Appropriate that flies were the bug of the week, because it’s really hitting the fan now.
After a recap episode Mushibugyou is back, with a new OP (surprisingly lacking in Mugai, I can’t help but notice) and ED. And the series continues on the same trajectory it’s been headed since the beginning, upwards. This has been a unidirectional series, getting bigger and bigger in scope, layering in more characters and more plot elements and raising the stakes at every turn. I wouldn’t expect it to run for longer than the announced second cour so we’re probably looking at an anime-original ending, but at this point there’s no indication that we’ve come close to maxing out the plot.
We meet a new face in Edo in Shirasakagi, who appears to outrank Kotori – he certainly treats him as a subordinate. I’m not sure of his role in the hierarchy but he’s dismissive of the Insect Magistrate’s, preferring to put his stock in flashy cannons (pretty obvious how that’s going to work out). He’s none too pleased to find everyone missing – Jinbei still training with his dad, the others on “vacation” and Mugai somewhere unidentified. This poses quite a problem when Sarutobi Sasuke (Shimozaki Hirobi) shows up. We met him briefly earlier when Sanada Yukimura was introduced, and he’s on a mission to find and kill Jinbei – proving if nothing else that Jinbei has caught the attention of the top boss.
As is usually the case with Mushibugyou we don’t get a whole lot of exposition up-front – we see that Sarutobi has a big appetite and is a master of a ninjitsu that allows him to split every time he’s killed (except, apparently, for when his head is destroyed). He’s a nasty piece of work, more than a match for Shirasakagi’s iron and the Samurai House Guard, and even a newly powered-up Jinbei struggles mightily with this strange ninjitsu when he shows up. Saurtobi continues the trend of this show getting more and more gruesome and creepy as it goes on, but what he represents in the larger plot is still a bit of an open question. It’s clear that Kotori knows his nature – he comments that the “bug men” have arrived in Edo.
Though Sarutobi is eventually defeated when Jinbei uses his newly-learned “Fuji Hammer” technique (with some help from his newly-returned colleagues) there’s more trouble as a horde of… something descends on a rural village. Piecing together recent developments and clues from the OP/ED, it seems that Kuroageha – and the relationship of the giant insects to the human-insect hybrids she (and possibly Jinbei too) seems to represent – are the key to everything. There’s a conspiracy at work that underlies everything, and Kotori-san seems to know more about it than anyone else. It’s almost as if there’s been an uneasy truce between the insect emperor and humanity, and it’s come to an end.
ED2: “Through All Eternity ~en no kizuna~” by ayami