Episode 11–“Gamblers and Gallantry”

[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.]

It’s pouring rain. We see Fuu working as a waitress; she hopes the guys are working hard..

Jin is crossing a bridge and passes a lady gazing pensively over the rail. He stops and tells her that the canal is very shallow here and if she’s thinking of jumping she’d be wise to try elsewhere. Do I look that depressed? she says; I was only looking at the water. He’s not convinced. She tells him she wouldn’t do anything that painful, thanks him for his warning and walks away. Jin looks after her with surprising wistfulness.

Mugen is one of a gang of guys all cheering and howling while two huge beetles fight–-yup, he’s discovered competitive kabuto sumo (beetle wrestling)...

Jin arrives at his new part-time job, which he appears to have assumed was an assassin gig but actually involves slicing and cooking eels at a take-out kabayaki stand--kabayaki is eel skewered and grilled in soy sauce. [The confusion seems to fall within differing uses of the verb “to cut”.] Jin, who has apparently never cooked anything in his life, is totally out of his depth, and would be at a complete loss if the same lady he met earlier didn’t arrive to buy some eel. She’s surprised to find that her samurai benefactor is actually an eel merchant (well, no, I’m not really, he fumbles). Fortunately, she’s an experienced eel chef and, gently amused by his inexpertise, basically does his job for him the rest of the day, guiding him through the intricacies of catching and cooking the slippery things. Eels are like women, she tells him, if you hold them down forcibly they’ll just get away. [We will forestall any remarks about Jin’s previous experience in catching either one.] Jin, for his part, seems quite touchingly amazed by the existence of a woman who will actually talk to him. By the end of the day he feels confident enough to cook the day’s last eel for her, although quite badly; she eats it anyway and thanks him for giving her a good memory.

Memory?–-he asks. She pauses in her departure. Tomorrow she begins work at a brothel, she says, this was her last day of freedom. Her husband fell into debt...it’s a common enough story... she says goodbye and walks off into the rain, leaving behind her red umbrella.

Fuu arrives home from work [they seem to have secured lodgings for the time being, maybe with Mugen’s reward money from killing Shoryuu] and is grossed out to find him playing with a huge beetle, which he’s forcing to pull rocks to increase its strength. He quit his bodyguard job; he’s got a plan to make big money competing this guy in beetle wrestling. Fuu’s not amused.

We next see the lady sitting at the brothel window; a hand with a blue bracelet and a red umbrella reaches through the slats. You came here just to give that back to me? That’s right, Jin says. She thanks him, but says she doesn’t need it anymore since she can no longer go outside (“should it rain water or arrows, it’s nothing to me”). You should keep it and use it– look, you’re drenched, she says, lightly touching his wet hair and face. They’re startled out of the moment when the brothel boss calls from behind, saying she has a customer. Jin says, one more thing: I didn’t ask your name. It’s Shino.

We see Mugen, Fuu and Mugen’s new pet at the big fights. Fuu’s bored senseless (“Why do I have to come watch bugs run into each other?”), but to her amazement and Mugen’s jubilation, his beetle wins.

Jin is standing outside the brothel in the rain, with Shino’s red umbrella, just looking at her. She gently tells him that if he’s not here to play, he should go home and not come here anymore. The brothel boss (Bantou) and his thugs don’t like window-shoppers. Learning Jin has no money they give him a bad beating. Jin never draws his sword or even resists, knowing they’d take it out on Shino if he cost them a man (or maybe considering it poor taste to leave a stack of corpses outside a lady's window...). Don’t come back, they snarl, leaving him in the street.

We see bruised Jin slowly making his way home, and Shino with a succession of faceless brothel customers. Her face is distant and sad.

Mugen proudly holds up his prize money, a whole gold ryu. Fuu does some quick calculations and gleefully says that even after they pay their rent there will be plenty left; they should put it into savings. No, Mugen wants to invest it in making more money. They’re still quarreling when Jin appears behind Fuu, leaning exhausted on the doorframe. What happened to him?! It’s nothing, he says. That’s not true!, insists Fuu, but Jin’s whole attention is on the coin Mugen is holding. It’s mine, says Mugen defensively, trying to tuck it away; I won it at kabuto sumo. Lend it to me, requests Jin. Huh?--What for?

