Saiunkoku Monogatari Episode 4

Episode 4: Treasure Buried is Treasure Wasted

Refers To: Shuurei telling Seiran that she is happy to have him by her side, but she often feels that his talents are wasted. If he thought of himself more and strove to make a name for himself, he could better use his talents and be more than just a bodyguard or a family servant.


Shuurei learns at the end of the third episode that Ryuuki has been faking being a stupid king. She think she’s getting some kind of sick enjoyment from watching her try so hard to educate him. So if he’s not a stupid king after all, why is she there at the Imperial Palace at all?? There’s no need for her!

Thus Shuurei storms off to meet Advisor Sho, who is today accompanied by his longtime friends Enjun Sa and Shungai Sou. Together these three men are the Imperial Grand Officials: Sho-Taishi, Sa-Taiho and Sou-Taifu. They hold top tier rank within the palace and often consult with each other on Advisor Sho’s plans for the palace, or ongoing events in the anime. If you remember, Advisor Sho is the man who went to the Kou household to beg Shuurei to enter the Imperial Palace as a consort to Ryuuki.

Shuurei tells Advisor Sho that she is no longer needed at the palace and so she is returning home. However, Advisor Sho slyly plays to Shuurei’s ego and tells her that if she leaves Ryuuki will lose interest in governing and will return to being a stupid king. And she doesn’t want that to happen, riiiiight?  Advisor also brings up the rumor of Shuurei and Ryuuki spending nights together, implying that if Shuurei were to leave then it would only cause problems for Ryuuki because how could he let the potential mother of his children leave the palace? Lastly, Advisor Sho reminds Shuurei that she agreed to the deal and he expects her to hold up her end until the end of the agreed upon term. So in a nutshell Shuurei’s trapped. Damn those 500 gold coins!

As the episode flows into a scene with Ryuuki and Shuuei, I’d like to take a moment to gush over just how many bishounen there in this series. Like GODDAMN, most of the main cast is sexy AF and have smooth, sultry voices to match. [fans self]   Tomokazu Seki is Ryuuki’s seiyuu and he remains one of my favourite voice actors to this day. Seiran’s seiyuu, Hikaru Midorikawa, is right at the top of my list too, with Shuuei’s seiyuu Toshiyuki Morikawa not far behind. /happy sigh   And people wonder why I’m such a sucker for reverse harems!!

If you’re following this series from the beginning alongside me, perhaps you’ll notice that everyone in this series is extremely perceptive, not just Shuurei. I love scenes like this one with Ryuuki and Shuuei where they reveal to the other character(s) (and therefore also the viewer) what they know and how they came to know it. Like in this scene where Shuuei shares with Ryuuki that he knows Ryuuki’s not a virgin and that Ryuuki allowed the rumor of his liking men to flourish so that it would give him cover to secretly meet with women alone. Maybe he let himself be seen with a man but then inside a private room there would be a woman hidden and waiting for him?? Or in a room nearby? O.o

Elsewhere the three Grand Officials are discussing Shuurei’s poisoning. Enjun Sa and Shungai Sou are worried that Shuurei might tells others of the crime, but Advisor Sho reassures his friends that she won’t say anything because word would get back to her father and he would of course get worried. This conversation leads into a conversation about the exiled Prince Seien, and while the men’s words are lamenting the loss of the prince, the expression on Advisor Sho’s face indicates he knows something they don’t.

Now we finally get a scene with Shuurei and her father, yay! Hard to believe it took 3 episodes but whatever, here we are. This meeting between father and daughter fills in some of the details behind Ryuuki’s past and how he came to know Shouka. Shuurei weeps as her father tells her about how Ryuuki would show up at the archives covered in scratches, even after his mother had died. Shouka reassures Shuurei and tells him that now she is closer to the king than he could ever be, so now she can be the one to show him love and affection, the things Ryuuki had grown up with missing from his life (aside from Shouka and Prince Seien).

Speaking of the exiled prince, another subplot which starts to emerge in this episode involves the numerous times Prince Seien’s name is mentioned. Saiunkoku Monogatari does an excellent job at dropping hints in front of the viewer and all but laying out the secret… and then just walking away from it. Pointing out the truth without actually naming it.

