“Yanaka, Iroha Tea House”
Chugo, A member of Arson/Theft Control, becomes a habitual customer at a local brothel while out on patrols, breaking both his personal convictions as well as the group’s trust by indulging himself. While sneaking off one night he happens upon a criminal plot, forcing him to choose between duty and pleasure.
When I mentioned a couple weeks back that this series was a one man story centered around Heizo, I was forgetting the drama around Kumehachi in the first episode and didn’t anticipate an episode like the one we got this week. Chugo, the lowly scribe of the group, is an odd choice to center a narrative around, but the story was told in such a clever and cohesive way that I can’t help but admire what it accomplished.
One can argue that the Chugo is barely important to the overall series, and that the subject matter tended far more toward humorous than the others so far. Though both might other wise weigh down the series, tf the other stories in Onihei end up being as well constructed as this one, regardless of their tone, I’ll be quite happy.
Chugos’ character is a big part of why this episode is successful. Framed as man who has shot the straight and narrow all his life, his curiosity and waning self confidence from the others’ teasing sees him finding comfort in a brothel and unable to resist when one of the girls, Omatsu, turns her charms on him. To his credit, Omatsu seems to genuinely like him, going to far as to arrange for him to keep coming to her after repeated visits drain him of all his money.
Not getting away with it indefinitely seemed a forgone conclusion, but Chugo’s disappointment is at letting Hasegawa down adds to his shame. But even after remembering his father’s dying words to “live honestly” and receiving a stern chiding from Heizo, Chugo can’t seem to help himself. This thankfully turns out for the best as he uncovers an attack.
The fact that everything that happens follows a coincidental yet connected pattern is what really brings everything together. The way it plays out is reminiscent of some of the one shot episodes of Samurai Champloo, with dramatic irony and emotional drama being played out among comedic beats, well timed self references, and a conclusion that turns an earlier moment on its head. The fact that Chugo’s anguish over his conflicting desires stems from his belief in a facade is tragic for him, but for viewers unaffected by his plight it’s great comedy.
– A well constructed one-shot that differs from the usual tone but delivers nonetheless.
– The tonal difference might disappoint those who expected this anime to stay serious.
To make certain viewers did not mistake Onihei for a dull series, this week’s episode opened with a rather intense sex scene between a undercover ronin, Chugo, and prostitute, Omatsu. All the more startling, Weekend Otaku and I had just sat down for dinner and the volume happened to be loud enough that I swore the neighbors must have heard. I’m uncertain how long my meal sat abandoned, but I am pretty sure that Chugo was back at the brothel before I ever took a bite. Also, Mozart (our cat) is absolutely scarred now, so… that happened.
Intense opening scenes have become Onihei’s modus operandi. Every episode, until now, has begun with a combat scene meant to entice the audience. This wasn’t the only tweak made to the formulaic way each episode tends to unfold. Traditionally each episode follows a newly introduced antagonist, for all intents and purposes. These characters are not inherently evil, but rather a patchwork of kindness and corruption that stems from their unfortunate pasts. In this episode, the narrative follows a loveable (pun intended), good natured Chugo.
Chugo is a plump, unconfident man; a true underdog. Knowing how Heizo is a sap for unfortunate souls, he offers Chugo a chance to do some policework. While out on patrol, Chugo notices a handful of tastefully dressed prostitutes gleaming like some fine delicacy from a balcony. Thinking this the perfect time to sample some local wares, Chugo dips in for a little rendezvous. Being such a large man, Chugo’s appetite could not be suppressed by just one visit. Multiple indulgences later, brought on by a heaping lack of self control, Chugo realizes he has spent his entire inheritance on the particularly lovely Omatsu.
Towards the end of the episode, it seems that Chugo begins to take responsibility for his actions. The theme of learning to foster self-control was a life lesson I hadn’t expected to receive after the shocking opening scene. Regardless, this ended up being a refreshing break from the conflict laden, action fueled arcs that Onihei is known for.
– Break from traditional story format.
– Introducing new characters each week makes it difficult to form emotional connections.
– Our cat now needs therapy thanks to the “surprise” opening.
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party