.Yű Watase article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 4, No. 6, May 2001
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.
Creator of the fantastically popular romantic adventure Fushigi Yugi, Yu Watase should be a name familiar to readers of Animerica Extra. With an irresistible cast of characters, an intriguing setting, and situations ranging from life and limb to slapstick, Fushigi Yugi'spopularity, both in the U.S. and back in Japan, is easy to understand. To celebrate the upcoming release of the second Yu Watase title to be translated into English --the long awaited Ayashi no Ceres-- we decided it was time to remind you of all the other wonderful Yu Watase stories that are out there for you to enjoy.
Yu Watase debuted in 1989 with the charming comedy short story Pajama de Ojama (An Intrusion in Pajamas). Since then, she has written over 50 comics, including half a dozen series and dozens of short stories. Thanks to its 52 episode TV series and 20 videos*, Fushigi Yugi is Yu Watase's best known work. Now that Ayashi no Ceres has also been animated, fans hope more Watase stories will finally be brought to animation. Darker than its predecessor, Ayashi no Ceres begins with an ominous fortune for the feisty lead, Aya Mikage. Soon her world is turned upside down as strange powers begin to develop within her, changing her life forever. You can find out more about Ayashi no Ceres in our Animerica Extra sneak preview, starting on page 40!
Despite the seriousness of Ayashi no Ceres and the often extreme drama of Fushigi Yugi, the aspect which typifies Yu Watase's work is fun. Romances with plenty of comedic situations and likable heroines who are easy to relate to dominate Watase's many stories. Take the tale of Asuka from Shishunki Miman Okotowari (No Interest in Prepubescence). Although her situation seems rather dramatic --Asuka's an illegitimate love child searching for her father because her mother has recently died-- the story is actually quite funny. Escaping the police on her motorcycle, Asuka literally runs into her younger siblings, thinking that her step-brother, Minato, was trying to force a date on her step-sister, Kazusa. Once Asuka figures out who they are, she's very excited to meet her father. After a difficult first chapter, where Asuka has to deal with the many problems caused by duplicitous Kazusa, our heroine discovers Minato and Kazusa are also love children who have never met their father!
Amusing predicaments seem to be Yu Watase's forte; she has an ingenious ability to come up with clever ways to make everyday life a comical adventure for her characters. Mai Kurahashi, from Epotrance! Mai, is a shy, slightly childish high school girl who has an unrequited love. Although her best friend, Tae, thinks he's a doof, Mai's completely crazy for Nimura, a smart young soccer player in their class. This may seem like a typical scenario, but Watase throws in a prophetic electronic notebook Mai receives for her birthday. When Mai accidently enters ‘epotrance,' a guy pops out of her new toy like a genie from a bottle! Takuma is from the Electronic World, and he's been assigned to her electronic notebook. He's a bit too smart-mouthed, so Mai turns him off. But the next day, when Mai tries to follow the soccer team to an all-boys school, Takuma helps her escape some creeps by giving her the ability to become any person whose name she types into her notebook. You can just imagine all the misadventures a girl could have with such an ability.
Action is also a common factor in Yu Watase's work, and her ability to portray it just keeps getting better with age. One of her most recent series, Appare Jipangu! (Wonderful Japan!) is an action-comedy set in Japan's Tokugawa era. The fairly episodic stories revolve around a tomboyish girl named Yasura. As an infant, Yasura was abandoned under a cherry tree along with an unusual staff named Kongomaru (second o long) which has the power to drain a person's sorrow. Since Yasura wields Kongomaru (second o long), she has become a ‘hikeshiya,' or ‘sorrow extinguisher,' using the staff's power to return the sorrow to the person who caused it. This usually involves some samurai-style butt kicking. The male lead is the hysterically nearsighted bastard son of a daimyo (long o). The rest of the cast is made up of equally amusing characters, offering readers plenty of laughs. Although this series stopped --without any sign of an ending-- in 1999 after only two volumes, the humor and action of Wonderful Japan! make it worth trying. Of course fans are hopeful there will eventually be more tales of Yasura and her comrades in the future.
Watase's current series, Imadoki!*, is about Tampopo*, an enthusiastic girl from the distant backwaters of Hokkaido whose test scores were just good enough to allow her to fill a vacancy at the prestigious Meio (long o) Academy in Tokyo. Tampopo's so excited, she can't wait for school to start and visits the Academy a day early. Since the gates are closed, Tampopo chooses another route... Flying over a fence on her bike, Tampopo and her fox land on a boy working in a flowerbed on the other side. She is charmed by his odd kindness and Kansai accent, and pleased that she's made the first of many new friends. Unfortunately, Meio (long o) is not a friendly Academy. Once people learn she got in through testing and has no particular influence or talent, the students start treating Tampopo like a weed (tampopo means dandelion). Worse, the boy she thinks she befriended the day before refuses to acknowledge they've ever met. It turns out this Kugyo (long o) fellow is incredibly rich and influential, and seems to be a snob as well. What's a poor girl to do? Tampopo plans to use flowers to grow friendships! But in a school where all the plants are fake and all the friends seem to be, too, will the seeds of her efforts come to fruition? This charming series is currently three volumes long and still going strong in the Shojo Comics manga anthology.
