Episode 8–“The Art of Altercation”


[Important note: This is a complete summary of the episode containing major spoilers. Please be sure you want to know this info before you read; spoilers are not blocked or hidden in any way so this is your only warning. If you aren't 100% sure you want to know who lives, who dies, who gets hurt, who walks away and who's responsible, please pack your katana and walk right now. My feelings will not be hurt. Thank you.] Please read footnotes..]


A flashily dressed samurai--and I mean flashy--is boasting about his exploits to a fascinated crowd. This guy comes prepared: he has one flunky carefully placing a mirror to reflect light on him just right, and another backing his speech musically with a nice display of beat-boxing skill. He’s called Nagamitsu, and he wants to be a Really Big Name. As we meet him, he’s winding up to the peak of his speech: Against this man I will fight with all of my force! I am ready!–he cries, and levels his weapon at a pudgy fellow with round glasses, standing in mid-street.

Jin!–shouts Nagamitsu.

Wait, my name isn’t Jin!–protests the guy, but Nagamitsu winds up and charges with a yell...

Here’s our trio, stumbling into town, so exhausted and starved they can barely stay on their feet. Fuu drops in a heap and finds she’s sitting outside a pawn shop (the sign says “Loan Shark”), so they go in to try their luck. Naturally all they have worth pawning is their weapons, but Fuu’s pink tanto doesn’t pass--the lacquer is worn off in spots--and neither does Mugen’s sword. They both look sweetly at Jin, who is hanging back by the door, clutching his swords protectively. That would make a good deposit, coaxes Fuu, we can come back for it soon. No, snaps Jin [having heard that one before...]. They bodily haul him up to the counter, but, to everyone’s surprise, the guy is much more interested in--and gets downright grabby for--Jin’s glasses. These glasses, he says, are very rare...[no kidding: no one else in Japan will have Armani frames for at least 300 years.]

Apparently he gave a good price for them, because the next thing we see is our crew eating a large dinner at a nearby inn. How will we get the money?–-worries specs-less Jin, but Mugen and Fuu are too busy stuffing their faces to notice.

Enter Nagamitsu and Shinpachi, his beatbox guy. He immediately spots Fuu and sends the flunky over to offer her a pear and a date; she rejects both, so he comes over to try his own luck (“Herro, honey!”) I am the man who will become biggest of the big–-Nagamitsu the Classy! –he proclaims, standing on the table. He’s getting nowhere with Fuu when his other accompanist races up to say “the real one” has been found. He hastily leaves, but not before giving an address to Fuu and saying he’ll be there tonight, she should come by. Ciao!–and he’s gone. Fuu is a bit flattered by the attention despite her better judgment, but probably would have left it at that if not for...

..a bottle of wine that arrives at their table. Sent by that customer there, says the waiter; indicating her. A gorgeous brunette with perfect lipstick, she slinks over (after telling the proprietor that she’s called the “Queen of Grapes” [or "Budoukiba", literally "grape fang" or "sweet tooth for grapes"] and his house wine’s awful... ”Grapes?” he puzzles) to say hello. “You’re very pretty,” approves Mugen. Two such handsome men shouldn't drink alone, she purrs, wouldn’t you like to drink in my company? Somewhere nice? Nope, Mugen wouldn’t turn that down. Fuu is getting seriously annoyed, but Jin has already had enough to be badly off balance [the boy cannot hold liquor] and does nothing to stop Mugen. Mugen happily trots off after the babe, hauling Jin by his sleeve (even now he’s sure to grab his katana). Fuu, furious, decides that OK, fair is fair; she’ll just take Nagamitsu up on his invitation after all.

She finds herself at the given address, joining a crowd on a bridge where Nagamitsu has apparently set up his latest duel. As his palanquin is trotted in [and he's giving himself huge airs by using this, BTW; you had to be a member of the Shogun's clan, the lord of a domain or a castle, or in a very respected profession like doctors to use a palanquin. Exceptions only made for the elderly and ill, which he ain't. He shouldn't be wearing purple, either...], up steps a huge, muscular guy who says “so you’re the one looking for the famous samurai with glasses.” Nagamitsu correctly points out that his glasses are fakes made of straw, but the big fella is determined to punish him for harrassing samurai, anyway. Nagamitsu defeats him easily though completely by blind luck--he may talk a lot but he’s fast with his sword and scabbard. He turns, sees Fuu, is delighted she came and invites her out.