I’m going to buy a woman, replies Jin. They both stare at him, stunned.

Jin arrives at the brothel. Shino lights up at the sight of him (and he actually smiles), but reminds him she told him not to come back. Bantou threatens him with another beating; he silently holds up the gold ryu. Oh, well, that’s different! But he’ll have to turn in his weapons; it’s the house rule. Jin hands over his swords without hesitation. [Wow.]

Mugen and Fuu talk it over; what does this mean, for Jin to buy a woman, wonders Fuu. Probably a good thing, says pragmatic Mugen, I was afraid the guy was a homo. Fuu bristles at this suggestion. She’s unhappy and puzzled: why would he go with another woman, since I’m here? [Whoa!] You’re saying you’d take care of him? But you’re so flat-chested, snipes Mugen. I am not, I’m just the type who looks slender in clothes, she defends. Liar, show me, challenges Mugen, and she nearly does it... So, are you jealous?, Mugen asks, and Fuu blusters for a good half-minute: of course not, why would she be jealous, Jin’s not even her type, always quiet and enigmatic with that lone-wolf attitude like he thinks he’s cool, you can never tell what he’s thinking...Mugen is snoring loudly by the time she finishes, and she grimaces in frustration.

[oh man, I don’t even want to start on how many people’s assumptions this conversation shakes up...]

Shino and Jin are sitting at her chamber window. She offers Jin sake; no. She lays her hand on his; he gently pushes it away. It’s okay just like this, he tells her. But you paid a high price, she says. [and he really did; she would probably only have cost about 8 silver monme, and a gold ryu was worth 30 monme.] He smiles a little, looking out the window, perfectly content just to be able to sit with her. She mentions the unending rain, and he tells her that the eel-shop job was just to earn money for his journey, he’s only stuck here by the bad weather. So you’ll be leaving when the rain lets up, she says...Jin wistfully says that he wishes the rain would never end, so that he could stay here always, and she laughs at him for his old-fashioned romanticism. Isn’t this job painful?, he asks her, but she says she’s able to laugh at it too, and she kisses him.

Fuu, at her waitress job, overhears the brothel boss (dining there with someone) say that today’s only customer was a samurai with glasses who was interested in the new girl, the one who’s in because of her husband’s debt. Of course a woman can't initiate divorce proceedings, so it's certainly her bad luck to have such an awful husband. Fuu files this whole conversation for future reference.

We see Shino at the mirror combing her hair, Jin still in her bed. Let’s leave here, he says; then you won’t have to do this anymore. You have no idea how much it costs to redeem a prostitute, she tells him sadly; you couldn’t raise it if there were a hundred of you. Her parents were happy she’d married a successful merchant, but he began gambling and fell into debt; “before I knew it, the mistress of the dry-goods store was a town prostitute.” He comes over, naked, to stand behind her, and we see them both in the mirror together. For just a moment she looks peaceful; then she tells him she appreciates his feelings, but they’re no more than a dream. Bantou calls to her: someone's there to see her. The story’s over, she says to Jin, please go home.

It's not a customer, though, but her husband, Hanjiro, who's come to try chiseling money out of her. Don’t her customers give her tips?--he wheedles. Why don’t you quit gambling and work?, she shoots back. He slaps her and says there’s no way he’ll give her a divorce. Jin grabs the guy [yes, he’s dressed by now] but he snarls that as her husband he can treat her as he pleases, and swears he intends to live off her earnings from now on. Shino asks them to stop; Hanjiro leaves; Jin is thinking.

While Mugen snores, Jin sits in their inn room. He picks up the red umbrella and tries to leave unnoticed, but Fuu is waiting outside the door. Where are you going, to see her? It’s not that I don’t understand your pity...It’s not pity, Jin says. Are you saying you’re in love? He says nothing. Fuu asks if he plans to run away, and he tells her that if he doesn’t come back, she and Mugen should travel on together. She protests that he promised to search for the sunflower samurai with her, and says it will end their friendship if he leaves. I’m sorry, he says, leaving. Idiot!--she cries after him. Mugen, awake, is listening...

