Fushigi Yugi: Eikoden Anime Review
Fushigi Yuugi Eikoden
The Mysterious Play: Legend of the Eternal Light
US Release By
4 25-minute episodes
Several years have passed since Miaka and her companions defeated Tenko and fulfilled her role in the story of the Universe of the Four Gods. Since then, Miaka and Tamahome (aka Taka) have settled down, gotten married, and are looking forward to the upcoming birth of their first child. But the story is not quite over yet, as the Universe of the Four Gods has been found by a new owner, a troubled high school student named Mayo Sakaki. Shy, unpopular, and secretly holding a crush on Taka for a long time, Mayo quickly learns the true nature of the book and decides to become the new priestess of Suzaku in hope of gaining new powers and Taka for herself, threatening the stability of both words and somehow transporting Miaka's child into her own body in the process. Now, for the sake of his family and the future of his world, Taka must return to the Universe of the Four Gods to bring back the wayward teenager and correct all the events she has set in motion. But to do so, he'll have to track down the old members of the Suzaku 7, including the dead ones who have been reborn in new bodies, and once again summon the spirit of Suzaku.
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The plot of this final chapter in the Fushigi Yûgi series looks pretty good on paper, but in execution Fushigi Yûgi: Eikoden goes downhill from the start and manages to ruin almost everything that made the prior entries in the franchise so enjoyable. The biggest problem is Mayo, an underdeveloped and completely unsympathetic villain that the series tries to make into another Yui. Also on the list is the heroic mission, which is boring, illogical, and repetitive: find a kid, fight a monster, and listen to Mayo complain when they succeed. Miaka basically sits this one out, which seems kind of odd, but maybe she just had the good sense to call in sick. Adding insult to injury, it re-writes the conclusion to the previous OVA series, which was an appropriate final chapter to the story. At least it's relatively good looking, and we do get to see more of Taka, Tasuki, and Chichiri in action.
It's not that there's nothing redeeming in Eikoden, it's just that it should never have been made--it adds nothing to the story or characters. There is simply no excuse for something this bad in a franchise that had been so good up to this point, and it's especially tragic that this is the final entry.
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File this under "good idea gone horribly wrong." The plot of the final chapter in the Fushigi Yûgi series looks pretty good on paper. It's got an entirely new concept rather than just a cheap rehash of the prior OVAs (i.e. bringing back an old foe), and there's a lot of potential in the notion of someone discovering the book in the same manner as Miaka but instead deciding to use it for their own selfish agenda. With some good characters, sufficient time for development, and the same grand adventure quality that has driven the series up to this point, we could have had a real winner that gave the series a proper conclusion. Sadly, it has none of those things. Fushigi Yûgi: Eikoden goes downhill from the start and manages to ruin almost everything that made the prior entries in the franchise so enjoyable. The final result is something that does a great disservice to the franchise and negates what could have been a perfectly satisfying conclusion at the end of the previous OVA series.
The first major problem is Mayo. Who the heck is Mayo? We are given almost no introduction of her at all--just a bunch of shots of her around the city and one scene where she first notices Tamahome. It later shows her attending Miaka and Taka's wedding, but it doesn't explain what the connection is, whether she's related to them or just a family friend. From all this, I could sort of piece together that she's an angsty, unpopular teenager from a broken home who has a clearly unrealistic crush on an older man already in a committed relationship. That's our main villain for the series, folks! Wow, what an upgrade. From legendary warrior/sorcerers in command of powerful servants and vast armies and who wanted to become gods to an unhappy, sexually frustrated little girl who's mad because she can't get to first base.
To make matters worse, the series later on tries to play her off as a sympathetic villain just like Yui from the TV series, due to her troubled childhood and lack of popularity. Leaving aside how unoriginal that is, it's just flat-out wrong. There is simply no comparison. Yui turned against Miaka after suffering through a horrible trauma that she thought was Miaka's fault, but you could tell the whole time her heart wasn't really in it. It was only through Nakago's constant manipulation and coercion that she stayed on the dark side, and even then it was her insistence that Miaka had to be kept alive that prevented Nakago and his minions from killing her, despite many opportunities.
Mayo, on the other hand, is willing to lie to everyone around her, break up a happy couple, literally steal a child from another woman's womb, and threaten the stability of an entire world all for the sake trying to hook up with a guy that anyone with a functioning brain could tell she has no chance with. There is just no sympathy to be found here, and her problems at home and school are not mitigating factors. Yet everyone is willing to instantly forgive all her prior sins as simple innocent immaturity. That's every bit as lame as it sounds. And just when you thought she couldn't possibly be any worse, it turns out that she's also as useless of a villain as Miaka was of a hero. After going into the book and assuming the role of priestess, most of her actions involve her saying mean things to the emperor and sitting around the Konan palace hoping Taka fails in his mission. Talk about diabolical.
Then there is the issue of Taka's mission, summoning Suzaku. It's the exact same theme as the TV series, which required 52 episodes and the Miaka's constant intervention in the Four Gods Universe. Now it just requires four episodes and doesn't even need Miaka inside the book at all. Yep, that's right, welcome to the world of really, really lazy writing. In addition to having a pathetically unoriginal and illogical premise, Taka's journey is also boring and repetitive. Without any effort at all, he runs into the other survivors of the Suzaku 7, Tasuki and Chichiri, and then sets out to find the rest, who have been reborn as a bunch of bratty kids. Whose idea was this, and was anyone fired over it? Well, it turns out they don't have to put much effort into that either, as they also practically run right into them, no investigation needed. Then they usually have to fight some decent CG animated monster and it's on to the next one. Go find a kid, fight a monster, and listen to Mayo complain when they succeed. That's what you're in for for the entire length of the show. No great adventure, no wide variety of locations, no mystery to solve, and no competent, organized enemies to deal with. Basically none of the things that made the series so much fun in the past.
