I was talking to a friend about Apothecary Diaries (a manga I loaned) and she made a good point. When watching the anime, you get the impression that they really put a lot of effort into designing Maomao but the rest of the characters were pushed aside. And I agree. I understand why but still…
I think the person suffering the most from this is Jinshi. His beautiful appearance is actually a big part of his personality and you can see that in the manga. Even if he may not be your personal favorite, he is so detailed and carefully balanced that you just have to objectively admit that you can understand why he is popular .
However, since the non-Maomao characters are all a bit lackluster in design, I find them to blend together better. The courtesans still stand out in my opinion but otherwise I’m having a little harder time picking anyone out. So that makes Jinshi one of those characters that everyone admires and you have to accept that. Like OK, the story told me he was hot so I just went with it. And that reduces the impact a little bit.
Liked this week. Unfortunately, we don’t have a real mystery to solve, but I enjoyed watching Maomao’s efforts to help the courtesan Lihua heal her poison. Palace intrigue and petty behind-the-scenes politics are a big part of palace life, and this episode is a great way to illustrate that.
In the manga, the competition between courtesans is emphasized more and it is clear why Maomao is not welcome in the other palace. In the anime, this seems a bit exaggerated, especially when we discover that Lihua’s personality is not quite what one might expect at first glance. However, I can still accept the opinion that an untested servant would not be as welcome as a doctor. Considering the time, the fact that Maomao is a girl probably also makes her not taken seriously.
But everything turned around for her after just a simple word from Jinshi. As the overseer of the inner palace, he could of course simply order the other servants to obey Maomao but he was the one who was always more successful when luring flies with honey. Now imagine that scene if the character was illustrated in more detail and more consistently. If he stands out visually from everyone else. The impact will be much greater. And the picture will tell you the whole story. Why doesn’t he need to be strict? Why does he care about such matters personally and so on…
But that’s enough. What about Maomao! In last week’s comments section, Dawnstorm praised the voice actress and I have to say I agree. The way Maomao snaps when she’s angry, and her voice drops to a lower pitch, is interesting. It has a lot of power and you can feel her anger through the screen. It was a great performance and it definitely makes The Apothecary Diaries a better show! I look forward to seeing more of that!
Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. I found the pacing very pleasant. I liked that we got a broader look at life in the Forbidden City and how the different houses handled their daily chores. I also really like that they basically wrote off Lihua as a potential villain. She has interests that don’t always align with Gyokuyou’s but she’s definitely not a “bad guy” and thus, there’s no real villain in the series making for a loser structure much.
In the end, I really liked this movie. we get a glimpse of Maomao’s past life at the brothel. We may gradually discover her past little by little. It’s unusual to have a main character with such a colorful backstory and her acceptance and positive attitude towards sex work is quite new in anime. Perhaps even in general. That’s quite an unexpected reward!