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The Story of SAIUNKOKU – The Complete Season One DVD Box (A J!-Ent Anime DVD Review)

November 24, 2009 by  



“The Story of Saiunkoku” is a beautiful, piece of work about love, dreams, and that anything is possible with perseverance.

 

Image courtesy of © Sai Yukino, Kadokawashoten/NHK, SOGOVISION. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: The Story of SAIUNKOKU – The Complete Season One Box Set

DURATION: 975 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: 16:9 ANAMORPHIC WIDESCREEN, BILINGUAL DOLBY DIGITAL 2.0 (ENGLISH & JAPANESE)

COMPANY: GENEON/FUNimation Entertainment

RATED: 13+

Release Date: October 9th, 2009

Based on the Original Story by Sai Yukino

Directed by Jun Shishido

Music by Kunihiko Ryo

Music Director by Fusanobu Fujiyama

Character Design by Miwa Oshima

Produced by Yuji Shibata

 

Featuring the following voice talent:

Houko Kuwashima/ Kelly Sheridan as Shurei Hong

Tomokazu Seki/ Brad Swaile as Ryuki Shi

Hikaru Midorikawa/ Andrew Francis as Seiran Si

Shuichi Ikeda/Michael Kopsa as Shoka Hong

Toshiyuki Morikawa/ Michael Adamthwaite as Shuei Ran

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Andy Toth as Koyu Ri

Akemi Okamura/ Nicole Oliver as Shusui

Koji Ishii/ John Novak as Adviser Sho

Naoki Bandō/ Trever Devall as Enjun Sa

Mitsuru Ogata/ Dale Wilson as So Taifu

Eri Sendai/ Chantal Strand as Korin

Kentarou Itou/ Jason Simpson as Ensei Rō

Mitsuaki Madono/ Louis Chirillo as Reishin Hong

Kazuhiro Nakata/ Mark Oliver as Kijin Ko

Daisuke Namikura/ Reece Thompson as Eigetsu/Yogetsu To

Hidenobu Kiuchi/ Matthew Erickson as Ryuren Ran

Takehito Koyasu/ John Payne as Sakujun Sa

Kousuke Toriumi/ Kyle Rideout as Kokujun Sa

Rumi Shishido/ Natalie Walters as Shunki Sa

Saiunkoku is a country with eight powerful houses governed by one emperor. However the new leader Ryuki Shi cares not for his new role and is rumored to spend his days chasing after noblemen in his court. Enter Shurei Hong, a princess whose family has fallen upon hard times. Her dreams of becoming a government official are unattainable since she is a woman, but a twist of fate gives her the chance of a lifetime. If she agrees to become the emperor’s consort and turn him into a respectable ruler, she will be greatly rewarded…

The Story of Saiunkoku by Sai Yukino centers around Shurei Hong, a young princess whose life long dream to become a government official is unattainable because she is a girl. To add insult to injury, despite being a princess, her household is rather poor so she does quite a few odd jobs to help out the family.

She lives with her father Shoka and Seiran, a young man that her family adopted when she was a child. One day, her household is visited by one of the Elders of the Kingdom, Adviser Sho and he has an offer for her: if she can make the current emperor a worthy emperor that can do his job, her and her family would be greatly rewarded. She accepts, but then realizes the other part of the deal was for her to become his consort. Nonetheless, she works hard to make Ryuki Shi, the current emperor all he can be and a worthy ruler.

Ryuki Shi is the young, somewhat naive, carefree emperor that doesn’t really try to do his duties as emperor. To Shurei’s surprise, in truth he’s rather smart and skilled but lacked motivation. He meets Shurei and decides to become a bit more serious about his role emperor and in the meantime, falls in love with Shurei.

Another reason Shurei took up the offer is because she felt that this was a way to get closer to her unattainable dream: to become a government official. Even though she is more than qualified to become a government official, she cannot because of the laws of the land saying that girls may not take the exams to become government officials.

