Episode Title: Fate is a Mysterious Yet Fascinating Thing
Refers to: Shouka and Reishin’s musings about how Shūrei and the king came to meet each other.
The episode opens with Shūei and Kōyū going to visit Shouka and Shūrei… except Shūrei is not home. Shūei and Kōyū are embarrassed that they had been so light of work that they’d thought about relaxing with Shūrei’s family like old times, but the other important people in their lives have not yet stopped for a breather. Shūrei and Yūshun are still hard at work, and Shouka tells the two men that she wants to work hard enough that Shūei and Kōyū would recognize her as an official. And Ryūki… he hasn’t yet been by the Kou household to see Shūrei even once! But why?
Meanwhile Yūshun and Shūrei are calling it a day. When Shūrei finds out that Rin is hosting a reception at Kōgaro for merchants from all the provinces, she insists that she and Yūshun attend too. So there’s a very happy reunion between Shūrei and Kochō, which was very sweet.
During this I appreciated that while Shūrei doesn’t go into detail with Yūshun about what her duties at Kōgaro were, she quietly dispels any misconceptions she had about her time working there. It doesn’t matter whether she was an accountant or a prostitute – her time at Kōgaro was still valuable and helped her to become the person she is now.
With Kochō’s permission, Shūrei and Yūshun join the reception. I have no idea what Yūshun does for the evening (socialize I presume), but Shūrei gets to join an ensemble of musicians who play ambient music for all the guests. It’s a chance to showcase another one of Shūrei’s many talents.
Afterwards once all the guests have left, there’s a scene with Shūrei, Yūshun, Rin and Kochō where Rin speaks of leaving the Merchant’s Guild in order to become an inventor. She wants to invent things to help people like her husband who can’t move around as easily. She says that if Yūshun is able to balance his love for her with his commitment to his work, then she will do her best to achieve that as well.
Rin’s words clearly strike a note with Shūrei. Balance work and love? Is is really possible? Well if Yūshun and Rin can do it, then could Shūrei? See, up until this point, actively avoiding romantic relationships has given Shūrei the excuse she needed to focus solely on her work. If she keeps herself single then she can throw herself into her work and not have to worry about dividing her time between love and her job.
But as we all know, there is someone who wants to be at Shūrei’s side so very badly. It’s unfortunate that standing by his side, because of who he is, would force Shūrei to give up the job she loves so much. So it’s understandable that her reluctance to be with this person has delayed any romantic feelings on her end up until this point. And it’s unlikely that because of this man’s role that Shūrei would be able to work and be this man’s partner; it would have to be one or the other.
Therefore, while couples like Rin and Yūshun may be able to make their work-romance situation work because they are far enough down the social/political totem pole, Shūrei doesn’t really have that option. But Rin’s words are still something to think about in the meantime while Shūrei continues to mull over her feelings for the king.
Finally, later that evening, Shūrei makes it home. Seiran has suddenly gone out, so it’s just Shūrei and her father at home. Shūrei feels guilty for missing Shūei and Kōyū’s visit, and suggests making a big group dinner for their family and close friends so she can properly thank everyone for their support of her on her journey in the past year.
As it turns out, Seiran has gone to see Ryūki. Seiran is struggling with Shūrei growing older and more mature, and therefore needing him less. Seiran had promised his younger brother that he would protect Shūrei, with his life if needed, but instead by dealing with Sakujun on her own, she proved that sometimes she was more than capable of handling dangerous situations on her own. As Seiran has watched Shūrei grow up from the time she was a small child, his feelings (while still romantic deep down, I swear!) are similar to those of a parent who is watching their child grow up and become more independent.
Of course to Ryūki, he is just jealous that Seiran got to see Shūrei and be by her side at all, regardless of in what capacity. In the past year Ryūki got to see Shūrei (secretly) for only about 2 seconds, and she didn’t even know he was there. Ryūki points this out to Seiran, and the pain and loneliness he feels at being unable to see Shūrei for so long is very obvious to all. Ryūki continues to struggle with forcing his feelings for Shūrei on her (because to be his wife would mean having to give up her job), and standing back to watch Shūrei achieve her dream. It is a very difficult, and lonely, position to be in.
