Genbu Kaiden Vol. 1’s Impact & Implications on Fushigi Yuugi

When a prequel comes out years after the original series, how much of an impact can it have? Turns out quite a bit: whether you’re talking about¬†Star Wars or¬†Fushigi Yuugi, prequels like Genbu Kaiden¬†can actually have a significant impact on how people think of the original series.

This is a series of posts tackling the implications of Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden on the world -including the timeline- of the original Fushigi Yuugi manga. This series is broken into parts corresponding to each of the twelve volumes of the Genbu Kaiden manga. It does not cover the Fushigi Yuugi anime or the OAVs in any capacity.

This series will be followed up by another on the impact of the original Fushigi Yuugi series on Genbu Kaiden. How did the events of the original series referencing the Genbu Priestess, Takiko Okuda, play out in her series, which came out years later? That series will be broken down into six parts, covering three volumes at a time (or one volume of the VIZBIG English editions of the manga).

As a note, I use VIZ translations and spellings of names, e.g. Limdo instead of Rimudo, Ohsugi instead of Ousugi, etc. Viz also tends to give names in Chinese, since the stry is set in a version of Ancient China, but for people used to the names from the anime, I include the Japanese names in parentheses beside the first usage (e.g. Tai Yi-Jun [Taiitsu-kun]).

Volume 1

Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden Vol. 1 Cover

Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden opens with an image of a summoning taking place: a young woman on a pedestal is surrounded by men, all kneeling, with their heads in prayer. The particular god that is being summoned is not named; instead, all four seem to be summoned at once, with four images surrounding the woman as the prayer calls on “all the great forces” to descend from the¬†28 constellations.

We see a pristine scroll on a flat surface glow as the prayer is recited; in the next panel, it is worn and flaking. The year is 1923. We are in China.

A man furiously scribbles notes as he listens to priests telling him about the ancient scroll.

From the original Fushigi Yuugi series, we know the man taking notes is probably Einosuke Okuda, translator of the Universe of the Four Gods and the father of the eventual Genbu Priestess, Takiko. But that’s another story.

We then see the two priests discussing letting someone see the scroll and take notes about it. “It has no potency anymore. He’s only a writer from Japan” and “That ceremony won’t happen again. It must¬†never be performed.”

Genbu Kaiden Implication #1: The summoning ceremony took place in the real world.

A priestess stands on a pedestal before four darkened frames with illustrations of Genbu, Byakko, Seiryu, and Suzaku on top. Many priests chant the summoning prayer, while a scroll sits on a table, glowing.

People in ancient China legitimately believed in the four gods. And maybe they believed that a virgin maiden could serve as a sacrifice to one of those four gods doing so would ¬†grant their wishes. Or maybe… the world of “the book” is legitimately a version of our real world, a sort of time-traveling device? If the scroll and the eventual Japanese translation of it (“the book”) are fiction, then how could¬†anyone from “that world” appear in “our world” at all, let alone the gods like Genbu, Seiryu, and Suzaku?

Perhaps the worlds are more intricately linked than we’ve previously been led to believe.

Several pages later, we find out Takiko Okuda is 17 years old. That means she was born in ¬†1906. We also already know she’s from Tokyo, but moved to Iwate prefecture (specifically Morioka) because that’s where her mother is from… and also because her mother is ill with tuberculosis (consumption).

She hates her father “first,” but also “hates” or is afraid of thunder and octopus, respectively.

While her mother hopes to see Einosuke Okuda again soon, Takiko doesn’t want to. But of course, he shows up… right after Takiko has a vision of what readers recognize as the shape of Genbu. Einosuke faints shortly thereafter, and upon awakening, only wants to see his notebook. His primary concern being for his writing infuriates Takiko, but this tells us something else…..

Genbu Kaiden Implication #2: The words of the Universe of the Four Gods do not need to be complete nor understood by the Priestess in order to draw her in.

The notes in Einosuke’s notebook were not the complete text of the Universe of the Four Gods. Even if he had them in his notebook, they wouldn’t be continuous; they would have been interrupted by other observations, such as the ceremony procedure the priests described.