Her perseverance, intelligence, and passion for her dream gain the attention of not only the emperor, but the officials surrounding him including Koyu Ri, Shuei Ran, Kijin Kou and many others. Ryuki Shi makes it his priority to help her achieve her dream… and hopefully one day marry her as well.

The Story of Saiunkoku is a beautiful, sophisticated anime dealing with various important themes such as love, equality, trust, politics and perseverance.

 

“The Story of Saiunkoku” focuses on the following main characters:

 

Shurei Hong – Shurei Hong is the only daughter of Shoka Hong. Despite being a princess, her family is rather poor so she has been performing random jobs ever since she was very young. She is beautiful, intelligent, and says exactly what’s on her mind. Because of her upbringing, she is also rather humbled despite being a princess and tries not to rely on others for too much help. One day, Adviser Sho appears at her home and makes her an offer: if she can help turn around the lazy emperor and make him into the great emperor he should be, her and her family will be financially rewarded. She doesn’t hesitate to take the offer but then realizes that the role calls for her to be the emperor’s consort. Despite that, she keeps that same attitude even when she is at the palace and that might be one of the major reasons that Ryuki really falls for her. Despite Ryuki falling for her, she doesn’t really return his feelings, especially at first because she has so many responsibilities. Despite her not being able to attain her dream because of being a woman, it doesn’t stop her from studying every day and doing her absolute best to help out the kingdom, even if it has to be through Ryuki.

Ryuki Shi – The young emperor of the kingdom. Shurei is sent to the palace as his consort and he falls in love with her. He seems rather helpless and rather unintelligent but in reality, he is rather strong and rather intelligent when he wants to be. He had a rough childhood being the youngest of six brothers and was the last in line to be considered to be the next emperor. He was constantly bullied by four of them, but one of his brothers, Seien, was always there to help him and be there by his side whenever he needed him and constantly saved him from his other brothers. One day, Seien was exiled and eventually, his other brothers fought each other for the throne and perished, leaving only Ryuki to become emperor. One of the major reasons he didn’t want to become emperor was because he was hoping that one day that Seien would return and become the emperor because he thought he was much more worthy than him. When he meets Shurei, he feels drawn to her and becomes inspired to become a worthy emperor for his kingdom when he hears about her dreams to better the kingdom herself despite her limitations.

Seiran Si – Seiran is the adopted son of the Hong household that has been living with Shoka and Shurei ever since she was a child. He is like an older brother to Shurei and is there for her whenever she needs him. Because he was taken in so generously by the Hong family, he has made it his life long duty to repay their kindness by serving them. He is intelligent and is also a strong and skilled fighter. He has a mysterious past that is somehow tied with Ryuki.

Shuei Ran – Shuei Ran is the general of the Shaorin army. He is extremely skilled as a swordsman and has a smart mouth but a calm demeanor. He claims to be Koyu’s best friend, but Koyu angrily denies it and he loves to tease him. Despite being a ladies man and having a rather care free attitude, he is very responsible when it comes to his duties as the emperor’s guard.

Koyu Ri – Koyu Ri is the very young, yet highly intelligent government official who holds the title of Assistant Secretary of Civil Affairs. He was the youngest person to pass the official exams, passing at the age of sixteen. He is rather short tempered and the emperor infuriates him because he keeps wandering off without doing his duties. When he finally gets assigned to the emperor, he lays down the law and keeps on the emperor and makes sure his studies and his duties are done. Shuei is another person who gets on his nerve because he also doesn’t seem to take his job seriously and he is always teased by Shuei because of his seriousness. Despite being a genius, he has absolutely no sense of direction and frequently gets lost in the palace and anywhere else when there’s no one with him.

Shoka Hong – Shoka is Shurei’s father and works in the archives at the palace. He is kind and seems rather mild mannered and a bit clutzy, but he has a secret side to him that even his daughter doesn’t know.

