November 12, 2009

Samurai 7 #22: The Divide

2004 episode
directed by Toshifumi Takizawa and Toshi Saga
written by Atsuhiro Tomioka
based on the film SEVEN SAMURAI by Akira Kurosawa, Shinobu Hashimoto, Hideo Oguni

(1954 film)


In a slight nod to Kurosawa's YOJIMBO, it seems Ukyo's strategy as the new emperor is to play both sides of the coin for his own mutual benefit. To the bandits he gives orders to raid the towns out of season, plucking up any stray bales of rice the farmers have hid away. To the farmers he sends militias of hired samurai to follow the growing legend of our heroes and cut the bandits down. Thus, he creates a conflict that weeds out potential rivals while the farmers just hand over the rice in gratitude. It's a nice, Kurosawa-esque way to carry on the plot, showing once again that Ukyo is not to be underestimated, and I especially like the added touch of the villagers seeing right through the plan, but going along because it's no worse for them than it's ever been in the past.

And another ploy is that he holds our lead Samurai and the village of Kanna up as heroic icons, while still quietly trying to wipe them off the map. After all, once peasants start fighting for themselves, who knows where they'll stop. It's when a group of assassins fall before our heroes that Kambei, Katsushiro, and Kikuchiyo finally hook up with Kyuzo again, with Shichiroji and Heihachi coming across them soon afterwards. Our remaining heroes are thus reunited, realizing that the job they signed up for is still escalating in ways that need to be dealt with. But, alas, there's still tension in the ranks.

Young Katsushiro is starting to see the chinks in Kambei's armor, certain restraints and hesitations that may be the key to the older samurai's frequent losses of the past. I was a little miffed at their division the last episode, but it's interesting how they're spinning it in a way that finally adds a few shades of grey to Kambei's character. As for Katsushiro, I'm impressed to see how much he's grown, but he breaks away from the team in what still looks to be the last dregs of youthful impulsiveness, so it'll be interesting to see where he goes from here. My only problem is that it looks like everybody else (sans Kikuchiyo) is taking Kambei's side, which feels a tad too uniform.

Otherwise, though, it's still pretty damn great, with some nice spurts of action, continued development of Ukyo's fascinating plot, Rikkichi finally confronting his estranged wife (which they've only just begun, so I'll detail it later), and even the portly Aymaro, former magistrate of the city and adoptive father to Ukyo, hanging around as an odd little tag-along for our team.

(series trailer)


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

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