I confess it’s been so long since I last watched an episode of Hyouge Mono that I had to go back and review the events of the last one. In the interim, the guitarist of Cro-Magnon, the band responsible for the wonderful OP, was arrested for marijuana possession and the song was dropped from the anime. Why the Japanese are so obsessed with pot I have no idea.
As for the anime itself, well, it’s still great. What a masterpiece of subtle dialogue and intricate plotting (both by the writers and the characters). On the giant chessboard of Sengoku era politics and warfare all of these men have their part, with the specter of Oda Nobunaga casting a giant shadow across all the other pieces. And even pawns like Sosuke can have their dreams of greatness.
The focus of this episode – and increasingly, the series – is on Hideyoshi and his careful rise to power. Sosuke is a useful tool and a curiosity to him, but his thoughts are primarily with Akechi Mitsuhide, his greatest rival. The tea master Senno has already confessed his desire to see Hideyoshi rise to power, fearing a rise of a gaudy sensibility should Oda rule the land and seeing a more sympathetic sensibility in the monkey-eared commoner. This is treason, of course, yet Hideyoshi does undeniably desire power desperately.
The lengths to which he’s willing to go to get it are illustrated by a pair of stunning events. The first is his ruthless slaying of two soldiers for the simple reason that one of them remarked that the masked samurai leaving their military camp looked like Senno. The other comes as part of one of the most astonishing scenes you’ll ever see – a quiet conversation between Hideyoshi and Mitsuhide at the latter’s estate. Hideyoshi’s goal of course, is to test Mitsuhide’s loyalty to Oda and potential willingness to rebel against him. Their verbal dance is exquisite – Hideyoshi testing his rival with agonized fretting over the fate of their clans should Oda rule the land, and the two men competing to describe the other as least-praised and most disdained by Oda. Hideyoshi breaks down in tears, proclaiming his weariness, desire to live as a tea brewer and serve a noble spirit like Mitsuhide.
The twist comes in the revelation that Hideyoshi had secretly cut himself with a knife to bring forth those tears. As well, a wrench is thrown into his plans when the gift of a “masterpiece” he gives to Mitsuhide – a tea scoop that was one of eight masterpieces given to him by Oda as a reward – had been switched out by Sosuke for a worthless one of his own crafting. Sosuke assumed Hideyoshi’s rough eye would never tell the difference, but the refined Mitushide spots the difference immediately. One can only guess what this perceived slight by Hideyoshi will be interpreted as meaning.
The episode concludes with Sosuke musing over his modest collection of treasures – including a silver cross gifted to him by his Christian Brother-in-Law, the nature of which is of no interest to him other than its shape – and dreaming of rising in Oda’s esteem so that he can acquire more. Yes, he’s an aesthete – but he craves power too. What is the aesthetic of a man willing to do anything necessary to possess beauty as his very own? An interesting question. Physically aroused at the thought of gaining power, Sosuke seeks out his wife, leaving us with another reminder of just how different this series is than any anime you’ve ever seen.