「無文の沙汰」 (Mumon no Sata)
Sometimes the acts you commit come back to haunt you-in Kiyomori’s case, this is literal. In the Heian era, it was believed that illnesses were caused by vengeful spirits possessing people. Families would send for mediums to receive the spirits’ message, pacifying them through honoring their requests. The spirits in Tokuko’s case were the three men- Shunkan, Yasuyori, and Naritsune-that Kiyomori banished out to the boonies of Kikaigashima.
The anime handled this poorly. There was no lead up to it-they dropped it on you even though in the book, this was a detailed part. The pious Yasuyori and Naritsune were so obsessed with returning home from exile that they constantly prayed to the deity of Kumano and Yasuyori even made 1000 Sotoba (planks with holy words on them). The anime just doesn’t get across the frenzied longing these men had for home. Nor does it emphasize their isolation- portraying them as scruffy men who hadn’t showered in a week, rather than wild eyed, pitiful, scruffy messes they would have been.
The anime doesn’t seem to care much for their fate and neither does Kiyomori. He only cares about what they did to him, like a child throwing a temper tantrum when someone tries to take their toy. When he does pardon them (and he only does so for the sake of the unborn prince who would grant him more power), he pulls the jerk move of freeing only two of them because he just can’t forgive Shunkan. Seriously? Power in the hands of an adult-sized child is dangerous.
Shunkan’s brief cameo unfortunately misses the deep impact of his desperation and despair while trailing behind the last boat home. Given that this is a Buddhist tale, Shunkan’s lack of piety is explained as the reason for his fate. Although I just blame his fate on Kiyomori’s rampant selfishness.
I question why the anime is putting so much time into non-canonical things such as, Biwa and Sukemori’s fling with Tokuko’s lady in waiting, while glossing over so many meaningful points in the source material. I don’t like Biwa and I think she was unnecessary-she doesn’t make the plot any simpler and doesn’t add anything to the story. Sukemori’s romance also makes no sense-it has nothing to do with the plot and takes away from time that should have been spent on introducing characters like the exiles.
The scenes shown here are of holy rituals in the form of chants and dances, performed to appease the spirits so that Tokuko can safely give birth to her child. Much to Kiyomori’s joy, the child is a boy and thus, the crown prince. Those tears certainly aren’t ones of fatherly pride-more like selfish relief at owning a new pawn in his massive power play.
Ominous clouds of ill fortune are hovering on Kiyomori’s horizon. First, with the freak tornado storm that damages the peasant villages in his domain. Then, the death of Tokuko’s younger sister, who he married off for power. Lastly and most importantly, there is Shigemori’s vision of Kiyomori’s death. This comes as no surprise, given how much Kiyomori has neglected the welfare of others in order to see to his own profit. People are not going to sit and take that treatment forever.
Some of the scenes in this episode painted a telling picture of the contrast between the lavishness of court society with the threadbare huts and clothing of the villagers. In history, whenever the political balance tips heavily towards excess, a social storm will force it onto the other extreme, as seen in the French Revolution or the Russian Revolution. This oncoming doom will change the fabric of the Japanese government for centuries, stretching beyond the fate of a single clan.
Another contender for Man-Child of the Century award-Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who prefers to play 24/7- giving little thought towards the growing instability in his court. I do give the anime writers credit-while they add in many non-canonical things, with Go-Shirakawa, they at least add in historically correct details.
In the book, Imayo (the pop tunes of Go-Shirakawa’s day) was barely mentioned, while the anime is constantly referring to his fondness for music. This isn’t something they made up. Historically speaking, Go-Shirakawa was famous for his obsession with Imayo and the arts in general-spending lots of money and effort into entertainment, which the anime portrays quite richly. As much as Go-Shirakawa is locked in a power battle against the Taira, with his preoccupation for singing (even going so far as to have a party with Shigemori’s sons while Shigemori is on his deathbed), it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to accomplish much. Hands more capable than his will have to be the ones to tear down the Taira.