Episode 24–"Evanescent Encounter (part 1)/
Seishiryuten (The Circle of Transmutation, 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. Please read footnotes.


A man is tending a large, handsome garden. Two visitors enter--a portly samurai and his younger aide. He addresses the gardener as Kariya. Kariya ceases work and bows: well, well, he says, for one of the roujuu to come in person. (--he's a member of the Shogun's council of elders.) You do know why I'm here? This situation is a race against time, says the councillor; I've heard that both the felon from Ryuukyuu and the ronin who betrayed his dojo possess outstanding skills. Moreover, they're about to make contact with Kasumi Seizou, and it will be trouble for us if they meet before we quell what remains of the Shimabara Rebellion. [Please read footnotes.] Kariya, however, asks the roujuu (addressing him as go-roujuu, go being a deferential honorific) if he wouldn't like to just enjoy the flowers of the garden for awhile. I have no time for flowers, says the councillor. Kariya remarks cryptically that weeds take away the nutrients flowers need and cause them to wither, but it's not enough to just remove the weeds; the flowers will still die unless one also plants a flower that consumes what the weeds need. (The young aide looks frustrated by this parable-like comment.) The roujuu tells him that Sara was killed. Kariya remarks that anyone who could do that is a worthy enough opponent to cause him to draw his sword, though it has been a long time. The councilman is startled: What? Kariya bows: I will go, he says.

As the roujuu climbs into their palanquin his aide is still disturbed, and protests that no one he knows has ever seen Kariya-dono draw his sword; all he ever seems to do is admire the flowers. It may be rude to ask, but is he really the right man for this important job? You're young, so it's no surprise you don't know about him, says the councilman. But the reason he doesn't use his sword is that there's no one equal to him as a fighter: Kariya Kagetoki, the swordsman once called "the Divine Hand" (or "Hand of God"). [note of interest: dakameleon points out that 'kariya' can mean 'borrowed name', and that it could be equivalent to calling him Mr. X] (We see him in a straw hat, putting on his two swords, tying his sandals, preparing to set out.) There's probably no one in this world, finishes the go-roujuu, who can kill him. -- Kariya assumes a brief prayer position, gazes out from under his hatbrim, smiling coldly.

We see our trio sitting around a campfire by the waterside, broiling fish. So, how much further to Nagasaki? --asks Mugen. Jin looks at the map and says they've passed through Nagasaki already, to the loud startlement of the other two. He explains that it's because their present destination is Ikitsuki Island, which is a little north of Nagasaki; once they get around the mountain they'll be right there. All the trouble we've gone through and now it seems we arrived without even noticing it, grumbles Mugen. Fuu agrees: It seemed we'd never get here, but now we're finally arriving… Even if we go to that whatever-island, it doesn't mean we'll see the Sunflower Samurai, adds Mugen. Yes, that's true. There's a silence; Fuu becomes wistful. Isn't it strange, she says, we've been travelling together so long, yet we still don't know each other very well, or what we were doing before this journey...she proposes that each one tell a secret from his/her past, since they may never have another chance to talk together. (What's with her?--whispers Mugen to Jin. Sentiment, replies Jin; a woman's emotion discovered in Western Europe. She must be feeling very emotional just now.)

Fuu says Mugen should start. Who me? I don't really have a secret, bluffs Mugen, but, um, I've been getting into trouble for a long time. --We knew that, says Fuu. --And, um, I like women with big breasts. -- We knew that too, mutters Fuu. --Oh yeah, one place I traveled, I got in an argument and killed this weird old guy, says Mugen; he was, like (Mugen mimes the gesture while imitating the man's self-important tone), 'don't you see this seal case?' (flashback: the guy is showing him the Tokugawa family crest!), and I'm, like, 'I don't care about stuff like that!' (scuffing his sandal in the dirt) and just killed him. -- Jin and Fuu stare at him: Mugen has just confessed, almost as an afterthought, to the killing of a member of the Shogun's immediate family. [Even better: his victim was Mito Komon. [Please read footnotes.].] Fuu's jaw drops: Ahh, isn't that bad?--she ventures. It's not just bad; I'm amazed that you’re still alive, says Jin. Mugen shrugs: yeah, whatever. [--Note their acceptance: Mugen's skittish approach to this story suggests that he knows he should have told them this long before now, since it must be a factor in their pursuit by such skilled assassins, but they don't so much as chide him, and indeed are almost impressed. They're all past that.]

