24 Sep / Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (vol. 1) by Fumi Yoshinaga, translated by Akemi Wegmüller
Without a cure, the mysterious Redface Pox has ravaged the country’s male population until it finally “stabilized at about one-fourth that of the female.” Men have become “precious seed-bearers,” coddled and prized by women.
In “the fourth month of the sixth year of Shotoku, Edo [June 1716]”, the extremely eligible 19-year-old son of an impoverished samurai family, Yunoshin Mizuno – already a fencing star popular with the ladies – is told that he will preserve his family’s honor with a “suitable match.” Already in love with another, he escapes the marriage by announcing he will join the secret Ōoku, the inner chambers of the ruling shogun from which the most beautiful men of the kingdom never reappear.
Yunoshin enters the royal service at the lowest rank, is quickly initiated into the political maneuverings of the complicated court where the waiting men must vie for tiny moments of attention. He distinguishes himself first with his fencing prowess, and quickly catches the interest of the newest shogun, a powerful, no-nonsense leader with less-is-more mentality. Too bad that her fateful choice means death in 10 days … what’s our hero to do?
Writer/illustrator Fumi Yoshinaga, who won the 2009 Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize for Ōoku, has a gorgeous, elegantly spare black-and-white style (not unlike her Ōoku shogun!). Were the genders reversed, the story might fall flat (been there, done that way too tediously often). But Yoshinaga creates an intriguing story of human behavior in which the gender reversal proves to be some delightful fun. Definitely not for the kiddies, though …
Published: 2009 (United States)
Ōoku © Fumi Yoshinaga
Original Japanese edition published by Hakusensha, Inc.