Next we get a beautiful scene between Shuurei and Seiran which I feel really highlights the strength of their relationship and their affection for each other. Ironically they both feel perpetually indebted towards each other: Shuurei because Seiran will always be her sounding board, letting her vent and complain about things in her life but never asking her to return the favor. And Seiran is forever wishing he could do more for their family because they took him in thirteen years prior to the start of the series. If they hadn’t, they would likely have a bit more money for themselves (one less mouth to feed). Shuurei gets annoyed with Seiran because he’s always putting her and Shouka first before himself.

The music that plays during this scene is titled “Ryuuki, Nukumori” (“Ryuuki, Warmth”), and it’s often used in “softer” scenes like this one where there is a lot of emotional connection between characters. It’s also one of my favourite themes off the official soundtrack. Oh my heart, Seiran ~ <3

Exciting news – Sou-Taifu is holding a martial arts tournament! Kouyuu and Shuuei speculate whether it’s a plan to draw out an infamous assassin known as The Black Wolf. Rumor has it that he is still alive and may even be inside the Imperial Palace! Shuuei will have to participate, and so will Seiran. Kouyuu will preside over the tournament and even prepare a speech.

The next day is the tournament! All of the court officials have gathered and excitement is thick in the air. Shouka starts serving tea but is quickly banished to the archives after people realize how awful it tastes; Shuurei takes over his tea-serving role. Kouyuu has a terribly long and formal speech prepared but suffers from stage-fright, so he takes so long to finish that Sou-Taifu eventually interrupts and demands that he announce the start of the tournament. Sou-Taifu announces that the winner of the tournament 100 gold coins, which Shuurei laments on missing out on because she can’t enter. Ryuuki hears this and decides to enter the tournament on Shuurei’s behalf as a way to make up for deceiving her with his stupid king act.

The first match is between Shuuei and some guy with a mallet, and Shuuei of course easily wins the match, driving the ladies of the palace crazy. The second match is between Ryuuki and Seiran, the latter of whom looks very unhappy about participating in the tournament. Ryuuki appears distracted but is able to win the match (although really, Seiran probably lost on purpose). But why?

The reason comes after the tournament when Ryuuki catches up with Seiran, and all of the hints dropped earlier in the episode finally fall into place. Ryuuki tells Seiran about his exiled older brother Seien and what follows is a dance around the elephant in the room: Seiran is really Prince Seien, Ryuuki’s older brother. But this information can never ever be announced publicly! Characters who already know this truth keep it to themselves. Seiran can never reveal himself and become king; that responsibility has become Ryuuki’s. Seiran tells Ryuuki that it must be enough to know that his older brother exists and will be supportive from the shadows, and when Ryuuki protests Seiran tells him that he must go along with the ruse. Otherwise if people know that Prince Seien is still alive Seiran will have to flee and leave Ryuuki again (lest another civil war break out). 

Shuurei finds the two brothers together and comes to the conclusion that maybe they seem so close is because they’re secretly involved with each other. She runs off in awkward embarrassment with the two brothers chasing after her.

 


My Thoughts

What I think Saiunkoku Monogatari does brilliantly in its first half dozen episodes is introduce the majority of the main cast while still laying the groundwork for the main plot. I won’t spoil it here but it will be revealed soon and once it is, think back to when it was first mentioned. Would you have guessed at the time that it was going to factor so prominently into the plot? Keep in mind that this season is 39 episodes long so they have more room and time to expand upon events.

I’m grateful for the extra episodes because the world of Saiunkoku Monogatari is just so rich. There are characters with secret identities, hidden backstories and so much more which would not have time to be properly explained if the series had only been 13 or even 24 episodes long. Unfortunately even with the additional episodes, as someone who has been both seasons of the anime and read all 9 volumes of the manga, there is still a lot left out in the anime which can be found only in the light novels and these have never been formally translated into English. So unless you can read Japanese or read the limited fan translations online, you will likely miss out on some of the backstories which are hinted at in the anime (like the history of the different clans, more information about the 8 Immortals, etc) but never fully fleshed out.

 

 

hajimari no kaze yo todoke MESSE-JI (MESSAGE)
yume ni kakedashita senaka mimamoru kara

Wind of beginnings, deliver this message
Because I will watch your back as you run towards your dream

 

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