Saiunkoku Monogatari

September 21, 2014

When was the last time I watched a very Chinese themed anime? I can’t remember. Even the earliest that came to mind was that cooking themed anime called Chuuka Ichiban. And for some reasons that I couldn’t understand, I decided to check out Saiunkoku Monogatari which is totally a Chinese setting. Except for the fact that this isn’t set in real ancient China but a fictional land of Saiunkoku that is so Chinese influence. It was weird at first to hear Chinese characters speaking Japanese. It’s like having your Taiwanese period drama serials and dubbing them into Japanese. Odd, right? Hah. That is just my mindset. Perhaps the thing that got me to watch is to see how this commoner girl entered the Imperial Palace as a concubine just to motivate the young emperor in doing his job. Guess what. He’s gay. Oh sh*t! This I got to see. Of course as women are discriminated at such times, our young lass will learn to handle and traverse the dangerous game of politics and power that is dominated by men. I know, I just want to see how this woman kick ass. Oh, for your information, this isn’t going to be some action flick where punches and kicks will fly everything like those Chinese kung-fu shows. There are some fighting bits but that is just minimal. Mostly just lots of drama.

This series spans 2 episodes each having 39 episodes per season. So that is 78 episodes in total. As you know me, I don’t really blog episode by episode for animes that last longer you’re your usual 26 episodes. Yeah. Just plain lazy to keep up with everything. That’s why you have the good ol’ reliable Wikipedia to rely on the episode summaries or even Star Crossed Anime Blog just to refresh my memory as well as the list of characters to keep track of who is who because you know in such a world and setting, there is going to be plot over plot when the plot thickens and with so many characters to keep in mind that it takes a genius to keep track of everything including the story. In this case I am not :’(. So here are those that I think are ‘important’ for me to remember.

Kou Shuurei – The main protagonist of the story. Hardworking, optimistic, kind, beautiful and all the good qualities that every man would love to have in their woman. Her only sin is to be born poor. But that’s a blessing in disguise because she has become adept with household chores. Oh, her other sin seems to be born as a woman in the wrong time and era.

500 gold – The amount of money paid to her to be the emperor’s consort.

Shi Seiran – A young man picked up by Shuurei’s household 13 years ago. Becomes their personal retainer to repay his gratitude.

Kou Shouka – Shuurei’s father and Seiran’s adoptive father. Works as a librarian and despite being a kind and gentle person, he makes horrible tea.

Shi Ryuuki – The current emperor who isn’t interest in politics and governing his country. As the youngest of 6 children of the previous emperor, he was mistreated by all his brother except Seien who was mysteriously exiled. The other brothers killed each other in succession to the throne and Ryuuki became an unlikely candidate to succeed. However as seen he isn’t anything but a fool but just acting as one. He spread rumours about being gay because he fears producing an heir would cause conflict and bloodshed.

Ran Shuuei – General of the Shaolin army with exceptional swordsmanship.

Ri Kouyuu – The Vice Secretary of the Department of Civil Administration. Has no sense of direction, gets lost easily. Even in his own home.

Ran Ryuuren – Shuuei’s eccentric but genius younger brother. Plays horrible flute and his actions are most annoying to everyone around him. He is only allowed to do as he pleases with a condition that he takes the top3 spot in the official exam.

Poisoned – Somebody seems to be targeting Shuurei because her tea is poisoned. Although it is not lethal, it will be in time when it is accumulative. Ryuuki drinks the poison on her behalf. What boggles me is that it took them very long to figure out who put poison in the tea. I know they don’t want to cause panic but shouldn’t they suspect the cook or Shuurei’s lady-in-waiting? Who else could get closer to her than that?

It’s closer than you think – I didn’t expect this revelation to come so early just like Ryuuki’s gay rumour. Well, Seiran = Seien.

Kidnapped – After poisoning, now Shuurei gets kidnapped. Turns out to be one of the 3 Grand Palace Officials plot, Sa Enjun. From what I understand from this convoluted power grabbing and jealousy plot, he always wanted to best his other Grand Palace Official, Shou Yousei. Eventually his scheme fell apart because he was just a pawn in Yousei’s bigger scheme. He is killed as a necessity by the man himself. A number of revelations too: Shouka is the mysterious Black Wolf assassin working under Yousei, just as Shuurei’s lady-in-waiting, Shusui. Kourin, Shuurei’s other lady-in-waiting was the one poisoning her drink due to her loyalty to Enjun. She is sent to live with his widow after his death. And needless to say, Ryuuki rescues Shuurei from the kidnappers.

Farewell kiss – That’s his parting gift to Shuurei once her consort mission is done and she goes back living to her usual life. I know he is emperor and can do anything but does he have to kiss her in front of everyone?

Woman in the force – Ryuuki works hard to make it so that women are allowed to take the official exam. Probably it’s his lonely heart that is making him do so.

Rou Ensei – A man found lying outside Shuurei’s house. Her good nature has her take him in and he turns out to be Seiran’s old friend. Something Seiran isn’t too happy about reuniting with this shaggy fellow.

Part time job – Due to the heat wave, many officials are calling in sick. To cope with the lack of manpower, Shuurei disguising herself as a young boy has been invited to assist in the Ministry of Taxation under the eccentric Ko Kijin. He always wears a mask and never takes it off. Then there is also Kou Reishin who is Shuurei’s uncle. He doesn’t want this revealed to her yet.

It’s hard to find a good official – Bandits were after Ensei’s head because he rejected corruption and bribes in his province. Yes, he is the governor of Sa province, once rife with corruption and bribe. Officials were assassinated or bribed, thus reducing good officials around till Enjun announced whoever could foil assassination attempts would be made provincial governor. Ensei did that but because he did not take any official exam, it would be hard for the people to accept him as a proper governor. Ensei gives back his governing seal to Ryuuki.

Kouchou – Madam of a local brothel. Shuurei works at her place part time.

Santa – Not, not Santa Claus, mind you. He is Shuurei’s childhood friend and son of a wealthy merchant. He has a major crush on Shuurei but because she always sees him as a childhood friend and her ambition and duty always comes first, safe to say it will never be reciprocate.

Tou Eigetsu – A young lad and another official exam candidate Shuurei picks up from the street after he is seemingly robbed by bandits. However when he is drunk, he turns into his aggressive alter ego Yougetsu. Oddly, they both know about each other.

Stealing – A local crime gang has been going around stealing plaques of official exam candidates for ransom. Their thieving days are over when they had to pick a fight with Kouchou and her district.

The top 3 – Eigetsu claims Jougen, the top spot for the official exam and becomes the youngest person in history to do so (beating Kouyuu’s record). The second spot called Bougen goes to Ryuuren while Tanka as the third place goes to Shuurei. So this year we have a kid, a weirdo and a woman taking the top 3 spots, causing all other ‘normal’ candidates below them fuming with jealousy. They’ve only got themselves to blame…

The mysterious sponsor – Reishin was Shuurei’s sponsor for the official exam.

Cleaning toilets and shining shoes – That is what Shuurei and Eigetsu have been assigned to do. Just because one is a woman and the other rejected offers from families who want to marry off their daughters to the smartest kid this year. It’s all about money and politics, isn’t it? Despite being mocked and bullied by other officials and successful exam candidates, they persevere and carry on. They’ve come this far and it would be so wrong to just throw in the towel and let those losers win.

What’s eating Kouyuu – Seeing Shuurei and Eigetsu being bullied around sure makes those with a heart feel sad. He can’t do anything about it due to his position. This has him remember his past how he was adopted by Reishin. He thought he was just a stand in because it was also the same time Shouka took in Seiran. Then he learns he never adopted the Kou surname was because Reishin didn’t want him to get involve with the dark politics of the Kou family. He was given Li as his surname because it refers to his favourite plum blossoms.

