Authority Equals Asskicking: Ryuuki is a good enough swordsman to make it the semifinals of a combat tournament with some of the finest warriors in the empire. He also takes down a group of assassins in a pitch-dark room in order to rescue Shuurei, in spite of his own serious fear of the dark.
Big Brother Worship: To Seien, the only one of his older brothers who was ever nice to him. This was especially true when they were kids, but it still shows: Ryuuki's main reason for refusing to rule is the hope that by making himself thoroughly objectionable and useless as Emperor, he will inspire someone to bring Seien back from exile to take the throne.
Bi the Way: It is obvious more or less since the beginning, but to make sure Shuurei can't deny it anymore gets it, Ryuuki declares he is sorry to not have told her before that he likes not only men but women also. Then he kisses her.
Digging Yourself Deeper: When Shuurei encounters him at a brothel, he tries to save face by saying that he doesn't need to go there because he can do that sort of thing at Imperial Residence if he wants. Oops.
King Incognito: Frequently, especially earlier in the series, and on at least one occasion his subjects don't initially believe him when he does state his true identity. On the other hand, the first time it comes up it's almost immediately subverted: when they first meet, Ryuuki introduces himself to Shuurei as Ran Shuuei, but Shuurei sees through the lie instantly since she's already met the real Ran Shuuei, and who else but the Emperor would be wandering around the palace gardens in casual clothing in the middle of the day?
Obfuscating Stupidity: There's a reason that Ryuuki was the only one of the previous Emperor's six sons to survive the Imperial Court long enough to take the throne; he is considerably sharper than he chooses to let on.
Royal "We": In the original Japanese dialogue he refers to himself with a royal pronoun which serves essentially the same function, and is sometimes translated as the royal "we." It occasionally trips him up a little when he's being Emperor Incognito.
Skilled, but Na´ve: Ryuuki is by no means incompetent but season 2 and the later novels show that he is severely inexperienced when dealing with older officials.
Son of a Whore: It is stated in a side-story that his mother was a high class courtesan, which is yet another reason Ryuuki was The Unfavorite in the court.
The Unfavorite: Ryuuki grew up at the absolute bottom of a pecking order of six princes and their mothers.
Unexpected Successor: The youngest of six princes, he only became Emperor because one of his brothers was exiled and the rest executed for treason.
Youngest Child Wins: May count as a straight example or a subversion, depending on your perspective; he may be the most successful of the previous emperor's children, but the series takes pains to show how much being emperor fails to make him happy. All things considered, the real winner of the happiness lottery is probably Seien/Seiran, making it a subversion.
Ryuuki's father, the previous Emperor, deceased by the time of the story.
Abusive Parent: He attentively watches over his sons and has the policy of saving each of his sons' life once. However, he does not care about their personal well-being and does nothing to prevent the power struggle that leads to the death of four of them.
The Emperor: An extremely charismatic tyrant whose effective rule is recognized by even his enemies.
Heroic Sacrifice: The novels reveal that he died protecting his son Seien from a curse by the Hyou clan.
Magnetic Hero: People who know him all comment on his charisma. Even the notoriously ruthless and independent-minded Ran triplets would follow him if he asked them.
Parental Favoritism: While Senka is apathetic to all of his sons personally, Seien is definitely the one he favours. Senka took the curse meant for Seien, exiled the boy instead of executing him even with the charge of treason, and ordered the Black Wolf to take care of him.
Our heroine, an impoverished noblewoman and classic Plucky Girl. Her dream is to become a government official, which is a little problematic since women aren't allowed to serve as government officials in Saiunkoku.
Dude Magnet: At least three men have declared their love for her. Various others (or really, most of the male cast) are also shown to be attracted to her romantically in varying degrees. Eigetsu is pretty much the only non-grandpa-aged male to show none whatsoever.
Honor Before Reason: In later novels, when Ryuuki is out of favour with almost all of the courtiers and noble families, Shouka still stands by the young emperor because he has made his promise. It's a Kou family thing.
