The train wreck that is the plot of Saito Chiyo-sensei’s Torikaebaya, Volume 9 (とりかえ・ばや) just keeps getting wreckier and wreckier.
Sarasojuu who was born as a woman, but should have been a man, has been masquerading now for a while as a woman…as her sibling Suiren, in fact. Suiren, who was born a man, but should have been a woman, has been playing the part of a male courtier as Sarasojuu.
Complicating things, Sara has fallen in love with the Emperor and Suiren with Toguu-sama, his female heir. In a botched attempt to meet Toguu-sama once more, Suiren and Sara protect Toguu-sama from being assassinated, but must be punished for violating protocols and endangering her in the first place.
I desperately want the Emperor to clue in on what’s going on, but as decent a person as he is, he’s showing no signs of that. And he’s being pressured to choose a male heir over Toguu-sama by enemy factions in the government.
This volume almost exclusively follows Sara as Suiren. And I’m feeling uneasy about it, because she’s starting to assimilate into her “switched role” as a woman. It doesn’t feel right to me at all.
BUT, in Volume 9 one really super important thing happens for which I am extremely grateful. Poor Shi-no-hime, Sara’s wife in name only, with two children by Tsuwabuki, lost, almost utterly alone, is redeemed. Her family petitions Sara’s family to dissolve the marriage, when they receive an offer from a much older man. The dissolution is approved, with genuine regrets on Sara’s part, but Shi-no-hime is not moving for love, but a sense of duty to her children. As she sets off on her trip to her new husband’s house, Tsuwabuki sweeps up and rides off with her. At his summer home, he promises to take care of his children if she’ll have him. They – finally – are allowed to be together. Thank the gods. At least Shi-no-hime gets a happy ending. Of all the characters in the book, I felt worst for her.
As I read, it dawned on me that if either Suiren and Sarasojuu were gay – or, to be more precise, if they were allowed to be gay as the sex they best suited, this story would be very different. But instead, Sara is finding her life as Suiren less uncomfortable, while Suiren is still managing as Sarasojuu. If they are to find happiness in love, I fear it will have to be as their birth sex. There doesn’t seem a way through this in which they can both, be the sex they wish to be and have the love they wish to have. Even having the tenguu switch them now would only make things worse, as Suiren loves Toguu-sama as a man and Sara loves the Emperor as a woman. Aughs. So many aughs.
Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1
Overall – 9
Volume 10 is already out. Get the antacids ready.