Mania Grade: A
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- Audio Rating: A
- Video Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: C+
- Menus Rating: A+
- Extras Rating: N/A
- Age Rating: 12 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
- MSRP: 199.98
- Running time: 650
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Fushigi Yugi - The Mysterious Play
Fushigi Yugi Suzaku Box Set
By Steve Brandon
February 16, 2002
Release Date: November 26, 1999
This is the story of a young man, who wrote a review after he came to possess the four disks of the box set of Suzaku, and the first twenty-six episodes of the series Fushigi Yûgi were bestowed unto him.
The story itself is a review. The one who reads it through will be given the knowledge as to whether or not the box set is worth the two hundred fricking American dollars that the notorious group of bandits known as the "Corporation of Pioneers" decreed to be the suggested retail price.
Because... the story begins and becomes real... the moment that the reader uses the mouse to position the cursor over the "scroll down" arrow of the reader's Internet browser and clicks the left button.
The young man lived in the small city of Pincourt, a residential community located on an island in a great river just southwest of a larger island on which is situated a much, much larger city; the second largest city in the country of the north, though the city is several times smaller than the largest city in the great republic to the south. While the young man spoke the language of the Angles, the global Linga Franca of his day, as his mother tongue (he had actually been born in the land of the Angles), the majority of the people in this region of the continent spoke a different tongue entirely. The fact that he had some difficulty in speaking the tongue of the Franks (though he is now taking a fairly intensive course at university) resulted in his lack of success at finding work. He liked to fill his time by watching animated DVDs from the Land of Rising Sun, a strange country far, far to the east and then writing reviews of them, most of which were several thousand words too long, which were then posted on a popular Website. As an owner of a player of the disks of Lasers, he had been a reluctant convert to the powers of DVD, but in the year since he had acquired a player of DVDs, had become one of the most important Reviewers of Alternate Angles on the Website for which he frequently submitted reviews.
The Reviewer of Alternate Angles had become aware of the series Fushigi Yûgi through watching it at a club called Anime Central. (This club is actually at a different university from the one that he attends, but he had been going to this club for several years so he saw no reason to change allegiances.) This series is based on the popular manga by Yu Watase from the Land of the Rising Sun. A version of the manga translated to the tongue of the Angles has been serialized in the publication Animerica Extra for the past year or so, but the Reviewer of Alternate Angles had the advantage of being able to read it in the language of the Franks (published by Tonkam, available from the merchant Renaud-Bray, which the Reviewer of Alternate Angles liked to stress that he has never worked for, nor has he ever received any commissions from on-line sales. He only gave the Website in his reviews so that he wouldn't be flooded with e-mails asking him where to order the manga in the language of the Franks.), in which over 18 volumes are currently available. (The Reviewer of the Alternate Angles has actually also read two volumes of the manga in the language of the people of the Land of the Rising Sun. He found it easier than most untranslated manga because there is furigana written next to the kanji.)
While the Reviewer of the Alternate Angles had been looking forward to the animated version's eventual release from the "Corporation of Pioneers", he wasn't exactly thrilled that the only way to buy the series on DVD was as a 26-episode box set. He was able to justify the purchase of this particular box set as a "Christmas Present", but the Reviewer of Alternate Angles wished to make known to the "Corporation of Pioneers" that he wouldn't necessarily buy another 26-episode box set from them, even if it was something he greatly desired, like Magical Project S. He hoped that in the future, should the "Corporation of Pioneers" come out with another such box set, that they would also sell the individual component disks separately for those who would prefer (or quite simply cannot) not to spend quite so much money on one single installment of a series. There is actually another expertly written article on this very subject available elsewhere, so there is no need to go into great detail here. However, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles had a parable that he liked to tell to assembled masses of children.
"Two people walk into a branch of H.M.V., or whatever bricks-and-mortar retail chain from which you buy anime on DVD that you have in the United States instead of H.M.V.. Sam Goody's or Suncoast, I guess. They are moderate anime fans of similar means, they go to their school's anime club on occasion and they've both read some of Fushigi Yûgi in Animerica Extra. They both spy the Fushigi Yûgi box set on the shelf in the "Japanimation" section. One looks at the back of the box, notices that it is 650 minutes long and says "Wow, what a bargain!" He buys it. The other notices that it costs $180 ($20 off S.R.P.), thinks to himself "Man, that's just too much!", puts it back on the shelf and buys a different disk, preferably something from a different company (i.e. Utena). The moral is that expensive box sets please some fans, but not every fan."
