How are you all feeling after that gut-punch of emotions!?!

Maomao has comes to challenge Lakan to a game of shogi, but with a catch! It will be a best of five games, but each round will require the loser to drink one of five cups, three of which that have medicine that turns into ‘poison’ in three sips. And finally, no matter the circumstances, if a player abandons the match, they will lose. Whoever wins will have their condition granted.

If Lakan wins, he wants her to live with him. If Maomao wins, she wants him to buy out a courtesan from the Verdigris House.

As one would expect, Maomao was no match to Lakan when it comes to a serious game, but she had already taken that into account. She banked on the fact he didn’t want her to be poisoned, so she needed him to at least lose one game. And one game was all it took because the real catch to this match, was that the ‘medicine’ Maomao had ambiguously described it as, was in fact just really strong alcohol— and she knew very well that Lakan has zero tolerance to alcohol, so just one shot of it would be enough to take him out completely. Was it underhanded? Of course it was, but Maomao had no real intention of playing the game with him. She has a bigger goal, and that’s for him to make a specific purchase. After she successfully knocked him out with the drink, she had him transferred to the Verdigris House, where Meimei passed on the last clue Maomao has left him: A withered blue rose.

The tragic love story of Lakan and Fengxian was one where it was a matter of poor timing, and circumstances that screwed them over. Fengxian didn’t want to be bought out by the bidders, so she was the one who initiated crossing the line, which Lakan reciprocated because their feelings were mutual. And everything probably would have naturally fell into place as they hoped had Lakan not been suddenly ordered to go abroad. It was because she had gotten so expensive that Lakan could only afford to visit her every three months. So the idea of waiting six months wasn’t a terrible thought— except that’s not what happened. It ended up being three years. The wait was too long, especially when her letters were left unread until he finally returned home. That meant all this time, he had no idea that she was pregnant, and had he had known, he probably would dropped everything and rush back home to get her out of there.

It was only when he saw Maomao’s pinky (which is said to be a popular way to curse to someone), when he realized the gravity of the situation. Fengxian had once explained to him what happens to a courtesan if they were to become pregnant, and the gut-wrenching realization of the fate that had befallen her made him so distressed, and so ashamed of being short-sighted and his head only filled with shogi. He knew it was his fault, and he was absolutely devastated that she had to suffer the consequences from his ignorance. It was why Fengxian allowed herself to get pregnant in the first place. The truth is, as Maomao goes on to later explain, there are medication they can take to avoid/reduce the chances of pregnancy, and Fengxian most certainly had access to that.

For that reason, it’s really important to note that Lakan never did the terrible things that Jinshi and the viewers/readers were constantly misled into believing earlier on. He could’ve picked the game of chess, but he didn’t, he picked Go, which was Fengxian’s strong suit.

Now we understand why Lakan has been so desperate to bring Maomao home. She’s his daughter, and he wants to take responsibility for her. But unfortunately for him, she doesn’t want to because she doesn’t see him as a father, but rather likened him to a stud-horse.

Finally, after a long twenty years, Lakan and Fengxian were finally reunited. It was such a beautiful and emotional scene, but also bittersweet when you think about how they could have been reunited much sooner had he not been chased out and left in the dark about Fengxian’s fate for as long he had been. That’s probably why Meimei wished Fengxian had just been honest from the start, because perhaps if she had been, Granny wouldn’t have had chased him out when he finally showed up, and they would’ve been reunited much sooner. It doesn’t matter how withered and sick Fengxian has become, Lakan loves her with all his heart, and still sees her as the most beautiful woman he ever met. And if that isn’t pure love, I don’t know what is.

Incredibly, the real twist of fate in all of this, is despite Maomao claiming to not be related to Lakan whatsoever– ironically, she continues to have ties with his family because her adoptive father Luomen turns out to have been Lakan’s uncle. And that’s when everything falls into place, because who else could possibly have the knowledge help Lakan cope with his condition.

Additionally, it was after he had been kicked out that he began to treat Fengxian that he took Maomao under his wing. That was during the period which Lakan had been gone, forced to step into the position that Luomen had been ousted from the family. Whether his decision take Maomao under his wing had anything to do with that is still unclear, but it’s still food for the thought when you take into account how being expulsion from his position set off of the tragedy that had befallen Lakan and Fengxian.

Although Maomao doesn’t consider either Lakan and Fengxian as her parents, we can see how a lot of the traits which Maomao had inherited from them. She got both her mother’s and father’s wits, her interests in plants and a keen eye for details, and of course both of their shrewdness. I also do find it funny how they are all fixiated to certain things, as Maomao’s developed an obsession with poisons and medicine, as Lakan’s obsessed with the game of shogi, as her mother is with go.

