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Episode 18: THE BLACK WOLF CRIES IN THE NIGHT FOG (YOGIRI NI NAKU KUROI OKAMI) ***
Directed by Yoshiki Onoda Late one night in Sunpu Castle, two guards hear the sound of cries coming from the helmet room. Checking the noise, they find what appears to be a ghostly apparition floating inside the room. Believing the ghost to be one of the unjustly murdered women from the previous ruler of Sunpu Castle, lord Tokugawa Tadanaga, the samurai pray to a shrine adorned in armor to ward off any evil spirits. The next day, Shin and Dr. Gennai are out fishing and discuss the supposed spooks of the castle. Gennai believes Clan Councillor, Nagato to be in possible danger. He is a righteous and upstanding man and his position could threaten O'oka's plans to become Shogun. In Sunpu Town, a series of brutal crimes are taking place the result of ruthless bandits who care not if the victims are women or children. One of the marauders leaves his handprint behind for the Iga to find; whether intentionally, or carelessly. Tsuruzo is sent to Sunpu Town to investigate. On his journey into the town, he happens upon a beautiful woman (oyu) attacked by a group of killers. Another man (Otojiro) at the scene was attempting to help but the group was too much for him. Oyu lives at a temple. Tsuruzo escorts her safely back there. The kindly priest of the temple is friends with Dr. Gennai and the two sit and chat for awhile. The priest tells Tsuruzo that the bandits had murdered Oyu's entire family and she was lucky to have managed to escape. He also talks of the ghost, 'the Lady of the Snow', that haunts the helmet room of Sunpu Castle. Later, Gennai tells Shinpachi that the Sunpu Magistrate has been found dead and that he's sure Councillor Nagato will be next. A shogunate envoy will arrive at the Castle shortly to inspect the coveted helmet worn by lord Ieyasu 180 years before during the great battle of Komaki Nagakute. After hearing this story, Shinpachi believes that O'oka plans to steal the valuable accoutrement. He then asks Gennai to invent something for him. Meanwhile, Tsuruzo meets Otojiro in the street. He tells Tsuruzo to not get involved with the girl he saved. Obviously infatuated with her, Otojiro follows Tsuruzo and gives him a message to relay to Oyu. Not long after it is revealed that Otojiro is actually a safe cracker hired by the gang of bandit killers! He meets with the group leader to receive money for a new job. This time, he must get inside Sunpu Castle, but the leader can't reveal what he must do just yet. That night, Otojiro and a few others have a practice run infiltrating the castle. Tsuruzo watches nearby and interrupts the villains efforts. Alerted to their location, the bandits are chased away by the castle guards. The following day, Otojiro crosses Oyu's path to talk to her. It's apparent she likes him as well. She fancies an ornament he carries with him and Otojiro decides to make one especially for her. Meanwhile, Tsuruzo continues his investigation. That night, Dr. Gennai completes his ingenious device for Shinpachi; A device that projects images by way of light acting as a projector. It is this machine that has created the ghost of Sunpu Castle. Later, Tsuruzo overhears the plan to break into the castle within three days to steal away the precious helmet. Otojiro's skills as a lockpicker will aid in the task. Tsuru meets secretly with Ryukichi to deliver the news. Ryukichi leaves Tsuru's ninja gear for him but forgets to leave the key. Otojiro happens by and easily opens the box with a small needle. Otojiro gets a peak inside and guesses he's a ninja. He offers to treat Tsuru to drinks. Late that night, Tsuru sneaks into the castle and awakens lord Nagato and informs him a group of invaders will break into the castle the following night to snatch the helmet. Tsuru follows Otojiro to his meeting with Oyu inside the temple. However, having given himself away, he is captured and tortured. Otojiro enters the room but claims he's never seen Tsuru before. Tsuruzo then pretends to kill himself, even managing to slow his heartbeat down to appear dead. The Shadow Warriors await anxiously for Tsuru's belated return. Meanwhile, Tsuru has gotten himself free, but Otojiro shows up and says he will aid in his escape. The Iga notice a fire has broken out in Sunpu Castle. Tsuru suddenly returns to Yamabiko to tell Shin the Sadojima gang is behind the killings. Shin is familiar with their leader, Sadojima Hyoei. The gang having been in hiding for several years, they are now employed by O'oka. The Iga make their way to the castle. Meantime, the gang manage to get inside killing everyone they come across on their way to the helmet room. The bandits easily slaughter everybody even killing the Helmet Room chief, Takemura, who was the gangs contact. Otojiro picks the lock and he, too, is killed as the Shadow Warriors have already beaten the gang to the prize. A great battle takes place. The bandits vanquished, Tsuruzo goes to Otojiro who dies clasping the hair ornament he made for Oyu. Tsuru meets with Oyu one last time to deliver the ornament to her but doesn't reveal to her that he is dead. Later, Shinpachi is trying to get away from a drunken customer who discusses the incidents of Sunpu Castle. The inebriated patron asks Shin, "How about firing into the castle tower?", which chokes him up a bit changing to a cautious laugh. Director Onoda encores from his excellent prior episode to deliver a lesser affair. It's not bad by any means, but nothing special. The one saving grace for this one is the fight scenes as they are plentiful. The finale is especially well done (as usual) and lasts longer than normal. There's no real stand out performances here. Tsuruzo sort of gets center stage which could have been an interesting path for this show to take but it never does, content to just skirt around the subject. With Tsuruzo and the lock picker, Otojiro, both vying for the attentions of Oyu would have been a good direction, but this is dispensed with fairly quickly. Even still, it's a decent episode just not a very memorable one. Kiki Kirin is absent here as is Gohei, Misato, Hayate Kid and Koroku. No mention is made of their whereabouts although it is too be assumed they are off on some other business elsewhere. Gohei returns later in the series and his disappearance is explained. Better than some of the other shows earlier in series two, but this one is easily forgotten. Continued in Episode Nineteen: THE GREAT PURSUIT!!!
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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.