Heki Hakumei – The fourth placed candidate. Somewhat bitter over his placing and blaming the top weirdo trio for ruining it all. A big fan of Kouyuu, the reason he delayed taking the exam just to respect his record of being the youngest person to pass the official exam. Till Eigetsu came along and broke it. Just when he is to sit that year’s exam and ace the top spot, that’s when the trio came and ruined his ‘plan’. Although he does not bully the trio as much as other arrogant officials, eventually he indirectly helps them out by taking more chores upon himself. He is like what we call today as in tsundere…

The lost ring – The original and real official ring of the Sa clan goes missing. Lots of fakes start appearing. And as Enjun’s death already complicate matters, the Sa province is undergoing one hell of a messy state with power struggle and in-fighting without any proper governors to rule the place.

Conspiracy – Rumours quickly spread that Reishin rigged the exam so that Shuurei could pass. Being the cool guy he is, he accepts his ‘arrest’ but this is only the start of the consequences they have to face for messing with the Kou clan. For instance, the Kou clan goes on strike and cripples the economy. Shuurei is purposely confined by perpetrators so that she cannot attend the official hearing to prove her innocence (to show that she is guilty by running away). Eventually, with the entire town backing Shuurei, she manages to attend the court hearing and clear herself and at the same time expose the corrupt Sa official behind the plot who has been busily lining his pockets with a fake Sa clan ring. It was odd that the corrupt official who dared Kijin to unmask himself got more than he bargained for… He became a vegetable after seeing his face while everyone and the emperor turned their backs… Was it worth the look?

Appointment – Ryuuki appoints for the first time co-governors for Sa province: Shuurei and Eigetsu. Seiran will be their official bodyguard and Ensei along with Tei Yuushun (the assistant governor when Ensei was holding the governor post and still is) will be their assistants.

The confession – Before Shuurei departs on a long journey and duty that will part them for a long time, he confesses his love to her and will wait for her to come back. He’ll take no other women during her time away. It’s going to be lonely. Well, the emperor has made his feelings clear but why can’t Shuurei…

Ghost! – I thought Enjun’s appearance ended when he died. Seems he’ll make future ‘returns’ in the form of a ghost in some container that Yousei keeps! At least he takes on the appearance of his youthful days. I didn’t know this series had a supernatural theme to go with it…

The real ring – It’s in Yousei’s possession all along. That scheming old bastard…

The long and dangerous road –Shuurei, Eigetsu, Ensei and Seiran depart on their journey to troubled Sa province along with Kourin. There are attempts to rid of the new governors because of some ruling that states if the governors do not take their seats within 3 months, it will be automatically vacated and you know what this means for the power hungry Sa clan.

I know what you did last summer year – Kourin confesses to Shuurei about her poisoning but the latter already knows about it because Kouyuu told her beforehand. Nevertheless she forgives her.

Separated –While resting at a hotel, guards come to arrest the group. However Shuurei was made to hide by Ensei and was the only one not caught. Kourin is mistaken to be as Shuurei and her lady-like appearance fits the bill to deceive the perpetrators. While Kourin and Eigetsu are held in captive, Seiran and Ensei are thrown into prison.

Kinka – The commercial city of Sa province that the gang will meet up next while travelling separately.

Chuushou – Enjun’s younger brother and currently the acting governor of Sa province who seized power after his death. As part of his plan, he imprisoned Enjun’s widow, Eiki. He also planned an arranged between Shuurei and his second eldest grandson, Sakujun. Because killing Shuurei who is a direct descendent of the Kou clan would enrage and spark off unimaginable consequences-cum-backlash from the clan, the political marriage is also to gain a foothold in the clan as advantage.

Soujun –The eldest grandson of Chuushou with equally ruthless ambitions as his grandfather to be the next head of the Sa clan.

Satsujinzoku – A ruthless band of thieves that Ensei and Seiran was once part of. Now it is currently led by Meishou who was once the band’s second in command and policing Kinka.

Prison break – Thanks to the third grandson, the weakest but kind Kokujun, Ensei and Seiran are freed and this saves the need for them to break out.

Lin Senya – Shuurei seeks the Merchant Guild’s help to travel to Kinka and thanks to her Kou pass, she gets absolute respect and wish. But the one who will take her there is no other than a pretty but mysterious merchant in the name of Lin Senya. Instead of making haste to Kinka, all he does is laze around, making Shuurei play the erhu for him and flirt around with her. Hell, he even steals a kiss from her! Oddly, he only moves when news of Ensei and Seiran escaped. It’s like there’s more than meets the eye… Oh, he resembles a lot like Ryuuki too. So similar yet so different.

The real emperor seal and jade – Knowing that the Sa clan will try to seize these important items to prevent the new governors to do their duty, Ryuuki has hidden the real emperor seal and jade without even telling Shuurei or Eigetsu where it is. But he knows they can tell right away and it will arrive at the same time when they enter Kinka. Nobody could have guessed where it is… Because Ryuuren is the one delivering it! I guess in nobody’s right mind would like to deal with this eccentric. Perfect hiding place for anything.

Betrayal – Soujun thought he could have Meishou make an alliance with him. Instead he got betrayed and killed by Meishou’s band of thieves instead when the former thinks of killing Eigetsu and Kourin for deceiving him. Because Meishou had a better deal done with no other than the scheming Sakujun.

Slaughter house – Shuurei is supposed to meet Senya at his Kinka’s residence, Chrysanthemum House. But she was told by Kinka’s Merchant Guild’s leader, Sai Shou that the Lin clan had been massacred recently by Satsujinzoku. So who was the dangerous man Shuurei travelled with? And the Chrysanthemum House she arrives at is devoid of people, blood everywhere…

You should have guessed it by now – Guess who is Senya’s true identity… He is… Sakujun! Why am I not surprised? I can’t tell if Shuurei is in shock of this or paralyzed by his beauty when he flirts with her after revealing his real name. So much so the ‘farewell’ kiss I wonder was it deliberate to make Seiran mad. I’m sure he wasn’t jealous. Hope Shuurei doesn’t fall for the bad boy. Sakujun ‘borrows’ Shuurei’s hairpin and keeps it as memento or rather ‘hostage’ so that it serves as ‘motivation’ for her to travel to Sa province’s capital of Koren to meet him and get it back.

Staying back – As Satsujinzoku is driven out of Kinka and the mayor released from prison, Shuurei and co stay back to restore order and work things out with the mayor and Shou in the city before moving ahead.

Blockade – Suddenly there is an order to block entry paths into Koren with excuse to safeguard to new governors. This means Shuurei and co have to leave Kinka as soon as possible but Kourin is left behind so as not to drag her further into danger.

The emperor is coming – It may seem that Ryuuki secretly goes on a journey to Kinka to see Shuurei but the reason of wanting to see the situation at Sa province with his own eyes and to show he is not forsaking the place would sound better. Even if Shuurei is in trouble, he won’t interfere because it will be meaningless if she doesn’t overcome it herself. He is accompanied by Shuuei and Kouyuu. They missed Shuurei and co because they departed the day earlier. However they get to meet up with Seiran and Ensei to help take out Sa clan’s private army and clear the path for Shuurei’s carriage through. Even though Ryuuki didn’t get to see or meet Shuurei, knowing she is alright and doing her best would be suffice.

Home visit – Although Shuurei and co manage to ridiculously break through the block, the pay a visit to the home of Sho’s sister, Ran. Though she is not home, there is a couple of letters left for them and one of them being Shuurei’s invitation to the ceremony of appointing the new Sa head, which is the day before the new governors take oath.

Trying to be the hero – Kokujun tries to find a way to restore his clan and goes to confront Chuushou. However grandpa is not swayed and has him thrown into prison where Kokujun’s father has been spending his years.

