The Summer of Saiunkoku continues, this time in article form!
Once upon a time, a poor little girl named Hong Shurei did not dream of marrying a prince. Instead, Shurei saw the struggles of the people around her and dreamed of becoming a civil servant—an impossible dream, for women were banned from public office. Yet when the law changed to allow her entry, Shurei soon learned her dream was not without its nightmares, for deep-seated prejudices loomed everywhere she looked, and these were not the sort of monsters one could draw a sword and slay.
Despite its fantastical shoujo setting, The Story of Saiunkoku is no traditional fairy tale, and Shurei’s journey is much closer to unjust reality than escapist fiction. This allows the series to explore systemic oppression, workplace harassment, and the importance of structural support, especially in systems that claim to be merit-based. Through its young, marginalized civil servants, Saiunkoku provides an intersectional critique of the “bootstrap” mentality, highlighting how oppression creates hurdles that often require more than just “hard work” to clear.