I’ll go ahead and pat myself on the back for calling this. Things have indeed gotten exponentially more interesting since this series finished its parallels to SEVEN SAMURAI. And, sure enough, that exponentially-more-interesting-material concerns more complex political intrigue that goes deeper and reaches farther with its satirical commentary.
Yes, it feels a little weird saying that it was a serious revelation to discover that the merchants have been hording all this rice simply to trade with the ninja-engineers (blanking on their name, right now) and wasting a disgusting amount of the stuff. In text, that seems a little too… clerical to be that exciting of a surprise in a steampunk samurai series like this, but it has really recast this whole adventure into a serious power play - - and one that isn’t overly complicated, either.
Keeping on with this, I was expecting the ninja-engineers (are they called the Guardians?) to be some sage mystics whom the samurai would call on to help save the day later. Instead, we’ve learned that they’ve been deeply complicit in all this injustice, and they aren’t nearly as powerful as they’ve been presented to be, either. Seriously, if the rookie and the klutz of this outfit can get the drop on them so easily, then they're pretty clearly paper tigers.
Ukyo’s development into a truly fascinating villain continues, as well. He seems to be taking on some Iago-like turns, too, making a lot of statements that really contradict each other. Is he truly an enlightened leader who despises the Nobuseri and seeks to make life better for the peasants? Or is that all an act he’s putting on to fool his subjects and enemies while he’s secretly plotting to seize more power? I can't quite call that yet, and I like the feeling of not being able to. You all know me. As much I pat myself on the back for keying on developments ahead of time, I'd much rather be surprised.
Next prediction, though - - the executioner is actually one of the samurai. Let's find out if I'm right, next time.