Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: OOKU: The Inner Chambers Volume 11


MANGAKA: Fumi Yoshinaga
LETTERER: Monlisa De Asis
ISBN: 978-1-4215-7979-5; paperback (November 2015); Rated “M” for “Mature”
232pp, B&W, $12.99 U.S., $14.99 CAN

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is an alternate history and romance manga created by Fumi Yoshinaga.  The series presents an alternative version of Japan’s history in which a strange disease, called the Redface Pox, begins to kill young men and boys  in the 1600s.

The male population falls to about one-fourth of the female population, and men eventually become protected as precious “seed bearers.”  Japan becomes a matriarchal society, with women taking on the roles traditionally held by men, including the role of Shogun.  This story focuses on life at Edo Castle and is set inside its Inner Chambers, a sort of harem filled with men who serve the female Shogun.

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 11 (Chapters 44 to 47) opens early in the reign of the 11th shogun, Lord Ienari, the first male shogun in 150 years.  Tokugawa Harusada has schemed for many years to make her son, Tokugawa Ienari, shogun, but she is the one who truly holds the reigns of power.  Ienari is merely a “studhorse,” pleasuring the now female-dominated Inner Chambers.  However, Ienari has been reading “The Chronicle of a Dying Day,” and he dreams of a better future for his country.

Meanwhile, after being thrown out of Edo Castle, former Inner Chamber men, Kuroki Ryojun and Ihei, operate an infirmary together.  Kuroki, an assistant to the late Aonuma, who found a way to cure the Redface Pox, experiences a great change in his life.  Now, he must rediscover his former mentor's miracle.

Is it okay if I still continue to admire the Ōoku: The Inner Chambers manga?  I have asked this question before because, for a long time, this manga seemed to focus on something different with each volume.  That annoyed me, and I thought that meant the narrative was problematic.  Instead of giving it a negative review, I found myself enjoying Ōoku.  I had to accept the series for what it was and not for what I thought it should be.  My very reservations seemed to suggest that this was an exceptional comic book.

At times, Ōoku is a character drama, historical fiction, historical drama, alternate-world fantasy (or science fiction), soap opera, backstairs drama, or royal drama – depending upon the volume I read.  Just go with it, Leroy.

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 11 embraces it all.  In the chapters that comprise this volume, creator Fumi Yoshinaga fashions humanity for her characters and then, begins an excavation of their personalities, motivations, psych profiles, and desires.  Why do people do what they do the way they do it?  Who knows?  It seems like a deeply held secret, even to the creator of such complex and winning characters.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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