The pace of Ooku ~Tanjou~ (大奥 ~誕生~ – Inner Palace ~Birth~) has slowed tremendously since its promising start. I find myself unsympathetic to all but a minor character (Masakatsu), and a number of the characters are downright annoying. Parts of the plot that should have been given more time (especially the development of the relationship between Arikoto and the Shogun) were almost entirely skipped over (through time-lapse) while the plot as it is drags on. There’s nothing spectacular about the acting – certainly nothing to keep me watching this drama.

So, this is the last chance. Either they make some serious moves, or I’m going to give up on this drama after this episode. Let’s see how it goes.

At the end of the previous episode, the Shogun (Tabe Mikako) and her new consort, a good-for-nothing-except-procreation idiot, did what Lady Kasuga expected of them:

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And to my great surprise, it actually worked! The Shogun got pregnant, and the Ooku is in a good mood. Well, except for Arikoto (Sakai Masato) presumably, though he doesn’t show it.

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What I don’t get is, why couldn’t the Shogun have had a kid with Arikoto? I thought she said she couldn’t get pregnant, and suddenly, it seems like she managed it quite easily. I confess to being a bit lost. There’s no questioning the pregnancy, though, since we hardly get to blink an eye, and there the baby is:

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Of course, it isn’t a son. A son would mess up the way this alternate history where female shoguns become commonplace develops. It’s a daughter. So, will the Shogun come up with a way to secure the throne for her first surviving offspring?

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The example of the Shogun – a daughter secretly succeeding her father – doesn’t get lost on the leading nobles. Concerned about the survival of their own houses, and lacking male heirs who can survive the scarlet smallpox, the lords begin talking openly about having their daughters pretend to be sons.

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Lord Matsudaira (Danta Yasunori) isn’t just thinking about it . . .

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. . . he’s already done it. His daughter is taking to the manly life with a vengeance. Matsudaira himself isn’t too happy about having to do it, nor what the change has turned his daughter into, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

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The interaction between the Shogun and the father of her child remains strained, though polite.

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He also seems markedly more confident, especially when speaking with Arikoto.

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There’s a sense, though, that Arikoto is more the Shogun’s husband, and the one she wants as the father of the child . . .

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. . . but if Lady Kasuga has her way, the idiot will help the Shogun produce a son. In that case, would Kasuga let the two main characters have the relationship they seem to prefer, placing the child on the throne? Or would she be even more keen to keep them apart and control the situation since the male heir would not be safe until he got past smallpox age – past his twenties?

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For now, all Kasuga’s bets are on this guy . . .

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. . . so it’s sort of unfortunate for her that he tries to grab a fruit that was too high in the tree, and sustains a serious injury as he collapses to the ground.

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The injury leaves him paralyzed on one side, and has apparently caused additional brain damage, as well.

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I hate this, because this character hasn’t managed to win any sympathy from the viewer, so I don’t really feel sorry for him. When such a tragedy occurs, the person it happens to should either be evil, or should have gained some sympathy from the viewer, because those two cases maximize the impact of the event. As it is, this injury seemed to be nothing more than a plot device – a way of moving to the next phase of the story – conveying little or no emotional content at all.

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Well, let’s face it, with Arikoto as the main character, the emotionally charged content has been rather minimal since the first episode, where one of his acolytes was killed by Kasuga. That moment gave me so much hope that this would be a daring drama. Instead, there was no follow-through, and Arikoto has been left mostly stone-faced.

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Though he seems to enjoy himself when he’s with the Shogun:

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It doesn’t sound like Kasuga is willing to leave them alone for long, though. She’ll give Arikoto as much time as it takes for her to get a new candidate ready. If he can’t get the Shogun pregnant before then, he’ll once again have to vacate her private chamber.

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Meanwhile, we get a moment with my favorite character in the whole morass – Masakatsu. Pretending to be the Shogun, he has to acknowledge his son’s ascent into manhood without revealing his identity. His son thinks he’s dead, and he cannot reveal the truth.

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No other moment in this episode had me more interested than this one. What will Masakatsu do? Can he really just go through the ceremony as normal, or will he do something unexpected?

Other than that, nothing about the episode really sparked my curiosity. The dramatic paralysis of Arikoto’s competition was certainly a surprise, but it didn’t really seem to produce any real change in the situation. The Shogun and Arikoto still apparently love each other, but also are still unable to produce offspring even though the Shogun is clearly fertile. So, we’re doomed to see a new consort walk in.

I just don’t understand the conflict, and the characters don’t seem to understand it, either, because after story-years of living with each other, they haven’t done anything about it. We have not seen Arikoto or the Shogun do anything to improve their own situation since they decided to fall in love with each other. They have literally been inert – just holding each other tenderly and . . . well, that’s really it.

So, I’m going to put this series on the back-burner. If I get the chance, I’ll finish it up, but I can’t even get interested in watching the rest of the episodes at this point, much less writing about them.

If you have a different sense of this series, feel free to contribute your thoughts about it. Your opinions may help me see it from a different angle.

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