By Leroy Douresseaux
Dec 20, 2010 - 9:29
|Ooku Volume 5 cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Rated “M” for “Mature”
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is both alternate Earth fantasy and Japanese historical fiction. Created by Fumi Yoshinaga, it imagines a world where, in the early 1600s, a strange new disease, called the Redface Pox, suddenly starts killing young men and boys. The male population falls to about one-fourth of the female population and men eventually become protected as precious “seed bearers.” Women take on the roles traditionally held by men, including shogun. The series focuses on life at Edo Castle and is set inside its Inner Chambers, a harem-like gathering of men.
In Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 5, the new shogun, Tokuka Tsunayoshi, reigns, but her castle is in turmoil. Occasionally, the troubles of the outside world intrude, including this world’s version of the Ako Incident. Tsunayoshi also has trouble bearing an heir, and the future shogun makes an appearance.
THE LOWDOWN: As is usual with Ōoku, Vol. 5 offers excellent character melodrama and scandalous palace intrigue. It also has the added feature of being a captivating look at gender roles and role reversal in a female-dominated society, perhaps best exemplified by the Ōoku version of the 47 ronin story. As I’ve said before, Ōoku is an all-around good read, offering soap opera and human observation that are both surprisingly heartbreaking and disarmingly poignant.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers looking for excellent character drama will find it in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers.