One thing I’ve noticed about Mushibugyou is that it has the latest eyecatches in the anime business – they usually hit somewhere around the 18-minute mark. It’s almost as if there’s so much going on that the show can’t afford to take a break any sooner than that. In terms of plot most series more or less follow the “Big Crunch” theory of the universe; namely that it expands until it can expand no more, and then eventually contracts. So far Mushibugyou is still in the expansion phase, acting very much as if it’s going to run for longer than two cours – we’re still getting new layers of conspiracy and new characters added every week, and moving no closer to resolution.
All in all this may have been the very best episode yet – it was certainly one of the most well-paced, tonally varied and sharpest. The show usually fares well when Genjuurou and Kuroageha are involved, as they both were this week. Genjuurou offered a little background into Jinbei’s mother at last – Kanae was a great samurai, like him. They met in Edo and fought their way across Japan for a year – clearly taking enough time for a break here and there, as Jinbei was born. Of Kanae’s eventual fate we aren’t told, but it’s surely linked back to the insect conspiracy in some way, as Mushibugyou isn’t big on coincidences.
As for Kuroageha, she’s still without her powers, though the Shogun Yoshimune tells his panicked Ministers otherwise. She’s also more and more obsessed with Jinbei, and in its curious fashion this has become one of the more appealing romantic subplots of the season. It’s a measure of how alien Kuroageha’s existence is that she takes lessons on fitting in from Nagatomimaru, but so it is – these two certainly have something in common. The Shogun’s son certainly takes his Jinbei otaku status to a disturbing level – his room is full of Jinbei action figures, models and prints, and he’s found a spot where he can spy on Jinbei at the Magistrate’s office with a telescope. Creepy? Yes – but useful information for his fellow otaku Ageha, who takes the clue from Nagatomimaru that if she pretends to be a commoner, she can be with Jinbei.
Han Megumi is a big part of why this plot is working; her restrained delivery carries the hint of emotion just under the surface, waiting to break through. Her reaction when she sees Jinbei up to his usual hijinks with “peach-boobs girl” Haru is funny but telling (as is Hibachi’s, interestingly enough). She also learns enough from Nagatomimaru to lead her to conclude that the answer to restoring her powers lies in Kishuu, which has just been razed by the “Crucifix Insects“, yet another strange addition to the conspiracy plot (Buddhist bugs “purifying” humanity?). She tells the Shogun that she intends to go there, and insists on taking Jinbei along – at last, a chance for extended interaction between the two of them. The Shogun also insists she take Oooka Echizen no Kamitadasuke, the Southern Magistrate, who he calls “the smartest man in Edo” – another historical figure in fact, the widely-respected Oooka Tadasuke.
Also of note is that Tenma, of all Jinbei’s colleagues, declines to tell him what he’s been up to while training, calling it a secret – surely foreshadowing of something there. And Sarutobi’s body has been stolen from the Shogun’s men by Saizou Kiragakure (Seki Tomkazu), historically another member of Sanada’s Ten Braves, who somehow seem to have ended up as the top bosses in this story. The story may eventually also move North to Ezo (Hokkaido) where Nagatomimaru is convinced his father has hidden something of great importance, given that it’s the farthest point in Japan from the territory dominated by the giant insects.