Episode 9 had a little something for everyone – elephants, betrayal, murder, and the best CGI tea wares you’ll ever see. Add some of the most suspenseful and exciting moments Hyouge Mono has offered, and you have an instant classic.
As much as I love this series, the sporadic episode releases (for which Huzzah has my eternal gratitude, I hastily add) serve as an uncomfortable reminder of the swift passage of time. When a new one pops up and I start watching, I immediately think “Damn, has it really been a month since the last episode? That’s me another four weeks closer to being middle-aged.” Still, I can’t deny that it’s remarkably easy to get back into the story, as well as this series is written.
It was always going to be interesting to see just how much Hyouge Mono was going to diverge from the historical record with this show, and it’s apparent from this ep that it’s going to be quite a lot. We have a show about some of the most iconic figures in Japanese history that seems to be largely historically accurate, yet two of the main cast (Sasuke and Senno) and many of the supporting cast are fictional. The mangaka Yamada Yoshihiro does a remarkable job of leading us to believe the demise of Oda (which I assume even the non-history buffs knew was coming) was going to follow the historical script, sending Akechi Mitsuhide and his men marching towards Kyoto after Akechi finally admits his intentions to his inner circle. That’s what makes the episode’s ending all the more shocking.
Much of the episode was taken up with grand displays of Oda’s maniacally broad vision and personal power, as be both bullies and seduces the imperial court and his family to boot. There’s no denying the man’s ambition – with Japan nearly under his thumb, his intentions have already turned to conquering China and having himself declared God of the Realm. His son and brother are to rule Japan in his absence, though neither seem thrilled at the prospect. Oda certainly knows how to impress – marching into Kyoto at the head of his retinue riding an elephant – and he clearly understands human nature frightfully well. But not, it seems, quite well enough.
By all appearances – I mean, the guy is literally sliced in half – Oda is murdered by Hideyoshi at the close of the episode. While we knew the fictional Hideyoshi was plotting against Oda, this is a pretty radical departure from the historical record, which shows Oda murdered by Akechi, who set Honno-ji to the torch, prompting his lord to commit seppuku. There are scenes of a living Oda in the preview, which is interesting, but assuming he’s really dead, it seems likely that it was Hideyoshi’s plan all along to commit the deed and deflect the blame onto Akechi. Akechi is played as something of a proud but naïve idealist here, and Hideyoshi the ultimate practicalist. And what of Senno, and the gunpowder he had delivered to Honno-ji on the night of Oda’s murder?
And of course, we must ask what role Sasuke will play in events as they unfold from here. He was his usual wall of great facial expressions and sound effects here (suddenly I want to pair Sasuke and Oshiroi from Ben-To) but largely removed from the major events at Honno-ji. His loyalty to Oda seems to have been pretty genuine, though he was also close to Hideyoshi and Senno, in the sense that both seemed to see him as a useful pawn in their strategy to take down their lord. My suspicion is that Hideyoshi will indeed pin the blame for the murder on Akechi, and thus will retain the loyalty of Sasuke.