It’s the dead of night and a palace coup is afoot. Murder and mayhem! Vengeance and usurpation! The commoner prince takes out his wrath on the elderly Dowager Empress, and then storms to the secluded palace of the Raven Consort—where no man or woman dare set foot—in order to demand a favor of the mysterious figure within. Rumor has it she has magical abilities, though one must survive the monster bird that guards her first if one is to press her to use those powers for one’s benefit. Frankly, the prince’s attendant is scared out of his wits and tries to persuade his master to rethink his strategy, but the handsome hero has no time for fear. And maybe no need of it either considering that the Raven Consort turns out to be…a rather lonely teenager with a chicken for a pet who is easily bribed by the offer of fresh steamed buns? Like a good tsundere though, Shouxue the Raven Consort does take a little convincing. What clinches it for her is the fact that the prince presents her not with a request to curse an enemy or grant him wealth, or gain him the heart of a lady, but rather to help him find a ghost and uncover the truth of her death. Who doesn’t jump at the chance to do a little detective work? Shouxue washes her face, simplifies her hairdo, and goes undercover among the palace ladies where, possibly for the first time in her life, she makes a friend. And discovers mochi. Also, the prince turns out not to be such a murderous usurper after all. Are those the distant bells of romance we hear?
I thought I was in for a typical historical romance with court intrigue—the kind that dominates Korean and Chinese webcomics. And although the backgrounds and sets do feel a bit like the standard palace backdrops you see all over Tapas, Webtoon, Pocket Comics and the like, this is not that kind of series. Well ok, it kinda is that type of series, but it’s more than that, and the intrigue in this court is not so much of the romantic or the political as the downright murderous sort. The mystery element is well done: not too hokey, just enough to pique your interest, and the Raven Consort is surprisingly believable as a detective figure. What’s more, she herself is something of a riddle: she feels like she’d be right at home ruling a Japanese high school classroom from the back corner desk, possibly with dyed hair and an overlarge cardigan, rocking that tsundere vibe all the way home and back. A lot of this is down to the voice actress, relative newcomer Saku Mizuno (whom you may know as Rena from Selection Project), but it’s also to do with her physicality. Makes me wonder if, following the lead of the webcomics again, she actually is a gyaru who’s been reincarnated, um, backwards in time. Because that happens too. The new friend she makes points out her odd way of speaking as well, only rather than it being too modern or informal, she describes it as old-fashioned. So basically, I don’t know what’s going on but it’s interesting enough to get me to tune in next week.
Raven of the Inner Palace can be streamed on Crunchyroll.