Episode 22"Cosmic Collisions"


[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..]


Opening with a shot from outer space, showing a huge (I'm talking Imperial battleship sized) meteor heading toward the earth. Voice-over says that once upon a time, people thought the stars were immortal entities that would shine forever; any star that moved from its position, like a falling star or a comet, has always been regarded as an important omen. When Shibukawa Shunkai was made the first Shogunate astronomer, during the Edo period, people didn't even realize the world was round.-- We see a strange-looking blank-eyed guy standing on the edge of an enormous crater.

We see our trio walking through a forest at twilight. Fuu sees a shooting star and stops to wish on it, praying that they'll get to Nagasaki safely, that she'll find the Sunflower Samurai, and mentioning that she's really hungry. Mugen almost steps on a huge mushroom and stops to examine it; Fuu tells him it's a very prized kind, a matsutake [these are autumn mushrooms, confirming the season in Champloo time] called "the mountain's jewel" and worth a lot of money. Mugen, however, just yanks it up and eats it dirt and all. Jin notes that since they spread by spores, where there's one there must be others; he also finds one and eats it, they find more, and before Fuu can stop them they're both stuffed. [Note that Fuu herself doesn't eat any, so we can't excuse the rest of this story as a bad drug trip.] Fuu is distraught that the matsutake are all gone, and suddenly remembers that the newspaper horoscope said to beware of mushrooms. Now you tell us, gripes Mugen. Suddenly there's a low rumble, and with no more warning the ground caves in under her feet; she grabs Mugen to keep from falling in, falls in anyway, he likewise grabs Jin, and they all pitch down many many feet into an underground cavern.

In the cavern (where they surprisingly landed unharmed) they're accosted by two guys whose skin is deathly cold. Mugen and Jin fight back and Mugen cuts one's arm off; it doesn't bleed; the assailants yell and run away. The cavern opens into a huge excavation where miners are at work (it looks as though people have mined there for generations). Mugen recognizes the two nearest miners, yells to them and tosses one his arm which Mugen severed; the guy just sticks it back on as if this was nothing unusual. Then there's the sound of an instrument being strummed [you'll recognize this as the "kabuki singer" style narration we've heard at the beginning of episodes 6 and 15]: a shaggy-haired, blank-eyed fellow in a ragged jacket and scarf, playing a lute-shaped instrument [it's a biwa] with dramatic rock-star flourishes. The cross design of his instrument matches the pattern on the back of his garment. In the same old-fashioned theatrical style he sings a portion of the Heike Monogatari, crediting it as such. (--Please read footnotes.)

He leaps down into the excavation to face them. Well well, he says; for lost travellers to end up in such a place. What's going on here? demands Fuu. Do you know, traveller, says he, that these two holes express the sun and the moon? (--Please read footnotes.)] That the biwa is actually playing the sound of the stars; play it and you will wake up the stars of the night sky?-- he points dramatically upward. The trio blinks as one. Who the hell are you, asks unimpressed Mugen. The biwa player says that well, we were here first, and it makes no sense to be asked "who are you" by mere lost travellers, but observing the order of introductions is old-fashioned and he wouldn't want to be thought unpleasant. His name is Shige, and he says he's a descendant of the Heike, therefore entitled to their lost treasure, which is what they're digging for.

Buried treasure in a place like this? says skeptical Fuu. Oh, he's sure it's there. (Mugen is by now so bored that he's yawning and dozing off on his feet.) He displays a pedigree which he says proves his Heike lineage; Jin gives this a very long hard look. [note: Heike=Taira. The Taira clan were wiped out in the Ginpei Wars of 1181-85. (--Please read footnotes.)] The pedigree shows a map when exposed to the heat of a candle flame. Hmm, aburidashi says Jin. [--a hidden picture made by using rice wine, alum or lemon juice as invisible ink, only shows up when heated. Thank you bebop-aria. =)][ Fuu's had enough, says it's all bullshit and summons the guys to leave. Shige scolds her for her quickness to judge and modern rudeness; anyway, don't they need something before they can leave? He explains that they've been working here five years and are very near to finding the treasure, "surely it's fate that you arrive just when we're about to find it". He says that if our trio will stay and work with them, he'll give them 10% of the loot. Well, they are broke and hungry (again). Jin notes that even 10% of a treasure is quite a lot and Mugen acquiesces; Fuu reluctantly agrees, insisting that they not stay long. Shige assigns the two miners they originally met to show them around, addressing them as "Sabini and Upa" (surely Savini and Hooper). As they all walk off Shige says they should take their time, since there's no escaping this place.

