Gestalt Mash have my review of the sixth volume of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Eisner and Tiptree award-winning manga series Ooku: The Inner Chambers.
My review features something of a reassessment of the series as I realise that, rather than looking it as a Feminist thought-experiment about an alternate feudal Japan in which the male population has been reduced by 75%, the series is best seen as a historical epic. The term ‘historial epic’ is somewhat misleading in that it tends to summon images of fat fantasy novels with intricate plots that unravel over hundreds of years. While Ooku’s plot may cover a number of generations, the plot is very much anchored to the waxing and waning of historical forces. There is no grand narrative at work here, just the ceaseless change of an aging ruling class and how the decisions they make change the country:
By stepping back from the lives of the individual characters and focusing instead upon the historical themes that emerge from the passage of the generations, we can see that Yoshinaga is suggesting that history is above all a product of human passions. Yoshinaga’s characters are the twisted and broken products of a twisted and broken society and while their exalted positions allow them the power to shape and reshape society as they wish, there is the growing sense that Yoshinaga’s characters repeat the mistakes of the past because they simply cannot help it. In Yoshinaga’s history, change happens more by chance than by design.
Needless to say, I am still very much enjoying this particular series and I hope that Viz Media continue to show their commitment to the series by publishing volume 7.
My previous posts on the series can be found at the following locations though I have also collected them under a single heading in this site’s menu bar:
Gestalt Mash have my fifth piece on Fumi Yoshinaga’s excellent Ooku: The Inner Chambers.
The fifth volume (the last one translated to date) of the series slows the pace down after the brisk historical jaunting of the previous volume. Again, the primary concern is the failure of the Shogun to provide the sort of leadership required to steer Japan through troubled times but Yoshinaga subtly shifts the emphasis of the book opening up whole new vistas. Indeed, while the previous volumes have been all about the need for the Japanese ruling elite to reflect the changed demographics of Japanese society, enough time has now passed that we are on (at least) the second generation of female rule. In Yoshinaga’s alternative Edo period Japan, women now have exclusive control over all aspects of society. This changes the power dynamic between the sexes and so presents Japanese culture with another ‘fact’ that it needs to reflect.
Gestalt Mash have my fourth piece on Fumi Yoshinaga’s alt-historical manga epic Ooku: The Inner Chambers.
Volume 4 shifts the timeline forward in order to see how later Shoguns fare with the task of managing a changing Japan. By allowing us to see the ways in which these later Shoguns struggle to fill the first female Shogun’s sandles, Yoshinaga not only invites a more generous appraisal of the first Shogun, she also shifts the series register away from an explicitly feminist analysis of gender differences and towards a more general political analysis of the responsibilities that accompany power.
Oh… and the book ends on a spectacular cliffhanger!
Gestalt Mash has my third piece on Fumi Yoshinaga’s alternate history manga Ooku: The Inner Chambers.
Following hot on the heels of the second volume in the series, volume three teases out a political conflict at the heart of the Shogun’s court. A conflict in which the forces of conservatism battle the forces of social progress for control of both Japan and the mind of the Shogun. Beautifully drawn, exquisitely written and awesome in the power of its insights into contemporary attitudes towards gender and sexuality, Ooku continues to be a fantastic piece of sequential art.
Gestalt Mash has the second of my pieces about Fumi Yoshinaga’s excellent Ooku: The Inner Chambers.
Having introduced us, in the first volume, to an alternative history of Edo-period Japan in which 75% of the male population has been killed off by disease, Yoshinaga goes about trying to explain why it is that this culture allows women to rule while also paying lip service to the idea of masculine superiority. Intelligent, insightful and quite moving, Ooku: The Inner Chambers continues to be a very rewarding read.
Gestalt Mash has recently relaunched itself and it brings with it the first in a series of posts about Fumi Yoshinaga’s Tiptree Award-winning manga series Ooku: The Inner Chambers.
Set in an alternate Edo-period Japan in which the male population has been decimated by a terrible disease, the series is an examination of why it is that old values (in particular the myth of masculine supremacy) outlive their utility in the face of social and demographic change.