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This is the first manga series I have really got into (I bounced off the first volume of Osamu Tezuka's Buddha a few years back) and I will start with some general reflections. First, it is easy to read these too quickly. The sparse black and white illustrations, the subtleties of the difference in appearance between characters, the condensation of the equivalent of many prose paragraphs of plot and emotion into a single frame, all male it important to take these slowly and sensibly. Second, I was a bit unnerved at first by the stylistic device where people's faces go all cartooney when they are in the grip of strong emotion (usually anger); but in fact this is a fair metaphor for what it feels like, and to an extent what it looks like, when one is consumed by rage, joy, sadness or whatever, and I have not only got used to it but practically welcome it as an extra signal to the reader.

Volume 4 of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is a transitional work, covering the end of the reign of Iemitsu, zooming rather rapidly through the thirty year reign of her successor Ietsuna, and then getting stuck in to the career of Tsunayoshi and the arrival at her court of the young nobleman Emonnosuke. It is also about the historical legacy of Arikoto, a central figure of the previous two volumes, whose valet ends up as Tsunayoshi's father.

The background to the story is of course a Japan which has lost 75%-80% of its men; but I feel the plot is more and more about the exercise of power, Iemitsu's wise and enlightened decisions - including "coming out" as a woman ruler and permitting other lords to do the same - contrasted with Ietsuna's indolence. We then see Tsunayoshi as largely concerned with using power for her own sexual pleasure, to the annoyance of her courtiers, and the end of the book suggests that Emmonosuke's arrival will take her and her rule in a new direction, though we cannot be quite sure what. It's enough to make me want to get the next volume anyway.

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( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
yea_mon
May. 30th, 2011 04:43 am (UTC)
The stylistic device might be there to reflect the public self/private self dichotomy in Japanese society. Outward displays of emotion are traditionally frowned upon - you're supposed to keep those to yourself
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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