Secondary Characters

Eigetsu/Yogetsu To – Eigetsu is a kind and sweet 13 year old boy that comes to the capital to take the final exams to become a government official. Despite his very young age, he is very smart and is able to place first in the national exams. Along with Shurei, they both overcome obstacles that come their way because of who they are and become close. Eigetsu cannot drink sake or even stand the smell of it. However, if he is forced to drink sake, he turns into a different person named Yogetsu, who is pretty much the very opposite of him…

Ensei Rō – Ensei first appears as a starving man outside of Shurei’s house. It is later revealed that he has a shared past with Seiran and despite his shaggy looks, he has is quite intelligent and is involved with the government. He admires Shurei and helps her out in any way he can.

Ryuren Ran – Ryuren is the very eccentric younger brother of Shuei and is very strange. He wears very flashy clothes and sometimes tries to talk to people using his flute. His actions are sporadic and random for the most part which confuses and annoys everyone around him but he is a genius.

Advisor Sho – One of the three Elders of the kingdom who offers Shurei a reward if she is able to better the emperor. He is very wise and seems to be pulling the strings behind the scenes quite often. He holds a secret that no one knows about…

Enjun Sa – The second of the three Elders of the kingdom. He is very wise but has a secret agenda…

Sō-Taifū – The third of the three Elders of the kingdom. He is a war hero and is responsible for training Ryuki and Seinan in the art of the sword.

Shusui – Shusui is one of Shurei’s ladies in waiting. She is very beautiful and does her job very well (besides sewing), but seems to be very skilled in other ways despite being a lady in waiting…

Korin – Korin is another one of Shurei’s ladies in waiting. She seems very shy and loyal but is also very loyal to her adoptive father, Enjun Sa and would do anything for him…

Reishin Hong – Reishin Hong is the younger brother of Shoka and Shurei’s uncle that she doesn’t know about. He is in charge of the Civil/Public Administration Department and is Koyu’s adoptive father. He is also very close friends with fellow official Kijin Ko and makes him all of his interesting masks…

Kijin Ko – Kijin Ko is the somewhat strange chief minister of the Department of Treasury and Finances. He is usually very strict, but shows a much kinder side when it comes to Shurei. He is never caught without a mask on his face which everyone assumes that he wears because he is horribly ugly but there seems to be more to him than he lets on…

Sakujun Sa – Sakujun Sa is the middle son of the three brothers who are of the royal family of the Sa province. He shares a past with Seiran and can be rather ruthless considering some of the actions he has taken…

Kokujun Sa – Kokujun Sa is the kind-hearted youngest brother out of the three brothers who are of the royal family of the Sa province. However, because he is so kind, he is viewed as weak from some.

Shunki Sa – Shunki is Enjun Sa’s granddaughter. Because she has a direct relation to Enjun, she is hidden away to protect her from those who may go after her life. She lost her parents when she was young and they were killed from a seemingly unlikely source…

“The Story of Saiunkoku” features a total of 39 episodes on nine DVDs. Here is a spoiler-less summary of each episode:

DISC 1:

  • EPISODE 1- Every Good Deal Has a Catch – Shurei is offered a job worth 500 gold coins, but it’s the last thing she expected…
  • EPISODE 2- A Frog in the Well Knows Not About the Ocean – Shurei tells Ryuki of the painful events from 8 years ago and tries to get him to know more about the world.
  • EPISODE 3- The Capable Falcon Hides Its Talons – Shurei finds out that Ryuki is not as stupid as he acts.
  • EPISODE 4- Treasure Buried is Treasure Wasted – Ryuki finds out a secret about Seiran.
  • EPISODE 5- A Genius Can’t Better a Hardworking Man – Everyone meets Shuei’s awkward brother, Ryuren.

