Episode 7–“A Risky Racket”

[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.]

[Note: fewer screengrabs than usual this time. The art in this ep is terrible, as you can see, and the animation is even worse.
Must have had the primary units working full tilt on #8.]

In a gambling hall, Fuu is betting the last of her savings on drawing the right number. Mugen says three and Jin says five, so Fuu bets four and wins (with a little help from Momosan, who creeps out to move her playing piece for her).

Ordering tempura at a street stand, Fuu’s in bliss–her first meal in three days!–when a young guy jostles into her and walks on. You guessed it–when she reaches for her purse to pay for the food it’s gone; the kid was a pickpocket. Fuu and the guys comb the neighborhood without luck.

We meet the pickpocket, Shinsuke, and the rest of the thief gang; pretty much---except for Shinsuke, who’s the typical nice-kid-in-way-over-his-head---a nasty bunch.

Acting on a tip, Mugen and Jin go to Shinsuke’s house but meet only his sick and coughing mom, who tells them she has no son and scolds them for their rudeness. The guys leave Fuu to watch the house in case he arrives, and go to look around more.

Shinsuke has come into possession of a stash of drugs (opium?) and tries to deal with a fence to sell them for him, but the guy wants a 70% cut. Shinsuke balks at this. The man says he’ll set something up.

Fuu dozes off and has a strange dream in which she’s in a large, silent, moonlit room with a corpse–she’s about to draw the cloth off its face when she wakes.

Shinsuke arrives home and Fuu listens while he and his mom talk. She tells him two strangers were here looking for him. Of course she’s worried that he’s involved in something illegal, but he tries to reassure her that he’s just working on a big project that will help him afford better medicine for her illness. Fuu takes pity on him, and when Mugen and Jin return she tells them no one came. Ah well, must have been a bad lead, they say; we can go sleep in that barn tonight...

In the morning, while they’re still asleep, Fuu goes back to the house looking for Shinsuke. She meets his mom, who guesses she’s a girlfriend of his. They bond over a snack of dried sweet potatoes.

A doctor tells Shinsuke that the small amount he can afford to pay isn’t enough to get medicine that might actually help his mother; all the cheap stuff does is ease her discomfort a little...

The gang finds out that Shinsuke kept the drugs to sell for himself and keep all the profit, and goes looking for him. They catch up with him just as Fuu has cornered him in the street and is yelling at him that she’s one of his pickpocketing victims. There’s a scuffle, Shinsuke is cut, and he grabs Fuu and drags her off at a gallop. Desperate to keep the gang from getting the drugs, he puts a knife to Fuu’s throat, yells that no one had better come in after him or he’ll kill her, and barricades them inside the nearest building, which seems to be a storage warehouse.

Fuu notices that he’s bleeding, tears some of her hem and binds up the cuts. She tells him she’s talked to his mom but promises she didn’t say anything about his being a pickpocket, not wanting to hurt such a nice lady. Shinsuke opens up a little and they talk. Fuu says he’s lucky that his mom is still alive; her mother died just about a year ago, and she misses her badly. She still thinks of all the things she wanted to tell and ask her, but it’s too late now... Shinsuke says he can’t find a job and is only involved in crime to help out his mother; he’s doing what he has to do.

Cops call in that they’ll break in and get Shinsuke if he hasn’t surrendered by sunset. Fuu suggests that will make a good diversion, he can escape while they’re all rescuing her.

A crowd has gathered outside, including the pickpocket gang, who want to get the drugs away from Shinsuke without the cops noticing. They decide to break in thru a rear window. Also in the crowd are Mugen and Jin, who soon realize why they haven’t seen Fuu all day. When Mugen sees who’s holding her hostage–the guy who stole her purse and his dinner!-- he goes completely ballistic, tears thru the crowd and kicks down the door. (“What’s wrong with that guy?” wonders a bystander. “He’s just an idiot...” replies weary Jin.)

The pickpocket gang and Mugen reach Shinsuke and Fuu at just about the same time. Mugen kicks butt, and Fuu asks him to let the kid go. Shinsuke throws the drug packet at the gang boss–-clouds of powder fill the air. Mugen kicks the slats out of the window and Shinsuke climbs out, telling Fuu that he won’t forget her and someday he’ll repay her for this. Don’t forget!, she cries. She watches as he scrambles along the roof and drops to the ground, climbs out on the roof to see him escape, and so has a great view when he’s cornered and stabbed to death. Fuu stands frozen. A tear runs down her face.

The next day she visits Shinsuke's mom and tries to tell her what happened, but can’t do it. She guesses anyway. Fuu tries to defend him but hasn’t the words.

She takes a long look back as she, Jin and Mugen walk out of town...

Brief footnote from the Samurai Gourmet website: "Sweet potatoes saved the Japanese people from famine in the Edo Period (1603-1868). Cultivation of sweet potatoes spread nationwide as the crop can be grown even in poor soil. The sweet potato is believed to have been the most popular food among women in the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo) because of its sweet taste. It is rich in fiber which helps relieve constipation."

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

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