Samurai Champloo, Episode 3 Recap: “Hellhounds For Hire (Part 1)”

Original Toonami Airdate: January 16th, 2016

I’m guessing every episode title has an alliteration in it?

Episode 3 - Fuu abandonedThe episode opens with Mugen and Jin once again attempting to fight each other only to pass out due to starvation. The gang heads off on their merry way while Fuu berates them for their constant fighting and just complains in general, although to be fair at least she’s not as bad as Bulma from DBZ. At a fork in the path, Mugen calls Jin over to him for unexplained reasons, which soon make themselves clear as the two of them dart off on opposite paths, abandoning Fuu.

Mugen’s path takes him to a restaurant where he takes a seat amid a group of customers already enjoying a full meal, and predictably (because he’s Mugen) he starts stealing food from the table to feed himself. The restaurant owner tries to talk him into stopping by explaining who the men sitting at the table are before Mugen interrupts with the realization that they’re all yakuza members. The gang immediately steps up from the table as he begins talking smack about them, and they reveal themselves as members of a group called the Nagatomi gang. Mugen just minds his own business as he reaches for a skewer of meat before one of the Nagatomi guys slams a knife down. Mugen responds by taking a meat skewer and stabbing it in the guy’s hand, and he quickly manages to hold up another one of them with a knife, but the fight gets interrupted by the Nagatomi’s boss, Rikiei. He offers to treat Mugen to a much better meal than the one presently being served, finding himself impressed with Mugen’s quick reflexes and combat skills.

Rikiei takes Mugen to a place he owns where people are engaged in some kind of gambling. He talks about how rank and title will become irrelevant soon and power is all that will matter, and he also manages to correctly call the outcome of the next dice roll.

Meanwhile, a women named Osuzu is tutoring a boy named Sosuke in philosophy, but he’s busy daydreaming. In the back of the house, some of the Nagatomi are attempting to collect on the gambling debts owed by a man from last night, but he’s unable to pay. The Nagatomi opt to take Osuzu instead, who we learn is the man’s daughter, and Sosuke makes a break for it while he can.

Jin’s path eventually takes him to the restaurant where Mugen previously was, and the owner seems wary of dealing with another broke swordsman. Jin tells him that he’s looking for work, and the owner obliges by telling him about a local yakuza gang called the Kawaras. The Kawaras are evidently a helpful and benevolent yakuza gang, but their activities and presence were interrupted by the arrival of the Nagatomi six months prior. We then cut to the old man from earlier, named Daigaro, trying to obtain help from the Kawara’s boss, Heitaro. Heitaro appears willing to oblige, especially due to Osuzu’s tutoring of Sosuke (Heitaro’s son), but he seems hesitant and unable to do so, appearing oddly defeated at the idea of helping.

Attack its weak point for massive damage.
Giant enemy crab! Attack its weak point for massive damage.

Meanwhile at the Crab Dojo (uhh… okay…), Rikiei is going on about how he’s managed to acquire enough power to conquer every town he’s ever come across, with their current location next on his list. Mugen is listening intently while chowing down on crab.

I would like to point out that he’s just chewing through the shell and not even bothering to pull the meat out. …I hope he’s got dental insurance.

Rikiei invites him to become a part of the Nagatomi and take over the country, but Mugen stubbornly insists that Rikiei’s a phony cheating coward.

Back at the restaurant, the owner offers some soup to Jin, even though he has no money, and the owner suggests that he could make some quick money as a bodyguard for the Nagatomi. Suddenly, a group of Nagatomi members enter the restaurant, and the owner tends to their needs. Out of nowhere, Sosuke charges in with a sword and demands an IOU that Daigaro gave to the Nagatomi, but they just laugh in his face and proceed to knock him down and kick him repeatedly. Jin notices and addresses Sosuke, offering his service as a bodyguard to him before cutting through the Nagatomi members’ clothes as a demonstration of his skill. The one with the IOU hands it over to the boy, and they all promptly escape while vowing their revenge against Jin. Afterwards, Sosuke pleads with Jin to be his bodyguard, but he just berates him for wielding a sword without the skill and discipline needed to use it.

Fuu wanders into a town on her own, unsure of where to go, when she encounters a fortune teller who correctly guesses that she’s searching for two men. Fuu gives her the last of her money for any lead possible, with her only clue being an ominous warning about vases. While wandering through town, she ends up bumping into a man and making him drop a vase and breaking it.

