An Introduction to the Saiyuki Anime*

*As told by a fan who read the manga almost a decade ago

After being off the air for nearly 13 years, Saiyuki has at last returned to grace our televisions with attractive men beating the crap out of each other while waxing poetic about their dark-and-stormy pasts. But with Saiyuki‘s previous anime seasons scarce and its manga volumes even scarcer, you might be hesitant to check out the new series.

Well, fear not! I, an ardent Saiyuki fan who read the manga as it was coming out almost 10 years ago, am here to provide you with the story exactly as I remember it. Which is to say: Very vaguely! Now you, too, can enjoy Saiyuki Reload Blast as if you were right there with the rest of the fandom, reading the manga in the mid ’00s, selling the volumes to help pay for grad school, and now racking your brain to piece together the semi-existent plot of that gloriously feelsy action series you still love so very, very much.

Come along with me on this journey, won’t you? This journey…TO THE MAX!

Caution: Loving irreverence, questionable accuracy, and spoilers for the Saiyuki and Saiyuki Reload manga below. Content warning for mentions of child abuse.

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A Dream of One’s Own: Finding a home outside femininity in Chihayafuru

Cards against gender conformity.

Chihayafuru is one of my all-time favorite anime series, so you can imagine my surprise and delight when Kodansha announced they’d licensed the manga for an English-language digital release. While devouring the first volume, I once again fell in love with this endearing, intense, emotional rollercoaster of a sports series about three friends in the world of competitive karuta–and was also struck for the first time by how insightfully Chihaya’s childhood arc depicts the plight of the “tomboy.”

Sometimes wrenching but ultimately inspiring, Chihayafuru’s first volume quietly challenges traditional gender norms and offers the hope of a supportive community to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t quite fit society’s gendered expectations of who they’re “supposed” to be.

Click here for the full post on Anime Feminist!


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No Geek Girls Need Apply: Bias & Blind Spots in Princess Jellyfish Vol. 1

Never judge a princess (or anyone else, for that matter) by their gown.

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They say girls turn pretty when they fall in love. But if they never fall in love, will they stay gross forever? Amars may not love flesh-and-blood real men, but they are in love with The Three Kingdoms and trains and dolls. What about them?

Mom, why do girls have to be pretty? Because I’d rather not. I’d rather not become pretty at all. Really.

—Kurashita Tsukimi, Princess Jellyfish Vol. 1

I finally had a chance to read the Vol. 1 Omnibus (Chapters 1-12) of Kodansha’s Princess Jellyfish (Kuragehime) manga, the story of a bunch of geek gals living together in Tokyo and the cross-dressing rich boy who befriends them. With its upbeat tone, cast of lovably awkward turtles, and celebration of female nerd counterculture, it’s easy to see why the series has charmed so many people.

Yet Princess Jellyfish isn’t all fluff and lightness: It isn’t afraid to touch on more serious topics (including, CW: the sexual assault of one of its male characters), and frequently acknowledges the real-world prejudices many of the characters face because they don’t conform to societal norms. It also isn’t afraid to show how those prejudices can be held by anyone, even those who face prejudice themselves.

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