Saturday, December 21, 2013

Manga Review: Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden (volumes one through ten)

So, many years ago (I almost want to say this was back in the OneManga days) on a whim I decided to try out this series even though I wasn't that big a fan of Yuu Watase's other series. I liked Alice 19th but I'll admit that series was total fluff for me, tried the original Fushigi Yuugi, didn't like it, and was a bit confused by the tone/story Ceres Celestial Legend was telling (having read about how that series ends, yep not one for me). But somehow this one worked better for me, it was just my kind of fluff in an art style I liked and I went through everything I could find pretty quickly. So when I spotted the first nine volumes at my local library I checked them out and discovered that very ironically they didn't even cover up to where my scanlations had ended, thankfully volume 10 was already on order and that did progress farther but I couldn't help and laugh, it's actually a pretty good example of why trying to keep up with current manga releases using only libraries is nigh-impossible (as of writing Viz has put out volume 11 as well and the final volume is due out in English this spring). But regardless I had it all and really was curious if I would still enjoy this fluff years later or not, the fact alone that I checked it out should give you a good idea of what I expected my answer to be.

Fushigi Yugi: Genbu Kaiden (volumes one through ten) by Yuu Watase

Summary: The year is 1923 and Takiko is adjusting to life in a new town after she and her mother move away from Tokyo to help her mother's tuberculosis. They both know the end is near and Takiko is furious that her father is still on his trip to god knows where and not with them. And when he finally reappears in their life he's a changed man, possessed by a fervor to finish translating the ancient Chinese text he was researching, The Universe of the Four Gods. The story itself is surrounded by stories and when Takiko is accidentally sucked into the book her father is horrified to realize that she is now the main character in the story who will team up with other super-powered people to summon an ancient god and that the path to get there is filled with danger. 

The Good: Yup, this is still my kind of fluff and more or less the closest I ever get to having a "guilty pleasure." I like the art and Takiko is a confident and strong-willed main character and actually does use her naginata skills more than just once in the first chapter (as opposed to the "look they have a weapon and used it once so they're a Strong Female Character!" trope, obviously she doesn't compare to all the super-powered people around her but she does use what skills she has). The pacing flows pretty well, Watase knows to give the character's a breather between big fights/revelations, they never feel too long or like the story is just dragging it's feet, and the story manages to flesh out all of the main characters just enough to make them sympathetic and distinct. It's not a super deep read and while I can't call it great I can easily say I enjoyed it and that it's certainly not terrible.

The Bad: Not all tropes are bad, on one level they're just short hand terms to describe common plot occurrences. However, common plot occurrences are just that, ordinary and predictable and this story is rather trope-y. None of the characters are super deeply fleshed out and often, especially earlier on, fall into the "he's the hot headed one and he's the calm, silent one" archetypes and Takiko is also really fixated on the fact that her father had wished for a son, not a daughter, early on in the story which gets tedious. This isn't a story with a super deep story either, Takiko has to gather the seven celestial warriors to summon Genbu and that's what they do, obviously they run into trouble along the way but it never deviates that far from the basic plot (although I did like the side-plot of Takiko and her father rather well and thought it fit in well with the rest of the story).

The Art: Part of the reason I consider this "my kind of fluff" is because I really like how the story works, it's rounded, soft, detailed shojo where all of the characters look great even when they're in the middle of an energetic fight scene. It's funny because I recall not liking how some of Watase's other works looked (like the original Fushigi Yugi and Ceres) but when I looked at them again for this review the art didn't actually look that different (well, aside from the male characters having those super long cheekbones that every male shojo character in the 90s had). The characters are distinctive enough and Watase designs some really cute costumes for everyone, I have to admit that even I have started eyeing a few of the characters going "yeah, that would be a fun cosplay....."

So obviously I intend to read the last two volumes (if I can I'll review both at once so don't expect anything before April or May) and I suspect I'll probably end up buying this series as well. While not the best thing ever it is just the kind of thing that I like to relax and reread every now and then. It is also available on Viz Manga's website and they have a preview of the first chapter for those who are curious about checking it out too, no account required to see it.