Story of Saiunkoku, Vol 8. by Kairi Yura and Sai Yukino
I enjoy the meditative pace of Story of Saiunkoku. By the end of this volume plucky heroine and trailblazing civil servant Shurei Hong is finally launched at another stage of her life, and the fact that it took eight volumes for her to experience a new adventure doesn’t bother me at all. The main reason why I enjoy this series so much is the fact that the manga features such a rich variety of characters, all of whom are sympathetic and interesting in different ways. As the first and only woman to pass the civil servant exam, Shurei has been accused of cheating and must clear her name. It is always a bit heartwarming how all the people that surround Shurei come together to support her. She’s a very capable young woman, but the path that she’s chosen is so incredibly difficult that it is a good thing that she has so many friends and relatives who work behind the scenes to make sure that she can succeed on her own terms.
It turns out that the burdensome paperwork that Shurei and Eigetsu were processing also not so coincidentally included the clues to major financial irregularities in the Ministry of Rites whose head was determined to prevent Shurei from becoming a civil servant. Shurei and Eigetsu’s hazing resulted in their peers becoming more sympathetic to them, and the duo was also able to research and create a report that contained very damning evidence about an enemy that they didn’t even know they had. Supporting cast members that come to the forefront in this volume include Shurei’s uncle Renshin Hong and Minister Ko, whose devastating beauty ends up being a weapon for Shurei when he actually takes off his mask in court to force a confession from the Minister of Rites. There’s plenty of humor in this scene, as the onlookers are warned that if they look at Minister Ko’s face they will lose their ability to concentrate on work for years, their home life will collapse, and “in the worst case, you may lose your mind.”
There’s a great scene between Shurei and Ryuki towards the end of the volume where he demonstrates his trust in her by appointing her as a civil servant even though he would prefer that she stay as his bride. Shurei and Eigetsu embark on a new phase of their lives as civil servants together, but life can’t be boring when they are about to be sent to govern the most rebellious province in the land, aided mainly by the roguish Ensei. This volume also features a very lighthearted story about a cross-dressing contest that Shurei tries to make her male friends participate in because she’s so enthusiastic about the grand prize of many bales of rice. I think we’re catching up to the Japanese releases of this manga and the next volume is the final one. I’ll be a bit disappointed since I believe the light novel version of the story covers much more than the manga. Still, I’ll be happy with whatever I can read from this series.