Story of Saiunkoku 3

July 14, 2011

Kairi Yura / Sai Yukino – Viz – 2011 – 7+ volumes

This is very good, too, but in a different way (I’m covering a lot of manga that I liked tonight). The first two volumes were about even-headed Shurei coaching the Emperor and helping him through some difficult personal and political issues. In volume three, Shurei’s time as the Emperor’s partner is up, and she has no desire to go back to him. The Emperor himself is smitten, but the fact that Shurei currently has no interest in romance gave me slight pause, since I don’t know what to do with a shoujo series when there’s no romance. I mean, it’s shoujo law.

What is this book about then, if not romance? Well, Shurei studies a lot, which is unusual for a woman. She’s also familiar with a lot of the palace officials after her stay as the Emperor’s partner, and during a heat wave that takes out a lot of civil service staff, one of the top palace officials offers her a job as a page for the treasury department. She is utterly thrilled at the opportunity, and dresses as a boy in order to get closer to the workings of the government. Turns out her dream is to be a civil servant, and most of the story is about how the government is in something of an upheval due to the fact women can’t take the civil service exam, and Shurei coming to terms with the fact that she can’t be one.

Of course, the head of the treasury department is an extremely strict person who wears an iron mask and is totally a woman. I’m not sure when the story is going to reveal this, so it’s not really a spoiler, but my best guess. I know what I’m talking about, though.

Character relations are deepening. There is the interaction between Shurei and Seiran, which isn’t quite romance, but watching the two of them together is very sweet, especially the way Seiran protects her. Ryuki, the Emperor, is still around, although he’s more of a side character and… almost comic relief through this volume. He and Shurei have no reason to interact, and the main love interest established in the first two volumes looks very unlikely… again, I’m not sure how I feel about that, especially since I’m very fond of Ryuki. But if it avoided that shoujo trap, I think I may like this series more in the end. There’s also Shurei’s father, and a new character that seems to have ties to Seiran. And let’s not forget the rather mysterious head of the treasury department, because I think all the interaction between that person and Shurei will be very important next time around.

This is based on a (rather long) light novel series, so I can almost see the 2-volumes-per-novel structure at work. I like it so far, and am really looking forward to the character-driven and somewhat slow paced story. I like it a lot. I always hope that it can be a replacement for my beloved Apothecarius Argentum, another light fantasy and very shoujo-y series. It’s not just yet, but it took me several volumes to get into Apothecarius Argentum too. I’m hoping I get just as thoroughly addicted to this.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

2 Responses to “Story of Saiunkoku 3”

  1. Nari Says:

    Wait, what? Head of treasury is a woman…? I’m pretty sure that guy’s a male, so do you actually mean he knows Shurei is a woman? :D

  2. Connie Says:

    No, I suspect that the head of the treasury is a woman because of the whole mask thing. It would be a very shoujo manga-like plot point to make the harsh head of the treasury, in actuality, a woman who winds up not having to hide her identity once women are allowed to hold government positions. I could be wrong, it’s just what I suspect. I have volume four to read, so I should just get it over with and find out if I’m right or wrong.

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