Guest of honour – Shuurei visits the huge manor of Sa clan to meet with Sakujun. He allows her to do as she wishes. The place is so huge that it’s like a mini kingdom of its own. You can get lost. That’s what Shuurei got when she tries to find where Kokujun is being imprisoned and Eiki’s whereabouts. So many secret rooms and paths… At times Sakujun wants her to play the erhu, tie his hair and even make him her special Gan Lu tea but for the latter request, she turns him down despite his excuses and childish threats (he is going to kill himself if he doesn’t drink that tea of hers).

Shunki – Enjun’s granddaughter who has been living in exile and hidden, being taken care of by the brothers of some chivalrous thief group, Shourin and Youshun. She has some sort of special power and thus her voice was sealed by Eiki. I don’t remember, one night like as though she felt like destiny was moving or something so the brothers carried her and run all the way to Koren and meet up with Eigetsu and co. She’s never had a ride like this in her life… Along the way, they meet Ryuuren who gives them his family pass that allows them to enter Koren.

The map – Thanks to Shunki’s awesome memory, she is able to reproduce the map of the Sa clan’s little kingdom and has Shourin deliver it to Shuurei.

The big meet – Shuurei is brought to meet Chuushou. He wants her to give up being governor and marry Sakujun and live a luxurious life. However she refuses to give in to him despite his threat of burning down the province and will continue walking the path she believes in.

The voice – This is the reason why Shunki never speaks. It’s because the words she says becomes absolute. This proves useful when she saves Eigetsu and co from Sa clan’s little army. I find it rather odd because from this point on, she talks like normal and frequently like as though there was no curse at all. If she had this much control over her voice, shouldn’t she have spoken instead of keeping quiet?

A good old man is a dead old man – That is what is happening to Chuushou. He reaped what he sew? Shuurei and Shunki find him clinging on to life outside the entrance to the underground prison where Kokujun was held. He was stabbed. Guess who did it? Anyway the old fart died of his wounds.

Taking responsibility – Though Kokujun is released, he is still cowering in his lack of power, etc, blah, blah, blah. Shunki had to slap some sense into him that if he is unwilling to be the next head, she will. Can’t let a girl do it, can’t he? And so Kokujun sums up his courage to wear the ring and be the next head of the Sa clan.

Massacre plan – Chuushou’s initial plan was to lure all the Sa people into a building where the ceremony to appoint the next head will take place. They fail to realize the poorly built surroundings because a single collapse would have crushed and killed them all. If not for the sharp observation of Eigetsu and Ensei, everyone would have been pancakes. The idea of this massacre was to free the Sa clan from all the problems by killing everyone of them, the same act that Enjun did many years ago. With Kokujun as the new head, he will bear the heaviest responsibility and sin for the Sa clan. All the old farts of the Sa clan are arrested.

Drinking to death – Seiran and Sakujun enter a Russian roulette drinking game as they talk. Some of the liquor is poisoned and they take turns rolling the dice and drinking it. In the end after many rounds, Seiran is overwhelmed by the strong liquor and the signs that Sakujun have drank the poison began to show.

Game over – Shuurei looking for Sakujun finds him slumped by a tree. His mouth is bloodied and his body is weakened. He returns the hairpin to her as promised, kissed her lips with his bloodied lips and in the end, he realizes his love for her will never be returned. Shuurei is frantic to find him a doctor because death would be just too good for him. I’m pretty unsure if she does harbour feelings for him… Anyway Sakujun’s body was never found…

Can’t get you out of my head – Shuurei just can’t get Sakujun out of her head. Was it because she felt responsible and guilty over his death? So she does care for him in that sense. Although Ensei and Seiran did try to cheer her up, I think it is Ryuuren who was more effective. Maybe the warm hug did the trick. Not. Maybe it was his confusing words. She was the only one who could save him and thus the only one who could kill him. What? WHAT?! And with that, Shuurei cries her heart out in his arms. Ryuuren you lucky bastard!

The new governors, finally – Shuurei and Eigetsu take their oath to become Sa province’s governors. With the Sa province’s long outstanding issues solved, they also meet Yuushun for the first time. Well, actually their second. The first time was at Kinka when he was masquerading as a city mayor.

Work like a horse – Shuurei and Eigetsu waste no time in trying to bring Sa province back to its feet. I’m sure every country would love to have such dedicated governors like them but please, take care of your health. You won’t do the province any good if you’re both dead.

Research centre – As agriculture and other industries do not suit Sa province for long term revenue, it dawned upon Shuurei that it could be made as a research and academic centre where experts in all fields can gather and share their knowledge.

Yuushun x Rin – They’re getting married.

The return of the king governor – For the annual palace celebrations, Shuurei is advised to return to the capital as every province’s representatives will be there as part of the new year greetings to the emperor. Accompanying her are Seiran, Yuushun, Rin and Kokujun (the 7 heads of the coloured families will also be having their own gathering). When Shuurei and Yuushun finally get to see Ryuuki after a long absence, she doesn’t waste time in proposing Sa province’s future. Since everyone is eager to hear her plan, Ryuuki allows it.

Back home but… – Although Shuurei is back home and many earlier characters revisited, she doesn’t really act like she’s back home. Maybe she’s a governor now so she needs to act like one. But still, she manages to thank everyone for their support and makes a late announcement that she has returned home. They’re glad she has grown so much. Also, Ryuuki is acting more like an emperor so he didn’t really have that eager beaver meeting to meet Shuurei although she is back. Trying to make work as an excuse?

Reunited but does it feels so good? – Shouka sends Shuurei on a delivery mission but it’s some sort of setup to meet Ryuuki at the place where they first met. I’m sure they’re glad to finally see each other personally. I’m sure Ryuuki is so happy to see her that he again confesses his love and wants to kiss her. However Shuurei had to spoil it and won’t let him have it. Instead she reprimands the emperor for this and that. Even so, Ryuuki will wait for her no matter how long as she wants to continue moving forward. Yeah. Even that means forever. Forever… Forever… Forever… I don’t know if I can be that patient…

Season 2

After around a month’s break, the story of Saiunkoku continues. Was this single month break even necessary?

The proposalKurou, the proxy head of the Kou family and the younger brother to Shouka and Reishin talks to Kouyuu that if he is willing to take over the head of the Kou clan, he is willing to throw every support behind him but with a condition: He must marry Shuurei. This is also to help them grow and reach greater heights as Kurou opines they support each other greatly. I think he needs lots of time to think about it. But it’s making him so awkward each time she is around. Oh, how can he face her?

I want her for all myself – Because Reishin is still keeping his status Shuurei’s uncle a secret from her, looks like he is being bugged by the fact that Shuurei is now at a marriageable age and doesn’t want her to marry any of the colour clans. So? In fact, he is desperate enough to even think of marrying Shuurei himself!!! Well, it’s all up to Shuurei to decide. Boy, she’s really in demand.

So many to choose from – Even Ryuuki is not spared from being bugged from those old buggers who wants him to choose a wife. His response? Run away! I guess he knows this is the kind of responsibility he doesn’t want to shoulder. In no time we’ll start singing, Son you’ll be a bachelor boy and that’s the way to stay…

If you want something done, do it yourself – Yuushun and Rin intend to visit Shuurei’s home but she remembers the mess it is in. Roping in the guys made things worse. They made a mess out of things and only give more work for her to do. By the time she kicks them out so she can clean it herself, her guests are already here. There’s a side of Shuurei you don’t see often.

Gathering support – Trying to realize the dream of Sa province as a research centre is a mammoth task. A substantial amount of funds are needed and it’s something the treasury department isn’t willing to invest despite the plan being long term. So Shuurei has been going around collecting permissions from government departments and clans as support.

