Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden by Yuu Watase
|Book Name:||Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden|
|Publisher(s):||VIZ Media LLC|
|Genre(s):||Fantasy / Romance|
|Release Date:||June 22, 2005|
Are you familiar with manga? If not, maybe it’s time to fill that blank spot. Also called graphic novels or comic books, their roots go way back into Japanese history. In the Land of the Rising Sun, you’ll find it popular with people of all ages. There is a wide range of genres to choose from (e.g. action, fantasy, romance, business, science fiction, comedy, mystery), which means that everyone can find their favourite title, author, or magazine. Because guess what? They get serialized in a vast number of large issues. Once a series has reached a certain number of chapters and proves to be popular, they get published in paperback books called tankoubon.
Manga were originally published in Japan, but during the flow of time, they became famous not only in Asia, but all around the world as well. I firmly believe that manga’s increase in popularity is a consequence of the growth in the anime market, and also of fan translations and scanlation teams. Scanlation teams buy the original Japanese graphic novels, translate them into English, German, Spanish and in many other languages, clean the Japanese text from the pages, paste in their translations, and share them online for other fans to read. Because many titles don’t get licensed by international manga publishers, this is sometimes the easiest way to discover new series.
I must admit that I came upon Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden through this method. At that time, there weren’t any ways to purchase an English or German copy, and my knowledge of the Japanese language was very limited. So I read the released chapters online. Later, Shoujo Beat picked up FYGK, and I bought the first five volumes asap. (I was a bit late to the party, as always.) My point? Scanlations help improve the number of sold copies. Well sometimes they can, but it doesn’t always work that way.
For example, take a title that is being published by an international publisher – if teams decide they want to translate this in the very same language that might have some negative effects on the sales part. Let’s not be naive, and think that every single, more or less devoted, fan will offer money for something they can just download online.
Anyhow, consider my brief update on manga history and scanlation assumptions as a prologue to what I originally intended to write about. Today I want to introduce you to one of the greatest names in the shojo (meant for females) manga industry: Yuu Watase. She is a master of creating bittersweet stories, and even though some of her manga left me depressed for weeks, I harbour a deep love for her works. My first encounter with her happened through the anime adaptation of Fushigi Yuugi (The Mysterious Play).
Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden is the prequel to that classic piece. The story follows Takiko Okuda, a girl, who is considered quite ordinary in her own world, but is a fated priestess in another universe. When her father returns from a yearlong absence due to his work, Takiko is enraged. Her mother is closer to death than ever, and she cannot understand her father’s devotion to an ancient scroll about The Universe of the Four Gods instead of caring about his family. The tricky trait of this work lies within the fact, that if any maiden were to read it, she could become the heroine mentioned in the scroll, forced to carry out her duties…in a different world. In her fury and despair, she tries to rip apart her father’s nearly completed translation, but gets pulled inside the book instead.
There she soon realizes that she is in the country of Bei-jia, the place she must save. But how? Apparently, her quest as the Priestess of Genbu includes finding the seven Celestial Warriors, who will help her with this task. Unfortunately, both the priestess and her future companions are seen as ill omens, and many wish to see them dead. According to the legend, the priestess will appear, when the country is on the verge of collapse – so she is a sign of upcoming disaster. Her only hope is to indeed discover the identities of the Celestial Warriors, who all possess unique abilities, and thus are capable of protecting her and the country against its enemies. This turns out to be another complicated assignment, as the warriors themselves can’t really accept the fact that they have powers, because they either fear, loathe, or constantly try to run away from them.
Just like in Fushigi Yuugi, the priestess must summon the God of “her” country, in this case Genbu, who will present her with the power to grant wishes. Yet, there is always a catch in deals like this, no matter how pure they seem. Tragic twists will happen, because magic always comes with a price. Naturally, you can’t have a shoujo manga without romance, which blooms pretty slowly in FYGK, and if you’ve seen or read the sequel, you might know some extra information about how it turns out.
The art is gorgeous and amazingly detailed. Yuu Watase’s style has clearly improved since her last Mysterious Play, though some character designs might come off as rather familiar from her previous manga releases. What I absolutely love is how she depicts emotions, whether it’s love, anger, hate or something comical. And while I’m talking about things I adore about FYGK, let me add that the author’s notes are really fun and interesting! I generally love things that help me connect with the person behind the story, and these sure did the job. Yuu Watase also mentions the game and drama CDs based on the manga, along with other FY-related merchandise, so these notes are definitely worth reading, if you enjoy getting some more insight.
Whether you’re old or new to manga, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden has something to offer for you. Adventure, action, romance, humour, drama and fantasy all build an element of the story, so if you don’t mind bittersweet reads, I highly doubt you’d be disappointed with it.