BARBARIANS OUT! That’s the rallying cry of the politicians from Kyoto as they despair at the savages -- you know, like the British, the Dutch, and us Americans -- that are infesting random small parts of the nation. However, it’s not like Japan can just close itself off from the world as doing so might be an invitation for other countries to open it up again. This time with lots of guns and generally superior technology. Shogun Iemochi recognizes this and, surprisingly, so does Emperor Komei. The problem is that the Emperor is too weak-willed to do anything about it and Iemochi’s efforts to try and bridge the gap between the sides are thwarted by either extreme views or extreme rudeness. Fortunately she still has her close advisors, including “Prince” Chikako to offer suggestions and advice on how to keep the country from sliding further into chaos.
Mangaka Fumi Yoshinaga continues the trend of these past few days regarding series that are actually talking about our present day instead of their historical/fantasy worlds. I know that Japan’s issues with immigration aren’t exactly the same as ours, but the basic sentiment behind them is similar enough that Iemochi’s situation comes off as all too familiar. Still, there’s a struggle between both sides to come out on top, which is a refreshing change for “Ooku” as I’ve been used to seeing one side (usually the bad one) dominate the other for an extended period.
Speaking of those who used to be on the other side, Chikako continues to get a substantial role in the events of this volume as well. The situation between the woman and her mother comes to a tragic resolution early on. It manages to avoid coming off as a total bummer, but it’s still really sad to read. From there, the princess masquerading as a prince gets to experience some lighter material as Tensho-In’s cat takes a liking to her over her master. The most intriguing bit for Chikako comes at the end when the problem of succession comes up. Iemochi has a problem and Chikako has a solution. The thing is that this solution is so awkward that it brings “Ooku” the closest it has ever come to having an overtly comic cliffhanger ending.