Your turn, Jin, says Fuu; what were you doing before you met us? Jin hesitates a moment. I've… been traveling a long time, he says. I lost my parents when I was young, and was put into Mujuushin Kenjutsu dojo. For my entire childhood, all I did was train in kenjutsu, so I was always alone. --We see him in a sparring match, very young, landing a stunning bokken blow to the chest of an opponent. The boy falls; other students look on, just as stunned. The young Jin gazes down at his fallen adversary, then looks away as if awaiting further orders; he's wearing his usual indigo blue, no glasses, his face is calm and expressionless. There's blood on the floor beside the other kid's fallen bokken (wooden practice sword). --There wasn't anyone my age equal to me, says Jin. Everyone feared and envied me and distanced themselves from me. --We see him sitting with Enshiro: your eyes see too much, the master tells him; there's no basis for your strength, it means your strength is only for yourself. --Soon, continues Jin, I was burdened with the shame of my master's murder and driven from the dojo. Since then I've been traveling, searching for something, but even I don't know what I'm looking for. It may be that I've just been running away. [Please read footnotes.]

Mugen and Fuu have listened in respectful silence to this quite remarkable confession from man-of-few-words Jin, and the silence holds for a thoughtful moment when he finishes. --Your turn, Mugen finally says to Fuu.

There was only my mother and me, since I was small, she says. I had thought my father had died long before, but as my mother was dying of a sickness she told me that my father was definitely alive. Long ago, he left us and went somewhere. Mother said he wasn't a bad man, but I couldn't forgive him. So I decided that I would certainly find him, and pay him back for what he did to my mother. But I could never gather the courage to go, until you two arrived at that tea shop... I thought, if I'm with these two, I can do it. I had that feeling.. She manages a little smile. Thanks, she says, for coming with me up till now.

Later: Jin wakes sensing Fuu's not with them. She's out of bed and by the river. Jin comes over to ask if anything's up. Nothing, nothing at all, she says. Fuu, says Jin [no -san, -chan, whatever... pretty informal and affectionate; it's also the first time he's ever called her by name.] --what do you intend to do once you meet the sunflower-scented samurai? You're right, I guess I have to decide, she says. Jin, hesitantly: "If I..." Fuu: "I just...don't want to think about that...because Mugen is..." she smiles a little, looks wistful then sad, lowers her head. I'm sorry, she says, and leans into him, half-embraces him, resting her head on his chest. Jin lays a hand on her shoulder, closes his eyes; they stand there; the tone is sad and gentle. Mugen's not asleep, eyes slitted half-open.

Morning--we see their campsite, the cold ashes of their fire. A strange, deformed blond creature rather resembling Gollum is sifting through the ashes, scoops up and sniffs a handful, his hand in what looks like a clawed, mechanical brace. (It's a nastied-up version of an Iga Ninja weapon called a tekko-kagi--think basic Wolverine.) Behind him are an immobile, peg-legged man in a wheelchair and a tall fellow with an eyepatch, carrying a wicked-looking scythe. (Their names are never given in any of the next three episodes, but they are, respectively, Denkibou, Toube, and Umanosuke.) How is it, Umanosuke--the eyepatched one--asks. No doubt, says Denkibou in a weird sobbing voice; I want to hurry up and kill them!-- his voice rises to a demented shriek. Umanosuke tells him to have a bit more patience and calls out to a passing woodman, asking if he knows who camped here last night. The man not only doesn't know but growls that these outsiders should hurry up and clear out. Forget you ever saw us, says Umanosuke. The man walks on without replying. Seems it's no use for me to say that, says the one-eyed man, and snaps up his scythe: the blade shoots out at rocket speed, flying at least 20 feet with an attached chain spooling out of the shaft behind it, and lands well ahead of the surprised woodman. Umanosuke then retracts the blade which flies back with terrible force, catching the forester under the chin and beheading him with a huge gush of blood. His silence is now assured. The scythe blade snaps back into its shaft; the headless man falls with a thud; Toube, the wheelchair guy, never reacted at all.

