"This is the story of a girl who gathered the Seven Guardians of Suzaku. She obtained omnipotent power and made every wish come true. The story itself is an incantation. Whoever finishes reading it shall receive this power. As soon as the page is turned, the story will become the truth and begin."
When gluttonous, underachieving schoolgirl Miaka Yuki and her best friend Yui Hongo find a strange book in the library, it changes their lives forever. Shi Jin Ten Chi Sho (literally, The Four Gods Earth and Sky, but rendered as The Universe of the Four Gods in the North American release) is an ancient book that is a gateway into another world that resembles medieval China — a gateway through which Miaka and Yui fall. Although Yui is sent back to Japan almost immediately, Miaka is trapped in the story. There she finds that she is the Suzaku no Miko — the prophesied priestess of the god Suzaku, who must gather together seven holy warriors in order to summon the god and save the country of Konan from its enemy, the country of Kutou.Meanwhile, in the "real" world, Yui is reading about Miaka's adventures in the book, trapped by a sort of horrified fascination. Worse, she suffers many of the harms and indignities that Miaka undergoes, from soakings with water to bloody wounds.Although she is sympathetic to Konan's cause, Miaka is worried about Yui and wants to go home. When she gets a chance to do so, she takes it, but upon returning to the library she cannot find Yui — who has been drawn back into the book and installed as the Seiryuu no Miko — the Priestess of Seiryuu, the god who favors Kutou, and similarly charged to summon the deity. When Miaka finally returns to the world inside the book, she finds that she and her once-best friend are now on opposite sides of what promises to be a bloody and devastating war. The only way for Miaka to prevent utter genocide is to win the race to be the first to summon a god...Easily the most famous of Yuu Watase's works, Fushigi Yuugi (sometimes known as Mysterious Play, which the English-dubbed version was released as in North America) was many anime fans' introduction to shoujo series after Sailor Moon. It was popular enough to have spawned a prequel, Fushigi Yuugi Genbu Kaiden, which finished publication in Japan in February 2013 and is being released in the US by Viz Media, who also published the English version of the original manga. It has also received a PS2/DS game called Fushigi Yuugi Suzaku Ibun.Also see the character sheet. Has a wiki. Compare with The Twelve Kingdoms.
Adaptation Expansion: In the original manga when Suzuno and Tatara die, they simply die. The anime expands on this scene to have Tatara come to her after he dies and as she dies so they're reunited in death. The added scene went over so well That Word of God has said she regrets not doing that scene herself in the manga.
Angsty Surviving Twin: Subverted with Suboshi and Amiboshi in different ways. In the first instance when Amiboshi "died", Amiboshi wasn't actually dead. In the second when Suboshi died, Amiboshi didn't remember he had a twin to angst over.
Beyond the Impossible: There's a place in Kutou called the "Shrine of Seiyruu"; a Physical God that stands opposed to the god Suzaku. In this place, the warriors of Suzaku are forbidden entry by a magic barrier that specifically targets them and the priestess of Suzaku is paralyzed. Chichiri can get in nonetheless because "I'm trickery, you know?" while Tamahome is powered by love. To a native of the Universe of the Four Gods this is as impossible as someone ignoring the laws of Thermodynamics in real life.
Big Bad: Nakago. In the second OAV series and the second part of the manga, Tenkou takes this role.
Big Damn Heroes: Part of what makes this series great is that nearly every character gets one of these moments. Hell, even Suboshi gets one when he saves Amiboshi from Tomo at the last second. "GET AWAY FROM MY BROTHER!"
Bodyguard Crush: Any Seishi who falls for his Miko. For Miaka we have Tamahome, Hotohori, and Tasuki in the OAV ( Nuriko is more debatable); for Yui, Suboshi; for Suzuno, Tatara; for Takiko, Prince Uruki.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Chichiri does this in part two of the manga when he first appears: He faces towards where the fourth wall would be, waves and says "Long time, no see, everyone!" Although he could be saying it to the other characters, it comes off as more of a fourth-wall joke.
Also done by Miaka in the anime, at one point when she's forced to remove her clothes. Upon being left in a non-transparent negligee (no underwear or midriff area visible), she remarks "This is as far as the broadcast restrictions will allow..."
The Cake Is a Lie: In Eikoden, Mayo is promised by a fake Suzaku that she and the child inside her will be kept safe, and so will Tamahome, if she prays for the destruction of Konan. None of that was true, of course.
Mitsukake gets a taste of this twice. Hey, this is the doctor we're talking about.
It does pay off in a great gag when Miaka asks Tasuki to burn something very small, and he starts out with a massive, "REKKA SHIN-", then almost whispers "ehhhhhn" has he just lightly riffles the fan's folds at the target.
