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Episode 11: THE SMOKE OF DEATH (MAYONAKA NI NOBORU SHI NO KEMURI) ***
Directed by Ota Akikazu Out walking one evening, a woman named Oyoshi is followed by a stranger. She ducks into the bathhouse at Yamabiko. The next day, Orin asks Shinpachi to guard over her but he claims to not have the time but gives her a job in the restaurant. Orin then asks Otoki. Oyoshi divulges that this strange man has been following her for over three days. Otoki reluctantly agrees to stay with her for a time. Later, Gohei finds that the river has been poisoned killing off the fish destroying the local fishing business in Edo. That night, Otoki sees the shadow of a man watching her and Oyoshi. Shinpachi is also secretly about. He passes the masked man on the street and is attacked by him. Using his Iga skill, Shin manages to evade the man. Soon after, the man attacks a group of guards transporting a large wicker box across the river. The wicker box disappears and those transporting it search into the next day. They run into the masked man again who kills several of the guards. Otoki observes the action nearby. Investigating the magnitude of the poisoned river, Gohei and fisherman, Yomoshichi notice a smoking building off in the distance. He explains it's a tile factory. Meanwhile, Oyoshi and Otoki are out walking when an older acquiantance of Oyoshi named Obun, a mistress in Edo castle, stops her in the street. Two men notice her and instruct Obun to speak with Oyoshi in private about a business matter. Otoki remains stationary but aware of something suspicious taking place. Obun entices Oyoshi to forget restaurant work and take up duties serving a lord which she asks for more time to make a decision. Oyoshi feels compelled to do as Obun says as she had helped her out several years earlier when her mother was ill. She then mentions her fiance, Murakami Mondo, who disappeared before her mother passed away. Oyoshi hasn't seen or heard from him since. Having been told he was killed while on a trip, Oyoshi had pledged to remain true to the man which contravenes with Obun's plans for her. Later, Yomoshichi and another man are trawling the river and bring up the large box that had disappeared from the other night. They open it to find many bags of sand. The group of men that were searching for it appear. They attack and kill Yomoshichi and his friend. Gohei arrives too late to stop the villains. The group then attacks Gohei but prove to be no match for the Iga. Meanwhile, Obun brings Oyoshi to Mishima in an effort to goad her into being the mistress of Finance Minister Serizawa. She begrudgingly declines. Obun says that if she refuses, she is to pay her back for the three years she looked after her...with interest. Mishima, in an effort to goad Oyoshi into accepting, states that she need only serve wine to Serizawa and nothing else. It is also revealed that both Mishima and Serizawa are involved in embezzlement of the Shogun's treasury; a plan tied to O'oka himself. Doctor Gennai inspects the sand brought to him by Gohei. Upon closer examination, the sand is actually gold dust. Later that evening, Obun takes Oyoshi to meet with Serizawa. She serves him wine but he wishes that she drink with him also. Mishima then pours a drink but from a different bottle; one that is obviously drugged. Mishima and Obun leave the room so Serizawa can have his way with the oblivious yet nervous Oyoshi. Now alone with Serizawa, Oyoshi learns that he knew her fiance, Murakami Mondo. He had been a Shogunate Inspector when Serizawa was a Mines Magistrate in Sado. He says Mondo absconded with government funds and vanished never to be heard from again. Feeling the effects of the drug, Serizawa tries to rape her. Amazingly, the Hayate Kid is in the room and saves her from certain defilement. "You're a crook in flashy clothes...you stink to Hell", he says after removing a small bag from around Serizawa's neck. Hayate Kid fights his way out with Oyoshi and returns her to a waiting Shinpachi. The Kid then takes off. Oyoshi tries to kill herself but Shin stops her. The mysterious stranger watches close by. Shin throws a shuriken removing the mans hat. Oyoshi realizes it's her betrothed lost and presumed dead all these years. She pleads with him to show her his face. Relenting, Oyoshi discovers his face has been badly disfigured. However, this doesn't alter the feelings she's harbored for him since he'd disappeared. A somewhat bitter, but joyful reunion for the two lovers. The Shadow Warriors meet and study the gold coins that were concealed inside the bag Hayate Kid had stolen. The coins are not pure gold, but counterfeit. The villains