Our rather subdued trio trudge through the woods and suddenly find themselves on a ridge overlooking the city. At a restaurant, a chatty waiter tells them where to catch the ferry to Ikutsuki Island, and serves them shabushabu, which they peer at dubiously until he explains how the dish should be prepared. Well, a lot of foreigners do eat here, says Jin… (--it's thinly sliced raw beef served with a bowl of boiling hot broth and a side of veggies; you dip the raw meat in the hot broth till it's semi-cooked, then eat it.) The guys eventually decide it’s pretty good--even non-red-meat eater Jin-- despite Fuu griping at them that they should alternate meat and vegetables instead of just cramming down all the beef, which causes Mugen to call her nakebugyo, "stew magistrate" [soup Nazi? =)].

They reach the ferry dock and Fuu says she forgot to buy a souvenir--the castillo (sponge cake) they mentioned all the way back at the end of #17. Both of you go get it, she orders. She shoves her pink change purse into Mugen's chest and hurries them off, saying she'll negotiate the ferry fee while they're gone. What's that about, mutters Mugen, and pushes the purse at Jin. Fuu stands watching them go with a gentle smile…

The waiter is still clearing their table when the wheelchair trio turns up outside his door. He begins to welcome them then gasps, staring in alarm; either it's their bizarre appearance, or he's heard of them. Was a felon from Ryuukyu named Mugen here? --Umanosuke asks, and lets screaming Denkibou terrorize him to make sure he's truthful. The poor waiter swears he doesn't know anything about that; but there was a guy with a strange sword who said he was going to Ikitsuki Island. They're satisfied with this, and leave, again with the threat to not mention having seen them. The waiter swears he will, but as soon as they're gone he steps outside and peers around, and dies in the clutches of the lurking Denkibou.

M&J in a bakery; Jin comments on how expensive the cake is. How much is in the purse, Mugen asks; Jin reaches in and pulls out..a pebble?…

Fuu waiting at the dock. The ferryman calls out that they'll depart soon. Fuu starts to go, is suddenly mesmerized by a straw-hatted samurai on whose shoulder a butterfly alights. He turns, notices her staring. It's Kariya. He asks what it is; she asks if he's Kasumi Seizou-san, then withdraws the question in embarrassment, apologizing. The ferryman again calls all-aboard and Fuu departs; Kariya stands watching her sail toward the island.

Outside the bakery: Jin's found a letter from Fuu in the purse. We hear her read it in voice-over. It would hurt to say goodbye, so I'm going alone, she writes. It was really fun when we all talked by the fire, and I wished it could go on forever. [she's been wishing that a lot lately…we see scenes from the town as the letter is read: a man and child who look like chibi-Fuu and her dad, walking hand in hand; three little kids playing with a top who could be a young M, J & F; Mugen and Jin themselves walking back to the dock.] Suddenly, Fuu's letter goes on, I wondered, what if I were alone; I was afraid that I might have depended too much on Mugen and Jin. Would I be all right by myself after the journey ends? I thought about that a lot…that's why I'm going alone. She closes reminding the guys that they've said they'd postpone their duel until after the journey, and it's her wish that they postpone it forever and just be friends. She asks them to consider it while they eat the cake, which is her farewell gift to them. The guys munch the castillo--looking as if they barely taste it--solemnly at the dock, Jin standing, Mugen crouching, both gazing out at the island.

