In an anime season packed with blockbuster titles, Raven of the Inner Palace is quickly cementing itself as one of the season's sleeper hits. Many anime fans have fallen in love with the show due to its fictionalized ancient China setting, historical drama storyline, and gripping vibe. But, if Raven of the Inner Palace isn't releasing quickly enough, or for those interested in similar titles, look no further than The Story of Saiunkoku.
The Story of Saiunkoku began as a series of light novels written by Sai Yukino. The series began in 2003, concluding in 2011, quickly gaining a sizable fanbase as the series went on. The series proved popular enough to recieve an anime adaptation from popular studio Madhouse, the same animation studio behind Boogiepop and Others, Parasyte -the maxim-, and My Love Story!!
The Story of Saiunkoku follows Shurei Hong, a woman who lives in the fictional kingdom of Saiunkoku. Hong's ancestors were once a powerful and wealthy family in the area. Alas, they fell on hard times. So now, Hong's father works as the Imperial palace's librarian. While this job does carry a lot of respect, it pays peanuts, meaning that Hong must make up the shortfall. She does this by doing odd jobs and teaching in the temple, but this is only a stepping stone. She dreams of passing the imperial examinations and getting a role within the government. However, while Hong is clever enough to ace the tests, women are banned from taking government roles, making her dream seem impossible.
Hong's life soon takes a turn when she is approached by the Emperor's Grand Adviser. The Adviser makes Hong an intriguing, albeit strange, offer. He invites her to become the Emperor's consort for six months. The Adviser explains that the new Emperor, Ryuuki Shi, is a slacker who seems to have no care or understanding for courtly matters, and the Adviser hopes that Hong can turn him around. Hong is unsure, but the massive amount of money offered leads to her agreeing. She soon learns that life in the court isn't easy and being a woman in this male-dominated environment makes the task much harder.
Why Will Raven of the Inner Palace Fans Love The Story of Saiunkoku?
One of the key similarities between The Story of Saiunkoku and Raven of the Inner Palace is their settings. While both take place in fictional kingdoms, these kingdoms are clearly inspired by historical China.
From fashion, architecture, culture, and even the government systems. In fact, for those unfamiliar with Chinese history and missed the locations' names, you could easily believe that both stories were historical dramas set in real-life historical China.
Because of this, both series share a similar aesthetic. While they both have slightly different animation styles, the historical buildings, spaces and costumes make them feel very similar to viewers. This is only made more noticeable as shows focus on political intrigue and court life, so both shows are dialogue heavy. These shared plot beats mean that both shows have a lot of similar shots and moments, allowing you to appreciate how a show's setting and environment shape its mood, meaning that viewers who enjoy one show will also enjoy the other.
Another theme both shows explore is gender roles and gender hierarchy. The Story of Saiunkoku and Raven of the Inner Palace have female lead characters. Both characters are outsiders, though in different ways. While Hong is a literal outsider, brought into the inner circle, the Raven Consort is part of the palace, though she is kept separate from the rest of the people who work there due to her status and the lore surrounding her. On top of this, Raven of the Inner Palace also features several other female characters, and the early episodes of the anime have made a point of showing how their gender forces them into lower roles within the court's hierarchy, which often strips them of agency. This theme persists in The Story of Saiunkoku, with Hong's gender often causing issues for her.
Anime fans who enjoy Raven of the Inner Palace should also try The Story of Saiunkoku. The shows share a similar setting and aesthetic and touch on similar themes, meaning that they feel very similar. However, despite this, they both tell different stories that are equally gripping as one another. Making them the perfect double feature for anime fans who just can't wait for more Raven of the Inner Palace episodes to hit screens.
The Story of Saiunkoku is now streaming on RetroCrush