At the brothel: Jin tells Shino to please get ready, they’re leaving. Impossible, she says; they’ll chase us forever even if we do get out. There’s sanctuary for you in the temple across the river (an Enkiri Dera: a temple/safehouse for women ending relationships or seeking divorces), Jin tells her, you may find a solution there. I would have to stay there for three years and not see you, she cries; I’d just as soon wait for you here. But Jin says: That day on the bridge, weren’t you planning to die? She was; she realizes his intervention saved her life; she says she’ll go.

[Note how nicely Jin-san has this worked out. Right now they have no chance for a life together: she's married, he's a homeless wanderer, and they both have prices on their heads. But if she stays at the temple three years--and she must do so for her marriage to be annulled and the brothel contract to expire--then her life is her own, she's free from harm, and her husband is out of the picture. In three years, if he's still not ready to have a life, she's a free woman, and if he is, he knows where to find her. He may be in starry-eyed dreamboy mode right now, but the tactical part of his mind is still telling him that the winner is the one who plans ahead the furthest...]

They tie a curtain and climb over the rail, tricking Bantou with fake noises of passion, and off they go, armed thugs in pursuit. Jin’s swords are still in the brothel; cornered, he has to fight barehanded (we didn’t know he could do this, but he’s very good, thank gods). --We see Mugen and Fuu charging up the street, Fuu having evidently raided the brothel office for Jin’s daisho. I thought you said you wouldn’t be his friend anymore, gripes Mugen. Whatever, just hurry, retorts Fuu.-- Jin hears the familiar clomp of Mugen’s metal-soled geta and turns to see them arrive. Fuu calls to Jin and tosses him his swords. Mugen kicks his way through the pack of pursuers, gets into Jin’s face, tells him he’s worthless and he’d better give Mugen’s money back–-and then turns to hold off the brothel thugs while Jin and Shino run for the river.

[And please note: they do this even though they do not know whether he's planning to leave them or not. By such subtle little degrees have we all become friends...]

There’s a dock and a small boat. Shino’s husband comes running up, unable to believe she’d leave him. I won’t live with your abuse anymore; I’m taking back my life, she tells him proudly, and throws coins in his face–-that’s the price of the woman who was your wife, she says.

She stands in the boat, and Jin pushes it off from the dock; she realizes he’s still on the pier and reaches toward him, but the boat is already out of reach. His expression is perfectly calm; he evidently came to terms with their parting long before she thinks he did. Thank you, she whispers, receding into the river mist. He gazes after her. The three remaining brothel thugs charge down to the dock; he hears them, turns, kills them with two sweeps, and returns to looking across the river...

And the next morning the sun comes out.

Here's a link to information about Tokeiji, the Kamakura enkiri dera, which is still standing today, and is very likely the one referenced in this episode.

A relevant passage:

"By stark contrast, women had no right whatsoever to obtain a divorce from their unwanted husbands, however cruel, drunken, or sadistic they were. It was the society where predominance of men over women prevailed. The only chance for women to escape was to run off to the Convent. In other words, Tokeiji was a sanctuary for the abused wives. Once inside the Convent, they were protected officially by the authorization of the Shogunate. After staying three years (later, two years) in the Convent, their marriage was annulled and they were able officially to get a divorce. Men were denied access. The extraterritoriality. Those women, once accepted by the Convent, did not need to become nuns. In this context, Tokeiji played a pivotal role in freeing many harassed wives from their disgusting husbands. The Convent was thus named "Kakekomi-dera",{kah-keh-ko-me-deh-rah} or "Run-into Convent", meaning to escape from the violent husbands. It was also referred to as "Enkiri-dera" {en-key-re} or divorce Convent. Unfortunately, the Convent lost many of the ancient documents due to repeated fires, and it is not certain how many women were accommodated here. However, during the latter half of the 270-year Tokugawa Shogunate regime until 1968 in which period most often run-ins were observed, the Convent's records show there were roughly 2,000 women who sought refuge in the Convent."

[I usually don't give credit --which is probably unfair of me, because they're great--to the voice actors, but I have to give a gold star to Jin's VA, Ginpei Sato, for this episode. Without ever getting out of character or over-the-top he amps up the intensity just enough to make you hear that something profound is happening inside our straight-faced samurai, and it's an amazing performance. I hope you all get to hear it.]

To see scans of production artwork from this episode (man, they are pretty...=): Episode 11 Art.

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

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