May 22, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #5: The Pursuit

2001 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Akatsuki Yamatoya, Daisuke Yajima, Michiko Yokote, Satoru Nishizono
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


At the end of the last episode, a vacationing group of housewives dropped by Kimujuki so as to enjoy the natural springs in the nearby mountains. While dining at the Araki Inn, one of the women, former teacher Ryoko Kiuchi, makes some odd eye contact with proprietress Sanae, hours before plummeting off a cliff. Accident? Suicide? Murder? When he learns the woman is from Sendai, the town where his missing friend Genzo Araki supposedly settled down in, George heads out to investigate.

Once again, the creative team is apparently missing the point of YOJIMBO. Kurosawa's classic is about a man vowing to clean up a corrupt town whether it wants the help or not, and not only have they lost a lot of the layers that give that plot meaning, but now they're taking that man out of that town. Sure, whatever mysteries he uncovers will likely loop back to the setting's history and, yes, I understand the need to get some extra breathing space when a film-length story is now spread across a few dozen episodes, but this should be a thematic no-no. You've got the man. You've got the town. Don't pull them apart, especially when you've already failed at entwining them.

Now, that's not to completely knock the episode. What I've learned by now is that YOJIMBO is mainly just a cover for the creative team to do their own thing, so such arguments are moot. As it is, the episode is actually a pretty interesting one as George starts putting clues together that lead to some interesting history (and many, many new questions) about the beautiful Sanae.

Back at the town, we see that George's absence has left everyone ... well, no one really seams to notice except Miyuki and Raccoon (a pair of characters I'd love to see develop a wild dynamic). Elsewhere, old-blood aristocrat Tanokura brutally knocks around a betrayer, until a mysterious man shows up and starts asking about a load of ore from the seemingly dry mine that went missing 15 years ago ... from the very same train yards where George met his missing friend.

As you can see, the mystery deepens. The animation's still shitty and I still don't get why they threw out so much of the original story, but I have to admit that the creative team is hitting a nice stride with decent characters, an increasingly compelling storyline, and a visual style that's starting to grow on me.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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