Ooku: The Inner Chambers Volume 11
It’s been a year since the last volume of Ooku: The Inner Chambers, but the themes of volume 11 are so powerful and immediate that I had no trouble picking it right back up. And Fumi Yoshinaga’s art is so gorgeous that it’s always a pleasure to spend time with, particularly given her facility with emotional expression.
After 150 years, there’s finally a male shogun ruling the country, placed there by his strong-willed, murderous mother. Meanwhile, the doctors trained by part-Westerner Aonuma have dispersed after their teacher was killed. The vaccine they developed against the male-killing redface pox has died out as a result.
The shogun was one of the few inoculated before his mother’s rise to power, and this effort is one of the few areas where he wants to disagree with her. All she cares about is keeping her control of the palace and the country, through him, but he is beginning to think about the bigger picture… and realize how evil she can be.
This is a classic story, something like Macbeth in kimonos. It’s deeply gripping as the reader fears for those under the control of someone unconcerned with how she wields her power, yet unable to do anything but watch as events play out. It’s epic, as the monstrous nature of the controlling woman becomes visible, and hard to believe that someone could be so single-minded. Yet there’s hope, as the parallel story of the displaced doctors shows their continuing search for a more permanent cure. (The publisher provided a review copy.)