Name: Tasuki (翼宿)
Real Name: Kou Shun'u
Also known as: Genrou
Age: Seventeen (at start)
Family: Mother, Father, older sisters Eimin, Rin'an, Fuyou, Manka, Aidou.
Place of Birth: Kounan's western province, near Souun.
Power: Enhanced speed, Suzaku strength allowing him to throw fire through his 'tessen'.
Seiyuu (Japanese): Kanna Nobutoshi (Anime) Yao Kazuki (Drama CDs)
Voice Artist (English): James Penrod
For the most part, we don't see Tasuki's family although his mother, father and the youngest of his older sisters Aidou do appear briefly in the manga. Tasuki is the youngest of six children and the only boy - and his childhood growing up with his bossy, nagging, teasing sisters has made him hate women forevermore. Very little information is given on his older sisters except for a short story in one of the Perfect World magazines, however Aidou also appears in the GenrouDen novel and is the best known of his extensive family. (She's remembered for hitting him hard over the head on several occasions!).
At fifteen, a fed up Shun'u ran away from home to join the mountain bandits of Reikaku-zan. Initially, on seeing Shun'u's stellar mark, the bandit kashira Hakurou refused to let him on the m0untain, knowing one day his loyalties would be challenged. But Shun'u is persistant and is eventually allowed to join the bandits, given the nickname Genrou. It is here he meets Kouji who, despite an antagonistic first encounter becomes his closest friend and the nearest thing to a brother he has had. When Hakurou's ill-health threatened the bandits, Hakurou named Genrou as his successor as Genrou was the only other bandit who could wield the blessed Tessen and use it to defend the mountain. However, Genrou refused to believe Hakurou was dying and so left the mountain in search of a cure, allowing Eiken to take over in his absence (as we see in the manga/anime).
Despite his hate of girls, Shun'u is conscious of protecting them and even sheds tears at the death of a young bandit ally ReiRei whose life he is unable to save.
Tasuki has the honoured position of being one of the few left standing at the end of the day - a Seishi who lives through the battle against Seiryuu and the Seiryu-Shichi-Seishi that culminates at the end of episode 52. (Although it must be said that he doesn't always appreciate having that life - since on a few occasions he seems to think he has died or is about to die, and on one occasion attempts to take his own life with his tessen/harisen).
In many respects Tasuki can be seen as a 'man's man'. He is a fighter, raised as a bandit and able to hold his own in a fight even with Tamahome, who is arguably the most powerful of the Suzaku-Seishi (at least by the end of the series). And yet he is not just a brawler. There is a deep sensitivity within him which enables him to empathise with those around him and even shed tears without compromising his masculinity on several occasions. At the deaths of Nuriko and Chiriko, Tasuki's reaction is almost as violent as Miaka's, and its fair to say his tears flow more often than any other male character in the series (except possibly Tamahome, who has far more scenes anyway, so it's an unfair comparison). When Chichiri asks him to burn his cape and destroy Hikou in the OVA, Tasuki hesitates because he realises that Chichiri will also be caught in the blast - he actually likens the event in his mind to the suicide of Chiriko and he can't bear the idea of being part of the death of one of his friends.
Tasuki's key characteristic is probably loyalty, and it is likely this respect for his comrades which allowed him to be named as the Boss's successor on Mount Reikaku, even at the age of only seventeen. (Though it is not recorded in the anime, Tasuki's reason in the manga for being absent at the boss's death was that he was on a journey seeking a curative herb for his leader's complaint at the time). Even when Miaka and company first arrive looking for Tasuki, he lies to them about his identity because of the overriding loyalty and responsibility he feels to his fellow bandits, and when the fight against the Seiryuu Seishi has ended, he returns to his life as a bandit. No matter how much time he spends in the palace at Hong-Nan or as one of the Seishi, his men back home are still in his mind and he always intends to return to them to be the best leader he can be.
