Tale of Saiunkoku (season 1) final thoughts

June 25, 2010

Things aren't always rosy in the land of Saiunkoku.

Tale of Saiunkoku is an unusual anime; it has romance and action (or, more precisely, violent political intrigue), but much of the story concerns the aspirations of a young woman, who wishes to serve in the government bureaucracy. Although it has its weaknesses, it is charming, and I can recommend it to someone looking for a solid storyline about work and politics.

This post reflects my views after having completed season 1 (39 episodes), but I intend to keep my remarks spoiler-free.

The artwork tends to be pleasing, showing life in a mythical past.

For those trying to decide if they should try Tale of Saiunkoku, I think the most critical factor is whether you can enjoy the basic genre. This is a shojou series, in some ways it is comparable to a Nancy Drew story (without the mystery), that is the focus is on the adventures of a spunky, young heroine. Although there are subplots related to romance (especially in the second half), the main thrust of the series is the heroine’s efforts to make a meaningful contribution to society as a government bureaucrat, despite being dismissed by some. She is assisted and hindered by a cast of mostly bishounen, that is stylistically attractive young men. If you are looking for great fight sequences, this isn’t the right show for you, as the fights are mostly dramatic poses. This is not to say the story is without violence, as the world of Saiunkoku can be quite treacherous, but serious threats are as likely to come from poison, and action really isn’t the focus here.

Our heroine, Shuurei.

I said there were weaknesses, in particular the second half uses some supernatural elements that I don’t think improved the story. Other than these, the story was remarkably grounded, so I question their inclusion, or at least their handling. The show also felt like it had a few too many characters, so some minor characters never got developed, and seemed like awkward inclusions on the same stage as those who were fully formed. Despite these flaws, the main story does make watching it worthwhile. Having 39 episodes means we get to follow Shuurei over several stages of development. There are a couple of episodes where the plot seems to stall, but for the most part Tale of Saiunkoku presents an engaging story about one young woman’s efforts to overcome adversity and contribute to society.

If you would like a little more info on the series, including the setting, please take a look at my first impressions review (also spoiler free).

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