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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kage No Gundan 2: Episode 21


Directed by Ota Akikazu

A group of ninjas invade a home but are interrupted by officer, Yabe Kanpei. A little girl is killed amidst their escape. The next day Orin talks with Gennai and Koroku about the recent spate of attacks on various wealthy storekeepers. During the conversation, a girl named Riha enters the restaurant stumbling and very sick. Doctor Gennai takes her into his home to take care of her. She awakens that night and attempts to pay back Gennai's kindness by sleeping with him. Gennai stops her and is privy to the girls ulterior motives. She admits that she has a great favor to ask of him. Someone has shot her father and she needs his help in saving the man. Begging Gennai to save her father, he finally relents to look at the mans injuries.

Checking the mans condition, Gennai realizes the bullet is near his heart. He is apprehensive about performing the surgery. Suddenly, a man named Gekkai enters the room and says that if Gennai doesn't save the chief, then he will die. Gennai tells Gekkai to go to his home to retrieve certain medications. Meanwhile, Orin discusses with Okei about the Red Dragons only attacking the rich. Koroku reads off a Wanted poster to Tsuruzo-- 500 ryo for one Red Dragon and 1,000 ryo for the leader. Orin joins the group and proclaims that they all band together and fight the killers. Orin then says, "Shall we include the cowardly Shin-san?"

Having not seen Gennai in a good while, Tsuruzo and Koroku peek into his home and see Gekkai stealing something. They confront the man but he manages to escape but drops the medicine in his haste. Tsuruzo is injured and a mysterious woman appears. She dresses Tsuruzo's wounds then secretly steals away with the medicine. Finding the girls hairpiece, Shinpachi surmises the girl is a Ryukyu noble (An independent kingdom ruled by an aristocratic family). That night, Gekkai meets with one of O'oka's subordinates to discuss the continued thievery by the Red Dragons to restore the Tamana Clan. The man tells Gekkai that he wants him to kill the Iga Phantom that plagues O'oka Tadamitsu. If he is successful, O'oka will make him a Daimyo and he can then eliminate Genryu as leader of the clan.

Gennai retires to his room while he waits for Genryu to recover. He engages in conversation with Kana, the mysterious woman that Tsuruzo met in the street. She plays the Jamisen for him while he drinks. Gekkai enters Genryu's room and tells Riha, his daughter, that he will kill Gennai as he has seen their faces. However, she says no one will touch him. Genryu awakens and says that Gekkai must kill the doctor for fear that he may go to the authorities. Riha is adamantly against it, though. Her brother shows her a painting of her that the Iga have plastered all over Edo to find her. Gekkai wants her to act as a decoy to lure the Shadow Warriors out into the open. Riha sends Kana on the mission but asks that no harm comes to Gennai for the time being.

Some time later, Tsuruzo happens across Kana playing the Jamisen. Shinpachi tails them both. Meantime, Riha secretly goes to Gennai's room and begs him to leave immediately. If he stays, harm will come to him. He refuses, wishing only to complete his successful surgery on her father. She continues to plead with him to run away but again, he declines. Late that night, Tsuruzo encounters the strange girl, Kana yet again and is caught in a trap. Meanwhile, the Shadow Warriors are on the scene. Shinpachi gives instructions that the others are to wait for Tsuru's signal before they act. Unbeknownst to them, he has been captured and is beaten up.

Koroku, Ryukichi and Otoki notice a boat with O'oka's crest carrying something very heavy. The young Iga warriors destroy the boat but the cash boxes sink to the bottom. At the same time, Kana meets with Riha to discuss their plan to get Gennai away. The doctor is dressing Genryu's wounds when he asks, "You seem to know that I'm the Chief of the Red Dragons." Genryu details his story about his group, the Tamana Clan, being overthrown by the Shimazu and his title as lord of a small castle. The money the Red Dragons steal is to go to the restoration of the Tamana Clan. However, Gennai tells Genryu that if O'oka is behind him, his entire clan will ultimately be betrayed. Gennai then learns that Genryu is one of the 26 loyalists faithful to O'oka's evil scheme.

The young Iga infiltrate the Mansion of the Red Dragons and are quickly attacked by them. Meanwhile in Genryu's room, Gekkai enters and places a sword to Gennai's throat asking that he join him elsewhere. Riha suddenly enters and halts the murder. Gekkai then stabs his sister. Shocked, Genryu demands an explanation. Gekkai states, "Don't we kill all traitors?" Riha asks Gennai to pardon her father for wishing him dead. She then dies in his arms. Genryu, now a broken hearted man at the loss of his daughter, tells Gekkai to let Gennai go free. He then stabs Genryu in the back. Just as he plans to strike Gennai down, Shinpachi shows up to challenge the Tamana usurper. The Shadow Warriors triumphant again, Gennai says that all the Red Dragons have been vanquished enabling Kana to get away peacefully.

The next day Tsuruzo, Otoki, Ryukichi and Koroku search the river bed for the sunken cash boxes. They then see Kana walking the streets and are awe struck by her beauty as she exits Edo. Later, Orin shows up at the bathhouse dressed in warrior attire prepared to fight the Red Dragons. Gennai enters and has a good laugh at her expense and explains that all the villains have been dealt with. The hair ornament Riha gave the doctor falls out of his clothes. Orin picks it up and as usual, thinks it is a gift meant for her. Gennai tries to remove it from Orin's grip, but she says, "Don't be shy. If it weren't for Shin-san, I would fall for you."

Ota Akikazu directs another good episode. Not one of his best, but contains some great dramatic elements such as the young girl who has fallen for Hiraga Gennai after he has saved her father, Genryu, from certain death, despite him being the leader of the Red Dragons. Although the real villain of the piece is not Genryu, but his second in command, Gekkai. Genryu's crime was that he stole from the rich storekeepers for the purpose of restoring his clan, but Gekkai has other plans. The added character of Kana, the exotic looking girl with the Jamisen of the episode title is superfluous and really adds nothing to the plot of this episode. However, Akikazu handles the relationship between the beautiful girl, Riha, her father and doctor Gennai so well, that this is easily overlooked.

Akikazu also successfully creates strong tragedy during the finale. All his episodes generally contain lots of emotion in the main set pieces throughout the 45 minute running time. Kiki Kirin as Orin provides several humorous scenes here such as her proclamation to stamp out the Red Dragon threat going so far as to don feudal attire in preparation for a "great battle" against the vicious robbers. The scene where she rallies people together is a hoot as she ponders whether or not to include the "cowardly Shin-san." The last scene where she mistakes Gennai's gift from Riha as a gift to her is also funny. He simply gives up and lets her keep the hair ornament. Most everyone is accounted for here except for Gohei and Hayate Kid. Misato is also absent but returns in a big way in the next episode. Another memorable, if slightly flawed programmer from Ota Akikazu.

Continued in Episode Twenty-Two: THE DESPERATE GAMBLE!!!

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