Tasuki's loyalty extends to the other Seishi, however, once he makes up his mind to join them and he takes this tie very seriously. He attacks the kodoku-possessed Tamahome for hurting Miaka - not only for breaking her arm, but also for wrenching her feelings, indicating again that his empathy belies his fighter nature. In some respects, also, it takes him time to forgive Tamahome for this act of pseudo-betrayal - in Tasuki's world, loyalty should be unshakeable, and he is the only one of the Seishi who has serious issues with Tamahome returning to the band after he is cured. (Although this could also be a matter of pride, since Tamahome won the battle and left Tasuki nursing some fairly serious wounds). However, by the end of the OVAs and Eikoden, most of the issues between Tamahome and Tasuki have been more or less ironed out, one way or another. Certainly in the manga, by the end of the sequence, Tasuki and Tamahome are very close as buddies. In a sense, although they fight a lot in the television series, even by the end of this their bantering has become more like brotherly squabbles than genuinely vicious sparring. They are both young men who are full of energy and mischief and they like to spar it off against each other - Tamahome takes great delight in the fact that Tasuki can't swim, for example, often teasing him about it and pretending to throw him overboard from the Seishi's ship. They are essentially of an age - and the bond they form is the same kind of friendship that he undoubtedly shares with Kouji among the Reikaku-zan bandits (see below for Kouji).
Ironically, Tasuki only comes genuinely close to death at the hands of Suzaku's servants - once in his battle against the poisoned Tamahome and the second time at his own hand. (For some reason he seems charmed where the Seiryuu are concerned!)
Tasuki's own moment of near-betrayal doesn't come until the OVA 2, where, induced to follow his deepest, darkest whims by evil magic, he spirits Miaka away and comes close to raping her, hurting Taka (Tamahome) in the process. However, despite the spell, Tasuki battles to overcome it, and is so ashamed of his actions that he turns his tessen on himself, seeking to end his life. It's clear that betrayal is the biggest no-no in Tasuki's view of the world - although he often cries in grief and is willing to offer his own life to defend someone he cares about, this is the only time in the whole of the series where he becomes so dispirited he wants to end his own existance. Even though he is under the lure of the enemy, however, it is partly his own judgement which allows him to be led astray - he perceives Taka as not the Tamahome he once knew and fought with, and therefore does not interpret (at least at first) contesting for Miaka's affections as betraying one of his friends. I think that the black magic induces him to attack Miaka in the way he does, and also to turn so violently on Taka/Tamahome. However, you can also say his own feelings and indignation where Miaka are concerned are sparked off by the fact he feels Tamahome really isn't with them - that Taka is some stranger, and therefore Miaka is open season. Even before he takes matters into his own hands, it's clear that his feelings for Miaka have strengthened but more significantly, that he is angry at the way Tamahome seems to always make Miaka cry. Perhaps there's an element of remembering the kodoku episode in this also, but on several occasions Tasuki objects to how Miaka keeps holding on to Taka even though he upsets her - once taking the issue up with Miaka herself and getting a fierce scolding for it in the process!
Tasuki's romantic situation is never quite clear in the television series. Some people cite interaction between him and Nuriko, but I don't really see that. They become close friends, and I think that, strangely, this is because they have a lot in common. Nuriko's femininity allows him to see things from a more female, empathic perspective, and Tasuki's lack of fear of emotion allows them to bond, although most of the time their relationship is a light-hearted, bantering friendship. (Although he hates women, Tasuki grew up surrounded by them to begin with, so you imagine he has a pretty good insight into the female mind to some degree!)
When Nuriko dies, Tasuki at first refuses to believe it, and although he admits that he didn't know whether Nuriko was man or woman, he thought his friend was just cool the way he was.
