July 15, 2009

Kaze No Yojimbo #16: Swapping Hostages

2002 episode
directed by Hayato Date
written by Katsuyuki Sumisawa, Satoru Nishizono, Daisuke Yajima, Michiko Yokote, Tamotsu Mizukoshi
based on the film YOJIMBO by Akira Kurosawa and Ryuzo Kikushima

(1961 film)


Over the course of the series, one plot thread has been hanging over nearly all events: there's something hidden in the supposedly dry mine owned by the old-blood Tanokura family, something tied to events 15 years back. Nothing, it seemed, would get Tanokura to give away the secret of the mine ... until Mamoru Araki comes into town. Hoping to save his sister, inn-keeper Sanae, from what he perceived to be a meddling threat in the form of our hero George, the young man has blundered onto the scene and found himself in way over his head.

And, to his surprise as well as ours, he seems to be the key. It's with him in enemy hands that Tanokura agrees to hand the deed to the mine over to his opposition, the Shirogane brothers of the Ginzame cartel. Why? What is it about him, his family, and his missing father, that's so damn important? And why does Tanokura seem to have such a fatherly attachment to the young man and his sister? We don't get these questions answered in this episode, but what we do get are some fantastic moments where secret meetings pull together many of the stray character threads into a woven strand that will hopefully carry us along to the conclusion without unravleing.

Most importantly, we finally get to know Tanokura. Aside from his endearing teenage daughter, Miyuki, most of the Tanokura household, especially the patriarch himself, has been little more than a surface image of a small-town emperor, proud and firm and fully in charge of surroundings that share their roots with him. I was wondering why it was that he was so under-explored while the Ginzame were fleshed out in full, but now we see why: his ties to the central mystery are so intricate that one can't be revealed without spoiling the other. So, now that we've got less than half the series left, the time is just right to start rolling it all out.

It truly is a wonderful episode, quiet and tense with much implied rather than stated outright. And in those final, fantastic moments, we may finally be seeing signs of what the series has lacked until now: a motivated hero who, in the way of the classic film upon which this series is based, has finally deepened his connections to the point where he's able and willing to manipulate the situation toward an outcome that's still not fully clear.

(series trailer)

(opening titles)

(anime news network)
(internet movie database)

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