Episode 3: The Capable Falcon Hides Its Talons
Refers To: Ryuuki not being nearly as stupid as some other court officials thought he was. Some people like Kouyuu and Shuuei could tell that he was faking being unknowledgeable, but most officials took him at face value. Shuurei had been as well (well, up until the end of this episode anyways).
One of the biggest themes in Saiunkoku Monogatari is the gender discrepancies between men and women. Specifically, how only men are allowed to be rulers and hold positions in the royal court. There are women and girls in the Imperial Palace who hold positions like assistant to the King’s concubine (Shusui and Kourin), but they cannot rule or have any power, whether it be personal or political.
This issue is brought up immediately at the beginning of the third episode: Shuurei, who is SO SMART, cannot have a position in the Imperial Palace higher than consort because women are forbidden from taking the royal exams. Her intelligence can be used to support others like Ryuuki, but she cannot wield it on her own to better her own circumstances or those of her family. What a waste! But, what if someone could do something about this…? Hmmm.
The third episode focuses a lot on Ryuuki and some of the reasons why he is the way he is. There’s a scene between Seiran and Ryuuki which hints that Ryuuki is romantically interested in Seiran, and then we get Shuurei’s extremely naïve perceptions towards anything related to romance, sex and having babies. As someone who is self-taught in the ways of sex-ed, she makes me want to hide my head in my hands sometimes. ^^;;
Shuurei and Ryuuki finally share a bed together but nothing sexual happens because of circumstances (Shuurei puts Ryuuki to sleep while reciting a fairytale to him). This however doesn’t prevent gossip from immediately spreading around the palace that there may soon be a royal heir.
Later in the episode there is a majestic banquet which Shuurei and Ryuuki attend together. Ryuuki drinks some alcohol meant for Shuurei and we learn afterwards that it had been poisoned. Ryuuki’s hand had more or less been forced because he knew it was poisoned and wasn’t about to let Shuurei drink it, but due to social rules he wouldn’t have have been allowed to reject the drink offer either. So, he drinks it and suffers the aftereffects so Shuurei doesn’t have to. Thankfully Ryuuki will be ok; the poison wasn’t a strong one.
Shuurei spends the night sitting by Ryuuki’s side and this scene is where we get more info on Ryuuki’s background. The first two episodes focused very much on Shuurei and now it’s Ryuuki’s turn to be the star of a couple episodes.
Remember in my last post where I suggested that viewers pay attention to the parallels and differences between Shuurei and Ryuuki? This scene is what I was mostly referring to. Shuurei grew up as part of a very poor family (or rather the poor branch of a rich family), but she was and is very loved. Her father and Seiran have always protected and supported her to the best of their ability. What their little family unit didn’t have in money was made up for with love. Unfortunately, Ryuuki grew up under opposite circumstances. He was part of the Imperial Family so there was always money, but he was hated by his mother and older siblings (except for Seien). Ryuuki tells Shuurei he was unwanted and therefore was often locked away in a dark storeroom by his family members.
There was, however, a light in Ryuuki’s life – his older brother Seien, the second eldest brother of the Royal Family. Ryuuki tells Shuurei how Seien would teach him math and reading, and take care of his wounds after Ryuuki’s other brothers beat him. But when Ryuuki was six years old Seien was exiled for reasons unknown to Ryuuki. Around this time Ryuuki met Shouka, Shuurei’s father, who worked in the Imperial Archives, and Ryuuki found much love and comfort in Shouka’s company. However Ryuuki still felt lonely and unwanted much of the time, and he hated the dark because it made him feel alone while remembering his painful past. Over time as Ryuuki got older this loneliness lead Ryuuki seek out the company of men at night, which created the rumor that Ryuuki was gay and preferred men over women. Really though it was just Ryuuki trying to avoid being alone in the dark. Because using men as his companions also had the bonus side effect of causing people to think Ryuuki preferred men, it gave him a little privacy in case he chose to seek out women for any intimacy needs.
Anyways, as Ryuuki starts to fall asleep he asks Shuurei to play the erhu for him. I had only had limited exposure to the erhu prior to watching Saiunkoku Monogatari (it’s used in the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack), but the instrument features heavily in this series’ soundtrack and I love it dearly. Its music is so beautiful. <3
In the morning Ryuuki is back to his usual self. He gifts Shuurei an intricate hairpin, to repay her for the handmade sakura handkerchief she gave him earlier in the episode. Shuurei of course immediately focuses on the hairpin’s monetary value (which Ryuuki has of course not considered because duh, royalty), but she does accept the gift.
At the end of the episode Kouyuu and Shuuei are presented with purple irises from a courier. This gesture is incredibly important because if Shuuei and Kouyuu accept the flowers, this will signal to the king that they will forever be loyal to him. There is a lot of subtle intricacies in why Ryuuki chose purple irises, which can represent royalty, faith and wisdom, and his choice of flower is no coincidence. Saiunkoku Monogatari excels at using small details to convey a larger meaning, and then have them return later in the series with a greater significance.
dakedo ushiro furimukanaide aruite yuku koto kimeta kara
miageta sora nanairo no niji anata mo mite’masu ka?
But I won’t look back, because I’ve decided to walk forward
Looking up at the seven-colored rainbow in the sky, do you see it too?