No rupees?!
No rupees?!

He requests 100 ryo for the vase, but she has no money. A man sneaks up behind Fuu and “offers” her an opportunity to earn the money, and the two men proceed to capture her in a bag. Fuu suddenly finds herself in an unknown location which is soon revealed to be a brothel where she will be forced to work until she can pay the 100 ryo.

Back at the Crab Dojo, the Nagatomi tell Rikiei about what happened with Jin, and Mugen agrees to take down this bodyguard for them. Rikiei’s current bodyguard Ishimatsu objects to this idea and proceeds to fight Mugen over this, with Rikiei calling off the fight after a few moments. The Nagatomi then go off to Daigaro’s shop and kidnap Osuzu, with Ishimatsu telling him to take it up with the Kawara and about the bodyguard (Jin) who took back the IOU. As they leave the shop, Heitaro shows up and addresses the Nagatomi, and here we learn that Ishimatsu used to be a member of the Kawara gang.

Sosuke and Jin arrive at the Kawaras’ meeting place where Heitaro asks about the IOU as well as Jin’s role as a bodyguard. Heitaro then reveals that the merciless thirst for vengeance on the part of the Nagatomi is why he refuses to engage with them, especially considering the kidnapping of Osuzu and that she’s being taken to a brothel to work. He goes on a Yoda-esque monologue about anger only leading to more anger and the never-ending cycle of revenge and violence, but Sosuke counters with the idea that such a mentality only makes sense in times of peace, and that in the current situation violence is an acceptable strategy. He runs off to find the Nagatomi despite Heitaro expressly forbidding it.

Brief reminder that Fuu (left) is 15. ...We need several adults.
Brief reminder that Fuu (left) is 15. …We need several adults.

Fuu finds herself in the company of Osuzu who’s sadly not very optimistic about the situation they’re in. Jin and Osuzu find themselves struggling to think of a way to get in the brothel given the tight presence of Nagatomi. Mugen is sitting in a doorway as he guards Rikiei, wondering why the Nagatomi don’t just go balls-out and kill the bodyguard in an obvious way. Rikiei lets him know that this more patient approach to dealing with opposition is to avoid an uproar where businesses are frightened and the government would be bearing down on them relentlessly. Episode 3 - Jin and Sosuke in disguiseAt the front entrance, an elderly man and adult woman ask to enter the brothel looking for work, and they’re allowed inside. It’s shortly revelaed to be Sosuke (the elderly man) and Jin (the woman) in disguise. Once inside, some Nagatomi guys ask to hear some music from Jin who’s holding a shamisen, but he plays it rather poorly before ripping off the disguise and revealing himself to them. Mugen overhears the presence of the Kawara bodyguard and rushes in to join the fight, but seems disappointed when seeing it turn out to be Jin. They both happen to be directly in front of the captive Fuu, who berates them for once again breaking their promise, and the episode ends with a cliffhanger where Mugen lunges at Jin to start yet another fight between the two.

Anyway, here's "Wonderwall".
Anyway, here’s “Wonderwall”.

 

We’ll have to wait until next week to see how the conflict continues/resolves itself, so this week was mostly build-up, but it was pretty good build-up. The main area of interest is the conflict between the Nagatomi and Kawara yakuza gangs as well as how they choose to operate within their own town. There’s an interesting comparison to be found between the two as, despite having differing sets of morals, both seem to be interested in avoiding anarchy and having all hell break loose within the city. Heitaro, the leader of the Kawara, wishes to avoid full-scale massive conflict for philosophical reasons, believing that fighting back against the Nagatomi will just feed into a never-ending cycle of violence. Meanwhile with Rikiei and the Nagatomi, his preference for remaining low-key is more pragmatic than anything else: if he and his forces go full-on berserk mode, it will undermine his power’s hold on everyone and have the government butting their nose in. It makes for a fascinating dichotomy between the two. Aside from that, we have our heroes inexplicably getting caught up in all of this despite being completely separated from each other for nearly the entire episode. I guess they’re all mysteriously drawn to each other no matter what. I find it weirdly humorous that Jin ends up pulling a Final Fantasy VII and has to cross-dress, which I imagine has to be ridiculously awkward for an honorable ronin such as himself. I can’t wait to see how this little story resolves itself next week. I give this episode 8 crabs/10.

 

Samurai Champloo airs every Saturday at 1:30 AM, only on Toonami.

 

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