Original Toonami Airdate: April 2nd, 2016
Picking up from where last episode left off – quick refresher: Mugen helped an old associate of his, Mukuro, rob a government transport ship, and Mukuro double-crossed him, using dynamite to blow him up and leave him for dead – Mugen is sinking to the bottom of the ocean as Jin, Fuu, and Koza look on in horror. As Mugen descends deeper and deeper, he finds himself flashing back to his past with Mukuro and Koza in what is one of the most haunting sequences I’ve ever seen in any kind of visual medium. As he sinks further down, he comes closer to death, reminiscing on other near-death encounters in his life, showing a clear pattern that he can never escape from, set to the depressingly beautiful “Obokuri-Eeumi” by Japanese folk singer Ikue Asazaki. The usage of scenery and framing of images in time with the music create a harrowing sense of world-weariness, as Mugen is forced yet again to come to terms with his own sense of mortality: the kind of sequence that can easily bring anyone to tears while watching it. The montage of flashbacks even shows another instance of betrayal in which Mukuro attempts to kill Mugen in the middle of robbing sugar from a ship.
As Jin and Koza stand on port watching, Koza asks a favor of Jin, namely to kill Mukuro and free her from associating with him. Fuu goes to the shore and runs into a fisherman who pulled up a dead body, and of course it’s Mugen, not speaking a word but still just barely alive. Meanwhile, Mukuro and his associate Shiren (the mole he had planted on the government transport ship) are discussing matters in a hidden area that they plan to use until it’s safe to escape, and Mukuro comments on his efforts to hook up Shiren with Koza.
Jin and Koza roam through the nearby village until a group of investigators show up to ask them about the recent robbery, stopping when another individual manages to locate the ship but find the money missing, and while this is happening, Fuu manages to nurse Mugen back to life. Later, Koza meets with Mukuro and Shiren (clearly more interested in Shiren), and as soon as the door closes behind her, Jin shows up to confront Mukuro, killing him in only two strikes. He goes to check on Koza, who snuck out the back of the shed they were inside of and realizing he was manipulated by her.
As Jin roams the shore of the beach, he comes across a limping Mugen and informs him of Koza’s deception and the slaying of Mukuro. As the sun sets, Koza and Shiren make their way to the gold’s hiding spot and unexpectedly encounter the still-limping Mugen in their way. Shiren charges forth to attack, but Mugen does away with him instantaneously. He continues to limp towards Koza and eventually past her, and as she begs in desperation for him to kill her, he just ignores her pleas.
The dark criminal pasts of Mugen and Koza are shown as aspects of their lives that are permanently branded to them for life, no matter what. The running theme of this two-part episode was about the past and attempting to escape it, conveyed both through Mugen’s and Koza’s attempts to escape Mukuro, the man whose existence keeps both of them, to one extent or another, anchored in their self-destructive behaviors. Mugen’s cheated death multiple times in order to escape once and for all, but as we see from his behavior and who he’s been as a person in the series up to now, some element of that time still clings to him, unwilling to let go. Similarly, Koza’s major attempt to escape Mukuro, and by extension her connections to her past, sadly involve embracing the kind of scheming underhanded trickery that defined her childhood and history with him. She has an intense degree of dependency on others for emotional support, seeing as how she was so willing to escape with Shiren when she thought Mugen was dead, with this dependency acting as a permanent scar from her upbringing. When she encounters Mugen one last time, she demands the release of death after Shiren is killed, but with absolutely no dialogue or significant physical interaction, Mugen just passes by while clearly sending the message, “No. You have to live with this.” The sheer intensity on display in this scene as well as his near-death experience are perfect encapsulations of Samurai Champloo’s excellence when it comes to visual storytelling as well as its knack for great music choices (it would be neglectful not to mention the thundering chorus of percussion that plays during the final minutes to build the intensity of the moment). I give this episode an 11/10.
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Samurai Champloo airs every Saturday at 1:30 AM, only on Toonami.
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