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Friday, February 26, 2010

Saiunkoku Monogatari: Colorcloud Palace (Sai Yukino)

This anime is by far one of the best I have seen in the past few years. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not like it. Well... here goes....

SOURCE: S1 from R1 DVD and S2 from fan-subs.

THEMES/GENRES: Comedy, Drama, Historical, Fantasy, Political Intrigue, Shoujo.


The story follows the adventures of Shuurei Hong (or Shuurei Kou) in the kingdom of Saiunkoku. Shuurei is a descendant of a noble family which has fallen on hard times. Her family includes her father, Kou Shouka, who works in the imperial library as a librarian and a family retainer by the name of Seiran Shi. Despite being a a noble family and Shouka holding a prestigious post, they are very poor with Shuurei and Seiran having to work odd jobs to support themselves.
Shuureis dream was to one day pass the civil service examinations and become a government official in order to help the people. However, according to the law, only men were allowed to join the civil service. Shuurei takes her disappointment in stride and spends her free time teaching the children at the local temple.
One day, the Emperor's Grand Advisor pays her a visit and makes a startling offer. He offers her great financial compensation if she undertakes a task for him. Frustrated by her poverty, Shuurei decides to take up the offer without even bothering to find out the details. As it turns out, the advisor wanted Shuurei to enter the imperial household for six months as the young Emperor's consort, and teach the Emperor to be a responsible ruler.
The story details the growth of Shuurei's relationship with the Emperor and other members of the court, the various intrigues that surround imperial politics, and highlights her determination to better herself and her country.


Plot: Political intrigue... or just intrigue in general has not been depicted better (IMO) in any anime in recent history. Shuurei comes across as a remarkably resourceful young woman and her intelligence and foresight are remarkably well depicted. As a viewer you are always wondering what the final consequence of each of her actions will be. There is almost always a hidden agenda behind an action that will end up surprising the viewer. Only series I remember viewing which does Political intrigue this well would be The Legend of the Galactic Hero's (a brilliant series IMO)... every arc (in Saiunkoku Monogatari) is gripping and enjoyable... there is drama and tragedy... but plenty of humor as well...
Another impressive aspect of the plot is that it does NOT rely on fan service of any sort. Well... its a plus point for me because I feel ticked off when I watch anime which just try to squeeze in eye candy at every possible opportunity... thats not to say that the stories are bad... but just that they use fan service to an excess.
The best thing about this anime though is the supporting cast.... e.g. the villains... or anti heros... whatever you prefer... They are all very crafty... and some are very like-able... in Season 1 I totally loved Sakujun... he was my favorite male character... Season 2... well.. I dont want to post any spoilers.... but Season 2 had less like-able villains... although they were still just as crafty... Shuurei's allies are also generally all very well rounded and developed... and immensely like-able.... characters like To Eigetsu, Seiran, Shuei, Koyu etc are all depicted very well...

Animation: Very crisp and clean. There are no faults to be found here. I really liked the settings and background work. It really feels authentic...

Music: The OP to S1 is something I could listen to on loop for a good long time... its very good... Ending theme is not bad either... but whats really impressive is the mournful Ehru tunes and other BGM that is included in the series... it is all very good....

Voice Talent: No faults here either... I loved the Japanese original VA's but the English dubbers (R1... dunno about Animax) were also great.... fansubs for S2 are also good...

Personal Note: Get off your rear ends and watch this series if you haven't done so already...

Overall Score: 9.5/10. would have gotten the top score of 9.7 but S2 is starting to give off reverse harem vibes... and the ending was a bit more ambiguous than I would have liked. Although it was fitting in its own way.

Work in progress.

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