I suppose it’s time to either commit to Onihei or let it go (and Seiren and Masamune-kun and Kuzu no Honkai too, for that matter) – it’s February already. But there’s so little going on this season that it’s hard to let go, and even if I was inclined to I like Onihei more than enough to keep covering it. It’s just that this is one of those shows that’s so lacking in subtext that there’s always the danger of posts turning into episode summaries – and one thing I promised I would never do is be a writer who does episode summaries.
Bearing that in mind, let’s talk about this week’s episode. While we’re still firmly in serial territory here, this ep was a marked shift in tone from the first four – far more humorous and irreverent (though one of the main guest cast was a murderer). That would be Shuguro of Hakabi (the esteemed Hashi Takaya), head of a gang of thieves and killers masquerading as a businessman from Kawagoe. He’s also playing patron to a young prostitute named Omatsu (all the prominent women in Onihei have been “O-something”) who reminds him of a girl he loved twenty years earlier.
Shuguro’s main role here is to provide the philosophical crux for the episode – “We can engage in evil while doing good. At times, without intending to, we engage in the good while doing evil.” In doing so he acts as a mirror for Heizou, and it’s no coincidence that he too is well aware of this pearl of wisdom. The one connecting the dots is Kimura Chuugo (Okamoto Nobuhiko), the pudgy and awkward member of Heizou’s team who basically acts as a secretary and clerk because he’s not fit for action. He’s been dubbed “Usa-chu” by his comrades for his uncanny resemblance to a bunny-shaped sweet that’s all the rage in town.
Chuugo is basically a comic-relief character and as such, quite different from most of the cast of Onihei so far. But he is integral to this episode’s plot, as his effectively becomes addicted to Omatsu after visiting the brothel after being goaded into actually going out on patrol. That’s a no-no of course, and eventually his newfound confidence and swagger gives him away and he’s put under house arrest. Fortunately for Omatsu and Shuguro’s next intended victims, Usa-chu gives in to his urges and breaks house arrest to visit the brothel, and stumbles into Shuguro’s gang in the midst of planning their next big event.
While this is all played pretty nonchalantly, it’s interesting to see the way Heizou reacts to Chuugo and his various indiscretions. Make no mistake about it, even by the standards of his time (when such things as prostitution were even less stigmatized in Japan than they are now) Heizou’s moral compass has a pretty loose sense of bearings. In the end he even secretly pays for Usa-chu to have one last trip to see Omatsu before the brother is shut down, and gives him a reward for “killing” Shuguro although Chuugo had nothing to do with actually doing so. On balance it probably makes him a pretty great boss – but you have to wonder (especially in light of last week’s episode) if the same can be said about his merits as a husband…