In what I think is a very brilliant decision on the part of the production team, these feelings are what the opening and ending themes speak to. They are opposite sides of the same coin. What do I mean by this? Well if you look at the lyrics of both themes, “Hajimari no Kaze” speaks of Ryūki’s support of Shūrei as he watches her chase her dream of being an official:
|hajimari no kaze yo todoke MESSE-JI (MESSAGE)
yume ni kakedashita senaka mimamoru kara
maiagaru kaze yo omoi wo tsutaete
“itsu demo anata wo shinjite iru kara”
habatake mirai e
|Wind of beginnings, deliver this message
Because I will watch your back as you run towards your dream
Soaring wind, deliver this thought
Because I will always believe in you”
Fluttering towards the future
|hajimari no kaze yo todoke MESSE-JI (MESSAGE)
haruka na tabiji no sono saki de matteru
maiagaru kaze yo unmei mo koete
negai wa todoku to shinjirareru kara
itsuka mata aeta nara ano egao misete
|Wind of beginnings, deliver this message
At the end of your faraway journey, I will wait for you
Soaring wind, exceed your destiny
Because I believe my wish will be delivered
If I meet you again someday, show me your smile
And then we have the lyrics of the ending theme, “Saikou no Kataomoi,” where Ryūki’s feelings for wanting to be with Shūrei are fairly obvious:
|aimai na kotoba yori mo kantan na yakusoku yori
hoshii no wa te no nukumori soshite futari dake
|More than vague words or simple promises,
What I desire is the warmth of your hand, and a time
only for the two of us
|moshi mo anata ga kanashii
ashita ga sukoshi mienai no nara
tayotte hoshii watashi wa kitto
kore kara mo anata wo omou
|If you should feel sad,
Or if tomorrow [the future] can’t be
I, who wish you would rely on me,
Would continue to think of you
That’s just my 2 cents anyways.
The next day, Shūrei takes sulky!Seiran to visit her mother’s grave, where she (in her typical oblivious fashion) thanks him for supporting her, and asks him to please continue his support. Seiran’s negative feelings are not completely rejuvinated, but seeing and hearing Shūrei be so happy helps lift his spirits a little.
Later that evening he and Shouka speak briefly as to their happiness with the current chain of events. Shūrei and Seiran are both happy to be home and with each other like old times, Shouka is happy to see his daughter cooking in the kitchen like she used to, and Seiran is happy to see Shouka because Shouka gives him someone to come home to and reminds him that he’s not alone. So everyone’s happy and emotional all around. :3
Shouka gets the brilliant idea of having Shūrei’s feast moved to the archives, with the secret plan to have Ryūki come by and see Shūrei at some point is my guess, but it also opens up the meal to other people from around the palace. So we’re treated to brief appearances from the rest of the secondary cast, many of whom haven’t been seen since the first couple arcs of the season. Even Ryūren and Kokujun make a surprise, last-minute appearance!
Shūrei takes the opportunity to formally announce her return from Sa province, and with the announcement are the unspoken words “thank you for your support.” Indeed, as the series’ main theme plays, the characters in the room reflect on the journey Shūrei has made, both personal and professional, in the past year.
But of course, one very important person is missing from these celebrations. As Shouka points out to Reishin, who is perpetually watching Shūrei from afar, as Ryūki continues to add to his reputation as king, Shūrei will continue to become one of a very, very small group of people (if not the only person) who can call him by his actual name. The others in his life will be forced to address him as King Ryūki, and that is a very lonely position to be in.
“He’s a man who is possessed by loneliness from which he cannot escape. The more he behaves like a king, the lonelier he becomes.”
“That’s what it means to be king, no?”
“Yes. But, he had a dream that he wasn’t expected to have.”
“You’re saying that dream is Shūrei?”
“From now on, as he adds to his reputation as king, there will be less and less people who see him as Ryūki.”
“And your point is?”
“So Shūrei is, and will be, the only person who will continue to call him by his name. You were able to find Shūrei and Kōyū, as well as Secretary Ko. If Seiran had walked the path to becoming the king, then he wouldn’t be over there, right? He wouldn’t have met Ensei. Right now, Seiran is able to take everything that he cherishes into his hands as much as his heart desires. However, from now on, Ryūki will never be able to obtain anything for himself for the rest of his life. And because he knows that, he can’t let go of the one dream he has.”
