I confess I’ve grown so fond of Kuroageha now that when she’s absent, something seems missing. But there’s plenty to fuel the engine that drives this episode, even as she’s separated from the rest of the A-team in Oooka’s plan to divide his forces and get the Insect Magistrate to the well even if the rest of them have to sacrifice their lives to do it.
Probably the best moment of the episode comes when Sanada himself dismisses Oooka’s challenge to take his men on in a fight using any rules Sanada cares to impose – a transparent attempt to buy time – but rises to the bait when Jinbei calls him out as a coward for running. It’s remarkable how far Jinbei has come as a man, despite his continuing innocence and lack of common sense – almost unnoticed he’s become a true Samurai.
I think the big revelation this week was that the human forms of Sanada’s Ten Braves apparently still exist inside their crunchy insect outer shells – at least if Nezu Jinpachi is anything to go by. After Jinbei bests him again – this time in the water – he sheds his exoskeleton and reveals the human-looking true form inside. Rather than a step-down this amounts to a sizeable power-up, but with some help from his father’s teachings Jinbei manages to come out on top once more. These insect-braves are a strange manner of thing indeed, and I don’t assume we’re going to find out about their origins during the span of time covered by the anime.
As Jinbei’s battle is happening, Hibachi had drawn the one who calls himself the leader of the Ten Braves – Saizou Kirigakure (Seki Tomokazu – yes, impossibly, this cast just got even better). Whether real or fictional (historians aren’t sure) he’s certainly legendary, and purportedly a master of Iga ninjitsu. This of course makes him of special interest to Hibachi, and their matchup should be a highlight of next week’s episode.
Kingdom 2 – 10
Kingdom continues to cement its place as one of the better historical epics in recent anime history, the nightmarishly bad animation of the first season an increasingly distant memory. That season was full of half-pleading “It’s really good, but…” and “If you can get past…” appeals, but now Kingdom is just plan excellent.
There’s been a major historical element that Kingdom has thus far skipped over even as the plot would seem to make it increasingly relevant, but it seems as if the series finally went there – the widely-held belief that Lu Buwei was Zheng’s father. At the very least the romantic link between Lu and the Queen Dowager was established in this episode, and nothing spoken between them would refute the possibility. Lu comes off, as always, as the perfect opportunist, ever-willing to use anyone to get what he wants (power). And it appears he used the Queen Dowager 17 years earlier, getting to the point of being her fiancee before using her as a prize to gain leverage with Zi Chu, the man he set up to be King of Qin (Zheng’s father, as far as anyone knows).
No denying, this is an interesting dynamic. Mind you the Q-D seems to have generally turned into a vengeful shrew, but while she still has the hots for the guy who screwed her over she apparently feels nothing (she checked) for the boy who did nothing to harm her except be born. So it appears that she’s sent her Three Princes to tell Zheng she’s ready to be his ally, all the while planning to pay Lu’s treachery forward against her own son. Verily, these two deserve each other. Meanwhile Xiang has overhead all this, unluckily for her, and one of the Queen’s “eunuchs” (presumably Lao Ai, who I won’t discuss further yet for fear of historical spoilers as he’s pretty important) stabs her for her temerity to eavesdrop on the Queen and the man who, theoretically, should be executed for entering the harem. What a mess.
Meanwhile, we do catch up to Xin for the first time in almost a month, though briefly. He’s about to take part in Qin’s invasion of the small (for now) but strategically critical kingdom of Han, and still butting heads with the aptly named Wang Ben. Especially with the Supreme Commander Meng Ao (no idea if he’s related to Meng Yi, Tian and Wu) seeming to be a bit of an empty suit of armor, there seem likely to be ample paths of glory to be tread in this war, and the clock is ticking on Xin’s promise to Zheng. We haven’t heard so much as a peep from Diao back in strategist school for ages, so I hope we get a look-in there soon – for now, though, it seems as if the two fronts in the coming battle, the political and the military, will share the spotlight.