For my first full review I have decided to go back to my years in middle school, back to one of the very first manga I have ever read. In those times, there was only a small selection of manga translated into English to choose from, and even smaller was the selection of shoujo manga. Luckily enough manga had slowly begun to increase in popularity, and one day as I was passing through the library I had come across an intriguing novel by a Japanese artist. In its pages lain a story of a mysterious book where a young girl is thrust into a world of gods and war, there she must face a struggle between doing her duty and being with the one she loved. I am talking, of course, of Yuu Watase’s Fushigi Yugi.
Being nearly 10 years ago, I realize there are many of you who have probably already read through all 18 volumes of this classic. But for those of you new to shoujo manga, or even manga in general, perhaps you have yet to stumble across its pages. It is to that end that I write this review, in hopes of encouraging a new generation of FY (Fushigi Yuugi) fans. Firstly, a brief summary to bring us all up to speed, and maybe dust out a few of the cobwebs for those of us old readers.
We start off the glutton Miaka Yuuki, a 3rd year middle school student in the midst of studying for her entrance exams to get into the prominent high school of Jonan.* One day while studying in the library with her best friend Yui, they discover a mysterious book in the back room called ‘The Universe of the Four Gods’. Upon opening its pages they are immediately transported, unbeknownst to them, smack dab into the setting of ancient China. After a run a run in with some thugs and a handsome strangers they are returned home with doubts about their experience, was it a dream or was it real?
Plagued with curiosity, Miaka decides to re-enter the book and finds herself written down as the Heroine, the Miko of Suzaku (Priestess of Suzaku). In order to obtain the power of Suzaku, which will grant her three wishes, she must find her 7 celestial warriors across the country of Konan and summon the god-beast. The adventure is wrought with hilarity, betrayal, love, and sacrifice as Miaka and Yui are plunged into a world of war, struggling to come to terms with a whole new range of emotions and fighting for survival.
The story at first is pretty E (PG) but at about volume 6 the scenes become bloody and the content a little more mature. The whole series I would rate at about T (PG13), maybe T+ (older teen) just to be safe. I would said that the story on the whole is very worth the read. It is still most definitely a shoujo but it has enough adventure in later volumes that would probably appease even some shounen fans. The relationships between characters are constantly changing and although the beginning seems a little slower, it starts to pick up at about volume 3-4.
Splattered with ridiculous comic relief and sometimes just silly humor, it does well to break the tension at some of the more dramatic scenes. The romance is a little predictable at the start, and seems to fall into the Mary Sue Syndrome but it more than makes up for it in the long run. The many twists, turns, and back flips the relationship must endure through the course of the series will have you second guessing and losing hope altogether, the conclusion being that not all stories end happy and not everyone’s favorite characters will survive to the end.
The development of some characters might be lacking a bit, but it does come about by the end of the series. And it is still better than other shoujo manga out there that lack it completely. Though it’s true that the story does span over 18 volumes, and I am proud to say I have read the entire series a few times, I personally like to believe that the series ends at volume 13. Volume 1-13 is considered part 1 and volume 14-18 is part 2 of the series. In my opinion the 2nd part of the series travels down a confusing path that take away from the story overall. You will however make some interesting discoveries about what happens to the original characters after the events of part 1. I still recommend at least reading through part 2 to make your own assumptions. Overall, this series is a bit dramatic at times but it still makes for a great shoujo manga.
Bishounen rating: For any bishounen fan this series is definitely a treat! There is basically a harem of guys to choose from in this series! From the Suzaku 7 (6 of which could be considered), to 4 of the Seiryu 7, and even a couple other warriors that make an appearance, bringing the bishie count to about 14. And the best part is there’s something for everyone. Whether you prefer the strong silent type, the evil type, the noble type, loyal type, optimistic type, emo type, or even just the plain freaky personality, there are plenty to choose from. And all 14 are definitely bishie status at one point or another in the series, my favorite being Amiboshi. ;)
*For a tidbit of information in case there are some newbies out there, in Japan the school system (mostly) goes 6-3-3-4, 6 years elementary, 3 years middle school, 3 years high school, and 4 years university. In between junior high and high school, and high school and university, there are entrance exams to deal with. And the better the high school you get into, the better university you will get into, so the high school entrance exams can be a big deal. There’s a lot more to it but that’s the basic gist.