Nom de Guerre: The previous Black Wolf names him "Kaito", the chief star of the Dipper.
Not With Them For The Money: The family's financial situation would be much less dire if Shouka weren't so easygoing and completely unconcerned about money that he allowed his pay from the palace to be reduced almost to nothing. This in spite of the fact that not only are his brothers (who adore him) some of the most wealthy and influential men in Saiunkoku, he's served as a surrogate father figure for years to the man who is now the Emperor.
Papa Wolf: Though he mostly seems content to play the kindly Bumbling Dad, when the Black Wolf is moved to protect Shuurei and Seiran, he is completely merciless.
Big Brother Instinct: Towards Shuurei. To a lesser extent, Ryuuki. When Shuurei proves to be capable of surviving on her own, he becomes dedicated to helping his brother instead.
Bishōnen: His good looks is often commented on in-story. His brother once complains that he is "too perfect".
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Played for Laughs. He can switch between smiling to Shuurei and doing something unpleasant to the likes of Ensei and Suou at the drop of a hat. In more serious situations, he claims to be a ruthless person deep down, the truth of which is illustrated in all of his interactions with Sa Sakujun.
Break the Haughty: As Prince Seien, he was very proud and a rather tactless perfectionist as his interactions with a young Shuuei shows. His talents and attitudes ultimately backfired on him.
Jade-Colored Glasses: Despite Ryuuki's rosy memories of a kind big brother, Seien was portrayed to be highly cynical at the ripe old age of ten in the side-stories, courtesy of the Deadly Decadent Court he grew up in.
Knight Templar Big Brother: Displays this tendency towards Shuurei. Ensei and Suou among other people called him out on his overprotectiveness, and growing out of it and focusing on bigger picture for both Shuurei and Ryuuki's sakes is an important part of his characterization.
Meaningful Name: "Shi," written with a different kanji than the family name of the Shi clan, refers to a plant used to make purple dye - meaningful because not only do they sound the same, the "Shi" of the royal family's name means "purple." "Seiran" means "silent orchid," and was given to him by Shuurei's mother because he did not speak for some time after the Kou family took him in.
Conflicting Loyalty: Like Shuuei, he is aware that he can be tied down by Reishin and by extension the Kou faction, and thus cannot swear true loyalty to Ryuuki. This is where Reishin's Hidden Heart of Gold shows: by not giving his adopted son the Kou surname, he is keeping Kouyuu away from clan affairs.
Dark and Troubled Past: In the novels, he was adopted by a kind old couple, who got murdered. Then he fell into the hands of slave traders. After he was sold back and forth several time, he ended up being tied to a tree as a human sacrifice when Reishin found him.
Desk Jockey: He specializes in bureaucracy and thus is often not involved in what goes on outside the palace.
Hypercompetent Sidekick: To Reishin, whose job Kouyuu mostly does for him. This is due to laziness on Reishin's part rather than incompetence; he's a Chessmaster in his own right when he cares to exert himself, but often as not he can't be bothered to do the day-to-day work of his position, leaving it to Kouyuu instead. In second season, it is also heavily implied that Reishin wants to keep Kouyuu from getting too involved with Ryuuki. In a later novel, it is revealed that this is Reishin's method of forcefully making Kouyuu stop living solely for his foster father's approval. Unfortunately, Kouyuu missed the point and ended up making both of them lose their positions.
Meaningful Name: "Li" for plum, Reishin's favorite flower and fruit. The "Kou" in "Kouyuu," similar to the family name of the Kou clan, means "crimson." The "Kou" in "Kouyuu" is also homophonous to the character used for his name before he was adopted by Reishin.
Nice Guy: But protested when Ryuuki commented on that.
No Sense of Direction: Though he usually refuses to admit this flaw and instead claims that his intended destination has moved without his prior knowledge.
