This week we have a review for you of the classic anime series Fushigi Yugi, which was something of a big thing back in the early ‘90s in US anime fandom.

Cast & Crew

Hikaru Midorikawa as Tamahome
Kae Araki as Miaka Yuuki
Chika Sakamoto as Nuriko
Nobutoshi Hayashi as Tasaki
Takehito Koyasu as Hotohori
Tohru Furusawa as Nakago
Tomokazu Seki as Chichiri
Yumi Touma as Yui Hongo
Shinchiro Miki as Keisuke
Ken Narita as Tetsuya Kajiwara

Directed by Hajime Kamegaki
Written by Yoshio Urasawa, Kasuhisa Sakaguchi, and Genki Yoshimura
Based on the manga by Yuu Watase
Animated by Studio Pierrot

Available on DVD from (Season 1, Season 2) and (Season 1, Season 2).

The Premise

Miyaka Yuuki and Yui Hongo are two middle school girls about to enter High School (cultural note: in Japan, students enter high school later than they do in the US and, I think, the UK). While the two are studying for placement tests (as you test into a High School, as opposed to going to a school based on your geographic location, with some High Schools having better perks than others – including in some cases guaranteed placement into some universities) at the library, Miyaka (the ditzy impulsive one) manages to blunder into the special collections section. Yui (the studious one) finds her and the two end up reading a magical book titled The Universe of the Four Gods, which ends up whisking the two of them into the land of the book, with the two ending up on opposing sides of a war between two nations, and with each invested with the power of a deity, and a bevy of followers (generally all pretty-boys).

High Points

The anime does a good job of balancing the very serious dramatic moments with some equally comedic moments.

Low Points

Watase, the creator of the manga, and with her the writers of the series, attempt to build some empathy for the show’s villain during the last act of the series. However, by this point, the character has become so irredeemably evil, that the attempt fails to feel like a legitimate attempt to provide character depth. Instead, the decision feels like Watase came up with a really great, sympathetic backstory for the character in her head and forgot to put it in the actual work and consequently tried to cram all that character development in at the last minute, and failed. Either that, or the writers realized that they’d been too successful at making a horrible villain, and desperately attempted to dial that aspect of the character back at the last minute, without success.

Additionally, the animation for some of the action scenes is unfortunately underwhelming.

The Scores

Originality: This is a mix of a “person from our world is sucked into a magical realm” story and a reverse harem shoujo manga. 3/6

Animation: The animation in dialog scenes is very well done and helps make the characters very emotive. However, the animation for scenes with lots of big, fluid motions, like action scenes, is pretty bland. 3/6

Story: Some of the stand-alone episodes are interesting, but the overall story runs into some real problems. 3/6.

Emotional Response: The comedy works really well, and some of the dramatic moments work equally well. However, there are a lot of bits in this show that are just obnoxiously bad. 3/6

Production: The detail in some of the background art is very nicely done, and there is some really good music in this show. 5/6

Acting: The Japanese dub is different, though Miyaka’s voice is pretty grating. 4/6

Overall: While I had some fun with this show, it has some real problems that prevent me from giving it a solid recommendation to purchase the show. 3/6

In total: Fushigi Yugi gets 24/42