Maomao slapping Lady Lihua’s lady-in-waiting shows genius of TOHO animation and OLM
One of the best scenes of the utterly superb anime The Apothecary Diaries so far is a scene in Episode 4, “The Threat” as Maomao is in Lady Lihua’s room, surrounded by her ladies-in-waiting and with Jinshi the eunuch watching the proceedings.
As Maomao is leaning over Lady Lihua, who is lying sick in bed, she accidentally wipes off the face powder she is wearing.
At that point, Maomao realizes the thing that is making Lady Lihua ill, other than grief over her dead son, is the face powder.
Powder that was banned in the palace after she informed Jinshi it was poison, as well as the cause of the Emperor’s children dying.
Furious that someone still has the powder, and has used it to make up Lady Lihua’s face, Maomao approaches the ladies-in-waiting and asks one in particular if she is in charge of her mistress’s make-up.
When she admits she is, and that she is the one who used the poisonous face powder, Maomao slaps her so hard she falls to the ground.
This scene, and what follows, is just over 2-minutes of perfection, and proof of the genius of both Studio OLM and TOHO Animation Studio — the two Japanese anime production studios that created The Apothecary Diaries.
Why should Maomao slapping Lady Lihua’s lady-in-waiting go down in anime history?
The entire scene from Maomao inspecting Lady Lihua’s face, and realizing it is covered in face powder, to its ending as Jinshi comments on Maomao’s behavior is only 2 minutes and 35 seconds long.
In that short time, however, the anime studios have created a scene that should be watched again and again just to notice the tiny things that have created such perfection.
- The look of disgust on Maomao’s face as she realizes Lihua’s face is covered in powder.
- The way she purposefully walks towards the ladies-in-waiting as Jinshi looks on.
- The way the scene is shot from behind Maomao’s back as she asks the lady-in-waiting if she is the one who used the face powder. You cannot see Maomao’s face, but from her back stiff and bristling with anger, and her voice (beautifully acted by Aoi Yuuki) you know how furious she is.
- The slap is so incredibly powerful as nobody senses it’s coming, and as the woman falls to the floor and the others gasp, you can almost feel Jinshi’s silent curiosity to see what’s coming next.
- The way the scene is shot from the perspective of the slapped woman lying on the floor, looking up at a furious Maomao as she tells her “Just punishing an idiot. Obviously.”
- The deadness of Maomao’s voice as she explains to the woman now covered in powder, “The poison will infect your whole body after a while. You should be glad. You’ll be pretty too“, and the look of horror on the woman’s face as she realizes what she’s done.
- The absolute power of that one line “Who would be happy poisoned with the same thing that killed their son?“, a line as hard as a punch, and even harsher than the slap.
- That oh so slight flicker in Maomao’s eyes, as she realizes the woman didn’t use the powder with any harm intended. She just wanted her mistress to look and feel beautiful while she was ill.
- How Maomao tells the woman “Go rinse your mouth and wash your face“ as, even though she is angry at what has happened, she still doesn’t want her to come to any real harm.
- The way Maomao tells the other women “Clean the floor immediately“, and they understand, not only is she in complete control with the approval of Jinshi, she is also someone they should never mess with again.
- The ending of the scene as Jinshi throws Maomao’s own words back at her “Oh…It truly is scary how women can change so quickly“. A moment that lightens that heavy scene, as well as pushes Maomao back to realizing she may have gone a little too far, while still remembering how annoying she finds Jinshi.
- All of Maomao’s anger is underscored by the dramatic music and the superb sound effects as the women gasp, the lady-in-waiting’s hanfu slides along the floor as she is dragged by the hair, the sound of the powder falling on the woman’s head, and the dull smack Maomao’s hand makes as she grabs the lady-in-waiting to show her her dying mistress.
- The background art is absolutely stunning — so much so, you can almost feel the textures of the curtains, the paper screens and the wood.
- The pacing of the entire 2 minutes and 35 seconds is masterful. From the walk to the slap, to the dragging, to the anger, to the powder punishment, to the explaining, to the organizing, to Jinshi’s response. Perfection.
The entire scene is also so beautifully drawn, even the way the shadows fall on Maomao’s face add to the drama, and the animation through every frame is smoother than smooth.
In fact, if you want a scene to study to show how the highest quality anime is animated compared to those that are not, Maomao slapping the lady-in-waiting in The Apothecary Diaries should be at the absolute top of your list.
Watch the entire scene below — several times — and look for all the subtle things added that make that scene so utterly superb.
Meanwhile, the first five episodes of The Apothecary Diaries are now streaming on Crunchyroll, with new episodes of the 24-episode anime released every Saturday.
It is, without a doubt, the best anime of 2023, and we still have 19 more episodes to come.
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