Seeing his dissolute and unruly son reminds Heizo of his younger days and the things he learned from a master swordsman. Once a troubled and disreputable young man himself, Heizo struggled with getting along with his family and proving himself as a swordsman. When he learns of Matsuoka’s similar background, he is inspired to improve.
This show has done a few retrospectives before on Heizo’s younger days, with each one being used to show how the situation he faced back then mirrors the one being addressed in the episode’s present day. This week’s episode does less comparing and contrasting than the others, but still illustrates how Heizo’s past influenced him and made him the wiser, kinder man he is today.
Hisae, worries about her son, Tatsuzo, and his noncommittal attitude toward his studies as he declares he’s devoted his life to the sword, but Heizo is less worried thanks to personal experience. Having been far more unruly than his son was at his age, Heizo understands the temptations of youth. Using his son as a jumping point to tell the story about how he transitioned from that stage of his life was a bit awkwardly done, but works well enough for the serial format the show follows.
The episode shows us that young Heizo’s situation didn’t lend itself toward becoming the respected person he grew to be. We learn that he was his father’s illegitimate son, and that his father’s wife never spared a chance to berate him when he came asking for money (though he didn’t spare her snide comments in return). Drinking, gambling, and getting into trouble with Samanosuke and Hikojyu were the norm for him, and even his sensei remarked that he would be “hard to straighten out.” The man he said this to, Matsuoka, goes on influences Heizo, however, when he sees the young swordsman’s potential.
Through these lessons, we see traits that Heizo must have picked up from the master: Discipline in combat, indulgence in moderation, and above all respect for ones’ teacher. Even after learning of the more sordid details of Matsuoka’s life, Heizo doesn’t forget the lessons that resonated with him. Rather than turn his back on the wayward master’s teachings, Heizo focuses on the good that Matsuoka taught. It’s this confidence that a good man can emerge from a bad place that leads him to trust people like Kumehachi, and not worry that his son will eventually find his path.
– The episode shows how a young Heizo starts on the path towards becoming the Onihei.
– Familiar faces like Samanosuke, Hikojyu, and Omasa make an appearance.
– Though it’s crafted as another lesson, Matsuoka’s unlawfulness is unexplained, and the plot turn at that point feels inorganic.
This week is another blast from Heizo’s past that may offer some insight into why he is more forgiving of criminals then his nickname implies. Known as Tetsusaburo, youthful Heizo is on a path that, by all appearances, will lead to a life of corruption and crime. In an effort to curtail his son’s disdainful behavior, his father sends him to study at a dojo. Rather than take advantage of the structured environment as a means to grow, Heizo took to the sword in an attempt to let off steam.
It is at the dojo where he met his mentor, Matsuoka. The sensei who would become the catalyst for changing the capricious Tetsusaburo to the honorable Heizo people know today. As an illegitimate son, something Heizo can relate to, Matsuoka can see Heizo heading down a destructive path. In an effort to beat some sense into the wayward teen, Matsuoka accepts his challenges and soundly defeats Tetsusaburo– the actions of someone who not only understands the young man, but cares for him too.
The story of Heizo’s youth not only explains why Heizo is forgiving of criminals, but has come full circle in exploring the relationship with his own son. In the beginning of the episode, Tatsuzo (Heizo’s son) is seen dashing off to practice, but it is later discovered he is out gambling. Seeing much of himself in his own rambunctious offspring, the reflection of his youth is meant to highlight how Heizo will patiently handle his son.
Similarly, as Heizo details his youthful escapades to Hisae, she can be see stroking a sleeping Ojun’s tiny head. I have to wonder if Hisae is contemplating the traits their daughter might possess that reflect her own youthful adventures. Was Hisae prone to bursts of excited energy? Perhaps she pouted when her father scolded her?
This episode was another heartwarming look at the Hasegawa family and how Heizo grew to become the well respected man he is today.
– Significant back story on Heizo and how it relates to his current circumstances.
– The touching family moments adds quite a bit of depth to this series.
– More details on Heizo’s relationship with his father, mother, and step mother would have benefited this episode; this could’ve even stretched into two parts.
– The animation was noticeably shoddy this week; likely due to the multiple action scenes.
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party