Episode Title: A Frog in the Well Knows Not of the Ocean
Refers To: Ryuuki having never left the Imperial Palace to go into the city before.
This episode finishes off the rest of the introductions with Seiran meeting Kouyuu and Shuuei for the first time. Seiran was already keeping an eye on Shuurei/Ryuuki, but Shuuei and Kouyuu secretly showed up at the archives because they are shadowing the king as he pretends to be Shuuei. The pair admit they also want to see Shuurei’s reaction to the king’s shennanigans. Shuuei’s one of my favourite characters because he loves to “stir the pot” so often, whether it be poking at Shuurei or teasing Kouyuu. x3
The first scene in the Imperial Archives is pretty funny as both “Shuuei” and Shuurei dance around the elephant in the room, which is that “Shuuei” is really King Ryuuki. Shuurei, Ryuuki and Shouka all know it, but the facade must be maintained for the sake of Ryuuki’s dignity. However Shuurei spares Ryuuki absolutely no mercy as she asks him questions which hint that she knows full well his real identity, and “Shuuei” is saved only when Shouka finishes his work and returns to share lunch with Shuurei and “Shuuei.” I have to giggle at this scene every time because I love Shuurei so much. She’s smart, strong, and just will not take anyone’s shit.
Shuurei also has a tendency to “mother hen” people sometimes, as indicated by when she chides “Shuuei” for leaving crumbs on the table and eating too many of her buns. It’s all done in jest of course… well, mostly.
Shuurei goes to Advisor Sho and asks for a teacher so she can better study, and then in turn use that knowledge to help educate the king. Advisor Sho gives her Shuuei. Well technically Kouyuu, but Shuuei fills in for the first part of Shuurei’s lesson. xD (Yep he got lost again.) The scene with Shuuei, Shuurei and Kouyuu really highlights another aspect of Shuurei’s personality: her love of learning. With Shouka being given a job in the archives, her family has always had ready access to books and manuscripts. Even though Shuurei can’t take the National Exams because of her gender, her father still encouraged her to learn as much as she could. Shuurei is a rare bird in the world of Saiunkoku Monogatari because she believes that there is no limit to learning. She believes that women can be scholars and officials, not just mothers and homemakers. Even with her dream goal out of reach, she still wants to learn whatever she can about the world to better herself and her brain. How often do you come across a character like that in an anime?
Shuuei speculates that the king has never left the Imperial Palace before, leading Shuurei to get the bright idea to take the king out into the city to see what the lives of his subjects are like. I gotta give Shuurei credit where it’s due, she’s definitely earning those 500 gold coins.
So off they go, Shuurei and “Shuuei” walking through the marketplace with Shuurei explaining how everything works. Suddenly they see a rude man berating one of Shuurei’s young students over the price of a comb. Shuurei quickly comes to the young girl’s defense and finds out afterwards that the child is watching the shop because her mother is sick in bed with a cold. Shuurei comes up with the idea of her and “Shuuei” running the shop so the girl can check on her mother. Might as well give the king some customer service skills to take with him back to the palace, no?
Shuurei is a natural at attracting customers, but “Shuuei” much less so. He’s not used to yelling or drawing attention to himself – remember this is a young man who runs away from his responsibilities and avoids others.
It quickly becomes apparent that “Shuuei’s” handsome looks are a draw for the young women passing by, and it’s not long before a long line appears in front of Shuurei’s student’s stall. However both “Shuuei” and Shuurei and never in any danger for Kouyuu, Seiran and the real Shuuei are all keeping an eye on the young
couple pair from a safe distance.
“Shuuei” walks Shuurei home and he is very surprised to see the poor state of her family’s home. Naturally he says so verbally. Shuurei corrects his poor manners and invites him in for tea.
“Shuuei” notices the bare trees in her family’s backyard and asks why they look the way they do. Shuurei explains to him that during the famine eight years earlier, Saiunkoku’s commoners were hit hard. The rich nobility turned their backs on the people living under them which resulted in many, many people dying. The Kou family tried to help by sharing the fish in their pond and the fruit from their trees, stripping those resources so severely that even now, eight years later, the trees don’t even bloom let alone produce fruit, and there are still no fish in the pond. “It was as if we lived only to die,” Shuurei says. This line of Shuurei’s is, in my personal opinion, one of the most memorable albeit not for any positive reasons. Shuurei, still a young child at the time, was so scared that her father and Seiran were going to die from starvation.
The track which plays during this scene, “Wakare, Shoushite” (“Farewell, And”), is one of the most breathtaking beautiful yet haunting tracks on Saiunkoku‘s soundtrack. Despite the fact that I cry every time I watch this scene between Shuurei and Ryuuki as they look out into the Kou family’s barren garden, I love this song so much. The instruments used in this soundtrack make it one of a kind to me.
“Shuuei” tries to show Shuurei some sympathy for what she experienced but she swiftly rejects it. Instead Shuurei tells “Shuuei” her message for the king, and more importantly WHY she moved to the Imperial Palace to become his consort. Shuurei’s words hit home with “Shuuei” and he appears to take her message for the king to heart. Shuurei moves to the kitchen to brew them some more tea, and she shares a tearful moment with Seiran, who has overheard her every word.
The next day, “Shuuei” shows up at the archives to meet Shuurei. He had promised he would “pass her message on to the king”, but of course since he is the king, he has to meet her. This means his disguise is gone and for the first time “Shuuei” speaks as who he really is: King Ryuuki. However he’s trapped now – Shuurei has brought friends! Kouyuu is now his new tutor, and Shuuei is present at the archives to guard His Majesty. How will Ryuuki react to being more or less forced to deal with his new responsibilities as king?
ano toki yume ni mite ita sekai ni tatte iru noni
miwatasu keshiki ni ashi wo sukoshi sukumase
That time I was standing in a world I saw in my dream
Surveying the landscape, my legs tremble slightly