This was a monumentally important episode of Sengoku Youko, for reasons that are obvious and others that are not. And likewise, there are things I can talk about and things I can’t. It’s no spoiler to say that the mythology of the series came into much clearer focus with events here. We saw a lot of things we hadn’t seen before, both in terms of the plot and the actions of the cast. I won’t say the story is an unbroken chain from here to the still-distant final arcs, but there’s a sense of purpose now that wasn’t there before.
Shinsuke (this part very much in-character with the guy we know) has been hiding the defeated Zanzou in a cave. He brings the wounded samurai food in exchange for sword lessons – though at this point there’s not much to work with on that front. Jinka puts on a show of irritation when he and Tama find out, but let’s be honest – he gets irritated at pretty much everything. And it’s a good thing too, because Zanzou is a font for some valuable information when trouble comes-a-callin’. He warns Jinka and Tama that his sister might be the next to come after them, and that she’s now one of the four pillars of the Dangaisyuu assassin corps.
A log katawara (Yuuki Shin), friend to the siblings, come for help after being forcibly uprooted by a strange girl. And he bears a message for Jin-bo – a challenge. This is Hino, the next to make a claim on Jinka’s life. Despite Zanzou’s warnings he’s very confident and accepts the challenge without hesitation, Shinsuke once more being left behind, this time as a tree nurse. Hino (Satou Rina) is indeed waiting – calling herself “Higan”. Shakugan has come too, and the katawara inside her, Kagan, recognizes its friend Sogan’s scent. The name Higan is a hybrid of the two names – and it seems clear that more than the name is a hybrid.
This is the proof of what Yazen is doing in his lab, creating hybrids – but it manifests itself differently in Higan than Shakugan. In the latter case the two co-exist with what seems to be mutual respect, but Higan claims to have devoured Sogan’s consciousness. This pisses both human and katawara off, and Shakugan declares that they will be Higan’s opponent. Recognizing both the sting of injury to a friend and the wishes of a katawara, Jinka stands down – and the two women square off in what seems to be an evenly-matched fracas (though Jinka assesses that Shakugan is at a slight disadvantage).
Meanwhile, back at Jinka’s hut, Shinsuke is feeding the log katawara earthworms when he feels a shudder coarse through his entire body. A white-haired man named Jinun (Nomura Kenji) with a white-haired boy named Senya (Nanami Hiroki) in tow has arrived, muttering “they’re not here” before leading the boy away. Woody emerges in a panic, saying that he’s smelled a dragon. He orders Shinsuke to go to Jinka immediately and tell him to run like hell (along with everyone else).
Everyone’s reaction to this news is plenty telling. Higan and Shakugan abandon their battle immediately, and Jinka is patently terrified. When Jinun and Senya arrive on the scene he tells Higan that she’s to be executed for killing a member of the shogunate, and that Jinya is next in line after her. Jinun deals a mortal blow to Higan before Jinka throws up a smoke screen and everyone scatters, ordered to meet at the “loser’s cave”. But there’s not much time left for Higan, only alive because of the enhancement in her spiritual power after absorbing Sogan.
Hothead Jinka wants absolutely no part of this dragon, that’s for sure, which says a lot. But Tama is insistent that running is ultimately fruitless – Jinun will catch up to them sooner or later. The only course, she says, is to fight him – though doing so now would be certain suicide. An attack on the Dangaisyuu is a two birds with one stone prerequisite – put a stop to Yazen’s cruel engineering and steal any information they can about Jinun’s weaknesses. And then stay on the run until they’re ready to put what they learn to use against the dragon, and take him on.
There were enough seeds planted here to grow a plot garden the size of the Amazon rain forest, but that will come in good time. Just what we already know is plenty to digest – a foe greater than any Jinka is prepred to face, the true scope of just what the Dangaisyuu are doing in their castle. An episode with this much going on can feel like a destination, but in truth it’s very much the first steps on a long and twisting road. This, in a very real sense, is where Sengoku Youko really starts.