“The Man from the Past”
A man from Hisae’s past demands to see her, threatening to expose a shameful secret if she doesn’t comply. Hisae proves stronger than to allow herself to be bullied, but the man’s allies kidnap Ojun to prove how serious he is. With Heizo out of town, the rest of Arson/Theft Control springs into action to recover the young girl.
Onihei takes a rare opportunity to focus the narrative around someone other than Heizo by starting the episode with his being out of town. Hisae may not need to tend to her husband’s meals or help search for missing smoking accessories for the time being, but looking after their children is a full time effort.
The episode is very much framed from the Edo woman’s point of view. Lecturing Tatsujo for going out to party and gamble in his father’s absence and entertaining Ojun become pressing tasks, but so too is protecting the honor of her family. Given the social stigma surrounding marriage in Edo Japan, Kondo’s letter is threatening indeed. Still, it was nice to see that Hisae is as unfazed in the face of danger as her husband as she laughs off Kondo’s impertinence when she goes to meet him.
Unfortunately the episode spoils the chances to build real drama around Hisae by going off into a kidnapping plot instead. Kondo’s motives in putting pressure on Hisae are really unclear, and the lack of protection around Ojun despite Heizo and Tatsujo’s absence is contrived. Still, it provides an excuse to get some action in the episode as Omasa, Hokojyu, and Kumehachi get involved in her rescue.
While part of this episode intended to show Hisae’s strength in choosing to risk exposing her secret by getting everyone involved, a much bigger statement is made toward Heizo’s character. Despite being absent the whole time, flashbacks and a final scene reveal how much Heizo’s belief in the integrity of a person’s character matter to him above all the arbitrary societal rules. No matter what Hisae’s past might contain, Heizo is confident that she’s an honorable and loyal wife, and he suffers no shame from Kondo’s taunts.
As much as this show has highlighted the trials of being a woman in the Edo period, Heizo expectedly defies the societal mold in that aspect as well. Still, it would have been nice for this episode to remain as Hisae’s story rather than becoming Heizo’s.
– A good show of strength from Hisae, showing she isn’t as helpless as some women
– Heizo’s acceptance of Hisae’s situation speaks well of his character and his love for her.
– Though it was a prime opportunity for Hisae to take the reins, the story diverts into action and makes more of a statement about Heizo than Hisae.
Finally, a back story on Hisae and it is far more sordid then one might anticipate. With the value of a woman being linked with virginity during this era, Hisae’s decision to give herself to her beloved is quite an immense conflict. After sleeping with Hisae, Kondo (her lover) begins to ignore her in favor of prostitutes and gambling. Eventually, he disappears, leaving Hisae to wallow in shame. She is a tainted, ruined woman – impure and unfit for marriage.
Despite being aware of the circumstances, Heizo approaches Hisae’s father with an offer to marry her. Shunning societal standards on what is deemed appropriate is truly a testament to Heizo’s character. In his eyes, Hisae’s worth as a woman and potential wife is no valuable because she was taken by another man first.
Although Hisae’s moment in the spotlight is greatly overshadowed by Heizo, these moments reaffirm the integrity of our protagonist. In the end, the episode reminds viewers of the unbreakable connection Heizo has with his wife and family. Even when Kondo returns twenty-some odd years later, threatening to expose Hisae as a harlot, Heizo is not phased. Laughing at Kondo’s rushed reveal that he had Hisae first, Heizo reminds the antagonist just how valuable his wife is.
As far as the episode goes, the plot involving Ojun being kidnapped felt a bit too contrived. I couldn’t buy into the idea that she was truly in danger, especially when the person holding her hostage was a petite, old woman. On top of this, the Arson Theft Control decides the best recourse for punishing Ojun’s captors is to commit arson! That seems fair. All in all the narrative came off as a bit too rushed for my liking, but the message behind it was truly heartwarming.
– Heizo doesn’t fall victim to societal standards, opting to value his wife for all her worthy attributes.
– Some of the narrative, surrounding Ojun’s capture, was a bit too contrived for my liking.
– Overall, the episode felt rushed and, honestly, could’ve stretched into two parts.
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party