There are degrees of success in anime, obviously. Three shows I’m following qualify as genuine hits, though not interchangeably so. I’m extremely gratified by the success of BokuYaba, which has leveled up commercially in a big way and is easily my favorite. But it’s Kusuriya no Hitorigoto and Sousou no Frieren that are the two genuine monsters – Frieren the biggest since Oshi no Ko (and maybe Tokyo Revengers), and Apothecary not far behind it. I wouldn’t have pegged The Apothecary Diaries as my favorite of the two, but it seems to have fallen that way. It’s retained its identity even as Frieren is seriously revving the motorcycle.
It seems in fact as if Kusuriya has entered the serious phase of its development. We’ve left behind the Nancy Drew stuff (which, if I’m honest, could be hit and miss) and moved onto the backstories of the essential cast members. There was a veritable tidal wave of new information here, though much of it came as confirmation rather than revelation. At this point I almost feel as if I could say the crucial characters here are Maomao and Jinshi (obviously), but also Lakan. He’s intricately involved in both their stories, most especially hers. And in terms of cleverness, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.
Pregnancy was always the obvious answer to the question that arose in Lakan and Jinshi’s conversation. And the pregnancy in question appears to have been that of Maomao’s mother. That makes Lakan almost surely her father, as I speculated last week, but that’s really only a part of the story. Did Lakan intentionally impregnate her so as to reduce her value? I’m going to assume it was the mother that Maomao saw in her dreams, raising the knife – a baby that caused her all sorts of grief and trashed her career being an obvious target for her wrath. But the story certainly doesn’t end there.
At some point, Maomao’s mother was infected with syphilis, and by the time Loumen arrived on-scene it had progressed beyond the scope of his ability to help much. Is Lakan responsible for that, too? Maomao casually muses that love is something she “left behind in her mother’s womb”. Patently untrue given that she obviously loves Loumen, but be that as it may, it’s obvious there was never any love forthcoming from her mother. Maomao still cares for her mother when she visits, but the woman has reached the point of virtual insensibility.
Then we have the matter of Jinshi’s true identity. Lakan certainly knows it, and Maomao – who frankly has seemed less curious about it than a girl of her intelligence should have been – is finally asking herself some serious questions. All of the things she notices about Jinshi could be explained by his being the Emperor’s son, and it’s not as though that hasn’t been strongly hinted at anyway. If Lakan is an entirely malicious creature (which I’m not yet convinced is the case), it’s probably that which stays his hand where Jinshi is concerned.
The most recent conversation between the two of them makes it clear to Jinshi that Lakan is indeed Maomao’s father. And though she only lets her guard slip for a moment, it’s long enough to convince him that she really, really doesn’t want to meet with her biological father. It’s bad enough that Jinshi knows the secret now, but whether Maomao realizes it or not he’s clearly in her corner where Lakan is concerned. Another mysterious figure is Suirei (who gets a true heavy-duty seiyuu in Nazuka Kaori), a court lady who works with the military in some capacity and is herself involved in the apothecary arts. She seems to resent Maomao, though the reasons aren’t yet entirely clear.
I have many questions, not least why Suirei made a “joke” about an herb to bring back the dead, and why Maomao was so taken that her natural skepticism was momentarily overridden (who is she so desperate to bring back?). But I think the big hanging chad is Lakan – what his true intentions are, and indeed whether he truly is an antagonist or not. His interest in Maomao isn’t necessarily sinister if he is indeed her father – it’s natural. His seeming interest in her mother is harder to explain, however, given that in her current state she’d seemingly have no value to him. Unless of course he were truly in love with her and had been all along.