For the first time ever, I read a volume of Saitou Chiho’s amazing version of the Japanese classic Torikebaya and thought…maybe, just maybe, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
If you recall, Suiren and Sarasoujuu have switched back, as it were, to take up the roles assigned to the gender they were born with. They are, in effect, masquerading as each other, rather than being themselves.
In Volume 8, the person in Sarasojuu’s role, Suiren, is having a slightly easier time of it, as he is not under a lot of scrutiny, but the person in Suiren’s role, Sarasojuu, has yet *another* problem on her plate which is already fully crammed with problems.
Sarasoujuu, as a Naishogami, a lady in waiting, has come to deeply admire and love Toguu-sama, but of course is not in love with her. She is still drawing the frank and open attention of the Emperor, who used to look at her too longly and deeply as a male courtier and now desires her as a female one. This is complicated for many reasons. Sarasojuu as Naishogami has befriended San-no-hime, the elder sister of her own wife (argh!) and while she wants to support her friend in front of the Emperor, ends up taking his attention away from San-no-hime, thus betraying her. (Argh!) And worst of all, Sarasoujuu-as-Suiren has fallen in love with the Emperor (who is extremely handsome, as one might expect in a Saitou-sensei manga.) (ARGH!)
Toguu-sama I think has figured out the charade but says nothing until she falls ill and asks to see Suiren-as-high ranking courtier, Udaisho. To get Suiren into the women’s quarters an elaborate scheme is concocted, but as the volume closes, Suiren is discovered and the ruse falls apart. (AUGH!)
Despite my protestations, I managed to read this volume without groaning once, because I thought I saw a way out. It’s an absurd, complex way out. BUT.
If Suiren remains in her place as Naishogami by day, but takes Sarasojuu’s place as Udaisho at night, and vice versa, they could be who they really are by day and also sleep with who they want to at night. It would horrible to have to switch back and forth and undoubtedly complicated and doomed to failure, but it’s a story and maybe could work. Probably not. But there you go, as dim a light as it is, I am fixated with the idea.
Obviously it would be amazing if they just were allowed to be happy as is. I just don’t see that happening ever. Even the Tengu switching them permanently isn’t a fix, because Suiren as Naishogami can’t sleep with Toguu-sama and Sarasojuu as Udaisho can’t sleep with the Emperor. Hrm.
Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1
LGBTQ – 1
Overall – 9
Once again a luscious and lovely and emotionally wringing volume of this Heian classic. I’m enjoying the heck out of every single panel!