Ooku: The Inner Chambers Volume 12
Another year, another volume. (It’s like an early Christmas present!) But as Fumi Yoshinaga’s alternate history gets closer to the modern era, and the opening of Japan to the rest of the world, events move faster and more dramatically.
Even with the delay between volumes — beautifully detailed historical interactions take time to draw — I had no problem catching up in volume 12. The thorough cast of characters pages help, but so does the universality of the main story. It’s all about how the new shogun wants to implement a universal vaccination program, now that they know that the red face pox, the disease that killed so many boys and men and left the country to be governed by women, can be beaten.
The challenges are manifest:
* an ineffective leader whose actions are controlled by his murderous mother
* public confusion over the risks and rewards of inoculation
* how to succeed without raising the ire of powerful leaders
* a distracting concubine who appears to have lost her mind after her child died
* how to benefit from the knowledge of other languages and cultures
* the conflict between hereditary positions and staffing those who actually have the knowledge needed for accomplishments
It all ties together in complex, satisfying ways. For something set so very long ago, in another culture, it’s very relevant to see the importance of the vaccine and the torment felt by those who lose children to such a terrifying disease. The fear of a country trying to hide its weakness from the international community by demanding tight borders also struck a chord. I don’t know much about Japanese history, but even I know, with the giant ship on the last page, that’s about to change.