The Chessmaster: Nakago. As it turns out, numerous events such as Suboshi murdering Tamahome's family were arranged to manipulate members of the Suzaku and the Seiryuu Seven into following his plans.
Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Half the male cast falls for Miaka in one way or another, then gets killed off, as was the case with Nuriko. The fandom still can't decide if he loved her romantically or as a sister. Watase's intentionally ambiguous on the issue. Hotohori at least gets his own wife, Lady Houki before this happens. Nuriko "I've always loved Miaka as a man" indicates that four of them are in love with her, possibly all in different ways though.
And later in the series, it's heavily implied that Amiboshi has fallen in love with Miaka after his Heel-Face Turn, in particular with his line "Why can't you and I live here together forever?", delivered while he's lying on top of her shirtless. This romantic loose end is cleaned up when a drug delivered by his twin brother makes him lose all memory.
Costume Porn: Say what you will about the story and the characters, if there's one thing that fans of Fushigi Yuugi agree on it's that the outfits worn by the holy warriors of each country in the The Universe of the Four Gods are very nicely drawn.
Dead Guy Junior: Chiriko's nephew is named after him in part 2 of the manga.
Defiled Forever: Averted since it is revealed that Yui was never really raped in the first place, and every attempt to rape Miaka ends up failing miserably.
Inverted with Nakago, whose repeated homosexual rape as a child (he was a male concubine) by the emperor he later served was his very own Start of Darkness.
Depraved Bisexual: Nakago. He had sex with Soi and kissed Tamahome on the lips to weaken his defenses and tease him. Afterwards, he says 'You're so fun to tease, but you'll never kill me letting your guard down like that.' He also tells Tamahome in the last episode that he excites him much the same way a woman does, licking him on the face.
Expy: Yui is where the characteristics for Riku came from like best friend of the main character, pulling a Face-Heel Turn just to get a desired person, having a belief that a best friend ditched her/him for someone new. They even refuse to believe anything what that best friend say including the consequences of using the dark power until she/he sees it for herself/himself, cueing a My God, What Have I Done? moment, pulling a Heel-Face Turn near the end at the cost of being taken over by the evil entity, and have something as a reminder of their actions to become The Atoner. They also got their hairs long in the sequel series.
Fansub: No license group had any real intentions to license or dub this series, but during the time of its release, the anime had many, many fansubs floating around. Pioneer (which would later become Geneon) had mentioned at least once that it was because of the sheer number of fansubs that they decided to officially license the anime series.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The country of Konan and Kutou are spinoffs of southern and eastern China respectively, while Hokkan spins from Mongolia (includes both inner and outer Mongolia), and Sairou is Tibet.
Forbidden Fruit: The Miko is not supposed to have any sexual contact or even romantic feelings for any men until she summons the Beast God. Nakago and the other bad guys try to take advantage of this to cause Miaka to lose her virginity and thus her right to summon Suzaku... or at least believe she did.
Irony: Later in the story, Miaka (despite being Book Dumb and normally having to bust her ass at schoolwork just to get a mediocre grade) has passed the Jonan entrance exam almost effortlessly. Meanwhile Yui, who normally gets very high grades even when she doesn't study, failed the test. Miaka turns down the chance to go to Jonan, so she can attend school with Yui.
Karma Houdini: A large part of the problem with Nakago is that his Freudian excuse was only mentioned once, in the last episode of the first series. This made his eventual fate feel tacked on and vaguely insulting to a lot of viewers. It's slightly more foreshadowed in the manga, but the couple of hints there are so vague that readers would have to be actively looking for them.
This happened again with Mayo in Eikoden, which ended with everybody thanking her for deciding to resuscitate the dog she'd shot.
Yui deserves an honorable mention at least. Granted she was manipulated by Nakago, but considering she'd known Miaka since they were in kindergarten she should've known her best friend better than that. Her resentment and selfishness led to the deaths of numerous beloved characters, and she continually turned a blind eye to her Senshi trying to both kill Miaka and rape her. Yet in the end all she has to do is apologize for her selfishness—and the viewer doesn't even get to see said apology, or the promised confrontation Miaka told her they were going to have!
Mundane Utility: Tasuki's asked to burn some hairs [or a ribbon in the manga] with his fire powers, so he goes into his usual warm-up pose before tossing a tiny flame. Later, as a background gag, he's shown lightly waving it near Nuriko after the latter asked to be warmed up in a cold climate.
Word of God states that Yuu Watase stated at a convention that raping Miaka was Tomo's idea and that Nakago had been incredibly uncomfortable with the whole thing because of the trauma he himself had suffered. The fact that she had Nuriko's protection was something that he saw as a cop-out of it entirely.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: There is little conflict in the opening episodes. What triggers the main conflict between Kutou and Konan is Miaka trying to go home early. By forcing herself up, Yui was pulled down. She became the rival priestess and encourages Kutou to invade.
