Thursday, January 30, 2014

ōoku: the inner chamber, vol. 1

fumi yoshinaga
viz media
published 2009

In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Redface Pox has begun to prey on the country's men.  Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent.  Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to me, even that of the Shogun.  The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected.  And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the Shogun's Inner Chamber...

At first glance this is very similar to Y: The Last Man and while I did enjoy those, Ōoku is telling a story much more intriguing to me.  I think maybe because it is written by a female we're missing those moments of annoying sexism that were pretty prevalent in Y: The Last Man.  Also, in Y the decimation of the male population is much more present.  Here, we're 80 years past the first case in a time when some people don't even remember when there were just as many men as women.  So we're focused less on why this has happened and more so on 'now what?'.

I really enjoy Fumi Yoshigana's art and storytelling.  While this is much more serious than Antique Bakery (my only other exposure to Yoshigana's work) she still inserts small moments of humor into the panels to break up the tension.  She's written something much more complicated and revealing than I expected.

The story begins with the introduction of the Redface Pox and it's devastating effects.  Shorty thereafter we skip ahead 80 years and get a glimpse of life as it stands with women in power and carrying the burdens of a country reinvented.  Yunoshin is a handsome man who has very little care until his mother arranges for him a fortunate marriage.  Instead he offers to put himself in service to the Shogun at the Ōoku.  Once there he learns quickly that living with only men has its downsides.

When the young Shogun dies a newer, more experienced and shrewd Shogun steps into her place and she has big plans for turning everything around.  She is smart and no-nonsense, yet she is compassionate and caring in her dealings with the men in her employ.  She has suspicions of the state of affairs in her country and she intends to get to the bottom of everything.

So you have some romance and some political intrigue all wrapped up with some gorgeous art!

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