Arya's In-Flight Asian Film Festival


The Lady Shogun and Her Men
Director: Fuminori Kaneko

Historically, Ōoku is a harem for the Shogun, a castle in which thousands of women reside to wait his bidding. The place has inspired many Japanese TV dramas and movies, depicting the catty politics that go on within. Fumi Yoshinaga's acclaimed feminist manga Ōoku: The Inner Chambers offers an alternate reality where a "red pox" has wiped out most of the country's men 80 years before the story starts, turning Edo-era Japan into a matriarchal society with female Shoguns and male concubines.

The Lady Shogun and Her Men—an international title obviously for the benefit of Westerners not fans of manga who may not know what Ōoku is—adapts the comic's first volume, in which a young man from a poor samurai family joins the Ōoku staff and steadily rises up the ranks to become the Shogun's potential lover, though the new Shogun is unexpectedly a thrifty and commanding young woman who cares more about saving Japan's future than sex or luxury.

There's some very light yaoi, never explicit, as many of the Ōoku residents take each other as lovers (the Shogun and her aides are the only women permitted to enter the premises). It's not particularly great drama and the lack of gender politics discussions is baffling given the premise, but the costumes are gorgeous and the story is engaging enough to give the benefit of doubt to viewing the film as a satirical experiment. Here we have a movie that looks and acts like the dozens of movies already made about Ōoku, except the sexes are reversed. Did it make any difference? If the movie appears to be the same old crap, then does that mean gender roles are arbitrary?

US release unknown.

Arya Ponto • Contributor

As former Editor of JPP, Arya likes to entertain peeps with his thoughts on pop culture, when he's not busy watching Battle Royale for the 200th time. He lives in Brooklyn with a comic book collection that's always the most daunting thing to move with, and writes for


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