Name: Chichiri (井宿)
Real Name: Ri Hou Jun
Age: Twenty Four (at start)
Family: Mother, Father, younger sister (all deceased)
Place of Birth: North Kounan. Probably somewhere in the vicinity of Souen, near Shouryuu-gawa.
Power: Various spells and sorcery including shape-shifting, transportation, barriers and sensing chi
Seiyuu (Japanese): Seki Tomokazu (Anime) Kappei Yamaguchi (Drama CDs)
Voice Artist (English): Jim Taggert
Chichiri's background is generally wrop' in mystery, although it is delved into somewhat more in the OVA and revealed in fits and starts during ShouryuuDen (Chichiri's Gaiden).
We know that his family were killed in a flood, and that he lost his fiancee Kouran and his best friend Hikou over a silly squabble that resulted in the death of his friend and fiancee in the same flood (the flooding of the Shouryuu river, in North Kounan). His father was a city or government official, allowing him a high standard of education, and it is probable that the region he was working in was around the area of the city Souen.
By coincidence, the same flood also killed Mitsukake's family, and OumeiDen recounts a fleeting encounter between the two when Mitsukake uses his magic to cleanse Chichiri's eye injury.
The exact nature
Hikou''s death is debateable - the implication given in the
television series is that Chichiri murdered him in a fit of angry rage.
However, the OVA suggests he was swept away by the flood and that when
Chichiri tried to pull him out, he failed. My own contention is that
they were fighting and that Chichiri did indeed stab his friend - but
that the flood came and was the final decider in their battle. Chichiri
regretted this course of events, and in a way it defined who he became
Chichiri's eye scar is also explained by the flood - that when he tried to rescue his friend, a log smashed up into his face, destroying his eye. The TV series is a bit misleading in this regard - Chichiri tells Miaka that he killed his friend, and that he got the scar at the same time (it will never heal and he will never forget the past). This implied - to me - that the wound was self-inflicted as punishment, but the later manga/OVA and Gaiden refute that idea.
Maybe it was just a bit too hardcore to have a Seishi murder his friend then gouge out his own eye...or maybe it is just that there's not enough detail given when Chichiri tells Miaka about his friend in the TV series....it isn't quite so ambiguous in the manga.
More about Chichiri exists in the novel ShouryuuDen, indicating that after his village's destruction he wandered around the lands with no sense of purpose or hope in his heart. After trying to kill himself he was rescued by residents of a village called Seisen, and thanks to their kindness he took the first step on the path to being Chichiri, answering Taiitsukun's call and beginning his training at Taikyoku-zan (although to begin with he was unable to see it as the beautiful place it is, because of the troubles in his heart). It is from Taiitsukun that he receives his kitsune mask as a way to keep smiling even when he's feeling bad (and for a time he believes it has magic properties of its own).
For all the cuteness factor of the kitsune mask, and his habit of making himself 'chibi' on occasion, that's not why I've come to like Chichiri as a character. To me, the man behind the mask is a far more interesting prospect - the man with the scarred eye, but also the scarred heart. Chibi Chichiri and masked Chichiri is fine and funny and everything, but the real depth of Chichiri's character is how far he's come from the young man ready to throw his life away to the person who is, in effect, the true leader of the Suzaku Shichi Seishi. (At least in my opinion!)
Chichiri is the oldest of the Suzaku Seishi, though his calm outward appearance and his enjoyment of practical joking conceals a deeper, darker past which is a well kept secret. Like his mask suggests - not everything is quite as it seems.
Honestly speaking, without the insight of the Gaiden to help, Chichiri is really something of an enigma. He is a cheeky, bright, sharp-minded individual, but he has a lot more depth to him than that. When Miaka and co first encounter him, Tamahome actually asks him if he's human, something which he finds quite offensive. With his unusual magical ability, and his strange smiling mask, he is able to conceal a lot of himself from the outside world, and in some ways he is the most manipulative of the Seishi (even more so than Nuriko on some levels - or perhaps just in a different manner). As the eldest Seishi, I think Chichiri feels somewhat responsible for the well-being of his squad, and he does have a reliable head on his shoulders - able to think tactically and discuss on even terms with Hotohori the situations in which they find themselves. On one occasion, Chichiri even undertakes to impersonate Hotohori so Hotohori can travel with Miaka, and the fact that he is not suspected is a good indication of how well Chichiri has the measure of his fellow travellers. It's also a sign of how easy it is to trust in him, for Hotohori essentially leaves the entire kingdom in the hands of a perfect stranger!
