October 28, 2009

Samurai 7 #19: The Mutiny

2004 episode
directed by Toshifumi Takizawa and Jiro Fujimoto
written by Atsuhiro Tomioka and Shuichi Koyama
based on the film SEVEN SAMURAI by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni

(1954 film)


With Kanbei and the team of Katsushiro and Kikuchio each on separate missions to locate the hidden Capital and recover the kidnapped women and children of several villages, steady Shichiroji and good-natured Heihachi have decided to stick with the town of Kanna for the moment, to help rebuild in the wake of their war with the bandits. Everything seems to be settling nicely, but then a conflicted Rikichi, still recovering from his injuries, tries to sneak past them with the swords of the fallen Gorobei. Earlier in the series, we saw the peasant take an unfamiliar sword in his hands and begin practicing in the art of a fighter, so it's great to see that thread continue to play out, suggesting he may follow in Kikuchio's footsteps as a farmer-turned-samurai. And it's great that the other two seem willing to join him on yet a third mission toward the same goal, but I wonder how our humble farmer will react when he learns his kidnapped wife is now the loving mistress of the Emperor ... and with child.

Speaking of the Emperor, we finally got to meet him in the last episode. Following the era of nonstop wars, he fell out of sight as the rule of merchants rose to unify the people in a corporation of peace. Of course, he's still pulling all the strings in the background, using the bandit raids on farmers to keep them in their place so they won't give the merchants competition. Oh, and it's also worth mentioning that he's trapped in a dwarfish, crippled body that moves and speaks through a mechanized capsule. It's implied that he's never once touched the outside world, which adds even more depth when ...

Ukyo, the gallant, sociopathic son of a magistrate, is brought before the Emperor for some intriguing revelations. As he's not physically capable of making love, it seems the Emperor, over time, had his seed implanted in dozens of women with the hope of one day finding the perfect heir: a clone of himself free from the disease that keeps him confined. So far, 48 of those offspring have attended a rite of inquiry, and all 48 have failed, leading to their executions. We learn Ukyo is the 49th, different from the others because he began life as a peasant; an intentional move to let him see the inner workings of life on the street. As his rite of inquiry begins, we learn just how deeply the young man's roguish recklessness has hidden a shrewd, politically ingenious mind.

All in all, yet another fantastic episode. We're completely out of the Kurosawa material by now, and the creative team once again shows just how thoroughly they studied the filmmaker by giving us original chapters that capture the same wit, layers, and flourish the master excelled at.

(series trailer)


(official website)
(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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