Ōoku: The Inner Chambers (大奥,Ōoku?) is an ongoing Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga. The plot follows an alternate history of medieval Japan in which an unknown disease kills most of the male population, leading to a matriarchal society in which the Ōoku becomes a harem of men serving the now female shogun.
In an alternative timeline of feudal Japan, a strange disease that only affects men has caused a massive reduction of male population, thus women have to pick up men's jobs, changing the social structure. Now, after 80 years of the initial outbreak and current man:woman ratio of 1:4, Japan has become completely matriarchal, with women holding important political positions and men being their consort. Only the most powerful woman -- head of Tokugawa shogunate -- can keep a harem of handsome yet unproductive men, known as "Ooku."
<tr ><th rowspan="2" style="width: 4%;">No.</th><th colspan="2">Original</th><th colspan="2">English</th></th></tr><tr style="border-bottom: 3px solid #CCF"><th style="width: 24%;">Release date</th><th style="width: 24%;">ISBN</th><th style="width: 24%;">Release date</th><th style="width: 24%;">ISBN</th></tr>
<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol1">1</td></td><td> October 4, 2005</td><td>ISBN 4592143019</td><td>August 18, 2009</td><td>ISBN 1-4215-2747-2</td></tr>
<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol2">2</td></td><td> December 4, 2006</td><td>ISBN 4592143027</td><td>December 15, 2009</td><td>ISBN 1-4215-2748-0</td></tr>
<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol3">3</td></td><td> December 25, 2007</td><td>ISBN 4592143035</td><td>April 20, 2010</td><td>ISBN 1-4215-2749-9</td></tr>
<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol4">4</td></td><td> December 24, 2008</td><td>ISBN 4592143043</td><td>August 17, 2010</td><td>ISBN 1-4215-3169-0</td></tr>
<tr style="text-align: center;"><td id="vol5">5</td></td><td> October 5, 2009</td><td>ISBN 4592143055</td><td>-</td><td>—</td></tr>
Viz has stated the manga is "coming out in Japan at a rate of only one volume per year, with a projected ten volumes." Pancha Diaz, Fumi Yoshinaga's editor at Viz Media, explained that Ōoku was chosen to be "part of the Viz Signature line of manga" because "they’re manga that don’t easily fit into the shojo [for young girls] or shonen [for young boys] projected market, which might appeal to older readers. Books that might interest people who like American comics but avoid manga due to preconceptions. [Viz Media] wanted them to have a different presentation, to look a little different. Lots of manga are meant to be read very quickly, almost like a static cartoon, but these are meant to be savored. That’s why we chose the larger size—to signal that to the audience."
In January 2010, The American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) division listed first volume of VIZ Media version of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers in the 2010 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. The fourth volume of Ōoku: The Inner Chambers was ranked 5th on the Tohan charts between December 23, 2008 and January 5, 2009 and ranked 24th on the Tohan charts between January 6 and 12, 2009. The manga won the 2009 James Tiptree Jr. Award, which is awarded to science fiction works which expand or explore one's understanding of gender.
In a review of the first volume, Casey Brienza of Anime News Network stated that "the manga is the perfect marriage of stylistic shortcomings to appropriate subject matter—the beautiful costumes are important players and plot points throughout the story, and the lack of character expression matches a world of intensely ritualized social interaction perfectly. Furthermore, while Yoshinaga isn't know[n] for her gorgeously rendered settings, artistic assistants provide much needed background detail and atmosphere." Holly Ellingwood describes the manga as a "fascinating study of 'what if'", and praises Viz's presentation of the manga. Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane found it difficult to connect with the characters in the first volume. Katherine Dacey criticised the English translation of the manga, finding it awkwardly juxtaposed faux-old-English with modern language, and enjoyed the characterisation of Yoshimune. She found the second volume more engaging than the first, but found the language distracting. Carlo Santos of Anime News Network enjoyed the artwork which shows the period detail, but disliked the lack of character development in the second volume and the English translation.