「仏蘭西から来たサムライ」 (Furansu kara Kita Samurai)
“The Samurai From France”
This sleeper series continues to impress, as the cliffhanger from last episode picks up in many ways that I was expecting, and in many ways that I wasn’t as well. Jubei’s awakening as her master samurai counterpart led to a fair bit of action, whereas Nia’s past with Yoshihiko built up the drama and provided a truly unexpected dimension to the story. While the episode title hinted that this would be about Nia, I was amazed by how well a moving, sorrow-filled love story was woven in. From the flashbacks of Nia’s first meeting with Yoshihiko, I could get a real sense of how her love innocently developed, before feelings of disbelief, fear, and sadness overtook her when he subjected her to master samurai experimentation. The heartless depiction of Yoshihiko playing with her feelings resounded loud and clear, so I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic towards what happened to Nia, especially after learning that she’s a very gentle, soft-spoken girl. As such, hearing Yoshihiko continually bark orders to her and treat her like some disposable tool in the present had me hoping that Jubei would kill him on the spot. The story could have easily calmed my feelings of disdain towards him for being an emotionless scumbag, so it came as a real surprise to see Nia simply endure all the mistreatment and continued to serve him loyally out of love, even after he ordered her to fight to the death for him. Rather than taking the easy way out with Muneakira and the others freeing Nia from a man that clearly didn’t love her in return, the story stuck with the unrequited love and moved towards a much less typical outcome — Nia’s feelings getting through Yoshihiko’s cold-hearted exterior.
Quite frankly, the powerful emotions behind all the scenes were what really caught me by surprise. They were walking a fine line between coming off as overly melodramatic and absolutely cheesy, yet managed to retain a seriousness to it throughout. I attribute that primarily to Sakurai Takahiro‘s portrayal of Yoshihiko and making me really really hate him, combined with Koshimizu Ami‘s one of Nia that made me really want to reach out to her. In fact, I found myself hating Yoshihiko more and more with every additional thing he said, and eagerly anticipating the moment that Jubei would cut him down when Muneakira, Sen, and Yukimura were unwilling to raise a hand against their shogun. The precarious situation that everyone was in added to the ambiance as well, which Yoshihiko himself reiterated by saying that fighting one another is inevitable. All that served as great emotional build-up towards Muneakira’s awakening as a true general to put a stop to the senseless battle, which was something that can only be described as “badass”. To show an even further dimension to the story (and series as a whole), he didn’t simply use his newly awakened status and kick Yoshihiko’s ass, show him his place, and lecture him about righteous ideals either (like I’ve come to expect from main protagonists), and instead got on his hands and knees and tried to put a stop to this peacefully through words. There were no shounen-like developments where the hero simply blows everything up and calls it a day, as Muneakira handled things responsibly with consequences in mind. It was an unbelievably refreshing turn of events, since it not only showed a respectable depth to Muneakira’s character — helping offset how he’s been strung along by the girls all this time — but also paved way for a loathsome character like Yoshihiko to reveal some depth in his too.
At this point, I somehow doubt that Nia’s valiant act of protecting Yoshihiko was intended to be their final moments together, but it could have very well been with the way it played out. The origami hat that she’s been carrying with her all this time brought out the side of him that was locked away by his sense of duty to Great Japan and truly brought them together. A tragic end shortly after would’ve easily left a lasting impression; however, I can’t really see any of the key characters dying when Yoshihiko’s return to command his newly deployed army of master samurai would serve as the perfect climactic conclusion next time, assuming that Muneakira and his ones will be alongside him. For the moment, that’s the type of ending I’m anticipating, except it comes with the added twist that the innocent, carefree Jubei is at risk of being erased if she reforms a pact with Muneakira now that he’s a true general. Even this close to the end, this series manages to keep things interesting and the suspense looming overhead, so you can be sure I’ll be engrossed in the finale when they clash with the revival of Amakusa Shirou. All eyes will be on Jubei and Muneakira.