Episode 16–“Lullabies of the Lost (verse 1)"

[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 on a reflection of fire in Mugen’s eye. A man is burning, walking slowly forward. Fuu, Mugen and an unknown man are watching him, on a cliff by a waterfall. I’ve never seen a guy like this before, Mugen says to himself; he will definitely live. I have that feeling. The burning man turns and looks back, then plunges over the cliff into the water below.

Some unknown time earlier: on a cobbled road through the forest. Jin and Fuu are walking a few disdainful paces behind Mugen and two girls he’s picked up somewhere. Isn’t there an easier way?-- grouses Fuu; I bet there’s a shortcut to the west. I’m not very familiar with the West, understates Jin. The girls are chatting brightly, both carrying skewers of yakimanju (fried dumplings). Mugen looks back. Don’t you think it’s better traveling in a crowd this way? he asks Jin; you won’t get caught by the idiots looking for you. [First time Mugen has commented on this.] Are you guys criminals?—ask the girls. Sure I am, grins Mugen, I was born one; don’t you think I’m good-looking?

The girls giggle, Jin looks elaborately patient, Fuu winces and calls him an idiot… Mugen suggests going into the woods. Pervert, mutters Fuu. More giggling; the girls demur, saying there are rumors that a strange monster has been seen on this mountain. A tengu or a kappa, a crow monster with many legs. Only a rumor, says Mugen, they get stranger as they pass from person to person …he’s staring fixedly…abruptly he lunges at one girl, then the other, to Fuu and Jin’s dismay. Sounds of a scuffle while F & J pass from shock to embarrassed bafflement; track in on Mugen as the girls depart in an angry huff, and we see he grabbed the food and not the babes, is sitting on the ground with both skewers stuck in his mouth. Both his companions sigh.

Suddenly voices are heard sing/rapping, and three guys parade up to them in synch, wooden boxes balanced on their shoulders.
It must be Yoshitsune,
what shines on the mountain is Yoshitsune’s

--rhyme the guys. Jin seems interested.
Once very famous
about seven shaku tall
(a shaku was about a foot),
very big man,
he’s the thousand-man-killer.
(Well, now they really have Jin’s interest.)
Very light,
He leaps from place to place, and what’s more,
His good looks are unequalled.

(“Huh?” says Fuu. “I think they’re mixed up,” says Jin. I am not sure that’s all he says.) (Mugen has already eaten all eight dumplings.)

But it’s just a rumor, right? --the rappers finish, and march off. So what’s going to appear? --asks baffled Fuu. Just a rumor, says Jin, but he’s learned to beware the topic of rumors...

…and in the café they’re passing, a young samurai sets down his glass and looks after them. He’s wearing a hooded mask, stares at them keenly through the eye slit; his swords are dark blue in a diamond pattern, you’ve seen a set like it… he stands and watches them go, hand on hilt.

Mugen, racing into the woods on a call of nature, nearly trips over a dead bear with two arrows in its chest. Definitely not a tengu or kappa, he observes. (Tengu you remember from episode 9; kappa are water-spirits, likely to accost swimmers, and especially fond of pretty boys.)

They hike along the forest path, Fuu still dubious about the length of the route. Why are we going this way?— she asks. Looks like something lives here, says Mugen. What about it?—snaps Fuu. I’m curious about the ghost of Yoshitsune, adds Jin. (Mugen may or may not have mentioned the archer-killed bear; Fuu doesn’t seem to have caught the rappers’ mention of the 1000-man-killer; they both have reasons to be distracted, but Fuu doesn’t realize it.) Fuu looks in annoyance from one to the other, folds her arms and says “I knew it.” What? –blink the guys. You two aren’t even good enough to know what a sunflower smells like, you’re not even interested in looking for the sunflower samurai, you’re only interested in being with me because I’m cute! --rails Fuu in a sudden rage.

The guys stare at this outburst, completely taken aback. Don’t get me wrong, says Mugen slowly, scratching his head, then suddenly lashes back at her: I never intended to look for him! And I never wanted to be with you at all! You, cute? Not hardly!—he spits in the road and turns away. (Jin looks worriedly at Fuu as if asking, what have you started?) Then why have you stayed with me until now? –asks Fuu. Pure chance, snaps back Mugen. Stop it, says Jin, this is pitiful. Even the dork with glasses agrees, snipes Mugen, it’s no fun being with this unsexy woman. Fuu fumes. What you said was wrong, says Jin, stepping between them and reaching for his sword; Fuu thinks he’s coming to her defense, but he only glares at Mugen and says he won’t accept being called a dork. [--or the equivalent, I guess.] Whatever, says Mugen; a guy who smells like sunflowers, what do you want with a sissy like that anyway? That’s not true! –cries Fuu. Then what is he like? Well…Fuu hesitates and Mugen looks disgusted: look at you, you don’t even know, do you? Jin looks at her reproachfully and asks, you don’t even know his face? She’s silent; he lowers his head.