Chichiri is often light-hearted, enjoying joking around and playing pranks on his companions, but there is almost always a serious element to his teasing, too. When he impersonates Nakago in Kutou, he does not tell Tasuki or Miaka what he is planning simply because he thinks it will be more convincing an act if they are convinced too, and quite often he will take a decision without consulting his fellows, assuming that he knows the best course of action to take and preferring to be subtle and in the shadows as opposed to direct fighting like Tasuki and Tamahome favour. On more than one occasion, he uses his magic to cloak or shield him and his companions from view, casting barriers around them and sensing the enemy's life force whenever there is to be an attack. In short, it takes a lot to get past his keen senses, and he employs the full level of his spiritual ability in the pursuit of the cause - the raising of Suzaku. Perhaps it is spending so long training with Taiitsukun at Taikokyu-zan that helps him to focus and judge when to act, but it also makes him, in a sense, a little bit solitary. Despite his obvious friendship with his companions, he still likes to spend time on his own, fishing, reflecting or simply planning the next course of action. When Miaka falls into enemy hands, it is Chichiri's quick thinking and careful strategy that enables him and Tamahome to rescue their Priestess. And yet, he prefers not to engage in face to face conflict, preferring to act from behind the scenes and rely on the efficacy of his magic.
It is for this reason that, at the very close of the series, Tasuki is surprised to find Chichiri standing up ready to fight against Nakago even without his spiritual powers, knowing that the both of them will probably be killed. It's perhaps one of the few times when Chichiri walks willingly into an open combat - even during the war with Kutou, he does not take to the battlefield so much as choose to help Mitsukake tend to the sick and wounded in the desecrated villages and towns left behind. Perhaps it is the ongoing memory of his loss of temper which warns him against joining in active violence - in a sense, it's a way for him to keep strict control of his composure and prevent him ever losing himself to that extent again. He does also tell Tasuki at one point that he hasn't been brought up to dive into situations recklessly - which must also haunt him about his past experiences, since he went against his childhood training in reacting how he did.
Chichiri's quirky sense of humour also masks a bitterness, just as his smiling mask hides his terrible scar. He advises Miaka almost as soon as he meets her that if she doesn't take responsibility for her actions, someone will get hurt, and he is critical of Tamahome for not sensing the enemy's presence a lot sooner than he does. (Surprisingly he knows Tamahome by name already at this point, indicating that he's probably been pursuing and watching the Suzaku-Seishi for some time, waiting for a moment to properly become involved). When Miaka turns to Chichiri for advice about her Yui/Tamahome conundrum, Chichiri tells her that she's not to blame for not being able to choose between friendship and love, but that she won't be able to keep both. This, as it turns out, is incorrect - but founded in his own bad experiences with his best friend and his fiancee six years earlier. Just as the scar on his face will never heal, it seems the scar on his heart is just as unlikely to mend.
Chichiri's powers are wide-ranging, from being able to transport himself and others across long distances to projecting barriers, communicating through mediums and sensing enemy life forces as well as those of his own friends. He also has a staff, and dresses somewhat like a monk, but although Miaka first expects that when she reads the prophesy in the Suzaku scroll, Chichiri is really not that way at all. He is pragmatic and realistic, and probably his older age allows him to see events more clearly than his companions on many occasions. After Tamahome is reincarnated as Taka, it's probably true to say that even if the other Seishi had all lived, Chichiri would still be the most powerful.
