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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 9


Directed by Ota Akikazu

A Cholera plague sweeps Edo. Two strangers arrive claiming to be from the Koishikawa clinic. Their purpose is to distribute medicine to officials to keep them from catching the sickness. The pills the men take ultimately kill them. The two men leave and the room full of corpses is discovered by Oshino, the wife of one of the dying men. Northside Officer Nose Jinshiro is saved, however. The Iga discuss the situation when a disoriented Orin enters and nearly passes out after not eating or drinking for a couple days due to the contamination. The next day Oshino describes to Shinpachi, Gennai and Gohei the man she saw exiting the house when she found the dead and dying officers.

Later, a singing teacher, Osome, entertains the recovering Nose. You learn that there are some feelings between the two. That night, a mysterious masseur visits Oshino and murders her. The next day, Gennai feels he is to blame for the girls death as he had drawn a detailed picture of the fake doctor based on Oshino's testimony. Nose breaks into a storeroom at night to find proof of the crimes committed by Enshuya Kahei, a man who has evaded the law for a number of years. He controls much of the economy in Edo and his crimes include drugs and contraband goods. Nose demands Enshuya come with him to the authorities, but he informs him of one shocking detail-- Osome, the woman Nose is in love with is actually his daughter. If Nose has him arrested, Osome will die.

That night, Nose confronts Osome about her father. She says he isn't her real dad that she was adopted. Nose vows never to leave her side. Back at Yamabiko, Oharu and her father, Gohei notice a strange lantern lit above the town. A similar kite was seen just moments before the room full of officials were murdered. Oharu and Gohei sense that more deaths are about to take place. The murderous masseur, Magoichi, pays a visit to Nose and Osome. Along with three other killers, they threaten death on Osome lest Nose throw down his sword. He reciprocates but the men then take him down and kill him with a needle. One of the killers tells Osome to state the following morning that Nose has died from the plague. Suddenly, another man enters revealing himself to be Osome's brother, Daizaburo who also happens to be the fake doctor seen at the beginning.

The following day, Shin and the others are shocked to learn of Nose's death. They notice the rather distant and odd behavior afflicting Osome. As they take his body away, Shinpachi notices a swollen purple bruise on Nose's neck. The Shadow Warriors decide to steal Nose's corpse to learn the real reason behind his death. Osome meets with her father to find out why he had Nose killed. The cruel Enshuya says he had sent her to him solely for the purpose of ruining the man and no other reason. He says, "I'll find you another man to replace Nose". The anger over her loss being so strong, Osome tries to kill her adopted father. It doesn't work. Her brother prevents the act.

Screaming to Enshuya that he isn't her father, he orders Daizaburo to punish her by making love to her. Osome struggles to get free. Koroku watches nearby and having seen enough, makes his move but it alarms the other guards. He has to fight his way out to escape. Struck by a shuriken, the villains follow his trail of blood. It is revealed that the diabolical Enshuya is also a member of the Kumano using his guise as a merchant to rebuild the clan by way of his insidious crimes.

Returning to Yamabiko, Shinpachi discovers the villains are the Kumano group, a motley clutch of ninja that Hattori Hanzo had destroyed over 200 years earlier. The Shadow Warriors race to save Osome and annihilate this new order of Kumano killers. Taking his bloody handprint, the Shadow Warriors vanquished Enshuya Kahei, the vile man that held the economy of Edo in his grip and the Kumano group along with him. The plague subdued, Shinpachi and the others along with the grief-stricken Osome have a meal together. Orin enters the room chanting as she was earlier. Asking what she's doing this time, Orin says her chant is to drive men away to protect her virtue. Osome finds humor in this smiling for the first time since Nose's death. The others have a laugh at Orin's expense and even more so when Utanosuke says to her, "Orin-san, your face is the best protection from men!" Uta receives a virtuous slap for his slander.

Director Akikazu returns and redeems himself of the lackluster previous episode. Proving himself a fine director at dramatic and suspenseful works, he succeeds here in his best episode for the series so far. The villains are suitably nasty and some of the most merciless yet seen on the first two seasons. All of them display hauntingly unforgettable faces. The unique faces seen in the super close up shots in the films of Italian director Sergio Leone immediately come to mind. Director Akikazu may have been going for a similar approach here. There are two action scenes, the first coming towards the end. The big battle between the Kumano group and the Iga is one of the best, most intense fight sequences constructed for series two. The bad guys are so despicable, you really want to see them die and I found myself really into this finale.

Kanie Keizo as Nose Jinshiro does an admirable job as the righteous police officer. His performance is one of the best of this series. Keizo builds upon a great character and it comes as a shock when he is brutally murdered by the villains; even more so by the fact that he isn't given a chance to defend himself. Fukuyama Shozo as Enshuya Kahei is the epitome of evil with his fat, indolent face with his lazy features and sinister smile. His voice evokes villainy as well. Easily one of the best bad guys thus far.

Koroku returns for this episode but Shihomi as Shiina Misato is absent once more. The bits with Orin are funny especially the last scene which is surprisingly cruel regarding Orin with the comment Uta makes about her not needing a charm to ward off lustful men. After the end credits, a preview of the next episode concludes the program. Episode nine comes highly recommended.

Continued in Episode Ten: CAMELLIA FROM A GHOST!!!

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