「甘い嘘」 (Amai Uso)
My brain turned so many flips. In just a few minutes, I went from flabbergasted that Ariko managed to steal the skins from under Tsurumi’s nose, to amazed that Ariko returned to double-cross Hijikata with imitation skins. At its core, this is a battle of wits between Hijikata and Tsurumi-everyone else is a pawn on their board.
Tsukishima, Koito, and Ogata grapple with their roles as pawns as they each realize how Tsurumi tricked them. Apparently Tsurumi orchestrated the death of Ogata’s father to kickstart the Manchuria railroad and hoodwinked Tsukishima with a soldier he met on the sickbed. That Tsukishima and Koito (ecstatic enough for a run in the snow Curly-style) continue living the ruse shows the power Tsurumi has over them. He picks his men well, ones he knows he can make sing to his tune. The idea of Tsurumi heading an independent Hokkaido is truly terrifying. I don’t buy his sentimental bullshit “Let’s make Manchuria Japanese for our dead”-he has something else up his sleeve, but what exactly that is, as Tsukishima says, we don’t know.
The debate around whether ends justify the means were strikingly parallel to Mob Psycho 100 III last week. In the face of Mob and Koito’s horror at the duped masses, Ekubo and Tsukishima both argue that so long as people get the salvation they were looking for, it doesn’t matter if they were duped. I’d have to disagree-leaders resorting to trickery are really just taking advantage of others. Are the believers really living their dream if the “savior” doesn’t have their best interest at heart and the whole situation was made up in the first place? They’re even worse off than before-they either keep living the lie (as Tsukishima and Koito choose to do) or confront it, plunging into life-altering disillusionment.
There were so many excellent character studies in this episode-one of the sweetest was the farewell between Tanigaki and Cikaspa. Tanigaki sets Cikaspa free to stay at Nonoka’s village where Cikaspa clearly wants to stay, rather than selfishly keeping him with the group to satisfy himself. Tanigaki realizes that Cikaspa has matured, that part of growing up is growing away from the people who raised you (or in Cikaspa’s words, becoming a boner who can stand on their own-the first time I’ve heard adulthood described as such). He even passes his gun down to Cikaspa, symbolically handing his legacy off to the next generation. Looking back, it was poetic how this was situated just prior to Koito’s revelation about Tsurumi and Shiraishi and Sugimoto’s fight. The stark contrast of Tanigaki knowing when to let Cikaspa leave the “nest” with the other characters in this episode who refuse to allow change gives the relationship between Tanigaki and Cikaspa a stronger impact.
I didn’t think Sugimoto would take Asirpa’s intent to fight lying down. Still, planning to ally her with Tsurumi so she can go back to the safety of obscurity after cracking the code is excessive. I wouldn’t trust Tsurumi to follow that-I could easily see him killing her or otherwise co-opting her. The prospect of releasing Asirpa could be a lie to rope in Sugimoto-this is Tsurumi we are talking about. Sugimoto no longer thinks clearly when it comes to Asirpa, so it wouldn’t be impossible to fool him.
By cooperating with Tsurumi even though Hijikata’s active involvement of the Ainu aligns more with Asirpa’s goal, Sugimoto is selfishly suffocating her in a safety net of his own design. As Shiraishi points out, Asirpa is a grown woman capable of levelheadedly making her own decisions. She doesn’t need to become a broken man’s princess in a glass tower.
Shiraishi calls Sugimoto out for becoming so obsessed with Asirpa, he forgets everything else. Until Shiraishi mentioned it, I also had forgotten that Sugimoto was originally in this race to get money for his friend’s widow. While Sugimoto still plans on using some of the money for her, his emotional motivation has shifted entirely to Asirpa.
Shiraishi hit the nail on the head that Sugimoto was doing it to save himself. He can lose himself and the bloodstained man he has become in the task of saving another. Up until now, we’ve seen Sugimoto as such a staunch defender of Asirpa, it is disappointing to see him painted in such an ugly light. It makes me re-think everything I had thought about Sugimoto, questioning if his bond with Asirpa was really just for his own selfish purposes. He strips her of agency, treating her as a child, someone who can’t decide what’s best for herself, going so far as to withhold information from her (I’m assuming he hasn’t told her about Hijikata’s goals, otherwise Asirpa would have run over to Hijikata’s side). The next episode will be paramount to Sugimoto’s character development-will he have the humility to take an honest look at himself and re-think his role in Asirpa’s life? Unfortunately, with the sad news of a staff member’s death, it looks like we’ll have to wait a while to find out.
I am afraid once Asirpa cracks the code for either side, she will be viewed as someone to be eliminated, a security risk. And I presume once the gold will be found, there is big risk of finders group fragmenting into infighting. As for the Tsurumi, lets not forget in real life it was junior officers like him that ended up setting off events that led to first invasion of Manchuria, then rest of China, and eventually Pacific war…