Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 6

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.

Sometimes there are series that start as one thing and become a completely different thing. That’s normal narrative progression, but it always seems to be a shame when they lose sight of what drew people into the series in the first place. Good news, however, that is not a problem with Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower. Sure, we may now be watching the world’s slowest coup, filled with danger and soldiers lining up for war and betrayal and famine and more betrayal. But, in the end, Rimi still solves the entire problem by delicious food. And that’s the series’ brand, it’s what makes it different from others of its ilk. Rimi has OP powers, but they’re not ‘to make everyone fall in love with her’ (though yes, there is a love triangle), they’re ‘cooking will automatically make everything better and easier to understand’. Even in this book, when she goes full artisan, giving the Emperor and his administrator a 100-plate meal with one bite of food on each plate.

Rimi and Shohi are still reeling after the events of the previous book, so much so that the emperor decides to postpone the “Nocturnal Liturgy” that would consummate their relationship. Neither of them can figure out why Shusei would do this, and he is being 100% unhelpful about it. Unfortunately, they don’t really have much time to dwell on it. An administrator from the outlying areas comes to inform the emperor that they will not be paying taxes this year. Is it rebellion? Do they want to get rid of Shohi the way so many in the Inner Court do? Or is there something deeper afoot? And whose plan is this in the first place? To solve it, Shohi is going to have to put his trust in far more people than he ever has before, and the Four Consorts are going to have to play detective.

I have to admit: I’m not sure I want Rimi and Shusei to happen anymore. I feel he’s burned his bridges too much in this book. I would be fine with Rimi and Shohi, but unfortunately that requires love on both sides, and Rimi seems to think of Shohi more the way a mom does than a lover does, which means it’s probably a good thing their Nocturnal Liturgy was postponed. Shohi really comes into his own in this volume, showing some real character development and pulling away from the clutches of his ministers to figure out what the real problem is… though unfortunately, that turns out to play right into Shusei’s hands as well. Politics is hard. As for Rimi, she’s getting sharper, despite being told she has “flowers for brains” multiple times in this book. She’s empathic, making connections based on her feelings, so when she gets much needed information everything just slots together at once for her. It’s terrific to see how much she’s grown.

I know a lot of people dropped this for being a cut-rate Apothecary Diaries, but it’s really come into its own, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 5

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 afm.

The words “game changer” can be overused when referring to an ongoing piece of media, but I can’t think of a better way to describe this volume. Honestly, it feels like a penultimate volume, with things getting resolved next time. But I know that there’s six more to go after this. Building on everything that we’ve seen before, it shows us Rimi finding her inner strength and standing up not only for herself but for the Emperor. She’s come a long way from … well, even from the 4th book, really. This despite the fact that she also spends this volume under constant threat of death, but this time it’s from assassination rather than execution. And she’s not alone, as Hakurei also makes great strides in kicking back against manipulation, Shohi manages to do the right thing by simply restraining himself and not exploding in rage, and as for Shusei… well, that’s where it all falls apart, really. Look, I love a good romance as much as the next person. But he’s making the WRONG choice here.

Now that Rimi has accepted the Emperor’s proposal, there’s still a looooooong way to go before they’re home free. Most importantly, the anti-Shohi faction of the palace has said that they won’t stand for it because she’s Japanese… erm, sorry, Wakokuan. The way this is solved is blatant sophistry but also works; have Rimi leave the palace and vanish, and then have the identical Setsu Rimi, whose bona fides show that she’s from Konkoku, show up in the palace and become Empress. Of course, this assumes she’s not murdered in between those two things. And even then, Shusei has to train her to pass the rigorous Empress Question Time, where she gets hammered with seemingly ritual questions where she can memorize the answers… till some of those questions change.

Apart from the cliffhanger ending, the best scene in the book is Rimi answering question from the officials. She’s can’t solve everything with food here, and is especially in danger when Shusei is suddenly forced to leave her side so he can stop feeding her the answers. That said, insulting the emperor so publicly awakens something furious in her, and the response is amazing. Also, apologies to Jotetsu, who I haven’t mentioned yet, as it’s basically his book along with Rimi’s, and we get his backstory along with what drives him and why he wants to help Shusei. Unfortunately, there’s also the simmering “we have a secret child who can become Emperor” backstory that has been simmering for a couple of volumes, and it comes to a boil here. I somehow get the feeling that we’re going to be seeing a lot of military battles in the future of this series. That said, we do at least get to see Rimi save a life with the power of delicious food, so the series gets to stay on brand for those who picked it up as a foodie title.

What’s next? Chaos. Till then, please enjoy the best volume yet.

Culinary Chronicles of the Court Flower, Vol. 4

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 afm.

I will admit that after the cliffhanger of the previous volume, I was not expecting the plot for most of this one to be “ghost story”. And yet it also manages to help to drive forward the love triangle as well, as it’s hard to maintain a cool, relaxed, professional demeanor when the person you love is sneaking into your room every night. Especially when they’re really a ghost who is there to slowly sap your life essence. This isn’t QUITE Rimi’s fault this time, but she’s the only one that can fix it, and honestly if she fails execution is likely what awaits. Again. If this were the previous three volumes, then the problem would be solved by food, but here food is only part of the answer. Rimi needs to actually look inside the ghost’s heart and see why they’re doing this. Which will, unfortunately for everyone involved, mean looking inside her own heart and doing what’s best for everyone.

The book starts off with the fallout from the previous one. Both Rimi and Shusei both trying to repress their love, and succeeding only in the eyes of each other (we get monologues from each about how the other one is much calmer about this). And the Emperor is, of course, waiting patiently for Rimi’s answer to his proposal. All this emotion flying around means that Tama, the Quinary Dragon, is feeling ill and lethargic. After researching things, they decide to decamp to a different palace, one with more spiritual energy, in order to heal Tama. Unfortunately, this palace comes with its own version of the Seven Mysteries of the High School, and Rimi finds herself dragged to a cursed well by impetuous consort and repressed lesbian Yo, who decides that investigating cursed objects that scream “do not open this cursed object” is awesome. Unfortunately, it triggers a curse. And now everyone’s going into everyone else’s room – supposedly – like it’s a British farce.

The food may take a back seat this time, but the romance and political intrigue does not. Despite Shusei trying to run away from it at every opportunity, he’s finally told the secret of his birth – and understands the implications for how he can use it to make Rimi his. Unfortunately, Rimi identifies strongly with the ghost here, who had to give up on her true love in order to become the Empress because it would be better for the kingdom. It comes down to waffling about things because of your love or making a clean break without regrets, and Rimi, who has matured more with each volume, makes the difficult choice. Which is very good news for the Emperor, but very bad news for the cast in general, as after reading the last forty or so pages of this book I’m fairly sure that this series is going to be ending with most of the cast dead.

But that’s future Sean’s problem. For now, this was probably the best volume in this series to date, one where true loves goes up against political expediency and comes out the loser.