– Shouka and Reishin discussing Shūrei’s relationship with Ryūki
Later as the evening’s festivities continue and some people are having a little too much fun, Shouka asks Shūrei to deliver some bean cakes for him. Naïve Shūrei being who she is, she agrees. The delivery is to be made outside and whoa, look at that, guess who she runs into! >_>
In a nutshell, Shūrei makes Ryūki sit like a dog (after he confessed his love to her too!) and tells him that she’ll think about his feelings… only for Ryūki to tell her that he’s not in any hurry.
“I’m not in any hurry. I’ll be waiting for you. Always. No matter how far into the future it may be or how far away you are. That day will surely come. My dream remains here. Even since the first time we met each other here.”
– Ryūki to Shūrei
As the credits roll, we get flashbacks to how Shūrei and the king first met, as well as other scenes from throughout the series. It’s a really nice touch, especially if you’re like me, wiping your eyes after Ryūki’s heartfelt words to Shūrei. ;~;
As the song fades away, Shūrei cautions Ryūki that she won’t change for him. She wants to continue moving forward in her career as an official, and that she may never want to give up that career. Ryūki says that he understands and will continue to wait for her regardless.
If you’ve read some or all of my reviews of this wonderful series, thank you very much! Saiunkoku Monogatari is my favourite anime behind Vision of Escaflowne, but they’re soooo close for me.
The perks of having a series even longer than Escaflowne (24 episodes, 1 season) include that the show’s length really gives time to properly display character development. Like actual character development. Thinking on this point usually brings Shūrei and Ryūki to mind as the main examples.
Shūrei goes from being an idealistic young woman with no political experience, courtesy of being barred from politics due to her gender, to the first woman to pass the National Exams (and in 3rd place!), to an elected official with real world experience under her belt. We also see that thanks to her experiences with Sakujun, she is now slightly more accepting of the idea of being in a romantic relationship with someone.
As for Ryūki, he starts the series being an emotionally immature young man, afraid of governing his kingdom and having any actual responsibilities, forever chasing after Shūrei like a lost puppy. However time apart, and being forced to deal with circumstances with only Shūei and Kōyū for his main sources of moral support, changes Ryūki’s perceptions of life. Everything can’t always be about him and his desires; there must come a point where he puts his personal feelings aside and does that needs to be done for the sake of his country. Even though he did not choose to be king, he was pushed into the role and now needs to play it as best he can.
The season ends on a rather naïve note, with Ryūki promising that he will wait forever for Shūrei to return his feelings of love. I will not say more than that so I don’t risk accidentally spoiling the second (and last) season for anyone who has not yet seen it. Season 1 lays the groundwork for some difficult events that will happen in season 2, and it’s well worth the watch if you can get your hands on a copy of it.
The animation from Madhouse is, for the most part, stellar in its attention to detail and brilliant colors. I feel like the animators did an especially stellar job with facial close-ups.
The entire soundtrack is freaking brilliant, and while there are some tracks which strike me as a little odd or out of place, ususally due to its eclectic genre or arrangement (often played when someone says or does something unusual or striking, or in a moment of tension), it is a solid soundtrack for me. My favourite tracks are (in no particular order): Kokukyu, Ryuuki, Nukumori, Wakare, Soshite, and Hajimari no Kaze.
I feel like Saiunkoku Monogatari does a great job at balancing seriousness with moments of comedy, as well as the realism of life’s lessons with the fantasy of anime.
It also takes its characters seriously, there is very little fanservice, and I personally find Shūrei to be a refreshing protagonist, especially for a woman. She is someone other female characters should strive to be like. She’s not perfect but she has many idealistic characteristics.
If there is anything I don’t like about the series, it’s that having so many characters throughout so many arcs means that as the plot progresses, we see beginning characters less and less as their role eventually diminishes. This would seem more fitting and less noticeable if a show had its seasons split up into 12 or 24 episodes each, but to have one season with 39 episodes means this is more noticeable. Not a huge issue, just something I’ve noticed.
I would definitely like to cover season 2 of Saiunkoku Monogatari, although at this point in time I’m not sure when that will be yet.
If you would like to discuss the events of season 1, feel free to comment below. :3 I love talking about Saiunkoku Monogatari so much and never pass up a chance to fangirl over it with other fans.
Thanks for reading, and see you in season 2! ^_^v