Last month Togame and Shichika faced Uneri Ginkaku who had inherited Zantou Namakura along with land which had long lost its beauty and lushness. He wasn’t a bad guy, but he was defeated nonetheless – because that is the only option concerning the Deviant Blades of Shikizaki. This month, Togame and Shichika travel to the autonomous region of Izumo and meet Tsuruga Meisai, head of the Sanzu Shrine and the holder of Sentou Tsurugi.
A former bandit and murderer of at least 43 people (out of all the people she’s killed, it is those 43 deaths that she remembers – and conversely cannot forget), Meisai now runs Sanzu Shrine which isn’t so much a shrine as a refuge for women who have been traumatized. As she explains it to Shichika, the girls (totalling a thousand) who live there have killed their families, their loved ones, and some even their entire clan. They have been abused mentally and physically beyond their limit. As a “cure” she gave each of them one of the thousand blades that is Sentou Tsurugi, using the “poison” of the Shikizaki sword to restore their broken minds. In reality, Tsuruga Meisai isn’t really Tsuruga Meisai, but the person who killed the real Tsuruga Meisai –the previous priest of Sanzu Shrine – and took her place. With a protective attitude for the girls who seek sanctuary within the boundaries of Sanzu, Meisai negotiates with Togame, agreeing to give up Tsurugi only under these conditions:
One: That Togame finds the original Tsurugi sword amongst the thousands of blades that are scattered across the entire property of the shrine.
Two: That Meisai fights Shichika one on one. If Shichika wins, then Meisai will relinquish Sentou Tsurugi. If Meisai wins, however, Togame and Shichika must give her both Zettou Kanna (episode one) and Zantou Namakura (episode two).
I really liked Meisai’s character. She never made enemies out of Togame and Shichika, and gave them no reason to make her their enemy either. She is also a skilled woman who lived a hard life. In fact, she killed the previous priest who ran the shrine because she herself wasn’t saved from the life she had lived. She easily reads Togame, accurately guessing that she had been the daughter of a feudal lord and wears brightly coloured clothes so as to not forget herself. She also notes the colour of Togame’s hair, citing that only a significant event in her life could have caused it to be that way. In her two-second victory against Maniwa Kuizame (the standard Maniwani who shows up seeking to obtain a Shikizaki sword for personal gain), we see that Meisai is a formidable and skilled swordswoman, and disposes of Kuizame quickly with her own technique of Sentouryuu. (I’m starting to wonder if the Maniwani would be more successful in their fights if they didn’t talk so much…)
Sentouryuu was passed down to her through her father much like Kyotouryuu had been passed down to Shichika. In their battle, Meisai leads Shichika to a place where she’s hidden hundreds, if not thousands (it is Sentou Tsurugi, after all, which means a thousand blades – or so the translators say, haha) which gives her the upper hand in fighting against him. As a counter move, though, Shichika runs and leads Meisai out of that zone, stating that you don’t set traps near your home (this is after a rather silly story about catching animals for food). With only one sword in hand (the real Sentou Tsurugi), Meisai squares off against Shichika – but not before leaving some last instructions regarding the shrine and the girls. Though it seems that she’s leaving her dying will, Meisai never acknowledges defeat and fights with all she’s got. Unfortunately, Kyotouryuu proves superior over Sentouryuu, and Meisai falls.
Two interesting things I want to mention in specific: One is the growing relationship between Togame and Shichika. They’re obviously growing closer (and are still doing that weird ‘getting-to-know-you-through-your-hair’ thing) but what’s really interesting is how Shichika views their relationship: yes he claims that he “fell” for Togame (if he really understands what that implies) but he really sees himself as her sword – or tool – in achieving her goal. When Togame tells him to do something, he does it. This includes killing people like Meisai in order to gain the Shikizaki swords. At the end of the episode, when Togame finds Shichika after he’s defeated Meisai, there’s a moment where she almost tells Shichika that it wasn’t necessary to kill Meisai, but stops herself and instead, praises Shichika for a job well done.
Two: Sabi Hakuhei! This guy has been showcased and/or mentioned in every episode thus far. He seems to be the standard in the show (at least up to this point) being titled as the strongest, most loyal, most honourable, the one with a good catch phrase (“I’ll have you fall for me”), cool, and good-looking* (aside from his bizarre hairstyle). I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to next month’s episode, and if you were one of those people hoping for more action this month – which we sort of got but sort of didn’t – then please wait one more month, because Sabi Hakuhei’s going to give Shichika and Togame a run for their money.
Next episode: April 16th, 2010: Hakutou Hari.
*If anyone’s read Eyeshield 21 (I’m looking at you, Bass) and remembers when Deimon plays Teikoku, Akaba Hayato compares Kobayakawa Sena and Yamato Takeru, citing that Takeru had speed, power, technique, body balance, height, and good looks (chapter 294). So while Hakuhei’s looks may not be important in his fight versus Shichika, it’s certainly worth mentioning – not that I’m swooning over him personally, but the girl on the bridge seemed pretty smitten.