I picked up The Story of Saiunkoku vols. 1-7 recently and my goodness has this only renewed my passion for the series. I fell in love with the anime a few years ago, so far this manga has followed it quite closely (both being based on a novel series which I have no way of reading, I don’t know if it follows the books closely as well).
Saiunkoku, put simply, is about a kingdom and a romance, but the series is far from simple.
In these volumes, we meet a large cast of nobles and get caught up in assassination schemes, courtly politics, syndicate wars, and various governmental situations. Shurei is a smart, hard-working, but poor, noble who is brought to court in the hopes of helping the new emperor. She not only forms a close relationship with Ryuki the emperor, but also many others in his circle. Shurei not only helps guide the emperor but begins gaining friends and influence in the politics of this large kingdom.
And that is what is so special about Saiunkoku; the political and societal struggles of Shurei and women in this ancient land. A good portion of the series after the first two volumes is Shurei dreaming and applying herself to become a civil servant which no woman has been allowed to do.
While the series also wears the hat of reverse harem, to its credit all the men are fascinating characters with their own places in the court and politics. And by and large they are not in love with our heroine. The story is pretty clear this is about Shurei and Ryuki. But on that note, it is amazing how little time these two actually get to spend together because of their stations and duties.
The story has a clipped pace never lingering too long on any one thing. At times I found myself really yearning for more time for Shurei and Ryuki to no avail. There are moments with a bit too heavy exposition but they seem to lessen as the volumes go on. All in all, it is a great world with a great cast that you want to know more about.
I will say that they wrapped up the first season of Young Justice quite nicely. I did feel that one or two of the slow building plots were quickly resolved in the last 2 episodes but that is more of a stylistic issue than a major complaint. Over all they did a good job of having everyone one in the main cast having some noticeable character progress while at the same time tying all the episodes together into one cohesive plot. I do find it a bit odd that all the new animated DC series seem to be utterly in love with Vandal Savage. While he is decently old character I myself had never heard of him before recently. But he makes for a good foil to teams as opposed to some villains who are better off as either pawns of a bigger villains or as the nemesis for solo heroes. I also have to applaud them for adding more women to the team with the addition of Zatana and Rocket. At the same time while Zatana gets a decent amount of screen time for a late addition Rocket sort of gets thrown in at the last second. So I thought, “Well she can get more screen time and character development when they come back for season 2.”
Then very surprisingly the next week went straight into season 2. And people HATED it. While I can’t say I was in any way as angry as other people I do feel their pain. The season starts after a 5 year time skip. Most of the Young Justice team is new, half the old team is nowhere to be seen, and most of the team that we see is remarkably different with no explanation. I recognized all the new team additions but is mostly because I have a solid albeit firmly intermediate comics education. Well I recognized everyone except for Lagoon Boy. But all those underwater guys who are not Aquaman are super-duper high level nerd territory anyway. I am sure the average viewer would at least need some explanation for who the Blue Beetle is. The problem is unlike The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes they don’t do the greatest job of introducing people without exposition.
I get that they are going for the risky payoffs of the in medias res plot revelations but the execution is somewhat off.They did such a good job of building up the first team. If they just skipped ahead but kept the team the same it probably would not have felt so jarring. Both changes combined really throw off the flow of the story. I will continue to watch but I feel that the choice was a major misstep and apparently most of the audience agrees. Hopefully they payoff for the reveals of what happened during the time skip will make this all worth it.
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