Archive for the Saitou Chiho Category


Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 10 (とりかえ・ばや)

February 9th, 2017

AUUUUGGGHH.

Sorry, but I got almost all the way through Volume 10 of Saitou Chiho-sensei’s Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや) without screaming and then I hit the final bit and AUUUUGGGHH!

Okay, so. The Mikado is being pressured to replace Toguu-sama as heir and Ginkaku, an evil priest with really evil eyebrows and Shikibu-no-miya (who you always knew had to be evil because of his eyebrows) pick a really cute kid called Yuzuru. Sarasojuu (as Suiren) is helping out with him and ends up playing the flute and almost, almost the Mikado clues in, but nope he misses it. AUUUUGGGHH I really wanted him to figure it out.

Suiren, as Sarasojuu, is away from the capital and, for the first time we see him as a man. He’s willowly and pretty, as one might expect, but is taking to his new role. 

To suss Ginkaku out, Sara as Suiren has her lady in waiting share a rumor that she’s pregnant. The Mikado is furious at her, but she explains why and, eventually receives a gift of poison from the evil-eyebrowed one. On her way to inform the Emperor, she’s pushed off a walkway and suffers a concussion. The Mikado tends to her himself and she finally has a chance to explain the whole deal.

Ginakaku visits her…and here’s the moment when I screamed. I want the Emperor to figure it all out! Really. I want him to “get” what the deal with Sara and Suiren is, but the person who figures it all out is none other than the evil-eyebrowed priest Ginkaku. AUUUUGGGHH. Sara, as Suiren, puts him off but knows this is not good. Not good at all.

MEANWHILE Suiren, as Sarasojuu, is off to Ginkaku’s temple to find evidence of his perfidy. They find an elaborate curse against the Emperor in place. It becomes instantly apparent what the plan is. Now that Toguu-sama has been neutralized, if they kill the Mikado, they will becomes Prince Yuzuru’s regents. As Suiren turns to leave, they are attacked. AUUUUGGGHH

Oh my god this story is killing me.

It’s pretty obvious that, if any of the romances are going to have a positive resolution, both Suiren and Sarasojuu will have to pass through life as their birth gender, which annoys me to no end. In my imaginary ending now, Suiren is able to live with Toguu-sama away from court as herself and Sarasojuu is able to live as a young man whom the Mikado takes to bed sometimes. ^_^ Wishful thinking, I know.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1

Overall – 9

I’m really disappointed in the Emperor. He was *so* close there for a second. I thought he was good-looking and smart, but nope. Ah well.

Volume 11 doesn’t land until March, so I have a few weeks to recover.

 

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Torikaebaya Manga, Volume 9 (とりかえ・ばや)

October 13th, 2016

51xwd9km9el-_sx318_bo1204203200_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.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1

Overall – 9

Volume 10 is already out. Get the antacids ready.

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LGBTQ Manga: Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ), Volume 8

February 1st, 2016

TKBY8For 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.

Ratings:

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!

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LGBTQ Manga: Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ), Volume 7

September 10th, 2015

TKB7In Volume 6, Sarasojuu lost the child, and Suiren left court to look for her…and found her. In Volume 7 of Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ) by Saitou Chiho, together they visit Yoshino no Miya-sama, a man wise beyond his years, who already knows about their secret.

While they are at Yoshino no Miya-sama’s place, the Mikado comes to visit and their learn some amazing things. The Mikado is Yoshino’s older brother and Toguu-sama is Yoshino’s daughter. In exchange for a vow to protect Toguu-sama, as she has few allies in the capital, Yoshino promises to help the siblings. They, to the utter delight of their family, return home. (Their family has been a high point of the series from the beginning. Totally supportive and loving.)

At which point we come to the most interesting moment to date in this amazing & infuriating manga. Because the “help” Yoshino offers is to assist them to trade places. In the original Torikaebaya, the “trading” was the original choice for them to take the place of their sibling in the other sex’s world in order to be more comfortable with themselves. In this version, it is the moment they leave the life they had known and were comfortable in to “trade” to the world that did not suit them at all. In short, Sarasojuu would become Suiren and serve Toguu-sama and Suiren would take the position of a man at court, as Sarasojuu.

