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Raven of the Inner Palace
Episode 8

by Rebecca Silverman,

How would you rate episode 8 of
Raven of the Inner Palace ?
Community score: 4.5

In Chinese symbology, the white lily represents one hundred years of love. Given that, it might have been more reasonable to expect that Shouxue would have received them from Gaojun, or even one of her friend/retainers like Jiu-Jiu; instead she is gifted a bouquet of white lilies this week from a relatively random consort in the Inner Palace. While she has cleared up a ghost problem in the woman's garden, she didn't do so at her behest, nor has she had much interaction with her that we know of. Why, then, is she the one to send a wedding-style bouquet to the Raven Consort? And could her red face and teary eyes not be due to her fear of a ghost haunting her iris beds?

Those are just a few of the questions raised by what feels like Raven of the Inner Palace's second act. With the Empress Dowager and her curse taken care of and the truth of the Summer King and Winter King back in (limited) circulation, Shouxue and Gaojun can focus on other matters. Chief among them appears to be the treatment of the eunuchs and the overall symbolism of birds in the story's world. We already know how badly Wei Qing was treated when he first came to the palace and that all of the consorts bear bird titles, but there's clearly more to both of those bits of information than we currently know. The latter is almost certainly tied to the goddess Shouxue serves; we know her avatar takes the form of a four-winged, woman-headed nightmare bird. The color of her wings appears to be why Shouxue is the Raven Consort, although ravens' intelligence may also be a factor. Are there more divine beings in the story's pantheon who take bird form? It's something to consider, and it would make a lot of sense given that this week's ghost is that of a boy executed for accidentally killing a bird and presenting its corpse to a consort.

Poorly considered as that decision was (although it seems like he did it to take the blame for his action), it doesn't appear to have merited death, which is why all of this bears thinking on. The overly harsh punishment could also be due to the fact that he was a eunuch, because that seems to be the norm for them. Shouxue is made aware of the ghost when a young eunuch-in-training comes to her asking for help; he mentioned the ghost to his master and as a result was badly beaten. Shouxue is furious – she remembers Wei Qing's story of how he came to work for Gaojun as his attendant, so she's aware that eunuchs aren't well (or sensibly) treated. But then she learns another terrible tale from the eunuch who has been appointed to be her guard: he was an acrobat who was castrated because he defended a female member of his troupe from a rapist. Because the rapist was a customer (and therefore possibly a noble), the man was unpunished. When Shouxue stood up for the little boy and told off the four grown men holding him down and beating him, her guard was struck both by how unusual that was and how much he wished someone like Shouxue had been there for him.

Shouxue, whether she wants to be or not, is truly a kind person, and her willingness to stand up for those who are oppressed makes her a king in action even if she weren't in truth. Gaojun may make the laws, but it is the unsung Winter King who is standing up for the people, and that is a role that cannot be overlooked. When Gaojun stops her from making scathing remarks about the inappropriate ways that eunuchs are punished, I don't think it's because he disagrees, but more that he doesn't want to hurt Wei Qing, who knows about it firsthand. But that means that no one is more aware that things need to change than Wei Qing, and Shouxue is the vaguely tactless person to say what others are too sweet or polite to. In this regard she really does complement Gaojun, and I'd be surprised if nothing changes even after she presumably takes in the little boy she saves this week.

But first she must get through the new moon. Gaojun was half-joking when he asked if she gave him a peony lantern because the Night Wanderer would be out, but between that and the fact that she tells him she'll be too tired to see him the next evening, I think that's exactly what's going on. On the night of the new moon, the goddess appears to break free of her tethers and leave the Raven Consort's body (where the eunuch saw her this week), and nothing good comes of becoming her prey.

The only bird who is allowed to hurt another, it seems, is the queen who wanders in the night.


Raven of the Inner Palace is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Disclosure: Bandai Namco Filmworks Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc., is a non-controlling, minority shareholder in Anime News Network Inc.

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