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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 10


Directed by Ikuo Sekimoto

Enjoying a party, Oil Dealer, Mr. Misakiya is told a young beauty has requested to speak with him in private. He is murdered by the woman who appears traumatized after committing the crime. Later, the woman is sentenced to death. In the street, Tsuruzo tells Shinpachi that Misakiya had fallen in love with the geisha, Kimika, the woman who killed him. He had wanted to marry her as she resembled his late wife. However, Kimika was in love with Genshiro, a Hatamoto's (a samurai in the direct service of the Tokugawa shogunate) son. Misakiya eventually had the man killed inciting Kimika to take revenge. Shinpachi and the others decide to go see her die. Orin runs up to Shin and tells him if some woman was to kill him, she'd avenge his death. Shin uses a ploy to escape Orin's clutches once again.

About to die, Kimika looks steadfast into the face of death. Suddenly, her eyes spots a mysterious man. She then becomes overcome with fear and begins crying out for mercy. She is killed anyways. Shinpachi senses something amiss. The scandal involving the late Misakiya and the now dead geisha was so damaging, his Shogunate license was revoked and his store appropriated. The other oil merchants have a meeting to name a new guild director. A newcomer to Edo is decided upon, Mr. Naniwaya Mohei. He is hesitant at first but soon relents. After taking over, the lamp oil supply dropped and the price skyrocketed.

A horny fellow sneaks into the bathhouse dressed as a woman to cop a feel of some naked female flesh. Discovering a man is among them, the angered women accuse Orin of keeping the place too dark. She blames the high priced oil for the lack of light in the establishment; if the women want more light, than she will raise the bath prices, "Dark and cheap or bright and expensive", she says. "Next it'll be soy sauce, then bean paste..." Orin continues with her tirade even going so far as to say a new Shogun is needed. Because of the lack of light, she doesn't realize an officer has just heard her comments. The next day after spending the night in jail, she is taken into the street and given a hundred lashes across her buttocks. The workers of Yamabiko watch and some of them laugh in secret.

Later, Shinpachi and little Shota are out hunting in the woods. They spot a woman unconscious near the river. The woman looks amazingly like the one that was executed the day before. Gennai nurses her back to health. Her name is O-Ito. Sometime that afternoon, little Shota tells Shin the woman has left and gives him a note he found from her before she departed. Meanwhile, the other merchants meet with Naniwaya Mohei about the rising oil prices. Blaming it on poor rapeseed crops, the merchants realize Naniwaya is a swindler out to take the peoples money for all he can. Mr. Joshuya, one of the oil merchants, decides to quit the guild and go out on his own. Naniwaya makes the others forget their troubles by tantalizing them with women. One female in particular captures Naniwaya's attention-- O-Ito, as she is the image of Kimika, the executed woman. That night, Joshuya is killed by an unknown samurai. Tsuruzo and Uta attack him but his skill is great. The two young Iga escape back to Yamabiko. Realizing something is unsolved, Shinpachi asks the others to investigate Misakiya's death yet again despite Otoki and the others claiming the murder was out of revenge.

In the meantime, the devious Naniwaya meets with Tenzen, the samurai that killed Joshuya. Naniwaya feels it to be too much of a coincidence that a woman that is a dead ringer for Kimika and two ninja should show up at the same time. However, he isn't worried in the slightest. The following day, Tenzen has O-Ito entertain him. He reveals he was intimate with Kimika prior to her execution. He finds her similarities to his dead lover to be striking. He mentions a twin sister but O-Ito just laughs at his accusation. She is, in fact, Kimika's twin sister. Shinpachi runs into her one day and decides to trail her to find out her connection with the dead woman. O-Ito goes to visit the best friend of her sister, Oyuu. She asks her questions about Genshiro and what he looks like. From the various people she speaks with, they all say Genshiro is dead and that Kimika had identified his body herself when his corpse was pulled from the river. One discernable factor is that the man called Genshiro had a scar across his back.

The Iga all meet and come up empty handed in regards to the identity of Genshiro. Shinpachi has already come to the conclusion that Genshiro is not dead and probably never existed. The real Genshiro is actually somebody else who used Kimika to murder Misakiya. That evening, O-Ito tries to seduce Tenzen into a bathtub. She manages to get him undressed and sees a large scar on his back. He gets close to her in the tub and is no longer so lustful. She later visits her sisters grave Camellia flowers in hand to pronounce that she has located the man who had tricked her into committing murder. Shinpachi watches close by and reveals that he knows everything. He says there is something much bigger going on regarding the oil but yet O-Ito desires to kill her sisters murderer with her own hands.

Another meeting with Naniwaya reveals his connections with O'oka Tadamitsu. Naniwaya orders Tenzen to kill O-Ito tonight as well as deal with the Shadow Warriors. Tsuruzo sneaks inside and hears the plan. Meanwhile, Tenzen meets with O-Ito at the same place and in the rain as Kimika did with Misakiya. They soon share drinks together where O-Ito tells of her plan to kill him. Tenzen discloses that he pretended to be a man named Genshiro and framed Kimika to perform the crime for him. Tenzen stands to strike down O-Ito but stumbles and falls to the ground apparently the victim of poisoning.

O-ito, stunned has no idea what has happened. Suddenly, Naniwaya enters the room. It was he who poisoned Tenzen. He repeats something he had told him earlier, "I eliminate meddlers...that is my way." Wounded by swordsmen, Naniwaya pulls out a gun and shoots Tenzen. The evil Naniwaya prepares to shoot O-Ito in the face when the Shadow Warriors appear just in time to stop her murder and engage his army of swordsmen in battle. Wiping out the bad guys and marking out another of O'oka's loyalists, Shinpachi and little Shota see O-Ito off, her sister avenged.

Back at Yamabiko, Orin is excited that doctor Gennai will be the go-between for her and Shinpachi. Gennai also enlightens Orin on a western lamp which gives twice the brightness with only half the oil. Unamused that she has been fooled again, Gennai convinces her to take the lamp for the bathhouse. The peeping tom from earlier tries once more again dressed as a female. He is spotted much quicker this time and one of the beautiful ladies begs Orin to do something about the lecher. Orin replies, "You wanted it brighter. That's why they peek...dressed like that. Peeping Tom, thanks for your trouble!"

Returning from director duties on episodes two and three, Ikuo Sekimoto fashions a somewhat tiresome programmer that will bore casual fans but will cater to those who enjoy the more talky side of chambara drama. This is a very talky and dialog heavy episode. There is also only one fight which is of course, reserved for the end. Sekimoto does pile on the nudity featuring a cavalcade of naked women on display. He did the same for episode two which mixed nudity and murder in a somewhat uncomfortable manner. His direction on episode three also had a sleazy air about it. Definitely not one of the better directors of KAGE NO GUNDAN 2, but he does know how to deliver some exploitation thrills. Unfortunately, he doesn't deliver much action that most fans want to see.

Nonetheless, the final fight is, as always, well handled and is enhanced by the techno-disco ninja main theme that opens each episode and often accompanies the final fight sequences. Also, the character of Gohei is absent from this episode. Those seeking some ninja thrills would do best to fast forward to the end or skip this one altogether. After the end credits, as always, is a preview of the next episode.

Continued in Episode Eleven: THE SMOKE OF DEATH!!!

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