Episode 19–"Unholy Union"


[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.]


Fuu, with Momo on her shoulder, is tending the fire in an abandoned cottage. Really, where are they; she mutters; they'd better have something to bring back. There's a knock.. Those two, she says, going to answer it; but at the door is an exhausted-looking young woman. Help me, she says, and collapses into Fuu's arms.

Two men with guns climb the hill. That woman, trying to make fools of us, grumbles the shorter one - he has a big "x" scar on his cheek. They see the cottage and shove their way in. Hey, what do you want? --says angry Fuu; there's no sign of the other woman. Who are you? I was traveling, she says, and happened to stop here. Didn't a woman come by here? I don't know anything about that, Fuu says. They search the place roughly, shooting apart a big clay jug. Little girl, says the taller one, you'll regret it if you're lying to us. Fuu glares defiantly: I'm telling you I don't know. The taller guy tells Scarface they can go. But we didn't-- That's OK, says the tall one, cutting him off. But Aniki--- he protests. (the term means "older brother" but is also a term of respect used by yakuza; you may remember the punks in #5 using it.) Fuu & Momo watch them leave.

Jin and Mugen walk along a road lined with a long double-file row of people. What's this line for, wonders Mugen. An old man at the head of the line crosses himself and recites the Lord's Prayer, and is bodily carted away. Next!--hey, who are you guys? Mugen crouches and examines an object embedded in the road; an icon of the crucifixion of Christ. It's a fumi-e, says the guy managing the line; a test to find people who are secretly Christians. If you understand, step on it. (Anyone who refused to tread on the icon was assumed to be a Christian, since believers would not show such disrespect to a holy image. See footnote.) But contrary Mugen refuses to step on it, purely because the man told him to--he hates taking orders. Don't cause a fuss, says Jin, noting they're surrounded by armed men; this will be over if you just step on it. No way, says Mugen. Then don't step on it, counters Jin, and sure enough Mugen is about to do it just to take Jin's dare when the guards tire of them and close in. Do you really want to cause such an uproar just to show what an idiot you are? Try to be less self-important, reproves Jin as they're surrounded. What was that?--begins Mugen, but then there's a loud burst of laughter, and everyone looks up in surprise to see a horseman on the hill overlooking the road.

I crossed the Seven Seas to rectify the evil in this world, he says, I am the deputy of God, Francisco Xavier's grandson Xavier the Third! (Francisco Xavier: Portuguese Jesuit missionary who introduced Christianity to Japan in 1549. Also called St. Francis Xavier. Lots more about him in Google if interested.) Arrest that outlaw, yells the guard captain, he's been causing a lot of trouble in this area. Xavier gallops down the hill and aims his massive repeater handgun. To oppose me is to oppose God and therefore be executed! he cries, firing--he's a lousy shot (and his Japanese is pretty bad too), misses, and gallops off laughing. Mugen and Jin stare after him baffled with the rest. What was that?--asks Mugen, scratching his head. Don't ask me, replies Jin.

Fuu, tanto in hand, guards the door until sure the pursuers are gone, then checks the fugitive hiding behind the wall--are you OK? They sit together by the fire. I don't know how to thank you, the woman says. You don't have to, I've often been chased and caught by guys like those, says Fuu. Even though I have two bodyguards, but they're so useless; they went off to get food and still aren't back. (Note: they were not carrying any food in the previous scene.) Fuu introduces herself. The stranger says her name is Yuri ("Lily"), and asks about the charms on Fuu's tanto: where did you get that skull? I don't know whether to call it a katami (a memento of someone dead) or just something lost, sighs Fuu. Look into its eyes, suggests Yuri. Puzzled Fuu does so and blinks in surprise: there's an image inside (you'll remember Isaac did the same thing back in #6). An X?--she says. The Cross of Golgotha, says Yuri. It's a Christian amulet passed down long ago from Ikitsuki Island, the home of the kakure kirishitan (literally "Hidden Christians"). It's a small island near Nagasaki.

Yuri -san, says Fuu, I'm looking for a samurai who smells like sunflowers. Yuri's reply is immediate: do you mean Kasumi Seizou-san? Fuu is astonished at this. Do you know him?--she asks.

