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Monday, September 29, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 8


Directed by Ota Akikazu

A procession of nuns massacre the residents of the Marusadaya house. Only the master survives. The following day, a man enters the bathhouse adjoining Yamabiko. He tells Orin and others of the reward for the capture of the Hayate Kid whom is blamed for the murders. In the meantime, One of the nuns meets Shin and the young Shota in the street disappearing mysteriously after helping Shota bandage his knee.

Another man, Sea Products Merchant, Ohtsuya is assassinated by the nuns. Tsuruzo brings the dying man to Yamabiko where he expires but not before stating that O'oka is behind the crime. Just prior, Orin begs Shin to take her to the market to buy some kimonos. On the day Shin and Orin go to Matsuya Clothiers to see the models, Shinpachi spots the mysterious nun on the street. They soon meet and entertain company of Matsuya Osei, the clothier store owner. Incidentally, the nun watches from afar.

While investigating the Marusadaya massacre, Tsuruzo becomes jealous of Shotaro (they also call him Shota; not the same as the little boy also named Shota) when he sees many pretty girls fascinated by his charms. The two argue over what they've learned about the case and evidence points towards the master of the house who was the only survivor. Uta suddenly appears and steals away Tsuruzo. They go to the nunnery where a number of corpses are found--corpses of nuns. It is discovered that the killers are only disguised as nuns and the real vestals were killed earlier. Gohei and Uta discuss in secret the evidence they've accrued. They learn that Master Marusadaya Sukezaemon and Matsuya Osei, the owner of the Clothier store, were once married. Believing her to be in danger, Otoki holds guard over Osei in secret.

Otoki returns the next day with a music box taken from Osei's home. They think this small box may hold the clue they are searching for. At a brothel, pharmaceutical merchant Myokodo and Tachibana meet although neither had set up such a meeting. At that time, several servant women enter the room followed by two more. The two businessmen are killed and their bodies dumped in the reservoir. Shinpachi is nearby and again sees the strange nun in the vicinity. Shinpachi follows her to the riverside where little Shota is fishing. Playing the music box, Shin approaches her. The peculiar nun pulls her short sword on the unknowing Shota. Shin doesn't dare to advance. Through a ploy, the nun, Chigusa, manages to make a stealthy escape.

Immediately thereafter, Shinpachi pays a visit to Osei. She details the story of her husband and his dealings with a then powerless O'oka Tadamitsu. At O'oka's request, Sukezaemon married into the Marusadaya family. Meanwhile, Osei had given birth to a baby girl. While she entertained the desires of men, she left a music box close by her baby girl. Her child disappeared at the age of three. Later that night, someone sneaks into O'oka's palace. It is Shinpachi! He learns from O'oka himself he intends to become Senior Councillor to the Shogun by sacrificing the mother and daughter tied to Marusadaya. Shin engages Anabuki Saemon and the other Shiina fighters before making his escape.

Osei visits her daughter's grave and is kidnapped by the murderous nuns. Otoki follows them with the other Iga not far behind. Osei is taken to the mastermind which turns out to be Marusadaya Sukezaemon. He now asks his wife to sign over the clothiers shop to him. She refuses and Ohama (Chigusa) prepares to kill her just as Shinpachi enters to stop the execution. He reveals that the woman she is about to kill is actually her mother and the man that ordered her death is her father. The truth now uncovered, the Shadow Warriors dispel the villains and mother and daughter celebrate a happy reunion. The end scene features another humorous moment in which Orin mistakes Shin's comments about her kimono for her beauty and virtue. "I'm not getting through", he says.

This is one of the lesser episodes of KAGE 2. A very mundane and turgid show all around. Not a whole lot happens till the end, but that's barely enough to save it. There are worthwhile moments such as the comic timing of Chiba and most especially Kiki Kirin, who is always a joy to watch onscreen. The final fight is, as always, well done and exciting, but the show as a whole isn't. Near the beginning, the Marusadaya massacre is blamed on the Hayate Kid, but then this plot point is abandoned altogether almost immediately. Even though the audience has seen the individuals responsible, the script didn't need this contrivance clogging up an already confused narrative.

Another somewhat bizarre moment occurs early on when the Shadow Warriors become aware of the mission at hand. They act as if this is the first time they are going out against the villains. The scene is handled well enough, but it's just a bit jarring to hear Chiba utter the line, "We'll have to risk our lives", considering they've been doing that for eight episodes now. Director Akikazu shows no flair in creating any one stand out scene. There are good moments as already mentioned, but nothing that hasn't already been seen much less rising above mediocrity. Etsuko Shihomi's character of Misato doesn't appear here and she is absent from a number of later shows.

Also, young Shadow Warrior member, Koroku is missing from this episode. He, of course, returns in later episodes. It is to be assumed that the disappearance of certain members of the Shadow Warriors throughout series two is due to being on other missions or busy working on other productions for Toei Studios. In addition, the character of Gensai Kuroiwa is absent here and his frequent second, Anabuki Samon takes center stage as the main Shiina leading the pack. A fairly lackadaisical episode worthwhile only for the two well choreographed fight sequences bolstered by the intensity of the always reliable Sonny Chiba.

Continued in Episode Nine: DEADLY EMBRACE!!!

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