I’m not immune to the zeitgeist of a series, as much as I try to be. I certainly notice when my opinion clashes with the broad consensus, in both directions. It happens more often with me not caring for a mass darling for certain, but it goes the other way sometimes too. You do wonder if there’s something wrong with you for a moment, but in the end I trust my instincts. There’s no copyright on bad taste – other people’s about a series I like, or mine as perceived by those who disagree with it. There’s no right or wrong to it – that’s just how it goes.
I have my own ideas about the low aggregators and general indifference towards Sengoku Youko (as I elucidated in the post last week). In the end that doesn’t matter – what does matter is that Mizukami is finally getting a decent adaptation, and that this was another banger episode. Sengoku Youko is actually pretty influential, but it very much goes in its own directions as Mizukami always does. In a Mizukami series nobody ever “just does” anything – it’s always for a reason. Something in their past always plays a part in the path they choose today. And that process is rarely neat and clean cut, because people (and katawara) are complicated beings.
Enter Zanzou Raidou (Touchi Hiroki, quite busy this season). But first, there’s the matter of Guragura-sama (Tusuoka Satoshi). The world reform siblings get a tip from a katawara friend about a monster threatening a local village, demanding human sacrifices or it will destroy the village. This was a cruel era (real or fictional), and Kami demanding sacrifices in turn for protection was more or less considered fair game. But just to protect them from itself? No, that’s out of bounds. And though it means fighting a katawara on behalf of humans (a cycle Jinka sees repeating itself despite his protestations), this is something the WRS can’t allow to stand unchallenged.
Tama demands no payment from the skeptical villagers, much to their surprise – only that each shows kindness towards someone with no expectation of reward. But she really goes off on Mokichi (Ishigami Shizuka – Takada Taiyou himself) when he curses them for arriving too late to save his mother. As it turns out they aren’t too late – Guragura hasn’t digested her yet, and once he realizes he’s no match for Jinka he regurgitates her to use as a hostage. He’s determined to attack anyway, but finds himself hesitating. All the more so when Mokichi offers to sacrifice himself in exchange for his mother’s freedom.
And then, Zanzou. We briefly checked in on him last week, receiving the assignment from the Dangaisyuu. He makes short work of Guragura-chan, but then threatens to hold the mother and son hostage himself if Jinka won’t fight him (choose to believe him or not). It’s a moot point anyway as Jinka isn’t going to back down from a fight, but it’s pretty obvious that this samurai is no one to be trifled with. He draws one of his swords, possessing spiritual power sufficient to make Jinka hesitate, and forces the latter to use several of his signature moves (you know they’re important since they have names) just to cause a stalemate. But then Zanzou draws his other sword, from which Jinka senses no spiritual power at all, and pushes him to the brink of annihilation.
What stays Zanzou’s hand, really? We don’t know the man well enough to say, yet. We only know that he kills for the Dangaisyuu to try and protect his sister Hino, and that he could have killed Jinka had he wanted. Unfortunately the Dangaisyuu are not going to leave it there – he’s ordered to fight Jinka again and to the death this time. And in order to make sure Jinka agrees, the messenger monk tells him the Yamato family will be destroyed if he refuses. Jinka professes no concern over what happens to them, having been abandoned, but that he can’t let a defeat to a human stand. Again, you can choose whether to believe him or not.
We do learn something very important about Jinka here – when he’s pushed to the brink of death, he can level up. Which he does, finding a power he didn’t know he possessed (much to the relief of Tama, and Shinsuke and Shakugan too). Hino appears to be another victim of Yazen’s experiments, and Zanzou is allowed to live to ponder that after his defeat. As for Jinka he has much to ponder too, not least whether his commitment to his principles is unshakable as he believes it to be (and consistent with the identity he and Tama have chosen for themselves.