Ooku is one of the best books I've read - both within the manga and non-graphic novels. It's simply spell-binding, mesmerizing, elevating, everything that a truly good book should be. Add to this beautiful, refined art. I've been most happy to continue with the series, and look forward to Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 3 (+Oku: the Inner Chambers) in April next year (2010) and Ôoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 4 in August. Volume 5 has been already released in Japan, and the series is still on-going, which is a good thing, as there will never be enough "Ooku" for me. VIZ Signature (publisher) did a marvelous job with volume 2 again, there is a color insert, semi-dust jacket, detailed history and culture-related end-notes, the great quality of translation and editing. All those who read volume 1 know that the translators chose to use archaic English, and as far as I know, that's the only thing that made some readers unhappy with the book (though I'm personally OK with that, and in fact, after a couple of pages it became natural / didn't bother me anymore). I'm yet to hear of any other complaint from any of the readers of this series, and I personally cannot see any single serious weakness or shortcoming in this book.
The story from volume 1 continues as the current shogun (a female) in an alternate history Japan, Edo/samurai period, dominated by women, is finding out the truth about how female shogunate got established. The story in volume 2 is all told in the past, the days when a male shogun was supposedly ruling the land, and women were nothing but "wenches" who could have been sold in prostitution by their husbands and had no rights. However, the mysterious plague destroys more and more men every day, and a shogun's wet nurse, a strong, cruel and driven woman, Kasuga, gains one of the highest positions of power and respect. In fact, who's really ruling the country?
A handsome young priest from a noble family makes a mistake of visiting the shogun's palace, and gets captured to become a shogun's male concubine / part of the male harem (Inner Chambers). The volume centers on his adventures and his relationship with the shogun and a few other figures from the Inner Chambers' surroundings. Those who expect yaoi (m/m romance) based on this description may be disappointed, but read on, my belief is that this story is bound to impress and be liked by almost any reader, of any genre.
The story is realistic, full of authentic details of samurai and shogunate life, wise, sad at times, yet elevating at others. Most highly recommended!