"Soap Opera." For me, this phrase generally illicits only negative responses. If asked what came to my mind upon hearing the term, the result would probably be something along these lines: poorly acted, intellectually devoid, shamelessly manipulative trash aimed at uneducated housewives with far too much time on their hands. While I generally tend to avoid comparing animes to totally unrelated parts of American pop culture (Cowboy Bebop is like Die Hard plus JAZZ!), in many ways Fushigi Yuugi and your standard soap opera are eerily similar.
Like your average soap opera, Fushigi Yuugi contains a frustratingly manipulative plot. The characters are often made to react in absolutely irrational ways, because if they didnt, there wouldnt be a conflict. Also, constant measures are taken to keep the two main lovers apart, and oftentimes this feels more than a little contrived. Even more annoying is Fushigi Yuugis almost constant dependence on cliched devices to tell its story. Aside from the blatantly obvious magical girl archetype, we are also plagued with a story that has schoolgirls warping to another dimensions, friends torn apart by circumstance, and hair raising DBZ powerups. After a while, the hackneyed storytelling really begins to interfere with the overall plot. Finally, the anime suffers from random and generally distracting fanservice that really goes against the classic love story that the anime is supposedly striving for.
Worse than any of these faults, however, is the outrageously casual way in which the anime deals out death sentences. Starting in the final half of the anime, characters begin to be murdered away in a frustratingly flippant fashion. After their deaths, the anime is barely impacted; the characters are often freely cracking jokes the very episode after someone important has died. As opposed to plucking at my heartstrings, these frivolous fatalities angered me; I could only be jerked around so much before I saw these deaths for what they were: ratings boosters.
Furthermore, Fushigi Yuugi is eerily similar to soap operas in its relatively low-budget music and visuals. The animation, on the other hand, is just barely good enough to not draw attention to itself. Repeated footage, as well as other standard 1995 methods for money saving, is used at will. The character designs are all fairly unappealing (at least for guys such as myself).
The instrumental parts of the soundtrack are irritatingly repetitive, and are only occassionally broken up by bland and vaguely nauseating J-Pop. Voice acting is far from impressive as well.
Also in traditional soap opera fashion, the anime has far too many characters to possibly keep track of. One would think that an anime that was 52 episodes long would have nice character development, but no - almost no time whatsoever is given for characterization of the more minor characters. Many of the supporting characters feel almost like sacrificial lambs, waiting for their moment in the sun when they can be slaughtered in a heartless ploy for more viewership. The villains, as well, needed far more development than they were given. Oftentimes the "character development" that they received was nothing more than a brief description of what their superpowers were.
The only two characters that are worth mentioning by name are Tamahome and Miaka, the two main characters of the show. For what it's worth, they're acceptable, albeit unspectacular, leads, and do a fine job of anchoring the show.
Why, exactly, are so many people here cheerfully labelling Fushigi Yuugi as soap opera, and then giving it positive reviews? What is driving them to actually LIKE an anime that is plagued with so many aggravating faults?
The answer, I think, once again lies in the general nature of soap operas. Fushigi Yuugi, much like the genre of television I am comparing it to, has a distinct charm to be found in its sheer innocence. Sure, the characters are cliched, the story is hackneyed, and the soundtrack is godawful, but its heart is almost certainly in the right place. The two more contemporary animes that resemble this one, The Twelve Kingdoms and Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, undoubtedly surpass Fushigi Yuugi in overall execution, polish and creativity. However, by gaining sophistication, they lose something that Fushigi Yuugi has in spades: guileless appeal. This single innate quality makes the show enjoyable in spite of its undeniably superior successors.
I really liked the story. I was rarely bored, and almost always hooked. I'm pretty sure I finished the entire series in a period of three days. It had an extremely good plot, and was very original. It wasn't a corny shoujo/romance where everything runs smoothly for the two characters in love, and everything ends happily. No, if that's what you're looking for, then I recommend you stop reading this right now and go watch Kimi Ni Todoke or something. It's a very dramatic anime, where the two characters in love face many obstacles. Not only the two characters in love, but friends, comrades, you name it, there's a whole shit load of drama between the characters.
As for the animation...it was made in 1995, what do you expect? I honestly despise old animation, because I am extremely picky about animation. But I somehow got pass that, and finished the series easily. Even if you're like me and hate bad animation, you'll definitely forget how bad the animation is once your hooked.
The sound was fine. I liked the voice acting, though I usually like the Japanese voice acting in comparison to the English dubs. God, I despise English dubs so much, that I can't tell whether or not the Japanese voice acting is bad or not. Anyway, the quality of the sound isn't amazing like it is today obviously, but again, you get pass that while watching all the drama. :)
I fell in love with the characters. I don't know what more I can say. xD They were all different and unique, and kept the story interesting. I know that anyone who watches this anime will probably love them just as much as I did, if not more.
Overall, definitely worth watching. If there was anybody who watched this and didn't like it, I'd be amazed. I recommend this to anybody who likes Action, Romance, Shoujo, and Fantasy.
Story - 8/10
A teenage girl is transported into a strange world and has to save it. Now, the story may be a bit cliché, but in 1995, the year of its production, this was something new. I do think it was a nice storyline, with historical features, romance and fantasy elements. It may be a bit of a soap opera, but I do think they did a great job on that.
Animation - 7/10
Again - the anime is of course outdated. But the animations are usually smooth and nice, sometimes a bit jerky, and the backgrounds are usually undetailed when it's of a landscape. Overall, it was not too bad.
Sound - 8.5/10
The music, for an oldie like this one, was very good. I found myself singing along with the opening and closing songs, and I don't do that too often. The chinese themed background music was also very nice, and added something to the anime. I watched once with the original Japanese voice acting and once with the English dub, and I don't think they did a bad job on both - even though Miakas voice is irritating from time to time.
Characters - 7.2/10
The characters are loveable creatures, even the bad guys have something you like in them. Especially Soi, who saves her beloved Nakago. All the characters change over time, Miaka becomes much more mature, and Tamahome less greedy. The struggle Yui goes through is very realistic, and even though she does some evil things, she proves in the end that she's not that bad. Overall I think they did a great job on the characters.
Overall - 7/10
I really enjoyed watching this series, I enjoyed the parts about the Chinese legends about the four gods.
I don't have much to say about Fushigi Yugi,it has just about the same plot with Inuyasha,but personaly I think Inuyasha was a lot better.I know Inuyasha was made after Fushigi yugi,though.I don't have much to say,if you've seen Inuyasha and liked it,you will probobly like this too.I think everything was really good so that's about all I can say.
I will say this is a very good anime and one of my favorite but i have to say it got carried away with sex and virginity for a while but after that part it was a very good anime you couldn't see every twist and turn but it was predicable at sometimes but it is still and every good anime and manga.