August 4, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #21: The Search for the Truth

2002 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Satoru Nishizono, Akatsuki Yamatoya, Daisuke Yajima, Michiko Yokote
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


After a brief, unexplained trip out of town, Sanae returns to find her inn brutally ransacked. Searching the rooms, she finds the tavern-keeper and our hero, George, both of whom are still healing from recently received beatings. What begins is a conversation between these three that finally sheds some light on just what the hell is going on.

Throughout the series, we've picked up on snatches about a train car full of money that mysteriously disappeared 15 years ago, but here, through the confessions of George, we finally get a clear answer of what was taken, why, by whom, and how. Some of this was already strongly hinted at or made obvious thanks to moments of poor storytelling, but it's wonderful to see it all laid out. And kudos for having George finally open up about not only his connection to Genzo Araki, but the real reason why he came to this town and started digging around. It's wonderful, wonderful stuff which not only gives him a renewed depth, but intricately ties him to the town in unexpected ways.

And, thanks to Sanae and the tavern-keeper (haven't talked about him much in the reviews so far; he's been a catchy little bit of ambiguity known only as The Master) we not only get the final word on the fate of Genzo Araki, bringing that thread to a close, but the few remaining pieces of backstory are clarified.

What an amazing little episode, taking what has been till now an interesting yet under-thought and poorly executed mystery and showing just how rich and central to the state of the town's current situation it really is. Bravo to them. And not only was the writing spot-on this episode, making a three-way expository dialogue captivating and character driven, but the animation and direction have kicked it up. Whereas the last episode was chaotic and choppy and grotesque, everything here is clean and crisp, offering some of the sharpest (yet still grounded) visual storytelling since the excellent episode #13. I really have a hard time believing every episode was directed by the same man. Unfortunately, the credits on the U.S. dvd release aren't fully translated, so I guess I'll never know for sure.

With a huge chunk of the backstory now revealed and a clever little cliffhanger making me eager to catch the next chapter, this series is definitely off on the final leg of its run.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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