DISC 2:

  • EPISODE 6- Lacking the Finishing Touch – Ryuki becomes more of a responsible emperor but Shurei is kidnapped.
  • EPISODE 7- He Who Swims a Lot Will Drown – Ryuki is desperate and will do anything to save Shurei.
  • EPISODE 8- To Borrow a Cat’s Paw – Someone mysterious appears from Seiran’s past.
  • EPISODE 9- A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step – Shurei starts work in the outer courts but disguised as a boy.
  • EPISODE 10- Good Things Come to Those Who Wait – Everyone finds out who Ensei really is.

DISC 3:

  • EPISODE 11- There’s No Medicine For Lovesickness – Shurei falls ill after falling into a cold river and people from the palace come to help.
  • EPISODE 12- Discretion is the Better Part of Valor – Shurei meets a shy young man named Eigetsu who seems to hold some secret.
  • EPISODE 13- An Unexpected Surprise – Eigetsu’s secret is revealed and Shurei, Eigetsu, and Ryuren take the national exams.
  • EPISODE 14- Three Years on a Rock – Shurei and Eigetsu start their jobs as government officials but they face a lot of trials from the other new officials out of spite.
  • EPISODE 15- A Child Knows Not of His Parent’s Feelings – Despite all of his success, there’s still something Koyu longs for.

DISC 4:

  • EPISODE 16- There Are No Demons in this World – Shurei and Eigetsu’s troubles keep mounting but they keep doing their best. Meanwhile a plan to get rid of Shurei and her sponser, Reishin go into effect.
  • EPISODE 17- Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – Kuro Hong sets his own plan into effect after hearing of Shurei’s treatment.
  • EPISODE 18- Hiding One’s Head But Not One’s Bottom – Shurei is finally able to prove that she is truly worthy of being a government official.
  • EPISODE 19- Send Your Child on a Voyage – All of the new officials are given their new positions. Shurei and Eigetsu are both assigned to the Sa province.

DISC 5:

  • EPISODE 20- Flowers Blooming From Dead Trees – Seiran recalls his past and how he ended up with the Hong family.
  • EPISODE 21- The Wise Man Does Not Court Danger – Shurei finds out who was behind her kidnapping a year ago.
  • EPISODE 22- While There is Life, There is Hope – Korin joins Shurei and Eigetsu on their journey to the Sa province and they have 3 months to get there.
  • EPISODE 23- Companionship in Travel, Compassion in Life – Just when they are about to reach the Sa province, everyone but Shurei gets captured and Shurei must find a way to free them.

DISC 6:

  • EPISODE 24- Bolt Out of the Blue – The mastermind behind the kidnapping is revealed and the party is able to escape with the help of someone linked to the kidnapping.
  • EPISODE 25- An Accidental Resemblance – Everyone heads to Kinka without knowing about the others. Seiran and Ensei confront someone from their past.
  • EPISODE 26- Crows in a Moonless Night – Sojun finds out that Korin was captured instead of Shurei and is enraged.
  • EPISODE 27- The Prettier the Flower, the Higher the Branch – Shurei is finally reunited with the rest of her friends.

DISC 7:

  • EPISODE 28- It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn – Shurei and her party try to clear out the bandits in Kinka.
  • EPISODE 29- 1000 Years’ Worth of Thoughts in a Single Day – Shurei and the others learn of a blockade on the Sa province capital, Koren and hurry over there.
  • EPISODE 30- Women Are Brave – Shurei is determined to get through the blockade no matter what to meet the 3 month deadline.
  • EPISODE 31- A Diamond in the Rough – Shurei decides to go to the selection ceremony despite the dangers that await her.

DISC 8:

  • EPISODE 32- A Woman’s Word Is Her Bond – Shurei searches for Eiki and Kokujun in the Sa Palace.
  • EPISODE 33- No Use Crying Over Spilled Milk – The day of the Selection Ceremony for the new head of the Sa family finally arrives.
  • EPISODE 34- Fight Poison With Poison – Shurei and Shunki go to find Kokujun while Seiran confronts Sakujun.
  • EPISODE 35- Every Meeting Ends in Parting – Kokujun is officially named as head of the Sa family.

