Title: The Story of Saiunkoku
Author: Kairi Yura (art) and Sai Yukino (story)
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volume 7 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2011 by Kadokawa Shoten, May 2012 by Viz Media
Genre: Historical drama, romance
Shurei Hong and Eigetsu are working hard at their duties as civil servants in training, persevering through the bullying, the bad mouthing, and the excessive amount of work that is piled onto them. Without complaint, they take everything in stride and do their very best to prove that they belong there, and they get every bit of their work done, correctly, much to everyone’s surprise. Though this also means they get very little time to sleep, and they haven’t been home in a month. Realizing that his fellow initiates are being unfairly treated, fourth ranked Hakumei stands up for them, offering to take on their duties so they can rest. Unfortunately, Hakumei is now being punished along with them, but he works hard, and makes time to help Shurei and Eigetsu. Meanwhile, one particular official is bursting with rage at Shurei’s presence in the palace, and is putting plans into action that will punish her sponsor (and uncle), Reishin Hong, and expel her from court. This mystery official has sorely underestimated his opponents, however. First, he has Reishin arrested for “unlawful intervention on behalf of an imperial civil examinee,” claiming he used his influence to help Shurei pass the exam. This proves to be his first major mistake, because the Hong family is not to be trifled with, as they hold an incredible amount of sway and power in the country, enough to shut it down completely if they desired. And the (acting) Hong head, Kuro, is not about to sit by and let his brother be humiliated, or his niece treated so poorly. He very carefully shuts down just enough of his province and parts of the government to cause a major stir, enough to make a powerful statement without endangering the country. The careless man’s next mistake is to try and make Kocho go along with his plan, and she will obviously have none of that. She plays along with him to a point, just enough so she can turn the tables on him at the worst moment and ruin all of his plans. Ran, Ryuki, and Seiran all have a part to play, as well, with Ran orchestrating much of the plan, Ryuki working quickly to put an end to the conspiracy in his court, and Seiran at last stepping up and moving himself into a position where he can properly protect Shurei. Through it all, Shurei remains steadfast and confident, but she is not left out. At Ryuki’s request, she and Eigetsu turn their training project into an official report that will serve to help topple the conniving minister who is causing so much trouble for everyone.
Another fantastic volume from Yura and Yukino. Shurei continues to be one of my favorite manga characters, not just one of my favorite heroines. Her strength and resiliency are finally starting to be noticed by other members of the court, and she’s slowly becoming a respected and welcome presence. She is supported by some powerful people, but she really receives very little help from them at all, and, just as she wished, she is making her mark with her own power. Even the stoic Kuro Hong has realized that the eldest child in family line has become very accomplished, and he has plans to recall her to the main family and marry her off (and you’ll never guess to who). This volume reveals Eigetsu’s true motivations for wanting to become a civil servant. As an orphan living under the care of a poor village doctor, he saw first hand what a lack of money can mean, that life or death can hang in the balance of a few coins. He hopes to becomes rich and powerful as a civil servant, so that no one has to die from sickness because they can’t afford the medicine they need. Shurei has similar motivations of course, desiring to protect the kingdom’s citizens and those she loves. She’s really blossoming into an amazing young woman, particularly now that she is allowed to pursue her goals with her own power, rather than stay shut away and be protected from the outside world. Everyone (well, those directly around her anyway) is treating her as an equal now, and even Ryuki and Kocho have stopped trying to protect her from the truth. She’s not a dainty, sheltered young lady anymore. She’s a member of the court, no matter how low ranked, and they’re treating her as such. Koyu Ri has a nice moment in this volume, where he contemplates the value he holds to Reishin, fearing that his adoptive father finds him a useless burden, which of course couldn’t be farther from the truth. A bonus story details Seiran’s early days with the Hong family, from the moment he is found by Shoka and given a new name and a new life.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.