Outside the bar a big dog in an elaborate costume is snoring loudly. Budoukiba pours wine for herself and Mugen. What’s this? it’s all red, he says. [Remember, this is a rice wine culture; they’ve never seen or even heard of grape wine. Nor could anyone here legally have the stuff...] --A wine that comes from the other side of the ocean, she says, dreamily; to become a person of wonder, it suffices to contemplate the wonderful. Jin is dozing off. You’re good company, she tells Mugen, but this one’s as silent as the tomb. He’s always like that, shrugs Mugen.. Budou snuggles up to distract him and drips a few drops of something in his glass; Mugen thinks he’s about to get lucky, but things suddenly start to get blurry and spin....

Nagamitsu, his posse and Fuu are on a hill overlooking the city in the moonlight; he daydreams that one day he will live in Edo Castle, and invites her to marry him ("would you like to be the woman of my heart?"). Fuu says she hardly knows him, and with a flourish, he produces a huge scroll: his autobiography in progress. It’s called “The Road to Big” and he’s happy to tell it to her. Since his goal is to be “so big that no one else is important”, he originally set out to challenge the Shogun, but discovered that he'd miscalculated and gone to Osaka, not Edo...it was in Osaka, however, that he met one of his flunkies, Ogura, who told him the fateful story of the man undefeated in 1000 battles. If he could beat such a swordmaster as that, his fame would be assured, Nagamitsu decided, and set out to find him–-the legendary Mariya Enshiro. But alas, when they reached his dojo (Mujuushiniken Dojo --See footnote.), the remaining disciples told him it was too late: the master was dead, killed by his best student. Nagamitsu changes his plan: if he can destroy the villain who killed the legend of a thousand battles, he’ll avenge Enshiro and become famous as well. Since then it’s been his only goal to find this murdering samurai, the one with glasses, the one named Jin.

Poor Fuu goes pale and excuses herself. I’ll be here again tomorrow night!, yells Nagamitsu.

Fuu settles into a steaming bath and a nice deep sink of worry. “Where are those two?..I guess they have a right to go out...” But that’s not her big concern. She tries to imagine someone else matching that description, but can’t..it has to be Jin. “But Jin would never do that...”

When she wakes in the morning the first thing she sees is a miserable heap in the street outside: Mugen and Jin, dumped unceremoniously sometime overnight. She shrieks in terror and they unwind, wretchedly hung over, and discover they’ve been robbed. She bonks their heads together and tells them they’ll work to make up the lost funds; they don't argue...

After a quick display of fancy swordsmanship that draws an applauding crowd, they set off with the collected coins to the pawnshop to recover Jin’s glasses. On the way, Fuu quietly asks Mugen if he’s ever asked Jin about his past. Nope, never, he says; you should ask him yourself. It’s not an easy question, she worries, looking up at him from behind. Could he really be evil?

Nagamitsu & posse are having his (much-modified; I'm told it qualifies as a ricer =) palanquin appraised at the Loan Shark when they arrive. He’s happy to see Fuu, fondly imagining she couldn’t wait till tonight to see him. Fuu frantically tries to deflect the inevitable, but too late: Jin walks toward them adjusting his spectacles, and Nagamitsu splutters, what’s this fellow’s name? Oh, that’s Jin, says Mugen. Jin??!!

Jin raises an eyebrow; Ogura steps up. Mujuushin-kenjutsu Jin? (“Jin of the Mujuushin swordfighting school?”) he barks. I am Ogura Butsu, a disciple of Mujuushin-ken dojo! Answer me!

Jin's expression says with perfect clarity: I knew this would happen one day. Yes, that is I, he replies.

“Dirty traitor!”yells Ogura, “Prepare yourself, murderer!”

“Outside,” says Jin evenly.

Outside Ogura continues to hurl accusations. Why did you betray him? Why would a man like you kill our master? Jin is getting colder and angrier by the moment. It wasn't I who did the betraying, he says, but I won’t make excuses. It’s true, I killed my master. Ogura roars and charges. Jin stands very still...

What follows is one of the prettiest displays of kenjutsu-- the art of the sword--you’ll ever see, cold and perfect as a snowflake, as Jin-san requires but thirty-two seconds and five moves to utterly crush Ogura. Just like that, disarmed, flat on his back, in the street, and my gods, people, you’ll forgive me while I rave just this once: Jin sweeps the katana out to his side, swings it in level with Ogura’s face, and looks down at him with a stare that is fierce and proud and contemptuous, colder than hate, the look of someone who can say as a fact that his sword is his soul, and we have not seen him look like this before, and, Holy Kwannon, wow.

Kill me, says Ogura. Jin disdains the request. Don’t forget, Ogura growls, that many disciples want your head.

