Episode 3–"Hellhounds for Hire (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.]

[Note on names: in some translations of this Suzu's name is Osuzu and Nishimatsu's is Ishimatsu. I have it on good authority that Option B is right, so I'm going with it.]

The guys tire of Fuu’s chattering, of the whole arrangement in fact, and after a brief conference just ditch her and each other, running off in different directions at the next three-way crossroad ("Live a good life!" is Mugen's cheerful parting remark, but I really like the dub's version--"Sayonara, sweetheart!").

Crossing the bridge into the next town down the road, Mugen, as usual, walks right up to someone else’s table, sits down and starts eating their food, oblivious to their glares. These guys are the Nagatomi Clan, who run this town (“These are those sort of people,” the proprietor warns him in a frantic whisper. “Ehh? Yakuza?” blurts Mugen, while the table winces.) but Mugen shows them a few tricks with skewers and is hired on the spot. He gets shown around the place, including the gambling hall where they run thoroughly rigged games of chance. Their boss, Rikiei, takes an immediate liking to him and even offers him a partnership. He’ll think about it...

Now we meet little Sousuke and pretty Osuzu, as she helps with Sousuke’s history homework. Osuzu’s father, Daigorou, has just lost a bundle at the crooked gambling, and a bunch of Nagatomi heavies come by the house to see if he’d like to hand over his carpentry business to cover his losses. They strongly hint that if not his shop it’ll be his daughter. The poor guy blanches. Sousuke runs out of the house in distress.

Jin, crossing–you guessed it–the same bridge into the same town, learns the history of the place from an old innkeeper. The Kawara Clan, whose head is the well-liked Heitarou the Merciful, used to run things here and all was peaceful, but since the Nagatomi arrived it’s all changed, and Heitarou seems powerless to resist them.

Cut to the assembly hall, where Daigorou is imploring Kawara Heitarou to help save his carpentry shop. Heitarou says he’d like to help, especially since Daigorou’s daughter has been so much help to Sousuke in his studies, but since they can’t prove the game was unfair Daigorou must honor his debt. Other Kawara clansmen chime in, however, agreeing that the gambling hall is dishonest, that it’s claimed many men’s businesses and daughters. Heitarou looks strained; he seems like a guy who wants peace at any cost, unfortunately...

Jin asks the innkeeper if there’s any way to earn money here, and is told the best way is to hire on as a bodyguard with the Nagatomi–they always have money. (He also gets a bowl of soup, on the house.) Speak of the devil: in walk a pack of same, followed by angry little Kawara Sousuke, who demands they give back the contract Suzu’s dad just signed; evidently he chose to lose his shop rather than his daughter. [Right, Osuzu’s pupil is the Kawara clan head’s son. I’d put him at maybe 10 or 11.] The yakuza laugh at the kid and start roughing him up. Jin puts away the soup at top speed, not missing a word of what’s happening. The Nagatomi get Sousuke onto the floor and start kicking, and Jin sets down his bowl, stands up and asks the kid if he’d like to hire a bodyguard. Stay out of it, you third-rate samurai, growl the yakuza. OH-ho. With one flash of his sword Jin slices the robes off all three thugs, leaving them standing there in their under-wrappings (whatever their name is...) Without a drop of blood drawn. The guys stare, absolutely flummoxed. The Indigo Nemesis stands there glowering, katana-point under the nearest thug’s nose, and they scatter, yelling that they won’t forget this. Jin glares after them. [ah, that samurai sense of justice..]

(Fuu walks over–-yup–-the same bridge into the same town, muttering that she can find the sunflower samurai without those two...)

Mugen, upon hearing that all three Nagatomi were beaten by one guy with an amazing fast draw, snickers and says he’ll take the job. This does not make the boss’ current second-in-command, Ishimatsu, happy, and they have a quick duel which is ended when Rikiei tells Ishimatsu to go and get “the carpenter’s girl”. But she’s too young for this, he protests. Do as you’re told, snaps Rikiei. Mugen does not miss this exchange.

Fuu consults a fortuneteller who tells her she should beware of pots. Sure enough she bumps into someone and breaks a pot whose owner demands 100 ryu in payment. You don’t have any ryu? We have a job for you, they say... same place the busted gamblers’ daughters end up going to pay off their fathers’ debts. Yup, the yakuza run both the crooked casino and the local whorehouse.

Little Sousuke, happy to have reclaimed the contract for Daigorou’s shop, trots after Jin with a grabbed katana stuck in his belt. Jin very sternly tells him that’s not a toy and he shouldn’t carry it if he’s not prepared to die. The kid sniffles...

Ishimatsu and thugs cart Osuzu off to the brothel, and Ishimatsu tells Daigorou it’s because the Kawara hired a bodyguard and took back his contract. He’s stunned.

Heitarou scolds Sousuke for his impulse and tells him that caused Osuzu to be taken away. Kawara clan guys are fed up and eager to fight back but Heitarou resists, and asks Jin to leave. Sousuke blows up, says his dad’s attitude was fine when things were peaceful but not now, and says he and Jin will handle this without the clan’s help.

Jin and Sousuke case the joint: the Nagatomi HQ is in the apartments over the brothel. Jin says that it'll be hard for them to get in, since it's heavily guarded and the Nagatomi know both of them on sight. Sousuke says he has an idea: Jin looks dubious, but it's apparently more of a plan than he has...

Fuu and Osuzu talk; Osuzu says sadly that there’s no way around this for her because of her father’s debts.

Mugen and Rikiei are talking in the Nagatomi HQ. Mugen is itching for a fight or something to do, and can’t wait for this Kawara bodyguard to show up. [It’s hard to believe he didn’t guess it was Jin.] The boss says he’ll definitely show up since they set the bait. They discuss business and how the yakuza infiltrate and take over towns peacefully, without battles.

And how do Sousuke and Jin get into the brothel? Dressed as a little old man and a tall, stately candidate for employment, that’s how, complete with Jin’s katana thinly disguised as a shamisen--a trick also seen in Zatoichi, BTW. (“You don’t look so bad,” Sousuke reassures. “That doesn’t flatter me,” retorts Jin-san. Actually, he passes for female fairly well. Also, trivia note, his ears are apparently pierced.) This doesn’t last long–only as long as it takes for someone to request he actually play the silly thing–and he’s back into glasses and character in a flash, and is promptly spotted.

Mugen hears the yell of “Kawara yojimbo!” from downstairs, draws his sword and takes off at a gallop; the women nearby, including Fuu and Osuzu, look up at the commotion; and there follow a succession of absolutely classic double-takes as all three of them realize they’re once again in the same place at the same time.

Mugen grins his slow evil grin. No matter how we try to resist it, this is our destiny, he declares, and hurls himself at Jin.

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

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