It was January. The Reviewer of Alternate Angles was beginning to tire of waiting for the Fushigi Yûgi box set to arrive. He assumed that it was held up at the border because of the mass of mail around Christmas, but he didn't expect that it would be quite so long after Christmas before he actually got his hands on it. (Later, when he begun to write down his thoughts, he would wonder whether to call "Christmas" something else in his most utterly pretentious review yet, but then he recalled that he in fact used the word "Christmas" in the previous paragraph, so there was no point.) While he hated paying the G.S.T., the P.S.T. and the $5 "handling" fee imposed by his country's postal service, he secretly hoped that the mysterious organization known only as "Canada Customs" had in fact opened the package. He wanted the satisfaction of knowing that they sat through all 650 minutes of the box set just to make sure that he was not importing child pornography. The package arrived in Pincourt on January 12th. While he did have to pay everything, and while the package had in fact been opened by Canada Customs, the plastic wrapper around the box set was undisturbed. He surmised that they had probably consulted with la Régie du cinéma de Québec and found out that Fushigi Yûgi was in fact perfectly legal and G-rated. "Canada Customs is no fun" the Reviewer of Alternate Angles thought to himself. The postmark on the box was December 17th. "This is officially the longest that I've ever waited for a DVD to arrive" he added.
The first thing that he noticed about the box is that it is very tasteful and attractive, with a gold Suzaku on a red background. He assumed that the "Corporation of Pioneers" tried to make this look like an old book. He knew that some of the other Reviewers of Alternate Angles had chastised the "Corporation of Pioneers" for making another case out of cardboard instead of using the sturdy plastic cases of "Amaray", but his Tenchi Muyo Ultimate Edition box set was still holding together quite nicely. Unfortunately, two of the four disks were loose inside the case. "Why don't they do away with cases altogether and just send the disks to you in a paper bag?" he thought. The thing he thought was especially neat about the case is that the inside of the case is made using clear plastic. When he removed each of the disks, he saw images of the Four Gods of the series. But something bothered him about the box. He couldn't quite put his finger on it. He took it to pre-calculus class the next day (for reasons unknown), and on the bus ride home, it finally hit him. "I know what's wrong!" he thought. "What is it?" he replied to his own thought. "Exactly!" he answered. "Exactly what?" he asked back. He explained (to himself): "It's so obvious, I don't know how Pioneer could have overlooked this. Anime fans like myself know exactly what Fushigi Yûgi is. However, for someone who has never heard of either the manga or anime, what are they supposed to think of this box? THERE ISN'T EVEN ONE IMAGE FROM THE SERIES ANYWHERE ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE CASE! There's nothing to suggest that what you're buying is even anime, unless the store from which you're buying the set helpfully put it in the "Japanimation" section! The text, from the opening of the first episode, is lovely and poetic, but it really doesn't tell you much about the content. What if people see the Chinese characters on the back and think that this is some type of live action fantasy film, like Chinese Ghost Story (the original Chinese Ghost Story I mean)? The Tenchi Muyo set was also tastefully packaged, but at least the packaging of that set made no bones about the fact that it's anime. I'm no Madison Avenue advertising executive, but isn't one of the purposes of packaging to sell what's inside? I expected them to have a hard enough time selling a $200 S.R.P. set to the mainstream public as it is, but by not telling anyone what they're selling, they're pretty much dooming this set to be bought by no one, save for the hard-core big-money Otaku. W.T.F.?" (The exact etymology of the acronym "W.T.F." is unclear, but the best guess is that it stands for "What're They Finking?") Normally, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles ascribed the state of being totally clueless about something solely to the legendarily slow-witted denizens of the small California city of Rio Linda, but, in this instance, he felt that the packaging would confound even the brightest Rhodes scholar as to what the series is about.
Next, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles decided to turn his attention to the content of the disks themselves. He found the menus to be simple and clean. For the most part, he only cared about the program content itself; he wasn't one who particularly needed a whole lot of bells and whistles. "Take a TV series and make it look good on DVD, that's all they need to do" was his motto (which he partially cribbed from the one known as Shidoshi X of Die-Hard GameFan Magazine). The chapter selection only gave the opening, part A, part B, closing and next episode preview for each episode. Tenchi in Tokyo featured many more chapter stops per episode, but each Fushigi Yûgi disk contained twice the amount of episodes as the average Tenchi in Tokyo episode. The "appendixes" on each disk have cultural information (which the Reviewer of the Alternate Angles found very reminiscent of AnimEigo's liner notes) and, on disk four, interviews with Yu Watase and some of the other staff. The Reviewer of Alternate Angles had a hunch, about the interview with Yu Watase so he dug up an old copy of Animerica (Vol. 6, #1), which featured a lengthy interview with Ms. Watase. But the two interviews are not similar to one another. He was hoping that the promised interviews would be video, but the "Corporation of Pioneers" had to license this particular title from outside sources, so he guessed that it might not be quite so easy for them to get their hands on video interviews for which they didn't already own the rights. One problem he did have with the appendixes was that the font used is black, with a yellow outline (the opposite colour arrangement from the regular subtitles). The Reviewer of Alternate Angles was myopic; he didn't have severe vision problems, but there's a good reason that he will never be an airline pilot, which is what he'd be in an ideal world. The appendix font combined with the coloured backgrounds made the appendixes somewhat difficult to read. (The Reviewer of Alternate Angles also had the same problem with many Websites that try to look all high-tech and impressive, but they're impossible to read. The Reviewer of Alternate Angles preferred Websites with a simple utilitarian look, such as the Drudge Report or Anime on DVD, where they use simple black text on a white background.) The Tenchi Encyclopedia 3.0 used black text on a white background, so the Reviewer of Alternate Angles wondered why they just didn't do the same here.