I am ready, says Jin, sheathing his katana, dismissing the man. Tell that to your friends. That’s why I’m letting you leave here alive.

(Mugen has a big, smug grin on his face, for all the world like, damn, that was TOO cool.)

Vengeance will come, the unharmed-but-humiliated Ogura mutters, and slinks off.
So it was all true, says Fuu, in a very small voice....

No one else moves. Jin doesn’t move. No one comes near him.

Then the big goofy dog we last saw sleeping outside the bar where Budou Kiba took Jin and Mugen comes walking up, and Nagamitsu falls to his knees and hugs him, saying, Luigi! Where did you come from? And Budou arrives, collects him–-yes, he’s her husband, she's been looking for him. She gives immobile Jin a little peck of a kiss on the chin, saying she's sorry her husband caused such trouble, the guy just gets carried away sometimes..and they’re last seen with their kids and Luigi the dog, on board a ship heading out of port, while he wonders who next to target in his quest for fame --Musashi? oh, but he's dead...and she sighs that all men are fools.

(And Mugen’s been robbed a second time...)

==============================================
Footnotes:

Mariya Enshirou--also spelled Mariya-tsu Enshiro Gikyoku and Mariya Enjiro--was a real person, the third and last known master of the Mujushin Kenjutsu school, holding that position sometime around 1670. As elegantly summarized in AnimeForever's sub of episode #25, written by bebop-aria and cowgirlnoir (based on research done by Team Amalgam):
"Mujushin kenjutsu is a school of martial arts founded in the seventeenth century by Harigaya Sekiun, who was strongly influenced by Zen Buddhist teachings. The kanji are broken down as mujuu, "temple without a priest"; shin "real sword" (as opposed to practice sword); and kenjutsu "sword technique". By analogy, the name implies a precognitive or instinctual method of swordfighting, sometimes translated as "the sword of no abiding mind". Mariya Enshirou was the third master of the mujushin kenjutsu school."

Read much more about Mariya-san and the Mujushin school here: Sword of No Abiding Mind.


Reposted from the Swords & Sunflowers forum:
"Credit Zan [Zantetsuken, a/k/a/ GeckoZero, a/k/a/ Judy Renee Pope]with the detective work on this one. She was rewatching AnimeForever's sub of ep. 8 this afternoon, and noticed for the first time that AF-F, all gods bless 'em, had translated the text on ALL the dojo signboards, not just the one that's torn down. One of them says "Kisarazu Mujuu-Shinken Dojo". She noted this down, and went back to Google, and to the formerly reported ruins of a 15th century castle named "Mariya-jo" [literally "Mariya Castle"], which was founded by the Takeda clan. And noticed that it's located just outside a town called...guess what...Kisarazu.

Kisarazu appears to be a good sized town/small city today; in the late 1600s it was a small town, right across the bay from Edo. It's in Chiba prefecture, which was called Awa at the time. Furthermore, still standing in Kimitsu City, just to Kisarazu's south (practically a suburb these days, though it wouldn't have been so 400 years ago) is Kururi Castle, which was built in 1540 by-- you're gonna love this--Mariya Takeda. =)

So we have Mariya Enshirou's dojo, the ruins of a real Takeda family castle, and a complete Mariya family castle all within a few towns of each other. Along with the proximity, this gives us two items of fairly good proof that Jin and his late sensei are related (if we're right that Jin is a Takeda, at least, and I'm 90% sure we are):
--a person of one clan having another clan's name as his given name, which almost always indicates actual relationship (beyond simple allegiance) between said clans: and
--a castle named "Mariya Castle" known to have been built by the Takeda Clan.
The joys of research. =)"

Here's a website with info: Kururi Castle.

And here's all we know about the now-in-ruins Mariya Castle:
"Mariya-jo Castle was a mountain castle built about 500 years and several decades ago by Takeda Clan of "Kai" country (now Kofu, Yamanashi prefecture), who marched into Boso district early "Sengoku" period. This castle was the center of this district boasting of its large site scale extending 700m from east to west and 400m from south to north, with its main building in the center. In Bamboo Shoot Festival [held in mid-April] at the ruins of the castle, many events are held such as performance of "Kisarazu-Suwa Taiko" (a large Japanese drum), open-air tea ceremonies accompanied by sounds of Koto, direct sales of bamboo shoots/fresh agricultural products, and a live show of bamboo works." (Note the mention of Kisarazu.)



Samurai Champloo characters, visuals and materials (c) 2004 manglobe.
Original story synopsis written and (c) 2004 by Paula O'Keefe.

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