Episode 13Ė"Misguided Miscreants (part 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.]

A ship at sea is raided by pirates. One crewman pleads for his life: the pirate captain responds by shoving a bomb into his mouth. We see the explosion as the pirate ship sails away. The captain sneers.

We see Mugen and Jin climbing a forested hill, Mugen in the lead. Jin suggests they stop and rest as Fuu is lagging far behind. You said this was a shortcut, she complains. We're fine, says Mugen, I can smell the ocean; it's close. Ocean?!-- And the supposedly exhausted Fuu is up and racing past them, out into the clearing at the top of the hill. Before her opens a beautiful blue vista of open sea and clear sky full of white gulls. Ocean! --she cries excitedly, and runs down the cliff path to splash in the surf. I thought you were too tired to walk anymore, mutters Mugen...

He notices someone sitting on the beach some distance off. Then she notices him. She's a girl in her teens, dressed rather like himself: black shorts, shirt and headband trimmed in a sawtooth pattern. At sight of him she stares. Mugen, she says, it can't be... She runs toward him, slows to a walk, stands. You're alive, she says, and begins to cry. Mugen's face is completely impassive with no recognition or welcome; he doesn't speak. What? Who's she? --asks Fuu, rejoining them (and prudently getting behind Jin, who looks keenly suspicious of the whole matter).

Suddenly both Mugen and Jin sense something and dive out of the way as a huge fishing net is thrown from the cliff overhead; it nets only Fuu. They instantly draw swords and slash through the rain of arrows following the net. Men with swords-- the pirates we saw in scene 1--leap off the cliff and are taken aback to see their prey neither netted nor punctured; these guys are really strong, they say, but still charge with intent to loot them. The girl runs up to them and tries to intercede, but is thrown aside with a curt "the bait needs to stay out of it". There's a gunshot; a big guy with a pistol jumps down to join them, and we recognize the pirate captain. All of them are wearing some version of the same sawtooth motif as Mugen's sword belt.

He chuckles, walks up to Mugen with the gun trained on him. Didn't expect to see you alive, Mugen, he says; I thought the next time I saw you we'd both be in Hell. Mugen levels his sword under the guy's chin. I could send you there right now, Mukuro, he snarls. (Jin, hearing Mukuro call Mugen by name, gives him a look that could cut glass.)

We didn't attack you just for money--we're looking for really strong guys, says Mukuro. If it's you there'll be no objections. This is a big haul; we'll give you an unbelievable reward. I refuse, says Mugen flatly. I don't team up with anyone, I told you that last time. --Then who are these? challenges the pirate. They're not my friends, says Mugen, I just promised to protect them till we get to Nagasaki. (Jin and Fuu, quickly sizing up the circumstances, take this without a blink.--well okay, one blink.) Mukuro snickers at this, telling them with much relish that this guy has killed so many people it's ridiculous to imagine him protecting anyone. Mugen grits his teeth in rage, his point still under Mukuro's chin, and the pirate chief laughs: oh yes, you're that kind of person, don't you remember? Mugen grimaces, there's some pain in that memory; he sheathes his sword and walks off. Both girls call his name and run after him. Jin puts away his katana and follows them, passing Mukuro without a glance.

Fuu and the pirate girl sit and talk. Fuu is surprised to learn that Mukuro is her brother, as they don't look alike. She says her name is Kohza, and she, Mugen and Mukuro grew up together on the hellish prison-colony island of Ryukyu, where prisoners are sent to live in exile. They were all born and raised there; it was the only world any of them had known.

Kohza advises them that if they're headed for Nagasaki, the best way back to the main road is to take a boat to Ise--she points off across the water. Mugen says he'll look for a boat they can use, and walks off. Fuu feels boats are much too dangerous and even Jin sounds doubtful. Kohza assures them they'll be fine since they have Mugen; of course, he can operate a boat, hasn't he told you anything? Well..no...

