Episode 14–"Misguided Miscreants (part 2)"
[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.]
(we open with flashbacks to the end sequence of Episode 13…)
The pirate ship explodes in a huge fireball. Kohza falls to her knees, sobbing. Fuu cries that it's not possible, Mugen wouldn't die that easily, and turns to dash off the pier; Jin grabs her wrist as she plunges past him. Ochitsuke, calm down, he gasps, a desperate edge in his voice. But--! Calm down, he repeats, trying to steady himself as much as her; the anguish in his eyes is awful to see. Fuu slowly raises her head to look back at the burning ship.
Underwater view of floating debris, bubbles rising. We see Mugen sinking...
Mugen's journey begins. [I will tell you right now that this episode's beauty beggars my ability to describe it, so I'll let the pictures do a lot. Enjoy.--Mugen's flashback does give the strong impression that he survived a village massacre like the one Jin describes in Ep. 13.]
Flashback: Mugen and Kohza on the beach, looking at the stars. It's strange that they're so pretty even though I'm so sad, she says. They don't see anything, he says; looking down from there we're only grains of sand. She says she never knew who her father was, and her mother died long ago—Mukuro killed her. [Note she doesn't say "our mother" or "our father"--maybe Fuu was right, and they're not really siblings.] I want to escape from here, from this hell, says Kohza. Mugen gazes off into the sky.
Mugen breaks through the water's surface; it's as though he somehow came out on the other side of the mirror; he's somewhere else, an inverted, reversed world. [..that's why the pictures look upside-down; they're not.] He opens his eyes and they're golden amber. Tall strange figures are gathering around him [they're Pantu, wandering gods]. What's this, he says, you again? They're silent. Wait, says Mugen, I don't want to go yet—-hey—
One by one they vanish as silently as they came. Mugen falls back into the water and begins his long return to the surface.
[Note 1: in Noh drama, a mask with golden eyes is the sign of a character who undergoes a spiritual or physical transformation in the course of the play.]
[Note 2: in speaking to the Pantu, Mugen uses not his usual word for "you", the disrespectful omae, but the more polite term anata. Mugen accords respect very rarely and only with good reason; here's an example.--for more about them see the Character Guide for this episode.]
Flashback: Mugen walking out of a burning building; we hear the cock of a trigger as Mukuro points his gun at him. If you want to start a fight with me I'll finish it, growls Mugen. He fires; Mugen knocks the gun away; Mukuro draws a dagger and blocks his sword. How about it, Mukuro says, won't you team up with me? We're alike; we're both men loved by this hell. I don't team up with anyone, says Mugen.
We see Kohza sitting in the sunset, crying. Mugen sees her sitting on the beach when they arrived here; sees Jin warning him he's fallen for Mukuro's provocation; sees Fuu calling after him to wait…
Flashback: Mugen and Kohza still on the beach; Mukuro comes up behind them. What are you scared of? --he asks. There's nothing I'm scared of, retorts Mugen. Then why won't you team up with me?—persists Mukuro. Because, snaps Mugen, I don't like you. This rolls off Mukuro. Look, he says, we grew up in this pit: we can't sink any lower, we have nothing to lose. Mugen glowers, saying nothing. Follow me, says Mukuro.
They look out over the bay. It's a ship from Satsuma, carrying raw sugar; we'll take it and its cargo and leave this island, says Mukuro. Mugen considers...
We see Mugen and Mukuro raiding the ship; while Mugen is chopping up crewmen Mukuro grabs Kohza and says, plans have changed; we're getting out of here. But Mugen— she begins, and he stares down at her.
And now we're back at the scene we saw last time, where Mukuro and Kohza watch from hiding while the Shogun's men corner Mugen at the cliff-edge, and he jumps.
(Mugen, rising, remembers all of it.)
Debris breaks the surface of the water: Mugen's sword, embedded in a chunk of timber; a blue-tattooed arm draped over a floating beam...
Daylight: the next day. Jin and Kohza on the pier; he's intently checking every bit of wreckage that floats in, she's crouched looking down into the water. It's the same as last time, Kohza tells him. Mugen was executed by the Satsuma officials for attacking the sugar ship, but that was Mukuro's trap and so was this. I want to avenge Mugen, who was killed twice.
Kohza stands up. Please kill Mukuro, she says.
Pause. You know where he is, don't you?—asks Jin. Kohza nods.
Fuu is wearily searching the beach, having apparently been walking all night, since she left the pier at the end of scene one. She doubles over, panting for breath. A man yells ahead and she runs up— a drowned body, the man stammers, pointing at his fishing net. Yes, it's him. Fuu drops to her knees in the sand. Mugen, she chokes, it can't be, and tears stream down her face. Then she hears him groan; he chokes and coughs up water (and a fish). She crawls to his side, face lighting up, calling his name.
We see Mukuro and Shiren, his accomplice from the gold heist, in a boat. Only you and I know of this hiding place, Mukuro tells him; we'll leave it here till the heat is off. What about Kohza, asks Shiren. I didn't tell her either; I'm relying on you, no matter how interested you are in Kohza, says Mukuro. Shiren chuckles. You seem to think you hooked me by using her, he says, and Mukuro looks the least bit worried: it's not true?—he asks. I joined you for the money, Shiren says. So there was no reason for tricks? Well, that's not true either... Mukuro grins, and they row out of the cove.
Jin and Kohza are approached by Shogunate cops who want to ask them a few questions about the attack on the ship. Jin says nothing. What strange clothes, they say suspiciously, are you from this village? —but then they're called away by voices telling them the ship has been found. Jin hears Kohza's panicked gasp as the cops dash away, and gives her a very keen look she doesn't see.
