Read this anime novice's thoughts on other shows here...
You may know me as Anime Vice’s resident anime novice - - a viewer who vehemently resisted anime for years, right? Well, what you don’t know - - what most of my anime-watching friends never knew, either - - is that I fell madly in love with an anime series when I was 13-years-old.
At thirteen, I was in the throes of your typical teenage identity crisis. After being enrolled in an all girls’ Catholic school in Hollywood and bullied by its pristine, holier-than-thou mean girls, I slid into the common angsty “punk” stage. But then, there was still the geek in me who went to theater camp every summer with my partner-in-crime, Siena. She’s a brilliant fellow nerd who was, and is still, very into anime.
One summer Vicky, a girl from New York, joined our theater camp troupe, and she brought the entire series of FUSHIGI YUGI on VHS with her. Even as a dumb teen, I resisted the idea of anime (I associated it with shows my younger stepbrother watched, like POKEMON, or YU-GI-OH), but when I finally acquiesced to watching the first episode... I was utterly and completely hooked.
FUSHIGI YUGI stars Miaka, a slightly obnoxious, lovably-dim young girl and her friend Yui, who are sucked into ancient China via an ancient book, “The Universe of the Four Gods.” Through a series of misadventures, the two friends become warring priestesses in another world who are destined to fight to the death!
Miaka is the show’s protagonist for the better half of the show, and she meets a handful of warriors that fight on her side - - the side of Suzaku. Over the course of 52 episodes, Miaka transforms from dopey schoolgirl to fierce Priestess of Suzaku; and she becomes a grown woman along the way, to boot.
The plot was appealing enough on its own, but what really drew 13-year-old Rachel in was, of course, the love triangle (or was it a love quadrant? A love rhombus?). Miaka is torn between two of the warriors of Suzaku; Tamahome, a spitfire beefcake with a tragic family story, and Hotori, the very pretty, zen-like Prince. In case that wasn’t dramatic enough, Yui is also in love with Tamahome, and Noriko, another Suzaku warrior, is in love with the Prince. (Noriko also happens to be a very striking drag queen)
For two girls who were also trying to write a graphic novel about a drag queen superhero, Siena and I were instantly taken with the show. We’d spend nights at Vicky’s dad’s condo in West Hollywood, sprawled out on the floor, arguing over who was the hottest: Tamahome, Hotori, or Tamahome. By the time we reached the end of the series, we were pretty much obsessed.
Somehow, after that summer ended, my foray into anime stayed within the realm of FUSHIGI YUGI. Even though I still have the silly opening theme song on my iPod, I kept my love affair with anime a secret. Right before I started writing for Anime Vice, I decided to go back and re-watch the entire series from start to finish.
I’m not sure why… I think my strange self-imposed ban on anime was finally lifting, and I was curious to see how the show would hold up. Unsurprisingly, 25-year-old me has slightly different opinions on love, story and character development than 13-year-old me.
The show is still great, but I found that I didn’t care at all about Miaka’s drama, anymore.
Now, it's all about Yui. She's a tragic heroine in a sense; she becomes Miaka’s nemesis through a series of misunderstandings and manipulations, she’s tortured and raped, lied to and abandoned. Her character arc as the Priestess of Seiryuu is so much more interesting than Miaka’s incessant whining. Like Emma, Miaka is one of those leading ladies I just don’t get. Why is everyone fighting over her?
Even though the appeal of this particular love triangle has dissipated, my love for FUSHIGI YUGI has not. 52 episodes is a big commitment, and every warrior and villain gets their own individual, tragic arc. Thankfully, it all leads to a satisfying climactic conclusion.
So, dear readers, now you know. This “novice” had a secret tryst with anime long before she started this gig. I have FUSHIGI YUGI, Miaka, and teenage true love fantasies to thank for my new open mind. Now that I've done some sharing.... it's your turn. What was your first experience with the world of anime? Sound off in the comments section below.
Rachel Heine is an anime novice, film buff and food blogger based in Los Angeles. She writes and edits for arts & culture online magazine, Buzzine, and runs her own personal blog at PopandSizzle. Follow her Twitter: @RachelHeine