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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 4


Directed by Akikazu Ota

Out hunting one day Shinpachi happens across a little boy named Shota and his dog. A storm hits and Shinpachi takes the boy to his home inside a temple looked after by a kindly elder. That night, Shinpachi senses five killers approaching the temple. The old man tells him to get the boy to his mother who works at a clothing shop in Edo. Shota is unaware his mother is alive. As the old man is struck down by a sword strike from one of the men, Shota suddenly loses his voice. Shinpachi makes it back to Yamabiko with Shota safely.

Gohei consults with doctor Gennai about curing Shota's loss of voice but nothing can be done. In an effort to learn why the five killers were after the boy, the Shadow Warriors investigate. Gohei goes to see Oyu, Shota's mother who works as a prostitute (under the name of Otami) in addition to the dye factory. Otami (Oyu) denies having a son but due to Goehei's insistence, she cannot resist displaying concern on her face.
A samurai named Arata Genzaburo follows and attacks Gohei upon leaving Oyu. It is discovered he was the one that killed the old man at the temple that night. Arata is also Oyu's lover and she suspects him trying to kill her son despite his insistence otherwise. The Igas follow him around and learn that he is part of a murder plot to find and kill Shota but the reason is still unclear.

Iga ninja Otoki goes to see Oyu in secret and explains to her that Arata betrayed her for a post in the Sanada clan and that the Yakuza are watching her every move. A plan is hatched to get her to Yamabiko to see her son. Once there, Oyu tells why she had to abandon her son. Shota is lord Sanada's heir. Some years back Sanada had a liason with a girl from a restaurant who got pregnant. Since Sanada already had an heir, the woman was ordered to kill the baby when it was born so as not to cause problems. Otami (Oyu) fled to Oume to raise the child away from harm.

Gohei suggests Oyu stay and work at Yamabiko to be with her son till it is safe for the two of them to go away together. However, the villains aren't far behind and they eventually manage to kidnap Shota.

Meanwhile, Shinpachi learns that Takanuki had poisoned lord Sanada to usurp his power. With the young Shota being the lords son, Takanuki wants him dead as he is all that stands in his way of overtaking the Sanada clan. Just at the moment Takanuki orders Arata to kill Shota, Oyu steps in the way of the sword strike. Lightning flashes just as it did the night the old man was killed.

Shota suddenly regains his voice and the Shadow Warriors appear to dispense justice on the evil-doers. After the fight, the remaining Sanada clan wishes to take Shota back to be clan leader but Shinpachi refuses but asks Shota what he wishes to do--his response is to return with him back to Yamabiko.

This is a long winded episode. There's lots of talking and very little action. There are a couple very minor scuffles but nothing really substantial till the last couple minutes. It's worth the wait as Shinpachi delivers one of his best "death speeches" before carving up his intended victim(s). He always conveys an intimidating and life ending sermon before delivering retribution but this one he utters whilst the fight is going on around him and it's particularly memorable.

Director Ota does a fine job of mounting a compelling program with fine character- izations. Less patient fans will be put off by the lack of action but sometimes stories need to breath in other ways besides continuous fight scenes. The episode itself is a gloomy affair as Shota never does learn that Oyu was his mother. The director adds a nice touch in that with a lightning strike Shota's voice is both taken away and given back during simultaneous life altering situations. There are no humorous moments and Kiki Kirin is absent from this episode. Sonny Chiba is also absent from much of the show save for the beginning and ending letting the younger cast shine as well as giving Gohei lots to do as well. Doctor Gennai is only seen briefly. A well handled dramatic episode that's dialog heavy and recommended for those that can appreciate a good plot.

Continued in Episode Five: THE COURTIER'S SECRET TREASURE MAP!!!

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