「宦官と妓女」 (Kangan to Gijo)
“The Eunuch and the Courtesan”

Damn, the court means business- punishing not only Fengming, but her family and her family’s business connections. It’s rather unfair to fire girls who had nothing to do with her crimes and were only tangentially connected to her personage- it’s not their fault. But that’s politics. Not that her family was entirely innocent- it comes to light that one of the families connected to her were the people who kidnapped and sold Mao Mao. Which would mean that Mao Mao would also be fired from her palace duties through her connection with them.

Jinshi, for once, considers Mao Mao and how he could best respect her wishes, whether keeping her at the palace for his own selfish purposes would be gratifying to her, or to let her go. I think Jinshi is taking a much more emotional approach to this than Mao Mao. Mao Mao acts based upon what is convenient for her in the moment rather than the feelings of the people involved. Not that Jinshi is the king of consideration- cue that horrible honey harassment a few episodes ago. It is a double standard- it’s ok to let the other girls off, but not Mao Mao, which in that sense, she and Jinshi are alike.

Mao Mao, when she hears about this realizes what will happen to her- the equivalent of getting tossed out of the frying pan into the fire. It’s the first time I’ve seen her this panicked, and with good reason- getting sold off into prostitution by grandma is a horrible fate. In the end, Jinshi decides to let her go, rather than to continue using her as a pawn. It seems he has some modicum of consideration, though why he can’t show that consistently, I don’t know- and it still doesn’t make him a character I’d like or trust. Thankfully, he sends Mao Mao off with enough money so she doesn’t get forced into prostitution, though she still ends up accompanying her “sisters” to a night of entertainment at a filthy rich noble’s house.

As fate would have it, she runs into none other than Jinshi, who is busy bemoaning his broken heart. This was probably intended as a swoon-worthy encounter- handsome court gentleman in love with a broke girl, offers to buy her out. But I certainly wasn’t feeling it. I find Jinshi’s preoccupation with Mao Mao’s chastity creepy (it’s none of his fucking business) not to mention the way he constantly disrespects her personal boundaries. I was so done, so done with Jinshi when he started pressuring her to let him touch her. Respect her boundaries for the love of all that is good in this world.

Importantly, Mao Mao gets her job back, which has far more decent prospects for her amazing brain, in researching and poison testing to her heart’s desire. This isn’t a straightforward “Yes!! I accept!” for her, however. The rear palace gives her free rein to test poisons to her heart’s desire, but it proves to be as much of a cage as the pleasure district, only it takes on a different form. Normally Mao Mao is very black or white, decisive about a situation (even if the decision she comes to is questionable), so it was a change to see her stuck between a crossroads. I think one of recurring themes is that there is no such thing as freedom- you’re ultimately always bound by something or someone.

Another central theme that stood out to me in this episode was introspection. Jinshi was lost in thought, Mao Mao was deep in contemplation. Rather fitting for the end of the first cour- we got a chance to see the character building over the past 12 episodes come to a head here, giving us and the characters a chance to reflect on everything that’s happened so far and what it means to them. While the characters haven’t solved their quandaries, it is clear where the next phase of the story will head.

Overall, this was a good first cour. I feel like the adaptation did a fair job of adapting the material and Mao Mao’s character was really brought to life (for me, the highlight of this series). The music was a little wanting, considering the composer is Kevin Penkin, but that’s really only a small gripe. Yuuki Aoi really carried the show with Mao Mao and added shine to the series with her nuanced portrayal. I am looking forward to the next cour and am glad we will not have to wait for that!



  1. I don’t see Jinshi’s problematic behavior as an intentional swoon-worthy moment the same way that many authors write toxic male love interests, and summarizing it as such might be cutting his character a bit short. Sure, many of his actions are troubling (I am not excusing him for that), but both his problematic and good sides are careful reflection on the world that he was born into similar to how Mao Mao’s background has given her a more pragmatic and cynical outlook on life.

    The main reason why I don’t see it as a swoon worthy moment is because neither does Mao Mao, the POV character. Through Mao Mao, a poor commoner woman, we see an unfair world full of power struggle from a position of someone without much bargaining chip aside from her brain. Mao Mao doesn’t observe Jinshi with fascination, fantasy nor intrigue the same way a Cinderella might see her prince because being fascinated by a far more powerful man who doesn’t necessary always realize the imbalance in power is a VERY dangerous position to be in.

    Jinshi is a brat, but an interesting one from a character study standpoint as he too helps to illustrate the world Mao Mao is forced to inhibit. He is born into a position of power surrounded by people who either fawn over him or can’t really discipline him. Although he doesn’t seem to be a douchebag by nature (as when given the chance to be truly cruel or indifference, he does rise to be a better person), he is a good reflection of noblemen who don’t really realize their privilege nor how easy it can be for them to abuse the power they have even when they aren’t intending to harm someone. The episode when Mao Mao resignedly told Jinshi to use poison if he is ever going to execute her is a good example. Jinshi enjoys poking Mao Mao for her reaction, but he doesn’t realize that there is no one who will stop him from going too far aside from himself, and the same power that allows him to bully Mao Mao to lick honey is also the exact same power that will allow him to execute her if only he wishes to do so. I hope there will be more moments like that in the future as it might give Jinshi the chance to really reflect on his position and better understand how Mao Mao sees him.

    Hearing that people who are hoping for romance complains that the Mao Mao and Jinshi’s relationship is VERY slow burn is quite reassuring to me as it should give both of them (especially Jinshi) the chance to grow into someone who can have healthy relationship with one other. Jinshi is still a dick now, but he is written complexly enough that I do have hope for his character in the future.

    1. As people already said, he is about a year older (his “official” age as Jinshi is a bit higher but it does not matter). Also, she will be like 18 by the end of the season and at the start of latest translated LN she is already 20.


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