Mania Grade: A
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- Art Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: A+
- Text/Translation Rating: A-
- Age Rating: 18 and Up
- Released By: Viz Media
- MSRP: 12.99
- Pages: 232
- ISBN: 978-1421527499
- Size: A5
- Orientation: Right to Left
- Series: Ooku: The Inner Chambers
Ooku: The Inner Chambers Vol. #03
Ooku: The Inner Chambers Vol. #03 Manga Review
By Matthew Alexander
July 14, 2010
Release Date: April 20, 2010
Ooku: The Inner Chambers
© Viz Media
With the failing male population and ultimately the ruin of all Japan nearing, will the Shogun gamble the countries future by revealing her true identity to the people?
Writer/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
Translation: Akemi Wegmuller
Adaptation: Akemi Wegmuller
What They Say
In this 17th Century Japan the Shogun is a woman...and the harem is full of men. The tale told in the Chronicle of the Dying Day continues as the young female shogun Iemitsu tries desperately to conceive a male heir. But her lover Arikoto seems unable to give her a child, and they must betray their hearts to save their country. Meanwhile, the Redface Pox continues its ruthless progress through Japan, leaving famine, despair, and the threat of anarchy in its wake.
The passing of time has seen the male population outside the Ooku plummet to one-fifth that of females. Even a few men hidden inside the Ooku’s protective walls have fallen to the horrible pox. In the world outside, men continue to die and pestilence and famine only make matters worse. Famines force farmers to sell their land and travel to the nearest city in hopes of finding work. This only exacerbates the lack of labor in the fields, as most workers are frail old men or women of all ages.
Far withdrawn from this world of horror and pain, the Shogun and her male attendants of the Ooku remain oblivious. Actually, that isn’t quite true. While the men are kept from news of the world, the Shogun receives updates from a loyal attendant, who as far as I can tell is the only man allowed to freely come and go from the Ooku.
Older and less combative, the Shogun worries about her people and whether their situation will force them to revolt. This creates an interesting dilemma, as there are too few men to put down a revolt, yet all of those revolting would be women. Add to that the problem with samurai families keeping any male kin alive long enough to succeed the family name. The red pox has made families that could stand against the Shogun weaker, but has also made the country weaker if a foreign power were to attempt an invasion. A win lose situation for the Shogun and ultimately for the country. The ramifications of this plague strike every level of society, making the author’s representation of this plight incredibly entertaining.
Plague, famine, and social strife aren’t the only problems the Shogun has to deal with. Most importantly, she has to birth a male successor and Arikoto isn’t getting the job done. The Shogun and Arikoto love each other dearly, but the ever-powerful Lady Kasuga will not waste any more time on a defective stud. She quickly finds another man that looks like Arikoto and sends him in to get things done. The Shogun has matured a lot since Arikoto’s arrival, and instead of raging against something she has no control over, she quietly accepts her fate. Even if she must bed a hundred men, she will never allow anyone but Arikoto into her heart. This aspect of the story is done amazingly well as it gives the reader insight to both the Shogun and Arikoto’s feelings, and ultimately their inability to change their positions in this world.
As a manga fan and a reviewer, I tend to focus heavily on the Manly Manga side of things, but I have to admit that with both its historical and romantic aspects, ‘Ooku’ may be the best series I’ve read in the last year. The plight of Arikoto after he was taken hostage and forced to bed the Shogun in the last volume is only one-upped in this volume by the Shogun’s true personality shining through. For those around her, her internal pain and plight has been hidden behind her cantankerous shield that she rams against those around her. It doesn’t take long before the Shogun becomes more likeable and I found myself rooting for the love that quickly blossoms between them.
The author’s examination of feudal Japan and how society may react to a plague that only kills males is both original and fascinating. Mix in sympathetic and believable characters that either grow as people, or don’t, and this series becomes an impressive page-turner that keeps me thirsting for more.