Kijin unmasked – Well, we didn’t see how he looks like but as he shows it to Yuushun and Ran, they didn’t become stunned or a vegetable but merely describes such beauty cannot even be replicated via painting… Somebody hand me a camera…

Doushu – Eigetsu reveals his past that he was taken in by this kind man. Otherwise he could have been killed by his own family members to cut their losses thanks to poverty. Under his wing, Eigetsu learnt about love and despite Doushu being betrayed and deceived sometimes, he still continued his ways of helping those in need. For he is a person who loves life! Is it no wonder Eigetsu admires him? Seems Doushu is living on borrowed time and when he passed away, it’s like Eigetsu knows of his passing and is saddened. Are their hearts really connected? Before Doushu died, he made arrangements of documents to be delivered to Shuurei. Because he knows Eigetsu has not much time left to live!

Fan of the flute – Guess what? Kokujun loves Ryuuren’s sound of the flute!!!! Serious! Has this guy ever heard what a flute is supposed to sound like?! Yeah, and they become like best buddies. I don’t even know what Shuurei can say more about this.

Alcohol kills – Because Eigetsu has been spending too much time in his work and somewhat neglecting Kourin (methinks she likes him), I don’t know why she had this idea of putting in his meal just to awaken Yougetsu. Then she is told the horrifying truth. The more Yougetsu is awake, the shorter Eigetsu’s life gets. So does that make Kourin an accomplice in killing him? So to keep him alive, keep alcohol away from him. See people? Alcohol kills! Eigetsu’s name was given by him and Getsu is his real name. Anyway, Yougetsu doesn’t care if he disappears forever.

Outbreak – In the Sa province village of Koringun, there is reportedly an outbreak of a mysterious epidemic spreading. Just the mention of the sighting of the white snow fox in that area has sent Eigetsu shivering. I suppose he has had deadly experience in the past.

Jasenkyou – Taking advantage of the epidemic, this mysterious cult blames Shuurei as the cause for the epidemic because coincidentally this never happened before a woman became a governor, right? Gullible people are led to believe that joining their cult will help them cure their disease but it would be even better if Shuurei’s head is called. Oh, the leader of this cult is named Senya… Curious…

Hyou Riou Sr – The mysterious head of the Hyou family makes contact with Shuurei at the palace grounds. The silver head is interested in her (as she reminds him of Bara Hime) while Shuurei is unaware of who he is but her guts makes her feel uncomfortable around him. Those who know this dangerous guy like Seiran, Shouka and Ryuuki, aren’t really keen of letting him near Shuurei.

Going at it alone – Because Eigetsu has not much time left, he heads to Koringun village alone to do what he can after bidding goodbye to Kourin. Hey wait. These 2 were in love with each other? Oh heck, there were signs but I didn’t really give much attention. But what are the chances of Kourin staying put and doing nothing? Yup. She goes looking for him too.

Half-life? – Seems Doushu died once before but Eigetsu pleaded with Yougetsu to transfer half his life to him, thus shortening his own even further. Because each time Yougetsu’s appearance means shortening Eigetsu’s life, he made a condition that he will only come out when called or being exposed to alcohol. Despite Yougetsu’s cold personality, Doushu still loves him as much as Eigetsu as they are both his precious children. But once Eigetsu dies, Yougetsu will take over as promised.

Kai Yuu– The old but handsome governor of the Koku province came all the way to deliver medical notes left by Doushu to Shuurei (Kai was also Eigetsu’s caretaker and sponsor for his exam). Kai wanted to be the next governor for Sa province but due to his age and distance, he wasn’t allowed to. However Shuurei is willing to resign and pass on her governor post to him if anything happens to her.

Parasites – Seems the disease is caused by worms and the snow foxes are carriers. People must have drank contaminated water containing the worms that hatch inside their bodies. Ugh. That’s why, always remember to drink boiled water.

Doctor! Doctor! – Learning about the epidemic at Koringun, Shuurei wants as many doctors as possible to head to Koringun. One of them includes the legendary doctor, You Shikou.

Practice makes perfect – Because the doctors have no experience in performing the surgery (the only way to save those infected by the disease as it swells the bladder), the doctors need to practice on cutting up livestock such as pigs. There is going to be lots of meat going around.

Court summon – Shuurei’s drastic actions does not sit well with some of the officials (some to the extent believe that she is the cause of the disease too) so she is summoned before the palace court to justify them. She argues valid reasons why she skipped so many protocols and procedures. Once everything has been approved, they’ll be dead, right? What’s the use of having such powers if you are not going to use them? Those words Shuurei used… Respect, man! Tell it those useless Imperial Court officials! Ryuuki is going to mobilize the use of the royal army but Shuurei refuses it, arguing that Jasenkyou may hold the people hostage. Military force and might is sometimes not always the answer.

Abducted – While Eigetsu is treating the sick people of another local but outskirt Sekiei village, he thought he saw a man resembling Doushu. He tries to follow him but gets knocked out. Seems whoever this crazy dude is, he is borrowing Doushu’s dead body (his real body is hidden somewhere) and imprisons and tortures Eigetsu in the cave where Jasenkyou’s base is. He doesn’t want Eigetsu but his other half. He is also used as a bait to lure Shuurei. Kourin has also arrived. However she gets mistaken to be Shuurei (again) and is imprisoned in a different part of the cave. She sees many sick villagers believed to have joined the cult by fear. I guess it proves that joining them doesn’t make the disease go away. And the body count is mounting every day. Thus Kourin takes it upon herself to cook and prepare clean water for the villagers but of course this is part of her plan to locate where Eigetsu is.

Kill me baby – I don’t know what’s going on in Shuurei’s mind because she has this absurd request to ask from Ensei. If she really is the source of the disease, she wants him to behead her!!! Does she really believe in that?! Why him? I guess when she narrows down all the likely people who would behead her, Ensei proves to be the ‘best’ choice. Huh?

Unruly mob – Although Shuurei and the doctors have arrive at Koringun, first they have to face the obstacles of soldiers not wanting her to get in as you know, she’s the cause of the disease. The soldiers almost killed their Mayor Hei when he goes out to greet them in a dangerous fashion. If the guards are one problem, the villagers are another set. Armed with farming tools, they are out to get Shuurei’s head. Like mobs who don’t think with their heads but their emotions, they refuse to hear any rational reasoning and continue to believe unfounded rumours. Selfish and stupid, they can even make statements of getting rid of the people of Sekiei too for fear their disease will spread because the entire village was brought here to seek treatment (it is known that the disease does not spread from human to human). Not even the tears of an innocent little girl, Shuuran could sway them. Shame on them, ironically it took their wives to give them an earful and back down. So stop resisting and get back to work!

The real thing – Although the doctors have been putting countless hours into their practice, when faced with reality, some cannot stand the sight of blood or cutting up real humans… Definitely not for the faint hearted.

Settling it once and for all – Once the doctors are in their grove to perform the surgery and the wives doing the job of stitching the patients back up, Shuurei and Ensei head to the mountainous cave to settle things with Jasenkyou as well as rescue Eigetsu. Tagging along with them are kids Shuuran and Riou Jr since they know the area like the back of their hand.

Ryuuren, unmasked! – Well, well. Ryuuren without all his fancy flamboyant accessories and dressing, he looks very plain! But handsome too. In this sense, he looks very odd. So to say we prefer him in his weird costume? He is at Koringun to rescue Eigetsu and from the looks of his face, he looks very worried and concerned about his soul friend #2.

Visions of you – I think Eigetsu is on the brink of death that he sees visions of Sakujun. He even scolds him for throwing his carefree life away because there are so many people dying who would want to live longer. Like himself.

Rescue mission begin – Kourin is being told by Shuuran (small enough to sneak into the crevices of the cave) where Eigetsu is being held. On pretense of changing water, she manages to locate him. Cue for emotional drama… Eigetsu: Don’t rescue me, rescue the villagers. I can get out myself. Somehow. Kourin: I won’t listen to you anymore… Sealed with a kiss?

