The Story of Saiunkoku (彩雲国物語) by Kairi Yura
Saiunkoku is about a kingdom and a romance, sounds simple enough, but it is anything but. The story while focusing on Shuurei is really about telling us the tale of an entire country’s nobles, peasants, conspiracies, politics, triumphs, woes, romances and even some supernatural forces.
Shuurei is a smart, hard-working, but poor noble princess 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. Shuurei at first glance seems to be a too-perfect-nice-girl type but that quickly dissolves as you get into the meat of the story. She is extremely intelligent, on par with her male peers, and shows little intimidation in the many political situations.
I find the romance in Saiunkoku very special. It is able to create a fantastic fairytale romance that is so much more. Ryuki is the Emperor and Shuurei is a princess, but each has a life, responsibilities, and goals. Ryuki is quite in love with her but no matter how much he may want Shuurei to stay in the palace, he recognizes and wants her dreams for her as much as she wants them herself.
The series can wear the hat of reverse harem, after all women are sparse in this series. It is an ancient time when women were not considered on the same level as men, especially in the government. But throughout the series we meet characters that challenge these ideas and women becoming part of the society in a more prominent way is a big part of the story. As for the men, as I said there are many, and each one adds something new to the fabric of the world. The cast is really enormous.
There are so many different faucets to The Story of Saiunkoku and that’s what I love. I love the sweeping grand nature of telling the story of an entire kingdom.