“The End of Wasuke of Dojo”
When Ojun pesters her father for a story, Heizo decides to recount a tale about the “working thief” Wasuke of Dojo. Though he has long given up on his days of thievery, a man approaches him about some work he did while building the Kozuya paper storehouse. Wasuke is determined to live an honest life, but his heart becomes hardened in the face of a grave injustice.
As much as this show seems to romanticize ‘just’ thievery, one has to wonder why the series focuses on the chief of Arson/Theft Control as its central figure. The fact that Ojun requests a different story from her father, one about “the arrest,” and Heizo instead decides to tell her about a thief is indicative of how much the show pushes this theme.
You could theorize that Heizo wants to instill in Ojun the same lessons he’s learned throughout his life in terms of reading a person’s character and being able to judge right and wrong outside the strict letter of the law. It seems an odd sentiment for a person in law enforcement to hold though, and might make more sense if Heizo was a thief himself. Regardless, the story of Wasuke is just the type of tale this series does best for its themes of honor, corruption, and justice.
Even if he would like to walk away from his past, Wasuke can’t deny that he was in the business of constructing secret access points into buildings, and his reputation precedes him. His effort to lead his ‘nephew’ Isotaro down an honest path is commendable, but it’s a sad fact of life that the most compromising people are also the most readily stepped on. Wasuke is steadfast in his desire to live honestly, but Isotaro is less strong willed when he’s framed for robbery.
Isotaro’s demise reflects a deep rooted aspect of Japanese culture in how serious it is to bring dishonor to one’s family. For him, death at his own hands was preferable to living with the shame of his employer’s suspicion. Even Wasuke, who never forgave himself for his wife’s death, and gave his infant son to his friends to raise properly, takes the matter as nothing more than a grieving father. It’s the knowledge that the company’s manager framed Isotaro that boils his blood and sets him on his ultimate course.
While Hikojyu comes to understands Wasuke’s desire to pay Kozuya back while he was spying on the old thief, expecting the same understanding from the Onihei was dubious. Fortunately, Heizo seems to take the measure of Wasuke well enough. While the thieves make their getaway toward the Eitaibashi bridge where Heizo and Arson/Theft await, Waisuke’s discarding of the money they stole is symbolic of him shedding his final regrets from an act that was never aimed at filling the pockets of his cohorts.
It’s a more powerful scene than this series normally goes for, but was executed with the subtle beauty that the show’s strained animation budget saves itself for. It’s implied that Wasuke perishes after destroying the contract that was his true target in the robbery, without the need for Heizo to further add to his misfortune. It’s a story that stuck with Heizo strongly enough to recount to his daughter, and reminds the viewer once more about how he’s been shaped by such people.
– Like many of these characters, Wasuke is memorable despite the short time we get to know him and his story.
– The episode has a sad, yet ultimately satisfying outcome.
– None really this week
Okay, can we all agree that this probably isn’t a suitable bedtime tale for a child? The story begins with Heizo telling Ojun a nighttime tale about a man named Wasuke, who once worked as part of a thieving ring. Under the guise of being rather skilled carpenters, the men would built trap doors and sliding panels into houses. Later, they would return and rob the owners. I only hope the home buyers negotiated a decent construction price, maybe purchased an extra insurance policy… something.
Unable to provide for his son after his wife’s passing, Wasuke turns the infant over to a couple to be cared for. Years later, the retired thief returns to check in on his now grown son, Isotaro. Knowing Wasuke as his uncle, Isotaro grew into a respectable young man under the watchful eye of his loving foster family.
With such a heartbreaking beginning, this narrative is destined for a happy ending, right? Honestly, is anything in Onihei’s Edo really that smooth? After being framed by the master of the paper shop he works for, Isotaro ends up killing himself. This catalyst sets off a tragic chain of events, ending with his adoptive parents dead, the paper shop going under, and Wasuke’s implied death towards the end of the episode.
On the surface this all sounds utterly depressing, but it’s actually a paramount story of love that spans a lifetime. Isotaro was so intent on his parents being proud of him, that he secretly endured abuse from his master. When he realized that his master intended to frame him for theft, Isotaro was grief-stricken at the thought of dishonoring his family name; so much so that he chose to take his own life.
A couple, gifted with a tiny babe from a bereaved widow, focused all their energy on raising a healthy, well-rounded son. As the child grows, the pair offer continuous praise to their son’s biological father for bestowing such a blessing upon them. Isotaro was such a central part of his adopted parents lives’. So much so, that when faced with losing their only child, they ultimately couldn’t cope.
What I found most intriguing throughout this episode was the limited dialogue leading up to the major events. Isotaro isn’t shown grappling with the decision to take his life, following being falsely accused of a crime, but the grief and fear of dishonoring his family is echoed through the scene itself. Witnessing his swinging from the rafters, as his sobbing, broken mother clutches his body visually speaks volumes.
Similarly, the sudden passing of Isotaro and his adopted parents kindles the need for revenge in Wasuke. During this sequence, there is never a discussion about robbing the paper shop. In place of this dialogue, the animation captures the emotional turmoil and ultimate gratification Wasake’s revenge brings. Like Heizo, we are merely bystanders bearing witness to these tragic, yet beautiful events as they unfold before us in perhaps the most visually stunning graphics this series has offered thus far.
– Animation budget was entirely spent on the final five minutes of this episode and it was worth it.
– Dialogue gave way to stunning scenes that evoked plenty of emotion from viewers.
– Another well delivered episode, no complaints!
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party