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Posts Tagged ‘Tokugawa Iemitsu’

Ôoku: Cross-Dressing in a Matriarchy

Part 5 here.

We’ve already discussed several speculative fiction pieces with cross-dressing characters in them. Yet, where a piece like BeruBara focuses on alternate history by adding in a few fictional characters to actual historic events, the world portrayed by Yoshinaga Fumi in Ôoku (大奥) is an alternate history in which most of the historical figures’ genders have been swapped. The author’s use of speculative fiction serves to illustrate contemporary issues of gender and sexism by showing them to us through a tilted mirror. How does cross-dressing function in a gender-swapped world?

Content: this section contains mild spoilers for the manga series Ôoku, and some spoilers specific to the plots of the Iemitsu (vol. 2-4) and the Ieshige-Ieharu arcs (vol. 8-10). The spoilers are primarily events that occur in the first volumes of each story arc (vol. 2 and vol. 8). (Keep in mind that because this is historical fiction, general information about said historical figures will contain some spoilers.) Some discussion of misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, and domestic violence. All images safe for work.

Ooku, Vol. 2, p. 117.

Iemitsu and Arikoto. Ooku, Vol. 2, p. 117.

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Part 2: Political Power and Female Daimyô

As the events happening within the ôoku reflect the changes in sexual culture this reimagined Edo Period, Yoshinaga, with her wonderful  knack for world-building,  shows the full societal impact that the decimation of the male population and the unbalanced sex ratio have on the greater political and social culture.

"A woman's voice?" (Vol. 3, p. 215)

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Part 1: The Sexual Revolution Within the Ôoku


There’s a line in Volume 1 that really defines the larger work of Ôoku, where a character notes that the men there kept like goldfish: a luxury item to have simply for the sake of having. For the third and (part of) the fourth volumes of Ôoku, I’d like to shift the focus from the narrative itself to the larger cultural issues presented in the volume. No work of art or literature exists in a vacuum, and the third and fourth volumes of Ôoku address the present issue of “herbivore men” and their counterpart, “carnivore women.” Unlike Otomen, though, the story of Ôoku is not directly about this issue, but there’s no denying the connection between contemporary culture and the work. The content of this volume is largely meant to explain the changes in Japanese (alternate history) culture caused by the Red Pox, or how the culture in the world that Yoshinaga created evolved from the Shogunate of Iemitsu to that of Yoshimune.

I’d like to address this in multiple parts—first the sexual revolution within the ôoku; next, the changing political and social world; and finally the lasting cultural impact that the revolutions within and without the castle have on the world. The issues addressed here are fairly lengthy, so I’ve divided up Part 1 into subsections. Spoilers are a given; also, one image contains some potentially NSFW cleavage.

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Manga Review: 『大奥』(Ōoku:The Inner Chambers), Vol. 2

Image from Amazon.co.jp

Read the review of Vol. 1 here. Ôoku masterpost here.

Sad to leave Yoshimune and Mizuno of vol. 1 behind for the next story arc, I reluctantly started vol. 2 of Ôoku, but I quickly left my regrets behind as I got absorbed in the story. Readers, this manga is a tour de force. It’s not just the art or the writing– this volume put me through an emotional wringer in a way that only the endings of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and The Rose of Versailles have.

As Yoshimune reads the records of the ōoku, we travel back in time to the 1630s. The manga starts with an explanation: The first two Tokugawa shoguns, Ieyasu and Hidetada, were men. However, the third shogun, Iemitsu, fell victim to the Red Pox. Little by little, we piece together the (disturbing) story of how the female Tokugawa line started.

Spoilers, of course, follow.

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