Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 11 (とりかえ・ばや)

May 1st, 2017

I just finished Torikaebaya, Volume 11. I’m also reading the new deluxe Revolutionary Girl Utena manga from Viz, Both are by the same artist, Saito Chiho, and I was thinking how very much Koyasu Takehito (Touga’s voice) would be *brilliant* as the Emperor if they ever did an anime. (They won’t. Nothing happens for long stretches). So I sort of happily sat there imagining Hisakawa Aya as Yuzuru-Shinou and Mitsuishi Kotono as Umetsubo and on and on and suddenly it all came crashing down in my head when I realized that the person who should be – deserved to be – Suiren and Sarasoujuu, Kawakami Tomoko…is dead. And that ended that little fantasy. :-(

In Volume 11, some very important things happen and some Very Important Things happen. After spending a lot of time following Sarasoujuu as Suiren, we turn towards Suiren, acting as Sarasoujuu. He has gone off to track down the curse on the Emperor created by the evil priest Ginkaku and although he and his men have been attacked, they recover the curse.

Back in the capital, Toguu-sama completes a beautifully rendered ritual to Amaterasu.

A letter and proof of the curse arrives and she runs off to find Suiren…and find him she does. She comes upon a beautiful young man in a hut and immediately, she recognizes that this is her Suiren, although she has mostly known Suiren as her lady in waiting. Calling Suiren’s name, she rushes to him. They spent a night blissfully together and I got to grin my head off. Yay for Toguu-sama and Suiren.

In the meantime, Sarasoujuu as Suiren, in conversation with the Emperor, accidentally quotes a waka that she had, some years previously, composed as a young lord. Suddenly, the tumblers fall into place and the Emperor can see what has always always been in front of his eyes – the young lord he kept so close and the woman he loves are the same person. He can see that much, but does not (and cannot) understand that this switch is not a switch, but a switch back to her birth sex. He’s Byronically confused through the rest of the volume. (Which is about when I thought Koyasu Takehito would be brilliant as his voice.)

Toguu-sama returns to the capital and is told that she is no longer the heir. Ichinomiya-hime, as she will now be called, couldn’t care less because she has her Suiren. She tells the Emperor that she has always admired Sarajoujuu. I love her. She’s absolutely my favorite character, hands down. (Today in Erica’s imaginary alt-Torikaebaya, Ichinomiya-hime becomes Empress with Suiren as consort. Screw this story’s established literary canon. I want what I want.)

It all looks like things might be turning for the better but Ginkaku has one last evil-eyebrowed trick to play. Before his removal from the palace, he sends a letter to Umetsubo-sama, one of the court women who is Ginkaku’s equivalent of evil doings in the women’s quarter. Umetsubo hates Suiren and has had a feeling all along that Sara and Suiren had switched places. Ginkaku’s letter confirms this. And now she thinks she’s armed to bring the hated Suiren and Ichinomiya-hime down. 

It also means we can see, with complete clarity, what the climax of this series will be, as she forces a sex reveal to “prove” that Suiren and Sara have switched places. But, of course, no one realizes that the initial switch was in childhood and they are currently passing as their own birth genders. Umetsubo is doomed to fail. I hope she’s terminally mortified.

So, with an end in sight, but not necessarily close, I guess the happy end we’re gunning for is Suiren as Sarasoujuu with Ichinomiya-hime and Sara as Suiren with the Emperor, Yuzuru as heir to take the pressure off all four. And hopefully Ginkaku and Umetsubo condemned to a horrible death or something.

That’s my story and I’m sticking with it for now, but I welcome an even better alternative if you have one!


Art – 10 This volume was exquisite
Story – 9 Yay! Suiren and Ichinomiya-hime!
Characters – 9
Service – 2

Overall – 10, but it’s still killing me. ^_^

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4 Responses

  1. Mariko says:

    Every time I read one of your reviews of this series my brain starts tying itself in knots trying to figure out the “Who’s on first?” of what’s going on. I assume it’s easier to follow if you’re reading the book?

    It seems like an ambitiously interesting story based on your take, but I have always kinda dismissed Saitou-sensei’s non-Utena work. Her sort of pet theme in her works seems to be brother-sister incest, something I am not interested in (and what I have always guessed was her main contribution to the tangled relationships in Utena.) Add to that her much-reported and discussed (initial) aversion to the idea of Utena and Anthy as a couple, and I just never really jibed with her.

    • There is no incest in this book. There is a 1000-year old gender switch story that has variable endings depending on who is telling it. I expect this one to be “happy” but cisgender. Ideally Suiren would get to live as a woman and Sarasojuu as a man, but it doesn’t seem like that’s in the cards.

      This series is exquisitely beautiful and since Utena is now 20 years old, I feel comfortable moving on from residual discomfort about any opinion the artists or director had that I don’t agree with.

  2. Deerlikely says:

    Has this manga been licenced for translation yet? I appreciate your summaries very much, but I would dearly love to read it for myself. Torikaebaya Monogatari is a story that has long interested me due to its exploration of gender fluidity and gender roles, and Saitou-san seems like the perfect mangaka to interpret it. ;;

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