In their quarters: Fuu doesn't like it; Jin pragmatically says at least they have food and a place to stay for a few days. When we find the treasure let's just take it all and run, says Mugen. He calls for food, but all they're offered is wasabi root--horseradish to us Westerners; Mugen crams down a mouthful and then blanches, while Fuu recoils from the very smell of the stuff. There's a white flower hanging on their door frame (I can't tell if it's in a hanging planter or a vase).

[--there's another voice-over showing the meteor heading for earth, this one commenting that it's considered possible life originally was carried to earth on just such a stone fallen from space; no one can deny the possibility.. --this, of course, is also how the contagion that turns the dead into cannibal zombies comes to earth in George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead"/"Dawn of the Dead" movies, which this is an obvious nod to.]

We see them at hard labor, digging and hauling rocks. Penta, a psychic, is guiding the treasure search. It's blocked by a bedrock and they set explosives to clear it; we see Shige with the Taira clan mon (heraldic insignia) on his jingasa war helmet, as was traditional. Workers lie crushed and ignored in the rubble. Fuu notes the reattached right arm of Upa is still there and wonders if she's imagining it was ever severed.

There's more blasting. We see the trio in exhausted sleep. Shige searches the site using what appear to be dowsing rods. The flower droops in the doorway.

We see Jin and Fuu digging while Upa and Sabini are outside the cave. Fuu asks Jin how many days it's been; Jin replies that it feels as if it could be several days or several months. H&S munch wasabi and chat: five years of work, says one: once we find the treasure, Genji's rule will be over. Jin comes to attention: Genji?--he says. And what's with this "Now Kamakura"? That Yoritomo thinks too much of himself, says the other one. Kamakura?--wonders Jin. Ahh, we're in the Tokugawa era, says Fuu. [The Kamakura Era ran from 1192-1333. (--Please read footnotes.)]-- The mine-workers have seemingly been here hundreds of years without any sense of the passage of time. --I thought these people were strange; how can they even eat wasabi?--wonders Fuu. Jin notes that wasabi, which seems to be all they eat, has antiseptic and disinfectant properties. [Note the mutual gravity of this Jin-Fuu conversation; Jin has as much respect for Fuu's intelligence and grasp of the situation as she has for his. They have come quite a long way.]

We see the meteor rushing on toward Earth.

When Fuu, watching the workers, sees the two workers crushed in the bedrock detonation back at work as though they'd never been hurt; later sees another worker's arm drop off, she begins to suspect that eating the wasabi is the only thing that keeps them from decomposing completely. Shige touches her shoulder: isn't this the best place to forget the transience of the world? he asks. What are you guys? asks angry Fuu. What a philosophical question: who am I really? I asked it myself, begins Shige, but is interrupted when an underling says they need more workers.

We see the meteor again, racing closer and closer.

We see Mugen and Jin in their shelter; Mugen's on the floor exhausted, Jin's folded over in misery with heartburn. Fuu is most concerned with their state and wonders if what they ate was really matsutake; she hurries off. Jin says the question of the Heike's lineage has been bothering him, doesn't Mugen find it strange? No idea, says Mugen, but it's right in there-- he jerks his thumb in the direction of the cabin. Let's take a look, says Jin. They study the pedigree.

Fuu catches up with Shige and his flunky and is shocked to realize that they "recruit" more labor by raising corpses from a burial ground. All the workers are such zombies, probably Taira/Heike warriors for the most part, dead for centuries. (he seems able to raise them by just staring at them...) In a horrific scene they burst from the ground in droves, and panic-stricken Fuu runs for the shelter of their cabin.

