry on. While the other celestial warriors often tease him for being a crossdresser, he always manages to appear cool. Nuriko is also one of the strongest celestial warriors, so having him on your side can only be a benefit.

Uruki

Status: Genbu Celestial Warrior

Reason: Of all of the love interests in Fushigi Yugi, Uruki is probably my favorite. Usually Yuu Watase’s male characters are a bit too perfect: they are willing to give up everything to be with the woman they love, are perfect at everything they do, and are great-looking to boot. While these things are true of Uruki as well, he also has an angtsy cynical side to him that has been caused by the fact that his father wants him dead. The fact that Uruki is a prince means he knows the land well, however, it also has made him a target for assassins, which is an obvious detriment. Still, I’d choose Uruki because he has many interesting quirks: not only can he control wind, but when he uses his powers, he turns into a girl! I can only imagine how jealous that would make Nuriko.

Namame

Status: Genbu Celestial Warrior

Reason: Of all the celestial warriors, I truly think Namame is the best one. He’s tiny and made of rock, so you’d think he wouldn’t be very helpful but the truth is actually the opposite: because he’s so tiny he can protect priestess Takiko without ever being seen! Namame is also a shapeshifter, which allows him to turn into a horse the celestial warriors can travel with, as well as a dome the warriors can sleep in. Thus, I would choose Namame because he’s probably the most practical of the celestial warriors. And he’s cute.

Inami

Status: Genbu Celestial Warrior

Reason: I have to respect Yuu Watase for deciding to make a character like Inami a celestial warrior. While most of the celestial warriors are young men who open up the opportunity for romance with the priestess, Inami is a middle-aged woman who you’d never suspect to be a warrior. Although she’s not the strongest seishi, she’s a confidante and source of wisdom to Takiko, which makes having her on your side beneficial. And her power includes the ability to trap people with her hair, which is pretty cool.

Nakago

Status: Seiryu Celestial Warrior

Reason: At first glance, choosing Nakago might not seem like a wise decision. He manipulates Yui into believing she was raped and convinces her to betray her best friend, all while using the other Seiryu celestial warriors to his own benefit. But Nakago is by far the most powerful of all the celestial warriors, and it literally took all seven Suzaku warriors to defeat him. But the real reason I’d choose Nakago is more from my perspective as an audience member: because I truly think Fushigi Yugi wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as it is if Nakago weren’t in it.   

And those are my choices! I feel bad for not picking any Byakko celestial warriors, but considering the fact that the Byakko storyline hasn’t been fully fleshed out yet it shouldn’t be too surprising. Which celestial warriors would you guys pick to be on your team?

Queerness in shojo manga: crossdressing

Queerness in shojo manga: crossdressing

When I started thinking about the presence of queer characters in shojo anime and manga, the theme of crossdressing immediately came to mind. Crossdressing, homosexuality, and the desire of males to be ‘feminine’ are themes that are heavily present within shojo manga, and it is interesting to see how these themes connect with one another. Much like my last post on the representation of queerness in shojo manga, this time I will once again be focusing specifically on male characters. While there are plenty of female crossdressers in shojo manga, unlike the male crossdresser there is (usually) no doubt that the female crossdresser is straight. For example, in Princess Knight Sapphire makes it clear that she dislikes being forced to dress up as a male, and wishes she could be more feminine. And in Hana-Kimi, the reason Mizuki pretends to be a male is so she can be closer to a boy she admires, and by the end of the series when her gender has been revealed, she grows her hair out. However, males who crossdress as females in manga almost always not only are in love with other male characters but wish to be female themselves. This isn’t shocking considering the depictions of gay men in most Japanese media. Homosexual men in Japan are usually called okama, which is a troublesome term because it is also often used to describe male crossdressers. Gay males in Japanese media usually are shown to be, if not exceedingly feminine, then they are outright crossdressers. Thus, in many ways homosexuality and crossdressing have been made interchangable in Japanese language and culture.