Are you messing with us, bitches? --comes a sudden angry voice, and the door breaks down: Aniki and Scarface again. I'll pay you back for that, says Scar, leveling his gun, but Aniki warns, don't kill them--understand me?--with a sharp look. Fuu draws her tanto (wow!!) and stands between them and Yuri. Leave right now, she warns, or my Super Special Girl Kenpo will--but she's shaking, and one blow of Scarface's fist knocks her out cold.

She comes to with Mugen pinching and stretching her cheeks to wake her up. Yuri and the goons are gone. She sits up indignantly--you’re late! Huh?--puzzle the guys.

Fuu leads them off in search of Yuri, explaining that she knew of the SS, and they soon come to a large village. Its entrance is an imposingly high, torchlit fence and gate guarded by armed men. The gate guards say they haven't seen or admitted a strange woman, but since it's so late our trio is welcome to stay the night. (Mugen suggests that maybe Fuu was dreaming; she firmly says she was not.)

In their assigned quarters, Jin's uneasy, and says that the security here is too tight for a remote mountain village. Aren't you just worrying too much?--asks Mugen. Jin hopes he's right but plainly feels otherwise.

Fuu is awakened by a sound and opens the door to see a large torch-bearing procession filing along. She quickly dresses and runs after them. The sound of her running feet wakes Jin. The procession files into the mouth of a cave; Fuu hesitates a moment, then follows. Jin goes to Fuu's room--hey, he calls, are you there?--and opens the door to find her gone. Mugen snores on obliviously…=)

Fuu walks down the underground passage. It opens into a huge cavern full of people, standing as an audience/congregation before the display at the far wall: huge statues of Jesus and St. Francis Xavier (giving a thumbs-up salute!) flanking a tall cross and Xavier on stage. (anachronism alert: the place is suspiciously floodlit: there are candelabra on the stage, but the statues glow with what have to be huge footlights.)

Xavier begins his sermon: Until now we thought that by simply believing in God we would go to Heaven, but how terrible, o lord!--Heaven has become overpopulated. There's not enough room for just anyone to get in. And so--he holds up a rifle-- this gun becomes your passport to Heaven! The more of God's guns you make, the better your chances of getting into Heaven. There is no mistake in what I, the grandson of Xavier, say! (--oh, man, Marilyn Manson would just be on the floor laughing at this..) Fuu has threaded her way thru the stalagmites and down to the cave floor for a better view; she's looking dubiously at Xavier when a hand grabs her shoulder. Well, well, says Scarface…

Jin trots along the path in search of Fuu and spots the only house with lights on; he heads for it. Inside a deal is being cut. What do you say, asks Xavier's henchman, indicating a display of guns; imported from Europe these would cost you 20 ryou each, but I'll make you a deal of only 15 ryou. You offer a good bargain, says his customer, who looks to be the local daimyo with two of his aides. He pushes a small metal-bound chest across the floor and says "consider this a down payment." Jin, eavesdropping on the porch outside the window, hears the whole thing and doesn't like it a bit.

In the underground, brazier-lit armory, everyone--men, women and kids-- toils, making guns by the armful. Meanwhile, Yuri and Xavier talk in his private quarters. Why are you doing this, she asks. Money, money, he replies blithely. There's nothing that makes as much money as religion, speak the name of God and you can be forgiven no matter what you do. I am truly grateful to God--look at my collection! (His paintings include Botticelli's Birth of Venus (1485), Uccello's Battle of San Romano (1438) and Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830).) He displays his stuff: dentures that belonged to the 5th century prince Shoutoku Taishi (a major force in the introduction of Buddhism to Japan), the three arrows of Mouri (see footnote)--with certificate of authenticity, he adds as proudly as any collector geek; Ikkyuu Oshou's tiger screen; even the great shogun Nobunaga's straw sandals, once warmed by Hideyoshi--two famous names! Worth 30,000 ryou! But no matter how much money he has it's never enough. And you're trying to buy my heart the same way? --accuses Yuri (who’s sitting in a big four-poster bed with a teddy bear!) Exactly, says he; there's nothing money can't buy, including love. I will have you become my wife. She angrily refuses; he grips her chin. Do you want to end up like your father? If money doesn't work, says the theory, try violence--and he slaps her face. She grimaces; he smirks. Aren't you supposed to turn the other cheek?--he asks.