Entrapment – Shuurei and Ensei enter the cave to face off with fake Doushu/Senya or Ren as we find out his real name is. She doesn’t know who this guy is. Apparently he used the Senya name to get her attention. Some flashback that he is doing this to please mother (females rule the Hyou clan with the exception of a certain guy). I thought I find it funny that he drew a magical circle in the middle of the cave and is trying to lure Shuurei to step into that trap. So close yet so far… Just a few more steps… Damn it, come closer… Whatever trump cards Ren had, he doesn’t anymore because the sick villagers in his captive are shipped out and Seiran and some of the army have infiltrated the cave and impersonating themselves as Jasenkyou members. Game over. But when Shuurei finally does step into the trap, her body is paralyzed and cannot move. But she is somehow freed with Riou Jr’s interference. He shows Ren his real decapitated head, meaning he is no longer useful. Game over for real. He drops dead.

Eigetsu dies – Right after Ren’s death, now it is Eigetsu’s turn, after saying goodbye to Doushu’s body. The rest thought he resurrected shortly but apparently it is Yougetsu.

Oops! Sorry, Eigetsu lives – Since when is this moody guy so kind? Because Yougetsu decides to revive Eigetsu enough for him to live till ripe old age. Till then, Yougetsu remains in comatose state. But it’s happy news for Kourin because she gets to be together with him. Unless…

The third wheel – Unless that damn Ryuuren stops hogging Eigetsu for himself! I know that guy is eccentric but he’s some sort of invading Eigetsu’s space, sticking so close to him like a leech. And Eigetsu is okay with it! Can this guy tell that his girlfriend is seething with anger that some guy is cutting in between them of some quality time? Get a hint! Go away! Is there some sort of adventure he should be getting into now? Maybe he doesn’t want to part with his soul friend after almost losing him. And so the battle to be with Eigetsu continues… But Ryuuren always seem to get the upper hand and unfazed…

Disappearing act – Those remnant members of Jasenkyou who are supposedly from the Hyou clan somewhat vanished from their cells. Magic? Don’t rule that out. Supernatural powers have always been associated with them.

Demotion – Despite the outbreak has been contained, some Imperial Court members are not happy. WTF is wrong with these people? Before they can move to discredit Shuurei whatsoever, Ryuuki moves in by relieving Shuurei and Eigetsu from their post for taking measures into their hands. Kai has been appointed to be the next governor of Sa province and Eigetsu will become his student studying under him. As for Shuurei, she will be immediately summoned back to the capital after the transition and given the rank of Joukan, an official without any government post.

Promotion – Yuushun has been promoted to Prime Minister.

Inspiration – Thanks to Shuurei’s efforts, not only she has the thanks from the people of Sa province, Shuuran is inspired to become an official just like her when she grows up. She wants to save people too. The fruits of her labour are starting to bear indeed. Hei becomes her guardian till she passes the exam.

Joker emperor – There was this recap episode in the guise of Shuurei’s report to Ryuuki, that emperor becomes like a dramatic joker while reading it out ever since the part Eigetsu died. WTF… I guess emperors need to let their hair down once in a while. In the shadows of course.

The Ten Commandments Conditions – Yuushun’s provisions to Ryuuki before he accepts his Prime Minister post. He must be one powerful visionary dude if he is in such position to make such demands.

Fakes and forgeries – There seem to be fake painting and counterfeit money circulating around.

The return of Santa – This guy may have leveled up a little and was bold enough to hint to Shuurei he wants to marry her. You might have guessed it by now. Shuurei is married to her job/ambition.

The melancholy of Santa – Santa said something that really got Shuurei thinking. She has been dismissed as an official, so why is she working her ass so hard? What is she trying to achieve/prove? Because the Imperial Court will still function and go on with or without her. Think about it. Despite those stinging words ringing so true, Shuurei isn’t a person who would just sit down and not do something. She must do something. Simply because Shuurei is Shuurei.

Heki Karin – A guest of Kouchou seems to be running around town verifying if paintings are fakes or not. Lively, energetic but a somewhat rude and brute to men. Beware, guys. She finds Shuurei cute. Is she some sort of piece of artwork too?

Shin Suou AKA Tan-tan – A lazy and carefree guy was asked by his father to go marry Shuurei because he will be promised some sort of government position. WTF. The idiot fails of course since he doesn’t try hard enough. Shuurei rejects him and he is okay with that. Besides, he did what he was told to but mission failed, right? What do you expect from a guy who buys golden ornaments including a tanuki (hence the Tan-tan nickname many calls him) and gets flushed away by the drain water. Despite looking like an idiot, this guy is quite perspective as he observes Shuurei’s behaviour and actions.

Heki Yukoku – Karin’s alias. Yukoku is believed to be the best artist around but the trouble is nobody ever sees this person as he moves from place to place. Ryuuki and co wanted to find him to get a portrait of him drawn. Imagine their surprise when they realize this crude woman is that said legend.

Locked child –With Shuurei and the gang figuring out and putting the pieces of the puzzle of the counterfeiting case, Tan-tan leads everyone back to his shed whereby they see a child making those drawings. He is Banri and Karin’s son and was somewhat duped into reproducing those paintings. Tan-tan’s dad seems to also be involved in the fake painting (unknowingly he brings them home since he is from the arts department and loves paintings) but not the counterfeit money. There is also a mould to make counterfeit coins and it is a serious crime punishable by death regardless of who the person is. In view of this, Ryuuki proposes that he had them made a mould for new trial coins.

Imprisoned – Due to Tan-tan and his dad’s involvement in the counterfeiting, they are thrown in prison. Shuurei and Seiran went to great lengths and procedures to bail Tan-tan but his dad isn’t so easy. Upsetting Shuurei more was that Tan-tan didn’t say anything to defend himself. Since Tan-tan is an official, Shuurei believes if he renders himself with some distinguished service before his father’s execution, it might save him as well. From time to time Tan-tan visits his father in prison and brings him handmade rice balls. Not the best but it tastes good if you’re stuck in prison especially if it was made by your own son.

Go get a job! – There is a proposal that joukans that are not useful will be dismissed within a month (Shuurei and Tan-tan are part of it). This is part of those against Shuurei to get rid of her once and for all. Worse, all the other joukans are being so pessimistic and lazy that it just pisses off Shuurei. Uh huh. You guessed it. She goes out of her way to help them out (since they pathetically begged her too). It’s not even her problem and yet she goes out her way to help them. Isn’t she the best or what? At this rate I think Shuurei is going to have wrinkles on her forehead. It’s very tiring trying to just keep up with these bums. She’s helping them so much that she didn’t have time to think about her own circumstances. Time is running out and she’ll be dismissed for real if she doesn’t land a job.

Riku Seiga – Unlike other joukans, this one is more helpful and helps out Shuurei whenever he can since he views Shuurei’s personality as interesting.

Inflation – Prices of salt seem to be rising as well. Not only that, salt is mixed with some other impurities as well. Shuurei thinks that this must have something to do with fake paintings and counterfeit money and that same person behind it must be pulling the strings. Those were perhaps just a distraction for this. Shuurei and Seiga work hard to trace the source of it and come to discover that many of the salt transactions pass through the Chin clan.

Too late? – Wondering why Tan-tan has not showed up recently, there is a rumour that his father has died. Shuurei once again becomes worried and recalls Tan-tan’s odd behaviour during the last time they met (he had her play her erhu).

The big break? – Shuurei with Seiga’s help finishes up the report and findings of the salt case. She spent the whole night writing it so it’s no surprise she is tired in the morning and sleeps on her desk. The next time she opens her eyes, her scroll report is missing. Who took it? That’s where Seiga’s true colours are revealed. He is an underground inspector of the government inspection section. He was on this case for months and had a case building and going till Shuurei and Tan-tan had to show up. He despises her and is the kind of guy who would sacrifice others to achieve his goal.

