Fushigi Yûgi has been in and out of publication since 1995. The original series, Fushigi Yûgi: The Mysterious Play, is one I've previously reviewed. There is also another series, Genbu Kaiden, that came out after the original, but not one I have had the chance to get my hands on. Genbu is a prequel to the original series. Byakko Senki is set after Genbu and before the original, but you don’t really have to read any of the others in order to understand this story. This book makes reference to Genbu, but Watase explains all you need to know.
Suzuno is a sweet, ten-year-old child who loves her parents very dearly, growing up in 1920s Tokyo. Her father has a book, The Universe of the Four Gods, that he forbids Suzu from touching. Then, the Kantō earthquake of 1923 strikes and destroys her home. Suzu’s father tells her to open the book in order to save her, and she is transported into the book to the country of Xi-Lang. There she meets Ning-lan, a woman who can turn into a tiger. Later, Ning-Lan and Suzu meet brothers Karm and Kasal, who tell Suzu the legend of the Priestess of Byakko. When Ning-Lan turns on Suzu, Suzu is transported back to Japan, and is immediately beset upon by human traffickers. She is rescued by a boy named Seiji and Dr. Oikawa, a friend of her father’s, but she loses the book in the process. A significant time jump occurs. Suzu is in high school, struggling with dreams and slivers of memories from losing her family to being attacked by a tiger. Seiji joins the military in hopes of establishing a life for himself, and while an injury ends his military aspirations, he asks Dr. Oikawa for Suzu’s hand in marriage.
The entire Fushigi Yûgi universe is an example of Isekai where the main character is transported to another world and has to achieve a goal - in this case, summoning the god Byakku. It’s also a reverse harem - the main girl character will have lots of male suitors desperately in love with her. Based on the way he is illustrated, I suspect that Kasal, despite being much older than her, will become the main love interest in Xi-Lang, and Suzu will have to battle herself to figure out if she wants Seiji or Kasal. Suzu is helpless and innocent throughout the first volume, which is typical of a Watase story. While today's readers might not find as much appeal out of a helpless girl surrounded by strong men, this will appeal to your romance readers who crave drama and difficult choices. Seiji is, as far as this volume shows, a good guy, so the struggle between all the different men, from Xi-Lang or Japan, will be bittersweet. The formula for all three series is identical, so I am interested to see what makes this series different than the original. Watase does mention in a letter in the volume that their struggling health will mean volumes will come out less frequently, so this might further frustrate readers who need to know what's going to happen to Suzu next.
One of the main things that always draws me to Watase series is their art. The Fushigi Yûgi stories take on medieval civilizations like China and India as their inspiration, so the clothing is richly detailed. I am always drawn to the eyes of Watase's characters because they are drawn with such care and beauty. Characters' surroundings are also lush and carefully depicted.
VIZ rates this series for older teen. There is above-waste frontal female nudity and a hint of sexual favors. Watase stories usually have some sex and nudity, but not gratuitously. Any violence to be had will be magical, most likely with very little gore.
Sara's Rating: 9/10
Suitability Level: Grades 10-12
This review was made possible with an advanced reader copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. This graphic novel will be on sale August 4, 2020.
Tags: Rating: 9/10, Suitability: High School, Manga, Isekai, Fantasy, Mythology, Romance
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