Now Lakan has bought Fengxian out (by not letting Granny say no to that either), he will make the most of the little time they have left together. Maomao mentioned that Fengxian won’t last much longer, so it just makes their reunion all the more important. As such it calls for the customary dance when a courtesan is bought out. Maomao would have preferred to have been doing this for Meimei, but at the very least, you could say by doing this dance, it finally brings closure to the past she has already long left behind.

It was a lovely scene, though Jinshi appearing out of blue and then freaking out was the highlight. He showed up because a guard had seen Maomao climbing the walls. (It’s funny how she tries to keep a low profile, but she does anything but the sort!) And since she had danced, of course her stitches ended up coming loose! That wasn’t going to stop her from stitching it up right there, but the way Jinshi picked her up like a sack of potatoes and jumped down had me in tears from laughing so hard. At least he carried her properly after that. And to add icing on the cake, Maomao’s freaking expression– and you just KNOW it’s going to involve some sort of medicine, because that’s the only thing she ever makes that face— goes ahead and asks about the Oz Bezoar, which she has yet to receive, only to get headbutted by Jinshi in response. Oh these two, they never fail to crack me up!

I do love that we got a reminder that Maomao is still deadass exhausted from the whole blooming blue roses assignment. I also loved that Suiren was so worried about how she looked that she made her a full hearty meal. A well deserved one too.  It was interesting to see Maomao get actually jealous over Lakan’s abilities. It’s true as she says, if he wasn’t so lazy, he’s be one terrifying force to reckon with. She wishes she had that skill because if she had, then perhaps she would have caught Suirei and uncover the secrets behind the resurrection she teased her with.

Final Thoughts

The Apothecary Diaries was and still is my favourite show to come out of 2023 and into 2024. I’ve long been hungry for a historical series like this one, and it give you everything and more. Maomao is such a fantastic heroine. She’s really not your typical lead, especially with her hilarious obsession with poisons. She’s just a ball of quiet chaos who says she wants to lay low, but we see her doing the exact opposite by sticking her nose things, which was ultimately how she caught Jinshi’s attention in the first place.

Jinshi on the other-hand for most part of this season, was a ball of mystery. It was obvious there was more to them than meets the eyes. I enjoyed the balance of seriousness, but also his childishness that led to a lot of the hilarious interactions between the two. Their chaotic banter is definitely among some of the biggest highlights of this series has to offer.

The biggest take away from this season that I hope many have come to be aware of is the use of, “the unreliable narrator”. We saw this instance with Lakan, and in that sense, we all need to exercise the very wisdom Maomao has been reminding herself to keep in check: “Do not speak based on conjecture.” And that, is in part of what makes this series so fun to read and watch. There’s easter eggs everywhere, making it fun to go back and rewatch/reread episodes to see just how far back things were set up over a long period of time, and whether our initial thoughts ended up holding true.

I can’t tell you how happy I am with this adaption. I’m honestly, all things considered, very impressed with how well it went hand in hand with the books. So I am absolutely ecstatic  to see Season 2 already announced for 2025– I NEVER DOUBTED IT WOULD HAPPEN! So buckle up, because you’re in for a ride!

If you can’t wait until then though, the novels are an absolute treat to read. The Apothecary Diaries is among my top three favourite novel series of all time, so I highly recommend it. Start at Volume 3 if you want to pick up where this season left off. If reading novels isn’t your thing, the manga is also doing an excellent adaption of the series. So if you’d prefer to read that, start at Volume 8. However bear in mind, it is currently in the middle of the arc that will be airing next season. Considering Season 2 is confirmed for 2025, I suspect the anime will probably bypass the manga adaption at this rate.

Final Score: 9/10

The Apothecary Diaries will resume with the challenge Suirei had left Maomao in uncovering the secret behind the so-called resurrection. Look forward to the next season!



Blogging Anime since Summer 2009, & Founder of AngryAnimeBitches Anime Blog ...I may or may not be addicted to writing

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Vance

    I’m glad that Lakan gets some time with Fengxian before she passes. You can tell that she recognized him with the way she made a smile. Even if she were wasting away, she still recognized the love of her life and never lost her skill at playing Go.

    I’m eagerly anticipating a Season 2 to find out more about Lakan and the enemies in the palace, Shishou and Loulan.

    1. Eva

      TT ^ TT Some time is better than no time. Those 10 days off may be short, but certainly irreplaceable. I’m really excited for season 2! It’s gonna be awesome! \O v O/// Winter 2025 would be nice, but realistically speaking, it’s probably gonna be Fall 2025 hahahahaha.

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