|Left to Right: Seiran Shi, Ryuuki Shi (the Emperor), and Shuurei Hong|
Perhaps one of the greatest things that can happen to an avid reader such as myself, is being recommended a good book. About one month ago, I decided to pick up the manga series, Trinity Blood. I am still in the process of reading it (I'm on volume 10) but while I added the volumes I had read to my account, I noticed that Goodreads had a list of manga it was suggesting based on my choice. One of those manga was Saiunkoku Monogatari, or, if we go by its English name, The Story of Saiunkoku.
The story is set in the fictional kingdom of Saiunkoku, where according to legend, a great hero saved this land from chaos with the help of the Eight Sages. Each sage represented a different color. Saiunkoku's eight provinces were then named after these Eight Sages and each noble clan from each province took on the name of the color as a surname as well. Shuurei Hong is a descendant from a noble clan whose father works as an Imperial Archivist. However, Shuurei must work odd jobs in order to make ends meet. One day, she is approached by an royal advisor who asks her to become a Royal Consort for 6 months for a hefty sum. Shuurei hesitates, but the noble quickly makes it clear that her only duty would be to get the young Emperor in line. At 19 years old, the Emperor refuses to complete his duties and does not study seriously. This has caused a huge burden on his advisors. Furthermore, the Emperor is gay, so Shuurei would not have to worry about nighttime visits.
How is that not an interesting premise? I was insanely curious to see what would happen with Shuurei and with the Emperor. Shuurei is a strong and smart girl who takes on the challenge head on. Her interactions with the Emperor were interesting and while it started out as a love story (because Shuurei's family has a very loyal servant named Seiran who is very protective of her. He doesn't stop her from becoming a consort but he doesn't exactly seem pleased about it either), it quickly becomes something more. I think I became even more interested once we moved away from the Emperor and started to look into the politics at play behind the scenes. There are many individuals vying for power and the very first instance in which you see this is actually during the 6 months Shuurei is a consort.
While Shuurei is a consort, there is someone who is clearly trying to poison her. She is making progress and this would be bad for some members of the nobility. Luckily, the young Emperor notices this (being as his life has been in danger many times before) and makes her take an antidote without her knowledge. Meanwhile, he searches for who could be the culprit. As the poison becomes stronger, the Emperor turns to the two people that have been trying to help him on his path to becoming a responsible Emperor: General Shuuei Ran and Kouyou Ri, the Vice-Secretary of the Department of Civil Administration. The Emperor sends them both an Iris flower, signifying his trust in them and also asking them to "protect the flower of the Emperor" - meaning of course, Shuurei. Eventually the two figure out the plot and everything is dealt with without Shuurei realizing her life was in danger.
|Kouyou Ri and Genera Suuei Ran|
receiving the flowers from the Emperor
that indicates his trust in them.
While Shuurei has many "protectors" she doesn't necessarily rely on them, in fact, there is a scene where Seiran tries to comfort her and she literally pushes him away, saying that she must learn to be strong on her own and not rely on him to "make everything ok." Seeing as this manga, while based on a fictional kingdom, mirrors the dress and set-up of Chinese Empires, I found it pretty awesome that the author decided to delve into the idea of powerful women among the nobility that refused to back down. And it's not only Shuurei, there is a prostitute by the name of Kochou, who wields a significant amount of political power in the underground. She never stands down to any man and while she is a prostitute, she does not let her profession define her; if anything, she is the one to tell Shuurei that she must embrace being a woman and not let her sex stop her from achieving her dreams as a civil servant. One of my favorite scenes is actually when Kochou gives Shuurei make-up and teaches her how to apply it. She tells Shuurei that she should apply make-up when going to court because it's a woman's armor. Kochou explains that when a woman wears make-up she cannot cry because if she does, the make-up will be smeared and ruined. In this way, she teaches Shuurei that she must never allow herself to show weakness and to be proud to be a woman.
|Kou Houju and Hong Reishin, powerful|
nobles in the court.
On the plus side, the anime series does complete the story from the light novels. If I remember correctly, there are 2 seasons. I haven't watched the anime, but I hear there is an English dub? I personally prefer subs, but I don't know if I'll pick it up. I already have a huge list of anime to watch so I don't know if I'll watch it at all. However, it's definitely something I will consider especially if I don't end up buying the light novel series. I really loved this series however and I definitely see myself attempting to complete the story in one way or another. I definitely recommend it and can only hope that someday, someday, it's made into a drama because it would be AMAZING as a period drama :)