I don't think there's any question about Tasuki's sexuality, as although he claims not to like women, he still seems to lean towards them rather than towards men. Watase Yuu has said herself that he has experience with women, even though he's never been in love (until Miaka!). When he is possessed by the spell in the OVA, it is Miaka he seeks to take advantage of, and at the end of the TV series he does tell her he'll stop hating women, and, rather confusingly, only hate people he hates. ;) (Such randomness is pretty typical of Tasuki!). Cynics might say that the reason Tasuki became the rival for Miaka's affection in the OVA was because Hotohori was both married and dead by this point, rendering him rather null and void as a romantic interest. However, Tasuki's deep fondness for Miaka is evident in the television series too - although their relationship there is more of a sister/brother one, with Tasuki willing to defend her honour or her person at a moment's notice. The difference probably is that in the TV series, Miaka is with Tamahome and Tasuki has more honour than to even step over that line. Two years later, he's two years older and Tamahome is different - so the situation has changed. (And yet you feel that he would not act on those feelings whilst he felt it would be turning against his own kind. It is, after all, Taka's reminder to him that he is and has been accepted as one of the Seishi even without his memories that breaks the magic's hold on Tasuki and makes him pull away from Miaka). It has to be remembered/realised that Tasuki too has changed in the time they've been apart!
Although he can be empathic, he isn't always perceptive and occasionally makes remarks or jumps into battles without fully understanding the situation. That he lacks tact is beyond dispute - Nuriko actually asks him if he understands the word 'Delicacy' at one point in the OVA, and he is constantly putting his foot in it by talking about Miaka and her feelings when Hotohori and/or Nuriko are around. He is simply used to being in an environment where people speak their mind and put their faith in bandit bonds rather than scheming and plotting behind the scenes. He is very direct, completely un-hypocritical and probably entirely unable to stab a friend in the back (without the influence of magic making him act against his normal will).
Tasuki's other close bonds in the series are with Chiriko and with Chichiri. In some respects, the bond with Chiriko is more subtle than the one he shares with Nuriko, although you can imagine that it's a brotherly connection as Chiriko is the youngest Seishi and Tasuki still immature enough in some respects to be able to learn from the connection. When Chiriko is forced to take his own life to quell the Seiryu-Seishi Miboshi, Tasuki is distraught and his first question to Chiriko when he returns as a spirit is "hey, Chiriko, have you been okay?" To which Chiriko drolly replies, "No, I've been dead." Although there's no great bonding session between the two of them, Tasuki and Chiriko often appear together in scenes, and it's clear they do have a strong friendship which passes on into the OVA and Eikoden. (This friendship is much more clear in the manga, where it's Tasuki to whom Chiriko confesses about feeling weak and that he's let the other Seishi down because of his fluctuating courage). When Tasuki believes he and Chichiri are about to die at Nakago's hands, he apologises to Nuriko and Chiriko for failing, before telling them that they won't be lonely long because he'll be joining them. It's significant that he does not mention the other two dead Seishi, Mitsukake and Hotohori ^_^.
Tasuki's bond with Chichiri is a constant source of amusement, for Chichiri is the oldest Seishi, the smart thinker and the one who often has the answers. Tasuki on the other hand is impulsive, hot-headed and fiery, willing to dive into a battle without stopping to think of tactics. Their bonding comes about partly because they are the last Seishi left alive besides Tamahome at the end of the TV series, and it becomes clear that their friendship has strengthened somewhat by the time the OVA comes around. Although there is a lot of banter between them, it is clear that both have a healthy respect for one another and understand each other well. Chichiri likes to tease Tasuki about his occasional stupidity (in this sometimes he can be as trusting and as gullible as Miaka), whilst Tasuki likes to pester Chichiri about his preference for stealth fighting techniques instead of running into the fray all guns blazing. Quite often Chichiri seems to hold Tasuki back from getting himself killed from one such situation. I almost see them as like brothers, too, in the way they act...but a different sort of brothers. Chichiri is the elder brother that Tasuki might have benefitted from growing up - but not in the same sense as Kouji is. They are very contrasting personalities, but it works for them.