Another major problem with the show is lack of consistency with the prior entries. As I said before, now summoning Suzaku is absurdly easy and doesn't even require Miaka's presence in the book. In fact, she spends almost the entire series asleep in a hospital bed! Granted, I never liked her much anyway, but she was the central character and it didn't feel right to give her such an insignificant role. It felt like she saw how bad the series was and decided to call in sick.
And did anyone notice that part about "looking forward to the upcoming birth of their first child" in the plot description? Well, that came as quite a shock to me, seeing as that deep, touching, heartwarming ending in the last OVA clearly showed them with a child at the end. That means that previous ending either is cancelled out or actually takes place after the end of this series (though just to make things more confusing, the credits leading up the the ending of the last OVA showed pictures of the dead Suzaku 7 in their new bodies as kids). Either way, it means that wonderful ending with the great music and perfect scenery has absolutely nothing to do with this at all! It's not even a factor. What a ripoff!
Other consistency issues involve time constraints. Characters like Yui and Tetsuya are woefully neglected and seemed to be thrown in just for the sake of being there. There is also a scene where they bring in Mayo's best friend to try to talk some sense into her by using the book as a portal. At which point this normal person off the street just accepts the concept of an alternate world that Mayo has been transported into at face value, without asking any questions at all, let alone showing any skepticism. Again, I assume time constraints were the reason, but that's no excuse for something so absurd.
So is there anything positive at all about this show? Well, yes. The animation is really good for the most part, especially the CG monsters (though I didn't like how they contrasted with the standard animated backgrounds), and I liked the music. The action scenes were particularly well done, showing off Tasuki and Chichiri's magical talents. Also, they did a good job showing how events in one world can effect the other, such as the physical deterioration of the book in the real world causing environmental disasters and plagues for the people in the Four Gods universe.
Most of all, though, I just loved seeing the surviving Suzaku champions back together again. Taka, Tasuki, and Chichiri make a great team in just about any setting, especially without a helpless Miaka to babysit (although they do have to take care of a bunch of annoying kids in her place). They were really what held the series together, and kept it at least at a moderately watchable level. Some characters are also given much more significant roles, such as Tamahome's son Boushin and his wife Hoki. Boushin is just 10 so he doesn't get to do too much, but Hoki now has somewhat of a commanding presence and she becomes instrumental in showing Mayo the error of her ways. Granted, this was done in a ridiculously unbelievable fashion, but at least it gave her something productive to do. I also have to give the final episode credit for throwing in a few plot twists I didn't see coming. It wasn't a good episode overall, but thankfully it broke the cycle of mindless monster-fighting and kid-finding.
But even if the positive bits kept Eikoden from being a total waste of time, I gotta be blunt here: This series should not have been made! It adds absolutely nothing to the franchise, advances no aspect of the story, develops none of the characters any further, and the one new significant character that gets introduced is worthless, detestable, and inappropriately depicted as sympathetic at the same time. It's not like the creators were rushed into production and didn't have time to come up with something better; this was released in 2001, a full three years after the second OVA, which is more time than either of the other sequels had. It's also not like there was nothing worthwhile left to do with the story; the ending of the prior OVA set this one up with a lot of possibilities. Of course, it also wrapped up all the lose ends and gave the series what could have been a satisfactory conclusion. Now it's clear that's what it should have done. There is simply no excuse for something this bad in a franchise that had been so good up to this point, and it's especially tragic that this is the final entry.
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Shares a lot in common with other shows involving school girls getting transported back in time and/or into fantasy worlds, such as Inuyasha and the more serious Fire Tripper.
Notes and Trivia
Eikoden is based on two light novels in a series written after the manga (and anime) were complete, by a different author, Megumi Nishizaki. That probably explains why this is so different from the rest of the franchise. Nishizaki wrote a total of 13 Fushigi Yûgi light novels (with illustrations by original manga creator Yuu Watase); the other eleven are set before the events of the original story.
Unlike the TV series and other two OVA series, Tamahome is not voiced by David Hayter of Metal Gear Solid fame in the English dub. Instead he's played by another veteran anime voice actor, Dave Wittenberg.
US DVD Review
Pioneer's DVD sticks all four episodes on one disc with English and Japanese stereo audio. While the menu is widescreen, the episodes themselves are standard ratio, although the video looks beautiful--exceptionally bright and crisp. Extra features consist of clean versions of the four closing sequences and an art gallery. The disc also includes a 24-page booklet that has the Japanese DVD covers, several interviews with the Japanese cast and staff, and an assortment of other info about the franchise and story.
The DVD was available in both regular and limited edition versions; the limited edition added a clear plastic slipcover to match the fancier versions of the TV and first OVA releases, and also included 10 pencil boards.
A bit of nudity and some mild violence push it into the 13-up range.
Violence: 1 - Pretty tame compared with the TV series and other OVAs.
Nudity: 2 - One bath scene.
Sex/Mature Themes: 1 - Some mature concepts.
Language: 2 - A bit of strong language here and there.