By Leroy Douresseaux
Jan 20, 2014 - 16:09
|Ooku Volume 9 cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Rated “M” for “Mature”
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, created by Fumi Yoshinaga, is a manga that presents an alternative version of Japan’s history. In the 1600s, a strange disease, called the Redface Pox, begins to terrorize the population. It kills young men and boys and causes the male population to fall to about one-fourth of the female population. Men eventually become protected as precious “seed bearers,” and women take on the roles traditionally held by men, including the role of Shogun. This story focuses on life at Edo Castle and is set inside its Inner Chambers, a sort of harem filled with men who serve the female Shogun.
As Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 9 (Chapters 36 to 39) opens, the 9th shogun, Lord Ieshige steps down. Her daughter, Lord Ieharu, becomes the 10th Tokugawa shogun. Ieharu advances the initial steps her grandmother, Lord Yoshimune (the 8th Tokugawa shogun), took to introduce Western ideas into Japan. Ieharu charges Lady Tanuma Okitsugu, her new Senior Councillor, with leading the fight against the Redface Pox.
Meanwhile, Gosaku, a half-breed whose father is a Hollander (Dutch) and mother is Japanese, takes the name Aonuma and becomes chief scribe of the Inner Chambers. With his assistant, Kuroki, be his side, Aonuma begins to formulate ways to keep the Inner Chamber free of sickness. Not everyone, however, is accepting of Western ideas, so they resist. Also, the bothersome Hiraya Gennai, another proponent of Western ideas, finds his own ways to annoy Aonuma.
THE LOWDOWN: It is okay if I still continue to admire the Ōoku: The Inner Chambers manga. Every time I read it, Ōoku seems like something different: character drama, historical fiction, historical drama, alternate-world fantasy (or science fiction), soap opera, backstairs drama, royal drama, etc. Well, Ōoku is one of the best comic books at everything it does.
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 9 emphasizes courtly intrigue, as different characters unite in a common cause – either against rivals or for what is a “greater good.” That greater good even involves helping rivals. Vol. 9 is infused with a sense of scientific wonder and discovery as much as it is permeated by backstabbing and conspiracy. I found myself trying to get into the story, to help with the development of medicines and cures for the illnesses and ailments that beset this version of Japan. Fumi Yoshinaga is a master at creating manga that makes you want to enter her fictional worlds, and the Inner Chambers is a place I want to enter.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers looking for excellent character and historical drama will find it in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers.
Rating: A+ /10