Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Geneon Entertainment (FUNimation Entertainment)
Running Time: 300 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 13 and Up
Release Date: Available Now
The times they are a changing.
The long, treacherous and dangerous road to Sa Provence wasn’t an easy one for Shurei Hong or her co-Governor, Eigetsu To. Not only did they have to practically sneak into the country they were supposed to aid but they had to put up with a band of killers known as the Murderous Blade but they also had to put up with some members of the Sa Clan that are much happier seeing the land in turmoil. Then there’s that handsome man, Sakujun Sa, that plans to keep Shurei for himself. Will these two ever really become Governors? Ah, but that’s what makes The Story of Saiunkoku such a delightfully interesting tale.
Several days have passed since the liberation of Kinka’s major, Shin Sia, as well as the banishment of the Murderous Blades by the hands of our heroes Seiran and Ensei Ro. Part 3 of this story finds both Shurei and Eigetsu buried in work as they try to figure out a way to calm Sa Provence from the violence and chaos caused by the principle heads of the Sa Clan. Luckily, there’s Kokujun Sa, the co-Governors’ only ally that also happens to be the youngest son and grandson to the head of the Sa Clan. If he could only reason with the heads of the clan than there is a possibility for peace.
That sounds easy but the people of Sa Provence aren’t going to accept a Governor that has lost her symbol of the King’s trust in her to a beautiful yet deceiving man like Sakujun. As it turns out, a blockade in Koren is causing even more chaos and Shurei sees this as a chance to head there and finally confront Sakujun again and get back her flowers the King had given her. With the help of Sho Sai of the Merchant’s Guild and Official Yu, Shurei and the others leave for Koren. Meanwhile, the King and his group are on their way to Kinka to see how Shurei and Eigetsu are doing.
Part 3 also makes a few revelations about how Shurei feels about the men in her life. She makes a confession to Seiran during their travels that is actually good news for Seiran but at the same time she has conflicting feeling about the King who she wants to see as a man named Ryuki that just so happens to be a King. Then there’s Sakujun, a man she should hate for many reasons that go beyond the fact that the man has a pretty face. She hopes that once she’s face-to-face with him, Shurei will finally find out what these feelings mean if they mean anything at all.
In the meantime, Kokujun rides for his clan’s palace to talk to his grandfather, Chusho Sa, only to find out that the old man sees him as an obstacle. Imprisoning his youngest grandson, Kokujun discovers that he’s not the only captive staying deep in a hidden prison within the estate. We also meet Lady Shunki who – with her two wards that make up the Bald Eagles of Sa Provence – are attempting to make it to the Sa Clan’s estate as well. It is believed that Lady Shunki cannot talk but when the trio encounter some mercenaries it becomes apparent that Lady Shunki possesses an unusual power.
When an invitation arrives for Shurei to stay in the Sa Clan estate, she accepts the offer not only to get her flower back but to locate Kokujun who must be imprisoned somewhere in the massive palace. Once again, she finds herself serving Sakujun like a maid like she did when they first met. This time however, Sakujun makes it clear that he wants her to be his wife and even takes her before his grandfather who reveals that Sakujun is to become the new head of the Sa Clan. In one of the coolest showdowns, Shurei flatly refuses the offer and even calls the old man’s bluff that is she didn’t marry him he would kill Kokujun and burn most of Sa Provence to the ground.
It isn’t until the middle of Part 3 that things not only get more intriguing but also – strangely enough – a tad confusingly surreal. A spirit makes an entrance during a critical moment and Lady Shunki’s abilities make her seem more like she would have fit nicely with members of the X-Men. Still, putting these elements aside, the intriguing parts come in the form of Seiran’s confrontation with Sakujun as the two go head-to-head in a deadly game involving wine and poison. The result of the deadly game even has Shurei racing to aid the person you would least likely to expect.
With the heads of the Sa Clan dead, it is Kokujun that stands up to take on the task. With the blessings of both Shurei and Eigetsu as well as Lady Shunki, Kokujun makes it to the Selection Ceremony and becomes the new head of the Sa Clan. At last, peace has come to Sa Provence and the two Governors are welcomed into the territory. Now, the real work begins and it’s Shurei that comes up with a brilliant idea that would not only secure Sa Provence but all of Saiunkoku as well. They plan on making Sa Provence a center for academic research in many fields including medicine and engineering. Now all that is needed is to present this proposal to the King himself during the New Year’s ceremony back home. Once again, Shurei finds herself traveling again.
Back home, she finds that there are a lot of people excited to see her after being away from home for such a long time. Still, a part of her isn’t really quite happy. Haunted by the demise of the person she really couldn’t have loved, Shurei isn’t able to really express her feelings until Ryuren and his flute shows up at night and embraces Shurei as she starts crying.
During the ceremony, Shurei finally shows the strength she has obtained on her path as Governor. She boldly makes her proposal and it is met with much enthusiasm that she impresses her old teacher and colleagues that watched this girl blossom from a curious child to a person who proved that it doesn’t matter if you’re a young like Eigetsu or a woman like Shurei. What really matters is the determination one has to do what is right to make the country a better place for everyone. In the end, when Ryuki and Shurei meet under the same tree where they first met, the two make a promise that makes us believe that anything that seems impossible could be possible even if it takes a long time.
Part 3 of The Story of Saiunkoku reaches a riveting and impressive conclusion makes this easily one of the series best 12 episodes yet. For those who followed Shurei from the very beginning know she has come a long way and Part 3 certainly proves that as Season One finally concludes. While the first season was far from perfect, there’s no denying how enchanting and sincerely satisfying this series is and its definitely one that’s hard to forget.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
In order to save Sa Provence and finally take charge as a co-Governor, Shurei must face the head of the Sa Clan as well as come to term with some feelings for a man that has her intrigued. A final showdown takes place and new leadership shows that not everyone fears change.
VIDEO QUALITY: B+
The video quality still looks really good, although the action sequences can get a tad confusing as well as boring. It’s hard to complain, however, when the animation looks good.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
I still favor the Japanese voices over the English dub in this series but that’s not to say the English voices are bad. The original score is still quite beautiful.
There are trailers in each of the three DVDs but they’re all the same trailers. I do love the postcards that come with each disc, though.
A lot happens in Part 3 of The Story of Saiunkoku and believe me when I say that this is quite possible the best part in the first season. Shurei and her friends have come a long way since the beginning of the series and watching them step up to the plate when things are at its worst is just as inspiring as the characters that make up this excellent series.