Simply put, this was another excellent episode of a hugely underrated series. Fans of shounen have of course been down this road many times: like the training arc, the individual trials-by-fire for the main cast are a staple of the genre, and Mushibugyou is nothing if not a true shounen. I think my favorite example of this phase of story is the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin (which may very well be as good overall as any shounen arc ever written) but damn, Mushibugyou is offering up a fine version here.
While I certainly miss Kuroageaha and long to see more of her every week (at least we got a new name for her: “Princess Naa”) Koikawa’s struggle against the Gokibuddhist brothers Miyoshi Issa Nyuudo and Miyoshi Sekai Nyuudo (both excellently played by Sasaki Mutsumi) was the best of the trials so far, all in all. Koikawa’s character is most interesting by far when the focus is on his evil past, and this episode was bracingly dark and bleak in tone. I was also quite interested in Oookawa’s disagreement with Jinbei over whether Koikawa had grown weaker with his original motivation – revenge against his father – removed. And I still don’t think we have an answer.
This being Mushibugyou, we got some fine comic moments as well. There was the straight-laced Oookawa officially admonishing Koikawa with his trademark “That’s wrong” for setting his own death flag, and “Loincloth” Hibachi’s response to Jinbei getting horny over an illusion (illusion or not, how could any healthy boy resist Haru’s dumplings?). And then there was that eyecatch – this time quite literally about 15 seconds before the ED. At first I wasn’t sure but now I’m convinced it’s an intentional in-joke on the part of the staff.
As expected, Tenma gets his turn in the spotlight next week. He’ll be taking on Anayama “Justice” Kosuke (Kurokawa Akito) whose ability is still a mystery. Tenma hasn’t gotten much airplay since his feature “I can do it!/He can’t do it” episode, so it’ll be nice to see him in action, presumably without the support of the others. Hopefully it will bring some of the same drama as the Yahiko vs. Henya battle.
Kingdom 2 – 12
Well, anyone who knows anything about siege warfare would have known the boiling oil couldn’t be far off.
Sadly, Xin doesn’t know the first thing about siege warfare, though there’s no reason why he should. One imagines it’s one of the many things Wang Qi would have taught him, had he lived, and that brings up a major issue for Xin’s future. He’s at a huge disadvantage in that he has no formal military training, and as of this moment there’s really no one to teach him apart from the elders in his own unit (who’ve already saved him a few times, including this week). Then only other way he’s going to learn is through experience – and learning through experience in war is dancing with death, to be sure.
I’m not sure Wang Ben’s stratagem is realistic, but it is clever. As for the “White Elder” General Meng Ao, I think I was right to be skeptical – though it’s not so much that he’s not competent but that he’s a plodder. He’s content to starve out the enemy, relying on the huge numerical advantage he possesses and considering his soldiers quite expendable as a result. This sort of predictable, orthodox warfare is not only personally distasteful to Xin, but also quite unsuited for special forces units like the one he (and Wang Ben, and Meng Tian) command. But it’s only Wang Ben who takes matters into his own hands and does something about it, his bold plan to set huge fires and use the cover of smoke and flame to sneak a huge siege tower up to the Wei castle walls (why did the greenery camouflaging the tower not burn too? Better not to ask).
This is an interesting dynamic. We have Wang Ben, the ultimate establishment figure with top-notch troops and equipment, and plenty of money to fund his schemes, but who shows a willingness to go against orders. We have Meng Tian, the eccentric, also a noble but one who acts the vagabond and operates as an outside-the-box thinker. And Xin, with a pure guerrilla unit relying on sheer GAR and battle instinct. But now the big question is whether the other two will go the aid (of course they will) of Wang Ben who, while he’s managed to get inside the enemy’s stronghold, still has to deal with a force tens of times larger than his own.
Meanwhile, back at the Capital, Zheng’s own war has kicked into high gear. His opening salvo is to spread rumors of Lu Buwei’s affair with his mother, using them as a way to attack the morale of the Lu camp. And it’s clearly working, as Lu’s implacable facade is finally starting to crack. Lu’s greatest danger here may come from the Queen Dowager, who clearly isn’t the most patient woman in the world and appears to be taking matters into her own hands after Lu distances himself from her. Her aim may be to show the world that she and Lu are in bed together – both literally and figuratively – and force him to fight with that knowledge out in the open rather than deny it. Lu Buwei is nothing if not resourceful, though, and he won’t be content to watch events spiral out of his control for long.