(Pre-rant warning: This is less of a review and more the flailings of a fan
girlleeech, but you already knew that xD AND THERE WILL BE SPOILERS)
OK, a brief background intro
before I unleash my squee:
The movie is based on the manga of the same name (or so I believe; I've never read it) and is set in the Shotoku era (1711-1716) in Japan. An endemic of the then-incurable Red-face Pox , which affects only men, have become widespread across the country, bringing down the male population to a quarter of that of the women. With their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons dying all around them, and such few XY chromosomes available, the females have become desperate with little to no prospects of marrying and bearing children.
And then we move onto the Ooku, the Inner Chambers, which is basically the palace court of the ... queen? Empress? What? I'm not sure what the correct English term is, so I'll stick with "Shogun". The shogun basically has her own personal harem of beautiful males - not surprising since it was commonplace for olden rulers to have plenty of bed-partners, but the idea made me LOL all the same. There were some 800 bishounen or so in this movie, serving as the shogun's potential courtesans.
(Peeve: HOLY SH!TE, the country is deprived of men but the freaking ruler is privileged to have hundreds of them in her bed?? OK, OK, so only a handful of them rank high enough to be even allowed to see the shogun, and I get it that having an impressive harem is a symbol of her rule and power, but I still maintain the whole deal is insane.
Those queens of old really got around, huh?)
OK, so we've got down the state of Japan during that era and the basic idea of the Ooku. Moving onto the fanleech-ism:
This is the story of Mizuno Yunoshin, portrayed by J-pop band Arashi's member and all-round awesome actor, Nino, whom I've loved ever since seeing Ryuusei no Kizuna and even Stand Up!!
Nino, in the first fifteen minutes of the movie, was kyaa-worthy, 'cause he looked as boyishly cute and huggable and Nino as always.
|Yep, definitely got the "hero" look here.|
But then, after he decides to enter the Ooku, he went all samurai and I mourned the departure of his ... well...
|Nino, you's o-sum and all, but you're no Vin Diesel. Just sayin'.|
But I could forgive the horrible semi-head shave, simply because I love the subtle ways in which he expresses himself, especially in this film where his character is pretty complex. The only son of an impoverished family, Mizuno is a strong, kind-hearted teenager (it's enviable how a dude in his mid-late twenties can pull off a 19 year old), who is sweet and bad-ass to the core. An awesomely contradicting mix.
Mizuno's situation kind of broke my brain. In a time where poverty-stricken parents force their sons to sell their bodies to women - having a healthy son during the plague was "like having a valuable studhorse" - Mizuno's parents don't. But when women approach him, desperate for his seed in order to have children, he never refuses them out of pity (he doesn't take their money; so technically, he's not selling out. I think...)
Mizuno gets around, too, but for a comparatively better reason.
But instead of accepting marriage proposals - he could revive a bit of the population that way without having to resort to such scandalous methods - he chooses to enter the Ooku in order to earn money, where he would have to ultimately work to become a possible candidate for the shogun's bed. Um, what? Isn't that another way of selling his body, which is something he refuses to do?
But then again, he is atypically in love with his childhood best friend, O-Nobu, so his nonacceptance of marriage proposals is partially justifiable.
|Horikita Maki, who is cute and pretty even with that Japanese-Fan-Hairdo.|
Mizuno/O-Nobu is a cute-ish couple, but I still ship Horikitty with Yamapi, because apparently, watching Kurosagi and Nobuta wo Produce back-to-back has that effect on people. Yes, I'm going off topic to declare my love for Yamaki. *nods*
Maki's role is minor and not much is there to know about her character except that she's the daughter of a merchant and makes epic rice balls (*snort* That sounds almost wrong >D), but I thought she acted decently during her limited screen time. She wasn't a dead fish/corpse, which is why I'm bewildered as to why Nao complained about "HoriMaki of the no expressions". She did have the required expressions! Her character just did not seem to call for a whole lot of them IMO.
So, Mizuno ditches life as he knows it for the luxurious living at the Ooku - which he eventually discovers is all just a facade. He joins as a low-ranking page and is introduced to the caste system of the Ooku servants by the high-ranking, subtly villainous Matsushima, who is portrayed by none other than...
|My first reaction: CHIAKI-SEMPAI!!!|
TAMAKI HIROKI AJKSDLJK!!! His aloofness, his arrogance, his sly sadism ... I love this dude!
Matsushima explains that the handsome bishies of the Ooku are divided into the seniors that are allowed to see the shogun - called Grooms of the Bedchamber (appropriate, much?) - and the low-ranking poor guys that have no such privilege and are obligated to serve the Grooms. Mizuno has no problem with being one of the servants, until he learns their hardships the hard way (pardon the bad pun :P).
