OP: 「Exist」 by (RAISE A SUILEN)
「機密事項〇三三 キンコバン」 (Kimitsu Jikō Maru San San Kinko-ban)
“Confidential File 033, The Treasurer”
As promised, here’s the review for the second episode of Jouran: Princess of Blood and Snow. But we at Random Curiosity are tweaking the coverage of this series to include me (Miss) and Princess Usagi, one of our fresh-off-the-press contributors.
We’re both wildly excited to be covering Jouran. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you know I like to keep my research light and dive more into the story, so Princess Usagi’s perspective will provide exceptional depth satisfying those of you who are keen to learn more about Japanese history, folklore, and more.
Miss Simplice’s Review
Entering this second episode, I expected some kind of plot, a secret that would explain Asahi’s actions but…This is no secret. Her actions are not a result of an undercover scheme. It’s the result of an open wound, pain and hurt gushing out, overflowing, and ravaging her youth. And it’s in plain sight for everyone to see.
It’s no wonder that, despite her cold exterior, Sawa chooses to show kindness to the young girl. She’s forced onto Asahi the tragedy she was subjected to a decade ago. The key difference is that she’s providing a safe haven for Asahi after her abuse whereas Jin provided Sawa with tools of destruction and murder. Sawa’s pain was taken advantage of in the same way Asahi’s pain is being used by Makoto as a means to an end…Sawa’s end. The parallels are far too big to ignore and provide just the right foundation and distinctions to form an emotionally complex relationship.
I appreciate this series because it leaves room and time for the evolution of a convoluted narrative. The overall aesthetic is another reason why it appeals to me. I love the combination of sketch art (during the action scenes) with the more elevated animation style throughout the rest of the episode. The sketch art and calligraphy (poem) is a stylistic approach that brings a classic and traditional tone to the overall series, making it visually beautiful. I do wonder if the rough edit and cuts are a stylistic choice as well. Let me know if you noticed that technical aspect. It was slightly jarring but I can get used to it if it’s a common trait of the series. All this to say, if I wasn’t going to watch for the characters or the story, I would watch just for the visuals.
Luckily, I am still very much intrigued by the story and the characters. Having a better understanding of Sawa’s origins as well as Asahi’s means that ongoing episodes will be less about unveiling the mystery that is their past but about building a potential future for the two. I’m referring to both characters as though Asahi is a main but it’s because, now that I understand their bond (if you want to call it that), I can’t see Sawa progressing without Asahi by her side. Sawa is now accountable for someone’s life whether she knows it or not. So, will she be the reason Asahi grows up to be a killer, burdening her with such a sin?
This brings me to the infamous Janome, a man set on bringing down the shogunate using these changelings. There isn’t much more we know about the changelings or the suspicious underground scientist, however, we do know that the blue blood from Sawa’s village was weaponized. This blood, unlike what I initially thought, has always been within her. But this still doesn’t rule out that the natural resource ‘rkyumakyu’ could be at the source of her village’s blue veins. It’ll be interesting to learn more about this.
Destruction, pain, death, blood, treason, hierarchy, rebellion. These are all results of a world where there is no trust, no loyalties, no matter which team you might be batting for or which family you come from (re Asahi). Hence that ending I presume?
Princess Usagi’s Review
This was an episode of contrasts for me in the setting and in Yukimura herself. Yukimura in Japanese means “Snow Village”, describing how Kuzuhara found her in her village during a snowfall. Later on, the Treasurer calls her “Karasumori”, meaning “Crow Forest” (which explains why she is sometimes accompanied by a crow). According to the Treasurer, information about Yukimura’s village was blotted out, explaining why she goes by a drastically different name.
The contrast in word-imagery of a (usually) black crow against white snow is portrayed beautifully by Yukimura’s black kimono that fades to white. When Yukimura transforms, her wardrobe changes to white, symbolic of the village she hides and her identity that Nue wishes to harness. In Japanese folklore, Nue is a mysterious chimera-bird, an appropriate name for a secret organization formed from members with a variety of skills.
Just as Yukimura’s kimono fades from black to white, in Japan at large a surface normality fades into deeper tensions. At the restaurant where Yukimura and the Treasurer meet, a quiet newsflash telling of political friction is almost drowned out by the peaceful din of conversation. It is of note that Kyushu is portrayed as a break-away realm because in real-life, a little over 50 years before this story, Kyushu was the site of rebellions against the government to protest policies regarding samurai status and admittance of Westerners to the country.
What the news briefing doesn’t mention but the Treasurer does, is violence in Yamaguchi. In the normal timeline, also around 50 years prior, there were plans for an insurrection in Yamaguchi that ultimately failed (the rebels somehow lost all their weapons). The bloody corpses in this alternate history show the outcome of the Yamaguchi rebellion succeeding.
It is a nice touch that they bring through some of the tensions from the original Meiji period-it makes the setting more believable and foreshadows a coming breaking point. There is only so much the government can suppress, even with the help of Nue. If these revolts continue, I am sure there will be a change on the horizon for this alternate Japan.
ED: 「Embrace the Light」by (RAISE A SUILEN)
boy oh boy this one is right up my alley
shadows of an empire
state security, assassins, revenge tale
La Femme Nikita meets The Crow, anyone?
This was definitely one of the shows I was most looking forward to this season and it hasn’t disappointed thus far! The story and the characters really draw you in.
This show is off to a good start. The shows I’ve been thinking of as I watch it are Dororo and Darker than Black.
I think Sawa is pretty fascinating so far. It’s common enough to have an emotionally frozen character or one driven solely by a thirst for vengeance, but Sawa exceeds all who came before her. When she stares into the abyss, she does not look away. My impression of her transformation last episode had me think ‘yuki-onna’ rather than the crow her name would suggest. Incidentally, and further to last episode, the artwork as she approached the east gate tunnel entrance was fantastic.
https://randomc.net/image/Jouran/Jouran%20-%2001%20-%20Large%2026.jpg and especially the few seconds before the crow flew up (as an aside, I sort of dismissed that the bird was a crow due to its colouring, especially its eyes. I guess I should have looked more closely.)
So this is two episodes now in which the necessary death was not what she wanted. I wonder if this will become a common theme.
You bring up some of the real-life timelines for context. I guess it’s a fitting time for the show given that Japan was in a pretty chaotic state given the ongoing threat of assassination.
That is an interesting point about the yuki-onna, especially with the snow connection in her name! Sawa is definitely a dangerous character with death surrounding her. I’m sure each new death is painful for her, re-opening the wounds of past losses.
Just reminded myself about that white raven being term for very rare book…
Guess what is Sawa’s front/cover? Bookstore owner!
Not just her name… the show’s name as well. Of course, I didn’t think of that when I saw her appearance change 🙂 but later when I saw the full title it struck me.