Episode 21–"Elegy of Entrapment (verse 2)"


[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..]


Sara and Jin fight on the bridge. She charges, Jin collects himself and runs at her. The logs under Sara's feet crack as she runs (she's not cutting them with her yari); the rent in the bridge follows her as cleanly as a blade slash, the bridge splitting down the center end-to-end. They clash as they rush past each other; the side and sleeve of Jin's kimono fall open and blood flows.

Sara stands. I really didn't want this day to come, she says sadly. I kept wishing I could just go along with the journey, but that's not possible. Jin grips his bleeding side, stares at her: are you--? They close with each other again. The length of her reach with the kama-yari has him completely at bay. He falls with a bloody gash in his leg, looks around desperately, swings and cuts the ropes of the bridge. It falls apart instantly, logs cascading, dropping them both into the river. We see debris wash downstream: broken logs, Jin's glasses, a swirl of blood.

Fuu drops wearily to the ground and asks Mugen to wait awhile, Jin might come back. Not unless he does something weird and gets his balls kicked, snides Mugen. Don't talk nonsense, says Fuu. I wonder which of us is talking nonsense, retorts Mugen. Come on, we have to see this sunflower dude, right? He walks on scowling, Fuu still sitting in the road. A man rushes into the village behind them shouting: Something terrible! The suspension bridge on the outskirts of town has collapsed! --Was anyone hurt?--people ask him. --Please, everyone hurry! They run off. Fuu and Mugen look at each other: was that the way they went…?

They join the villagers who are carefully poling the shallow river. Fuu sees Sara's owl charm and the child's toy she bought lying in the water. That's Sara-san's, she cries, running to the riverside. If anyone fell from a height like that there's no hope for them, says a villager sympathetically. Fuu turns to Mugen--could it be…? Mugen starts off, stops when a voice cries that they've found someone. Sara is dragged ashore. Fuu and Mugen run to her side, Mugen lifts her in his arms, she gasps and catches her breath. She's alive, he calls to the villagers. Fuu looks around. Where's Jin? she asks, wasn't there a man here too? The one who found Sara says no, he saw only her. Mugen sets Sara down and gallops off along the rocky bank. People call to him that it's a dead end, and sure enough he has to stop short--there's only a waterfall and a shallow pool.

In a small cabin: Mugen, Fuu and unconscious Sara. What should we do...Jin isn't around anywhere, worries Fuu. That idiot, he can't see a thing without these, says Mugen, dangling Jin's glasses on the end of a fishing pole and line. They're just for show, dismisses Fuu [how long has she known that?]. Mugen tries them on, peering thru the glass curiously. Enter a man bearing a pot of food. Don’t worry, he says, fortunately the wounds aren't too bad. You should rest here awhile. Arigato gozaimasu, says Fuu extra-politely. Mugen glowers. [This is just not sitting well with him.] Abruptly he drops the fishing pole and Jin's glasses, steps into his geta and runs off down the path, ignoring Fuu's calls after him. As Fuu sighs Sara stirs and awakens.

Mugen, walking in the dead-end pool of the river (it's just over knee-deep) carefully probing the water with his sword. He sees something.

Sara sets down an empty bowl. I'm so sorry, she says; if only I hadn't asked him to come with me. Me too...if I hadn't made him go.. says Fuu sadly. Sara asks: No matter what happens, will you still go on to Nagasaki from here? I will definitely go, no matter what, says Fuu without hesitation. Sara lowers her eyes: I see...

Mugen has found Sara's broken shamisen, her walking staff (with the blades now retracted) and a broken piece of the bridge--the break is as clean as a cut. He returns to the cabin looking grim, carrying Sara's belongings. Fuu greets him cheerfully at the door with an armful of firewood. Sara's conscious, she says. You can finish this (she hands him the firewood), I'm going to look for Jin. She runs off.

Mugen dumps the firewood, walks to Sara, lays down her shamisen and staff. She doesn’t react. These were dropped in the river, he says; they're the tools of your trade, right? [I think we can assume he examined the staff and found its hidden blades.] His voice is cold and bitter. Sara understands, stands and walks past him, taking the staff. I'll be waiting by the river, she says. Mugen sits motionless, eyes closed, as she leaves; stays so another moment; stands and kicks the pile of firewood into the fire with such violence that the pot spills and hisses.

