Episode 12: Discretion is the Better Part of Valor
Refers To: Shouka choosing a quieter method of dealing with some jerks at a restaurant, instead of causing a scene or starting a fight.
Finally, Shuurei gets to know the results of her aptitude test. If she scored well, she’ll be allowed to take the final test within the National Exams. Naturally she passed! She’s one step closer to realizing her dream of becoming a government official, but she’ll have to study harder than ever in order to place high in the rankings.
At the Imperial Castle, Ryuuki reminds Shuuei and Kouyuu that with the exams coming up Kiyou (the capital) will be busier than ever, so they must be ever on their guard against trouble.
After the meeting Shuuei leaves for the red-light district. It’s a running joke throughout the series that Shuuei is such a ladies man that he visits prostitutes in the red light district (even though he does legitimately have to go there for work sometimes); however his meetings with the women are never shown, only referred to.
We see that a trio of thugs has begun tailing a young green-haired boy in the red light district, although at this point in the episode we don’t know who he is or why he’s being followed.
Shuurei is also at Kougaro, but she’s hard at work doing some accounting for them. Her “co-worker” and childhood friend Keicho is not-so-subtly implying to Shuurei that she’s getting “too old to be married” and that he comes from a wealthy family so he wouldn’t have to ask her family for a dowry because they’re poor, and Shuurei quickly nips it in the bud. She calls him by his childhood nickname, Santa, and tells him to his face that he hasn’t grown up and her position in life is none of his goddamn business so he should just leave her alone and go home. GO SHUUREI! Then the beautiful and famous courtesan Kochou shows up and really makes it clear to Keicho that he is still such a child. Keicho gets so embarrassed that he just runs off.
Something I admire about Saiunkoku Monogatari is how the anime is never super direct with addressing that Kougaro is a brothel, that Kouchou is a prostitute, and the references to “services” are implications about prostitution. I virtually never watch Saiunkoku in English but for this scene I flipped the audio over to the English dub to see if maybe the dub had some clearer references, and there was no difference. I feel like not delving deeper into the reality of the red light district (which is all it’s ever called in the anime) helps the anime keep a more lighthearted tone. There’s even a scene in this episode where women are leaning out windows to catcall Shuuei and ask him to join them, but it’s never vulgar and done fairly tastefully.
Anyways, with the annoying Keicho gone, Kochou is free to gush over Shuurei and spend some time with her. Kochou is something of a big sister figure to Shuurei. We get a flashback where Kochou remembers how Shuurei came to Kougaro on her own to ask for permission to work there, and how she said she’d have to leave by the evening because she still had to prepare dinner for her family. Now 10 years later, Shuurei is down to her final week of work.
In the next scene the green haired boy shows up again, this time as a “guest” at Kougaro. Just then the young boy awakens and is understandably confused about how he came to arrive at Kougaro. His name is Eigetsu To and all he remembers is being roughed up by some gangsters and being dragged into a restaurant. One of Kougaro’s regulars brought Eigetsu to the brothel to keep him safe and paid for his extended stay. Eigetsu wants to repay Kochou but discovers he’s been robbed. So Shuurei offers a compromise: he can stay with her family at their estate. In return, Shuurei asks Eigetsu to help her with Kougaro’s accounting. In the evening they walk back to Shuurei’s home together.
Seiran finds Shuuei and Eigetsu in the city and tells Shuurei he wants to take her out to dinner, as a congratulations for doing so well on the aptitude test. Of course Eigetsu is invited as well. While Eigetsu, Shuurei and her family enjoy their meal, they overhear some jerks doing some shit-talking about the final exams. There’s kid participating, and even a woman, oh no! /sarcasm Shuurei is naturally upset and Seiran looks like he wants to start a fight, but Shouka deploys some kind of stealthy cutting wire to tear the men’s table to pieces, causing them and their food to fall to the floor in one big mess. For just a moment, we get another quick glimpse of Shouka’s scary assassin past and I wish we got to see it more. (I think we do but it’s in the second season, if I remember correctly.) Shouka gently reminds everyone that no one gets what they want in life without effort.
As they eat, Eigetsu theorizes that maybe he got robbed by some local thugs; Seiran thinks the theft might have been committed by the Seikin Gang. They wear a blue cloth somewhere on their body to mark their affiliation with the gang. Lately the thugs have been pretty brazen with their crimes. Eigetsu is a little confused by all the talk of gangs so Seiran gives Eigetsu a brief tutorial about how Kiyou operates. In Kiyou, the underground crime bosses manage the thugs who operate downtown. If someone’s acting up, a bigger boss might have to step in to rein in the situation. Seiran explains that the crime bosses take pride in keeping Kiyou peaceful and under control. If Eigetsu’s robbery was indicative of a problem with the Seikin Gang, one of the crime bosses might want to do something about them in order to keep the peace.
Eigetsu notices that his colorful exam token was stolen along with his money, and gets so upset that he up and runs out of the restaurant. Shuurei follows right behind him, and Seiran runs out after Shuurei. Shuurei finds Eigetsu cornered by some thugs in an alley. One of the thugs accuses Eigetsu of embarrassing and robbing his men, but that couldn’t be right could it??
Shuurei, ever unaware of her situation (a woman surrounded by thugs), runs right up to Eigetsu and convinces him to run. They both take off but the thugs keep catching up to them. Eigetsu tries to convince Shuurei to leave him but she refuses. One of the thugs catches up to them but Shuurei hits him over the head with something heavy and then kicks him in the groin, dropping him instantly. Seiran catches up to Shuurei and Eigetsu, and then the three are discovered by a messenger from Kougaro. Kochou has summoned the three of them to her home; Kouchou will have her people take care of the Seikin Gang.
Meanwhile Shuuei, Ryuuki and Kouyuu are also headed to Kougaro. They want to see the young boy who Shuuei left in her care. She doesn’t tell them right away that the boy is missing; perhaps she hopes her messenger found Shuurei in time, and thinks Eigetsu is on his way back to Kougaro.
Shoutout here to Tomokazu Seki, Ryuuki’s seiyuu (voice actor). It is my personal opinion that Tomokazu does a wonderful job portraying Ryuuki and is skilled in being able to showcase a variety of emotions. One of my biggest issues with English dubbed anime is that the voices are not expressive enough. Cultural differences can explain the lack of smaller noises in Japanese-voice anime (sighs, noises of surprise, happy noises, etc), which is unfortunate because sometimes those small, seemingly insignificant noises help add personality to a character. An example of this is the scene where Kochou greets Shuuei, Ryuuki and Kouyuu at the entrance of Kougaro, Tomokazu nails Ryuuki as a somewhat naïve young man, one who muses thoughts out loud without thinking how they might sound to others, and then who is surprised at being challenged when Kochou gently tells Ryuuki that he mustn’t compare one woman to another because it’s rude.
The Seikin Gang continues to be up to no good. They are so full of themselves that they think they’re going to turn Kougaro into their home base, and the leader of the Seikin Gang wants to make Kochou his personal prostitute. HA, good luck there buddy. We see that they have been stealing wooden tokens like the one Eigetsu carried on him, and also that Keicho (aka Santa) has become part of the gang. The blue sash he was wearing at the beginning of the episode suddenly carries much more significance now, ne?
dokoka de kodoku to tatakainagara
namida mo gaman shiteru n darou
No matter where you might be battling with loneliness,
You were always holding back your tears, right?