July 14, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #13: The Man Who Returned

2001 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Akatsuki Yamatoya, Michiko Yokote
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


For episode after episode, this series, while finally starting to find its own feet, has really failed as an adaptation of YOJIMBO, with a lead whose motives and actions run counter to that of the original's samurai, a town whose greed and corruption is subtle and quiet instead of odorous and overpowering, and a plot that, instead of inviting us to watch on in glee as the hero pits one side against one another just sort of ambles through a series of little meaningless skirmishes. It seems as though things are about to change.

One of the most memorable characters in the original was a new villain that popped up at the midpoint. With ties to one of the gangs, Unosuke was a leering psychopath who carried a revolver in a town full of swords and was the only character sharp enough to see through the hero's plans and give him trouble. Well, here, exactly at the midpoint of the series, we're introduced to his modern incarnation. Just released from a three-year stint in prison, Rin is a handsome young man with a piercing gaze who's on his way to rejoin the rapidly-failing Ginzame organization. But before he gets to our main small town, he decides to stop for a drink in a little bar, operated by the man who ratted him out those three years ago.

Rin is one of the most spectacular portrayals of a sociopath I've ever seen on the screen. In what's basically a single-location one-act play, he confronts the man, gives the dude's will a thorough working over, then plays Russian roulette with the only detective initially willing to put him away. This man is a force of nature, a beast in the guise of a beauty, who is sure to give our hero, George, the conflict we've been waiting for. And the way they reimagined his threatening use of a revolver is worthy of John Woo.

I really wish I knew what was going on behind the scenes of this show. It got off to a terrible, horrendous start, but over the course of the last few episodes, really began pulling together into something decent. With this episode, it rises to fantastic heights, using this time away from our established leads to brilliantly introduce a new major player and show just how much of a genuine threat he'll be. And the animation, which had been surprisingly sloppy and choppy given the sharp designs, has finally become fluid and consistent, the most striking moment being the beautiful shot of Rin walking into the bar and locking eyes with the snitch.

Now here's hoping they maintain this tremendous leap in quality for the second half of the show.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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