The big surprise? – Shuurei and Seiga never expected Tan-tan to pop up at the Chin’s residence when the guards are arresting the inhabitants of the manor and seizing their property. This place actually belongs to his mother or at least to the man she remarried. He is working under her as her servant but it seems she doesn’t even recognize her own son! Tan-tan found the real mould that made the counterfeit coins and this will prove that there is another person involved and his father’s sentence is uplifted. By the way, he isn’t dead yet since he managed to get him out of prison and let Seiran guard him.

Ki Kouki – The strict and no nonsense head of the government inspection section who also isn’t too fond about Shuurei. Although he still doesn’t hold favourable views about her, he ‘invites’ her to come work under his department to see whether she has got what it takes to meet his high standards. Tan-tan is also ‘invited’ since he views his idiocy to fool agents like Seiga a talent itself. Yeah. Having no talent is like a talent itself.

Riou Jr returns – First seen returning to the capital’s library with Ryuuki even confiding him for advice for his love for Shuurei (little kid thinks he should give up on that hard to get woman), he is later appointed as the head of the mystic studies department.

Passed – No joukans are dismissed at the end of the probation period.

Time to settle down – Ryuuki finally has decided to take on a wife. What?! Is he serious? After all that dodging and now he thinks it’s time to settle down? However he is going to maintain being monogamous. Hope he won’t regret it.

Juusan-hime – The princess of the Ran family is going to enter the imperial palace as Ryuuki’s wife. See Ryuuki? Don’t you wish having not made that statement so at least you can still get your hands on Shuurei?

Pseudo wife – Because Juusan-hime is going to be part of the imperial palace, there may be assassination attempts so Kouki assigns Seiga and Shuurei who is to pose as Juusan-hime and she must protect her with her life.

Prison warden – Since Shuurei is part of the government inspection department, she is given a prison to be in charge with. Ever since, the system and hygiene of the place improved so much so the prisoners don’t want to leave! Yeah. Even a hardcore prisoner who was mistakenly convicted didn’t want to. Life is so good with free food and accommodation, why leave?

Tousen Court – The annex of the imperial residence that Shuurei and Juusan-hime are going to live in for a while till Juusan-hime officially becomes Ryuuki’s wife. Oh, they’re like best friends now.

Fishing – Juusan-hime doesn’t exactly like fishing but she did fish one out just to let it eat the imperial palace’s food. Guess what? The fish turned belly up. Holy sh*t! What boggles me isn’t why the fish was eating human food, but rather how lax the security is. Didn’t they learn the last time? Or is the lenient security on purpose to draw out the assassins? Looks like it’ll be safer to cook herself.

It’s just a game – As Shuurei confides in Juusan-hime, she entering the Imperial Residence may just be a game set up by the Ran triplets to test the emperor’s reaction and capabilities. She deduces that the game is set with only one way out and if he fails to reach that, it’s game over. If he succeeds, the reward must be worthwhile.

Doing time – Shuurei investigates the deaths of 5 high ranking officials when she spots Ensei sitting in prison. Something about saving a woman and getting caught in a misunderstanding scuffle. Who cares? We know he’s back.

Tanned one eyed man – The mysterious man who waltzes in coolly to take on Seiga and the guards protecting the Vice Minister of Arms. He and his fellow assistant assassin leave when Ensei arrive in the picture, noting that half his mission is done.

Vice Minister of Arms – Deduced to be the culprit of what is currently happening. Because he offered to guard Juusan-hime, he made the security lax to facilitate the assassins’ work and let them in. He has a daughter of marriageable age and wanted her to enter the Imperial Residence. If Ryuuki did not do away with polygamy, he wouldn’t have resorted to assassination. Also, Juusan-hime was attacked while on her way to the capital but he failed in his attempt to assassinate her before so because it would mean a noble or official didn’t want her to enter the Imperial Residence. He also setup this failed assassination attempt on himself. However what if the assassins had other orders to kill? She looked into the dead officials and all had nothing in common except for one thing: They were related to the Vice Minister of Arms. Seiga’s mission is not to protect him but to arrest the man plotting the assassination attempt and was just protecting him from being killed off. Shuurei senses something amiss since if this was supposed to be a failed assassination attempt, the damage taken is too serious. Unfortunately prior to it all, an assassin stuck a poison blow dart in the minister’s neck so all that was for naught.

Shiba Jin – The name of the tanned one eyed man. Or is it Shun?

Hotaru – Juusan-hime’s real name.

The story so far – I’m confused. This is what is happening so far. Apparently Juusan-hime and Shuuei know who Jin/Shun is and aren’t happy he is now an assassin. He claims he is no longer a member of the Shiba family and that Jin is ‘dead’. Juusan-hime is Jin/Shun’s former fiancée. If everyone finds out that the chief assassin behind the killings was the son of the Shiba family, the leading family among the subordinate families of Ran, it would affect the Ran family. His masked assassin turns out to be Shusui. She is under some hypnotism and now that she is activated, she’ll never be free so Jin/Shun takes her under his care so that she can assassinate no more.

Case closed – Kouki closes the case after reading Shuurei’s report that someone has been quietly removing condemned convicts over the years and trained them to be assassins. The Vice Minister of Arms may be involved but somebody else did the hiring. He was murdered to ensure his silence and so it’s not over yet. But Kouki believes those low level assassins won’t know who the ring leader is and Shuurei’s emotion is clouding her judgment (since the leader of the assassin is somewhat related to the Ran family). It is set that the Vice Minister of Arms used assassins to murder officials so his daughter could enter the Imperial Residence. He failed and died. Case closed. If Shuurei can’t accept that, then resign or become more powerful than he is.

Leaving your majesty – Due to some circumstances that Shuuei has always been a member of the Ran family, thus the dilemma to stay by Ryuuki’s side. He has made his decision to leave him and they have a final dual in which I think he purposely lost so that he could replace somebody better and let him marry Juusan-hime. He returns his iris sword and returns to his clan. Although Ryuuki lets him do as he pleases, he still wants Shuuei by his side and will go and get him back.

Shuuei has left the palace – With Shuurei’s help, Shuuei manages to ride safely out of the capital since all the guards on duty become drunk and before Seiga could come interrogate him.

Honeymoon? – Probably to stave off certain people who are still concerned whether Ryuuki is going to marry Juusan-hime, his plan is to take her to Ran province as his guide. It backfired causing some to think he chickened out on his decision to take a wife and worse, it’s like they’re going on a honeymoon.

The art of persuasion – After failing to do her own snooping around in the office of the Minister of Arms (that guy was pretending to be absent to avoid interrogation) and after all that pleading, Shuurei manages to get Kouki’s permission to head to Ran province since she still hasn’t given up on investigating the Vice Minister of Arms’ case (along with the other minster murders and salt prices).

Last of the nobles – Kouki is the sole survivor of his distinguished Ki family. The previous emperor ordered the family’s execution.

Ou Ki – As described by Ryou Anju to be a noble among nobles. He desires the throne.

What’s eating Shuurei? –Ryuuki has Juusan-hime to confide to and accompany him through lonely nights. So why is she looking so sad?

Business trip – In addition to her trip to Ran province, Shuurei is tasked to bring Ryuuki back and investigate this guy called Jin. The clan expected great things from him but he murdered his father 5 years ago. He was supposed to be executed but somebody helped him escape. Was the Ran family involved? If so, Kouki can drag them out into the open and can impose death sentences if they are the ones pulling the strings and the order on Juusan-hime’s assassination. Oh, don’t forget to bring back food souvenirs for him too.

Kyuusai Cove – Seems many parties are heading here. Legend has it that Emperor Sou Gen and his sister Sou Youki battled and sealed 108 monsters in a mirror. But it cannot contain them and shattered. Youki played her erhu and the fragments turn into lakes in which they were sealed. Youki became the founder of the Hyou family.

Sea sick – Tan-tan seems to be vomiting throughout the voyage on ship.

Job division – Shuurei delegates the investigation with Ensei to investigate on salt, Tan-tan on personal management records of government and military officials and herself to look into Jin.