The movie has that high school moment where the other peers all bully and pick on the newbie arrival. But Mizuno is badass and witty and puts them in their place, resulting in his would-be bullies plotting vengeance in the form of raep (
or surprise buttsex, if you will). Mizuno manages to fight them off, but he's discovered what lies under the luxurious outer beauty of the Ooku:
Rape - and sexual relations between the men in general - is common in the Inner Chambers, as a consequence of a) being cut off from women, b) the current shogun being only 7 years old and not ready to take on her harem, and c) the seniors being horny b@$t@rds.
Also, becoming close and "friendly" with high ranking nobleman of the court gives one a high chance of being promoted; thus, many take on this challenge. Sort of like sleeping your way up the ranks.
Everyone in the Ooku gets around ... with each other.
Mizuno is shocked and disturbed to learn this - so was I, though I've long known that there is no innocence in anything associated with politics - but takes it in stride as he sees it happening all around him. His first taste of shounen-ai is when he walks in on Matsushima and his, ahem, lover, who happens to be (major fanleeching ahead):
OKURA TADAYOSHI!!! WITH LONG HAIR? FO RLZ??!!
DUDE! I've been exposed to Tacchon from the moment I fell in love with Kanjani8 and fully acknowledge him as the prettiest member of the group. I've seen him with short hair, curly hair, horrible hair, wig hair, frickin' blond hair and somanysidesofhimtolist and thought there was no way he could possibly get any prettier, but OH YOU'VE PROVED ME WRONG THERE, TACCHON. YOU'VE VIOLATED THE LAWS OF NATURE; HOW COULD SOMETHING AS TRIFLE AS A LONG-HAIRED WIG MAKE YOU EVEN PRETTIER, HUH?!
Okura Tadayoshi has officially made it to my list of Japanese idol dudes that need to be put under a pact where it is illegal for them to have short hair, which includes but is not limited to: Shibutani Subaru, Nishikido Ryo, Akanishi Jin, Taguchi Junnosuke and Nagase Tomoya.
Ahem. Moving on from the fanleech rant, yeah, he plays Tsuruoka, Matsushima's lover. Heck.
|Tamaki-chan, may I take your place? Like, forever? Please?? xD|
I love this screen shot; not for the shounen ai, but for the pure gorgeousness
because I obviously had another fanleech moment when I came upon this. And though Tacchon looks girlier prettier than possible, it is also the manliest Tacchon I've ever seen, and that's really an achievement because, as a rule, he doesn't really do manly.
Tsuruoka is a minor character, but I loved Tacchon's portrayal of him. He was so ... intense.
|Those eyes ... *.* I adore the way he looks at Nino. Such cold hatred.|
A sophisticated, collected, impeccable nobleman of great beauty, Tsuruoka is the best swordsman in the Ooku ... until he goes up against Mizuno.
|I loved their fights more than I can say~|
I tried really hard not to ship Tsuruoka and Mizuno together, I really did. But that part of me that ignites at the very thought of forbidden love, opposites attracting and
sexual tension between hot-headed rivals ... Not to mention it being Nino and Tacchon ... It was inevitable. I ended up dreaming entire fanfiction scenarios between the two. And because my brain is hardwired into genderbending, I imagined the majority of it with Mizuno being a girl and that doesn't even make sense because Tacchon will always look more like a girl than Nino. Period.
In any case, this movie is strife with the concept of shounen ai - sleeping your way to the top plays a darn big role in Ooku; it is not graphic, just heavily implied.
In fact, the most graphic shounen ai scene in the whole movie involves Mizuno, the dude who refuses to allow seniors to touch him, ironically; and it comes in the form of comic relief. When Kakizoe, the ultimate Shotoku era fanboy, asks for "just a memory", Mizuno leaves Kakizoe with quite a memory by awkwardly mouthraeping him.
Back to the Ooku. The 7 year old shogun dies, and a new shogun, Yoshimune, replaces her, portrayed by Shibasaki Kou.
|Beautiful and intimidating. Perfect.|
The new shogun is a deadly combination of beauty, intelligence, commanding, stern, grace and the I-ain't-taking-bullsh!t-from-anybody attitude I admire in strong female characters. I loved her at once. Even though she took a fancy to Mizuno, choosing him as the Secret Swain - the male to take her virginity - which, according to the law, would result in him being decapitated because he's marring the shogun's untouched being.
Crazy insane laws.
I've spoilt this film enough and I'll leave the ending untouched. Suffice to say, the film is a work of art that blew my mind. The plot, the flow, the dialogue, the characters, the acting - they were so well done and beautiful. To speak of technicalities, the editing and direction were top-notch and the soundtrack - my gosh, the soundtrack - it just blew me away! Rhythmic, Oriental and so majestic, it was one of the highlights of the entire movie. I want. NOW.
Don't get me started on the lighting and cinematography. I have no words.
I'll just leave these here: