“Episode 3”

Politics and sustaining a nation are truly a dog-eat-dog world- nasty and if one side doesn’t do it, then another will. Unlike episode 1, there is no happy ending- all of the prostitutes are slain, Arikoto is humiliated and sees his former life pass before him on a train of gold. Kasuga is absolutely ruthless here but if you look into her history IRL, it all makes sense.

Born to a family who ended up on the wrong side of politics as part of the camp who betrayed Nobunaga, she witnessed her family killed and she was adopted into a different family where she was highly educated, until becoming Iemitsu’s nursemaid. She witnessed firsthand the brutality of politics, so it’s no wonder that this would drive her ruthlessness in controlling politics through the bedchambers, both IRL and in this series.

At this point in history, Japan is balancing on a dangerous precipice- the Tokugawa shogunate only recently established and still on shaky ground, losing the shogun couldn’t have come at a worse time. On top of that, there is the development of large foreign powers wanting to trade at a time in history when colonization was rampant, which could pose a perceived risk of the same happening to Japan, should those other nations catch wind of their samurai shortage. Desperate to retain the reins of power, Kasuga devises the plan to close Japan off to the rest of the world to keep outsiders in the dark about the waning male population, using the pretext of religion and trade- a clever nod to history. To keep the Japanese population in the dark about what is truly going on, she “kills” her son and makes him the shogunal stand in in public while instituting Iemitsu’s illegitimate daughter as the behind the scenes shogun to keep the Tokugawa bloodline flowing.

This daughter (Matsui Eriko) on whom the fate of the Tokugawa line rests is a brash, rude girl- physically and verbally abusing Arikoto when he doesn’t respond to her whims. Arikoto suffers total humiliation- his virginity, title, dream forcibly taken from him, then gets called by a woman’s name and beaten. His smile and silent gracefulness are his trademarks- they never leave his side, acting in a sense as a shield behind which he hides. But there’s no hiding the pain and the shock in his eyes, which you’d have to be a statue to not feel any of that in his place. The one silver lining is that Arikoto was able to save one person in the end- Gyokuei points out that if Arikoto hadn’t brought him along, he would’ve met the same fate as the others on that dreadful night.

Both Arikoto and Lady Iemitsu share a fate neither of them want- the lady shogun forced to look and be referred to as a man to uphold tradition and Arikoto downgraded from abbot saving the poor and needy to the shogun’s stud. Her lashing out with the “O-Man” may be a projection of frustration at being forced to live in another person’s role. The O-Man bit also weaves in a historical thread because Iemitsu IRL took a nun into his service much like what happened to Arikoto and her name was O-Man as well. This shared lot could have the potential to develop at least sympathy if not more between them. Iemitsu for one definitely shows an interest in Arikoto, at least enough to gift him with a cat.

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