Clockwise from top left: Genbu Priestess Takiko Okuda, Seiryu Priestess Yui Hongo, Suzaku Priestess Miaka Yuuki, and Byakko Priestess Suzuno Ohsugi.

Of course, we have no idea what Einosuke actually wrote, just that it was enough to turn into the translated book we see in the main¬†Fushigi Yuugi series, and it continued having enough “potency” to draw Suzuno, Miaka, and Yui into it.

The fact that Takiko had the vision before we saw the notebook, before Einosuke finished translating anything, let alone bound it into a book implies that whatever he wrote down was powerful enough on its own– it didn’t need to be on a special scroll handed down by Tai Yi-Jun (Taiitsu-kun), it didn’t need to be in Chinese, etc.

Something drew Einosuke to China, to that remote temple where the ancient scroll lay. Something further compelled him to go home right after that and try and write and publish a book based off of his notes. And finally, that something caused Takiko to see Genbu.

From the beginning, she was destined to be the Priestess.

Let’s be real here for a second: on his travels back from China, Einosuke probably had other “virgin maids” nearby. Young girls from China, young girls from Japan. They would just be there, around, because… well, people¬†are. But none of them saw Genbu, none of them got turned into the Priestess somehow, without any interference whatsoever from Einosuke.

Genbu Kaiden Implication #3: The girls who become the Priestesses of the Four Gods are destined.

The Four Gods of Fushigi Yuugi. Clockwise from top left: Suzaku, Seiryu, Genbu, Byakko

In other words, no one else could have been the Genbu Priestess but Takiko. That probably holds true for the others, too.

Later on, Takiko does get sucked into “the book.” That is the translation of the Universe of the Four Gods scroll that Einosuke wrote such copious notes about. His notebook alone wasn’t enough, but it¬†did still have some magical potency, or else Takiko wouldn’t have had a vision of Genbu at all… right?

Takiko arrives in what we later find out is Bei-Jia (Hokkan): a snowy mountaintop with a remote village in the foothills. She wanders amid the trees for a few minutes before discovering a series of strange columns with Genbu carved on them… and a woman chained to one of them to die.

In the notes following this chapter, artist and author Yuu Watase reveals that Takiko probably wore a Western-style sailor uniform for school back in Tokyo, but it hadn’t¬†quite caught on nationwide yet by 1923 (Taisho 12). It was permitted at girls’ high schools in the neighboring prefecture of Akita by then, but wasn’t a nationwide fad until two years later, in 1925.

The notes also indicate that the story takes place “80 years ago.” So from 2004, when¬†Genbu Kaiden was first published, that’s 1924. Subtract a few months because the story probably starts in early summer, and you have 1923.

Some time later, everyone in the household is looking for Takiko, unaware that she’s been sucked into the book. Einosuke has a suspicion and grabs the book from off the ground where Takiko dropped it. He reads the first few pages and discovers that the writing has somehow¬†changed: it specifies Genbu as the god for whom Takiko must gather the “constellations.”

Genbu Kaiden¬†Implication #4: The Universe of the Four Gods book is a spell that acts as a gateway to “that universe,” but it cannot travel to that Universe.

If it could, then there would probably be no need for a scroll from Tai Yu-Jun, and later, no need for the Shentsu-Pao. Theoretically, a Priestess could also open the book again and travel back to her own world at will.

From Watase’s standpoint, it’s more likely that the story would be much more dramatic if the thing that sucked the Priestess in wasn’t available or capable of sending her home. That’d be too easy.

Meanwhile, in the book world, Takiko meets the girl chained on the columns. We will later learn this is “Limdo the Wind Slasher,” and she is not who she appears to be. Limdo saves Takiko from certain death by some weird snow demons but doesn’t seem to care much for Takiko beyond that… until Takiko clonks her on the head with a stick and sends Limdo fainting to the ground. Takiko then catches up and tries to carry Limdo down the mountain, but is exhausted herself….

