Rurouni Kenshin, Season 2, Disc 7 – “Innocence and Experience”
**post by nichan**
I was cleaning the living room today and kept stumbling over the case for this season… “Hey, I should actually update once in awhile,” I thought. “Maybe then I could put this away!” …So here goes! One more disc down, and that much closer to placing season 2 back in its proper slot instead of leaving it out on the table!
This is disc 7 of the second season: “Innocence and Experience”!
Episode 53: “The Giant versus Superman: Like an Arrow Shot at a Time of Despair”
So there’s this friggin’ giant, right? Just, out of bloody nowhere, comes a friggin’ giant, and it’s stomped its way through Kyoto, and now it’s ready to take down Kaoru, Yahiko, Misao, and crew.
Well, this little yellow-toothed cretin rests in the giant’s hand, and he barks out orders and yammers for awhile about how everybody is doomed, and they’re going to win, and on and on and on. The whole time he’s talking, you just want to brush his teeth. He’s annoying.
Yahiko barks back that there’s just no way they’re gonna lose, ’cause Kenshin has faith in them, and they have faith in Kenshin. He is so all over Kenshin right then and there. He stands up to the giant with the unwavering belief that our ginger hero will somehow rescue the day.
And then, just as the giant is about to squash him like a bug, comes Kenshin’s faith in them:
So, anyway, Seijuro uses the same “Let’s talk this out” method that Kenshin does (I mean, he is his master, anyway.) and makes the giant ignore the little gnarly dude and take off his armor. There’s a quick flash to the giant’s past (very brief), and then they get down to business. The giant is all flabbergasted that somebody’s treating him like a human, so he’s (so everybody says) down with losing. And he does lose. He loses big. Because, you know, Seijuro kinda packs a punch. (…Or a sword, in this case.)
The awesome thing is that, in honor of Kenshin, he’s defeated the giant while holding his sword the wrong way. So instead of killing him, he’s gone all reverse blade on this b—– er, giant. Giant. I totally meant to say “giant”.
Episode 54: “Hiten versus Shukuchi: Sojiro’s Inborn Talent”
Meanwhile, Kenshin, Sano, and Yumi have gotten to the next stage in their absurd fight: Sojiro. The problem here, you see, is that Kenshin’s fighting style is heavily dependent on being able to read his opponent’s emotions – and Sojiro? Sojiro doesn’t really have emotions. He’s kinda stunningly shallow, or murky, or whatever…
If Kenshin wasn’t already facing an uphill battle, what with the lack of emotions thing, and also for how worn out he is, wellllllll… Sojiro’s got another trick up his sleeve: the Shukuchi. Apparently that’s fancy talk for “Faster than the Hiten Mitsurugi Style”.
So they keep just barely drawing, really. Kenshin manages to put a crack in Sojiro’s sword, but he’s just barely holding on. The kid is fast, and he’s wicked talented, and there’s just absolutely no emotion there for Kenshin to read.
The more they fight, though, the more everybody starts to realize that there’s something very, very wrong with Sojiro. He’s terribly confused that he keeps missing, or that he keeps only barely hitting Kenshin. It seems to him that he ought to easily have won by now. The more this goes on, the more frustrated he gets, and then suddenly his shoelace “accidentally” snaps. He calls an abrupt pause to the fight while he fixes his shoe.
So, anyway, they take a break and Sano helps wrap bandages (where did they come from…?) around Kenshin’s wounds. Sojiro, meanwhile, fiddles with his shoe. It’s clear that big, big things are happening inside of his head…
Episode 55: “The Tragedy of a Stormy Night: Sojiro’s Past”
This episode is one of those super crazy drama things that occasionally happens in “Rurouni Kenshin”, where a brief few minutes can pack an uber punch. In this case, it’s all about Sojiro, and it’s a multi-layered mess in which the first problem you identify is not the only one there is. They wrote problems on top of problems, and then jammed them in like sausage into a tight casing: once you slice in, all kinds of stuff comes bursting forth. (I had to work to come up with that because I’m a vegetarian…)
Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Sojiro who was the illegitimate child of a man. When he died, the child was passed off to his legitimate family, and they really didn’t like him. They treated him like a slave, and they beat him and yelled at him and made him do a whole bunch of work. He learned early on to smile at them because it was his only defense – they liked it too much when he cried.
