Monday, November 22, 2010

The Story of Saiunkoku Volume 1

By Sai Yukino and Kairi Yura. Released in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten, serialization ongoing in the magazine Asuka. Released in North America by Viz.

I will admit to being unfamiliar with the original light novels this is based off of, which now number 16 and are still being written. I do see that the manga artist for the series actually is the same artist who does the illustrations for the light novels, which is refreshing. Nor did I see the two anime series based off of it, some of which was licensed by Geneon before they went under. This is, after all, a Kadokawa title, and nothing says franchise quite like Kadokawa. That said, I never felt like I was missing anything, as this particular manga is very good at simply laying out the basic plot and just going along with it.

The basic plot is politics, with a dash of romance. We meet our hero Shurei, who is a noble but whose family has fallen on hard times. Therefore, she's well versed in commoner things such as cooking, cleaning, etc. She is asked - okay, tricked - okay, bribed - into becoming consort to the Emperor of our fictional country, who has proven to be completely ambivalent and uncaring about ruling his country. Naturally, she takes this as a challenge. She's determined to make him a good ruler... once she can find him.

One thing I liked about this title is how clever everyone is throughout the first volume. Perhaps it's because this particular shoujo title is freed from the high school of modern times (it takes place in generic fantasy country at the time of generic Edo period), but people manage to not only be book-smart but also savvy. This includes our heroine, who first meets the Emperor when he's pretending to be someone else, and sees through this almost immediately. Much to my surprise, it also includes said Emperor, who does have a bit of sheltered and spoiled to him (mostly in his personal dealings), but is also putting on an act, which he starts to drops under Shurei's influence.

Having also seen many times the story of two girls who are in love during their teenage years and then go on to grow up and marry men, it was somewhat amusing to see the reverse here, as the Emperor has been taking young men to his bed for some time, but on meeting Shuhei his tastes start to change as he falls for her. (It goes without saying, this being shoujo, that the Emperor and his underlings are all quite pretty.) The underlings are mostly there to deliver exposition, though one does seem to have a Ryouga-like sense of direction. (Is that too dated? Should I start saying Zoro-like sense of direction? I do want to keep trendy...) And of course there's Shuhei's retainer Seiran, who it is hinted is far more than he first appears.

There is some romance here, notably with the rather forward Emperor and the shocked and flustered Shuhei, but I'm actually far more interested in the political plot developing. Hopefully I'll get to see more as the series goes on. A good pickup for Viz, giving their Beat line some much-needed variety.

1 comment:

  1. "[...] though one does seem to have a Ryouga-like sense of direction. (Is that too dated? Should I start saying Zoro-like sense of direction? I do want to keep trendy...)"

    I would say that you should keep the Ranma 1/2 reference, if only because I recognized it immediately, while I really don't know anything about the One Piece character (I wish that I could have said that "Zoro" only brought to mind the black-clad, masked, sword-swinger, but that thought still came second). ^^; Umm... Are you referring to OP's Zoro? I'm only aware of him because of the discussions back when the Zoro/Zolo romanization issues first got going, but I don't know if there are yet more Zoros out there.

    I'd still probably say that the reference might be a little dated (a quick look at Amazon & RightStuf makes me think that the last book from Viz was published back in 11/06), but I'm fine with it. Of course, my perspective is that of a anime/manga fan who got started in 1991, and who gave up on the shounen fighting genre several years ago (and was never interested in Naruto, never tried One Piece, and only made it to the volumes in the mid-teens for Bleach, before I found it getting too repetitive and far too dragged out).

    Did that help at all? Probably not... ^_^