「Shishigatani Incident」 (Shishigatani no Inbō)
While the Genji are set up as the force to topple the imposing jug of the Taira, the force that topples this imposing jug of a story is the over-reliance upon verbose narration. The epic action of the conflict with the Enryakuji was deflated when the anime spent most of the flashback talking about what happened, rather than letting the actions speak for themselves.
I do love how they incorporated the rich colors of the Heian era court dress. The color of one’s clothing was a sign of court rank. If the anime is following this convention, then Sukemori’s deep red color signifies he is of high rank, suitable to a second son of the powerful Heike.
I found the portrayal of courtship to be modernized. In the Heian era when speaking to men, unless they were one’s husband or father, a woman would be hidden behind a screen. If they did speak to a man outside, they would do so from behind a fan or their sleeve, concealing their face. The role of screens in Heian romances and the excitement for the (male) protagonists to find a way behind that mysterious lady’s screen fascinates me. Unfortunately, in this anime, this tradition of screens is absent. For Tokuko, possibly it would have been ok since Sukemori is her brother, but with Lady Hojo, the emperor would definitely have had to initially get behind a screen when wooing his lady love.
Which brings me to another point-Biwa’s language. Biwa speaks in a causal form of Japanese to the Taira, which strikes me as presumptuous when talking to people far above her socially. Probably partly a portrayal of her rough character combined with a case of “anime-speak” where the language is more rough/casual than in reality. Actually, in reality, I doubt she would have been on such familiar terms with the Taira anyway, given the disparity between their stations. Not to mention that Shigemori definitely would not have let her- a commoner and a woman- accompany him on a business meeting with his father.
Pride comes before a fall and Kiyomori is certainly cresting to the top of that hill. Kiyomori seems to be getting too big for his hakama, believing that he can control everyone at his whim and that even the emperor is a pawn for him. I can sense that his karma will soon be tumbling faster and harder than his beloved dice game.
The Enryakuji monks certainly take the phrase “fighting fire with fire” to heart. Shigemori, kind soul that he is, attempts to appease the emperor by bringing his men out against the holy maelstrom, while trying to respect the monks by forbidding his men to fatally wound them or shoot at the o-mikoshi (portable shrines). Do they listen? No. Shigemori, as righteous as he tries to be, also gets his taste of karma through a holy beatdown from the Enryakuji who burn his property, while the dissatisfied emperor begins to plot the Heike downfall. It just goes to show that you can try to do right by all, but end up pleasing none.
The main point of interest here was the introduction of the Genji as the force of karma against the Taira. It’s about time that someone put Kiyomori in his place, although I feel bad that Shigemori is caught in the middle of it. Shigemori is criticized for not being a warrior, but honestly, anyone who could face down their powerful father for the sake of what they believe to be right has the courage of a warrior.
It is apt that they introduce Itsukushima Shrine in this episode, given the recurring role it will play. Itsukushima shrine is the Heike clan’s shrine, built by Kiyomori as a devotion to the Shinto goddesses of tempests and oceans.
The big party at the shrine was to hold religious services for Tokuko to conceive a male heir to the emperor. The extent of the services are far larger than what is shown here-not just holy dances were commissioned, but also prayers by scores of monks. It is vital to Kiyomori that she has a child to further cement his power as a grandfather to the imperial heir. Tokuko not producing an heir places the Heike in a precarious position, with the risk that the emperor could cast her off for another wife who would conceive (and it seems his gaze already lingers elsewhere). In spite of her current failure to relieve the pressure of Kiyomori’s hopes, Tokuko remains calm. She and Shigemori both share the quality of understanding the true nature of the world, refusing to be swayed by momentary dramas.