One night, Sojiro heard the screams of men being killed, and when he ran to see what was happening, he was greeted by this cheery face:
Shishio was initially going to kill Sojiro, but then suddenly decided to take advantage of him, and demanded he help him out. Sojiro secretly hid him in a barn, and then stole food and bandages from his abusive family for him.
Oh, right: so there’s an interruption in Sojiro’s story here to flash back to the present. Kenshin and Sano are talking about what’s going on with the kid, and Kenshin has his own momentary recollection of his childhood. There are scenes from “Trust” here of Kenshin at about the same age as Sojiro is in his flashback. It’s an interesting way to shove more meat into that sausage…
Anyway, though… Back to Sojiro’s story!
So the kid hides Shishio for awhile, and Shishio goes on and on about the strong surviving, and the weak dying, and the real purpose of swords, and all of that. He even gives the kid one as a gift.
Fate, however, has other plans… His significantly older half-nephews (if I have the lineage right) suddenly put it together that he’s been hiding Shishio on their property. It clicks that they can finally kill Sojiro off and get away with it by blaming it on Shishio, and maybe even get a reward for telling the police that they’ve figured out where the murderer is hiding.
So, backed into a corner, Sojiro suddenly lashes out and kills his whole family. (It’s raining in this scene, by the way, which kinda makes ya think about the end credits…)
Once everyone is dead, Shishio calmly comes out from his hiding place and stands there and looks at Sojiro. Finally he asks, “Are you crying?”
Well, so that’s the end of the flashback, but now you know what’s going on inside of Sojiro’s head: a lot. Kenshin’s become an utter enigma to him because Shishio’s taught him that the only way to survive is to be strong, and that it’s just right to let the weak crumble. Kenshin, however, is all about defending the weak and fighting so that they don’t have to.
Now that he’s slowly having a mental breakdown, Kenshin can read him like a book, and that’s not good for Sojiro at all:
Sojiro is really, really losing his mind, now. He keeps trying to make Kenshin fit into his worldview, and it’s totally not working. Kenshin defends the weak. Shishio’s all about the strong. Sojiro’s been raised to believe that what Kenshin’s doing should make him easy to defeat. But now Kenshin’s totally winning.
Episode 56: “A Duel with an Extreme Moment: Shuntensatsu versus Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki”
Well, so Kenshin’s won the fight: Sojiro’s been defeated, and now he’s got to figure out what to do with himself. He seems to have remembered that he’d decided as a child that he was a weak person, but Kenshin tells him not to decide his entire worldview based on one battle.
With the battle concluded, the story abruptly switches back to Aoshi, who’s just now getting up off of the floor from having Kenshin make him kiss it. Hajime suddenly shows up, and there’s this whole thing about he’s actually in Shishio’s place on assignment, and he’s a spy or something, and he’s using Kenshin, Sano, and Aoshi as distractions so he can do what he’s come there to do. I think it’s supposed to remind you that Hajime is a right sneaky bugger, but it’s just so thrown in there haphazardly that it’s mostly just distracting.
Episode 57: “Two Men at the End of an Era: Shishio versus Kenshin, Final Battle”
So the first half, or whatever, of this episode is just Kenshin, Sano, and Yumi walking to where Shishio and Houji are waiting. It’s a huge waste of time. I think it was filler. Like, the cafeteria lady didn’t have enough apples to make a pie, so she instead stuffed it with sawdust.
Finally they get to the right spot, and Shishio and Houji are on one end of this rooftop thing, and Kenshin and Sano stand on the other. There’s some panning and stuff. It’s supposed to be dramatic, but after sitting through however many minutes of absolutely nothing, it’s just, like, get on with it already!
So then the fight starts! Kenshin and Shishio were both manslayers, they’re both fighting with swords made by the same guy, they’re both pretty messed up physically, so, as Sano points out, the only major difference between them is what’s “in their hearts”. (Or something like that.)
So what happens next??? Does Kenshin get hepatitis? Does Shishio finish eating him? Will Houji and Sano get in a slapping fight? Whatever happened to Hajime and Aoshi? Why’s Yumi so obsessed with her watch? What’s next for Yahiko, Kaoru, and Misao? What’s Seijuro up to?
Well! You’ll just have to wait for Disc 8 of Season 2: “Fire Requiem”!