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Ooku: the Inner Chambers Vol. 1

by Various

Publisher: Viz

Format: Softcover, partial color, $12.99

ISBN: 978-1-4215-2747-5

Reviewed by: Publishers Weekly

The Edo period of an alternate Japan is ruled entirely by women in this manga. A mysterious plague has killed three out of four boys for generations, so men are carefully guarded and sheltered, while women go about the business of daily life. The Ooku was an area of Edo Castle reserved for the shogun’s concubines and female relatives; here the shogun is a woman and the Ooku is entirely male. One of the few serious works of alternate history in contemporary manga, Ooku explores the relationship between gender and culture in subtle and unexpected ways. It begins tightly focused on a single heroic character and slowly pans out from there, embracing first the court intrigue of the Ooku, then the new Shogun and Japan as a whole and finally the outside world, unaware and free of the plague. Yoshinaga is the acclaimed creator of Antique Bakery, which has been made into both a Japanese television series and a smash hit Korean movie. Not as visually busy as many historical works, Ooku's art has a spare, elegant aesthetic that shines with carefully chosen detail. Yoshinaga’s work is wry and stately by turns, doing full justice to the book's rich tapestry of stories.