Welcome to the last official day of the August 2011 Manga Moveable Feast, celebrating Fumi Yoshinaga. I will do a wrap up post, so I can accommodate the stragglers, and post some final thoughts, on Monday. This is my last feature post, however. Yesterday I talked about the first three female Shoguns in Ōoku Th Inner Chambers, Chie, Chiyo, and Tokuko. These women appear in volumes 2 through 6, with Chie’s story taking up the bulk of the pages, and a decent chunk on Tokuko, with just a scant few pages on Chiyo. There’s not much on the remaining Shoguns in the volumes available currently, so this will likely be a far shorter column that yesterday’s piece.
One of the unique things about Yoshinaga’s portrayal of this period in history, is that she maintains the integrity of the real history of the period. She treats her series as the secret story behind what’s recorded in the history books, using the names of real people and real events, and creating different circumstances behind recorded personalities of rulers. For example, Arikoto is said to have been kept out of the written history of the period, and female domain lords are assigned manly names which are listed in all records in place of their given names. Everything comes across not as a rewriting of history, but rather the true history of the period which was covered up in official records. It’s an interesting way to present the story, and it works; it reads like newly recovered secret documents, or personal diaries from the period. I believe this serves to draw the reader more into the world Yoshinaga has created; it’s certainly worked that way for me.
At any rate, we left off with Tokuko, who believed she had far outlived her usefulness. She did at last name an heir, despite going against her father’s wishes in her decision. She chose the capable Tsunatoyo to be the sixth Tokugawa Shogun.
Already a capable ruler of her own domain, Tsunatoyo was a welcome and successful Shogun, however, her reign lasted only three years. The first official edict from Tsunatoyo was to void the Edicts on Compassion for Living Things, ending what had become a great strain on the palace coffers, and a poorly regarded nuisance for the populace. Unlike her sex-crazed predecessor, Tsunatoyo had a sorrowful history of bearing children, having lost three before even becoming Shogun. She blamed her own body as being incapable of handling the burden of bearing a child, and regretted having to bring another man’s child into the world only to cause him sorrow when it was lost. Her concubine, Sakyo, hand picked by her loyal attendant Manabe, understood the suffering of this woman, and also observed her compassion, and resolved to stay at her side, despite his love for Manabe. A child was born, and immediately educated in the history of Japan, specifically how things were before the plague that wiped out the men, and how Tsunatoyo was revoking previous edicts that would allow the “norm” to return should the male population grow back to its former numbers. Tsunatoyo revoked the decree that allowed only daughters of warrior houses to succeed as head of the family. The edict originally was a reaction to a male dominated warrior family which rose up and took revenge on a family who had slighted them (the tale of the forty-seven ronin). Tsunatoyo, who also aided the economy by ceasing the circulation of low quality coin, was loved by the people, but was frail and sickly, and died without appointing a ruler to stand in for her very young daughter. This led to a power struggle within the palace, known as the Ejima-Ikushima affair (switch the genders around), which it seems Yoshinaga will cover in volume 7.
Chiyo/ Shogun Ietsugu
Little is said about Chiyo in the currently published volumes, but we do know that she died quite young. Her short reign (though being so young she did exceptionally little) will likely be covered in volume 7, and then we will be returned to Yoshimune’s reign, which we glimpsed in volume 1.
Yoshimune was an entirely different breed than her predecessors. Hearty and hale, she also had a vigorous sex drive, and would often pull random palace workers from their duties for a roll in the bushes. She was relatively undiscerning in her choice of partners, and in fact she removed the best looking of the bunch from her service, sending the able bodied and handsome off to find houses to marry into and work to rebuild the population. Yoshimune preferred more robust fellows to the pretty boys that were groomed for her, and respected manly pursuits like martial arts, of which she herself held some skill. Yoshimune was a power house of a woman, annoyed with the stuffiness of palace rules, and had her way in many matters. She refused to wear excessive finery, citing how foolish it was to spend money they could not afford to spend, and for the same reason made several changes within the Inner Chambers; reducing the number of men in the Inner Chambers was also part of her plan to stem the tide of money spent within the palace. She also dismissed several positions, reducing the number of attendants, and even consolidated a number of posts down to a single person. She broke several traditions and customs in the palace, and quickly became fed up with what she deemed were frivolous and wasteful rules. Yoshimune vowed to change the way things were run in the Inner Chambers (and indeed the entire country), and started off by approaching the old Chief Scribe Murase, to see how the current laws and customs of the land had come to be. The series leaves off with Yoshimune here, and backtracks all the way to Chie, the first female Shogun. However, I think it’s safe to assume that Yoshimune will prove to be a very capable ruler, and so far she has no qualms about being a woman in a role traditionally filled by men. I can hardly wait for the story to return to her.
Well, that’s it for my final feature post of this Manga Moveable Feast. Here’s today’s link round up:
Linda from animemiz’s scribblings hosts a guest post from a friend on Yoshinaga’s appeal to her fans.
Lori Henderson from Manga Xanadu posts a thoughtful review of Ōoku The Inner Chambers volumes 1-3.
Yesterday’s feature, The Women of Ōoku Part 1: http://comicattack.net/2011/08/mmfookuwomen1/
And, as usual, the archive page.