But that means he'll be leaving, Kohza adds sadly, she was hoping it would be like old times again. Fuu notes that Mugen seems to be on bad terms with her brother; Kohza, swinging her feet, says quietly, "My brother should just die." A bit startled, Fuu suggests that maybe she shouldn't stay with him if that's how she feels. I can't live alone, says Kohza, walking away.

Jin and Fuu look around the village. It's deserted and full of signs of struggle, broken crockery, weapons embedded in walls--definitely looks to have been taken by force. Beyond the tree-line hovers a flock of cawing carrion crows. Jin doesn't like the look of any of it.

Mugen walks down a row of boats, looking them over. Mukuro speaks out of the shadows: are you saying you've forgotten the darkness in your heart? Mugen glares resentfully...

(Flashback. Mukuro and Kohza watch from hiding as a troop of the Shogun's men corner a younger Mugen at the edge of a cliff. Sharks circle in the water below. Do you have anything to say for yourself? --they challenge. I don't care if I go to hell, even if I live it's like hell, says Mugen; but I don't want to be killed by you. I've always lived on my own strength and I can get to hell on my own. And, with a smile, he throws himself backward off the edge. It's a very long drop. Kohza gasps and Mukuro stifles her. The troop fires into the water but there's no sign of him; idiot, they say, did he think he'd survive that fall?)

Mukuro and Mugen play chicken with horses on a cliff; both cheat, catching hold of ledges as the horses plummet to the water. Don't you remember, we're both accursed, says Mukuro. There's nowhere we can run.

Jin has pieced together what happened in this village when the pirates arrived. He's looking out over the spot where the carrion birds are gathered. They killed all but the young men, even women and children, he says; then they made the men kill each other, and the ones who survived became their comrades.

Jin and Fuu, by the fire in the abandoned house they've chosen as shelter. Jin tells Fuu it'd be best if she avoided Mukuro, and they should all leave as soon as it's daylight; but Mugen arrives to tell them he's decided to take the job Mukuro offered. But we're going to Nagasaki, says Fuu. We'll need money, right? --replies Mugen. Jin accuses him of letting Mukuro provoke him into it; Mugen says "I just changed my mind, that's all." Jin closes his eyes; do what you want, he says. I'm not taking orders from you, snaps Mugen. [odd reaction; did he hope Jin would try to talk him out of it?] He turns and leaves; Fuu runs after him, calling him to wait, but he's gone.

The pirates and Mugen meet to discuss the plan. Mugen says he has just one condition: after this, he'd better never see Mukuro again. Mukuro chuckles unpleasantly, and outlines the situation: the target is a Shogunate ship carrying 60,000 gold ryou from Osaka to Edo. It's anchoring on the coast here tonight to take on supplies and let the crew rest. He got this information from a comrade on board the ship, who's part of the plan. Pirates posing as crew will load the supply barrels on board, and one of them will contain Mukuro and a large supply of explosives. He'll clear the way to the gold; we can get all of it and kill them all, he says, and then blow up their ship. But a Shogunate vessel will have lots of guards, the pirates protest. Tonight it will rain and there'll be no moonlight, Mukuro says, the darkness will give us the advantage. Are you sure it will rain? No question, says Mugen; I can smell it in the wind.

Clouds begin to eclipse the stars; Fuu and Jin listen to the wind rise. Jin is sharpening his katana on a big whetstone. I wonder if Mugen's okay, Fuu worries, and Jin says "he'll reap what he sows."

Kohza finds Mugen lying on the beach, arms folded behind his head, looking into the night sky. She sits beside him. Remember when we watched the stars like this once, she says. He says he doesn't. I wonder what we'd be like if we'd been born somewhere other than that island, she says. Silence. Are you happy now, Mugen? He says he never thinks about that. Fuu-chan [!] must be happy ("Her?" scoffs Mugen), she gets to be with you, sighs Kohza. Again silence. Mugen looks annoyed and resentful, hasn't looked at her, eyes on the gathering clouds overhead. Kohza looks at him, touches his chest, leans down against him; says she wants to be with him too, she wants to leave here; let's run away together. Mugen's had enough, and sits up so abruptly he almost throws her off. Sorry, he says, picking up his sword; I'm not that kind of man. Later. And leaves her on the beach as it begins to rain.