Non-Action Guy: His ability with a sword is pretty much limited to "wave it wildly until Shuuei bails him out."
Big Brother Worship: Reishin more or less worships the ground Shouka walks on, and this also extends to Shouka's daughter. They're the only two people he can be bothered to be nice to on anything like a regular basis.
Cannot Spit It Out: Reishin has serious communication troubles, as his treatments of Kouyuu and Shuurei show.
Creepy Uncle: How creepy? He acts more like a Stalker with a Crush than Shuurei's uncle, and in a rant to Shouka, says outright that he doesn't mind marrying her and that she will be happy with him. (To be fair, they were discussing about arranging a political marriage for her and it's not said with romantic intent, which makes it slightly less creepy. Slightly.)
Intelligence Equals Isolation: His friend Kijin muses about how Shouka helps him barely escape this fate (in contrast to Ryuuren, who does not have such a figure in his life).
Jerkass: How much of a jerk is Reishin? When he and his friend Ko Houju fell for the same woman, Reishin forged a letter from her to Houju saying she could never bear to be with someone so much more beautiful than herself. Then Reishin married her. This led directly to Houju constantly wearing masks and calling himself "Kijin," meaning "weirdo."
Tsundere: Reishin is more or less a jackass to anyone else, even his friends and his adopted son, but Shuurei and Shouka reduce him to blushing and cooing. Also, as Shouka explained to Kouyuu, Reishin does not show his likes or dislikes openly.
The Gambling Addict: In Seiran's recollections, she often made her husband and young servant play dice with her, and the loser had to drink sake. She was basically responsible for Seiran's strong stomach for alcohol.
Disproportionate Retribution: When Reishin is accused of tampering with the results of the Imperial Examinations, Kurou orders a labor strike which grinds the entire capital city to a halt. When Shouka's servants abandoned him following Shokun's death and stole most of the household's valuables, Kurou had them hunted down and had their eyes and severed ears sent to their families.
The Reliable One: Is considered as more level-headed and more concerned with clan affairs than his two older brothers, and is therefore effectively the head of the clan despite the position being officially held by Reishin.
Thicker Than Water: Takes clan affairs very seriously. He claims to hate Shouka for being irresponsible and probably does not get along well with Reishin, but touch his older brothers (and niece) and he will show why the Kou clan should not be messed with.
The Ran Clan
A general of the Imperial Army. Like Li Kouyuu, he's an up-and-comer in the Imperial Court and was assigned as a personal retainer to the Emperor. Reputed to be a ladies' man, but usually seen joined at the hip with Kouyuu instead.
Big Brother Instinct: He cares a lot for Jyuusanhime, his younger sister. And his youngest brother Ryuuren, but he seldom expresses it openly. In a sidestory, he comments that Ryuuki is like a little brother to him, probably even more than Ryuuren.
Bodyguarding A Badass: Subverted. While Ryuuki is strong in his own right, and guarding him is indeed his duty, Shuuei is actually much stronger than Ryuuki but prefers to keep that a secret.
The Casanova: Can get any woman to fall for him except for the two he fell in love with.
Not Distracted by the Sexy: In the manga, he is pretty much the only client who can leave Kiyou's best courtesan Kouchou in the middle of the night.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Shuuei likes to flaunt his The Casanova reputation but his frequent visits to the red light district are not just for pleasure. Also, very few people know how strong he actually is at swordplay.
Beware the Silly Ones: Ryuuren's loopiness is part of his genius. His unpredictability means that nobody can get a handle on him or manipulate him. Also, his flute-playing is completely tuneless, physically painful to hear, a legitimate weapon and can also stop pouring rain.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Ryuuren is so quirky that most people can barely understand anything he says. He's also a genius who travels as he wishes because, regardless of the place, nobody can keep him out.
Intelligence Equals Isolation: His intelligence is mentioned before as a reason for his quirks because he does not see the world the same as ordinary people.