are replacing the real gold in the Shogun's treasury with the counterfeit coins. Ryukichi and Gohei are ordered to investigate further. Ryukichi lets himself get captured so as to be taken to the tile factory run by Finance Minister, Serizawa Hyobu. At the same time, Mondo details what happened to him upon his sudden disappearance. While inspecting a mining operation of Serizawa's, he questions Mishima why gold had been found six months prior but yet it was not mined nor recorded in the company documents. Having uncovered illegal activities, Mondo decides to settle the matter in Edo. Mishima and his men have no intentions of letting him go alive. They trap him within the hut and blow it up. Miraculously, Mondo survived by hiding inside a cellar but didn't escape being burned all over his body. Framed and his house abolished, Mondo could never show himself again. Now, he wishes to avenge himself on those that tried to smear his name. Mishima and his men show up having heard Mondo and Oyoshi's conversation. They attack and manage to kidnap Oyoshi and seriously wound Mondo. Shadow Warrior Utanosuke appears and steals Mondo away for doctor Gennai to treat him. Ryukichi uses an Iga method to let the others know his location; tied up inside the tile factory which doubles as a front for the counterfeit operations. While Serizawa inspects his felonious operations, the Shadow Warriors converge on the factory to save Oyoshi and destroy O'oka's loyalists. After the villains are dispatched, Gennai acts as go-between for Mondo and his betrothed, Oyoshi. They will live in Shinshu for the remainder of their days. The final scene has Orin admiring Gennai's facial surgery on Mondo to make him look as he did before his was burned. Enchanted, Orin wants facial surgery as well. She leans over to Shin and says, "What kind of face would you like?" Shinpachi replies with much trepidation, "That face...is most interesting", to which Orin becomes engulfed in tears, Shin's comment having made her overcome with immense joy. Director extraordinaire, Ota Akikazu returns with another dramatic episode although a slightly lesser affair than his previous work on episode nine. Like a lot of these types of programs, there's very few red herrings so plot points are telegraphed well in advance. Even so, the performances are good and the story doesn't end quite the way you would expect. Koroku is absent and Misato still has yet to return to the show. Otoki gets a bit more to do for a change but the story arc for the character of Murakami Mondo seems to lose focus along the way. He's a very interesting individual before you learn who he is, but once his identity is known, he loses that air of formidableness his character possessed. His skill level also seems to drop. Earlier, while watching over Oyoshi from a distance, he was able to easily cut down anyone that threatened her person. Once the two are reunited, though, his ability to protect and defend himself seems to have been forgotten. There are a couple more fights in this episode than normal. All of them including the end fight are brief with minimal choreography. Possibly due to the confines of the factory set the Shadow Warriors duel in during the finale, not to mention the overall lack of an equal or superior bad guy. The villains here are all effortlessly dispatched. The comedy scenes with Orin are a delight as usual. One bit has her telling Shin that he will marry her one day. She catches him ogling some of the naked women in the bathhouse resulting in her slapping him to regain his attention. The last scene features something that doesn't happen again for the remainder of the show-- Shinpachi actually gives Orin a very nice and polite remark despite the apprehension present on his face. Also, there are no disparaging remarks towards her as most of the show cappers often have on KAGE 2. For once, it all ends on a feel good moment for all involved. Not the best from Akikazu, but not the least of his episodes for SHADOW WARRIORS 2. Continued in Episode Twelve: CATCH THAT GIRL!!!!
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I've been a huge movie buff since childhood catching old horror and monster flicks on Shock Theater and kung fu movies at the drive-in during the late 70's and early 80's. I've had a long time fascination with, and appreciate all genres of fantastic cinema, good and bad. One fans cheese is another fans juicy steak. I like both equally and seldom find a film I truly dislike as I will find something of interest in just about anything. The bulk of the films or tv series' seen here are mostly from my childhood, or films I own in what has become an Amazing Colossal DVD collection.