DISC 9:

  • EPISODE 36- All is Right in the World – Shurei and Eigetsu meet their assistant governer, Yushun Tei.
  • EPISODE 37- Tears From Eyes and Rain From Heaven – Shurei and Eigetsu finally safely become the governers of the Sa Province. Shurei dives into her work to get her mind off of something and Shurei and Seiran head back to Kiyo.
  • EPISODE 38- There Is No Today After Today – Shurei along with Seiran, Yushun, Kokujun, and Rin Sai get to Kiyo to attend New Year’s Greetings to the Emperor celebration.
  • EPISODE 39- Fate is a Mysterious Yet Fascinating Thing – Shurei tries to hold a get together to reunite with all of her loved ones, but Ryuki isn’t anywhere in sight…

VIDEO & AUDIO

“The Story of Saiunkoku” is presented in 16:9. The animation is high quality and the atmosphere as well as the character designs are very pretty.

For audio you have the option of either Japanese or English.  Both are in Japanese and English 2.0.

There are only English subtitles available.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

There are textless opening and textless ending options on disc 1 and 2. Otherwise there are Geneon previews available on each disc.

When watching the first episode of this series, I believe that some may get the idea that it is going to end up being an anime solely about a love story between Shurei and Ryuki… however the actual series strays far from that. Of course, the possible love story between Shurei and Ryuki are indeed a factor in this whole series, but most of the series centers around Shurei and her dream to become a government official and all of her trials and tribulations to attain that dream.

This anime surprisingly deals with alot of heavy issues such as discrimination because of age or sex. In fact, each episode corresponds with the proverb mentioned in the episode title, so each episode has some moral theme discussed. I think that was one of the parts of this anime that I enjoyed the most because I love kotowazas or proverbs. I thought that was smartly put together and entertaining.

This anime is for the most part is pretty serious, but blends in humor and action. The humor in this series can be silly, but is never too over the top. As for the action, the action is a bit more subtle so for those looking for a series full of fighting and action throughout, this series may not be for them. There is also romance involved in this series as well, but that is once again not the prominent theme of the series. However, I think the relationship between Shurei and Ryuki is absolutely charming. This is also a very character heavy series, but thankfully despite the many characters, it’s not too overwhelming. Although somewhat remeniscient of “Fushigi Yuugi”, the stories are very different and the only similarities might be that there are many important male characters surrounding one female lead character and that the stories take place in kingdoms with a lot of Chinese influences. Also, Shurei and Miaka are nothing alike.

This series mostly concentrates on Shurei’s perseverance on attaining her dream: to become a government official and helping everyone that she can. Throughout the series, she keeps overcoming various obstacles and is able to make the impossible possible. Of course, she has assistance from those around her, but the reason many of them even help her out is because they are inspired by how hard she works on her own.

This series has an all-star Japanese cast including Houko Fukushima, Tomokazu Seki, Hikaru Midorikawa, Nobuyuki Hiyama, Toshiyuki Morikawa and Shuichi Ikeda just to name a few. The English cast did a great job in the dub as well.

I believe this would be a great series for a variety of audiences. This series is smart, charming, and has bits of humor mixed in. I believe that some female fans will look forward to seeing all of the nicely drawn male characters that surround Shurei in the series. Even though action is not one of the most prominent factors of this series, there is enough of it considering this story is about politics and war as well.

However, because this is such a sophisticated story and deals with alot of politics, it may be hard for younger audiences to understand everything. I believe the humor is enough that it can keep their attention if they were to watch it.

As you watch the series, you find yourself cheering Shurei on because of everything she has to go through and what she’s willing to do just to attain her dream. Throughout the series she is able to make the impossible possible and even though the circumstances may be different in our lives, I know most of us can relate to wanting to attain an assumingly impossible dream.

I highly recommend this series and hope that others are able to enjoy it as much as I did.

 






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