“The Audacious Fellow”
While making an arrest one night, Koyanagi returns to find his wife and newborn have both perished during childbirth. Despite his grief, he saves the wife and child of the man he arrested for murder when she tries to kill herself out of despair. Believing her story about her husband being a good man, Koyanagi takes a risk in freeing him to find the true killer.
Another episode that strayed from Heizo as the main character? You might think this series is really trying to break out of its mold, but this week’s offering isn’t very different from normal fare in Onihei. Not that that’s a bad thing, per say. Once again, the plot centers around the idea of the noble thief, but things aren’t so straightforward this time.
Koyanagi’s linked fate with the thief, Matahachi of Shikadome, employs a technique similar to what was used in the episodes about Chugo and Otomatsu. His anger over losing his wife and child is understandable, even when he takes his frustration on his newest dojo-mate Tatsujo, but seeing Matahachi’s wife and daughter in the same position was a good way to open his eyes to what must be going through the thief’s mind now. Adding to that, it helps him process his own grief in a constructive way.
The gamble that Koyanagi took in releasing Matahachi was a very Onihei-like move. Recall that Heizo did the exact same thing when he believed Kumehachi’s pride overrode his thirst for freedom. It’s strange, then, that Heizo punishes him so severely when Matahachi makes his getaway. Though he puts off a final sentencing for as long as he could, viewers might have expected Heizo to be more lenient when he’s given thieves more slack then he does his own loyal subordinate.
Though the episode had been going well up until that point, the long time skip causes it to lose some of its focus. Even though Matahachi returns with his accomplice and begs for Koyanagi to be absolved of his crimes, the lesson of the story becomes muddled. Koyanagi’s patient tenure in a cell hints at perseverance, while Matahachi making good on his promise repeats the show’s frequent theme of a thief’s honor.
The real theme of this episode, however, is personal responsibility. Koyanagi knows that the loss of his family wasn’t because of his duty to Heizo. Matahachi knows that he can’t begrudge Arson/Theft for his arrest, which drives him to fulfill his promise to Koyanagi. Lastly, Koyanagi doesn’t make excuses for Matahachi’s escape and serves a six month imprisonment for his part in it. It’s a meaningful message that could easily be lost among everything else, but is just the type of story Onihei likes to tell.
– The episode creates a good parallel between Koyanagi and Matahachi in order to explain both their actions.
– Though it’s almost missed, there is a strong message about owning one’s decisions.
– Koyanagi’s grief is too sparsely explored to be impactful
I know I’ve said this in previous posts but this week’s episode could have really benefited from being split into two parts. Taking time to develop a newly introduced character is overwhelming enough. Add to that an attempt to cover the span of several months in a single episode and what is left is a vague essence of a story.
Do not get me wrong, the poignant themes of love, loss, and redemption made for an endearing viewing experience. It had all the emotional trappings of a slice of life series, condensed into less than thirty minutes. With that said, the true depth and details of Koyanagi’s life, especially when compared and contrasted with Matahachi’s, fell victim to the time constraints. This story could have been so much more and it just… well, wasn’t.
– For the brief time spent on Koyanagi’s family, it was heartbreaking witnessing his longing for the family he lost.
– Depth and details continue to be compromised to fit complex stories into half hour time frames.
This post is part of our seasonal episodic review series. To view all the posts in this series, click the following link: Viewing Party