Fushigi Yugi – Nuriko

Characters who like to crossdress are often depicted as having psychological or emotional problems, and these problems are  sometimes revealed to be the cause of the character’s desire to crossdress. For example, Ritsu Sohma in Fruits Basket suffers from low-self esteem and constantly apologizes for everything he does, which is why he decides use his dressing as a woman as an outlet to escape the pressure to meet people’s expectations. Yet near the end of the manga when Ritsu begins feeling better about himself, he decides to stop dressing as a woman. What this implies, however, is that only people with emotional scars feel the need to crossdress, and that once those scars have been cured so too will the desire to dress as a woman. There is a sense of transience given to the crossdresser – that his habits are only temporary and eventually will stop (as they should). Similarly, in Fushigi Yugi, Nuriko begins dressing as a woman after his younger sister died so he can live on in her place. However, as Nuriko becomes closer to Miaka, he is able to overcome his grief at his sister’s death and eventually decides to cut off his hair and quit the “gay act.” But what’s even more troublesome in Nuriko’s case is the entanglement of gender identity and sexuality. Nuriko’s desire to ‘be a woman’ has nothing to do with his sexual desire, yet the series treats the two as though they are the same thing because it is revealed that he is in love with Hotohori, the king of Konan. This is bothersome because Nuriko’s attraction to males is written as a natural part of his transition into being a woman, rather than it being shown that Nuriko would have been gay regardless of how he dresses. Thus, the stereotype that crossdressers are also gay (and that these two identities are interchangable) is reinforced through Nuriko’s character. 

I’d also like to consider how crossdressing characters in shojo manga categorize and label themselves in terms of gender identity and sexuality. Tamahome and the other Suzaku warriors often tease Nuriko about his crossdressing, and they typically call him an okama. At one point, Nuriko gets annoyed and asks to be called a ‘new-half,’ which is a male-to-female transsexual. There is a certain ambivalence to Nuriko’s character, because while he adopts a female name as the king’s consort (Korin, his late sister’s name), he acknowledges that he is truly male when it comes to his role as a Suzaku celestial warrior. However, in contrast, in Love*Com there is very little sense of ambiguity when it comes to how Seiko sees herself. When Seiko is first introduced, she falls for Otani and immediately gives a big kiss on the lips. Otani is flattered that a girl as adorable and kind as Seiko would like him, yet when she tries to make a move on him in their school’s infirmary Otani discovers Seiko is actually a male (named Seishiro) when she removes her shirt. Otani turns her down (while saying that he still thinks she’s a cool person who is more feminine than Risa, Love*Com‘s female protagonist), and Seiko isn’t phased for long by her rejection. As the series progresses, Seiko becomes ‘one of the girls’ Risa talks to about her love troubles, and it is easy to forget that she is biologically a male. When her male identity does become a problem for Seiko, it’s only because her voice suddenly becomes deeper and doesn’t match her appearance. Seiko decides to stop dressing as a girl, but Risa encourages her not to let her voice change alter who she really is. It doesn’t take long for Seiko to return to crossdressing, especially after she realizes that her voice problems were because of a cold and weren’t permanent. Rather than treating the crossdresser as a ‘temporary’ identity, Love*Com treats Seiko’s female identity as though it’s simply natural, and instead of discouraging her transgenderism, Seiko’s friends support her. It is because Seiko is so comfortable with her gender that I can’t help but see her as she sees herself: as a fun-loving, sweet girl – and that’s why I always refer to Seiko as a girl. I can appreciate the range in how Nuriko and Seiko view their genders respectively, however, because this helps emphasize that gender isn’t fixed and shows that there are multiple identities that are possible beyond just the male/female dichotemy.

But not all shojo anime and manga treat crossdressing and homosexuality as though they are the same thing. In Ouran High School Host Club, Haruhi’s father Ranka works at a bar full of employees who are transvestites. Even though he’s getting paid to dress as a woman, Ranka makes it clear that he enjoys dressing as a woman and did so even before he married Haruhi’s mother. Ranka also affirms that he isn’t gay and that the only person he ever really loved was Haruhi’s mother, who accepted the fact that he liked to dress as a woman. Thus, Ouran High School Host Club shows that there is a difference between how one dresses and his or her sexuality. However, Ranka still shares much in common with other, more stereotypical male crossdressing characters. Ranka is a fun character who is loved by many fans of the series, because he’s quirky and not-so-nice to Tamaki. Seiko is sweet and positive, while Nuriko is fiesty and often sarcastic (not to mention, he’s my favorite character in Fushigi Yugi). Male crossdressers may be stereotyped, but they are usually engaging and funny characters, and we can’t help but laugh with them.

