Finally reunited with my manga and it feels so good!
Aired Dec. 7, 2012, on TBS.
In this episode of Things I Started Recapping a Year Ago Ôoku:
After Iemitsu gives her speech about being the Shogun and a woman, her audience bows. When they raise their heads again, the camera pans around the room to show not just Terutsuna smiling at her, but many of the other young heirs who appear to be girls dressed as boys.
Masakatsu is released from his service as the stand-in Shogun but is forced to remain in the ôoku to serve the Shogun.
At the New Year’s greetings, Teratsuna and all the female daimyo and samurai appear in their finest–except this time, all of them have let their hair grow in and are in women’s kimono. Teratsuna talking to her father Matsudaira after. She speaks in a more “feminine” register and language, but tells him that she felt being a boy suited her better. They run into Inaba Masakatsu’s daughter Masanori.
At home, Oyuki asks if Masanori saw her father at the palace. Masanori, now the head of house, urges her mother to forget her father, who served the Tokugawa family, but Oyuki isn’t convinced by the talk of duty and honor.
As noted in Ep. 7, the Yoshiwara brothel employs a few mentally ill men, so Iemitsu orders 100 men to be rounded up and employed as prostitutes for the reopening of Yoshiwara. She also creates an edict that the first man to have sex with the Shogun (the gonaishô ご内証) will be put to death for violating the body of the Shogun. (n.b.: in cases where the Shogun was already married or had a lover, this did not occur, which is why it’s a shock to everyone in the Yoshimune arc.) Arikoto agrees, and she says that he’s changed. He says he’s glad Kasuga brought him to the ôoku; she says that’s not true, but during those years she had something she couldn’t do without: Arikoto–he kept her going all that time, and now she’s all alone. Arikoto says that his feelings for her haven’t changed.
Masakatsu visits Arikoto and tells him that the Shogun has requested him tonight, but he comes back later and says that’s she’s not feeling well enough. After the birth of her second daughter, whose father is either Onatsu or Otama/Gyokuei, Iemitsu requests Arikoto that night and embraces him, saying they can finally be together. He says nothing and gently pushes her away, then bows in front of her, asking to be removed from his service as her concubine. She asks if he doesn’t want her because she’s been “defiled” by so many men, but he responds he’s scared; he doesn’t know if her feelings will change. She says that’s ridiculous and to believe her, that she loves him alone now matter whose children she has born. That’s the problem, though–because he’s infertile, she’ll still sleep with her concubines, and no matter how hard he tried to be okay with that, he’s just a man. “Please release me from this terrifying world of men and women.” “We’ve become distant,” she says.
Iemitsu leaves the room and Masakatsu follows her out and drapes her in a robe. “I’m all alone,”, she says. “This is what being the Shogun is.” Masakatsu is the only one who really understands since he acted as the Shogun. “This is fate,” his replies. “Was it fate that your son Masanori died?” “Yes.” “I won’t forgive you if you die. You were there when my father died. Your fate is here with me,” she says.
Onatsu and Gyokuei and the other concubines attend an audience, where Iemitsu names Arikoto as the new head of the ooku, taking Kasuga’s place. Arikoto enters with his trademark flowing water pattern on his kataginu.
Compared to the Manga
Also, I confirmed that Terutsuna is a girl in the manga version as well. I wrote those recaps when I didn’t have access to my manga and I think I was getting Terutsuna’s father, who thinks its unnatural for his daughter to enjoy being a boy so much, mixed up with Sutezo/Oraku’s father, who thinks that his son isn’t acting “like a man.” We only see Terutsuna in the manga three time: once when the character is introduced, when Terutsuna points out that Matsudaira’s son is also a girl, and when Terutsuna presents her New Year’s greetings. I liked the addition of scenes with this character, as well as the acknowledgment that she is more comfortable acting as a boy.
There’s an added scene after Arikoto agrees to the gonaishô where Iemitsu and Arikoto talk about how they’ve changed.
There are a LOT of flashbacks to fill in time.
Masakatsu and Iemitsu become a lot closer in the drama than in the manga, which may be important in the last episode.
Favorite Scene + Gender Themes
The smiles and joy in the eyes of the many young samurai who appear to be girls in the scene when Iemitsu comes out, essentially validating their existence through her own, was beautifully done. The scene is subtly crafted, relying on visual queues without playing into notions about gendered markers–some of the samurai are smooth-cheeked and have more delicate features, but not all of them do, and many are very androgynous. It’s really the look of sheer delight that gives away the girls. Here is the most powerful person in the whole country telling everyone that she is a woman and will not apologize for it, while wearing contemporary women’s makeup and clothing. It’s a moment of freedom: being a samurai no long means having to be (or pretend to be) a man, nor does it mean one has to adhere to culturally masculine fashions or behaviors. If Iemitsu can determine her own gender expression, then any of these samurai can choose theirs, too. She essentially has queered the entire political and cultural system, and although some behaviors and fashions do end up being codified as “masculine” or “feminine” in Yoshinaga’s Edo, even if they vary from Edo-period or contemporary Japanese ideas of gender, the entire concepts of “feminine” and “masculine” are disrupted.
What I mean specifically is that even though the basic clothing for men and women remains mostly faithful to history, its meaning changes. Not to overgeneralize, but historically the clothing of the leisure classes, especially women’s, tends toward the impractical; and, moreover, femme-shaming is an issue in the geek community, in being taken seriously in business, and even among women who love women (but if you don’t look feminine enough, that’s also a problem–thanks, social norms). Yet, in Edo, no one thinks less of a woman for appearing “feminine,” and we meet all sorts of women and men who dress in all sorts of ways throughout the course of the series. For the most part, articles of clothing like the hakama and kataginu, as well as hair styles and obi styles, remain sex-segregated but, at the same time, fashion and the appreciation thereof become more detached from gender expression and more conflated with personality. Iemitsu and Yoshimune, my two favorite examples, dress completely differently, but Iemitsu is thought of as no less of a leader and no less stubborn, intelligent, or pragmatic because she likes lipstick while Yoshimune prefers simple clothes in plain colors.
At the same time, what is culturally “masculine” and “feminine” is disrupted–while the men of Iemitsu’s reign worry that their sons are becoming “feminized” and their daughters aren’t fit to lead, a hundred years later, popular wisdom tells the characters that women are supposed to be strong, decisive, and pragmatic; men are supposed to be deferent, delicate, fickle, and less capable. But that’s not women acting “masculine” or men acting “feminine”; those are the new cultural masculinity and the new femininity*, to the extent that Mizuno is thought of as a tomgirl for liking martial arts so much.
Furthermore, it’s not a one-to-one switch: women do business and child-rearing; the firefighters in Vol. 7 are men because the women are busy with the children and their professional life (182-3). In some aspects of the world, there is an alien androgyny to life, and in others, gender roles are just as rigid.
In the final episode: NOPE NOPE NOPE
*Though individuals vary, and we even meet a(nother) genderqueer character in Vol. 8.