「機密事項七〇一コシカタユクスエ」 (Kimitsu Jikō Nana Maru Ichi Koshikata Yukusue)
“Confidential File 701, Past and Future”
We are finally getting to see more of the social unrest happening in response to the shogun’s iron fist. Unrest which is amplified by power outages caused by dragon’s vein shortages (Ryumyaku). This dragon’s vein is central to the power politics of this alternate Japan, but they haven’t really talked yet about how it is made. Is this the same stuff that Janome was experimenting with or is this a natural resource?
If this power source is the result of something Janome was working on, it would make sense that it is running dry with the researcher no longer alive. It would also explain the urgency for the government to get their hands on Sawa, who would be a “pure” source for this energy. If they can stabilize their power by bringing back the in-demand power source in its strongest form, then they will take every unethical action they can to do so. If the dragon’s vein is a natural resource, then there must not have been much of it to begin with if it is already running out.
It was a poignant pairing of Hanakaze in her birth pangs to birth her child occurring side by side with this alternate Japan in its birth pangs of riots overturning old order to give birth to a new Japan. Another mother-child connection was formed-that of one between Sawa and Asahi when they agree to teach each other what it means to be a parent and a child.
Hanakaze remarked that Sawa takes things too seriously-perfectly exemplified when Sawa’s first reaction to Hanakaze’s birth pangs is to search the shelves for an obstetric book. One thing most children know how to do better than adults is to laugh and play. Asahi would be the perfect teacher, then, to show Sawa how to relax and enjoy life more. She has already had a huge impact on Sawa in motivating her to not use her sword to kill others. A lesson which Sawa notably followed in her fight with Rinko, using her hands instead of her sword and leaving Rinko alive.
Asahi is Sawa’s tomorrow-giving her hope and a chance at a future she will enjoy living. Asahi’s name is also connected to tomorrow, because it is pronounced the same as the Japanese word for morning sun, but is spelled using different characters. While it is good for Sawa that Asahi and Hanakaze are alive, it is not so good for the writing. I see it as a weaker, more simplistic story if characters somehow always make an impossible escape from death so that in the end everyone but the baddies live.
Rinko forced her body through the physically excruciating fight because serving Nue was the only way she knew how to survive. Now that Sawa has spared her life, Rinko can’t go back to Nue, as I don’t see them being very forgiving of someone who failed her job. With Nue no longer an option, Rinko could look to Sawa for inspiration for finding the way to live life the way she wants rather than allow herself to be manipulated by others. If Rinko breaks free, this would make Sawa part of a beautiful cycle of freedom in which she was freed by Asahi, to then free Rinko, who may in time free someone else from despair.
Lets go over by the characters, as they are main strength of the show:
Sawa: she wants to put her fighting and killing behind, as much to spare Rinko. Definitely an influence of …
Asahi. I admit, bringing her back from the dead is kinda cheap trick, but boy she is needed by Sawa, to give her future worth living for, and fighting for, as Sawa goes on final mission driven not by revenge but by desire to protect Asahi who would be never safe as long as Shogunate and Nue are in place.
Hanakaze seems to have been changed by her relationship with her own, now born, child. Old Hana would finish off Rinko just from cold-minded thoroughness…
Asahi is changing as well, now ready to embrace scholl to ensure a future for herself.
Last but not least, Rinko desperately tries to fullfill her mission, as she knows no other way of surviving. I don’t think she will be antagonist anymore, as before she will hopefully recuperate from Sawa’s bare-handed beatdown, there might be no shogunate nor Nue to work for… though this might breed other problems as new regime might try to hunt down former Nue members (something to be mindful about for Sawa and Hanakaze too)
That does certainly seem a likelihood that the new order will try to remove all Nue members. I hope they are willing to listen to reason and keep Sawa and Hanakaze alive. Those two would be valuable members to the resistance because they know at least some of the workings of Nue. It seems like Kuzuhara is leaning strongly towards joining the resistance as well. With him at the helm there’s almost no way the shogunate can remain standing.
I agree that good guys always surviving even “certain” death is a cheap trick when overused and typically suggests a writer who loves the characters too much – which is stunting. (Burning Man started as a ritualistic burning of one’s work to help free the artists from being trapped by the work they love too much)
In this case, I’m ok with the survivals because multiple layers of deception are a prominent feature of the story. Allowing Sawa (and the audience) be convinced for a few eps that Asahi was dead forced the audience to expect the story to move in other directions and to believe that Sawa’s hope for a different future was dead but Asahi’s survival unexpectedly gives the audience hope again.
Hana’s survival wasn’t a fluke; her death was faked as it was the only way she could leave Nue. Her survival was a key to knowing that Jin has been willing to fake the emperor’s rules and so wasn’t as dogmatic as suggested. It’s unknown how many of the Nue folks and supporters who have “died” may have been allowed to secretly flee.
2 other things bother me a bit: Sawa always makes the “best” choice on minimal info. In this case, trust Jin and run or cut him down. But I do accept that having been raised by him slows her resolve for revenge.
The other is the frequent mentions of her changing; I see that it’s the central theme of her story but it seems abrupt and so the mentions are a bit heavy, storytelling-wise. Sure, have someone mention it but it feels cheap to have everyone she interacts with mention it.
In any case, glad I stuck with it through the muddled middle!
Adding that I’m unsure if Sawa’a tears at the end were happy relief or because she thinks she made a false promise with Asahi and doesn’t expect too return. The later is what I felt while watching.
That’s interesting-I hadn’t thought of it as tears from a false promise, but it makes sense given how she heads out alone at the end of the episode. It also explains why she wanted Asahi to write in the notebook 1st, if Sawa wasn’t going to be there the next day. When I saw the tears at the end, I interpreted it more as happy relief because her dream of a new life wasn’t over and she could give Asahi the life she wished she could have continued living as a child.