There’s no denying that this is one of the stranger and more fascinating anime of recent vintage, but I find it consistently entertaining and worth the wait. I think I could watch 22 minutes of Sosuke’s facial expressions and come away solidly entertained, but Hyouge Mono packs a lot more punch than that.
Having survived his fall with only some bumps and bruises, Sosuke is in the unenviable position of being Milord’s comic relief. He receives governance of another small province and with it another 200 koku stipend, but that’s small potatoes, and it’s clear that Sosuke is becoming increasingly more desperate to find a way to fund his aesthetic pursuits and ever more willing to take foolish risks to gain fame, power and glory in Milord’s service.
The irony here is that at this point, Sosuke is still loyal despite his agitation – and indeed, seems blissfully unaware of the myriad plots simmering throughout Oda’s service. My sense is that he’s very much a pawn in a dangerous game here, and it seems that Sennou may be getting ready to sacrifice him to get what he wants. But it’s not just Sennou plotting against Nobunaga here. It feels as if dissent is brewing throughout the ranks of Oda’s top leadership, much of it stemming from the feeling that it’s the leader’s own kin that stand to benefit from his ascent to power. Indeed, Oda makes the shocking confession that he wishes to become Emperor, and to take the riches of China.
I’m always fascinated by the verbal dance that occurs in this series. the scene where Sosuke and Sennou attended a tea ceremony at the home of budding rebel Akechi Mitsuhide (who in real life will go on to be Oda’s murderer) is a perfect example. Akechi presents a rare and beautiful teakettle, one of the great aesthetic treasure of Japan, to his guests. All Sosuke can see is the glory of the object, but for Sennou – the foremost tea master and aesthete in Nobunaga’s service – the salient point is that the kettle was gloriously displayed at floor level. As it was designed to be in the recessed brazier, Sennou immediately sees this as a symbolic rejection of Nobunaga – who gave Akechi the kettle – and an expression of Akechi’s sense of wrongness with the Oda regime.
Indeed, Akechi, Sennou, Hideyoshi himself – rebellion is brewing everywhere, though there’s no evidence at this stage that Oda knows it. He’s a smart cookie, is Oda, so I can hardly believe he’s oblivious to what’s happening but perhaps his ego is outstripping his caution. Flush from crushing the Takeda Clan all is right in Oda’a world, but there’s a new player about to be introduced – Takugawa Ieyasu (Tsurumi Shingo). And anyone who knows their way around Japanese history (or has ever visited Nikko) will recognize an A-list player when they hear that name…