Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 13 & Up
Release Date: Available Now
The long road to earning respect in a man’s political world.
If you’re like me, you’re probably cheering the FUNimation distributing deal with Geneon that is currently brining us a number of Geneon releases. Among my favorites is The Story of Saiunkoku, a series often compared to the Twelve Kingdoms. With Season 1 Part 1, we are introduced to Shurei Hong, a young princess from one of the eight noble houses who sets out to become the first female government official to aid the Emperor in a more formal capacity. Season 1 Part 2 continues the story as Shurei finds out that being an official in a predominantly male atmosphere isn’t as pleasant experience.
Having passed the National Exams with flying colors, Shurei and 13-year old Eigetsu To (who passed with the title of Jogen) find themselves as the outcast candidates in the royal palace. Pushed to do menial tasks such as cleaning up the toilets, shining shoes and filling out paperwork that Advisors are too lazy to touch have the young pair exhausted. Still, despite the fact that they are looked down upon by a good majority of the officials, they do have some support from Seiran Si and even fellow Initiate Heki who has given them problems in the past.
We see that Shurei isn’t one to give up, though, and her hard work even inspires Eigetsu to hang in there despite their hardships. As they take on more paperwork, the pair do discover a miscalculation in one of the budgetary reports for the Department of Protocol. Meanwhile, rumors are passed around that the National Exam results have been tampered with to let Shurei join the manly ranks of the official court. As a result, people are arrested and Secretary Sai is accused of corruption as well as stealing a most valuable ring. Immediately, it is Secretary Sai that points a finger at Shurei for setting up false charges against him.
Oh, but Shurei is a resourceful girl with proof of the corruption allegations as well as proof that she passed the National Exams on her own without help from any Advisor or even the Emperor himself. Yet on the evening before she was asked to defend herself and the corruption claims, she is called to Kocho’s place only to find her and Eigetsu captured by men hired to keep her locked up and thus arriving late to the trail. Is Kocho, the woman who helped Shurei, in league with bad men? I won’t say but there’s a battle here that also involves Eigetsu’s alternate persona, Yogetsu, that shows up when Eigetsu drinks wine.
Proving herself during the trail, Shurei – as well as Eigetsu – do manage to graduate from being Initiates. The Emperor not only offers them both a high position as co-governors of the Sa Provence (that happens to be in turmoil) but he also confesses his deep love for Shurei. Then again, we already knew he loves her but it’s clear that Shurei means to prove that she’s able to carry out the duties as an official. The Emperor also assigns Seiran and the loyal Ensei Ro who traveled to the city with Korin (who regrets having poisoned Shurei) to accompany them. He even grants Seiran the privilege of wielding the sword of a nobleman.
The road to Sa Provence isn’t an easy one and the group does encounter a number of dangers as a member of the Sa Clan sends a dangerous bandit clan called the Murderous Blades to capture the new co-governors before they reach their destination. When the group breaks up, it is Eigetsu and Korin who are captured while Shurei travels on with the aid of the Merchants Guild. Traveling undercover, she plays servant to a young Lord who constantly flirts with her and then suddenly falls in love with Shurei after hearing her play the erhu. Once they reach their destination within Sa Provence, however, the identity of the young Lord is revealed and the youngest member of the Sa Clan wants to right to wrong of his older brother.
There are a number of exciting moments in this second part of the first season as Seiran and Ensei face off against the Murderous Blades. In the first part, we find that there’s a secret concerning Seiran’s past and who he really is and in this second part we are finally revealed a big part of his life. Aside from some interesting revelations and more political intrigue, Ryuren comes back again to inject his brand of hilarity. Of course, once again there is no shortage of hot guys that fall for Shurei’s charming personality. Although, the fighting sequences leave much to be desired.
In the end, The Story of Saiunkoku, Season 1 Part 2, doesn’t disappoint in continuing a story that’s still a delightfully splendid and inspiring tale of a girl rising above old traditions. As the characters embark on a journey to show that they are capable of changing the history of their country for the better, we find ourselves drawn in by the intrigue that makes this an irresistible series you will want to check out.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Shurei and Eigetsu enter the world of Royal politics only to finds themselves being pushed around because of gender and age issues. Of course, Shurei’s determination wins the men over and when they are both assigned a post it becomes clear that there are still those that oppose the idea of having Sa Province run by a woman and a boy. The road to the Sa Province proves to be a dangerous journey in these 12-episodes.
VIDEO QUALITY: A-
The animation is simply adequate and the backgrounds are just decent with some generic-looking crowds. At least the guys that surround Shurei are rendered gorgeously. There’s definitely plenty of eye candy for us girls.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English dub voices aren’t as strong as the Japanese voices, although there are some certain characters (I’m looking in your direction Sakujun) that sound so much better in English. The opening and closing theme songs are nice but it’s the original score that really stands out.
There are trailers on each of the three discs as well as a set of colorful postcards included in each slim disc case. It’s also great to see this series continue thanks to FUNimation.
Still filled with intrigue, adventure and a healthy dose of shojo elements, Season 1 Part 2 of The Story of Saiunkoku remains to be a rich and rewarding anime experience. It does have a few weak spots here and there as far as the storytelling is concerned but these flaws are overshadowed by a good cast of characters and a captivating adventurous spirit.