Hyouge Mono 10 ~ I shall join ye in death
December 12, 2011
Episode 10 is not only another good episode of Hyouge Mono, it is also a critically important one, full of character study, and significant events. In other words, reading this review will expose you to spoilers. This episode concerns itself with the events surrounding Lord Nobunaga Oda’s death in Kyoto, 1582. This was an event of extraordinary importance in the real world, so the details are well known to Japanese students. Hyouge Mono manages to alter the events, in many significant ways, all while making it plausible that our received history could have become the official version. In other words Hyouge Mono doesn’t depict an alternate history, but a secret history.
In addition this episode includes the most BAD ASS tea ceremony ever, a really interesting take on Bushido ethics, and in particular a complex study of Sasuke Furuta.
Hashiba literally chopped Oda in half, so seeing Oda hold the wound closed was beyond OTT. I have seen any number of scenes where someone took a deadly wound, and they “held it in” so they could finish off the fight. Up until now, my favorite scene of this type has been this one from Wandering Swordsman:
But this episode of Hyouge Mono managed to blow that away. I think what I enjoyed about this scene was not only that they were light-heartedly playing with one of the cheesiest tropes in action film history (the only one cheesier is probably, “Now it’s personal!”), but also that they were playing off of the image of Nobunaga Oda that has built up in popular media.
In our received history, Akechi sets fire to the temple at which Oda is staying. Oda and his servant commit seppuku. Here is how I understand the secret history that is presented. General Hashiba had conspired with Tea Master Senno to be snuck in with the jars of gun powder. He sought out the three legendary tea jars, but when he saw the Stone Frog he couldn’t restrain himself. Nobunaga Oda was woken by the “crying” of the stone frog statue, likely a sound Hashiba accidentally made as he was admiring (or attempting to steal) the frog. Thus it is my belief (contrary to Guardian Enzo’s interpretation) that Hashiba never intended to kill Oda with his own sword (although he had goaded Akechi into attacking, and had stocked the temple with gunpowder with the intention of ensuring Oda’s death). The reason is that the three tea jars are believed to confer upon their owner mastery over all of Japan. Securing the tea jars was Hashiba’s objective.
Sasuke Furuta sensing something is amiss, goes to the Honno temple in Kyoto where Lord Oda had been staying. He witnesses the destruction, and wonders at General Akechi’s betrayal. Sasuke realizes that he should be warning the others of Akechi’s treachery, or at the very least confirming Oda’s condition. Instead Sasuke digs through the rubble, looking for treasures. He spots Oda’s brother, dressed as a woman, doing the same. When he finds that Oda’s brother didn’t commit seppuku along with the other warriors, he decides to behead him to save his honor. Oda’s brother asks Sasuke if he really believes himself to be a warrior without fault. The effect of this simple question is extraordinary. Sasuke realizes that he has had many ethical lapses, and lets him live.
Both of the imperfect warriors go on to take treasures that don’t belong to them when the opportunity presents itself. This mixture of greed, or moral failing in general, combined with a rather noteworthy awareness of his own imperfection, makes Sasuke a fascinating character. He is full of flaws, but also full of idealism. He sees himself falling short of his own ideals of warrior conduct, but then succumbs to his appetites anyways. He reveres his Lord, but is full of selfish concern for his own position.
I mentioned Guardian Enzo’s blog post above. He also makes a great comment about the conflicted morality in Hyouge Mono. Enzo says that the character who shows the greatest moral virtue may well be General Akechi, despite his being a traitor who attacked his own lord in a temple while he slept, because his motivation was to overturn what he saw as a corrupt ruler. These complicated portrayals of ethical choices are a big part of what makes Hyouge Mono so enjoyable. I truly feel sorry for those who have been missing out by not watching it.