Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Reader's Diary #1339- Fumi Yoshinaga: Ooku Vol. 1 The Inner Chambers

The premise of Fumi Yoshinaga's Ooku series reminded me of Brian K. Vaughan's Y: The Last Man. In Vaughan's series a man named Yorick and his pet monkey find themselves to be the last remaining mammals on the planet with a Y chromosome. In Yoshinaga's the situation isn't quite as bleak but the biologically male population has taken a huge beating in numbers due to a disease. In both cases, society is now run by females. To say these are role reversal books is not, of course, entirely true as in both cases half the population has almost vanished and the women in these stories need to also deal with a shortage of labour.

Premise aside, Ooku and Y: The Last Man are quite different and this can largely be attributed to the setting. With Y: The Last Man set in modern day U.S., the flips of society and comparisons to our present North American culture are more blatant and obvious. I've read that Ooku has won a couple of awards for its exploration of gender, but it's set in feudal Japan and so the culture would be quite unfamiliar to me even without a play on gender norms.

However, this setting actually held my interest a bit more and during my reading of Ooku, found myself looking up things like the real, historical Ooku and homosexuality in Japan, which helped increase my understanding of the book, and my enjoyment (who doesn't like to learn something new?).

I enjoyed Yoshinaga's art, while it was somewhat inconsistent. When she put her all into the backgrounds and patterns (especially on clothing) the work could be stunning. Too often, however, panels consisted merely of simple facial close-ups.

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