「最後の砦」 (Saigo no toride)
The rehabilitation of Miranjo has been a major theme of the current run of episodes of Ousama Ranking. I’m highly resistant, but it doesn’t look as if Touka-sensei is going to be backing off this angle, so it demands to be reckoned with. She remains the closest thing this series has to a true villain as far as I’m concerned, but she’s at the center of seemingly everything that happens, both good and bad – you just can’t write her off and be done with it. Bojji is the protagonist but in truth, Miranjo is the primary plot mover.
Is Miranjo’s backstory tragic? Sure, but those grow on trees in Ranking of Kings. And among other things, it casts Bosse in a light that’s pretty hard to forgive too. He killed her father, so doesn’t get any points for taking a protective (or otherwise) interest in Miranjo or her mother. What the Gyakuza did to Miranjo was certainly horrible, but does that justify Bosse going on a murder spree than included their children? I don’t know exactly what happened in the aftermath of that – maybe he got her “fixed” somehow, but in the process she seems to have gone over to the dark side.
There are – as ever – a ton of questions surrounding Miranjo. What exactly is it in that purgatory with Daida? It’s clearly connected to the mirror Miranjo, just as Daida is connected to Bosse. But the relationship doesn’t seem to be precisely the same. It’s also interesting to speculate on what happened to the Houma Kingdom after it was defeated by the Gods. Did they simply disappear off the face of the Earth, or are they in hiding somewhere – or perhaps connected in some way to the Shadow Clan?
The other big question is what’s going on in Miranjo’s head, as she clearly seems to be wavering in her outlook (and it’s effecting her fragment in purgatory). It was implied that she preferred to see Bojji and Kage survive last week, and this episode seems to pretty much prove that. Kage’s act of swallowing Ouken doesn’t do much good, as the immortal simply slices his way out. He and Despa are already on death’s door, and Bojji soon joins them after Ouken stabs him using his usual method. Bebin is on his way to help, but not quickly enough to prevent what looks like tragedy.
Kage, Bojji, and Despa all appear in the land between life and death (complete with the River Styx), and it seems as if it was Miranjo’s power that brought them there. Despa delivers a couple of great one-liners here, but the headline is Kage crossing the river to join his mother in the afterlife. These two have given us the most emotionally powerful moments in the series so far, and this one was really heartbreaking. Kage was ripped away from his mother at a young age – of course he’s desperate to be with her. And she him – perhaps selfishly, but no less understandably. It’s Miranjo who calls Kage back from a crossing he can only make once, once again implying that her motives are shifting.
I’m going to assume it’s Miranjo (who’s left the mirror) who has the power to save the deathbed trio (implying that Hilling may also be of Houma stock). But before that can happen Ouken must be dealt with, and for the first time in the series we see Bosse’s big four fighting together on the same side (Bebin strikes me as the strongest by far). Ouken is truly a miserable opponent – even his equipment is immortal – and he attacks fearlessly and with cruel intent. But the fact that he still has memories of his old self suggests to me that Despa’s hope that he might one day be restored and redeemed may not be totally impossible.
There are two themes we see repeating themselves over and over in Ousama Ranking. People do terrible things for what they believe to be the cause of good, and people do terrible things because they’re justifiably enraged by the cruelty of others. It makes for a fascinating story with a tremendous amount of moral and ethical shading, but I’m very curious to see whether the series ever embraces any absolutes – whether what is wrong is simply acknowledged as wrong, transcending any extenuating circumstances.