Samurai Champloo, Episode 4 Recap: “Hellhounds For Hire (Part 2)”

Original Toonami Airdate: January 23rd, 2016

I really need the soundtrack of this show on vinyl.

Episode 4 - Jin and Sosuke surroundedPart 2 of “Hellhounds For Hire” picks up where we left off last week, with Mugen and Jin getting into a fight in front of Fuu at the Nagatomi-owned brothel where she’s being held captive. While this is happening, Sosuke breaks into the cage and tries to rescue Osuzu, but she’s hesitant and refuses to go. Suddenly, Sosuke gets dragged away by Ishimatsu’s chain. As Mugen and Jin’s fight continues, it’s interrupted by Rikiei calling off Mugen and sending in his henchmen to take care of Jin and Sosuke, much to Mugen’s displeasure. He responds by cutting through the crowd and attacking several Nagatomi to get to Jin and disrupting the action. Jin uses this diversion to set off smoke bombs and escape with Sosuke while Mugen chases after them. Once the chaos has settled down, Ishimatsu meets with Rikiei to discuss what to do with Mugen, and Rikiei suggests nothing, stating he fulfilled his purpose of motivating the Nagatomi to become a better class of warriors. Sosuke and Jin find themselves underneath a bridge trying to figure out what to do now. Jin suggests that all they have to do is eliminate Rikiei, and the Nagatomi will become frightened and disorganized as a result.  Back at the brothel, Fuu tries to convince Osuzu to make a break for it and escape, but she refuses, citing her father’s debt and her bond with her family.

The next day, Mugen meets with Rikiei, furious about what had transpired the night before. Rikiei informs him that all he currently needs is Mugen’s presence, as that will be enough to keep everyone scared and unwilling to take on the Nagatomi and preserve the natural order. Mugen refuses, not wishing to rule or be ruled over, and he storms out. He passes by Ishimatsu, commenting that the two of them are the same: only having faith in themselves and their own abilities. However, Ishimatsu continues by stating the importance of occasionally compromising and listening to others, but Mugen isn’t having any of that and just leaves.

Episode 4 - Sosuke tied upSosuke returns to the brothel to try his rescue mission once again as the guards begin to sexually harass Osuzu. Disturbed and offended by this, Sosuke rushes in and stabs one of the guards in the back, setting off a disturbance throughout the brothel. Later, the Nagatomi, including Ishimatsu and Jin, show up at the Kawara’s meeting place with Sosuke tied up and held hostage. Ishimatsu informs Heitaro of the stabbing that took place and demands retribution for the one slain. Heitaro meets up with Rikiei to negotiate for Sosuke’s life, and they come to the decision of gambling to decide his fate. If Heitaro wins, he gets Sosuke back alive but has to give up the remaining Kawara territory to the Nagatomi, but if Rikiei wins, they reserve the right to kill Sosuke. They agree to settle their matter this way, with the Kawara supplying the dice roller and the Nagatomi supplying the dice.

It starts to rain pretty heavily as Mugen wanders aimlessly, and he gets a flashback to Fuu scolding him and Jin for fighting and not keeping their promise, something that actually gets to him. Meanwhile, Ishimatsu and Rikiei ae contemplating the upcoming gambling match, suggesting that it’ll be easy to take over the territory because the game will be rigged, declaring that the Kawara’s dice roller won’t show up at all. Back with the Kawaras, they try to talk Heitaro out of going through with the bet, but to no avail. Word of the match ends up making its way to the brothel, where Fuu realizes the likelihood of a full-scale gang war breaking out between the two.

Jin stops by the tea house from before and pays the elderly owner for his services, and upon exiting he finds Heitaro waiting for him. The two go to a bridge where Heitaro starts lamenting the path he’s taken in life, slaughtering innocent people for years at the cost of friends and family. He also discusses the founding of the Kawara gang as essentially a safe haven for those that have been rejected by normal society. Heitaro tells Jin to avoid taking any further action as violence will just lead to more violence, leaving him with a red tag that he says is for Sosuke.

