In the fantasy-Edo universe of Ooku, a plague called the Red Pox claims 3/4 of all men - boy children are kept sequestered and safe indoors, only the wealthy can afford husbands, and the Shogun (along with the head of every other noble family) is a woman. The Ooku, the sequestered inner chambers of the palace is filled with a wealth of the most elegant and beautiful men, for the Shogun's pleasure. It's a definitely interesting twist on courtier-drama, forbidden love, and the unexpected hardships of being forced into a life of doing nothing but dress pretty.
The lead characters are Mizuno, a serious and practically-minded new courtesan who leaves behind a childhood friend and a scraping-by noble family, and the new Shogun, Yoshimune, a woman disgusted with the palace's opulence as the rest of the country suffers famine. She starts to investigate the history of the sometimes-contradictory traditions and mores the ooku is bound by, questioning things that the vast majority of people already take for granted.
A romantic pairing happens, but not the way you'd expect. I very much appreciate problems solved by following the rules, characters navigating in an big brother/bureaucratic atmosphere, with cleverness and out of the box thinking, and this story has almost ONLY that. The character Yoshimune alone made me want to buy the next volume.
The visuals are very clean, drawn with black and white and halftone dots, and I was surprised to find the characters easily distinguishable and expressions easy to read, even though nearly everyone has a case of ultra-smooth bishounen-face.
The ultra-polite ceremonial Japanese is rendered into thee-and-thou ye olde english, at times, but I didn't find it as jarring as I thought I would.
I reccomend it!
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