Thursday, January 22, 2009

Blade of the Immortal 09: In Which Manji Gets Some More

Makie returns and she's deadlier than ever. But does she have the willpower this time to finish the fight?
EPISODE 09: Dream Shot
More Screencaps from Blade of the Immortal 09

After her rather humiliating defeat at the hands of Manji, Makie resolves to fight him once more. This time, she assures Kagehisa of her stronger resolve. When she leaves, we are treated to a flashback of that time when Kagehisa meets Makie for the first time. Apparently, when Kagehisa's father found out that Kagehisa was saved by no more than a kid, he gave not only the boy but Makie as well the beating of their lives. He was also about to kill Makie right there when something about her face made him stop and ask about her father.It turned out that Makie is the daughter of Harukawa, the master of a well-known dojo. Makie and her mother were expelled from the family after her brother, the heir to the dojo, committed seppuku for having been defeated by her in a fight. Knowing this, Anotsu, instead of killing her, placed her unconscious body on a tree branch and left her there the entire night. The area was a favorite hunt of wild dogs. Even so, when Kagehisa returned the next day, Makie was gone, leaving only a trail of blood and the dogs' dead bodies. This made such an impact on Kagehisa that he told Kuroi a few days later about his dream of forging a sword school that espoused the traditional "noble" principles because according to him, if a samurai could achieve honor by dying, then any monkey could become samurai.Back to the present, Manji and Rin encounter Makie at a street corner. The two adults recognize each other but make a play at it, leading Rin to think that Makie is nothing more than a prostitute. With obvious hesitation, Rin hands Manji some coins before leaving. Hyakurin and Shinji find her later at a restaurant, still fuming over the incident. Meanwhile, Manji and Makie trade sword blows. But because of Makie's incredible speed, it does not take long for Manji to realize that he is barely keeping up with her. Back at the restaurant, Hyakurin and Shinji get chatty with Rin. Apparently, Rin has told them about Manji and the prostitute. But Hyakurin helpfully points out to her some irregularities with her story, prompting Rin to suspect that Manji might have lied to her.Meanwhile, Manji is really getting it from Makie, who manages to slice off his entire arm. Manji, down on the ground and with a sword stuck to his chest, tells her to finish him and even reveals that the only sure way to do it is to cut off his head. But Makie is unable to, saying that she is fine when she is in the middle of a fight but once her concentration is broken, as when the enemy is down and the fight is all but finished, her conscience starts to take over and she can't bring herself to make the final kill. She wonders how Manji could live the way he did, killing countless people, and then muses that before she met Kagehisa, she already killed three people. But Manji just tells her that a swordswoman as talented as her who can't bring herself to kill the enemy is better off as a prostitute, but adds that she ought to remember what it was that made her pick up the sword in the first place.With those words, Makie remembers her promise to Kagehisa. Manji then stands up and prepares for another bout, declaring that he had been giving the fight his all and yet he still could not defeat her, but what really pissed him off was being subject of her mercy. But despite being "one arm and seven weapons lighter" he still could not match Makie's incredible speed. He ends up on the ground again and again urges Makie to finish the fight. Before Makie could do so, however, Rin arrives. She stands before Manji's fallen body, her sword drawn. With sad eyes, Makie confirms if she is Rin, then asks her if Rin, in her quest to get revenge for her parents, was prepared to kill as many people as she could in order to get to Kagehisa. The question comes too close to home and Rin, for the first time, realizes the possible conflicts in her resolve. But she says that even though it might not be the right choice, she believes that taking revenge for her parents is somehow the more "human" choice for her.The words rang true for Makie and she lowers her sword and leaves. Later, she meets her friend O-Hatsu at the bridge to tell her about her decision to leave. Rin takes care of Manji while he grumbles about being nearly killed by a woman only to be saved by another woman. Then Rin says something really mature, which astonishes Manji somewhat. Meanwhile, Kagehisa impatiently waits for Makie's return only to receive a note from her. At this, he runs out to the street and sees her in the distance, walking away. She turns just then but instead of going after her, Kagehisa stays put.

Another wonderful episode from Blade of the Immortal. Did I mention that Makie is one of my favorite female anime characters to come out this season? Yeah.

This is a really good, revealing episode. Although it is essentially about Makie, her story gets a glimpse of what Kagehisa is really like as a character. Again, I would like to make a comparison with the manga: the anime did not make it very clear that it was Makie's talent and her being female which brought shame upon her father's dojo. Kagehisa the boy understood this and rebelled against such discrimination. I think this is also about the time he envisioned his dream for the Itto-ryu, which explains why he considers Makie as his "childhood teacher." And yes, I think he is referring to her -- rather than Kuroi -- when he said that.

Now, taking all this into context, we begin to understand why Kagehisa does everything in his power to get Makie to use her talents to the fullest, even to the point of manipulating her, in order to get her to fit the pedestal he has unconsciously put her on.

As for Rin, her character just took a huge leap in terms of development. This episode -- specifically her exchange with Makie -- is the precursor for her second-guessing her goal in the future. It will happen and, with the way Manji thinks, he is not the person to help her get through it, although he might provide the motivation.

This is why I continue to watch Blade of the Immortal. It's more than just a samurai story really. I mean, yes, there's the gratuitous violence, of course, but what makes it so much more (and I'm talking about Blade the story, and not just the anime series) is the fascinating array of characters, the psychology involved, and the extremely realistic portrayal of what people think, do and say.

Also --

Thank you, Kensenai, for not dropping the series all together.


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