Episode 4 - Fuu's ugly faceBack at the brothel, business seems to be going on like usual, but Fuu is trying to scare away customers by putting on a highly unappealing face. However, this seems to have the opposite effect, as a particularly creepy customer finds himself attracted to her intentionally off-putting facial appearance. After being taken to one of the rooms, the creepy man throws her on the floor and tries to have his way with her, but Momo pops out of her dress and bites his finger. She uses this opportunity to smash a vase over his head (I see Fuu is familiar with Link’s vase technique), tie up the man. and escape the brothel. She passes by two men carrying some kind of transport device and asks them where the gambling house is, and they offer her a lift there.

Everyone’s gather at the gambling house, Jin included, and as expected, they’re waiting on the dice roller to show up. When Fuu arrives at the gambling house, the men outside quickly assume her to be the dice roller, and she’s taken in and dressed just for the occasion. Just when it seems like the Nagatomi are gonna get the chance to call in a substitute dice roller, Fuu enters the room to the surprise of everyone there. She suddenly adopts a serious demeanor and gets in the mood for the game, rolling the dice and asking both parties what the outcome will be.

Gotta love how she gets into character almost immediately after she's thrown into this situation.
Gotta love how she gets into character almost immediately after she’s thrown into this situation.

After the bets are placed, Fuu reveals the result of the dice roll, which comes out in favor of the Nagatomi as the winners. Heitaro recognizes his loss, but he takes a drastic measure in response: in order to fulfill his end of the bargain, he commits suicide to the shock of everyone. Rikiei considers this a pathetic desperation move, taking Sosuke with him and threatening to kill him if anyone, Jin especially, attempts to do anything about it. The situation is interrupted by Mugen suddenly bursting in and starting a fight, cutting the Nagatomi to ribbons along with Jin’s help. Rikiei manages to escape and runs into Ishimatsu, trying to inform him of the situation before Ishimatsu stabs him in the chest, realizing how greedy and untrustworthy he was as a person and a leader. Sosuke and Jin arrive just in time to discover Rikiei’s dead body. Inside the gambling house, Jin gives the red tag to Sosuke as Ishimatsu looks over the dead body of Heitaro, and Sosuke invites him to be a part of the Kawaras again, but he refuses, citing the need to atone for his crimes before taking up such a request. He later tracks down Mugen and asks to settle some things.

The next morning, Jin and Fuu say their goodbyes to Osuzu and Sosuke before heading off on their way. Meanwhile, Ishimatsu and Mugen prepare to engage in a one-hit sword battle. They run towards each other and each make their move, and the episode ends with Ishimatsu suffering a pretty lethal blow and accepting his clear defeat.Episode 4 - Jin and Fuu say goodbye

 

The themes of honor and loyalty continue their way through the conclusion of this two-parter as we get more insight into why Heitaro acts the way he does. We already knew he preferred non-violent conflict, as violence begets more violence, but we also get the interesting addition of his motivation behind the Kawaras as a safe haven for the rejected. It adds an interesting layer of pragmatism to his peaceful ways, in that it’s not just about maintaining peace for its own sake, but also to avoid losing the trust and familial relationship between him and his gang. He puts the well-being of his men before himself, which is probably one of the most honorable traits a man in his position could have. This further puts him in contrast with Rikiei’s selfish utilitarianism for the purpose of maintaining power. His men are nothing more than disposable tools for him, and we definitely see this with how he treats Mugen, demanding only his presence instead of any actual fighting skill out of him. Ishimatsu realizes he’s being used as a pawn like everyone else and finally brings himself to do something about it to at least start working towards correcting the mistakes that he’s made in life, because as Mugen pointed out, he’s the only one responsible for how he lives his life. The man is given a chance at redemption to atone for his actions, and while killing Rikiei probably wouldn’t have restored all of his honor as a yakuza, it’s not exactly a bad place to start. This was a pretty satisfying finale to this two-parter, with some great fights and a lot of emotional catharsis for our characters of the week, and I look forward to see what our heroes get caught up in next week. I give it 9 dice/10.

 

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

 

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