Why, asks Mugen, are you trying so hard to find someone you don’t even know is living or dead? Fuu trembles, bursts out that he is alive and will live until the day she can pummel him. Both guys are stopped by this sudden burst of conviction. So…you hate him?--asks Jin. Doesn’t matter, says Fuu. Revenge on some guy who dumped you, snides Mugen. (Jin keeps looking at Fuu as if hoping she’ll say something to rein Mugen in and pull it together, but she can’t or won’t, or just doesn’t.)

Fuu starts to shake, clenches her fists. OK, fine, I understand, she says, and levels her finger at them. You guys are just bodyguards, and I’m changing to someone tougher. Mugen retorts, shut up; I refuse to work for a diva like you. Hey, says Jin helplessly. OK, OK, enough, says Fuu, and bows to them coldly and formally. Sayonara, she says. I feel better now; abayo, see ya, says Mugen, with a wave. And they walk off in opposite directions, leaving poor Jin standing there, utterly stunned by this turn of events.

Jin has zero idea what to do, looks after one then the other, as dismayed as we’ve ever seen him. He sighs, and takes the third path. [I personally think he puts his faith in the fact that they’ve always reunited when separated before, and hopes they’ll be calm enough to talk reasonably then.] Fuu turns, sees them walking away from each other and from her, and walks angrily on.

Jin walks through the forest alone. He hears something; something fast and quiet seems to be shadowing him. It rushes at him and he turns—

Fuu, walking, hears the ring of swords clashing. Those two, she says, sure that it’s Mugen and Jin having their long-delayed duel. She waits: no second clash. That’s fine, I don’t care, she tells herself firmly, and walks away; trips, catches herself; suddenly realizes that she’s alone in a deep forest in the middle of unfamiliar territory and one of her only two friends might already be dead. She freezes, eyes huge. She hears a second clash of swords. Suddenly Momo-san pops out of wherever she carries it and zips off into the trees. Don’t you go too!--cries Fuu, chasing the squirrel, looking up into the trees and not at what’s ahead of her—and runs right off the edge of the cliff over the river. She catches a tree root and hangs on desperately. It’s a very long way down.

Jin is running, sword drawn; his assailant is the hooded samurai from the café. They pause, clash, run on.

Mugen, also running, stops short: I forgot to kill him! Damn! And this would have been a good chance… he looks both ways but sees no sign of Jin; suddenly an arrow streaks past his face and narrowly misses tacking him to a tree. He stares up: silhouetted against the moon is a tall archer, sort-of American Indian in appearance, who continues to fire. [He’s an Ainu; an aboriginal Japanese.] Mugen charges him, throws himself into an evasive backflip off a tree; the guy’s aim –he’s using a crossbow—is so good he hits Mugen’s shoe as it falls. Are you from Matsumae-Han? –he calls to Mugen. Hah? Where the hell is that? What do you want?—yells back Mugen. The archer turns and vanishes. Mugen scales the rocks, yelling that he wants an apology, but the stranger is gone.

Fuu can’t hold onto the root any longer, and slides over the edge…

Jin and the young samurai are still trading slashes; Jin hears Fuu’s scream as she falls, and flinches but can’t make any move; his next swing clips off his assailant’s hood. For a moment he’s startled, then he actually smiles. Just as I thought, he says; your skill has improved, Yukimaru. Even you have come after me…

They face off, looking strikingly alike. [Long hair, worn in similar high topknots; one dressed in indigo blue, one deep forest green; matched blue daisho, different only in tsuba design; even their families' mon designs resemble each other. And, forgive the fangirl eye, Yuki’s even almost as pretty as Jin.] Ogura wasn’t able to achieve his one desire, says Yukimaru, and he took his own life. [See episode 8.] I’m not like the others at the dojo, I see no meaning in avenging our master; but with no dojo, all the rumors on the wind are full of you. I’m sick of it. Do you want to become famous?—asks Jin. You did, by killing our teacher, says Yukimaru.