Kohza watches the pirates' ship sail out with Mugen at the rudder. (Flashback. Mukuro confides to her that he plans to kill them all, and he'll meet her later. What about Mugen? --she asks. He turns, touches her face, says only "let's go.")

Mukuro's confederate on the Shogun's ship supervises the loading of the barrels; Mukuro crawls out of his barrel and throws a bomb amongst the guards.

Mugen steers the pirate ship straight into the side of the Shogunate vessel; the ram in its bow tears a huge hole. The pirates run toward the rammed craft but are met with a glare of bright lanterns and the entire troop of Shogunate guards: Mukuro's set them all up. Mukuro's confederate brandishes his sword and orders "kill them all!" Aren't you in on this? --protests Mugen, but the Shogun's men are pouring onto the pirate ship. The pirates are outnumbered many to one. Mugen starts carving, but it doesn't look good.

Kohza comes running up to Jin and Fuu's door in the now pouring rain. Save Mugen! Please! --she cries. Fuu runs to the door: what does she mean? A trap, says Jin, who's seen this coming since page one. He carefully inspects the brilliant edge he's put on his katana. Kohza nods sadly. Jin grimly sheathes the sword, looking grave and determined.

Mukuro shoots everyone left on the Shogun's deck and rolls a burning barrel down at Mugen, knocking him down. You tricked me! Mukuro, you bastard! --he yells. Mukuro hurls the rest of the explosives onto the pirate ship's deck, and he and his accomplice pull away from the now-burning vessel; the last of them Mugen sees is their smirking faces.

Jin, Fuu and Kohza race onto the dock and see one ship sailing away, one on fire. The pirate ship! gasps Kohza--and it explodes in a gigantic fireball. Freeze-frame of their stunned faces. Mugen! --screams Fuu. End of part one...

Super affectionate thanks to bebop-aria, dakameleon and shu on Way of the Champloo for a terrific dialogue discussion about this one; my quotes for this ep are vastly improved in accuracy thanks to their generosity and scholarship.

--I got a great email from Tinkerheck which demands to be shared:

"I noticed in your ep descriptions that you mention how many of the fans--esp Mugen's female fan base--despise Kohza. Yes, I love Mugen, and yes, Iím not a big Kohza fan... But there is no denying the chick had mad skills when it came to getting what she wanted, which you yourself have noted. But... I think you should make mention of something else in here as well: "Kohza looks at him, touches his chest, leans down against him; says she wants to be with him too, she wants to leave here; let's run away together. Mugen's had enough, and sits up so abruptly he almost throws her off." Since you do give credit to Kohzaís ability to manipulate--maybe also do credit to Mugenís ability to throw off a woman who is blatantly coming on to him? I mean, will you look at where her right hand is drifting!!! Gaaaah!! Sheís touching a bit more than just his chest!!!

Itís obvious, at least to me, that he KNEW what she was about, no matter how hard she was trying (and boy was she ever trying). With that in mind... letís face it, he had every opportunity to fuck and run on this one (pardon my language). Mugen is as Mugen does. He is a man-whore. Yet he totally tossed her. And he did this so seamlessly that the viewer practically doesnít even realize what heís really saying no to. I found my respect for Mugen regarding sex went up a notch."

She's completely right, of course, and it adds a very keen point to Mugen's parting shot, "I'm not that kind of man." It's easy to get the impression that Mugen's lower head steers his upper head most of the time, and that's been played for laughs and used as a ploy in the series more than once, but--really, look at what he does here. Kohza, of course, is long since resigned to offering her body as collateral for her plans; as we'll say more about in Ep. 14, she doesn't have much else to trade, and it's a tough world for a young girl alone. But Mugen tells us in this one scene that he sets higher standards for himself than that; he may know why she does this, may even pity her desperation a little, but he will not be used by anyone and he has no patience with anyone who'll let themselves be used. Again we see that wonderful flash of silver, that streak of finer things and higher ideals that makes him so special, and I'm glad it was brought to my attention.

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

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