Fushigi Yuugi is one of the most romantic shoujo anime ever created. It's also one of those anime that's kind of weird to name out loud. There's been some debate as to what "Fushigi Yuugi" really means. It could mean "Mysterious Play" or "Curious Game" or "Mysterious Game" or "Curious Play." Aren't you glad there are only four words to play around with? If there are more, the permutations would multiply.
The story started from manga written by Watase Yu, who did an incredible amount of research to tell the tale. She said the idea came to her when she was 18. Howabout that? Unlike a lot of other manga-based anime out there, Fushigi Yuugi anime is surprisingly faithful to its manga. Sure, there were some changes, but they were pretty minor.
Actually, no, I take that back. For the most part, the anime was faithful to its manga. However, there was an entire segment in the second half of the manga, when Miaka and her seishi landed in the country of the amazons, that was omitted from the show. And the anime told Oni and Eikuden arc a little differently. And some other nitpicky stuff. But for the most part, Fushigi Yuugi isn't one of those titles where you would howl, "The anime butchered the manga!"
One day after school, Miaka gets dragged to the library by her best friend, Yui. Yui's one of those people who's incredibly attractive and is smart to boot. Yeah. In other words, one of those people you'd love to hate. While Yui checks out some books (or was she returning a book?), Miaka heads for the vending machine (of course). While over there, she notices a stairway leading to a restricted section. Naturally, she goes right into the room. Yui follows her. There they found an old book called "Universe of the Four Gods."
The book warned them about the implications of reading it. It probably didn't sink in, because they went ahead and turned to the next page. Before they knew it, they were sucked into ancient China, only they had no idea it was ancient China at first. It just looked like some barren desert. A group of bandits proceeded to ambush them, but suddenly a mysterious and hot guy appeared, kicked the bandits' asses, and saved Miaka and Yui. And his name is Tamahome. The first episode gives a glimpse into his personality as well. He's a hardworking guy, but he's also an incredible miser. In fact, the first thing he did after rescuing Miaka and Yui was to ask them for money. Oh yeah, and did I mention he's hot?
And so Fushigi Yuugi unfolds. Yui gets beamed back to the dusty, restricted section of the library while Miaka is stuck in ancient China. That small twist of fate actually set a million things in motion. Konan, the kingdom that Miaka and Yui landed in, made her the priestess of Suzaku, their patron god. As the priestess, she had to look for Suzaku's seishi, or warriors. Only then can she summon the god to protect Konan from an invading kingdom from the east, Kutou.
If you're going to watch Fushigi Yuugi, make sure you have large amounts of time blocked off. I would say a week, unless you can sit in front of your computer or TV for an entire weekend, forsake bathroom breaks, and have someone bring you food on a regular basis. It's one big soap opera with a lot of angst and bishounen. Suzaku's seishi are hot, I tell you. Apparently, Watase thinks so too. You'll find that Ayashi no Ceres' Tooya resembles Tamahome a lot. So does Genbu Kaiden's Rimudo. Which reminds me, Fushigi Yuugi is only the tip of the iceberg. Its main storyline expanded into three OAVs, character novels, and Genbu Kaiden. The three OAVs chronicle what happened after Suzaku was summoned. The character novels are stories about the seishi. And Genbu Kaiden is about Takiko, the first priestess of the "Universe of the Four Gods." So much anime and manga, so little time *sigh*
If Miaka doesn't do it for you, the other characters will. After all, she's surrounded by seven bishounen, each with his own story. Where else can you find a story with a narcissistic emperor, a cross-dresser, a wandering monk with magical powers, a hermit with healing powers, a child prodigy, a hotheaded bandit, and a gorgeous miser? There's plenty of people to root for. Considering those are only Suzaku's seishi to begin with and there's an overarching storyline, Fushigi Yuugi makes for a rich anime. Hell, even the villains have their own tales to tell.
One hallmark of a good anime, I think, would be its ability to draw you into the story. In Fushigi Yuugi's case, the series would grab you by the collar and yank you right in. You have to know what happens next and you have to know it now. Sure, there are some dull moments; I thought the story was a little slow at the very beginning and lagged a little when they went after Suzuno's shentso-pao, but overall it has a well-paced story that makes the audience want to know what happens next. There's always this ominous question: will they summon Suzaku? For die-hard romantics out there, there's also the question of what will happen to Tamahome and Miaka. After all, Tamahome's just a character in a book while Miaka lives in the real world. So overall, this anime is great. Watch it. Now.
Fushigi Yuugi's music have crossed that now-it's-a-TV-jingle boundary. Its opening song, "Itooshii Hito no Tameni" is catchy, but became tiring after 52 episodes. Same goes for its ending song, "Tokimeki no Doukasen." However, the second Oni OAV opening song, "Star," is pretty good. The best Fushigi Yuugi song would be "Chijou no Seija," which is the Eikuden OAV opening song. It's kind of hard to describe, but that song has an ancient-China-warrior feel to it. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of Eikuden itself. Mayo was just too much of a brat.
If I have to grouse about Fushigi Yuugi, though, it would be over two things. First, Miaka and Tamahome kept on having these couple obstacles. Of course, they're no ordinary couple obstacles. It's pretty hard to be ordinary when the guy's a warrior and the girl's a priestess. In fact, they've had so much obstacles that even Tamahome remarked how they seemed to have a neverending game of tag. The whole couple thing is great; that was one of the reasons why I love Fushigi Yuugi so much. I'm one of those people who would vote for "Tamahome and Miaka" if there are any web polls on the most romantic anime couples. However, the creators of Fushigi Yuugi clearly knew that toying with Tamahome and Miaka's relationship brings up the ratings, and they seem to have overdone it. Second, Fushigi Yuugi should have ended with episode 52, the very last show of the regular TV series. But no, there had to be one OAV, then another OAV, and then a third OAV. In print, Fushigi Yuugi released the character novels. Actually, if you think about it, Fushigi Yuugi is still running because Genbu Kaiden is now in the works. All these sequels and follow-ups are just exhausting. And I need my closure! Closure is healthy! Sure, I'd want to hold on to great anime stories after I finished watching all episodes, but Fushigi Yuugi is just a little ridiculous in this regard.
But it's still a great anime. Definitely a title that any shoujo anime fan should have. Actually, it'll be pretty impossible to be a shoujo anime fan without being able to converse knowledgeably about Fushigi Yuugi. Honest.