Time goes on, and Shogun’s come and go, but will Japan’s male population ever rebound? Will men be destined to live their lives as stud horses?
Writer/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
What They Say
Despite Iemitsu and Arikoto's best efforts, there is no male heir to take over the shogunate. As the Redface Pox continues to ravage the country, it becomes increasingly clear within Edo Castle that Japan's continued existence relies on overturning the centuries of custom that define it!
Life in Japan has not improved during the reign of the first female Shogun. Not only that, but the Shogun has gone public with her true identity, and more and more prominent families and government positions are being run by women. It is an amazing shift in power and policy for a country that had been so strongly dominated by men only a generation earlier. Luckily, labor-saving inventions have made farming easier for women and relieved some of the heavy strain the countries populace have put on the peasant farmers.
Eventually the strain of life becomes too much for the Shogun and she passes at a young age. She leaves the care of her only child to Arikoto, who becomes the Senior Chamberlain and spends many years caring for the young girl.
The Shogun’s daughter, Ietsuna, with Arikoto’s tutelage, becomes a much more passionate woman/ruler than her mother. She cares for people, but unfortunately not the daily duties of a ruler. Her despondent handling of decision making garners her some poor nicknames. This may come with a price as Japan borders on lawlessness. Many samurai have become Ronin over the years as their families of employ fell into ruin. This creates a class of male warriors with no property, no means of income, and refuse to become male prostitutes. It doesn’t take long before enough of them gather together with the intention of overturning the government. Will the Shogun’s forces be quick enough to disband the rabble?
Edo eventually comes to an end, both in stature and Arikoto’s life. After Edo burns to the ground, the people must rebuild. But it has all become too much for Arikoto after all these years. The stress of the Inner Chambers pushes him to resign as Senior Chamberlain and he once again retires to the life of a monk. Just as the life he had before he became trapped in Edo by the former Senior Chamberlain, life has come full circle for Arikoto.
Something I found interesting in the early part of this volume was how the Shogun’s demeanor seemed to mirror that of Japan’s society. Weary. The strain of the man-killing pox has beaten down society and forced it to work twice as hard to keep up. The Shogun’s demeanor appears just as weary. Affairs of the State, the stress of trying to birth a male that will survive the pox, and her loveless life slowly sapped the Shogun of her will to live. Arikoto is her only saving grace, and he can’t stand their relationship. The Shogun must sleep with men that might get her pregnant, Arikoto can’t. At the same time he can’t be with her after knowing she was with another man. Its all very sad and there doesn’t seem to be any way to make them both happy.
This series has been a wonderful read, with great art and engaging characters. However, this volume transitions from known characters to their offspring. Hopefully the author can create characters just as likeable in the forthcoming arc.