An eye for you – Jin was sent to kill Juusan-hime but they sat there staring at each other straight for 3 days and nights. Longest staring contest ever… She feels sleepy and allowed him to come closer if he gives her his eyes. Without hesitation he did it! He could have been blinded in the other eye had she not stop him. They ran away and spent time a lot together with Shuuei. She thought he was joking when he told her she was the only wife for him. And then he committed that murder. She blames herself for robbing Jin of everything.

Valley of the Lost – Basically that is what Kyuusai Cove is. People who walk into it get lost. Only the true emperor can reach the Hyou family’s shrine on its mountain. Oddly the Ran brothers never get lost in there. Ryuuki was told to stay away from it but since he is here…

Lost – Ryuuki tries to be a hero going to Kyuusai Cove alone. Needless to say, he is lost. Maybe the effect is in place… But heck, he has got 3 freaking cute pandas to keep him company during campfire!!!! While he thinks about Shuurei’s achievements and wondering the decisions he made as emperor was right as he feels he has been running away from his responsibilities. Yeah… Basically a big recap of the entire series so far… Don’t worry. With 3 cute pandas by your side, what can go wrong? So okay… He collapsed after walking for too long!

Walkthrough guide – After that horrifying waterfall ride (at least it cuts their journey to Kyuusai Cove by 3 days!), Shun offers to take Shuurei to where Ryuuki is. Oh, he is under orders to only bring Shuurei so she delegates them to gather duck eggs and mushrooms as per requested by Kouki for souvenir.

Hyou Ruka – When Shuurei finds sleeping Ryuuki in a dungeon, she is knocked out by Shusui. Actually Ruka, the older sister of Riou Sr who is currently possessing Shusui’s body.

I won’t give up! – Ruka mocks Ryuuki for not being a good emperor and wants him to abdicate the throne. He won’t. Enough said. In that case, die.

The lamest trick in the book – While Shuuei takes Ryuuki to escape from Shusui’s assassination, he is forced to use this lame trick to bring her to her senses. He calls out Shouka’s name. She stopped dead in her tracks. To totally snap her out, he slaps her.

You’re mine – Ruka thinks that having Shuurei’s body who shares the blood of Bara Hime will have Riou Sr look at her.

A father’s love – Ruka won’t be doing that so soon because Shouka won’t let her. He even goes as far as to break the mirror just to save his loved one. By breaking it, Ruka’s spirit is forced to return to her original body but also risks of freeing a terrible monster. Is a kaijuu manifesting?

Soothing the beast – Shusui plays the erhu to calm everything down. Sorry, no kaijuu.

Soothing the rain – Can you believe it? Ryuuren’s horrible flute is able to simmer down the rain!

Not going – Shusui decides to stay by Shun’s side instead of going back with the rest. She is tired of running and hiding in fear. She has decided to take care of her own problems. Even if she has no chance of succeeding, she can’t make others do this for her.

Shuurei’s wisdom – Juusan-hime is going to tell about everything about Jin. But Shuurei won’t hear any further. As she is not the official involved in this case, there is no way of knowing what truly happened. She deduces someone circumvented the law to save Jin’s life. Because Seiga once came here before and yet couldn’t do anything because of that someone who is a very powerful political figure who might be the Ministry of Defence, Son (who was Ran province’s governor then) or Ou Ki (who was the head of the government inspection then). She won’t make a move against them till she is sure she can bring them down. As for Jin’s case, if she was the official in charge, she would have executed him in accordance to the law. She won’t make any exceptions either. But if she had reflected on the circumstances before she passed sentence, she would try to change the law to stop the execution. She would have done everything she could to save Jin’s life so that everyone can walk in the sun again.

I choose you! – Ryuuki wants Shuuei back by his side. And he is saying this as his emperor. He wants an ally and not a friend. Shuuei reveals he won a bet against the Ran family’s triplets. He was finally able to tell which is the eldest. As a result he is disowned by the family and cannot use the family’s influence anymore. Despite Shuuei back by his side, the Ran family still does not intend to obey him. Even so, that is more than enough for Ryuuki. He returns his iris sword to Shuuei as he swears his loyalty and devotes his life to him.

You’re fired! – Shuurei learns that Tan-tan had reported on her to Kouki about entering Kyuusai cove. Because she unheeded his warning, she is to be fired. However Tan-tan resigned and took the fall on Shuurei’s behalf and he accepted it. Shuurei isn’t pleased that Kouki used Tan-tan’s father as hostage to use him to keep surveillance on her. Before Tan-tan and his family leaves the capital, Shuurei makes him promise to return the ransom money she lent him.

Promotion – Tan-tan’s firing was just a big lie because he actually got promoted to some supervisor position in a rural area.

The new chief lady-in-waiting – With Shusui no longer around, Ryuuki makes Juusan-hime her successor because he knows he can’t remain a bachelor for the rest of his years. Getting married is an emperor’s responsibility too, no? So if Shuurei cannot be the woman he marries, Juusan-hime will take her place.

Betting on marriage – Of course Ryuuki is still going to give Shuurei a chance. But they make a bet. From now until the promised time, if the time comes and she runs away then it is Shuurei’s win. He will not bring up the subject of marrying her anymore. Otherwise if she agrees to marry him within that time frame, he wins. It might seem disadvantageous to Ryuuki but don’t you think Shuurei has got a good deal?

Behind Every Success Is A… Shuurei!
Honestly, sitting down and watching the entire 78 episodes of drama isn’t really my cup of tea. While this series is not bad but personally it started to get a little bore on me. Uh huh. You can blame me about my odd tastes or something but as each episode dwindles down, I find it hard to keep up with the plots. Sure, I can generalize what happen in each arc but if you ask me to go deeper and explain it like those who love this series that this might turn into a piece of literature, sorry fans of the series, I’m just not into it. I’m more of into high school harem ecchi romance comedy kind of thing :p. It started out well at first (because it was something new) with Shuurei overcoming the odds and obstacles to do what she does best. Frankly, the first season and the start of the second season weren’t so bad. After the closure of the epidemic case in Sa province, that’s where I felt my attention span waning. And then the final arc about Shuuei heading home to his Ran province with their own brand of family power and politics was just too confusing for me to understand. To me that was the biggest downer and the end a series like that, not really impressed in my books.

Even though we have come a long way, it only seems that it is just the beginning of everything. Ou Ki trying to seize the throne and this is going to be another big arc. But nobody made another season out of it so it’s a big relief for me? With so many characters in the play, things can only get more complicated with plot over plot and twist over twist. Just like those Taiwanese dramas. Heh, haven’t watch those but I have a feeling it would be something like that. So with that last arc, many characters I feel sidelined like all those back in Sa province (Eigetsu, Kourin, etc) and even those back in the capital (Kouyuu, Reishin, Seiran, etc). It was just an arc trying to bring Shuuei back and partly make Ryuuki discover himself and his true responsibility as an emperor. I didn’t read the manga or the light novel it was based on either. But I did skim through the summary of what happened in the end. I think. Let’s say it’s something tragic and bittersweet. Perhaps more bitter.

The plot development and flow of the story feels okay although there are certain events that are left unexplained or left to your own imagination. For example, Sakujun’s body. Common sense dictates he is dead but who was the wise guy that moved his corpse? Unless Sakujun himself dug a hole and buried himself. Hah. Anything is possible. Because of the supernatural elements present in this anime, I thought sometimes they might just want to stretch it. Like how Yousei and Enjun can turn into their young handsome form. I know Chinese mythology is filled with lots of supernatural and mystical power stuffs but I feel putting it in this anime somewhat feels unsuitable. Especially with the Hyou family that dabbles with such mystic arts. Then there’s the part where Yougetsu who was so waiting for the day to take over Eigetsu when he dies, and when the time comes, he just go into indefinite coma so that we could have our little happy ending on his side.