Along with all these series, Yu Watase has also penned seven collections of short stories full of numerous tales of action, comedy, and romance. The title story for Magical Nan (Yu Watase Anthology Collection 2) is packed with action. Our island-dwelling heroine's active life becomes even more exciting when she discovers a strange capsule in her lagoon. In it is a cute little sea creature with a pendant she'd given to her brother before he went off to search for legendary creatures. While Nan tries to keep the unhealthy little critter alive, suspicious, dangerous men are trying to hunt it down.
The title story for Mint de Kiss me (Kiss Me with Mint, Yu Watase Anthology Collection 5) involves Misono, a girl infatuated with her teacher, and a modern love myth. The myth involves kissing the person you like with a mint in your mouth to ‘become one' with them. Problem is, she accidentally kisses the wrong person. Worse, she literally becomes one with her surly classmate Shindo (long o)! Of course girlish Misono is humorously traumatized being stuck with a boy in his body. A few of the scenes are reminiscent of the Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin comedy All of Me.
One of Watase's most romantic short stories is Perfect Lovers from Musubiya Nanako (Matchmaker Nanako, Yu-topia Collection 2). Kana and Mitsuharu are about to break up when their car goes through some strange electronic disruption. When they stop the car and Kana gives Mitsuharu a farewell kiss, they are spotted by a pair of cops and taken into custody! Like a story from Twilight Zone, the young couple find they've slipped into a parallel world, one where they're both in homosexual relationships and where heterosexual couples are persecuted.
Most of Watase's short story collections have a variety of stories to enjoy. Of special interest to Fushigi Yugi fans are the two short comics Nakago Shikkari Shinasai*! (Hang in There, Nakago! --a spoof on the title Tsuyoshi Shikkari Shinasai!, a comedic comic by Kiyoshi Nagamatsu in the Morning manga anthology) and Nakago Shikkari Shinasai! 2. These brief stories are written as though the characters in Fushigi Yugi are played by actors. Although Nakago may seem to be a calm, confident, in-control kind of guy "on screen," life for this mythical actor is far from glamorous. These hilarious little spoofs can be found at the end of Kiss Me with Mint and Matchmaker Nanako. They were also a pair of Hang in There, Nakago! videos released in 1996.
Aside from all of her story writing talents, the quality which makes Yu Watase's comics so appealing is the characters. Not only, in typical shojo style, are all her gals cute and all her guys handsome, but Watase has a remarkable knack for making her lead characters likable, her rivals and villains easy to dislike, and her supporting characters diversely entertaining. How could Fushigi Yugi be nearly so enjoyable without the fiery Tasuki or the dastardly cool Nakago? It's this way with most of her series --a compelling cast is essential to make the story complete. Her skill in making her characters so appealing to her readers is the secret to her success. We hope you enjoy the Ayashi no Ceres sneak peek and find this bibliography helpful for those of you interested in trying more of Yu Watase's many entertaining tales.
Yu Watase Anthology Collection 1
Magical Nan Yu
Watase Anthology Collection 2
Yu Watase Anthology Collection 3
Shishunki Miman Okotowari
July 1991 - November 1991
May 1992 - July 1996
Zoku Shishunki Miman Okotowari
February 1993 - March 1994
Suna no Tiara
Yu Watase Anthology Collection 4
Mint de Kiss me
Yu Watase Anthology Collection 5
February 1995 - September 1995
Ayashi no Ceres
December 1996 - March 2000
Yu-topia Collection 1
Yu-topia Collection 2
February 1998 - July 1999
Shishunki Miman Okotowari Kanketsu Hen
3 volumes August 2000 ~
* If you'd prefer Shikkarishinasai, go for it.
Please double check the numbers there, if you can. I'm going by what's mentioned in the Animage Pocket Data 2000 (p 125-126). It seems there's a set of 7 videos which are special editions +1 of an earlier series of 6, although I can find no supplimental information that volume 7 exists. Could that 7 be a typo? I think so. Also, one of the series includes different versions of the first 2 videos +1, none of which have much, if any, new animation. All total, including the ‘eizokutokuten', there are 20 or 21, however most fans seem to think there are only 12 --3 recap/seiyu OVAs, OVA series I (3), and OVA series II (6). Your call on how you want to count things. Although 20 or 21 is technically correct, people will likely swarm all over you saying "WHAT!?"
Imadoki! is written all in katakana and again in romanji.
Tampopo or Tanpopo, you're choice. I don't remember if you guys have a preference, and I don't have any hardcopies to see if her name's spelled out somewhere.
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