Okay… I think I can talk about Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ) now. Deep breath.
Volume 5 of Chiho Saito’s stunningly gorgeous, emotionally crushing version of this Heian classic begins with the worst thing possible, Sarasoju, this fine, upstanding young courtier…is pregnant. Sarasoju is, not at all surprisingly, devastated at the thought. Having decided to live as a man, Sarasoju’s life is about to come crashing down. Running away will not, cannot help, but what else can Sarasoju do?
With Sarasoju’s absence, other cracks in the life of the capital begin to expand. Shinohime’s affair with Tsuwabuki is discovered and she is cast out of her home. Tsuwabuki takes her in.
And meanwhile, in the depths of Toguu-sama’s quarters, Suiren is forced to confront feelings for Toguu-sama that cannot, will not, bring anyone happiness. When Toguu-sama seeks respite in Suiren’s arms, Suiren’s feelings cannot be restrained. As the book comes to a close, they kiss.
Auuugggh. Reading this story is like getting hot sauce in a paper cut. It isn’t gonna kill me, but it’s not making me happy, either. And yet, I can’t shake the thought that Saito-sensei isn’t going to just drop the mic and leave us unhappy. She draws shoujo manga after all. And her work is damnably beautiful. I don’t want to watch…but I can’t look away.
Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 3
LGBTQ – 6
Overall – 9
Deep, calming breaths.