They face each other by the riverside. I have no grudge against you, she says, but this is the only way for me to live. Mugen's face is set as stone. She snaps open the cross-bladed lance. The child's life is on the line, she says. Mugen draws his sword. Well, he says; show me whether or not you really killed him. She rushes him; her first whirling slash draws blood on his cheek. Well, seems I don't need to hold back., he says, licking away the blood, and they go at it. She dodges him with preternatural ease, has him on the run at once, the spinning blade cutting even through rock as if it's butter. I've faced the swords of a lot of people, but you're not like any of them; it's never been like this before, says stunned Mugen. She turns slowly as if tracking him by sound, eyes closed. He's perched on a rock over her head; he grins. Alright!--he yells, and hurls himself down at her, spinning in midair.

Fuu, out looking for him, hears that ring of steel; sees them fighting; sees Sara cut a wide gash in Mugen's gut and side. He pitches into the river. Mugen! What are you doing! --Fuu cries, aghast. He sits up, blood streaming into the water. What are you? --he asks Sara. The assassin stands expressionless. I could tell without seeing it, she says. You have hatred and anger whirling around you; it's as if you've never been loved. Just like me. --Mugen clutches his side, blood pouring over his hand. So you can even tell where my attacks are aimed? Fuck that! --he yells. He charges out of the water swinging randomly and furiously, staggers, collapses. Stop!--cries Fuu in agony. She runs toward him but he yells for her to stay away. Blood spills from his wound, pooling under him. Sara spins her yari, raises it over him for the coup-de-grace; Fuu rushes forward and throws herself onto Mugen, shielding him with her body. No, she sobs, no! Sara freezes, lowers the blade, turns to leave. Mugen shouts at her to wait, tries to rise but chokes and coughs up blood. They can only watch Sara walk away.

Jin regains consciousness. He's lying in a fisherman's hut: dried fish hanging in strings, a pot over the fire. His swords are leaning against the bunk he lies in, his hair's untied [pardon the fangirl: yum.] and he's wearing his pale second-layer-kimono. He looks around him; a cheery old man's voice says, don't try it. Yes, I'm the one who saved your life; it's awhile since I've seen another person. He's an odd-looking coot with bushy bright red hair and very few teeth. There's something I have to do, says Jin, trying to sit up; he instantly grimaces in pain and sinks back. Don't rush, says the fisherman. You can't have any strength without eating. Want some?--he holds out a bowl. Jin thanks him, but the old coot cackles and says he'll have to come get it himself, leaving it on the shelf opposite the one where Jin lies. (The hut is constructed with a low shelf running around all four walls of the interior, usable for sitting, lying, table space or whatever.) He leaves. Jin crawls painfully on his stomach, dragging himself with his elbow (there's an ironic reference shot of a caterpillar inching along while he does this) until he reaches the bowl--to find it empty. The old fellow, watching him through a knothole, cackles: tricked you! Why are you doing this, gasps Jin. --You were able to move that much, right? It's only a joke: I'll let you eat. He goes off to fish.

Fuu is smearing some green ointment on Mugen's wounds, ignoring his yowls of pain. He says it'll heal naturally if she leaves it alone; she sighs, looks out the window…

The fisherman is standing in the river watching for fish. Jin, having found his clothes (right down to the tabi and sandals) limps down to the river leaning on a staff. You're able to move?--the fisherman grins. Do you know where a fish's eyes are located? It's the water. Fish understand their situation by the water that surrounds them. If you oppose the water flow, they'll suddenly notice and escape you. But if you entrust yourself to the flow, letting the body go with it...he reaches slowly into the water, about to close his hands on a fish...stands up suddenly. Jin gasps in surprise. Did it work? No; the fish leaps free. (Even the background music grinds to a halt. ) Well, there are times like this, too! remarks the old fellow with a cheery cackle. Jin's baffled.

