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Kusuriya no Hitorigoto (The Apothecary Diaries) – 23

I have to give credit where it’s due here.  The Apothecary Diaries heaped pressure on itself by teasing this Lakan storyline on for too long.  But when it had to deliver, it really did.  I was thoroughly satisfied with the resolution (for now), though I would absolutely want to see more of Lakan and Maomao in the future.  They’re both interesting characters, and now that the truth is out we know she has no good reason to reject him the way she does.

I’m also satisfied that I wasn’t fooled by the misdirection where Lakan was concerned.  He never felt like a bad guy to me, and certainly not evil.  Just a guy too used to interacting with people not as smart as he is, and made arrogant by that.  His desire to have a relationship with his daughter was completely genuine, and in truth, he really did nothing to make him undeserving of one.  That’s not to say Xiaomao is wrong to feel some resentment towards him, but she’s smart enough to realize that doing so to the extent she apparently does is unjustified.

The only area of this I struggle with is Lakan’s willingness to take the terms of his daughter’s Xiangqi wager.  If he really is a complete teetotaller, it seems ill-advised – unless his arrogance is so great that he presumed he wouldn’t lose.  But that doesn’t add up, because that very arrogance would make him believe in his daughter’s great intelligence.  And he would have known from the beginning that he’d lose at least once on purpose to make sure she wasn’t poisoned.  Maybe she fed him some sort of trank too, just to make sure one drink would be enough.

The backstory, however, was an unqualified win for me.  I don’t know what the deal is with Lakan’s face thing – it seems to be an actual medical condition (selective  Prosopagnosia?) – but he obviously had it from infancy.  It was certainly interesting to learn that the uncle who was his only supporter in the family was Loumen.  That makes Xiaomao’s oyaji her great uncle, and probably explains why he took her in when he did.  Loumen taught Lakan to discriminate people’s identity based on their voices and smell, and to use Xianqi pieces to remember them.  The first face that Lakan ever recognized as a face (not even his mother’s) was a courtesan at Verdigris called Fengxian.

Fengxian is played by Kuwashima Houko, an actress who knows a thing or three about a Chinese imperial court setting.  Her being an intellectual equal was what caused this to happen, not her physical beauty – though she had that in plenty.  Many games of Go and Xiangqi followed, and as Fengxian grew more popular her price went up and up to the point where the comfortable but not fabulously wealthy Lakan could only afford to visit her once every three months.  On one of those visits a different sort of game was played, and soon after “clumsy” Loumen’s expulsion from the Inner Palace took place.  As a punishment for being too close to him Lakan was sent to “study abroad”.  He expected to be gone six months, only for his absence to last three years.

I can certainly see why it looked to the old lady – and probably Maomao later – as if Lakan had abandoned Fengxian after she became pregnant.  He didn’t, and is pretty close to blameless in this whole affair apart from not addressing his absence with Fengxian before leaving.  In fact, the big question hanging over this situation is whether Fengxian instigated sex with Lakan in the hopes of getting pregnant and lowering her price enough for him to buy her out.  On the one hand that would make her even more resentful of him for abandoning her (and of Maomao for existing).  And brothels certainly had means of making sure unwanted pregnancies didn’t happen.  But on the other, how could she be sure one act of intercourse would get the job done?

Either way, he didn’t know until he returned and saw the stack of letters from her – and the one containing the severed fingers.  That’s a bit of a mystery in itself, as I’ve never noticed any irregularities with Maomao’s hands (though Google informs me a severed fingertip can sometimes grow back). But it’s pretty clear Maomao’s game here was to get Lakan to buy Fengxian out from Verdigris – the “withered rose” in question.  It’s not fully clear just how much Xiaomao knows about what happened, but I would hope that at some point she at least gives Lakan a full hearing.  She’s not doing herself any favors by shutting him out of her life, and he deserves at least that much.

The post Kusuriya no Hitorigoto (The Apothecary Diaries) – 23 appeared first on Lost in Anime.

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