Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blade of the Immortal 02: In Which Manji Brutalizes a Bunch of Hapless Logs

This is a talky episode. Lots of flashback, not nearly enough blood. But it's okay. We get to meet Rin! Oh and Megumi Toyoguchi's character (though all she does is talk)!
Episode 02: Conquest
More Screencaps from Blade of the Immortal 02

We open with an old man, telling his granddaughter about a past sin he committed and the consequence of that sin. Later, we see the same girl among a crowd of temple-goers, this time accompanied by her mother. The mother asks her what her New Year's wish is and she answers that there be no rain of blood.

Years later, the girl, now a young woman, tries to attack a man from behind using multiple throwing darts. But the man uses a fake and she ends up hitting only his cloak. The man then appears behind her and holds a blade to her face. He seems to know her and comments that he's glad he waited two years for her to grow into a beauty. Then, he leaves her, saying that what he wants is her until he is ready to get it, he wants her to live for as long as she can.

The girl, of course, is Asano Rin, the daughter of the master of the Mutenichi-ryuu sword school. As she kneels in front of her father's grave, she vows yet again to avenge his death. Just then, Yaobikuni arrives and more or less tells her the best person who can help her in her path of vengeance.

Rin walks around town for a while, looking for this mysterious swordsman. She even has a sketch of Manji's face to make it easier for her to recognize him. Finally, she manages to find his hut but it's empty.

Meanwhile, in a town somewhere, a group of warriors are relaxing on the top floor of an inn. Among them is the blond woman from the previous episode, Hyakurin. They all seem in awe of Manji's skills as a swordsman and believe that he is a potential threat to their group. One of them resolves to report the matter to their leader and let him decide what to do.
"Of course not! What do you take me for -- an idiot?"

Back in Manji's hut, Rin wakes up from a terrible dream and realize that it's morning. Outside, she sees Manji for the first time, cutting logs with admirable flourish. Later, he cooks food for her: burnt frogs. And they both eat.
"I'm immortal. What the hell do I need money for?"

Then, much later, Manji is sitting by the river, fishing, when Rin approaches him about her mission. Manji refuses to help at first, philosophizing that humans tend to view justice according to their best interest. He says that of course Rin would say that the people who murdered her parents were evil, but how could he be sure that they really are? He adds that samurai do not just kill for the sake of killing. There is always a reason.

Rin perhaps understands all too well Manji's point. She starts to cry silently. Eventually, Manji reconsiders his earlier resolve and asks her to tell him the story of how her parents died.

It was Rin's fourteenth birthday and her father was late coming home. When he did arrive, he was bleeding from several wounds on his body. He warned both Rin and his wife to run away but it was already too late because by that time, his assailants had entered their home.

The leader of the group announces that he and his group killed every single student of the Asano dojo, leaving only Asano, the leader himself. Now, he was going to finish the job. Asano's wife demanded to know why and it was then that he told her.
Some 50 years ago, Anotsu Saburou and Asano Takayuki, Asano's father (and Rin's grandfather) were the leading contenders for the leadership of the Mutenichi-ryuu. One night, their master, Takayuki's father, was attacked by a group of bandits. Takayuki killed four bandits. Saburou killed eight. Even so, Takayuki's father expelled Saburou from his school for the reason that he used two blades in battle. Worse still, the second blade was a "barbarian" weapon, having come from a foreign country. Since their school had no tradition of using two blades in battle, Saburou's unorthodox act was a complete departure from their school's time-honored form.

Saburou greatly resented his master's decision. More so when Takayuki refused to say anything on his behalf. He passed on this grudge of his against the Asano dojo to his grandson, Anotsu Kagehisa, who was now trying to wipe out sword schools like the Mutenichi-ryuu from the face of Japan and establishing the ultimate sword school where rules and forms did not matter.
Before he left, Kagehisa ordered his men to kill Asano and do whatever they wanted with the wife. As for Rin, he told them not to touch her. Rin had to sit there and watch as the Ittou-ryuu men first killed her father (he tried to attack Kagehisa from behind but he was slashed by Kuroi before he could aim a blow) and then did things to her mother. Interestingly, Kuroi tried to shield her from the sight by standing in front of her and telling her to cover her ears.
"Dude, WTF? That frickin' hurt!"

After telling her story, Rin awaits Manji's response. It takes a long time for him to say anything and when he does say something, Rin misunderstands. Manji wants her to prove her determination to him. Rin thinks that he is asking her to give herself to him so she starts to undo her obi. However, when Manji sees her face, he is sharply reminded of his dead sister. First he slaps her and then immediately apologizes afterwards.

Rin wordlessly starts to leave. Before she could get far, however, Manji asks her to wait. Then, silently he stands up and tells her to come with him. Smiling with relief, Rin wipes her tears and runs after him.
Unknown to the two of them, Yaobikuni watches them in contemplation as they walk towards the sunset.

Still a very dark episode and I mean that literally. What is up with the hue? I understand the necessity of setting the mood of the story but it gets bothersome at some point. I want to see the characters dammit, not their shadows.

Yay, Megumi Toyoguchi makes an appearance here. I love her as the badass Revy in Black Lagoon. Speaking of which, Black Lagoon gets a third season, weeh!

I don't know what kind of character she's supposed to be playing in this series as I haven't read that far into the manga yet.... I'm still up to Volume 3 which has a skilled swordswoman in it fighting Manji and basically handing him his ass but she's not Hyakurin. Another character maybe.

Anotsu Kagehisa strikes me as not really villainous. Is he one of those "honorable" villains? If so, that makes him even more interesting as a character. I like characters who have a reason for their being "bad."

Wow, this series really doesn't mince on the details, which is good. If I wanted a whitewashed story about samurai, I'd go pick up Rurouni Kenshin again, although I'm not saying that Rurouni was bad. It still is one of my all-time favorite manga. It has its charms.

Blade of the Immortal on the other hand is certainly different. I just wish the fansubs weren't so slow in coming. The first episode came out weeks ago and I just downloaded this second episode yesterday. Also, at one point, they used the word "twister" which displays an error in syntax. Shouldn't the proper word be "heretic?" I don't know Japanese but I don't think anyone would disagree with me when I say that "twister" does not convey nearly enough the same meaning as "heretic" even if indeed the literal translation of the Japanese word is "twister." Just an observation. Other than that, the subs are great.