Mugen and Fuu talk. She hopes he won't fight Sara again, says she doesn't know what she'd do if Mugen left her too. Mugen says thoughtfully: that woman, she has no weaknesses, but no lethal intent, either...there's a strange gleam in his eye. I really might die this time, he says...

Jin hobbles down to the river with his staff and thanks the old fisherman for everything. You’re leaving? How boring, I wanted to play some more, grumbles the man. Here's a present--he pushes a basket of fish over to Jin. I gratefully accept your teachings, says Jin gravely: if someone wants a fish, instead of giving him one, teach him how to catch one. An old saying from the continent. [China.] You sure do say odd things, I haven't taught you anything, says the old fellow cheerfully. Jin smiles slightly; I haven't asked your name. Miyamoto Musashi, he says in a suddenly deep and dignified voice. --Eh?-- I'm lying, just call me Johnny, he says and walks off cackling. Do visit me again sometime…

[Please note: Jin seems to see absolutely fine without his glasses during this whole period. Fuu may be right. =)]

Pinwheels spinning. Sara walking in travel dress--apparently trying to just leave town. We hear the voice of the masked pinwheel seller. What's bothering you? Have you become attached to them? I hope you haven't forgotten that your life is not your own; the child's life depends entirely on you. We see the masked man. Suddenly one pinwheel stops spinning while the others whir swiftly on. Sara gasps and stops. She stares at a shrine with a statue and offerings [Jizo. See footnote.]. Finish it by tomorrow, says the masked man. Sara's face contorts with anger as the motionless pinwheel blows away in the wind. She has to go back.

Fuu and Mugen by the fire--Fuu glances up at a sound, suddenly crawls away shrieking in fear. G-ghost! it just appeared!! --she gasps. But the silent apparition is only Jin, who holds up the basket of fish. Want some? he asks. Fish are soon broiling on sticks, and Jin is tucked into a futon by the fire while Mugen and Fuu sit nearby. I was worrying about you, and you just say 'want some?' Even a ghost would be more considerate, says Fuu.

Mugen speaks up: that's what you get for trying to keep the good parts for yourself. Hey, what are you saying?--asks Fuu; she hasn't figured Jin's quick departure out yet, but Mugen has. You knew that woman was coming to kill you, he says to Jin, that's why you went to be alone with her, right? Trace of a smile. --What happened to her? --Jin asks. She has outrageous skills, grins Mugen, raising his shirt to show the bandages. I see, says Jin. Mugen gives the straw hat which holds Jin's glasses a kick, it slides across the floor to him.

Most likely we've been thoroughly investigated, says Jin. That woman was ordered by someone to get close to us. Mugen tells them that she said something about her child's life; Fuu is dismayed to think Sara-san is being thus used. Do you have any idea why?--Jin asks Mugen. Mugen ticks off their transgressions: Oh, eat-and-run, crashing checkpoints, murder, take your pick. But these are such small crimes; why would they send so skilled an assassin after us for only that?--wonders Jin. Well, either way, if she's after us she'll show up, says Mugen. and stretches out to sleep.

Later. It's pouring rain. Fuu and Jin seem asleep; Mugen gets up and quietly heads for the door. Jin speaks: that woman, he says, can see ahead by an instant. Seems that way, Mugen agrees. Jin tells him what he learned about how fish see. Mugen does not seem to get it at first...

She's waiting by the river. I'll take the responsibility, he says. (Fuu dreams of her conversation with Sara, wakes in fear for Mugen's safety.) They fight: Mugen skidding badly on the wet rocks in his noisy geta. Noisy--he takes them off to fight barefoot, hears again what Jin told him, stands perfectly still. Sara walks directly past him as if she could not sense him at all. He times his move to a roll of thunder, spins, they clash again, his swing is so close it clips her hair, the nearest he's come to cutting her. She seems strange this time, distant; she swings, deliberately pulls back her blow, and the strike of Mugen's sword that she would have blocked catches her squarely. She drops. What--why?! You could have killed me!--blurts Mugen.

