Raven of the Inner Palace, The Hidden Gem of Fall 2022
Anime

Raven of the Inner Palace, The Hidden Gem of Fall 2022

Season aired: Fall 2022

Number of episodes: 13

Watched on: Crunchyroll

Translated by: ?

genres: Supernatural, Mystery

Thought: Raven of the Inner Palace takes place in a Chinese fantasy dynasty during the era of emperors and concubines. Deep within the Inner Palace lived the Raven Consort. Despite her title, she never cared for the emperor like other empresses. His duties were relegated to the mysterious and unknown because of his connection to the bird goddess. Raven Consort’s isolation is soon upended when the newly crowned Emperor Gaojun seeks her help—revealing her name, her powers, and her complicated relationship with the royal family.

I approached this anime with great enthusiasm. As a Chinese-American who grew up watching Chinese dynastic dramas, I was very curious to see how an anime would play in the same setting. I found myself both delighted and surprised not only by the anime’s dedication to historical accuracy of the finest detail, but also the heart of the story. Mystery and intrigue surround the anime, but in the end, Raven of the Inner Palace also about love and how destructive and scary it can be.

The anime portrays that tone by taking on a common but successful format: episodic cases that slowly provide answers and raise more questions about the greatest mystery of all. Shouxue, the current Raven Empress, has the supernatural ability to help ghosts, some evil and all of which interfere with life living in the palace. However, despite the Raven Empress’ importance to the imperial family and the Inner Palace, no one had ever questioned how she received her power, when a new girl was chosen, and why she was hidden in the palace.

episodic exorcism stories that contribute to the main storyline

Gaojun, the newest emperor of the Inner Palace, broke the unspoken system as the first emperor to even talk to the Crow Empress, and then he went so far as to ask those questions. Framed and exiled when he was young, Gaojun empathizes with the isolation Shouxue expects and feels a personal obligation to understand and relieve Shouxue of the duties of Empress Crow.

Gaojun’s decision led to many interactions between the two that took the screen by storm with their chemistry. Shouxue is aloof and distrustful after a long period of isolation. Gaojun was patient and kind as a deliberate rebuke of his and his mother’s treatment under the previous emperor and empress. Despite their initial wariness of one another, the two feel an instant connection. I admire every scene they have together. Their subtle moments of concern, like Shouxue’s dream magic of helping Gaojun sleep, warm my heart, and if I asked for anything else from the anime, it would be more scenes with the two of them together.

The supporting characters are just as important, and they illustrate the brutality of the Chinese dynasty while simultaneously contributing to the story. Jiujiu, Shouxue’s lady-in-waiting, is a window into the dangers of serving the royal family because of her connection to the empress who was murdered in the past. There are also three supporting characters which illustrate the various ways one could become a eunuch: by free choice, by punishment, and by choosing between poverty or isolation. The way the Inner Palace operates separately from the rest of the country, and the fact that the anime depicted everything so accurately in a fantasy story impressed me tremendously.

Historically accurate depiction in a fantasy setting

Even the designs of the clothes are accurate. The empress’ distinctive style was reminiscent of the Tang Dynasty, where the makeup was bold, and the empresses had symbols painted on their foreheads. Black and gold represent strength, and only Shouxue wears those two important colors. Gaojun is the only one with an inaccurate character design as his style is more reminiscent of a prince than an actual emperor, but I believe it was a creative choice to help the animation process to portray Gaojun’s more grounded demeanor.

The pace of the story, the theme of the exorcism case, and the complexity of the characters are perfect, but the animation doesn’t keep up with the bulk of the anime. Shouxue’s supernatural powers go beyond just banishing ghosts, but when it comes to her more offensive abilities, the animation doesn’t change at all. We often see repetition of the same, albeit beautiful, sequence of him blowing flowers, regardless of whether he is gently sending the ghost away or forcibly pushing the evil ghost back. Under unique circumstances, Shouxue even has the ability to kill, and the same animation sequence is used again.

Thankfully, that’s the only technical aspect of the series that falters. The music takes direct inspiration from popular ancient Chinese music, and the anime is filled with music from traditional Chinese instruments such as the wooden flute, erhu, and pipe.

What a chemistry

The cast is also fun to listen to but I have to give special credit to the two leads. Saku Mizuno, the voice of Shouxue, and Masaaki Mizunaka, the voice of Gaojun, are newcomers who have only booked lead roles in recent years but sound as experienced as the rest of the cast. Their effortless portrayals of the two protagonists often mesh better than their award-winning cast, so I can’t imagine how the two will develop once they gain more experience.

Their portrayal of the two leads made me fall in love Raven of the Inner Palace in the first place. Their chemistry captivated me, and their episodic stories of love and brokenness kept me emotional and engaged. There’s still a lot to explore in the world-building, as the anime introduces towards the end, and more conflicts to be resolved. Shouxue has still not been relieved of her duties, and an even greater danger is now lurking overhead. I would really like another season to fully explore the world and continue the plot. However, even if Raven of the Inner Palace didn’t get the second season, I am truly grateful for the story and characters this anime introduced me to.

Rating

Plot: 8.5 (Multiplier 3.5)

Characters: 8 (Multiplier 3.5)

Voice acting: 7.5

Art/Animation: 6

Soundtracks: 7.5

FINAL SCORE: 78.75

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