「 ふこう」 (Fukou)

We’re so very much at the early stages of Sengoku Youko that it’s hard to believe how much has already happened. An iceberg can look huge from above the surface, but it’s still only a fraction of its total mass. We’re starting to see more and more of the series’ pieces being placed on the board. As well, the underlying melancholia that seems to imbue so much of Mizukami Satoshi’s work. He’s a resolutely humanist and even – I would argue – optimistic writer. But the suffering inherent in existence is never made light of. It’s not something that can be avoided. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s in the attempt to avoid it rather than accept it that people in his series usually stray off the true path.

A couple of weeks ago I noted that for me, at minimum the best five or six characters in Sengoku Youko hadn’t even been introduced yet. We’ve had a dent put in that, especially if we liberally use the term “introduced”. As this week kicks off Zanzou has given Shinsuke his demonic sword, Arabuki. He accepts that his sister brought on her own demise, and doesn’t ask Shinsuke to dedicate his life to surrogate vengeance. He does ask him to make sure Jinun is held to account, however. And he says he’s going to dedicate his service to the shogun, Yoshiteru, in penance for what his sister did. And that Yoshiteru is such a pure master of kenjutsu that he can’t bear to wield a demonic blade in his presence.

Arabuki doesn’t represent an instant power-up for Shinsuke, who lacks the spiritual power even to safely draw it for now. But there’s no need for the moment (interestingly, the anime has swapped the order of the two main events this week), as Tama has been distracted by the scent of nearby shoujou – monkey katawara renowned for making the best sake in existence. She immediately tries to trade a daikon for a jug – then two – but gets only a denial and an ook in reply. The sake, the monkeys say, is for their guest. And if Tama wants any, she’ll have to ask his indulgence in offering it.

That guest is Douren (Inada Tetsu – a heavyweight seiyuu for a heavyweight role). Douren immediately recognizes the group (there can’t be many parties matching that description), outing himself as a Dangaisyuu. But he seems pretty disinterested in fighting with such good libations on hand, and agrees to Tama’s challenge of a drinking contest to avoid a fight (one suspects he would have let them go in any case). Douren is quite clearly a bro, and he loves a good story as much as a good drink. He proceeds to share one, the tale of how he came to be the shoujou’s esteemed guest by taking on a tiger katawara that was terrorizing them.

Jinka proves himself to be an extreme lightweight, and Douren cheerfully offers to answer any questions Tama puts to him. She asks if Jinun has any weaknesses, to which he replies that he’s weak against spicy food – not exactly what she was hoping to hear. He also tells her that he’s the only one who’ll defeat Jinun, a rival from his home village. Eventually Douren has to concede defeat in the contest, but not to Tama (and certainly not Shinsuke) – it’s Shakugan with the hollow leg. Just how much of that is the result of Kagan being inside her is unclear, but I suspect it’s rather a lot.

A peaceful if hung over parting of the ways follows the next morning, though Jinka is certainly none the worse for wear for his two sips. The journey towards Kagan and Sogan’s home village continues. Another village is in the way, but it’s surrounded by a magical barrier. Kagan is intent on passing through, so Jinka makes a hole in the barrier large enough for Tama to pass through and, she says, negotiate for the barrier to come down. Inside she finds no villagers, just a katawara who calls himself Fukou (Kino Hina). Fukou says he’s protecting the villagers from the perils of the world – war, famine, pestilence – and says he came into existence as the embodiment of that desire amongst the villagers.

As Tama knows all too well, the span of a katawara is far longer than that of a human. The village has suffered the inevitable fate of a place cut off from the world, but Fukou can only go on protecting what remains. Tama sees the tragedy of this, and does the only thing she can – relieve Fukou of his empty burden, and allow him to pass in peace. Meanwhile another Dangaisyuu, the English-loving Resshin (Miyagi Kazuki) – who Douren had drunkenly admonished Jinka not to lose to – has arrived outside the barrier to fulfill Zanzou’s bounty. Jinka asserts that he can handle Resshin even without Ane-ue’s spiritual power. He can’t, but the result of Resshin’s finishing move plays right into his opponent’s hands.

If one strives to find it, there is a common trait binding this party together. Each of them has a painful past they’re carrying with them. This doesn’t make them unique by any means, especially in this time and place, and that’s exactly the point. The only path open to them is forwards, and that includes the matter of facing Jinun head-on. Hiding is not the answer, because your burdens always find you. What matter more than anything is what you do along the way, and who you choose to be your comrades on the journey.


  1. What I found particularly interesting is how the barrier spell works in the world of Sengoku Youko. Although everything inside is technically blocked off, the spell can’t keep time from running its course, which tells you how some physics are immune to magic.

    I didn’t read the Manga before watching Sengoku Youko. The scene where Tama and her gang enjoyed someone else’s Sakē was hilarious and felt out of the blue.


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