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Friday, September 26, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 5


Directed by Akikazu Ota

Receiving word to come to the woods, Shinpachi and the others find Orin and Tsurozu digging with great rapidity. Orin had found a gold piece and there's thought to be even more buried about. Shinpachi himself digs furiously but soon finds out the gold is fake. Incensed that he has essentially been made a fool of, Shinpachi scolds and punishes the others. There is talk of the location of Takeda Shingen's war funds and Toyotomi Hedeyoshi's treasure, whether they exist or not.

Continuing with the light hearted nature of the episode, Orin entices doctor Gennai with an elaborate meal to smooth things over with Shinpachi. At the same time, court noble Nishioji Yorifusa, comes to town searching for doctor Gennai. He is on a journey acquiring poetry throughout the land although his real purpose is obscured for the moment. Having earlier wiped out a group of rebels privy to O'oka's insidious plans with the help of Shiina Misato, Nishioji wishes Misato to join him. To do this, she must betray O'oka Tadamitsu. Nishioji tempts Misato that joining him would be beneficial. His purpose is to procure the famed treasure of Hedeyoshi; the map and instructions of which are spread out inside various books of prose. One book in his possession is missing a crucial page. Realizing the task of finding Hedeyoshi's treasure a near impossible task, Nishioji requires one element that will make his task much easier--doctor Gennai.

Magoichi, an Iga friend of Koroku, turns up in Edo and informs Koroku about a map that leads to hidden treasure but he doesn't want to hear about it due to the prior incident with the chief. Magoichi wishes to join up with the band at Yamabiko but for different reasons. Meanwhile, Nishioji has dinner with Hiraga Gennai once more this time enjoying food and drink relegated for common folk. During this meeting, the treacherous courtier tries to convince Gennai to journey to Kyoto with him. Gennai refuses much to the court nobles dismay.

Later, Shinpachi is aware there is more to the courtier's intentions than discussing poetry and enjoying wine. Shinpachi says, "He's no ordinary black teeth". In ancient Japan, the practice of Ohaguro, painting the teeth black, was a sign of nobility and beauty. Discounting the notion he could be one of the rebel nobles against O'oka, the Iga keep a close eye on him. Discovering his plan, the young Iga, without notifying Shinpachi, decide to steal Nishioji Yorifusa's notes after learning Magoichi's map is the missing piece of the treasures location.

Magoichi breaks in and puts Nishioji to sleep with an Iga trick but to his surprise, it's a substitute. The courtier takes out Magoichi's eyes and demands he hand over the map. He and the other Iga manage to escape. Mortally wounded, Magoichi tells Koroku where the map is hidden. Distraught over the death of his friend, Koroku decides to go for the map alone but Uta, Ryukichi and Otoki decide to go with him. Upon nabbing the map, the Shiina wait in hiding for the Iga engaging them in a fight. They escape but doctor Gennai is kidnapped in the interim by Nishioji's followers. The plan now out in the open, the Iga make their move as do the Shiina when Misato learns that the courtier has designs on the treasure for himself.

Nishioji Yorifusa tries to coerce Gennai into pinpointing the exact burial place of the treasure. He relents and says he will accept the courtiers offer. Shinpachi and the Shadow Warriors arrive to save him wiping out his men in the process. Burning all the pieces to the treasure map in front of him, Shinpachi slays Nishioji. Misato appears briefly. Shinpachi triumphant, declares to her that another of the 26 are dead. Misato responds, "None of the 26 are traitors" before turning and walking away. Gennai exits and shows off his "metal detector" he made to buy him some time till the Iga arrived. Asked if it really works Gennai says, "It's just a dream...just a dream!"

This a talky, but good episode. The younger stars get lots of screen time (as they do on future shows) and the script does a good job of detailing impulsive behavior prevalent in the younger generation. The character of Nishioji is an interesting one. Like Miyaki Bakushu in episode two, the courtier is out for his own purposes in spite of being one of O'oka's loyalists. He's not a fighter but is proficient in the use of secret weapons such as darts. More depth is added to the character of Shiina Misato. One scene alludes to her honorable, yet stubborn attitude despite her being a villain. Nishioji kills a servant thinking he was eavesdropping them. Angered, Misato says "We're not killers...remember that!" It is here that the court noble attempts to sway Misato to his side, away from O'oka. She warns him never to speak of it again. Misato is well on her way to becoming the most curious personality on KAGE NO GUNDAN 2.

This is also the first appearance of the Shadow Warriors in their camouflage regalia. Orin is featured throughout in some lightly comical moments and she is instrumental in the Iga learning what the courtier is really after. The atmosphere of this episode isn't as dark as some others. There are three fights here--two brief skirmishes and an extended action sequence at the end that makes all the intrigue before it worth the wait. Those who don't care for a slow build, may want to skip to the end.


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