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Where Chinese Hun-Po meets Japanese grace

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Liu Shouxue, the eponymous Raven Consort. Credit: Bandai Namco

Raven of the Inner Palace (後宮の烏, Koukyuu no Karasu) is one of those rare titles that I was really looking forward to seeing adapted into an anime series.

The TV anime Koukyuu no Karasu is based on the light novel series of the same name by Kouko Shirakawa, which I had hoped for years would get licensed for an English-language publication. Granted, there have been a few fan translations since the novel’s debut (2018), but they’ve been slow to come and of rather average quality.

Anyway thanks fandom! There are too many titles that we would never know about (let alone read about!) if the fans weren’t busy.

Only in July 2022 – when the anime adaptation was already announced – did Seven Seas Entertainment receive a license for the light novel. Raven of the Inner Palace Volume 1 in English is due out on February 14, 2023, and I doubt Valentine’s Day was chosen at random.

Step into ancient China with a Nihonjinron twist

Set in an alternate history set in ancient China, Koukyuu no Karasu follows a rather innovative approach centered around Liu Shouxue (Japanese reading: Ryuu Jusetsu), the Inner Palace’s eponymous Raven Consort.

Shouxue is not your average consort as she has no nightly duties to perform. In fact, she has never met the Emperor!

Of course that will change, but not in the way one would expect. Although the Emperor would not mind the Raven Consort becoming a real consort, things are not as they seem as not even the Emperor knows the lady’s history.

That too should change. The TV anime is currently on Episode 7 and we have already found the root of the mystery.

Not wanting to spoil anything, I’ll just say that Shouxue’s mysterious powers aren’t all that mysterious since she was specially trained by the previous Raven Consort.

Basically, the catch is that there always has to be a Stark in Winterfell… and apparently there always has to be a Raven Consort in the Inner Palace. That is, Shouxue may be a consort in name, but she cannot leave the Inner Palace or become a real consort.

The Emperor has been in the friend zone so far and I’m amazed at the number of episodes as the series literally kicks off the story with Episode 7. Hopefully there will be at least one more season. Since the light novel is quite popular in Japan and is unanimously described as “beautifully written”, there is hope that the Raven of the Inner Palace anime series will not be rushed.

As for mystery, Shouxue can do a thing or two on the dark side, particularly dealing with otherworldly puzzles.

As the ancient Chinese court is known to be a nest of superstitions, bad relationships, bloody conspiracies and jealousies galore, the Emperor may yet appreciate this gift from Shouxue.

Raven of the Inner Palace should appeal to fans of Psychic Princess

If you know Psychic Princess (通灵妃, Tongling Fei) from Haoliners Animation, you will definitely like this title. However, there are many similarities between the two main heroines Shouxue has a distinctive touch of Nihonjinron (“Japaneseness”), unlike the temperamental Chinese princess Qian Yunxi.

The main character of Raven of the Inner Palace, Raven Consort Liu Shouxue, displays the typically Japanese quiet grace even when accompanied by a cheerful golden chicken (xingxing). Credit: Bandai Namco

I’d argue that no one can portray ancient China better than the Chinese, but there’s no denying that Raven of the Inner Palace does a decent job and manages to maintain an air of mystery… notwithstanding that average American and Europeans would not notice the difference anyway given their critical lack of knowledge of Chinese history and culture.

The main character of Psychic Princess, Princess Qian Yunxi, features a typically Chinese cheerful spirit commonly seen in Donghua. Photo Credit: Haoliner’s Animation

Given that Koukyuu no Karasu mixes several premises rooted in the realm of fantasyliterally anything goes, so instead of looking for mistakes, just enjoy the series!

With the Fall 2022 anime season packed with so many popular titles, fears that Raven of the Inner Palace might not get the attention it deserves are not entirely unfounded. If you like stories about ancient China and enjoy distinctive myths of the oldest surviving civilization, you will surely enjoy this TV anime.

Pay attention to the opening as subtle details will keep you guessing. The ED theme song “Summer Snow” by Krage is a perfect conclusion. Raven of the Inner Palace features beautiful art – truly deserving of source novel of this caliber. The characters are quirky and you’ll enjoy their unique backstories for some extra mysteries.

Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the quality of the adaptation; I just hope the plot doesn’t get rushed.

*hun po (魂魄) – two different types of souls in Chinese philosophy derived from Taoism.



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