We see them as younger teenagers, sparring in the dojo, intercut with their duel now. Jin plainly doesn’t want to really engage him in battle, continues to run, back off, block him and back again. Why do you only evade me?--cries Yuki. I don’t want to kill you, replies Jin. You can’t kill me, says Yuki confidently. You are not worth killing, says Jin, closing his eyes; it would only rust my sword. Yuki snarls, charges him; I’m not the same person I was, it’s not your time anymore, he insists, pressing him toward the cliff edge. Jin steps steadily back, blocking him effortlessly, one-handed, open-eyed and calm; suddenly they’re both blade-to-throat and Yuki freezes. What’s wrong?—asks Jin, deadly quiet. Are we going to hell together? Yuki can only stare at Jin’s katana-point, right under his chin. Then, to his total surprise, Jin lowers his sword, sheathes it, turns his back on Yuki. You can tell them you killed me, he says, looking at the waterfall; I might as well be dead already, And he steps off the cliff. Yuki runs to the edge and stares down, but he’s gone.

Fuu is washed along by the river current, thinks she’s dying... Like Mugen before her she sees a flood of images: herself as a tiny girl in a vast field of sunflowers, chasing a man who’s walking away: herself as she is now but in the same field, watching as it withers and dies: sunflower seeds spill through her fingers; she opens her closed hands and there sits Momo-san, contentedly munching the seeds. Yeep?—says the squirrel. Hey! –yells dream-Fuu, and she wakes, and finds herself sleeping by someone’s campfire.

For a moment she’s disoriented, then sees someone sitting on the riverbank, feeding Momo sunflower seeds just as in her vision. Momo-san, she says, approaching the stranger; he turns; it’s the Ainu archer who shot at Mugen. He says he found her floating down the river, and offers her some of the broiled fish by his fire, which she gratefully accepts. A woman with an appetite is a good woman, he says kindly. She calls to Momo, but the squirrel won’t leave the archer until he gives her some of his sunflower seeds. [this has just got to mean something…] She says she can’t pay him back; he doesn’t seem to mind. Well, thanks for everything, she says, and tries to stand but can’t, falling back with a wince. There’s a long dark bruise on her leg (and she’s missing a sandal). He goes to the water’s edge and begins gathering herbs.

Jin, dripping, emerges from the river and spots something floating: Fuu’s pink sandal.

The archer uses stones to grind the plants into a paste and treats the bruise with it, saying it should soon be better. The woods are dangerous at night, you should sleep here, he adds. His manner is nothing but gentle and concerned, she has no reason to suspect the offer, and she doesn’t. Atashi Fuu, I’m Fuu, she says; what’s your name? Watashi-wa Okuru, I am Okuru, he says. He’s not from this area, he’s traveling alone. I’m by myself too, she says, those two useless bodyguards are gone. Now I’m lonely and it doesn’t really matter where I die, but I didn’t want to drown, because your body size doubles and I want to die beautiful. [--it is so weird to hear this from Infinitely Expandable Fuu...]

Okuru tells her that everyone in his village was killed by an epidemic—he calls it “taken by the Walking God”. Even his wife and daughter were taken; only he survived because he was traveling. He looks at her sadly. There’s no such thing, he says, as dying beautiful.

Mugen drinks from the river, yawns, lies back on the bank and says how refreshed he feels. (“That bitch,” he adds to himself in a quiet grumble).

Okuru tells Fuu he’s going west from here. So am I, to Nagasaki, she says. I’m looking for a samurai who smells like sunflowers. He looks back suspiciously over his shoulder at her; she doesn’t seem to notice. Would it be all right for me to travel with you, Okuru-san?…

Mugen hears rustling in the forest and grins. Stop sneaking around and come out to play, he calls, not even bothering to sit up. At once he’s surrounded by armed men. We are government officials of Matsumae-Han, says their leader; don’t move, Okuru! Huh?--says Mugen. Prepare yourself! –snarls the leader, and they rush him as one. Mugen’s eyes widen—

(end of part 1.)

Historical Note:There are many, many stories and legends about the illustrious career of Minamoto Yoshitsune, one of the greatest of all samurai, and about the appearances of his vengeful ghost. Follow the HTML link above for a good article on him.

(To see some copies of original pencil art from this episode, go over here: Episode 16 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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