August 12, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #23: The Great Excursion

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)


"This is a town of sinners. It's filled with those who must pay for their sins." That's a sentiment familiar to every fan of Kurosawa's original film, where a complete stranger comes upon a town bubbling over with crime and drugs and violence and prostitution, and decides to use equally brutal and underhanded tactics to cause it to crumble under its own evil. Here, when that line is uttered by the increasingly ambiguous innkeeper Sanae, it doesn't quite have the same sting, feeling much more like a comment on herself then the broader town. And that speaks to one of the major flaws of the series, that the town of Kimujuku isn't bubbling over with crime and corruption. Sure, those elements are there, but more as a glorified turf war between an old-blood noble and a criminal corporation, with most of the remaining population just being average everyday people who don't even seem to know.

What's nice, though, is that they've taken the most innocent character in the piece and made her the unintended victim of others' sins. Miyuki, the teenage daughter of old-blood Tanokura, has fallen into the mitts of the struggling Ginzame cartel, who are no longer willing or able to keep dancing around the issue of the town's hidden treasure. I was highly critical of the exploitative way Miyuki was handled in the last episode, slipping in a long, gratuitous sequences of nudity that had nothing to do with anything else while so many anything elses were going on around her. Here, they had a chance to continue that display and kick it up a notch, but the creative team thankfully passed. Sure, there's a genuine looming sexual threat from her captors, but the way it's handled here, with the sadistic Rin taunting her with his pet revolver, is much preferable to the perverse display it could have been.

Elsewhere, her broken noble of a father waits for Ginzame to make contact. I have to give the creative team points for slipping in some nice references to Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW, complete with a bespectacled detective overseeing the operation, though I don't think old-fashioned tape reels are still used to trace and record calls, especially those of a cellular nature. And extra points for the recurring cameo of steady Detective Sato and his eager young partner, both of whom come from another Kurosawa classic, STRAY DOG.

While not entirely up to the quality of the previous episode, this was still a solid transitional chapter with many characters falling in place for the final conflict, some great humor from a drunk Raccoon, and the setup of what will likely be a great action sequence, should the animation hold up next episode.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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