Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is a Japanese Manga series that reimagines a world where women are in the majority. They control the economy, government and family structure – all things previously handled by men. The manga was created by Fumi Yoshinaga in 2008 and ended in 2020.
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers was adapted by Netflix into an anime series and was released globally in June 2023. This was not the first time the show had been adapted. In 2010, there was a live-action adaptation called Ooku Danjo Gyakuten and then in 2012, there was a live-action TV series that ran for 10 episodes.
What Is Ōoku: The Inner Chambers About?
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers is based on the Ōoku practice during the Edo period of Japan. The Ōoku was a residence for the concubines of the Shogun but instead of female concubines, the show featured male concubines. The reason for this is based on a pandemic that was eradicating the male populace of Japan.
Young and teenage men had started to die from a mysterious incurable smallpox pandemic. This led to women to adopting male names, controlling the government and running their families and businesses. The boys who survived the pandemic were groomed to provide children for other women and mostly worked in brothels. A choice selection of these men were taken to the Ōoku where they provided the same service of fatherhood and sexual pleasure to the Shogun who was also a woman.
The Netflix adaptation of the show focuses on the history of this society. It addresses the origins of its structure while changing a lot of the structures that exist. This perusal of history happens with flashbacks as the most recent Shogun decides to interrogate why things are the way they are with the view to make significant changes.
Who Are The Characters On The Show?
At the centre of the story in Ōoku: The Inner Chambers are Arikoto and Lemistu. The former was the first female Shogun and Arikoto, a former monk, was one of the first members of the Ōoku when it was being built. The two develop a relationship even after a period of contention and both grow in the process. Arikoto’s inability to make Lemistu pregnant causes problems for them and even after she dies, he takes over the running of the Ōoku and teaches her daughter, the next Shogun, the ways of governance.
Kasuga and Gyokuei are two other characters who play a major role in the events of the TV show. Kasuga is Lemistu’s nanny and was her father’s nanny. She has controversial and archaic ideas about how the Ōoku should be run, which leads to some conflict. Gyokuei is a young monk who travels with Arikoto and joins the Ōoku with him when he is forcibly recruited.
What Are The Major Themes Of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers?
Ōoku: The Inner Chambers addresses a number of relevant issues in society, surrounding gender roles, identity and queerness. The shows see women take on the roles that men played when unexpected circumstances arise. To ensure that they maintain the structure of society they take on roles typically performed by men. In the process of doing this, they also take on the identity of men, wearing their clothes and bearing their names. This upholds the illusion of an active male society, especially to foreigners.
This fluidity in gender representation is also present in sexual representation. In the Ōoku, there were many cases of men having sexual and romantic relationships with each other. They oscillated between being able to perform sexual duties on the female shogun and doing the same thing to other men in the Ōoku.
Does Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Have Any Cultural Relevance?
The themes of the Ōoku: The Inner Chambers are relevant in today’s world. The show’s address of gender roles, gender representation and sexuality offers a lens into what the world might look like if women were not a minority class. By doing so, it sheds light on the potential impact such a shift could have on societal dynamics.
Gender roles have long been a topic of discussion and scrutiny, as they influence how individuals are expected to behave based on their assigned gender. Ōoku: The Inner Chambers delves into this by flipping the traditional gender paradigm, where women hold positions of power while men become a marginalized group. Also, By depicting diverse sexual orientations and relationships, the series acknowledges the importance of embracing and respecting the spectrum of human experiences.
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