More tragedy, more death, more allies – it’s another day in the life of Onihei. One thing about a show like this is that it can fall into that category of hard to write about, because it’s so literal. There’s not much subtext in this narrative – it’s drama with a capital “D”, as befits a J-drama in anime form. The impact in the stories come from the events themselves, so there’s not much attempt to probe into what’s going on beneath the surface. That’s why the acting style is what it is – that characters are basically transparent, because that’s what the story requires.
Speaking of which, it’s great to hear Paku Romi again (it’s pretty much always great, actually). She’s been having some serious health issues and hasn’t worked much for a while, so I hope here presence here as the ill-fated Omasa is a sign that Paku-san is back in fighting trim. She brings class to any role, and can play this broad dramatic style just as well as roles that require more subtlety. Here, she’s an old acquaintance of Heizou, the daughter of a thief who ran a bar he frequented when she was a child. Omasa was a girl whose compassion made quite an impression on the young Heizou – now, she’s been drawn into a life of crime, acting as a mole for a ring of crooks who use her to infiltrate a target and prepare it for plundering.
One definite theme of Onihei is that “honor among thieves” is a code that’s being lost in the dying days of the Edo Period, just as the samurai code is breaking down. One reason Heizou is so successful as a cop is that he quite comfortably stands astride both worlds – he clearly spent more of his late youth mixing with those on the far side of the law than the opposite. And his own moral code is quite flexible (we were shown the torture scene in the premiere quite purposely to establish that early on) – he plays the game of compassionate gentleman, but when the moment calls for it he’s more than prepared to kill anyone in his way.
The more delicate reference to Heizou’s moral compass comes at the end of the episode, where the language and imagery speak quite distinctly of a romantic confession between he and Omasa – with his wife present, no less. She’s going to join his network of spies, at the very least, but it’s clear that a spark existed between Heizou and Omasa and that it still does. He obviously admires her iron will and her fearlessness, and doesn’t seem especially offended by her physical form either. Certainly it wouldn’t be remotely uncommon for a man of Heizou’s position to have mistresses in this time period in Japan, though it would cast his character in quite an interesting light if we were to actually see it transpire within the story.