As a testament to the addictive power of good drama:
When my aunt visited me for a while at college, she brought some of her latest anime aquisitions, which included episodes 1-12 of Fushigi Yuugi. I have an open mind, and it was early in the evening yet, so we settled down to watch. She'd already checked out the Web for some of the characters' mini-bios, plus several general plot synopses, but I'd never even heard of the series before. It was sort of funny, a standard "girl falls into magical universe"-times-two plot with really good animation and decent dialogue (plus good subbing).
My opinion after the first four eps. could be summed up as "cute".
Having little else to do, we finished off the tapes, which left us at a minor cliffhanger, if I recall. So far, I had only been introduced to a few of the characters and only the basic setting really, and yet I was totally ready to devour the rest of the series as soon as my aunt could get it.
Okay, so I'm just another nut who loves soap-operas and anime, right? Nope. The characters in this series have a real depth to them, and the development of their relationships and histories through the 52 TV-episodes is awesome. I don't mean, "awesome for anime", or "awesome for girls' anime (shojo)"...I mean that as stories go it was really good. Unlike some stories, the second-half doesn't feel like a repetitive lead-in to the climactic scene. Instead, there's a tortuous progression of admittedly depressing scenes of death, doomed love and overall despair...and yet you must keep going to find out how it'll turn out.
There isn't an abundance of good long-term, episodic stories out there, either on American television or among foreign imports. In addition, since fantasy and animation have such negative connotations here, good old-fashioned storytelling is difficult to find...especially outside of print media. The moving image has a lot of great aspects to it and this adaptation of a print series takes advantage of a lot of them. It even has a pretty good US distribution (no commercial distributor as of Summer 1998 -As of Spring 2001, almost everything has been commercially released.). Take the time to get a look at it; it's well worth the effort.
Full kudos to Watase Yuu of Flower Comics (author & publisher of FY manga), and the production staff & powers-that-be in Japan involved in creating, bringing to life and bringing to the anime world a really nice piece of work. And thanks to the fansubbers and distributors who bring it across the "big water" to folks like me. Oh yeah, and thanks to my aunt for picking it up and getting me hooked, too.
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