When Fuu comes bolting in, hordes of shuffling zombies on her heels, she in her terror thinks that Mugen and Jin too have turned into monsters (it's just the lighting =), and runs back out only to find Shige and his walking dead. It's too much; she passes out.

Since you know this much, there's no choice but to kill you all, says Shige. Mugen steps out: If you'd said so in the first place I would have done this sooner, he says, and sets to chopping down zombies, only to find to his horror that they just get up and come at him again. He kills several of them more than once, to no avail. Several start gnawing on his legs. (you didn't really think wasabi was all they ate...)They're already dead, they can't be killed, says Shige; it's all right (as Mugen starts to fall under a wave of undead), I'll revive you again soon. That's not all right! snarls Mugen, battling back to his feet, and cuts off Shige's head only to have him grin malevolently and jam it back on. Saved by the skin of my neck, says Shige; Mugen is so appalled he freezes in place...

Jin is still focused on scrutinizing the pedigree; he finds something.

Well, let's give the Genji a big surprise, says Shige to the revived Fuu. What are you saying? We're in the Edo Period! There's no Heike nor Genji! she rails, fed up with the weirdness. What did you say?! --Shige steps back. Instead of five years you guys have been digging for five hundred!--Fuu insists. Don't you know you're all already dead?! Shige starts to laugh, snaps at her that she's just babbling, but Jin steps out pedigree in hand and stops all battle. Just a minute, he says: take a careful look at this--he runs a finger over the text--here and here. They all look. It's not connected, says Fuu. Definitely an outsider, concurs Mugen. Yes, you're not a descendant of the Heike, Jin tells him firmly. Shige snatches it from his hands. No way, he says trembling, does all my hard work go to waste? No way!-- [since the battles in which they died were in 1181-1185, this is another nod to Champloo's being set in the 1600s.]

He attempts to laugh this off, saying that since we don't have our bodies anymore bloodlines don't really matter, and can't they all go on as friends? The zombies glower and press closer. No? says Shige and strikes a chord on his biwa. And the meteor hurtles into the frame and plows directly into the excavation causing a huge shockwave and a towering mushroom cloud.

A man and little boy observe the cloud from some distance, the little boy saying "look, a mushroom!" (They seem to be Ogami Itto and little Daigoro, the Lone Wolf and Cub--the other Edo Period fictional superstars...).

Cut to black. End theme. Break in end theme to show Shige bursting from his grave.


Footnotes:

"Kamakura Era: 1192-1333
This was the period of time marked by the beginning of the era of the shoguns. This started with the fall of the Heike (alao called Taira) house. Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was the leader of the house Genji and basically was in competition with the Emperor for control of Japan. The Emperor assigned him Seii-tai-shogun, a post he created for commanding military armies to defeat barbarians. The catch was that the shogun could move those armies without the Emperor's permission, thus making the shogun the true ruling power in the country." (The Minamoto and Heike/Taira were bitter rivals, both houses being descended from earlier emperors. Minamoto moved the government seat from Kyoto to Kamakura after the defeat of the Heike, hence the name of the succeeding historical period.)

Notes by Kyu from G.H. Kerr's excellent book Okinawa: the History of an Island People:
It is quite interesting to note, BTW, that Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, the conqueror of the Taira (and incidentally brother of the famous Minamoto Yoshitsune, referenced in ep. #16), was the nephew of the heroic Minamoto-no-Tametomo. Tametomo is said to have been exiled from Japan after losing a great battle to the Taira in 1156, and to have ended up in Ryuukyuu/Okinawa, where he married a local chieftain's daughter and founded the Ryuukyu royal bloodline. (His son Shunten and his sons ruled for many years.) Even more worthy of note: after the Taira were routed in 1186, many fled into remote mountain valleys and distant islands to escape ruthless Minamoto vengeance. There is reason to believe that many Taira adherents fled southward from Kyushu into the Ryuukyu islands, and traditions of such a movement remained strong into the 1950s (may indeed still). Just as in Japan, where communities (called Heike-dani or "Heike valleys") sprang up composed of people claiming descent from the exiled Heike/Taira, similar communities in the Ryuukyuus likewise took pride in the fact and considered themselves a class apart.
(Further note by Zan, on the Minamoto: This particular lineage is also the one that Jin most likely descends from, assuming he is a Takeda. Takeda Yoshikyo, the founder of the Takeda clan, was a son of Minamoto Yoshimitsu--a brother to the famous Minamoto Yoshitsune. Their third brother, Yoshiie, was the grandfather of Tametomo).

