Reviewby Casey Brienza, Oct 1st 2009
Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden
Believing it to be for her own good, the Genbu Celestial Warriors lie to Takiko, telling her that her services as Priestess are no longer necessary and that they will save Bêi-Jîa themselves, and send her back to her own world. Now home again with her father, she becomes reacquainted with the handsome medical student that she had once fancied and learns that he fancies her back. She accepts his marriage proposal, in spite of herself, but even the promise of wedding bells cannot hide her deteriorating condition. The blood she coughs up leaves no doubt—she has contracted tuberculosis from her mother, and though her loved ones try to maintain a brave front, Takiko knows that her days are numbered. How can she make the best of the time she has left? The answer lies within The Universe of the Four Gods…
It's darned hard to decide: Is it better to read Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden without having previously read the original eighteen volume Fushigi Yugi? Or is experiencing Takiko's adventures as an ongoing publication in the 21st century enriched by having enjoyed Miaka's in the 20th? After all, if you have read the original Fushigi Yugi, you know what ultimately happens to the Priestess of Genbu and her Celestial Warriors—for some, this may well spoil the fun. On the other hand…is this spinoff series of a longstanding shoujo franchise truly as captivating as the original?
My answer to the latter question is, unequivocally, yes. Mangaka Yuu Watase has honed her craft over the years, and with experience comes creative maturity. There is a surety to the Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden series that is absent from her earlier works. Of course, some of that confidence comes from the fact that the end has already been determined, but there is more to it than just that. In this manga, you see a storyteller who knows exactly what she is doing from every angle. Panel layouts are handsome, balanced, and well-considered, while the storyline moves at a deliberate, carefully rationed pace. Volume nine represents a major turning point for the protagonist and is a poignant pause to develop the characters and their relationships before one last sprint to the finish line.
A good chunk of this volume takes place in the “real” world. Coming of age fantasy tales that take place in two different worlds often have an interlude like this—once last chance to choose between normalcy and fantasy, between the comforts of the familiar and the uncertainties of the unknown. In the case of a story like this one, it might be taken as a metaphor for growing up. Sure enough, Takiko gets to return to her father, and he offers to burn the book for her. She even gets a proposal of marriage from the object of her childhood crush, Dr. Oikawa. An attentive father and an equally attentive, handsome husband, it's everything that Takiko ever wanted prior to her adventures in Bêi-Jîa.
But now, after meeting Uruki, she wants more. Watase is of the opinion that it is not possible for a woman to truly love two men at once, and true to form here, Takiko tells Dr. Oikawa that she has fallen for another. Even that realization, though, may not have been enough to send her back into the pages of The Universe of the Four Gods, but she quickly learns from the selfsame Dr. Oikawa that she has contracted tuberculosis. She is on borrowed time, and what times she has left she wants to spend with Uruki. Needless to say, that particular wish is granted…much to the pleasure, I am... certain, to the romantically inclined.
All in all, it's a nice bit of characterization. Sure, Takiko might be jumping headlong back into a book whose pages cannot be burned, but she is doing it with her eyes wide open, in the knowledge that she is returning to a war torn land to die. Given a choice between meeting her end on her back or on her feet beside the man she loves more than anything else in the world, she chooses the latter. It's an admirable choice that even older readers should be able to respect her for, and this is in marked contrast to the whiny, headstrong, and often foolish Miaka of the original Fushigi Yugi. That all of the Celestial Warriors love her so dearly does not seem quite as much of a stretch. Takiko is a character who actually deserves their regard.
As always, Watase delivers this affective interlude with elegant illustration. Since most of the volume is about developing the characters and laying the ground for the series' climatic conclusion, there really is not much, visually speaking, that is above the ordinary run of the mill for Fushigi Yûgi: Genbu Kaiden The artwork delivers the story but does not overwhelm it—and this is exactly how it should be. Reading at the best of times is like being transported to another world, and in that this manga succeeds spectacularly. And although the inevitable end is undeniably on the horizon, you will not ever want to leave Genbu's land.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Affective and effective character-focused volume.
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