And so they do. Suiren still can’t stand being too close to men, and has a tendency to be delicate, but passes as Sarasojuu. Sarasojuu walks too fast and speaks too loudly for a woman at court and, although mostly everyone just assumes she is Suiren, Toguu-sama sees right through her instantly.
Sarasojuu confides in Togu-sama, and even allows her to speak to Suiren, who assures her that they are her allies from beginning to end. And in this, they are completely in synch. They will do everything to protect this young woman.

Finally a good thing happens. The Udaisho, Sara and Suiren’s father, begs the Mikado to *not* ask for Suiren to come up to the palace to be one of his women.  Mikado graciously agrees, so I steeled myself against something else horrible happening instead. ^_^;

The “something” turned out to be an assassination attempt on Toguu-sama. Sara (as Suiren) is able to move quickly, but it is another lady-in-waiting that makes it possible to capture the miscreant. Her name, she says, is San-no-hime. Sara-Suiren is shocked…is this her wife’s sister? Indeed it is. And now that they have become confidants, will Suiren help her? She’d like the Mikado to take notice of her. Um, sure, Sara says, wondering what on earth she could possibly do.

This series makes me chew my liver out, it really does. But that the “trading places”is not in the initial switch but here is so fascinating and modern, I’m foolishly still holding onto my hope that there is some small possibility of this all working out. Hey, I wanted only one thing from Gunjo, and I got that, so yeah. I’m sticking with foolish dreams.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1
LGBTQ – 7

Overall – 9

Compelling like a train wreck, I cannot stop reading this.

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LGBTQ Manga: Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ), Volume 6

March 17th, 2015

Torikaebaya6When we last left Chiho Saito-sensei’s beautiful and tragic retelling of the Heian classic tale, Torikaebaya (とりかえ・ばや ), I was having a crisis. It’s so damn beautiful, I want to keep reading, but it’s so damn heart-wrenching, it’s hard to keep reading.

Volume 5 ended with Sarasojuu running from the capital, pregnant with Tsuwabuki’s child, devastated that she can no longer live her chosen life. Suiren, overcome by love for Toguu-sama, gives in to desire and kisses her.

As Volume 6 opens, I keep wondering if there are any more boots to drop…and, of course, there are.

Suiren has been called up to the Emperor’s residence to be one of his women. This precipitates a decision that Suiren can never go back and change. Refusing the Emperor’s call, Suiren confesses that he is a man to Toguu-sama. He leaves her service, and returns home, to become the man his sister was. Passing is merely a matter of not interacting because, although Suiren and Sarasojuu are identical in looks, Suiren has none of Sarasojuu’s skills at horseback riding or other pursuits.

Suiren, disguised as Sarasojuu, overhears a rumor of Tsuwabuki’s second woman being pregnant, guesses what has happened and heads off to find Sarasojuu.

Sarasojuu, having been taken in by Tsuwabuki, is now called Sara-hime, and is pining away, as the baby’s birth grows near. Conversely, Tsuwabuki is beside himself with joy, having both the women he loves and their children in his home. Sara is not on board with this, and poor, poor Shi-no-hime, who had no idea who this other woman was, until her son calls Sara “father”. Shi-no-hime, who has been unconscious for much of the volume swoons once again. Of everyone, I feel the most pity for her, a woman drawn into someone else’s story with no good way out.

Sara’s baby is stillborn and, naturally, she blames herself.

Suiren finds Sara, at last, as she is just about to drown herself. Suiren tries to convince Sara to return to the capital and resume their lives as before, even though he himself is not sure he can ever return to the life he’s left.

I am less distraught this volume, as I carefully fed myself a few pages at a time, knowing that this story was going to offer no respite. Parsing out mere pages of exquisitely gorgeous, emotionally agonizing story, meant that I was able to get through it without trouble. I’m desperately flailing in mind, as I read every fresh hell, to come up with ideas for a non-horrible ending. So far I am failing. And the one ending I foresee that will give the characters the happy end they deserve will have to be a very annoying tengu ex machina. ^_^;

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 8
Characters – 9
Service – 1
LGBTQ – 6

Overall – 9

Saito-sensei’s art has always been exquisite and here, she reaches her pinnacle. It’s so perfect a tale for her style.

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