Sara, on her hands and knees, says she finally understood today that her child is long dead. Mugen backs away in horror, bloody sword hanging from his hand. I was being used, she says. He falls to his knees, crawls to her. Then-- Not possible, says Sara. It's the government (she says kougi, which is the shogunate government). He stares at her, trying to understand. She flinches in pain. Please live, Mugen, she says, and falls dead. Water rushes over the ground carrying away a wave of her blood. Mugen picks up her yari and with a howl of rage and pain hurls it as hard as he can--it strikes the ground with a blinding flash as he collapses.

Cut to black.

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Footnotes:

Vladimir from the Adult Swim board contributes this: "In the mizuko kuyo ceremony intended to honor the memory of a deceased child or an abortion, it's common to place a pinwheel next to the Jizo statue to amuse the child's spirit. Consequently, the pinwheels in this ep [and episode 20] have considerable symbolic power. You'll remember pinwheels were prominently featured in Cowboy Bebop's 'Hard Luck Woman' ep."

Jizo Bodhisattva is usually portrayed as a child-monk, often carrying a pilgrim's shakujo staff with six rings that jingle to warn animals of his approach and prevent mutual harm. He also carries the bright jewel of Dharma truth whose light banishes all fear. Jizo travels to wherever there are people who are mired in the darkness of unhappiness and fear, unable to free themselves. Jizo is the Japanese name of this Bodhisattva, who was also known in ancient India as Kshitigarbha Bodhisattva, the Earthstore Bodhisattva, guardian of the great earth.
Jizo Bodhisattva has a special affinity with infants and children. Jizo festivals in Japan are family celebrations. Jizo temples are decorated with red and white lanterns, and there are games and food especially for children. He is the protector of children and aborted or miscarried babies, and the guardian of children who die prematurely; also of expectant mothers, firemen, travelers and pilgrims. Images of Jizo Bodhisattva are used during ceremonies of remembrance for children who have died. (-touchingly, they are often dressed in items of children's clothing, like this one.)

Here's a recent article about the meaning and origins of the mizuko kuyo ceremony.
And another perspective on this ceremony. [Content Note: this comes from an anti-abortion website.]

Musashi's career synopsis here. Here's the most interesting part for our purposes: "Much of Musashi's life between 1600 and 1640 is the stuff of legend and some have postulated that he served at Osaka Castle (1614-1615) on the defending side, taking quite a few heads in the process. In a similar vein, he is sometimes said to have helped quell the Shimabara Rebellion of 1638 - a theory which, as with his glories at Osaka, is impossible to prove. " So it's not really known where he was during that part of his life--he could well have been a simple hermit. AND: the Shimabara Rebellion, while primarily motivated by high taxes, is best remembered as the primary incident that drove the outlawing of Christianity in Japan --most of the rebels were Christian converts and the Shogunate strongly suspected that western Catholics had been instumental in spreading the rebellion. It's only after Shimabara that the remaining Japanese Christians were forced to go underground.
Musashi died in 1645, about 30 years before the base date for Champloo, so we would have to stretch the time frame rather a bit to make it possible that this is really he. (which, indeed, he himself does deny). But, we've had to make this allowance before; and, if by the power of artistic license our guy really is Musashi, he's already an experienced Christian-cutter. And even if he's not, he reckons Jin knows enough history to get the hint. More here: Shimabara Rebellion.

Sara's polearm isn't some sort of customized naginata, as I thought, but a yari, an ancient style of lance (difference between lance and spear: a lance is a stabbing weapon while a spear is intended to be thrown) used by both samurai men and women. Sara's three-bladed version is essentially a kama-yari or very exactly, a jumonji yari, since the crossblades are equal in length.
More at this link: Japanese Polearms

[Note: We had thought that the ability of Sara's weapon to fold and retract its blades into the handle was a Champloo original: however, just found this:
"Kama-yari (folding spear/sickle polearm): Simple handle with a blade forged onto or set at right angles to its length. The blade can be folded up inside the handle, and a metal ring which slides along the handle is used to lock the blade firmly into an open or shut position." (--from a website for an RPG called "Days of the Kami"--most of its other info looks well-researched so this may also be solid.)]

[and how many times in your life have you heard "Give a man a fish, and you feed him once; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime" offered as an old Chinese proverb? What do ya know; it really is one. =)]



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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