Fuu is in a barred dungeon, tying a strip of paper around Momo's neck. OK, Momo-san, she says, you have to take this to them. The squirrel scurries off and Fuu looks after it anxiously. Suddenly the door opens and Yuri is tossed in to lie in a heap on the floor. I will give you until tonight, says Xavier; whether it becomes the anniversary of our wedding or your death is your choice. And exits, laughing melodramatically. Yuri apologizes for involving Fuu in this, but she says no, she came because she has to ask Yuri more about the Sunflower Samurai: "no matter what, I have to know". Yuri looks grave…

Mugen, sleeping through everything up to now, is finally awakened by a noise and sits up in bed: huh? Suddenly Momo rockets through the paper window and plasters itself to his face like a kawaii version of the Alien Facehugger. =) Mugen struggles with the squirrel, pries it off, dives to grab it but it eludes him. Haven't I seen you before, ya bastard?--he wonders. (--temporarily forgetting he graffiti'ed its belly last time.) The door opens behind Mugen: Jin, returned from his spy mission. Instantly Momo flies at him, squeaks his name (yes, really! Not just its usual chirp but "Jin!" plain as day.) and grabs onto the neckline of his kimono. Hoi! Don't interfere! --warns Mugen, leveling a finger, but Jin is picking the little beastie off him a good deal more gently than Mugen did. This is Fuu's flying squirrel, he says. Jin unfolds the message and his eyes widen in alarm; the scrawl says only "Help me. Fuu." Mugen comes up behind him, reads it himself (literacy's a good thing, no? =) and scowls; she says that, he says, but where are we supposed to go?

Yuri tells Fuu the story. Ikitsuki Island was the final refuge of us Christians, she says. Many of the Hidden Christians who were persecuted and lost their homes gathered there, including my father and I, and Seizou-san, who was known as the samurai who smells like sunflowers. We see the settlement raided and set on fire (this again…) , people fleeing in terror, a handsome top-knotted samurai helping to direct the evacuation. In the chaos, Yuri says, my father and I escaped to this land. I haven't seen Seizou-san since then. Do you know where he is now?--asks Fuu. Yuri says that was years ago, and she doesn't even know whether he's still on the island, or whether at that time he was…she closes her hand tightly on the little skull. Plainly she fears he was killed.

The daimyo who's buying the guns intends to fight with the daimyo at Shimonoseki and thinks his new acquitisions will make it quite interesting. Our next act is at Shimonoseki, Xavier's aide tells him. I expect an interesting show, says the daimyo, and they agree a big performance is best for capturing converts. Ah, so it was all fake then, says Mugen, stepping out of the shadow. They panic--who the hell are you? One of the daimyo's aides draws and charges Mugen, who dodges him with ease; the other tries Jin, who coolly clocks him with one palm-edge chopped into the side of his neck; the guy drops like a stone and Jin never even opens his eyes. We are looking for our companion, he says calmly. Xavier's henchie draws his gun but gets Mugen's swordpoint under his chin in an instant. How about you leading us there?--he asks with his evillest grin.

You said you came here with your father, right? Fuu asks Yuri. Yuri tells how Xavier had her father killed; he was a gunsmith who found out about Xavier's illegal weapons deals with the daimyo and was assassinated to keep him silent. That might be our fate as well, says Yuri… Enter Xavier to tell her the party has started.

He leads her, decked out in a bridal veil, to the foot of the huge cross; the cavern is packed for the ceremony. Say before God that you swear loyalty to me, he commands. She doesn't swear! yells tied-up Fuu, hauling at the ropes her guard holds. Xavier says Fuu's possessed by a demon and orders the guy to hurry her off to be executed, but Fuu won't be moved: don't do what he says, Yuri-san, she calls, be honest with yourself about your feelings. Yuri takes courage and says she'd rather die than marry Xavier. He shoves her to the ground and aims his gun at her, saying it's her punishment for betraying God. Fuu pulls free and places herself defiantly between them. Demons, he says, I'll send you both to hell--and then down the center aisle comes X's henchman with Fuu's not-so-useless bodyguards. Mugen, Jin!--cries relieved Fuu. Mugen squints. You're that crazy guy from before, he says, tapping his sword on his shoulder. Tricking the Christians with your false religion and making money with illicitly manufactured guns, adds stern Jin.

There is much buzz and whisper in the crowd. It's no good, sputters the flunky to Xavier, these guys saw the transaction.

