WARNING: The following contains discussion of sensitive content, including sexual assault and child prostitution.
New anime streaming app, RetroCrush recently launched with a wide catalog of classic anime for free. One of these titles is Fushigi Yuugi, which just so happened to be released 25-years-ago this month. The anime was once one of the most popular around, circulating via the world of fansubs before being brought over to Western audiences legitimately. For a while, it was regarded as one of the greatest shojo manga of all time, and proved popular enough to receive multiple manga and anime sequels.
But while the fantasy world of an alternate China appealed to many young girls, as did its bounty of pretty, heroic boys, many others — including the manga’s author, Yuu Watase — fell head over heels in love with the sociopathic villain, Nakago.
He might not be as famous as Frieza, Griffith or Dio, but Nakago is certainly on par with them when you take into consideration his ambitions and the depths to which he will plunge to make his terrible dreams a reality. Plus, there’s the fact he’s just so cool about all of it. Fushigi Yuugi‘s Nakago remains one of anime’s greatest villains, and shouldn’t be forgotten.
Fushigi Yuugi takes place in two worlds: the real world and a fantastical version of ancient China where four kingdoms are in a constant state of conflict. The kingdoms each worship one of Four Gods, all of whom tie into the Four Beasts of the Chinese constellations: Suzaku, Seiryu, Byakko and Genbu. Every God has a priestess who is transported from the real world into the fantasy world by reading a magical book. One such priestess gathers the seven champions of their God, all of whom sport a birthmark tying them to a certain constellation, through which they can summon their God and have wishes granted as a result. All of these champions possess some extraordinary power, such as increased martial arts skills, the ability to radiate energy, super strength, etc..
Nakago is a champion of Seiryu and, quite frankly, he’s had a pretty horrendous life. Even by tragic backstory standards, Nakago had everything including the kitchen sink thrown at him. He and his mother are foreigners to China, and are subjected to brutal mistreatment by the Kutou government — the nation who worships Seiryuu. When his mother is raped by soldiers in front of him, Nakago’s powers are unleashed, and he kills everyone in sight with a flare of energy — including his own mother. He’s then sold into child prostitution to the Emperor of Kutou, which earns him enough favor to become a general.
This incredibly rough upbringing gave him a very twisted perspective on life. His trauma left him with two life goals: get revenge on the kingdom that ruined his life, and then become a literal God so he could recreate the world as he saw fit. In order to do that, however, he needed to amass some more power. More specifically, he needed influence over the other Seiryuu warriors and the Princess of Seiryuu so that she could wish Nakago into becoming a God.
Nakago does not care how many lives he has to spoil or ruin to get what he wants. And in order to gain leverage and influence over the other Seiryuu warriors, he often uses sex. Nakago canonically has a sexual relationship with Soi and Tomo. While it’s clear that the two both admire and adore Nakago — to the point where they’d do anything for him — it’s unclear if Nakago cares at all about them. He even tries to repeatedly seduce the protagonist’s love interest, Tamahome. It’s unclear how successful this tactic is.
Most notably, however, he plays with the Priestess of Seiryu, Yui, by tricking her into thinking she was raped upon arrival (she wasn’t) and by pretending that he saved her life (he orchestrated the whole event). This tricks Yui into seeing Nakago as her personal hero, making her open to his influence. Using this, he convinces Yui to turn on her friend and series protagonist, the Priestess of Suzaku, Miaka, when she tries to slap sense into her and brainwashes Yui’s crush, Tamahome, in order to turn him into Nakago’s personal weapon and slave.
When it turns out that the Priestesses need to be virgins in order to summon their Gods, Nakago decides that, in order to stop Miaka and friends from summoning Suzaku, he needs to sexually assault her. It goes without saying that this is just plain evil.
To top it off, he also kills tons of people. And not only does he kill his own enemies, but he also encourages his emotionally unstable henchmen to murder civilians. In fact, almost every death in the series is tied to Nakago on some level. And yet, despite it all, Nakago remains absolutely calm and in control. Even when his plans go awry, he doesn’t yell, but just calmly moves onto the next plan. He doesn’t even care when he realizes his world only exists inside of a magical book — unlike the series’ other characters, who are profoundly disturbed. Rather, Nakago just concludes that whoever wrote the book is the God of his world, meaning he’ll use Seiryu to become a God of a world of Gods, instead of just a normal-level God. Nakago just isn’t phased by anything.
Most notable about Nakago’s success as a villain is that, in Fushigi Yuugi, Nakago essentially wins. Yuu Watase, the creator of the series, admits that Nakago — despite it all — is her favorite character. This explains why Nakago is arguably the prettiest character in the series and is presented as a romantic, tragic figure even when committing horrendous crimes like mass murder and sexual assault.
However, even more stunning, Nakago sort of gets away with it all. He ends up killing or being responsible for the deaths of more than half of the main characters and thousands of other people in the last half of the series. He also gets revenge on the emperor who prostituted him, conquering Kutou in the process, and his actions result in Seiryuu being summoned. In the end, he ascends to a state of Godhood, in a sense.
Even more remarkably, even when he’s eventually beaten, Watase canonically states in her notes that Nakago, because of how terrible his life had been, is actually absolved of his sins and goes to Heaven. The guy literally gets away with causing huge amounts of death, destruction and trauma and is allowed to do it while also looking cool and pretty. Without a doubt, Nakago is one of anime’s most magnificent — and most evil — forgotten villains.
Despite being one of anime's most evil — and successful villains — Fushigi Yuugi's Nakago has been criminally forgotten over time.