Kingdom is well and truly being staged on two fronts now, with this episode evenly split between the political battle at the capital and the military one on the front lines in the State of Wei. And while there’s certainly more blood by volume spilled at the latter, the first somehow feels every bit as vicious.
Zheng has had more than his share of hard times in his life, but he seems to have a knack for running into the right people – especially women – at exactly the right time. Zi Xia, Yang Duan He (“King” of the Mountain Tribe) and now Xiang. She proves herself to be made of sturdier stuff than one might have guessed from her somewhat reticent manner around the King, and despite serious wounds stubbornly refuses to die – or even sleep – until she gets her message to Xiang.
Fortunately Xiang’s friend takes it upon herself to sneak into Zheng’s chambers (which would be close to suicidal) and manages to get his best doctors to treat Xiang (though I’m a bit confused about how everyone is able to get from the Harem to the King’s Palace so easily). Whether she lives remains to be seen, but she certainly got his attention with her tidbit of news. We’ve already seen that Zheng is not a guy you want to piss off, and at this point Lu Buwei has seriously pissed him off. Considering that what Lu did (sneaking into the Harem) was a capital offense, with this bit of intelligence Zheng can not only evade his shrew of a mother’s trap, but seems to have Lu’s nuts squarely in a vice. I wonder – if it does in fact turn out that Lu is Zheng’s father, will that change Zheng’s feelings in any way?
As for Xin, he’s got a new rival – Meng Tian, of that very historically important and influential family. In real-life it was actually the kid brother (the bishounen hanging out with Diao at strategist school) who made the biggest splash, but Meng Tian was no slouch, and though he presents himself as a much more cordial figure than Wang Ben, he makes it clear to Xin that he means business (did guys really shake hands in Warring States China?). I’m still not sold on Meng Ao (still nor sure if he’s related, but I don’t think so) as Supreme Commander, but for drama’s sake he does at least place all three 300-man units of interest in the same force – the East reserve army, which walks right into a trap in Xin’s first real taste of siege warfare. And it’s clear to him immediately that this is quite unlike any battles he’s fought out in the open.
The other interesting element is the brief encounter between Xin and Qiang Li under the moonlight, one where Xin makes it clear he still occasionally has trouble thinking of her as a girl. It still feels to me as if those two are going to end up as an item – I just don’t see it between Xin and Diao – but she’s harbouring thoughts of returning to her own quest after this battle is over. I can see an impassioned appeal from Xin to get her to stay – though one based on comradeship more than romance, as there’s no evidence he’s figured out how to think about that topic yet.
Mushibugyou – 20
And Mushibugyou shatters its own record for latest eyecatches in the business. This one was about 30 seconds before the ED.
At this point in the series we’re basically getting all of the main cast and their personal duels with the Ten Insect Braves, so the overall narrative isn’t as interesting as it was when all this was being set up. Still, they’re good fights for the most part, and this week was the Saizou vs. Hibachi Iga ninja battle royale. Saizou is interesting, and not just because he’s voiced by Tomokazu Seki. He works with illusion (sound-based) which leads to some agonizing blundering about, especially by Tsukishima. As usual, though, it’s Jinbei’s feckless straight-ahead gallantry that wins over the heart of the girl (and stokes her fighting spirit).
I didn’t think Saizou, as the leader of the Ten Braves, would be defeated as easily as he was – and indeed, it turns out that the happy couple were actually doing battle with his shadow. Meanwhile the real one has either taken the form of a human or possessed his body (I’m assuming the latter) and taken up a post as a spy with the Snow Team. This of course means that he’s just about figured out who the blonde girl really is, and is about to get clued in on the existence of the well. But next week looks as if it’s going to be mostly dedicated to Koikawa’s duel, and I suppose Tenma may get a turn after that if shounen rules are followed.
The absence of Kuroageha for most of the last couple of episodes has been a bit of a bummer, as she (and her relationship with Jinbei) have been a key element in the show’s success. But even more of a milk-carton case is Mugai, who’s so far under the radar he’s barely even in the OP/ED. Presumably he’s going to have a major role to play in the final showdown, however that plays out – perhaps he’ll be the one to take out the real Saizou, with Jinbei getting the prime slot against Sanada himself.