Middle-schooler Miaka is Basic Clumsy Shoujo Heroine version 1.0, and her best friend Yui is the Cool-Tempered Genius Foil v. 1.0. They find a Chinese book called "The Universe of the Four Gods," and are transported into its story, where they are immediately attacked by slave traders, but rescued by a rude young thief named Tamahome.
Miaka ends up trapped in the book alone, and is told that she is the Priestess of Suzaku - basically, the book's heroine - and must gather the seven Celestial Warriors to summon the god Suzaku and gain three wishes. Tamahome is one of them, as is the narcissistic Emperor Hotohori, and his equally narcissistic concubine Nuriko. Seeing no other choice, she sets out to find the other four warriors, planning to wish to return home.
Wacky antics ensue! Miaka eats too much and Tamahome is greedy and Hotohori is vain! And then the love triangle starts! More wacky antics ensue - oh, look how mean Nuriko is, ha ha! Angst starts showing up! It's a love quadrilateral now! Someone has a tragic past and an alarming scar! Pentagon! Everyone has a tragic past now, and somebody just got raped! Hexagon! People are dying! Painfully! I think it's a love nonagon at this point! Dead babies! All the doomed characters from Please Save My Earth
show up and are like, mannn! HALF THE ORIGINAL CAST IS NOW DEAD AND THE REST HAVE BEEN RAPED oh god
This manga is possibly a little more ruthless than you might expect from the first volume. I've been trying to think of another shoujo artist who's quite this cruel, and I can't.
Like you expect from long-running shoujo series, Watase spends the first few volumes on slapstick romantic comedy, with hints of darker things in the future. The darker things in the future turn out to be unusually dark.
She puts a lot of energy into making her characters sympathetic, and she uses that to break your heart. When Kaori Yuki kills everybody off, she at least gives the possibility of resurrection as an incestuous schoolboy or a vampire zombie in a frilly dress. Not happening here! People die horribly and randomly and suddenly, and everyone is traumatized forever.
...I'm a bad person for finding this kind of refreshing, aren't I.
Another surprising thing is how matter-of-fact the sexual stuff is. It's common for some magical force to be used as a stand-in for sex in shoujo manga - for instance, off the top of my head, the psychic powers in Please Save My Earth,
the feathers in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle
(and if you tell me that it is shounen then I will laugh - laugh,
I say), and the vampirism in Vampire Knight.
These manga mostly try pretty hard to avoid discussing actual sex - PSME has a sex scene, but it's so wary of the subject that it has to spend half the series building up to it, and the characters are only able to discuss it in dramatic angst-filled outbursts.
In Fushigi Yuugi,
the bad guys use rape as a weapon and have thoughtful discussions about its application. The good guys stand around discussing the impact it'll have on Miaka's magical powers if she's not a virgin anymore. Sex is evil and dangerous most of the time like you'd expect - as you may have guessed, it mostly occurs in the form of rape - but I'm just astonished that 1) it exists, and 2) it's treated as something so mundane.
If you replaced the word "rape" with "Hyper Beam" you'd have Pokemon dialog.
And I know
that I'm a bad person for finding this funny, yes.*
Basically what I'm trying to say is that Yuu Watase is kind of messed-up. But in ways that appeal to me.
Volume 13 seems to have finished up the major plot arc, but there are five more volumes, which I have yet to read. Let's see if Watase manages to kill off everyone who's still alive.
* Further evidence that I am a bad person: The point at which I completely fell in love with Vampire Game
(not to be confused with Vampire Knight)
was when the heroine, Princess Ishtar, convinces the ancient vampire king Duzell to sleep with her evil uncle and steal his evil secrets. Her plan hinges on the fact that her uncle thinks Duzell's her, incidentally. The vampire king, traumatized by Ishtar's superior level of twistedness, obediently tries his best, but fails at his mission.
Ishtar and Duzell are my OTP, by the way.
You should read Vampire Game,
by the way. I made a post explaining why.