As regards the other Seishi, I always get the feeling that Tasuki doesn't really like Mitsukake as much as the others - at least initially. Perhaps it's because they are so diametrically opposite, but I think there's also an element of Tasuki believing Mitsukake doesn't have proper human emotions. When Tasuki is injured after his battle with Tamahome, he calls Mitsukake to account for treating him like an object and not a human being. Mitsukake's response is even-tempered and reasonable, which does nothing to calm Tasuki's ire, and I think that, for all his empathy where Nuriko, Chiriko and Miaka are concerned, Tasuki has completely missed the boat with Mitsukake's nature. Mitsukake does little to help this misconception, either, because he does keep his emotions locked up inside of him. Mitsukake's healing gifts are not always as all-encompassing as Tasuki, with his simplistic outlook would like them to be, and he is constantly questioning why Mitsukake can't do something - i.e heal Nuriko's fatal wounds, and mend his own Tamahome-induced injuries. He is significantly not present at Mitsukake's death, and so we will never know if he would have shed the tears over Mitsukake that he shed over the others. However, it must also be said that when Mitsukake is struck by Nakago, it is Tasuki who supports his fallen comrade's injured body. And in the OVA2, it is Mitsukake (with the help of Nyan-Nyan) that saves Tasuki from his own harisen (although at the time Tasuki is trying to end his own life, so he doesn't seem overly grateful about it).
I suppose at the end of the day, Seishi loyalty still counts over everything else! I think maybe part of it is Tasuki's fire and zest for life, and the fact he is straight down the line, even if he is occasionally dense or over the top. He's easy to trust and he forms friendships more quickly than he does enemies because of his disarming way of getting someone's respect...which means it's very hard for anyone to hate him for long.
As for Hotohori, aside from panicking about offending the Emperor and making as many inappropriate references to Hotohori's feelings for Miaka as he possibly can, there seems to be simply a working friendship rather than a deep and meaningful one. It's significant that Tasuki sheds tears for Hotohori, but in a quiet, muted way...nothing like the emphatic grief displayed for Nuriko or Chiriko. Despite this, though, he is concerned about Hotohori's whereabouts when in the thick of battle against the Kutou soldiers, a fact which inspires him and Kouji to go looking for his fellow Seishi.
A brief moment must be given over to Tasuki's Reikaku bandits as well - although the only one he seems particularly close to is Kouji, with whom he has unshakeable loyalty. It is Kouji who he trusts enough to leave in charge of his gang while he is away with the Seishi, and you get the impression that Kouji might be the only one who knows Tasuki is a Seishi before he admits to it himself - though Eiken knows that there is a bandit by that name, he either is intimidated by Tasuki's presence or he doesn't know that Genrou is actually Tasuki (suggesting it could just be a bandit rumour that's been buzzing around). (I've heard it said that the former boss also knew that Tasuki was Tasuki, and that's one of the reasons for wanting him to be the heir to the leadership, but of course, by this point...said boss is dead ^_^) Kouji actually asks Tasuki if he'd rather have left with Miaka and the others, and it's clear that he knows more about it than some of their companions. Kouji is also the only one who knows the whereabouts of Tasuki's secret base, where he takes Miaka after he abducts her from Eiken. Kouji risks his position to come ally himself with Tasuki in his attempt to retake control of the bandits, and he also re-emerges at the end to fight for Kounan alongside his former raiding partner. In the OVA 1, somewhere in Tomo's delusion state, Tamahome finds himself facing Kouji who is looking for vengeance for his friend's life. Since Tamahome is able to believe in this without much question, it seems key that even the Seishi understand that a strong bond exists between Kouji and Tasuki. Probably they grew up together as trainee thieves, though what mischief they got up to when younger is anyone's guess. (This is probably covered in the Genrouden (Legend of Genrou) novel written with Watase Yuu's approval about Tasuki's background...but having not seen it, I couldn't possibly comment on it...)
It must not be assumed that because of his fierce loyalty and his bonds with people he befriends, Tasuki and his bandits are necessarily good guys. When Tasuki is under the evil spell in the OVA 2, he makes reference to a raid four years previously on the town where he and Miaka are holed up. The reaction of the hotelier seems emphatic enough to suggest it was a violent and terrifying event. The attacks on Miaka and co in the mountains also indicates that the Reikaku band are capable of ruthless acts, and it is probably this element which has made Tasuki grow up as strong a fighter as he proves to be.
