Rurouni Kenshin, Season 2, Disc 4 – “Between Life and Death”
**post by nichan**
I watched this disc in time to post it with disc 3, but, um… I kinda dropped the ball. For, um, a couple of weeks. Oops.
But today I am back! And after a power nap, I’m ready to (kind’ve) groggily show to you the joys of disc 4 of the second season: “Between Life and Death”!
Episode 40: “A Killer Without Mercy: Fight to the Death Against the Cho of the Juppongatana”
When last we left off, Kenshin had gone after Chou, who had kidnapped Seiku’s baby after not scoring Shakku’s last sword. Also, when last we left off, his name was spelled “Chou”; as you can see from the title, on this disc, it’s spelled “Cho”. There’s a stunning lack of consistency in the translation (no wonder I prefer it with English dubs…), the discs are scratched, and the case is junk. You’d think my set is a bootleg, but it’s totally legitimate. …Sometimes I look at it and ponder how much better it would have been as a fake.
But I digress.
There’s a lot of swordplay in this episode, so let’s skip to the highlights: Chou consistently underestimates Kenshin. It’s not until he blatantly threatens the baby that our ginger hero snaps and seriously starts to fight back, even though he hasn’t got many resources available to him.
After listening to them go back and forth, Seiku begins to come around to Kenshin’s side; suddenly converted to the cause, he leaps up from his hiding spot and runs right through the battleground and into the temple. When he returns, he has a present:
The good news is that he defeats Chou in one fell swoop with the new sword. The bad news is that he defeats Chou in one fell swoop with the new sword. He just stands there in a horrified daze, realizing that his vow to never kill has been broken. He’s got blood on his hands (literally). He’s not in a good place at all.
Come to find out, Shakku made two reverse blade swords, and Kenshin’s was the duplicate. The sword he now has was the original, and better, of the two. So now he’s solved the problem of scoring a new reverse blade from Shakku after all. And he didn’t kill Chou. And the baby is saved! Everybody gets some celebratory sake! You get some sake! You get some sake!
Oh, but before we wrap up the episode, there’s one more little plot point to toss into the mix:
After Kenshin’s taken possession of the new sword, he decides to set off on his own to meet up with the other man he’d asked Okina to locate for him. Misao wants to tag along, but Kenshin’s on lone wolf mode again (trying to keep his distance so as not to drag innocent bystanders into his fight again), and he walks out of the restaurant quietly after making a faint comment comparing her to Kaoru.
Misao, of course, doesn’t take that sitting down, and goes running off after him. And that’s when all of this happens:
This near miss scene isn’t handled as cheesily as you’d expect, actually. It’s not like nobody knows Kenshin is there, and it’s not like nobody knows that Aoshi is there. It’s just the bustling streets of Kyoto getting in the way… And, and, it sets this important moment into motion:
This seemingly gives Kaoru and Yahiko the link needed to find Kenshin, and Misao the link needed to find Aoshi. Since the name of the show is “Rurouni Kenshin”, of course the connection to him happens first:
Episode 41: “The Ultimate Technique of the Hiten Mitsurugi Style: Reunion with a Mentor, Seijuro Hiko”
Misao’s lost Kenshin in the crowd, so instead of trying to find him, she takes Kaoru and Yahiko back to the restaurant. No one mentions (with reason) that this is a haven of the Oniwaban – and that’s a good thing since, you know, Kaoru and Yahiko’s knowledge of them is a little, um, negative. Instead, they discuss Kenshin’s presence in Kyoto.
You probably don’t recognize this guy for seeing him, but he’s Seijuro Hiko XIII. You remember him, right? He was in “Trust“, Kenshin’s back story. I mentioned him and told you to keep his name in the back of your head. Well! Now you know why: he’s here! …And Kenshin’s tracked him down for a purpose!
The leader of the Oniwaban, and the guy who’s been taking care of Misao, have a rather tense discussion. Okina wants to know what the deuce Aoshi’s been up to (he already knows the details from Kenshin, of course), and Aoshi’s just there to threaten him to keep out of his way. By the end of the conversation, they’ve all but openly cut ties with each other: Aoshi throwing away his connection to Okina’s group of the Oniwaban, and Okina vowing to take over as the leader if he suspects Aoshi of doing anything to tarnish their group pride.
Sojiro cordially re-invites Aoshi to come with him to visit Shishio. Aoshi refuses at first, but then changes his mind and tags along. …I guess if you were being stalked relentlessly by creepy little Sojiro, you too would probably either have to kill him or do what he says. He’s just… icky.
Back to Seijuro and Kenshin, though:
Seijuro reminds him that he was the one who’d run away before fully learning everything he had to teach him. After yelling at him a bit, he bluntly refuses to give Kenshin any assistance whatsoever. He’s not convinced Kenshin’s worth the knowledge, or the power, or his time.
Seijuro sizes up the situation, then realizes that the three newcomers can probably give him a better assessment of the situation than Kenshin has. He sends our ginger hero off to collect water, then asks to be told the real story. What he hears is vastly different than what he’d previously been told, and he starts to reconsider who Kenshin is as a person.
