Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 11

By Miri Mikawa and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Ikka Kōkyū Ryōrichō” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hunter Prigg and piyo.

I was a fan of Fruits Basket back in the day, when the manga was still running. When we got to the chapters where Yuki and Tohru define their actual relationship, I remember being somewhat baffled at the negative reaction by Yuki/Tohru fans. (Yes, I still use slashes. I’m old.) But of course I didn’t get it, I was a Kyo/Tohru shipper. There’s a reason people ship one pairing and not another, it’s because they don’t GET the other pairing. Now, to be clear, that’s not really what happens with Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower. I absolutely get Shusei/Rimi, it’s the primary pairing. But the last couple books have had Shohi have to assure both himself and everyone around him that Rimi ends up being just like a mother to him, and I found myself thinking “Ah, yeah, that’s why they were mad”. In the end, there really isn’t a choice between two love interests. It’s fate aligning so that one love interest can win and nothing else matters.

We begin with the action-packed finale, as Shohi’s forces do battle against Shusei’s forces, who (no surprise) turn out to have far more men than everyone thought. Fortunately, things work out for two reasons. One, the consorts finally realize what the Quinary Dragon thing means, and two, reinforcements arrive from Saisakoku out of nowhere, having been told to come by… well, gosh, it’s a mystery. After all of this, unfortunately, they do sort of have to execute Shusei, who was behind the entire traitorous revolt. That said, they immediately begin to waffle when it turns out that Shusei was in fact behind the ENTIRE traitorous result. On both sides. Meaning they’ve caught up with the reader, who probably realized what Shusei was doing a few books ago.

Despite my gripes, this is a decent finale. Rimi’s feelings for Shusei had been cast away as she was certain that “Lord Ho” had killed the Shusei she knew; once she realizes that it was all a massive trick, they come roaring back full force. Shohi will have to content himself with 2.5 of the 4 consorts (Ho is still going to remain loyal to Hakurei, and Yo hates men, but is starting to waffle). As for the solution of how to get out of the execution, it’s pretty clever, and relies very much on one of the past mysteries of the series also requiring a definitive execution to end it. I also liked hearing of Saigu near the end. Rimi’s one touchstone from her old country has never been seen in the series, but her presence has influenced Rimi’s maturation greatly. Still, I think the best part of the book was Keiyu, whose last middle finger to everyone was very clever.

So yeah, the shipper in me is grumbling, as I felt Shusei burnt too many bridges to have Rimi forgive him so easily. But that’s first love for you, I guess. In the end, I enjoyed this series about romance, mystery, and food.

Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 10

By Miri Mikawa and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Ikka Kōkyū Ryōrichō” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hunter Prigg.

For a great deal of this series, we’ve been presented with a question: who will Rimi end up with? It seemed fairly obvious for the first half, as it was very much a romance between her and Shusei, bonding over food and dodging inner court intrigue. But then Shohi also fell in love with Rimi, and things got shaken up… to the point that Shusei is now starting a war in order to gain the throne so he can get what he wants. Ironically, if he’s only waited a little bit longer he might have gotten it anyway, as while it’s clear Shohi does love Rimi, and she loves him, their relationship is explicitly likened to a mother and son, and so when he’s told he needs to sire an heir NOW because of the upcoming war, he can’t see Rimi as a partner in that way. This WOULD be good news for Shusei… if it weren’t for the last three or four books, and honestly, I’m starting to wonder if the books might now just end with no romantic resolution at all.

Rushing back to the palace, Shohi and company find that a large number of the bureaucrats have switched sides, and are asking him to abdicate. This includes Shusei, who is generously giving him ten days to decide whether to abdicate or go to war. And Shusei, by far, has the larger force to make war. There are, unfortunately, other problems as well. They still haven’t found the spy in the court, Mars. Tama has been out of sorts ever since they returned, and her actions midway through the book cause a crisis. Oh yes, and Shohi starts to become ill and also go blind, which doctors say is some mysterious illness, but the reader can very obviously see is because he’s being poisoned. By Hakurei. Which… makes no sense whatsoever. Can Rimi figure out what’s really going on? And are they really going to war?

Mars’ identity has been a well-placed mystery this whole book, and when it’s revealed here it makes sense – I won’t spoil it, but it has an impact. I also enjoyed seeing the four consorts have a large role in this book, especially Ho, who is forced to deal with all the manipulation Hakurei has done against her and help with the main plotline. (Yo continues to be comedy relief, alas, but at least she’s funny most of the time.) As for Shusei and Rimi, it’s very clear from Shusei’s actions that he’s got several tricks up his sleeve, and I don’t think all of those involve his own victory. Unfortunately, given he’s a traitor, and also given Rimi right now thinks that “Lord Ho” has killed the Shusei she knew and is 100% against him, I’m not sure quite how this ends. Exile with Rimi at his side would feel far too pat.

I should not have too long to find out, though, as the next book is the last in the series. A good addition to one of the classic “intrigue in the emperor’s court” genre.

Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 9

By Miri Mikawa and Kasumi Nagi. Released in Japan as “Ikka Kōkyū Ryōrichō” by Kadokawa Beans Bunko. Released in North America digitally by J-Novel Club. Translated by Hunter Prigg.

This is one of those volumes where the audience knows the answer that the rest of the cast are searching for, but even by the end of the book they still have not quite figured it out. So much of this volume is about sacrificing personal hopes, dreams and happiness for the sake of the country, and the assumption that, deep down, everyone else will also be doing the same thing. Unfortunately for them, we’re able to peer inside Shusei’s head, and we’ve already read the previous eight books, so we know why he’s so determined to burn the entire country down to get what he wants. His birth father was able to throw it all away for the sake of love, but Shusei cannot do that, given Rimi’s position. He has to throw away everything else so he can have Rimi. And even Rimi still doesn’t quite get that, mostly as she still has the self-worth of a bent blade of grass at the side of the road.

After the events of the previous book, Kojin and Renka are being politely held at the palace so that it can be determined what happened to Rimi. The only trouble is that Rimi refuses to point any figures. That said, the answer is obvious, and Shohi has his first massive temper tantrum in some time. This results in Kojin resigning and going back to his seaside estate, and Renka saying she’d like to take up the position being offered, but won’t do it without the Chancellor agreeing to it. And the Chancellor just resigned. So someone has to go to Kojin’s estate and play peacemaker, trying to persuade him to give Shohi another chance so that the country can remain peaceful and stable. The perfect choice to do this, obviously, is the woman Kojin recently tried to murder.

Fear not, those who worry about such things, there is plenty of food in this volume, and it plays the major role in reconciliation here.l Not between Kojin and Shohi, though that happens as well, but between Kojin and Shusei, as we learn that sometimes when you think the only answer is “tough love” but you’re also terrible at real human emotions, it can come off as hatred. I always love how these mysteries are filtered through Rimi, who is actually trying to understand why they’re stubborn and unyielding but can only do so in terms of imagining what foods would and wouldn’t work on them. Kojin’s breakdown is very well handled, and I also enjoyed reading about how yes, his wife really DOES love him, surprise! That said, all this is drowned out by the cliffhanger ending, as Shusei makes war inevitable.

I am assuming that the next volume will be that war. I am also hoping that we finally get a reveal as to Mars’ identity, if only so they can be killed off. (There was an attempt at a tragic backstory here, which didn’t work well because it was too similar to the main tragic backstory.) In any case, this remains an addictive shoujo thriller.