No Sense of Humor: Try to name one of the Seiryu Seishi that had any sort of sense of humor, or even any funny moments. All of them are always dead serious and never find humor in any situation.
Done and done: Tomo. Just because the audience didn't find it funny, doesn't mean he didn't; his "kakaka" laugh is famous to the point where he was referred to as "that laughing homo" in one of the omakes. In the manga, where he's more or less Nakago's lieutenant and the closest thing he's got to a confidant, one of the funniest Seiryuu scenes is when Nakago tells Tomo he didn't rape Miaka. Since both of them are possessed of a very dry sense of humor, it's subtle, but hilarious.
Noticing The Fourth Wall: Numerous instances, but particularly Tamahome and Nakago. The latter took the news way better than the former.
Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: It has an unusual variant in that the person in question Nurikois dead and the characters are praying for his soul, not realizing that his ghost has joined them.
Official Couple: You know the one. Although originally, Yuu Watase was going to separate them so it'd be realistic. And then her female editor, a hopeless romantic, made her change it.
Ordinary High-School Student: The four Priestesses - Yui, Miaka, Takiko and Suzuno - are all normal girls from Earth brought into the World of the Four Gods. Mayo as well.
Rape as Drama: Oh, boy... Poor Yui spends much of the series believing that she was raped, which Nakago takes advantage of in order to turn her against Miaka, and Miaka herself nearly gets raped at least four times.
Reality-Writing Book: "The Universe of the Four Gods", which is type 2. While Miaka and Yui continue their adventure, people in our world can read, what is happening in this moment in Four God's dimension.
Recap Episode: Episode 28. Also, most episodes begin with narration over footage and dialogue from the previous episode.
Refugee from TV Land: Tamahome holds on to Miaka just as Yui uses her powers to send her back to the real world. As a result, he too is sent to modern-day Japan. Hilarity Ensues until we find out that with Yui returning as well, Nakago followed.
Miaka:(about Tamahome aboard the train) He looks just like a kid. He's been like this ever since we left.
Keisuke: Can't be helped. He comes from a different reality; landing in the late 20th century like this, it's only natural that he has a cultural shock.
Religious Bruiser: Chichiri is a peaceful, dedicated monk who can also unload some serious whoop-ass.
Royals Who Actually Do Something: Hotohori, a legitimately good fighter, accompanies Miaka on her quest to gather the other warriors. He's also on the ball regarding the threat posed by the enemy kingdom Kutou well before most of the other characters.
Self-Made Orphan: Nakago inadverantly killed his own mother when trying to save her from being gang raped by soldiers, because he was unable to control his newly-awakened powers. It's taken further in the character novel, where he kills the previous Shogun, but only realises it's his long-lost father when it's much too late.
Selfless Wish: The three wishes a priestess gets from the Beast Gods are pretty much required to be.
Senseless Sacrifice: Nuriko. There was absolutely no reason for him to try to lift that boulder; there's clearly plenty of room to just get around it and into the cave entrance it's blocking. The Seishi even find skeletons inside the cave of people who presumably did just that.
Stock Foreign Name: Everyone from the "Universe of the Four Gods." They have Chinese names but is always be referred to by their Japanese-ish names; this includes the four beast gods themselves.
Stupid Sacrifice: Nuriko's death. He expends the last of his strength to move the boulder in front of the entrance to a cave, and with his severe injuries, ends up dying of the strain. The thing is, the boulder wasn't actually blocking the entrance. There's quite visibly enough room to just go around it, and there are the skeletal remains of people who apparently did exactly that. He could have just waited for Mitsukake and the others to catch up and heal him.
Super-Deformed: Very frequently used, and even lampshaded at one point when Chichiri disguises himself as Nakago. When the real Nakago catches on, one soldier leads his comrades saying, "After that deformed miniature general!"
Theme Naming: All the Celestial Warriors are named for their constellation, in the pattern Mark + "Constellation". In some cases, even their given names are a simple variation of the same, like Tamahome's name of Kishuku.
Yandere: Yui is yandere for Tamahome and Miaka, whereas Suboshi is yandere for his brother Amiboshi and for her.
You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Averted and played straight. All of the human characters in the real world have perfectly normal hair colours. It's the folks in the Universe of the Four Gods that have odd hair colours (like blue).
Yaoi Fangirl: Yuu Watase. She even ships her own characters.
You Look Familiar: Hotohori's wife Houki is the spitting image of Nuriko, to the point that the heroes scream and freak out when they see her. Sort of ironic considering Hotohori had spent most of the series apparently madly in love with Miaka.