The long wait for the premiere of The Apothecary Diaries anime is finally behind us. The anime’s debut being later in the season than most series had us waiting in anticipation for weeks. On October 22nd, we were treated to not just one but three full-length episodes of The Apothecary Diaries. The anime is an adaptation of a popular light novel of the same title released in 2014. Do the first three episodes of the adaptation do justice to the beloved light novel and the long wait? I think The Apothecary Diaries hits the mark we were all hoping for.
A Girl Named Maomao
In the anime, we are transported to an ancient Chinese setting and introduced to our main character, Maomao, a freckle-faced teenager living in a village with her apothecary father. Only a few minutes into the episode, Maomao is captured and forced to work at the Emporer’s palace as a lowly servant. The first peculiarity I noticed in Maomao was her calm attitude toward her situation. Despite being captured and sold into servanthood, Maomao doesn’t appear to be too distressed. She accepts her circumstances and mentions that she will have to endure the situation she has been given. We already have a grasp on Maomao’s levelheadedness early on in the episode.
The beautifully displayed backgrounds of the first episode were quick to impress. There is no doubt that Chinese architecture is mesmerizing and stunning, and the anime is already doing an exceptional job of portraying the grandeur and intricacy of the palace. Every place the characters interact in seems carefully thought out and appropriately shown. There is also a grand soundtrack that features songs inspired by traditional Chinese music. The Apothecary Diaries is already doing a stellar job of transporting the viewer back in time to ancient China. It’s fairly uncommon to find anime set in such an environment, making it a refreshing departure from the usual modern-day Tokyo, Japan settings we often see in anime.
One of the most crucial scenes in episode one occurs when Maomao cleverly employs her medicinal expertise to discreetly notify the palace about a perilous threat that has been afflicting infants’ health within its walls. Maomao’s attempts at anonymity fail, as the palace urgently summons her to utilize her exceptional skills for important tasks. Maomao is now in charge of examining the food and beverages in the imperial palace, ensuring their safety from poison. Additionally, she has the opportunity to use her expertise in apothecary to prepare medicine. In just a few, well-crafted episodes, we witness Maomao’s journey from a humble village girl to a lowly servant, and ultimately, to a more prestigious position within the illustrious palace.
Although most of the anime tends to have a serious tone, there is still space for lighthearted and comical moments. One of my favorite scenes is when Maomao is being tested on her ability to seek out poison inside of food and drink. We learn she is fairly immune to certain poisons, as she had slowly trained her body to resist such things as she was growing up in her father’s apothecary. Although the job is not an easy task, Maomao enjoys it because it allows her to savor delicacies that are exclusively served within the palace. We get to see a less serious side of Maomao here, one that is a bit less mature and grounded.
Another character worth mentioning is Jinshi. He is a mysterious and attractive individual who works in the palace, captivating both men and women with his beauty. Neither the audience nor Maomao knows much about him, yet I have a hunch that he will play a significant role as the series progresses. Up until now, his most significant appearance was in episode three, where he seems to be displaying a growing fascination towards our protagonist, Maomao.
Episode three gives us a bit more background about Maomao, and sets the stage for her to be more involved with the ongoing of the palace. Maomao is the perfect example of a person who wants to live a modest life, yet is swept up in situations concerning the imperial court. It will be interesting to see her continue to adapt to this new life.
With captivating characters, a splendid soundtrack, and a picturesque backdrop showcasing the wonders of ancient China, The Apothecary Diaries is already a promising Fall 2023 anime. Not only will viewers be returning weekly to follow the story, but for the electrifying opening sequence, “Hana ni Natte” by Ryokuoushoku Shakai and the emotionally moving closing “Aikotoba” by AiNA THE END.
We’ll have to wait a few more days to see what Maomao gets herself into in episode four. The studio, OLM, has slated the show for 24 episodes, so we’ll be watching well into 2024. You can now vote for the anime in our weekly poll!
Images via Crunchyroll
©Natsu Hyuga, Shufunutomo / “Kusuriya no Hitorigoto” Production Committee