August 11, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #22: Tanokura Manor Ablaze

2002 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa and Satoru Nishizono
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


Things aren't going good for Samekichi Shirogane, head of the local Ginzame cartel. He lost the group's gambling train, every opportunity to find old-blood Tanokura's hidden treasure is painfully foiled, George escaped their clutches in blazing fashion, and his brother was gunned down by a hidden sniper. Now, when he gets the final ultimatum to deliver or be "cast aside" by the larger organization, he gives into the extreme sadistic ideas floating around in his remaining brother's head.

We caught a glimpse of Tanokura's mansion going up in flames last episode, but here we flash back on the incident and watch it play out into an increasingly irresolvable situation; the noble's men failing to make any headway with buckets or extinguishers, the fire department showing us just as it's spread to the point of no return. All of this is captured through some of the sharpest, most intricately staged setups and character animation we've see in the series to this point, paced to perfection with so many subtle little character moments that reveal more than words ever could. I hoped this show would gets its act together in time for the finale, and here they don't disappoint.

No, the disappointment comes from Tanokura's daughter Miyuki. She's a great character, but the opening titles alone reveal that the creators seem divided between those who want to develop an interesting relationship between her and George, while others just want to pimp her out for fan service. The former side has been the victor so far, with her being one of my most unexpected favorites among the cast, but that may have changed. Here, we're treated to an extended nude scene that not only comes out of the blue, but is staged in a way that completely distracts from the broader situation at hand rather than naturally building from it. The sequence was likely conceived to make her seem meek and vulnerable in the face of a game-changing twist, but it comes off gratuitous and inappropriate.

Another issue I have is that the creators have finalized their portrayal of the two factions, with one being good and noble, the other being vile and wicked. Once again, I have to ask if they even watched the original movie? That wasn't about the hero choosing a side and saving the day, it was about him recognizing that everyone was a villain and manipulating them into tearing each other down. At the very least, though, I have to give them credit for giving George some much needed motivation to kick into action. He's been far too passive lately.

But then there's Rin. Oh, man, what a beautiful little sadist he is. Though there's a bit with his final bullet that maybe toed the line into weird territory, the way he goes from steely calm to twitching with blood lust is superb.

It really is a damn good episode. Not only in comparison to this largely lackluster series, but tv in general. I hope they haven't kicked the quality up too soon, though, because there's only three episodes left and I've seen how quickly these guys can take a turn for the worse.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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