Episode 5: A Genius Can’t Better a Hardworking Man

Refers To: Ryuuren’s a genius and Shuurei is not, but if she studies hard enough she might become more knowledgeable than him eventually. Essentially, natural intelligence isn’t a surefire replacement for lots of effort and motivation.

Ahhh, we’re going to meet one of Saiunkoku ‘s more… “memorable” characters in this episode. ^^;;

The plot thickens as Shuuei  and Ryuuki discuss their theories behind who could be poisoning Shuurei. I remember watching Saiunkoku for the first time many years ago and being stumped, but once the culprit was revealed everything fell into place. Watching Saiunkoku now after having already seen it a couple of times, the answer seems very obvious to me. Who are your picks for the Sneaky Poisoner?

Shuurei accidently meets Shuuei’s younger brother, Ryuuren, in all of his flamboyant glory. He wears a cloth around his head, feathers in his hair, and long flowing clothes. Much to the annoyance of those around him, he also likes to play his flute – very, very badly. His playing is so poor that he can be heard from around the Imperial Palace.

After Ryuuren beats the three Court Elders at cards, Shuurei, Shuuei and Kouyuu take Ryuuren on a tour of the palace. It becomes obvious very quickly that Ryuuren lacks certain social and conversational skills. Many of them, in fact. Shuuei informs his friends about his younger brothers quirks, but makes sure to stress how important Ryuuren is to the Ran family.

That being said, I feel bad for Ryuuren. Everyone, even Shuurei to a degree, is very vocal about Ryuuren being “different” from everyone else and how much of a burden his behaviours are. No one even wants to have him overnight in their home (looking at you Shuuei), leaving Kouyuu to get stuck with the “honor.”  It goes about as well as expected, and again Kouyuu is very, very loud the next morning about how irritating Ryuuren was to deal with.

There’s a short scene between Ryuuki and Shuurei which touches again upon Shuurei’s lifelong dream of taking the Civil Service Exams and becoming a government official. Her current position as the emperor’s consort allows her access to resources that she wouldn’t otherwise have if she’d refused Advisor Sho’s offer, but it’s not the same as her dream. Therefore Shuurei is doing her best to take advantage of these six months while she’s in the Imperial Palace to study and learn as much about Saiunkoku as she can before she must return home.

The next morning, Shuurei coaxes a hesitant Ryuuren into apologizing to Kouyuu for the difficulties he caused him the night before, and then invites Ryuuren to spend that evening at her room at the palace. However Ryuuren’s visit to Shuurei’s room blows the lid off the poisoning plot, for Ryuuren tells Shuurei straight out that silverware is used to detect poison. Shuurei finally realizes that her life might have been in danger all along and she didn’t even know it because everyone around her was protecting her. And if you think that’s a little stupid, unfortunately it’s somewhat of a recurring theme in Saiunkoku.  -_-  Ryuuren also comments on Shuusui’s catching of Kourin and the teapot, but the meaning behind his observation goes right over Shuurei’s head.

It’s one of my few criticisms of Saiunkoku, actually. Shuurei is an awesome character but she’s incredibly sheltered and naïve, and everyone around her is forever trying to protect her. After some plot progression that trait does eventually improve, but for much of the first season Shuurei is kept sheltered and I feel this limits her personality and capabilities. Anyways I’ll get off my soapbox. If nothing else, this incident with Ryuuren opens Shuurei’s eyes a little and serves as a reminder that she needs to be more aware of her surroundings.

After sharing some tea together, Shuurei and Ryuuren are walking around the palace grounds when they encounter Ryuuki. Ryuuren’s evidently somewhat taken with Shuurei because he doesn’t hesitate AT ALL to walk right up to Ryuuki and tell him right to his face that Shuurei should be allowed to “fly freely in the sky” instead of being kept at the castle as if she were in a birdcage. Ryuuki’s reply as the pair walk away gives a hint as to what he’s thinking and to where the plot might go. Just then Seiran shows up and says he will send some guards to watch over Shuurei at her family home; he wants to stay at the palace to investigate Shuurei’s poisoning a bit more.

In preparation for that evening’s dinner, which Ryuuren has offered to make because Shuurei invited him to stay with her family for one night, Shuurei and Ryuuren walk around the city market trying to find the ingredients for a chicken hot pot. However Ryuuren is trading ingredients around the market somewhat randomly, and never really acquires the items he needs. Shuurei is losing her patience with him but her faith is renewed when he kindly gives away his bundle of straw to a crying little girl who lost her straw in the wind. Shuurei laughs and tells Ryuuren that instead they can make a veggie hotpot using vegetables from her garden. Again we see that Shuurei’s words and kindness have a significant impact on Ryuuren. Whereas earlier when everyone was bluntly talking about Ryuuren in front of him and discussing how weird and annoying he was like he couldn’t hear them, Shuurei still tried to find the positives in their situation. Shuurei could’ve easily scolded Ryuuren for not getting the ingredients for his offered dinner, but instead she focused on the entertainment value she derived from watching some of his market exchanges.

The dinner at the Kou family home turns out to be a warm, very special event for Ryuuren. He is welcomed into Shuurei and Shouka’s home and treated like a welcomed guest, not someone to be avoided. To be fair Ryuuren was on his best behavior and his flute didn’t make an appearance all evening, but we can see that when Ryuuren is giving a chance he is really a very friendly young man. Plus when he lets his hair down and smiles, he’s really quite handsome!

I love watching Ryuuren’s interactions with Shuurei because even when she’s scolding him for something like spilling his food, there’s no malice in her words. It’s a gentle reprimand with maybe a hint of teasing mixed in. And in return Ryuuren is able to interact with someone, a friend, on a one-to-one level. There’s no discussion of who’s smarter or louder – they’re just two friends enjoying a meal together.

In the morning Ryuuren takes his leave, but not before Shuuei arrives at the Kou home to extend an apology over any of Ryuuren’s behaviours during his stay which may have caused some unpleasantness. However Shuurei and Shouka are quick to dispel his concerns. As Ryuuren leaves, he tells Shuurei that she is his kindred spirit for life now. Shuurei is very touched, while Shuuei is just amazed. Is this person really Ryuuren??

Shuuei tells Shuurei that she has become Ryuuren’s first (and only) friend. Both Shuuei and Shouka speak to the loneliness that Ryuuren inevitably must have to endure because of how much his quirkiness isolates him from others. But now he has Shuurei so he is no longer alone.

As an adult re-watching Saiunkoku for this blog, it occurred to me that Ryuuren’s lack of social skills and “eccentricity” could possibly be seen as an anime version of a learning disability or condition like autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Ryuuren is someone who is very, very different from everyone else in the world of Saiunkoku, shown through his choice in clothes, his behaviours and mannerisms, and his love for that damn flute. A possible reason for Ryuuren being the way he is can be read in the light novels, but it’s just a theory of mine and I won’t share it here because of spoilers plus I have no proof for it. Maybe at the end of this season. 

In the morning Ryuuki offers Shuurei many elegant gifts, boldly declaring that he is trying to “earn” her love. Of course this gesture just pisses Shuurei off because she views his spending as wasteful and unnecessary. Ryuuki still has much to learn about Shuurei, but at least he’s trying? :3


maiagaru kaze yo omoi wo tsutaete
“itsu demo anata wo shinjite iru kara”
habatake mirai e

Soaring wind, deliver this thought
Because I will always believe in you”
Fluttering towards the future