Earlier this year I wrote about the manga adaptation of The Apothecary Diaries that I was recommending to everyone and anyone that would listen. Originally based on superb light novels, the manga adaptation served up a fierce, multi-layered yet engaging narrative about a young woman using her talents to weed out corruption and better the lives of others. The Apothecary Diaries follows Maomao, a girl from the slums in Imperial China who’s kidnapped and forced to work as a servant in the Imperial Palace.
Yet, the series truly took me by surprise with a cast of characters, major and minor, that populated a story that gave me mysteries being solved and people’s lives being impacted with lots of laughs along the way. Now that we’ve got an anime on the way, I am so pleased to see what makes it into this adaptation. Even from the trailer, it seems to be bringing all the flair and drama that I loved from the light novels and the manga versions.
It All Starts With A Mystery!
The Apothecary Diaries centers around the life of one young woman named Maomao, who lives in the East in a land ruled by the emperor; whose consorts and serving women live in a sprawling palace. She’s a seemingly plain girl who doesn’t raise many eyebrows and just tries to keep her head down as she completed her time of servitude in the palace as a maid. She finds this easier as she was recently kidnapped and sold off to this place as a servant. She’s actually the daughter of an apothecary father who serves mostly a district that caters to brothels and houses of pleasures. It is just her luck that there is a string of tragedies in this place of opulence for royalty–the heirs of the emperors, babies falling ill. There’s a great curse rumored to have befallen the place and our girl Maomao sees evidence to suggest otherwise.
The ante is upped as we see in the first ten seconds or so of the trailer a dressed up Maomao, all dolled up in fine clothing and makeup drinking something, and dramatically announcing after a moment that it is poisoned! Part of what makes The Apothecary Diaries a must watch is the level of mystery and infamy that companies each new case and dire situation that Maomao ends involved with, and she does her best to figure it all out in this place of perfumed sneers and high stakes. I also love how this trailer introduces Jinshi, who is employed in the palace as the head eunuch and is the first to realize the girl’s talents and perceptiveness. He’s an interesting character who lives to annoy her but also holds great power and responsibility. Their hilarious dynamic and how they act around each other is teased here in the trailer and it all looks so gorgeous!
Connections, Connections, Connections
Family is an important element in The Apothecary Diaries, or at least family ties. From royalty to ladies who work in red light districts to seemingly insignificant assistants to apothecaries who get swept up in palace politics, I am wondering just how in depth the anime will build upon and reveal when developing the characters of MaoMao and Jinshi in this adaptation. In the trailer, we see glimpses of all the emperor’s consorts, all who Maomao ends up entangled with as the story goes on. Some of these ladies are more influential than others, due to age, how many children they have and…the assets they have as well. In the trailer, we see one particular consort being in serious bad health and Maomao tasked to bring her back to health. This brought to mind the very first mystery that the teenager solves in the palace that cements her position as someone to watch.
The Apothecary Diaries is an anime to look out for and watch this Fall for those who love detective stories and narratives that keep bringing surprises around every corner. With even just these two major characters, MaoMao and Jinshi, I like to joke that it is seven degrees of separation with the level of persons connected to each other. From banished persons to secret babies to adopted family members to deceased parents, the story is filled with drama bombs that help color an already rich story bursting at the seams with intriguing twists. The longer Maomao sticks around, the more and more she gets sucked into more problems of the palace where her powers of deduction and curiosity endear her to more people; however, it bring more dangers to her front door. I am looking forward to stunning animation to complement an engaging story centering on a female protagonist in a historical setting that already has such a dedicated fandom already in place. Fall 2023 Season cannot come fast enough!
Based on the light novels by Natsu Hyuuga and Touko Shino, The Apothecary Diaries is being directed by Norihiko Naganuma (The Ancient Magus’ Bride), who also serves as series composer, and assistant-directed by Akinori Fudesaka (Tsuredure Children) at TOHO animation STUDIO and OLM, alongside these staff members as reported by Crunchyroll:
Character Designer: Yukiko Nakatani (Tropical-Rouge! Precure)
Color Designer: Misato Aida
Art Director: Katsumi Takao
CGI Director: Yu Nagai
Director of Photography: Rumi Ishiguro
Editor: Daisuke Imai
Sound Director: Shoji Hata
Music: Kevin Penkin (Made in Abyss), Alisa Okehazama (JUJUTSU KAISEN)
Cover image via Crunchyroll.
The upcoming anime adaptation of The Apothecary Diaries will premiere this October as part of the Fall 2023 anime season.