On the island: Fuu moves through the ruins of a burned-out church; we see scenes from Yuri's flashback in 18. Everyone she asks about the whereabouts of Seizou-san rejects her angrily, slams doors in her face, telling her to go away and not speak that name. One man tells her explicitly what a peaceful place this was before the Christians came here and caused the town to be burned. Finally she does a favor for a little kid and his mother in turn tells her--very reluctantly, and trying to look as if she isn’t even speaking to Fuu-- that she should go the house on the northern cape; but go quickly, because that person is...she doesn't say more. Thank you, thank you, cries Fuu, heading off.

Kariya addresses Mugen and Jin: despair comes from hope, but it's difficult for people to live without hope, so the only choice is to live with despair, he says cryptically. Who the hell are you, asks Mugen, sucking cake crumbs off his fingers. Kasumi's daughter, says the assassin, has gone to the island. This gets Mugen's attention fast; he looks up narrowly, and Jin asks if the stranger knows Kasumi Seizou. A criminal whose heart was stolen by a foreign religion and abandoned his country, says Kariya coldly; I heard he escaped here to Kyushu and was involved in the Shimabara rebellion. [This absolutely places Champloo in the mid 1600s. Please read footnotes. .] He's the man the Shogunate most wants to erase. We've known from the beginning about the daughter who was seeking him, and we let her travel freely because we wanted to find him. --by now Mugen is on his feet and both guys are watching him closely. It's unfortunate, Kariya finishes, but I must end your lives here.

Mugen reaches back for his sword. By yourself?--he asks. You’re pretty confident, huh? Kariya smiles his chilly smile. Come, don't disappoint me, he says. Jin has been listening with eyes closed; now all three square off to draw…

A vast field of himawari. Fuu, hurrying along the path, nearly runs straight into the peg-legged wheelchair guy, staring blankly. Don't hurry, young lady, says a voice. Fuu sees it's not the invalid speaking, looks around for the source. It's Umanosuke, holding a huge sunflower in front of his face. It's sad, he says, that you've come so far but won't be able to complete your journey. --What are you saying? --I mean, he says, that this place will be your grave. He raises his scythe---

to be continued...


Footnotes:

zantetsuken wrote: "We have an media/real life/Champlooland crossover in this episode, too--Mito Komon. See here (and be amused at the title screen at the bottom of the page): Mito Komon.
(...Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandson. Not a smart move, Mugen...)"

As elegantly summarized in AnimeForever's sub of episode #25, written by bebop-aria and cowgirlnoir (based, she adds quietly, on research done by yours very truly):
"Mujushin kenjutsu is a school of martial arts founded in the seventeenth century by Harigaya Sekiun, who was strongly influenced by Zen Buddhist teachings. The kanji are broken down as mujuu, "temple without a priest"; shin "real sword" (as opposed to practice sword); and kenjutsu "sword technique". By analogy, the name implies a precognitive or instinctual method of swordfighting, sometimes translated as "the sword of no abiding mind". Mariya Enshirou was the third master of the mujushin kenjutsu school."

Read much more about the Mujushin school here: Sword of No Abiding Mind.

The Shimabara Rebellion was the decisive event that led to the banning of Christianity in Japan. Some quotes:
"The Shimabara Rebellion was an uprising of Japanese peasants, many of them Christians, during the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1637-1638. Rebellion broke out on (according to western calendar) December 17, 1637 when peasants rose against their daimyo Matsukura Shigeharu. Christians like to emphasize the fact that most rebels were Japanese converted to Christianity but the other prominent reason for the revolt was the very heavy tax burden."
"Afterwards, the shogunate forces beheaded an estimated 37,000 rebels and sympathizers. The Shogunate banned Christianity and the remaining Japanese Christians had to go underground, [since] the Shogunate suspected that western Catholics had been involved in spreading the rebellion, and Portuguese traders were driven out of the country."



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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