Meaningful Name: "Ryuu" means "dragon", and "ren" means "lotus". Dragon and lotus are two charges on the crest of the Ran clan. The name marks him as the special person in the Ran clan whose will is respected by the clan head, and the vessel of the Sage of Blue.
Big Brother Instinct: Despite their reputation of ruthlessness, they fight their clan's tradition and assume the leader position so that Ryuuren can have more choices in life.
Single Minded Triplets: Played with. Multiple births are considered unlucky in Saiunkoku, so the Ran family named all three triplets "Setsuna" (they have individual names as well, but don't use them in public) and raised them to be as indistinguishable from one another as possible, treating them as the same person. In fact, this becomes a plot point late in the second season, as a test for Shuuei. The only other person to have successfully differentiated between the three of them is the wife of one of them.
The Sa Clan
Leader of the Sa Clan and one of the three "grand old men" of the Imperial Court, along with Shou Yosei and General So.
Brilliant but Lazy: He's generally only motivated to take action when something's getting in the way of his personal amusement. And by "take action" we mean "manipulate someone else into removing the obstacle." Even with that, he manages to do quite a bit of damage before he self-destructs.
Camp Straight: Looks and behaves somewhat flamboyantly, but isn't interested in anyone except Shuurei.
Shadow Archetype: Ryuuki's. They're both much more intelligent and capable than they choose to seem, but Sakujun lacks any semblance of Ryuuki's strong morals. The resemblance gives Shuurei a number of bad moments.
What Is This Thing You Call Love?: Sakujun is distinctly fuzzy on the concept of caring about anyone other than himself, and admits that he can't be sure his feelings for Shuurei are actually love since he's never felt anything of that nature before.
Sakujun's younger brother, another one of Enjun's nephews.
Lysistrata Gambit: A very mild version; when Kokujun gets overwhelmed by his responsibilities as the new leader of the Sa Clan and panics, Shunki motivates him by gently pointing out that finishing his duties will give them "more time to spend together as husband and wife." It works perfectly.
The Minister of Finance. One of the odder characters in the Imperial Court, which is saying something.
VAs: Nakada Kazuhiro (JP), Mark Oliver (EN)
Appropriated Appellation: His real name is Ko Houju. "Kijin," meaning "weirdo," is a nickname originally given to him by others, which he began using himself after being rejected by a woman for being too beautiful.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He's in charge of the Ministry of Finance, and respected in spite of being difficult to deal with... not to mention his other quirks.
Nice Guy: Eccentricities asides, he is absolutely loyal to his friends and as his subordinate Kei puts it, he is interesting to know once you get past the mask.
Rapunzel Hair: A lot of the men have it, but Kijin is particularly notable because he wears his completely loose.
So Beautiful, It's a Curse: The year that Kijin took the Imperial Examinations, his beauty proved so distracting that only two other candidates passed the exams and thirty officials had to be fired for forgetting to announce the end of the exam period.
Alas, Poor Villain: In-universe, he has one of these moments over Ren, observing that Ren's actions were driven by his desperation for his mother's approval, and that if he'd had the chance to spend some time with Shuurei and her friends, he could have received the genuine affection he craved so much.
A young man who takes the Imperial Examinations in the same year as Shuurei and Eigetsu.
Hidden Heart of Gold: Gets angry when Shuurei and Eigetsu are singled out for harsh treatment and eventually helps them despite being well aware that he himself can become a target for bullying like them.
Thicker Than Water: Refuses to cooperate with Kouyuu, someone he admires, to find the famous artist Yuukoku because people from his clans have been exploited and thus the Heki want to protect their current genius.
An eccentric woman who is an art expert. She is the famous artist who will be the next head of the Heki clan.
Honor Before Reason: She is chosen to make a magical mirror for the Hyou clan, a task said to kill every single person who completes it. Though that makes her angry, she still accepts it.
