Ouke no Monshou - War, Politics, and Love Triangles in Ancient Egypt

Prefer to listen on YouTube instead? https://youtu.be/hHxA1HBHtV8

Ouke no Monshou, or Crest of the Royal Family, is a historical shoujo manga which first began publishing in 1976 in the magazine Princess. It’s drawn and written by Chieko Hosokawa, and despite the fact that it started four decades ago, it’s still publishing to this day. It’s also the third best selling shojo manga of all time, also making it one of the best selling manga overall. Despite this it’s relatively unknown outside of Japan, which is why I’m here to explain why it’s still worth it for you to read it.

The premise is quite simple, a girl named Carol, is studying egyptology in Egypt itself. She is but a teenager, however she is very knowledgeable regarding the subject. One day, an ancient tomb is unearthed, previously untouched for over three thousand years. However, Carol manages to activate an ancient curse which sees her transported back to ancient egypt. While she initially leads life as a slave, her unusual appearance sees her being taken notice of by the Pharaoh himself, Memphis. With a vast amount of knowledge at her disposal, Carol ends up directly affecting the course of History.

One of the things that don’t work very well about the work is the way it uses dual timelines, as in it has two stories running concurrently, and it occasionally changes perspective between the two. The first timeline is obviously the one involving Carol in the past, and it is the much more interesting one, while the second one takes place during present day, and sees Carol’s family searching for her. While this may initially seem like a good idea, as it is a time travel story, it doesn’t really end up working because there is no sense of tension during the present day timeline. While the past timeline involves Memphis waging war on other countries, and trouble in the egyptian court, the past timeline only has one plot point: that being the search for Carol. And where is Carol? Three thousand years in the past.

As there can be no resolution to the plot point of the present day timeline, it ends up being boring and uninteresting to read. Combine that with the fact that the characters in the present day aren’t very interesting or fun either, and it ends up backfiring. The way a dual timeline is supposed to work is such that timeline 1 is interesting, and then when it reaches, or is near a climax, you switch to the second timeline in order to do two things: give more information surrounding the nature of the plot, and relax the story. You then switch back after a while, and repeat the process. Hopefully, after a while, the reader will have spent enough time with the characters in the second timeline to be engrossed in it, and you have two interesting stories. They also may or may not coincide.

Another negative aspect is that there are a few too many anachronisms in the story. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s a chronological inconsistency - when an object, phrase or concept appears in a time when it should not have existed. For example, in the famous painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” the version of the american flag which appears in the painting, simply did not exist at the time the painting takes place. And there are a lot of such instances in Ouke no Monshou. For example, Carol often refers to Memphis as a “tyrant,” and Memphis objects to this, becoming rather enraged whenever he is referred to as such (an instance of this happens in vol 6 ch 24 page 31). However, it’s a word which originated in ancient Greece, therefore it makes no sense that he would understand what the word means.