Final Thoughts: Saiunkoku Monogatari II

Last time we time we saw Shuurei and her friends, they were in the process of putting the Sa province to rights, but of course, their troubles are far from over. First, there’s the outbreak of a deadly plague and the emergence of the mystical Hyou family to deal with, but after that, there are even more trials and troubles to overcome. Can Shuurei become an official capable of handling whatever is thrown at her- and can Ryuuki can become a king worthy of the throne of Saiunkoku?

Everyone knows how much I loved SaiMono after its first season, and so it was that I decided to jump straight into season two, despite the lack of subtitles. Thankfully, Impz was on hand to help out with anything I didn’t understand, and so I was able to make it through all 39 episodes of a series that became increasingly complex and riddled with new characters as it went on.

SaiMono had a hardly been a series that was light on characters in its first season, but the second season seemed set to take that to new heights. As the world of Saiunkoku expanded and new threads were woven into the plot, they brought with them new characters, some mere supporting personalities, others of higher importance. Even though the result should have been to make Saiunkoku a more complex place, it also meant that the now immense cast was competing for time, with important season one characters being shoved to the sidelines for long periods of time even as the viewer grappled with the surge of new and often unremarkable faces. Why should we care about all these new officials and doctors when all we wanted was to see Seiran actually do something?

Fortunately, it wasn’t all doom and gloom on the character front; not only did Eigetsu, Shusui and to a lesser extent Shuuei get a chance to shine in their respective arcs, but a couple of the new faces actually proved to be worthy additions to the cast. In particular, we saw the introduction of Shin “Tantan” Suou, a laid back person who becomes Shuurei’s guide from innocence and naïveté to the way the real world works, and Jyuusan-hime, a daughter of the Ran clan whose inner fortitude and streetwise nature make her the perfect contrast to Shuurei.

Amidst all this, there was still enough time to ensure that Shuurei herself continued on her journey of development, although the tone this takes is a little different than it was in season one. Back then, it seemed as if Shuurei’s determination to succeed was all that was required, whilst her male friends were always there to protect her idealism and naïveté from some of the harsher realities of the world. This time around, she is forced to grow more as she is left to take more responsibility for her own actions- she may have friends in high places, but they know the best thing for her is to sort out her problems on her own. It is interesting to wonder what the ultimate result of this will be- obviously Shuurei cannot remain naïve forever if she is to survive in the world of politics, but at the same time, if that idealism and determination to make the world a better place is lost, something very fundamental about her character will be changed forever.

Although he spends much of the early part of the series sitting in his throne room and receiving information about the plot in the form of recap episodes, Ryuuki also gets a chance to grow up a little in the latter part of the series. Although we’ve already seen him go from a ruler who felt too unworthy to even bother with his duties to someone who is trying his best for Shuurei’s sake, there is still some way to go for our young emperor. As long as his actions are motivated purely by his interest in Shuurei, he can never grasp the bigger picture and make the kind of decisions required of him (including taking a wife, of course). Ultimately, though, does he have the strength to become a better ruler, or should he just step down and let someone else take his place?

With all these character concerns, it is no surprise that the story of SaiMono started to become more complex, diverging as it did onto all sorts of threads covering everything from art theft to Shuurei’s future as an official. Unfortunately, unlike last season, these episodes started to suffer from the ever-present danger of catching up to the novels, with the pacing slowing down a little too much in places (the plague arc became an extended ER episode for some weeks) and recap episodes appearing a little too often. And with the novels still ongoing, it was impossible to wrap everything up in this series- all we can hope for is an OVA or two once the next few novels are released, because there are certainly plenty of dangling threads that it would be nice to see resolved eventually.

Visually, SaiMono seems to have earned a slightly bigger budget injection for this season, so whilst the animation still isn’t entirely consistent, the beauty of the character designs shines through even more than it does in the first season. Aside from a new ED, the music is basically the same as it was in season one (even the OP is reused)- a selection of period style themes that fit the tone of the series well but tend to become repetitive when listened to on their own.

Final Thoughts

Thanks to the increasing complexity of the world of Saiunkoku, the second season of SaiMono is slower paced and perhaps a little ‘colder’ than its predecessor, covering so many characters and story threads that it lacks the intimacy of the first season. Nonetheless, if you enjoyed the first thirty-nine episodes, watching this batch is highly recommended- it’s no Twelve Kingdoms, but it still makes for worthy viewing.

Tier: Gold-

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10 Responses to Final Thoughts: Saiunkoku Monogatari II

  1. Machi says:

    As I watch Saiunkoku Monogatari I just can’t help but think that they’re really going after the old Chinese epic novels format. Wherein it really is injected with tons of characters and constantly riddled with issues popping up. Only real difference is Saiunkoku takes its time to develop most of its characters when possible.

  2. Karura says:

    Machi: I hadn’t thought of it that way before but now that you mention it, I see exactly what you mean. Who knows, maybe we’ll have 108 named characters by the end, if we don’t already.

  3. Ka Yan says:

    So does shuurie marries the king or not?
    I hope she does…

  4. dipendot says:

    i really look forward to the ending of this story. im really in love with the story. i play their OST over and over.

  5. Kena says:

    I love this anime to death….. it is simply stunning and captivating. i want to know wat ryuuki said in her ear in the final episode of season two….i cant find any subtitled versions of this ep. and im mad cuz i dont understand japanese….do they get married, i wonder does shurei love ryuuki cuz they make the cutest couple ever. ever since the first ep. i have been entrnced by this series and i want to know wat happens between them…….i reallly, really, really hope they get together… i hate when anime shows end it makes me cry…and i literally cried when i watched this

  6. chisa says:

    yeh your right! they are the cutest couple ever! ryuukiXshurei 4ever!!!!!!

  7. rotessa says:

    did shuurei fell in love with ryuuki?..
    ..please tell me…..
    i really love this anime….i hve the dvd,
    but its until season 1 ep 1-4- and
    season 2 ep1-6…
    im really looking forward to its ending…
    please tell me…….

  8. foxiscully says:

    I think most of us fell in love with the series bcoz of the Ryuuki-Shuurei pairing. So, I do not think that the producers/writers et al would want to risk the wrath of the SaiMono fan legion if Ryuuki & Shuurei do not get together at the end of all these. To answer Kena on what Ryuuki whispered to Shuurei at the end of season 2 series, I believe we were not supposed to know what was actually said; but through some other blogs, there was one good guess that it is Ryuuki’s favourite word to Shuurie which is…”forever” ; )

  9. AS says:

    so did ryuuki marry the 13th princess? and would she become the first lady or sth like higher posision than shuurei(if shurrei accpeted the proposal)? these ques had been bothering me. hahahaha

  10. Kimori says:

    I am actually kind of disappointed that the second series of Saiunkoku Monogatari didn’t conclude with what happens with Shuurei and Ryuuki. I know it couldn’t be helped since the novel wasn’t completed yet but I would have preferred it if the author finished Shuurei’s and Ryuuki’s story arc first and made them secondary characters like how it was done in the Twelve Kingdoms. It just made me feel like the whole second series was quite pointless especially with the slightly anti-climatic ending. Still, the series on its own is worth watching because of the character development and intricate storyline. Just didn’t quite get the focus on Shuurei and Ryuuki I was hoping for after watching the first series.

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