Reviewby Casey Brienza,
Fushigi Yûgi Genbu Kaiden
Uruki is reunited with Takiko after his aborted rampage, and the two, along with the rest of their companions, take refuge in a secret village buried deep within the magical Nassal Forest. No one with malicious intent can enter, so the Priestess of Genbu and her loyal Celestial Warriors at last have a chance to take stock, lick their wounds…and grieve for the fallen. Uruki in particular is taking Soren's death badly, but a beautiful funeral ceremony eases the turmoil in his soul. Meanwhile, Takiko has sets up camp on the edge of the forest in the hopes that Hagus will eventually join them. But then the Celestial Warriors coldly inform her that she is no longer necessary. Although she is devastated by their change of heart, it's clear that there is something they're not telling her. What did Uruki learn from Tai Yi-Jun that has gotten them running scared?
The Fushigi Yûgi brand is still going strong a full fifteen years after Yuu Watase first conceived of a Japanese girl who gets transported via mysterious, vintage tome, into another world—and it is, if anything, only getting more polished and pleasurable with age with the ongoing serialization of Fushigi Yûgi Genbu Kaiden. Takiko, for example, is a delightful heroine, burdened by none of the infamous irritations that made Miaka a legend among infuriating leads. And the manga itself is a well-balanced mix of fantasy, adventure, intrigue, friendship, and romance. Volume eight is another strong installment to the series, one that begins that slow, inevitable circle back to those aspects of the now classic mythos that fans already know.
The book begins with Takiko's arrival in Nassal Forest and a beyond belief tree town which looks incongruously like it was lifted from Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films. Uruki, still grieving over Soren's untimely death at the hands of their enemies, has seen better days, and Takiko is getting anxious about how well he seems to be getting on with one of the local girls. Opportunities for jealousy, anyone? Local girl, whose name is Filka, also helps put Uruki's troubles to rest with a beautifully scripted honorary funeral for Soren. But of course, the funeral was secretly Takiko's idea.
Takiko, for her part, has taken up the challenge of winning over the last Celestial Warrior. Or, rather, one half of the last Celestial Warrior. Hagus, though, is not easily persuaded, though he seems to be struggling with a certain level of ambivalence, particularly given that Takiko has promised to do what he himself cannot—to free his twin brother Teg from the Emperor's clutches. (With Teg, who can nullify the powers of the other Celestial Warriors with his song, none of them can get close.) This volume also features a bit of Hagus and Teg's back story, told by various members of their former clan, who have, along with many others, taken refuge in Nassal Forest. The twins were, needless to say, adorable as children.
Unfortunately, her recruiting efforts are temporarily aborted by sudden onset of illness (foreshadowing alert!), and she has to abandon her stakeout on the edge of the Forest. But when she returns to the rest of her companions, she discovers, to her utter horror and dismay, that they do not appear to be interested in summoning Genbu—or in her—anymore. Uruki has apparently learned something terrible from Tai Yi-Jun that has led them all to decide that they ought to be as mean to her as possible and send her home instead. One cannot help but wonder why they could not have just been frank with her, but of course that would have eliminated the opportunity for drawn out narrative tension. Cue the angst and dramatic suspense as volume eight comes to a close.
Watase's artwork has matured with age; her lines are finer and more filigreed than they used to be fifteen years ago. Yet, stylistically speaking, the pages of Fushigi Yûgi Genbu Kaiden still manage to harmonize beautifully with those of the original Fushigi Yûgi. She has clearly taken considerable care to make sure that everything is consistent. And on its own terms, naturally, the manga is a visual treat. And skilled, asymmetrical shoujo layouts are just the beginning: Watase takes tremendous pleasure in every aspect of her world; costume designs are exquisite and intricate, backgrounds are detailed and transporting in their pseudo-historical, fantastic flair, and all of the guys are sweet-faced bishounen.
Of course, anyone who has read the original Fushigi Yûgi series in its entirety knows what is ultimately in store for Takiko, Uruki, and the rest. For those who have not, well, suffice it to say that this is not a series for those who have no stomach for anything less than a perfect, picturesque happy ending. However, abandoning this series simply on the basis of how it will someday conclude would be a tragedy in itself. Yuu Watase is one of the biggest names in contemporary manga creation, and Fushigi Yûgi Genbu Kaiden provides ample evidence in support of her superstar status.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Entertaining story, gorgeous art, and memorable characters. Something, in short, for everyone.
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