Shuurei does well as the main character and even better especially it is because she is female. She is something that all of us should strive to be. Not many people in this world are as selfless as her and for her to overcome the odds stacked against her and all the barriers placed before her one after another, she doesn’t give up easily and holds firm to what she believes in. She may have an easier time if she was living in this era but considering back in those ancient days where women’s rights are never heard of, she does well to stave off the stereotypes and negatives cast upon her. Although there are many more out there who are willing to bring her down instead of concentrating to do good for the benefit of the people. Therefore I can say that Shuurei really does put some men in high ranking position to shame because she speaks via her actions and takes them on the best she can. Heck, she even did lots of odd jobs before her stint as official. From doing accounting work at a brothel and being teacher at a local school, she is going to have an impressive resume. So do you not see why she is the perfect woman/housewife that every guy dreams of? The only question is, are you good enough for her?

The only minus point about her is that she has no time for romance. I mean, we are watching this kind of genre and how do you expect not to see love especially between an emperor and his ex-concubine? It is good that she puts the people first and there is nothing wrong with that. It shows that she is dedicated and true to her ideals. But before an official or a statesman, she is still an ordinary woman, right? How can a woman her age not be interested in love and romance and instead would prefer to be some sort of hardworking geek? Then again, only shallow minded people like me would think so :(. The point is, it is sometimes annoying to see her pushing away Ryuuki when he tries to make an advance on her, giving all sorts of excuses. I believe he may not be a perfect emperor and still inexperienced but I think his love for her is really genuine. There is always that danger that they may get distracted and not get their job done if they fall too deep in love. The way I see it, I can’t even tell if Shuurei has romantic feelings for Ryuuki. Yes, she likes everybody. Like how she likes everyone else. But that kind of romantic feelings which makes you feel like you want to dedicate yourself to him wholly doesn’t feel there. Unless she’s a good poker player. Anyhow, even if Shuurei didn’t get to marry Ryuuki, let’s just take heart that she is at least married to her job :). Haha!

Ryuuki too is trying his best. Nobody is born a genius and you always start out as an amateur or rookie. So I don’t actually see what the big fuss was that he wasn’t doing his job properly or running away. Maybe I couldn’t see the big picture but I thought he was doing a decent job in trying to be fair to everyone and rule fairly. If they’re comparing him to the great previous emperor, maybe. But Ryuuki is Ryuuki and the ex-emperor is an entirely different person. So let him do his job and I am sure everything will be just fine. He may act a bit childish at times but hey, he’s the emperor. And he is still human no matter how you put it. Don’t worry, we see he has lots of support to go around so he is not alone. Whenever he is lost, there’ll be somebody to bring him back.

As said, there are many other characters too. Some major roles some minor and some you tend to forget if you don’t go back and do your revision like how you did for your school homework. I don’t think I want to blog on them all. Because that will be major boring, right? You know guys like Eigetsu, Seiran, Ensei, Shuuei, Kouyuu and everybody else are good people and they do what they can in their roles. Tan-tan makes a major impact in the second season since he is a complete opposite of Shuurei and sees things more objectively so in a way he is there for her own good. Some characters I don’t know what their roles are when they return like Riou Jr and Shusui. Maybe it’s just foreshadowing of something later. Therefore I would like to say that the best and most amusing character goes to… Ryuuren! You can’t beat this guy because he is in a world of his own. He is in a pace of his own. He does what he wants. Nobody can drag him down. Even enemies would rather not get involved with this eccentric guy. Like the shadow, he appears anywhere, any time and may even spring a surprise or two. Even though in the final arc he casts away his fancy feather cape and flamboyant outfit, he still is as peculiar as ever. The funny part of him playing his horrible flute seems to be the running joke of the series. Ironically, he is so good at everything except playing the flute. Feels like as though it is not like he has no talent to master it, he is just playing horribly just to piss us off! That is his love to us! Oh Ryuuren, this series should have more episodes on you.

Despite the entire anime mainly revolves around drama, there are a few comedy bits too but nothing major that would generally categorize this anime as a comedy genre. Like Ryuuren’s flute playing and everyone’ reaction to it. That’s funny, right? How about Kouyuu the master of getting lost and blaming the place moved itself without telling him?! Shuurei getting annoyed or panicking or flustering, that’s funny too, no? Or in a handful of episodes after Seiga’s true devil personality is revealed, in the next episode preview sometimes Shuurei is so angry, upset or stressed that she would really want to take it out on him! That’s okay, right? So unbecoming of her. Fighting scenes aren’t this anime’s forte so don’t get your hopes too high up when you see the army or mob clashing their weapons. It just feels one kind. Makes you feel that they are better off sticking to the drama types. And of course the romance part. I already touch on the when-is-it-going-to-happen Ryuuki x Shuurei that would leave many frustrated. The same case with Eigetsu x Kourin but they are taking theirs slowly and since they aren’t the main stars, once the Sa province problems are over, that is so much you’ll hear from them. With so much hot guys in this anime, sometimes it is hard not to wonder if there is going to be a yaoi moment especially between Ryuuki, Shuuei and Kouyuu. It might have been if the emperor was really gay.

The drawing and art really depicts the very Chinese style from their clothes, hairstyle to the buildings so you might be mistaken that you are watching a series set in China instead of Saiunkoku. Of course the characters are given the bishonen and bishoujo treatment as many of the young men do have that handsome look and the women pretty by themselves. Sometimes I can’t help feel this is a reverse harem series since Shuurei is surrounded by lots of gorgeous men. Why not? She seems to be the only female official around, right? Just too bad that romance isn’t in her books. Madhouse Studio produces this anime. They also did Ace Wo Nerae, Cardcaptor Sakura, Black Lagoon, Death Note, Galaxy Angel, NANA, Paradise Kiss and Tenjou Tenge among the many other series under their belt.

In a long time, I have never heard of a long running anime series to never change its opening theme song. That’s right. For 2 full seasons, the breathy Hajimari No Kaze by Ayaka Hirahara remains the opening song from start till finish for every episode. Though, the opening credits animations for both seasons change but essentially the song remains the same. That saves a lot of costs, right? Anyway, I thought this song sounded a bit like Mr Big’s To Be With You (at least the chorus part). Saikou No Kataomoi by Sachi Tainaka is the ending theme for the first season and is a slow lovely piece. For the second season, Asu E by Teruya Miho. Another slow piece but slow enough to make me think that this kind of song is those you sing during your graduation ceremony or when you part with somebody. Like Auld Lang Syne? Uh huh. It has this sad feel that you might cry… I noticed the various background music and a big majority of them have this Chinese feel since they are using Chinese instruments like erhu and flute. However during certain scenes I noticed that they play non-Chinese type of music ranging from Latin flamenco, Indian or Arabic tunes and even Hawaiian strings! Because those kind of tunes stand out in such a Chinese themed anime, I thought it sounded plain weird and a mismatch. Sampling the original soundtrack with some tracks having modern music from piano and violin solos, it made me wonder if this is truly for the Chinese themed anime. But of course that is just me and the music isn’t all that bad actually.

Overall, despite the reasonably lengthy number of episodes (heck, it is better than a certain ninja and pirate series that are still running. In another decade, I speculate they could even breach four digits!!!), this is still a worthy drama to check it out because mainly Shuurei is a good lesson for all of us to learn. At least I know I don’t want to become like her because I don’t want to be burdened with so much hard work and worries XD. Leave it to somebody who cares XD. Therefore we can only hope and dream if every politician these days are like her, definitely guaranteed a peaceful and prosperous world! But then again, life would have been boring without all those controversies, scandals and antics. Somebody needs to be the bad guy and looks like they get highly paid to do a ‘good job’. So the biggest lesson and moral of the story… For behind every success, there is always… Yourself! For behind every failure there is always… Yourself! Because you decide your own destiny with your own hands.

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