Fushigi Yugi: lapses of logic

Fushigi Yugi: lapses of logic

There are many great things about Fushigi Yugi. In a long line of stories about girls who get sucked into another world, Fushigi Yugi has great characters, unexpected plot twists and one of my favorite endings in anime. However, I’m well aware that the series’ flaws stand out to others, who tend to complain that the series becomes unnecessarily dramatic, and that they don’t care for Miaka because she’s so dumb. But what I personally had a bigger problem with was the series occassional lapses of logic. Since I will be talking about several major plot points, if you haven’t read or watched Fushigi Yugi you may want to stop reading here.

Near the beginning of the series, Nakago makes a promise to Yui not to kill Miaka. This promise comes back when Yui comes back to the real world after summoning Seiryu, and Nakago threatens Yui that he will break their promise unless she uses Seiryu’s power to grant his wish to become a god. The problem I had with this, however, is that over the course of the series Nakago tried several times to have Miaka and the Suzaku seishi (celestial warriors) killed. For example, when the celestial warriors travelled to find the Genbu shinzaho, Nakago sent Soi to try to kill them by electructing them in the water. And when the celestial warriors were searching for information about the shinzaho they are attacked by Ashitare, who was brutally beaten by Nakago so he wouldn’t fail in killing Miaka. There were also several occassions in which Suboshi attacked Miaka right in front of Yui, and she didn’t try to stop him from almost killing her, thus diminishing the importance of Nakago’s promise.

But there is another inconsistency in terms of Yui’s characterization. From the beginning of the series it’s made clear that Yui is much smarter than Miaka – she was the one who was able to read The Universe of the Four Gods, which was written in an obsolete form of the Chinese language. When Yui returns to the world of the book and becomes the Priestess of Seiryu after believing she was raped, Nakago intentionally keeps the fact that the priestess has to be a virgin a secret from her. However, I felt that there was something off about Yui’s naïveté . If Yui is so ‘smart’ and so familiar with Chinese culture, why then did it never cross her mind that the priestess is supposed to be a virgin and thus she shouldn’t elligible? Even I knew that priestesses are traditionally virgins, and I’m not exactly an expert on Asian culture. I’m not saying that Yui should have been able to figure out that Nakago lied to her about being raped, but she should have least questioned if she would be able to become the priestess. Still, this lapse in characterization could possibly be excused not only due to Yui’s fragile mental state but also because of Nakago’s manipulations.

The last lapse of logic in the series is one I’m not actually sure if it actually happens in the manga, since I’ve only watched the Fushigi Yugi anime. In the middle of the series, Keisuke, who in the real world was reading about Miaka’s adventures in the book, finds a strand of Miaka’s hair which allows him to talk to her. When he warns her that she should leave the book because things might become more dangerous, no one else can hear his voice. But in the series finale when Miaka, Yui, Tamahome, and Nakago have made it to the real world, Keisuke calls into the book so the other celestial warriors can help Miaka, and upon hearing him Chichiri and Tasuki travel to the real world as well. I never understood why they were able to hear him this time, and the only explanations I could think of were that a). maybe Miaka’s return to the real world ‘opened up’ the communication lines between the book and the real world or b). there was some sort of explanation given for this plothole in the manga that was never given in the anime. 

Still, not all of the changes made to the anime were bad, and one change in particular actually fixed a plothole in the manga. One of the major dilemmas throughout the series was Miaka and Tamahome’s struggle to find a way to stay together, since as a character from the book he couldn’t remain in the real world, while Miaka couldn’t stay in the book. When the Priestess of Byakko Suzuno asked Byakko for she and Tatara, the celestial warrior she loved, to stay together, Byakko told her that was the one wish he could not grant, and the two were separated until their deaths. In volume thirteen of the manga, Miaka and Tamahome ask to remain together and their wish is granted when Tamahome returns to the real world reincarnated. However, the anime changes Miaka’s last wish and instead she asks Suzaku to restore the world to the way it was before they battled Nakago. She decides that wishing for her and Tamahome’s happiness is something she shouldn’t ask Suzaku, and she is told that it isn’t the gods who grant wishes – it’s human will. I really liked this change because not only does it assert that Tamahome’s reincarnation was due to his love for Miaka rather than their wish being granted, it also shows how much Miaka had grown as a character. The character development and increasingly tragic story is what makes Fushigi Yugi as great as it is, so for as many flaws as it has, I still can’t help but love the series.