Xavier starts to twitch and yells that these outsiders are lying. He shoots his henchman; others draw; Jin and Mugen charge fearlessly into the gunfire. Jin kills one shooter bloodily and Mugen gets airborne, drawing fire to the base of the cross, which topples and shatters missing Xavier by a breath. As he stumbles to his feet his false beard and rubber nose fall off--he's not Portuguese but Japanese. Your mask has fallen, says angry Yuri, holding a rifle on him as he tries to stick his appliances back on; your claim to be Xavier's descendant is a lie. You used God's name and used us to make money. Mugen, sword drawn, starts toward him; Jin catches his arm and silently restrains him; Mugen shoots him a look, shrugs off the hand, stands still and watches. (..wow.)

Wait, calm down, says Xavier; all right, I am Japanese (the rubber nose falls off again and bounces away =) But you were saved by believing me, so am I not your savior? He apologizes and says he repents, watching Yuri's finger tighten on the trigger; she shoots, he recoils, then realizes he's not hurt; lunges for a case at his feet and hauls out the mother of all monster howitzer-bazooka thingies (I promise to find out of this is real or not!) . I'd never repent that easily, he sneers. You’re all so annoying…God, God, God, God all the time, relying on Him whenever it's convenient for you. If you love God so much I'll send you all to Him right now! He points it at Yuri; Amen, he finishes. Fuu, Mugen and Jin all start forward, but the gun doesn't fire; he peers into it, and it misfires and explodes, taking him out in a huge ball of flame. Arcs of smoke cross the calm face of the statue of Christ.

And now we take our leave…You're going to Ikitsuki Island, aren't you?--asks Yuri. I will pray that you find Seizou-san, that is, the samurai who smells of sunflowers. Mugen sees his chance to tug an actual answer out of Fuu. So, who is that guy anyway, he asks. If we know he will be easier to find, chimes in Jin. Well…says Fuu…that person is my father. Jin and Mugen look completely taken aback (they must be the only ones who'd never thought of this). Well, goodbye Yuri-san; let's get moving, you two, says Fuu briskly, striding away. J&M stare at each other quite nonplussed, then fall into line.

God's divine protection on your journey, says Yuri-san, folding her hands in prayer.




Footnotes:

http://www.satucket.com/lectionary/Japan_martyrs.htm:
When Christianity became forbidden after the defeat of the Shimabara uprising in 1638, some Christians in remote villages and islands in the south of Japan continued to secretly practice their religion. They were called kakure kirishitan or ‘hidden Christians’. The kakure kirishitan disguised their statues of Mary and Jesus as Buddhist images and had their gatherings in secret. The Jesuit priests, before leaving them, had warned them not to listen to false priests (meaning the (Dutch) Protestants and priests from other Catholic orders) so up to this day the kakure kirishitan still form a separate sect, not joining any of the regular Christian denominations that are allowed since then. And they are still fairly secretive.

http://www.baobab.or.jp/~stranger/mypage/kakure.htm:

Fumi-e: Literally, "pictures to step on." Pictures of Christian figures used during the Edo period (1600-1868) to identify adherents of Christianity, proscribed in 1613. Suspects were ordered to trample these Christian images underfoot on the assumption that those who refused or hesitated revealed themselves as Christians. The practice was first used in Nagasaki in 1626 or 1629. It later was known as ebumi. Initially, fumi-e were simply crosses or religious pictures, but later brass crucifixes were cast at Nagasaki and issued to daimyo of adjoining domains especially for examining suspects. Official use of fumi-e as an instument of control continued until 1858.

The name of Golgotha, the hill outside Jerusalem on which it's said Christ was crucified, literally means "place of the skull" in Hebrew, so the design of this little trinket finally makes sense. The other common name for the place, Mount Calvary, likewise comes from the Latin calvaria, "skull".) A real example of hidden imagery like this: "During nearly 300 years of separation, Ikitsuki's Christians masked their faith with the rituals of Buddhism and Shintoism. In the island's museum, a "magic mirror" projects an image of Buddha to the outside world. But taken from the wall and held to a light, it projects the shadow of a cross."

Mouri Motonari (1497-1571)--these three arrows must represent the ones he used to demonstrate to his three sons that they would be stronger united than fighting each other, a famous incident used by Akira Kurosawa in RAN.

Wanting to get this up before Ep. 20 came out, I haven't done any work on the dizzying array of guns in this episode. That'll have to wait for a later edit or maybe even the Anachronisms Guide. Sorry…



Samurai Champloo characters, visuals and materials (c) 2004-5 manglobe.
Original story synopsis written and (c) 2005 by Paula O'Keefe.

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