「動く理由」 (Ugoku Wake)
“A Reason to Act”
As I noted last week, this is really the point where Rurouni Kenshin comes into its own as a series. The intro episodes are great (I already loved all the main characters by this point). But structurally speaking, it’s with the Oniwabanshuu that the series starts to take on its final form. Jin-e was kind of a bridge to that, but it’s with the Oniwaban and their leader Aoshi Shinomori that the limiters come off. Incidentally, I’m not sure that name has been revealed on-screen yet but TBH, it’s not like it’s some big spoiler or anything and I was just tired of dancing around it.
While Megumi always has time to get in Kaoru’s grill (that comment Kenshin made about Kaoru’s ohagi tasting like mud didn’t help keep the peace), it’s pretty clear she knows the clock is ticking on this idyllic interlude. Sanosuke has not warmed to her, to say the least – he refers to her as “opium girl”. Having hung with the disreputables for most of his life he knows what shit goes down on the streets, and the impact Megumi’s handiwork has had. The hard part of this, though, is that he’s only confirming what Megumi already thinks about herself (and in all honesty, not entirely without justification).
The difference between Sano’s view and that of the others is not entirely surprising. Karou and Yahiko are both young and pretty idealistic, but it goes deeper than that for Kenshin. Look at it this way – if he refuses to give those who have done wrong and wish to repent the benefit of the doubt, how can he justify his own existence? Megumi’s regret is enough of a reason for him to fight for her (which Kanryuu will prove incapable of understanding). Sano does come around eventually, though it takes a crisis to move him to do so.
Kanryuu takes the initiative here and Hannya is sent to deliver Megumi a message – return to the fold by midnight or he’ll burn the Kamiya dojo to the ground. There is an element of bluff in this – Kanryuu is smart enough at least to understand that making an enemy our of the hitoriki battousai is a bad idea. But he’s not the only one who fails to understand Kenshin – Megumi too fails to give him the credit he deserves. It’s only Aoshi, whose words reveal a grudging respect for Kenshin, who has a modest understanding of the man’s mindset.
There’s never any doubt that Kenshin is going to go after Megumi (and he immediately sees through the lies in her goodbye letter). Yahiko insists on coming along, on the grounds that he owes Megumi his life (I’d argue the balance is no worse than even on that front). Kenshin, notably, doesn’t protest. He understands Yahiko, what drives him and what humiliates him. He may not be training the boy to be a swordsman but he is training him how to be a man, in his low-key way. He protects Yahiko but doesn’t baby him and injure his pride. That Yahiko is courageous there can be no doubt (to the point of recklessness) but he’s also honorable and on the path towards being deceptively strong in battle.
The Kenshingumi vs. Kanryuu’s private army doesn’t prove to be much of a fight. And truth be told, Aoshi is not much of an ally. He clearly thinks Kanryuu is scum and is happy to use him to get what he wants, a good fight against the hated imperialists. Kanryuu tries to buy Kenshin off but that only pisses him off more, and when Kanryuu suggests he be given an hour before surrendering (to torture the recipe for Spiderweb out of Megumi) Kenshin makes his displeasure clear in what for him is a very rare display of ostentatiousness. Aoshi however is ready and waiting, and the battle – the first real battle of the series – is about to be well and truly joined.