Romance of the Raven Consort

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It has taken me some time to realize that I am actually a sucker for a good love story. It is merely that many of the “love stories” we tell aren’t actually good love stories. Thus, as this anime has just finished its first season, I find myself very much looking forward to a second and appreciating it as a good and proper romance.

Raven of the Inner Palace tells the story of Gaojun, the young, new emperor of China (or a land very like China), and Shouxue, the titular Raven Consort. All of the emperor’s consorts have titles, such as raven, swallow, magpie, and such, but the Raven Consort is unique among them. As the introduction to every episodes states…

…and yes, such repetitive introductions are now a pet peeve of mine after this, Skeleton KnightSeven Deadly Sins, and a host of other guilty anime, but I digress…

The introduction reads thusly: “Deep in the inner palace, there lives a consort known as the Raven Consort. She holds a special position. Despite her title of consort, she does not perform nighttime duties. Though she lives in the inner palace, she has no contact with the emperor. {That is changed to “she does not bow to the emperor”} It is said she can use mysterious arts.”

So already, the Raven is set apart in some way, powerful and surrounded by mystery, a potential danger which adds to her allure. But unlike the veil of most mysteries which, once pierced, leave their subject dull as dross, Shouxue becomes all the more riveting as each of her secrets is unveiled. And then, as she faces questions about herself which even she does not know the answers to, she has Gaojun by her side, in those moments when she is truly vulnerable, supporting and protecting her.

Right from the start, they are equals, which is no small thing when one of them is the emperor. They help each other, rely on each other, challenge each other, and they become friends. It is one of the most realistic and healthiest romantic relationships I have seen, not to mention very wholesome and profoundly endearing. These two easily shoot forward among the ranks of my top most favorite couples both within and without anime.

Theirs is shaping up to be a most beautiful love story.

That would have fallen entirely flat if either of them had been lacking in some particular way, something that made me dislike them. However, while there is room for each of them to grow – and they do – I can honestly say that these are honest, decent people who I would very much like and admire in real life.

Gaojun impressed me especially as an upstanding man. I don’t know exactly how well he rules as emperor, as that is not the focus of the show, but his character certainly makes him worthy of it. He is calm and collected, firm but restrained instead of being overly aggressive, and even though he could technically do anything he wanted to as emperor, he clearly holds his passions in check. That is demonstrated early on when, at the moment of his ascension, exactly when the power would go to most any man’s head, he refrains from simply murdering outright the woman who he is pretty certain murdered his beloved mother. Instead, he arrests her, and his first request to the mysterious Raven Consort leads him to the evidence he needs, and the murderess is executed in accordance with the law, not at his own whim. From there, he consistently steps up to help those around him, to hold the guilty accountable and protect the innocent, and he holds himself responsible and accountable to others.

I categorically oppose the rule of kings and emperors, but as one of Gaojun’s subjects, I could at least breathe a little easier and sleep a little better for a time.

As for Shouxue, she is a young girl, sixteen years old, who bears a tremendous burden upon her shoulders, and yet she maintains a measure of feisty, dignified pride. In the wake of a previous emperor’s decree that her family be slaughtered, wherein her own mother died in a desperate bid to save her, Shouxue was chosen by an unearthly creature, a goddess of sorts, to be the next Raven Consort. It might have been merely the mad whim of a terrifying entity, but the gears of fate were set in motion. Taken into the Inner Palace, taught by her predecessor, and inheriting the role and power which has been passed from one generation to the next for centuries, Shouxue’s life has been one of loss and loneliness. It is only when Gaojun comes knocking at her door that she begins on a different path, one of love and friendship with the people who come to surround and care for her as she comes to care for them.

They complete each other as equals.

Speaking of which, the supporting cast is every bit as well-crafted as the two leads. Shouxue goes from being utterly alone to having real friends, including one of the other imperial consorts, some of the eunuchs who act as guards and servants, and especially a lady in waiting or two. One certainly can’t help but adore Jiu-Jiu, the more prominent of her new ladies, as such a precious young lady and a good friend, a walking ray of sunshine and practically the beating heart of the show.

But things are not all sunshine and bliss in this story. Oh no, most definitely not. Not only does Shouxue routinely find herself helping restless souls to find peace and cross over to paradise – which, by necessity, involves delving through various tragedies of life and death – but it turns out the Raven has an enemy most dangerous and foul. The Owl, as he is called, wields magical arts just as she does, but where she helps poor, lost souls, the Owl seems to be much more malevolent and cruel to the living. And what does the Owl seek above all else? To kill the Raven, his sister goddess. Yes, the Owl is a being like unto the creature which chose Shouxue and condemned her to a life as lonely as that of every Raven Consort come before.

And so the question becomes not only what will become of the love between Raven and Emperor, but what will happen to their very souls as these celestial entities try to tear them apart.

I am not only waiting for a second season, I am practically on the edge of my seat in anticipation!

That is no small thing for what turns out to be a love story to accomplish with me. 😉

It casts a spell on me!

Raven of the Inner Palace tells a well-paced story, a quality romance that has absolutely hooked me, with lovable characters, an appreciable coupling, and powerful themes of destiny, desire, and the happiness of mortals in the face of the divine. All this and it is so beautifully animated, with an excellent soundtrack. This is one of the better anime, all around, in every way. I eagerly await the conclusion in a second season. 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid A.

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