Chichiri's strongest bonds among the Seishi appear to be with Tasuki, to some degree Hotohori, but most of all Mitsukake. It is when Mitsukake dies that Chichiri truly sheds tears (its even more emphatic in the anime than the manga), and more, in the TV series he takes to task the revived soldiers healed by his friend's sacrifice when they seek to continue their battle. It can also be seen as Chichiri's own negative emotion against futile fighting that drives him to act this way, but it is significant that Chichiri is the only one with Mitsukake when he dies. Even more, it's significant that Chichiri chooses to be with Mitsukake instead of in battle, nagging him to rest and let his wounds heal like a really anxious mother hen. Of all the Seishi, I suppose these two being the oldest and also the most prone to solitary moments has helped them to find something in common, but I think it's more than that. Chichiri likes to avoid violent conflict - he does not kill a single creature during the course of the series that I can remember, the death of his old friend aside. Mitsukake has dedicated his life to helping and healing those around him, and although he is forced to destroy Shouka in her demon form, he also prefers to save life and protect it than he does end it. It's perhaps this mutual altruism that brings them together - that both seek to help, not hurt in the big scheme of things. It is to Chichiri that Mitsukake entrusts not only Tama, his beloved cat, but also his holy healing water, to mend his scar. Equally, when Chichiri's confidence and spirit seems to be shattered by his encounter with Hikou, it is Mitsukake's empathy, comprehension and gentle support which seems to help Chichiri rationalise - Mitsukake's intuitive understanding of his friend's plight echoes the mutual sorrow both have suffered by way of the flood and the fact both have had to face people they loved and put an end to what they have become.
Chichiri's bond with Tasuki is of a completely different nature. Of course, part of it comes from the fact that they are the only two living Seishi to remain in the book world at the end of the series. That has to have an impact. However, I think Chichiri sees Tasuki in two distinct ways. Firstly, he's the young, hotheaded youth that maybe Chichiri once was - and in this respect, Chichiri respects his eagerness to act as well as tries his best to contain it, afraid that he will drive himself to a similar situation (he is especially concerned when Tasuki fights Tamahome, since Tamahome is, by definition, friend not foe). In another way, he's a distraction from Chichiri's more serious thinking - that the atmopshere is always lightened when Tasuki and his simple, straight-forward attitude to life are on hand. Chichiri often teases Tasuki about being rash or stupid - one example being when Tasuki lets himself get tied up by Miaka in the Kutou palace - but the two of them have a good camaraderie which lasts throughout the series, before and after the death of the other characters. The speed with which Chichiri locates Tasuki in both the OVA (on a few occasions) and Eikoden suggests that even though their mission is over and their lives have gone seperate ways, Chichiri is still keeping an eye on his impetuous "little brother". In the OVA 1, it's indicated that they may even be travelling together (albeit not entirely successfully, as Tasuki seems to be putting great emphasis on their age gap and acting like an impatient, petulant little kid about walking from village to village!)
In the OVA, when Chichiri's world seems set to come crashing down, it is Tasuki who is determined to go with him into whatever the situation is, realising that he is in a similar position to that of Chichiri's late friend and that he wants to show his support. On the other hand, when they are greeting Nuriko's brother and paying their respects to their dead comrade, Chichiri is frustrated by Tasuki's inability to keep sombre, in light of Nuriko's face-pulling. Tasuki's emotions and reactions are much freer and more guileless than Chichiri's, and you almost see Chichiri observing this with a mixture of amused envy and anxious dismay!
This all being said, I don't believe there's any case for romantic relations between Chichiri and Tasuki, as some people have suggested. To me, they are both very clearly not interested in men in that respect ^_^ and their bond is a simple, if close-formed "amitie", nothing else. Equally I don't believe in a Chichiri/Miaka love connection. Miaka is like a sister or a very close friend to Chichiri, and he'll die to protect her but he understands that that's the spiritual draw of being a Seishi as opposed to taking it just on an emotional level like his less-spiritually aware brethren. He has become Chichiri and has become involved in the whole business, but he has not really opened up himself to them until Hikou's attack, and its probable that he still loves his dead fiancee Kouran, making him unready to move on emotionally in that regard. (He is also considerably older than Miaka compared to the other Seishi - a gap which he is probably very aware of).