Nom De Plume: She is the famous artist Heki Yuukoku. Her clan forces her to take on a male professional name because female artists don't get much respect.
Officials and Residents of the Imperial Capital
Usually referred to as "Advisor Shou". With Sa Enjun and Grand General So, he's one of the three Grand Officials of the Imperial Court. Shou is one of the Eight Immortal Sages, specifically the Sage of Purple.
Batman Gambit: He plays Sa Enjun and the rest of the entire Imperial court like a harp in order to force Ryuuki to take his role as Emperor seriously.
Jerk Ass: Was willing to let the country burn in civil war despite being perfectly capable to clean the mess up, all for the sake of finding a worthy emperor. Shouka openly threatened to kill him because he did not care if Shuurei and Seiran died as a result of his plot.
The third of the three Grand Officials of the Imperial Court, with Shou Yosei and Sa Enjun. Usually appears for the sole purpose of beating the stuffing out of swordsmen fifty years younger than he is.
Stern Teacher: So stern that he is not asked to be trainer for the army again.
Lady-in-waiting to the Imperial Harem; she assists Shuurei during Shuurei's time as Consort. Shouka took her in from the Hyou Clan when he abducted Shokun, and made her one of the Wolves of the Wind, in which capacity she serves briefly as a double agent between Sa Enjun and Shou Yosei.
Actually, I Am Him: He's initially introduced to Shuurei and Eigetsu as "Jun Yuu," a minor government official sent from the capital of Sa province to advise and assist them in taking over as co-governors. Throughout the arc in which they do so, they are told that Lieutenant Governor Tei Yuushun has locked himself in a prison tower to continue the work of the Governor's office in safety... until Shuurei arrives to rescue him and finds the tower ablaze, at which point Yuushun admits his real identity.
Chessmaster Sidekick: While Ryuuki is intelligent and competent in his own right, he lacks experience in governing, especially when it comes to the finer points of clan-related issues and power struggles. Hence, he relies heavily on Yuushun to bail him out when he's cornered in assemblies and to think of plans and tactics. For example, Yuushun is basically responsible for his tactics for bringing Shuuei back from the Ran clan from start to finish. Although it's never really discussed, he presumably filled a similar role to Ensei while serving as Lieutenant Governor of Sa Province, given the unusual nature of Ensei's appointment as Governor.
Dark and Troubled Past: The novels reveal that he is the "Hourin", head of a legendary hidden clan of strategists who would only appear to help the Kou clan in time of crisis. Emperor Senka wiped his clan out when he was little, which the Kou clan turned a blind eye to.
Dragon with an Agenda: He is involved in Ou Ki's plot to usurp Ryuuki but until the very end, nobody is quite sure what his aim is.
Face-Heel Turn: Zig-zagged. he is ultimately loyal to Ryuuki but puts the young Emperor through hellish tests and considers turning away for real if Ryuuki does not have it take to be a good ruler.
Poisonous Friend: While he helps Ryuuki get what the latter wants, he never points out to the young Emperor the full extent of the long term consequences or the better alternatives. To make it even more awesome, he warns Ryuuki to take his words only half seriously.
Introduced late in the story, after Shuurei comes back from the Sa Province. Makes a failure of a proposal to Shuurei on his father's orders. Later becomes Shuurei's colleague and helps her in Ran family arc.
Beware the Honest Ones: He says whatever is on his mind. However, Seiran admits that it is difficult to figure out his motives and ways of thinking. Kouki says he can play the fool easily because he is a fool.
Brilliant but Lazy: An interesting case. He's definitely lazy, but while he's not necessarily as intelligent as Shuurei or Seiga, he's not nearly as dumb as most people - himself included - claim he is. In particular, he turns out to be extremely perceptive, and in the end, out of Seiga, Shuurei and himself, is actually the first to be promoted.
Cloudcuckoolander: Appears to be this at first with his rather strange proposal to Shuurei and his golden tanuki statue.
Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: Delivers a scathing lecture to Ryuuki and to some extent, Seiran, about the responsibility of a ruler when Shuurei goes missing just after accepting to be a Royal Consort
Hidden Heart of Gold: He complained about being dragged into troubles by Shuurei all the time but eventually voluntarily took the fall for her. He also takes very good care of his father, who while not abusive is irresponsible and a bit of a wimp.
In-Series Nickname: "Tan-Tan," courtesy of Seiran. This is because he carries around a golden tanuki statue in his first appearance.
The Mole: He does not work for the bad guy. However, he acts as agent of the Inspector General and reports on what Shuurei does when she works in Ran province, which can get her fired. He ultimately voluntarily takes the fall for her.
Only Sane Man: Is not necessarily depicted as "right" all the time, but his laid-back attitude makes him this in contrast to Shuurei's enthusiasm and Seiran's crazy overprotective tendencies, among other things.
Jerkass Fašade: Acts cold to Shuurei during the time she was accused of cheating in the examination.
Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Defied. Shortly before Shuurei takes the Imperial Examinations, Kouchou presents her with the gift of a large cosmetics case to remind her not to be ashamed of being a woman, but to take pride in it.
Chancellor in Central Government who often criticises Ryuuki's policies.
Last of His Kind: Previous Emperor Senka thoroughly wipes out every clan that has blood relation to the original Emperor Sou Gen. Ou Ki is a survivor of the purge. As a result, he takes in survivors of the purged clans.
Brutal Honesty: He does not bother to defer to superiors who have not earned his respect. Thus, he is very confrontative to Reishin (as shown in his report of Shuurei, who he knows is Reishin's niece). He also does not hesitate to persecute Kouyuu, whom he personally is quite fond of, when Kouyuu does not fulfill the duty of an official.
Comes Great Responsibility: Is a believer of this, hence his disdain for Reishin who is a genius from a powerful clan but does not use his talents for the greater good.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Despite not having passed any of the examinations required to qualify for public office, Ensei was made Governor of Sa Province by special dispensation because the Imperial court needed someone in the position who could survive the Sa clan's repeated assassination attempts.
Book Dumb: Seiran likes to claim that Ensei's brain has turned into muscle, to which Ensei cheerfully agrees. He could still pass governmental exams to be employed officially, albeit with unimpressive rank.
He Cleans Up Nicely: When first introduced, Ensei sports an unkempt, bushy beard and generally wild appearance. When he shaves the beard off later on, he turns out to be quite a good-looking fellow.
I Am Not Left-Handed: Ordering him to drop his staff is a bad idea - Ensei prefers to use a staff as a weapon because, as Seiran explains, it allows him to be more gentle on his opponents than when he fights barehanded.
Demonic Possession: More or less. He was saved from dying of Parental Abandonment by Yougetsu, who possessed him in order to extend his life. Yougetsu is the immortal Sage of White rather than a demon, but in practice it works out the same.
Drunken Master: Drinking or even smelling sake brings out Yougetsu, who is a master fighter.
Teen Genius: He claims that he's not a genius and is able to memorize texts due to sheer hard work, but considering that he's the youngest person to ever pass the exams (younger than Kouyuu by three years), in first place no less, it's not very credible.
Tsundere: Yougetsu a.k.a. the Sage of White. He goes to impressive lengths for Eigetsu but always denies that he cares for the kid.
Your Days Are Numbered: Yougetsu saved Eigetsu from dying as a child, but could only prolong his life by "about twenty years," a duration then halved when Yougetsu saves Eigetsu's adoptive father Doushu by sharing Eigetsu's soul with him, and further shortened every time Yougetsu takes control of Eigetsu's body.
Governor of Koku Province, later Governor of Sa Province, all-around cool guy.
Regarded as the best doctor living in Saiunkoku at the time of the story. He treated Shuurei when she was a child, since she was often ill. Actually the Sage of Yellow, one of the Eight Immortal Sages.