「 都落ち」 (Miyako Ochi)
“Leaving the Capital”
The Taira scrape a final spoonful out of their now almost finished bowl of victories at Sunomatagawa. Much to Yoritomo’s dismay, the Minamoto’s stealthy trip across the river to ambush the Taira ends in a soakingly wet defeat. They turned Yoritomo into a spineless fellow reluctant to take action on his own and controlled by the strong wills of others. I find this infuriating, because the dude established the bakufu-that takes a mind and backbone of steel.
I suspect that they are setting up Yoritomo’s cousin, Yoshinaka as the “hero” and Yoritomo is just his foil. Right from the start, they emphasize Yoshinaka’s animal-like strength with his huge, gorilla-like frame leaping among the trees. This whole wild-man image is something from the anime-in the book he is portrayed as a military commander more than a caricatured yahoo.
The contrast between the two cousins couldn’t be more clear. Yoshinaka means business, taking over region after region faster than Yoritomo can catch up. Yoshinaka is not just strong, but clever too- using an optical illusion of flags to make the Minamoto forces appear larger and ambushing the Taira with a group of fire-bearing cows in Kurikara Pass. It is unfortunate that they breezed past this scene, using it to illustrate his wild-man nature (they even have him riding a cow) rather than his military prowess. The competition between the cousins is about to get fiercer with both equally strong contenders for domination of the court (although the anime emphasizes Yoshinaka).
One of Yoshinaka’s companions is the female warrior, Gozen Tomoe. One of the reasons I liked Tomoe in the book was how she embodied both elegance and fierceness. The adaptation strips that away in her country bumpkin portrayal, reducing her to mere fierceness. It is intriguing to compare her to Tokuko. The anime elevated Tokuko (whose appearance is not described in the book) to the embodiment of feminine virtues and refinement. Meanwhile Tomoe, who the book mentions specifically as enchanting, is stripped of that elegance
What goes around comes around-just as the Taira burned offending temples to the ground, the Taira must now burn down their own properties lest the Minamoto get their hands on them. The tides of fate turning against the Taira are about to reach their crescendo, symbolized by Sukenaga Jo’s end. Sukenaga was Taira Munemori’s chosen governor for Echigo. A timely intervention from the gods prevented his assassination attempt on Yoshinaka, leaving Munemori with an empty post and a fearsome Yoshinaka on the loose.
While the fortunes of the Taira are changing, the clan members are not. You’d think that the two-pronged threat of Yoshinaka and Yoritomo would sober Munemori up and turn the heat on him, but no-he continues gallivanting about at merrymaking. The business of defending continues to be left to the sensitive Shigehira. I feel that the anime is reducing all of these characters to a single dimension. Munemori is the foolish pleasure-seeker, Shigehira the tragic figure cast into an ill-suited role, Tokuko the holy woman, Yoshinaka the beast, and Yoritomo the puppet. It doesn’t add any depth or conflict of emotions to these characters-it just continues plodding them down the one-track course set out for them. It is a disservice to them, literarily and historically.