I mention a bond with Hotohori too, but this is a slightly different one. Hotohori is Chichiri's emperor, and in that respect, someone he not only respects but someone with whom he can plan and discuss tactics in a proper, official way. Hotohori can be naive and he does let his love for Miaka occasionally overrule his good sense, but being in his position, he has grown up sooner than his eighteen years, and Mitsukake aside, he is probably the next oldest in terms of spirit and attitude. When Chichiri feels there is danger in the air, it is generally Hotohori with whom he shares his fears, not Tamahome or one of the others. And when planning the voyage to Hokkan, it is Chichiri's advice that Hotohori listens to more closely than anyone else's. Chichiri is at Hotohori's side when he dies, also - though he does not shed the copious, grief-stricken tears over Hotohori that he does over the death of Mitsukake - his reaction is more muted, and he keeps his countenance at the viewing of Hotohori's body, even when Tasuki is driven to cry. Having said this, though, Chichiri often does keep his feelings inside, so this might not be a good indication of his true feelings - after all, the situation is hardly private and extremely formal.
As regards the other Seishi, it's clear that Chichiri has great respect and good bonds with all of them. He is probably the lynchpin of the group, acting behind the scenes to keep everything together as well as he can. In the English dub, Tamahome actually calls him their anchor, although even in the Japanese dub when Chichiri is laid out after his initial encounter with Hikou, the others are somewhat lost without his guidance and wisdom. He is the secret statesman, prefering to use illusion and magic to deceive the energy rather than face them head on. This is reflected probably best of all in the OVA 2 when they go to the palace to speak to Hotohori's prime minister. Since Hotohori's death, there is a vacuum in government, which Houki's ill health has not been able to fill. The Prime Minister actually asks Chichiri to stay in the palace and help with the governing, because he realises Hotohori respected and trusted his council and he believes that Chichiri - although not of imperial birth - has the ability to take charge and rule in Hotohori's absence. (The fact that Hotohori has already entrusted this position to him at one point, when he goes off to help Miaka shows that the Prime Minister's faith is probably well founded!)
In many respects, Chichiri is more of a group leader than Tamahome, for although Tamahome has the position of key Seishi, the link with Miaka and the greatest strength, he lacks the maturity, wisdom and conviction in himself that Chichiri very rarely has to look for in order to do the best by the others. Though I've seen Tamahome and Hotohori called the lead Seishi, I prefer to think it's Hotohori as the one making the commands and Chichiri as the one behind the scenes! If I had to choose one Seishi to be the overall Seishi who they all look to, turn to and rely on, it would be Chichiri :) and I guess that makes him lead Seishi overall!
It has to be said. Ten minutes of watching the English dub of Fushigi Yuugi is enough to endorse anyone to throw the handset at the tv screen...and why? Well, because every other sentence, Chichiri comes out with "you know", making certain well known british football players look sparing in their use of such a phrase. It's true that Chichiri's Japanese speech is littered with "no da" or "na no da" and that this even spreads into his singing, as well. But (aside from being a nonsense translation), it just sounds really awkward when every other phrase has "you know" tacked on the end of it. Chichiri is meant to be a smart character -the whole concept takes his IQ down a few points each time he says it.
In some respects, the practical lack of "na no da"/ "no da" (or "ya know") in the OVA 2 episode "Transience of a Water Mirror" (Ova Ep 8) is something of a relief...it actually makes listening to him in English BEARABLE! (Although the English VA does not have Seki-san's flexibility of voice to carry the scenes off quite so well, see below).
I must also mention before we get properly into the anime notes that there are some confused people online who believe that Ochanoko Saisai Hengen Jizai was sung by Yamaguchi Kappei. I can clear this up...on the official Japanese soundtrack release CD the song is credited to 関智一 (Seki Tomokazu) singing as 井宿 (Chichiri). It was also released on a CD with Ka Chou Fuu Getsu, also credited to the same artist. The confusion stems from the fact Yamaguchi Kappei did sing a song for Chichiri - but on the extremely hard to find Drama CDs. That song was called Joujou Kibun Koyou.
Chichiri's name is pronounched "Ch'ch'ri" with extremely short vowels on each "chi" and also on the final 'ri'. This is also butchered in the English dub, which likes to make him Chi-cheery, whatever the heck that's supposed to be (a play on his smiling kitsune mask, maybe?).
Na no da. ;)