Fuu with the unconscious Mugen: she's hung all his clothes out neatly to dry except his shirt, which is serving as a blanket. She's wondering where Jin and Kohza have gotten to, since they don't yet know Mugen is here and alive. She starts to leave and he catches her wrist, trying to say something. She leans close to hear him: from her expression it's not what she was hoping to hear (he says he's hungry), but she recovers and tells him she'll go find food. She scurries off; as soon as she's gone he opens his eyes.
Kohza climbs the steps of an abandoned temple. Mukuro is sitting on the top step, cleaning his pistol. You came, he says; Shiren is waiting inside. She nods, heads for the door. He looks after her, distrusting her silence. [You can see him starting to smell the double-cross, but he's not quite sure...] She steps inside, stands there. Mukuro closes the door behind them, hears something, turns—
Standing there is Jin, led there by Kohza. You!—-says startled Mukuro; how did you know about this place? Jin's face is inhumanly cold. Mukuro reads it: somehow Jin knows the job was a setup. It can't be, he says, taking a step back. There's a familiar steely click; Jin brings his right hand up over his left.
I was supposed to kill him, he says. Draw.
Mukuro chuckles, hand hovering over his pistol, obviously thinking no swordsman stands a chance against a gun. He yanks it out of his waistband and fires: we see the pellets fly past the skirts of Jin's hakama. Jin streaks up the steps, Mukuro fires again; Jin dodges left, dodges right, comes up inside his guard and cuts his throat in a huge fountain of blood. Mukuro chokes, reels, tries to draw a bead on Jin, fires a third shot but Jin is already behind him. He steps back-to-back with Mukuro, turns the katana under his arm and drives it straight back through the pirate chief with another gush of blood; turns again, holding Mukuro skewered; and stands. 18 seconds.
[--if this behind-the-back move looks familiar, it should: it's one of Mugen's, which we saw in the teahouse brawl in episode 1. Poetic justice.]
Mukuro, dying, laughs. It's stupid, really, he says; fooled so easily, both me and you. He slides off Jin's blade and falls. Jin looks down at him, suddenly has an awful realization, dashes for the door of the temple. The back door is open and Kohza and Shiren are gone. Jin stands there panting, aghast, seeing clearly just how she played them both.
Fuu comes running back to the cabin with an armful of seafood, only to find Mugen (and his clothes) gone.
It's raining again. Jin walks down the beach. Ahead of him he sees a familiar red-jacketed figure, hobbling slowly and painfully. You, says Jin very quietly. [..is that rain or a tear?] Mugen glances back, sees who's following him, closes his eyes and cracks a wonderful little grin Jin can't see. He turns: Like I'd die before I killed you, he says.
[...priceless. Just priceless.]
I'm going to settle things, Mugen says, turning away, and Jin says "I killed him.? What did you say? I killed Mukuro, repeats Jin calmly. Mugen turns back angrily. "You!—I was going to—" I was tricked, Jin tells him; I was tricked by her. This sinks in and Mugen stops in his tracks.
As he struggles down the beach alone we hear Jin's final line: "It's an opponent I can't kill." Samurai Jin, bound by the bushido code, won't kill an unarmed woman, but he knows who would and leaves the choice to him. Mugen, limping, using his scabbard as a crutch, heads back down the shoreline.
Kohza and Shiren walking along the beach. The shower has stopped; the sky's all ragged clouds burning with sunset. I wonder if this is OK, she says. Of course, he reassures; you wanted to be free of Mukuro, and now we have plenty of money. I'll tell you where the gold is as soon as it's safe. He looks at her: you don't regret it? No, she says, there's no other way for me to live but this; she looks up at him and pleads "don't leave me alone." Shiren puts his arm around her and they walk on; he stops in surprise at the sight of someone approaching—
Mugen. Kohza stares. As he comes slowly and relentlessly toward them they both stand frozen. Shiren shoves Kohza aside and charges, drawing his sword: Mugen comes in low, slashes up and back, lightning fast. Shiren drops in a heap trailing great veils of blood.
Mugen comes on inexorably, expressionless. Kohza is sure she's next, and stands fixed, shaking. She closes her eyes, bows her head as he reaches her--
And walks past her without a glance. A punishment, he knows, much worse than death.
Kohza stares after him disbelieving, her world completely destroyed. She falls to her knees as the sun sinks past the horizon and the sky goes dark. Kill me!--she screams at Mugen. He doesn't pause.
A wonderful quote from Watanabe (Daily Texan, 2-14-06):
--"Watanabe explained that music is often the driving force behind many of his works. 'I'm so happy when they [fans] praise my works for the music,' he said. 'There are times when music comes before the animation.' For example, Episode 14 of Samurai Champloo features a piece of Okinawan music that plays uninterrupted for the first half; 'I made Samurai Champloo the series in order to make this scene,' he said."
[My profound thanks to Grinfilled Celt for this info. The full interview can be read here: Watanabe Talks Anime.]
Alexander Benitez writes: "...upon rewatching Mugen's near-death sequence I thought of something slightly interesting I felt like sharing. [...] there are some studies being done about a certain drug that is released in the human body before death and also possibly during dreaming that is responsible for vivid hallucinations and to some degree, a sense of euphoria. It would explain many of the hallucinations people report when being close to death. The brain, supposedly, naturally releases these chemicals. The reasons as far as I've been able to find haven't really been explained. But as I was watching the drowning sequence in Samurai Champloo, I thought it might be interesting to keep it in mind, as Mugen was close to death and much of what is seen during those scenes could be him essentially 'tripping' on this drug being released in his body as he is dying."
...go on to Episode Fifteen.
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