Kenshin returns, and Seijuro agrees to consider training him once again. He calls him out into the woods, and Kenshin trots along behind him like an excited little boy. …And he doesn’t say a word to his three visitors.
Realizing that his training might take awhile (Ya think? Seijuro seems like the sort to make Kenshin work for it.), the three visitors decide to go back to the restaurant for the evening. As they’re walking, Yahiko suddenly remembers that they had planned on telling Kenshin that they’d spotted Aoshi in Kyoto. And that’s when Misao flips out and demands to hear what they know about her lord.
Episode 42: “The Formation of an Alliance: The Day when Aoshi Joins with Shishio”
Kaoru holds Yahiko back from attacking Misao, then explains that while Aoshi is alive, the other members are not. Misao totally freaks out to hear that the people who had raised her are dead. …Oddly enough, she never stops to think that Kenshin’s known this all along and has consistently failed to mention it. Huh.
Speaking of Aoshi, he’s arrived at Shishio’s place:
Aoshi’s not much of a team player, and Shishio’s particularly shrewd. They have a rather tense discussion in which it’s decided that the Juppongatana will give Aoshi information on Kenshin’s location, and Aoshi can do with it what he will (under the assumption that he’ll serve as a negative distraction for our ginger hero).
As a bit of a test, or maybe just a coincidence, it’s announced that a group of bad guys will be sent after Okina and his crew so that they can be tortured into giving up important details and whatever. Aoshi hesitates only for a second, and then calmly tells them to go ahead. He has, it seems, totally severed his ties at this point.
Okina sends one of the bad guys back with a message for Aoshi to meet him in a secret location, mano-a-mano.
Misao had been kept in the dark about all of this – for good reason, because she totally worships the ground Aoshi trods on, yet she’s been raised by Okina as his granddaughter – but she quickly figures it out and goes to intervene.
Problem is, her timing isn’t quite as perfect as she’d originally thought: Aoshi’s cut the living daylights out of Okina, who drops to the floor in a puddle of his own blood. Seeing the interloper, he storms out and tells Misao he never wants to see her again. …He’s a charmer.
Okina had left a note to Misao telling her that if he were put out of commission, she ought to live a normal life as a normal girl. His instructions are for the Oniwaban to disband, and for her to just be ordinary.
Misao’s not an ordinary, normal girl, though. She immediately announces that she will be the leader of the Oniwaban from here on out. And then she declares her manifesto: the Oniwaban officially supports Kenshin, and all that involves. …Even if it means fighting Aoshi.
Episode 43: “Between Life and Death: Master the Ultimate Technique, Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki!
The beginning of this episode is laced with Seijuro’s memories of Kenshin’s childhood – all redone scenes from “Trust”. (Or maybe they’re the original scenes, and “Trust” consists of redone scenes; I never paid attention to see which was animated first.) It’s a dark reminder of the horrible basis for Kenshin’s story, but Seijuro lightens it up by being a jerk about having raised him, and mentions something like, “Hey, if you don’t wake up, I’ll start talking about that time you wet the bed…”
The master gives the apprentice one last chance: they’ve been fighting for a day, now, and Kenshin has yet to connect a single swing. If the he can’t make his sword so much as touch his master in some manner, then the whole thing is off, and he’ll never earn the right to learn the last moves of the Hiten Mitsurugi.
They switch to a new spot to fight, and Seijuro teaches him a move. It’s not the last move, though… Seijuro still isn’t particularly impressed with Kenshin, and finds him unworthy of the knowledge.
While we wait for Kenshin to figure out what Seijuro sees missing in him, we’ll take a light break:
That’s only on-screen for a few seconds…
Now, back to the whole Kenshin-is-missing-something thing!
It’s the next day, and Seijuro wants an answer: Does Kenshin know what’s missing in him as a man yet? Kenshin says he doesn’t know, so Seijuro gives him a rather demoralizing lecture about how he’ll always only be half a man, trapped between a wanderer and a man slayer, never able to progress as a human. He announces that he would rather kill Kenshin right then and there than to teach him the final move.
With a new found lease on things, Kenshin masters the final move of the Hiten Mitsurugi style: the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki. …Yah. That’s the name of it. And woe to the voice actors: they have to say it all the way through over and over again. This move comes up a lot in conversation, and it’s a cumbersome mouthful. I can’t even wrap my head around how awkward of a thing this is to say… (I can say it, though, if I do it slowly and really stare at the syllables while I’m doing it.)
Problem is, learning the Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki requires that you kill your master. Seijuro tells Kenshin that he’d had to kill his own master, and now it’s his own turn to die. (I think this technically upgrades Kenshin to Seijuro Hiko XIV.)
So! What happens next? All of the players are in Kyoto, now. Will they catch up to each other? Will battles happen? Will bad guys fall? Will good guys fall? Will Kenshin overcome the fact that he’s just killed his master? Will Kaoru ever stop sucking mightily? Will Sano and Kenshin rekindle their bromance? What will Misao do as the new leader of the Oniwaban?
Well! You’ll just have to wait for Disc 5 of Season 2: “Faces of Evil”!