And then Tai Yi-Jun appears. But not as we have seen her in Fushigi Yuugi –in Genbu Kaiden, s/he appears as a child in a simple smock. It’s hard to say if the child is meant to appear male or female (though Takiko does refer to the child as a “he”), but the idea is simple:

Genbu Kaiden Implication #5: Tai Yi-Jun can appear however s/he damn pleases.

This isn’t really that big of a surprise, considering at the end of¬†Fushigi Yuugi we see Tai Yi-Jun as the Emperor of the Heavens –a handsome man in ornate robes, surrounded by beautiful women (the Nyan Nyan as adults, rather than impish girls with pigtails).

Emperor of the Heavens Tai Yi-Jun (Taiitsu-kun) from the end of the Fushigi Yuugi anime, as a man in ornate orange, red, white, and pink robes, surrounded by aqua-haired Nyan-Nyans as young women in white and pink celestial robes.

But what is interesting about this is that Tai Yi-Jun only appears consistently to people because s/he feels like it. S/he’s under no obligation to, nor some limitation of power. In fact, Tai Yi-Jun gave the four kingdoms in the Universe of the Four Gods their scrolls in the first place. Without him/her, there would be no summoning ceremony at all.

This actually begs some interesting questions:

  • What is Tai Yi-Jun’s relationship to the gods? Are they subservient to him/her, or the other way around? Are they on “equal footing”?
  • Why does Tai Yi-Jun interfere when s/he pleases, and other times elects not to help his/her “preferred” Priestess? Can Tai Yi-Jun not really see all and know all, all at the same time?
  • What is Tai Yi-Jun’s relationship to the original scroll in the real world?

Tai Yi-Jun leads Takiko and Limdo to a village, where Takiko helps Limdo recover from her fever… only to discover that Limdo has the odd “personal quirk” of being able to transform from a woman (who can use wind powers and has a tattoo of the character for “woman” between her breasts) into a man.

Takiko has no idea that Limdo’s “fading tattoo” is actually a character that denotes him/her as a Celestial Warrior, specifically, Uruki.

In previous notes from Yuu Watase, we learn that a Warrior’s powers are tied to their character. If the character can’t or won’t appear, they can’t use their Celestial powers. Other martial arts? Sure. Swords and other weaponry? No problem. The characters are tied to the warrior’s chi; the stronger they are, the bolder and brighter it appears (the color is tied to their¬†god: Genbu is black, Seiryu is blue, and Suzaku is red. Not sure about Byakko– yet). At a certain point, they can begin to control the character’s appearance.

Genbu Kaiden Implication #6: A skilled Celestial Warrior can hide their character and still use their powers.

Takiko sees Tomite's mark on his shoulder for the first time in the Genbu Kaiden manga

I’m pretty sure Nakago did this in the original¬†Fushigi Yuugi¬†series. A character can easily be hidden by clothes. The only characters who had it in a relatively non-hideable place were Nakago and Tamahome, who both had their marks on their foreheads.

When we first meet Chamka (soon to be known as Tomite), he has his character hidden on his shoulder, underneath some weather-appropriate garb. But the fact that he wasn’t doing anything particularly Warrior-ish (he’d actually just gotten hit on the head and trapped Takiko underneath him) indicates he’s not very skilled with his Celestial Powers as of yet– the mark is there whether he wants it to be or not.

Emotions –like rage– can cause the unexpected manifestation of the character and its associated powers. Similarly, if someone is terrified and is thinking only of protecting themselves, their character might “activate” along with their powers and defend them, if possible. This happened when

This happened when Limdo¬†posed as “Taki” with the Qu-Dong (Kutou) army and was there when they raided Tomite’s village. The raid resulted in a grievous injury for Tomite’s mother. Unsurprisingly, this activated Tomite’s powers. He knew he was a Celestial Warrior, but didn’t want to have anything to do with the Priestess, since her coming meant the country was on the “brink of disaster.” Despite the hardscrabble life he lived with his mother, he didn’t want to admit that the entire country was in such dire straits. Tomite immediately blamed Limdo, even though Limdo hadn’t fired the arrows that injured Tomite’s mother, or even said anything to the soldiers that did shoot.

To be continued…

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