"Then, in the Kamakura period, the great narrative tradition of heikebiwa was developed. The story of the battle between the Heike [Taira] and Genji [Minamoto] clans, the Heike Monogatari, was told to the accompaniment of biwa playing. It became an important literary as well as musical genre. Specifically, it narrates the events surrounding the Gempei Wars of 1181-1185, in which an alliance of clans led by the Minamoto drove the once mighty Taira and their allies from the capital, chasing them as far as the southern island of Kyushu in an attempt to exterminate every last member of the clan. The "Tales of the Heike" seems to have been compiled piecemeal, as stories told about the Gempei battles were polished and elaborated, and exists in several versions. The most famous, called the "Kakuichi Book", was intended for musical recitation, usually by blind biwa playing priests, to appease the spirits of the slain Taira. " And this is what a biwa looks like.

"---that these two holes express the sun and the moon?": Shige is correct. World-class biwa player Junko Ueda: "Many of the older instruments have two sound-holes on the upper face of the body cut in the shape of a sun and the moon. This was because the upright-held Biwa was supposed to represent the Buddhist mountain, around which the sun and the moon would orbit. So now, to many, the sounds of the Biwa represent the sounds of the Universe."

meigetsu ya kani mo taira wo nanori deru
("at harvest moon--even crabs claim the name "Taira")

In 1185 the Minamoto clan defeated the Taira in a naval battle at Dan-no-Ura. According to legend, the souls of the fallen Taira were reincarnated as crabs. It's bad luck to eat them, so for hundreds of years fishermen have thrown back all crabs with markings that resemble a scowling samurai. These "Taira" crab now abound in the bay--a classic example of unnatural selection.



Note this very interesting theatre review from the Japan Times of Feb. 23, 2005: a currently popular play called "Akuma no Uta" (Demon Song) uses Imperial Army zombie soldiers as characters for an examination of what Japan has learned and what it ignores about World War II. "Through clever dialogue and nonsensical jokes, [the playwright] Nagatsuka clinically lays bare contemporary Japanese ignorance about the war and the huge mental gulf that has widened in the last 60 years. Obviously zombies from the past, the soldiers explain that they were killed in a bombing raid on Japan...It is as if, in terms of learning from history, the six decades have been a complete and utter blank -- as is exemplified by the fact that when the revenant soldiers find out from Ichiro that it was Japan that lost the war in the end, their Officer Tachibana (Yuichiro Nakayama) orders Ichiro on pain of death to get them an aircraft so they can fly a suicide bombing mission against the United States as soon as possible."


Aze, a Japanese Champloo fan, adds this: "1: There are some parodies of the vibes of Dan O'Bannon's "The Return Of The Living Dead", not only Romero's film.

2: In the scene that our trio meets with Shige, he says that he's heard this maxim "I can tell you only that it exists exactly. Therefore I can't tell you that it doesn't." (Aru to shika ienai. Dakara koso nai to ii kire nai. )
This is a parody, too.
Shigesato Itoi, a famous copywriter in Japan, has wasted a large sum of money on excavating Tokugawa's gold buried underground. His excavation was failed, so some people think that he is too curious to ruin himself.
(He is also famous for direct some videogames e.g. EarthBound series.)
When Itoi's team were starting in the excavation, he said an above speech. And the name of 'Shige' must be due to Shigesato, I guess."

(There may also be reference to the 2000 Japanese movie "Versus" in which a samurai--and later his modern-day reincarnation--battles an army of Yakuza zombies.)



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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