Ooku 7

August 28, 2012

Fumi Yoshinaga – Viz – 2012 – 8+ volumes

I did like saving up consecutive volumes of this series and reading them all at once, because I had a difficult time getting into the first part of this volume. I could not, for the life of me, remember who the characters were, what their relationships to one another were, and where their alliances were. With only one volume a year, the solution is to simply re-read the whole thing before the next one comes out. Ooku certainly will reward me for the trouble.

I read the first part twice, but it isn’t really that hard to follow. With the death of Ienobu, the reigning Shogun is a young girl who cannot govern the country. She is also sickly, so her advisers take sides as to who will be the next Shogun, as it looks as if Ietsugu will be unable to produce an heir.

During this time, there’s a beautiful side story about the Ooku, Ietsugu’s father, and his Groom of the Bedchamer Ejima. With the politics of the successor playing out, Ietsugu’s father opposes Ietsugu’s acting cabinet. Thus, a plot is launched. Unfortunately, it is launched against Ejima, who is a humble man that is loved by all, and one who staunchly sticks to all the rules of the Ooku. Ejima is made to look in gross violation of the most sacred of the Ooku customs, and he is sentenced to death in order to get Ietsugu’s father to pledge loyalty to the cabinet’s choice of Shogun. His story is a beautiful, heartbreaking one, and does not have a happy ending. It was absolutely the best part of this book.

Ietsugu’s end is not mentioned at all in this book, though we are meant to assume it happens. Promptly after the Ejima side story ends, Yoshimune is introduced as Shogun. Yoshimune takes a no-nonsense approach to governing, and quickly solves several problems plaguing the realm, while creating others when she insists on having her way. She is extremely pragmatic and action-oriented, which is a breath of fresh air in this series. She also seems immune to outside influence, which will hopefully be important later.

Notably, Yoshimune is also interested in gender roles once again. This becomes less of an issue as the personal lives of the Shogun have taken over the story, but she brings the topic back into play when she reads the old histories and learns that men used to rule over women. She begins putting men to work in more vigorous ways than bedroom exercises, and begins to try and cure the disease that takes the lives of young boys. She realizes it’s important to Japan to open up to outside nations, but their lack of men will be seen as a major weakness.

I’d love to read more about Yoshimune, and I’m very interested to see where the story about her heir goes, hinted at on the last page of the volume. And I’m also curious to see if traditional male roles in society will resume by the time Tokugawa Ieyoshi ends his reign. I’m extremely curious about that, in fact.

But, just in case I didn’t make this clear, this is still an extremely well-written and well-illustrated work. I love everything Fumi Yoshinaga does, but this is definitely her best work. It’s got numerous layers of enjoyment, explains enough about Japanese history to make it engaging for someone with absolutely no knowledge of the Shogunate. And while retelling history with an alternate spin, she still writes really, really good characters. Really, what more can you ask?

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

2 Responses to “Ooku 7”

  1. Sophia Says:

    You read the chapters only when they come out in english?

  2. ame Says:

    you can kindly ask her to produce it faster!! omg i cannot wait! this easily my current favorite series

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