Using his astonishing powers of divination, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles determined that some people have reported that the third disk wouldn't play on their players. The Reviewer of Alternate Angles devised a cunning test: he put the third disk in his player of DVDs known as the SD-2107 of Toshiba, and selected several chapters at random. At this point, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles has found nothing unusual to report, but that may change as the story progresses.
The Reviewer of Alternate Angles then started to watch the show from the beginning. The fact that the opening song had hard subtitles didn't cause him the same level of vexation as it did to some of the others. He understood their concerns: they want to turn all subtitles off and watch it exactly as it originally aired in the Land of the Rising Sun. But, the thing was, it wasn't quite the same as the way that it originally aired: the opening credits and the title screen were in the language of the Angles. The thing he found curious was that, while the opening credits were translated into the language of the Angles, the closing credits were intact, down to the kanji subtitles.
The quality of the video was about as good as the "Corporation of Pioneers" could make it look on DVD. He hoped that others would realize that this is a shoujo series and that if they're expecting the same gorgeous level of animation found in the best television series like Cowboy Be-Bop or Lain, then they should look elsewhere. The animation and character designs reminded the Reviewer of Alternate Angles especially of the series Marmalade Boy, although it's a bit more fluid, especially when the characters use powers. In fact, when he originally saw Fushigi Yûgi at the club known as Anime Central, he thought of this series as "Marmalade Boy with powers set in ancient China". (He actually adored Marmalade Boy, which, in terms of the friendships and relationships between the characters, he found superior even to Kimagure Orange Road. However, he admitted that the chances of Marmalade Boy ever seeing a domestic release in his continent are about as likely as the chances of the Reviewer of Alternate Angles marrying Ayukawa Madoka.) But, unlike Marmalade Boy, there is enough action to interest even those fans whose tastes run more along the lines of Fist of the North Star. But he would get to the story much later. He found that the animation is still much better than any series currently on television in his continent (except for those shows on television that were also imports from the Land of the Rising Sun). The subtitles used were the same font as those that the "Corporation of Pioneers" had used since Tenchi Forever; a font that pleased him as they were now almost indistinguishable from those used on subtitled VHS.
He found the music on the show lovely, particularly the opening theme, performed Akemi Sato. In fact, he strongly encouraged anyone who likes the music on the show to purchase a CD (Fushigi Yûgi Original Soundtrack, Apollon APCM-5064, ¥3 000) which contains most of the major songs and background music used in the television series (but not the OVAs). He considered this CD to be a vital part of anyone's CD soundtrack collection. One interesting point about the music is that the instrumental part to "Tokimeki no Doukasen", the closing song, is actually LONGER on the edited TV version that the unedited single version (both are included on the disk). In the TV version, the vocals don't cut in for 53 seconds, while in the single version, the vocals start at 34 seconds. The Reviewer of Alternate Angles loved including this type of petty trivia in his reviews, much to the annoyance of some of his readers.
Early on in his viewing of the disks, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles could tell that the dubbing, while it wasn't odious, wasn't nearly as good as some of the "Corporation of Pioneers"' best titles. He compared it to the dubbing found on some TV shows like Digimon or in many PlayStation games. Miaka sounded much too young for the character. He wondered why the "Corporation of Pioneers" didn't just use the Tenchi cast (his gold standard for dubbing casts) for every title, but he wagered that, when they weren't dubbing Tenchi, they were too busy providing incidental character voices for Disney productions like Mulan and Toy Story 2. But, at this point, he had only watched a few episodes. His opinion may change as the story progresses.
Chris, the Master of the Page (and the Chief of all Reviewers), had proceeded with his review in installments, and the Reviewer of Alternate Angles of this story decided to do the same. This story will magically be updated as the Reviewer of Alternate Angles proceeds with his viewing. The Reviewer of Alternate Angles hoped that his story would be updated by next week, but other projects might compete for his time. He was expecting the eighth, and final, disk of Tenchi in Tokyo to arrive imminently, and he had also been preparing a very special surprise, completely unlike anything he'd ever posted before. Plus, he wrote for his University's weekly chronicle, the Concordian, and he had the constant menace of pre-calculus homework always present. In the next installment, the Reviewer of Alternate Angles will concentrate more on the story, but Haters of Spoilers need not worry. Fushigi Yûgi is a serialized series with a continuing storyline, which meant that the Reviewer of Alternate Angles found it not conducive to the same sort of episode by episode treatment that he gave episodic series like Tenchi in Tokyo. Be sure to join us for the next installment of The Universe of the Four Disks!
Toshiba SD-2107 DVD player, 27-inch Sony Trinitron KV-27S40 television using the set's internal speakers, standard red/white/yellow A/V cables ("Heavy Duty" "Gold", from Radio Shack).