What’s really striking in watching the last few episodes of Kingdom is just what a huge gap exists between Xin and both his 300-man General rivals. For all their stylistic and personality differences – and they could hardly be greater – both Meng Tian and Wang Ben are in many ways peas in a pod. They’r both scions of aristocratic families with impeccable military training, and a willingness to use their wealth and family name to their own benefit – albeit thus far in different ways.
There’s no question who the odd sock in this drawer is. Xin’s humble past (he was a slave – it doesn’t get much humbler) has been more of an abstraction and rallying cry up to now, but here we’re seeing just what it means in practical terms. As Wang Ben concocts an ingenious strategy using his wealth and Meng Tian decodes it and takes advantage, Xin stands by dumbfounded. But it’s not just in military tactics that Xin is a neophyte – it’s in the ugly aftermath of battle, too, as this episode showed in no uncertain terms.
No question, the “real world” of war in Warrning States China was what was happening to the Wei civilians – and in that real world upstarts like Xin didn’t stand up and risk their lives to stop the atrocities. It’s truly only because of Meng Tian’s intervention that Xin kept his head, or at least his career. Nevertheless, the incident says a lot about both of them – about Meng Tian’s eye for talent and taste in friends, and Xin’s integrity. How Xin will reconcile the latter if the series follows the generally accepted historical view of Zheng’s ascendancy will be interesting to watch, to say the least.
While it’s been a virtual walkover for Qin’s forces so far – three castles taken in twelve days – there’s a secret weapon in Wei’s arsenal. That’s a Zhao defector named Lian Po, one of the “Three Great Devas” of which much was spoken in the first season. As the going gets tougher for Qin, that will seemingly accelerate Xin’s education – and offer the Feixin Force ample opportunities to achieve glory in their own element as the battle gets more ragged and desperate.
Mushibugyou – 22
Mushibugyou delivers the goods yet again. There was naturally a little uncertainty about this episode, given how little Tenma has been used lately, but as it usually does Mushibugyou exceeded my expectations with the results.
This being a shounen battle arc, it always seemed likely that all of Jinbei’s peers in the Insect Magistrates would get their own focus episode, but for a while there I wasn’t sure if Tenma would (he’s the only one without a dedicated sequence in the OP, for example). After a very solid backstory episode way back in the Spring he’s been strictly in the background, but happily he received the full treatment this time around with fine results. We even got a little more backstory – I’d been under the impression that his parents were dead, but apparently Tenma’s onmyouji talents were spotted at birth and he was immediately separated from them (which I suspect was the common practice). He always struck me as rather a sad and lonely figure with all his phobias and no one his own age to commiserate with, and this episode pretty much confirmed that.
As is often the case with this story, it’s Jinbei’s relentless positivity in the face of all logic that’s proved to be the game-changer for Tenma. For an opponent Tenma has Anayama “Justice” Kosuke, quite a different figure than the Insect Braves we’ve met to this point. His justice involves saving Tenma a few times so he doesn’t die before he understands the concept, a lot of lecturing about it (including the “brush your teeth” and “go to bed early” aspects of justice) and then pummeling Tenma vigorously after disabling Jinbei to stop him from interfering. What ultimately turns the tide – after Jinbei’s words of encouragement buoy Tenma when he’s about to give in – is a sort of super-sentai, limiter off, “full power” combination attack, which leads to a Team Rocket ending for Justice. To say that it’s on a different level than anything we’ve seen from Tenma before would be an understatement.
Meanwhile, Princess Naa’s group is finally closing in on the well – and Saizou is closing in on figuring out what’s really going on. With Mugai (I was starting to look for him on milk cartons) present as well it seems safe to assume that the two of them are going to have their final battle when Saizou reveals himself, leaving Sanada for Jinbei. Next week, though, it’s one more preliminary, a battle with Kamanosuke Yuri (Takagi Motoki) and Juuzou Kakei (Hatano Wataru) – with Oooka seemingly taking the featured role this time.