I’m almost sorry the actual historical events surrounding the death of Oda didn’t happen the way they’re portrayed here, because Hideyoshi’s artistry of deceit is truly a masterpiece. What a plan – every detail seems to have been thought of. Of course we know now with certainty that the critical reason Hideyoshi had to do the deed himself was so that Akechi would not have Oda’s head as a trophy. We also see that the commoner general knew full well that Akechi’s brand if moralistic idealism would be an ill pairing with his new status as usurper and rebel, and that men would flock not to Akechi, but to him – the practical man who could offer them practical benefit.
It’s interesting to see how crucial Sosuke and his brothers end up being to Hideyoshi’s plan. Sosuke’s loyalty has been secured with flattery, bribery and crocodile tears, but Hideyoshi has also secured the loyalty of Sosuke’s Christian younger brother by promising to spread the gospel once he becomes the ruler of Japan (a promise I suspect will never be kept). The heart from “Sacred Heart of Jesus” even makes its way onto the avenging armies banners. But the real piece d’ resistance is the securing of the eldest brother, the most reluctant and the most important General. Hideyoshi gently demands that he offer a hostage (his son, as it happens) as proof of his loyalty – an offer he makes sure is proffered in front of his other generals – then refuses. In one stroke he makes himself look magnanimous, and can use this gesture as a yardstick of loyalty for his other generals to measure themselves against. It wasn’t the hostage that mattered, but the offering of the hostage publicly. A true master stroke of P.R..
Hideyoshi has his own man on the inside, too, as Teamaster Senna continues to feign loyalty to Akechi inside Kyoto. Senna, who reveres black above all else, is stunned when Akechi re-finishes his castle in white tiles – and that he finds it beautiful. How this will impact the teamaster is unclear, but it was certainly included in the episode for a reason. Also important is Tokugawa Ieyasu (a name that will certainly become central to Japanese history) as Akechi tries to buy off his support with a rare tea jar and generous terms of shared power. Ieyasu seems ill-inclined to ally himself with a rebel though, even under those terms, something Hideyoshi was surely banking on. Tokugawa was something of a moralist too and perhaps more temperamentally attuned to Akechi for it, but that same moralism seems to be pushing him to ally himself not with the murderer and rebel, but with the “loyalist” Hideyoshi – the man who was actually the true murderer and rebel (though to be fair, only because he beat Akechi to the punch). I suspect the irony of that is not lost on the clever Hideyoshi, a man who misses almost nothing.