It's true to say that Tasuki does grow up over the course of the various series. He is a more mature character in the Eikoden series, (although he still has his innate and unique bandit charm :) He does stop to think before wielding his fan and causing random fires, something he wouldn't have done in the TV series. And he shows a natural concern/connection with the child-age Seishi, even though hes not settled or had kids of his own. You do get the feeling that he might make an interesting father - impatient and frustrated he might be but he still does his best to comfort both baby Chiriko (Gakurei) and child Nuriko (Reishun) when they are crying. It is Tasuki rather than Chichiri or Taka who comments with concern in Eikoden that they have taken Reishun away from her parents, since she's only around eight years old - he's distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of taking her away without their knowledge.
Although he is a fighter, he is almost always impeccably turned out in what you can only assume is the latest fashion - when compared with the attire of his fellow bandits, its clear that he intends to make an impression (though you'd think that his red hair would do that!) He also has distinctive "fangs" which probably also help to add to his "Phantom Wolf" nickname!
Tasuki's flame-coloured hair match his tessen's special power well, and he does tend to rely on the holy fire of the fan when he fights. However, being the kind of man he is, he's more than capable of using the tessen in other ways in battle, and when the Suzaku Seishi's powers are sealed away, he is happy to take a sword and fight as an ordinary soldier for his country's cause. Tasuki is also said to have great speed, although he only really seems to use it from time to time. We can assume that his way of catching up to the other Suzaku Seishi so quickly is because of his speed, and he certainly used it to first kidnap Miaka then later save her from kodoku-Tamahome - but in general he tends to rely on his physical strength and his flame-charged harisen to fight his battles. By the time Eikoden comes around, he is barely able to keep pace with the cheeky Reishun, which indicates that speed is not his most natural nor consistant talent.
I In order to properly appreciate Tasuki in vocal form, you have to have seen the Japanese dub. Quite often the English dialogue is edited from what Tasuki actually says, but more significantly, his voice is not so distinctive and well suited to the character in the English dub as it is in the Japanese version. Anyone who's familiar with Tasuki's signature song Heart Ni Kiraboshi Sakashitare will know that a lot of Tasuki's charisma lies in the way he speaks as well as the way he acts...truly, you do not know Tasuki for who he is until you have heard him as the animation intended.
I'm not knowledgeable enough about Japanese accents to be able to say what regional accent Tasuki speaks with, but in the manga it is mentioned that he has a Kansai accent, or something of that nature. (He is written really annoyingly in the English translation of the manga because of this, however - in a really ugly slangy style used to attempt representation of this dialect. Someone should tell the translators some things are best not attempted...)
Tasuki's name is pronounced "Tas'ki" with a short middle vowel, giving it two syllables instead of three. Once in the anime a joke is made on his name and the Japanese verb to save/rescue "tasukaru" This is also pronounced with a short 'u'. Unfortunately his name occasionally comes over as "Tusky" in the English dub, which while being highly amusing is not very flattering for the poor guy...
Tasuki has the enviable position of being the general favourite of the Seishi among fans of the series. And he is pretty cool :) (Though Nuriko will always pip him to the post with me every time, he remains my number 2 character from Fushigi Yuugi.).
Quick note on the Drama CD situation - Yao Kazuki sings one and a half songs for Tasuki on these, also - including a duet with Taka. (Isn't it a shame that Midorikawa Hikaru and Kanna Nobutoshi never got to do that, considering their off-anime musical connections...)
Random Tasuki Quotes:
"From now on I won't say I hate girls. I just won't like people I don't like." (on parting with Miaka at the end of the TV series)
"Yeah, we made it, but my nerves are shot. You almost gave me a heart attack, you jerk!" (On Taka's tight timing in rescuing Chichiri, OVA episode 8)
"I didn't know if he was a man or a woman. He was just...cool." (On Nuriko, after Nuriko's death, Episode 33))
"I won't betray my friends!" (On the influence of Hikou's spell, OVA episode 7)
"Why ask the question to which you already know the answer? My life already belongs to them." (On tactical decisions, OVA ep 9)
"Hey, Chichiri, do you fancy checking out the booze in this world after we're done?" (Battle bravado vs Nakago, episode 51)
"Did he swallow dangerous drugs again? Or has he finally gone senile?" (On Taka's amnesia, OVA episode 3 (OVA II ep 1))