Whoa. There’s some well-spent money on display in this episode. Without going into a blow-by-blow recap, I’ve got to say that the staging of the swordplay and acrobatics in the opening scuffle with the cyber-assassin duo was some serious Master Woo-ping level shit. When your samurai’s catching one of the bad guy’s slinky arms with a katana-assisted arm bar, you that the crew’s been putting far more thought into the choreography than just …
“He hits him, then he hits him back.”
Seriously, impossible slo-mo supermoves are almost always misguided attempts at cool - - in both live action and anime. However, the gag where the “Entertainer” catches all the darts was a show-stopper. I’ll own up to saying, “Holy crap!” upon witnessing it, and I suppose that's a reaction that $350,000 an episode will buy.
Of course, it can’t all be about slicing projectiles in mid-air or fighting stand-still duels with enigmatic opponents. We do have to develop some larger arc to tie this 26-episode opus together. In a way, adding political intrigue to an action adventure is on the same risky scale as the slo-mo supermove. The appeal of making the story seem more plausible, important and intricate is hard to deny; but it’s tough to make such dialogues compelling enough that the audience isn’t thinking about the samurai swordplay they’ve sat down to see.
I’m digging this sub-plot about this spoiled rich kid who’s now obsessed with a girl he can’t simply buy. Considering how she’s already developing a (doomed?) romance with “the Pupil” (or whatever his alias is), I can already imagine all sorts of conflict when both the peasant elders and the bad guy are actively trying to break up the relationship. The fact that evil landowner and all his retainers are also trying to dissuade this obsession really makes our evil dandy all the more compelling as a heel.
See, the reason “political intrigue” so often fails is that it rarely feels like it’s been written by anybody with an understanding of how an organization works. In this case, though, it’s a lot more real to see the rest of the bad guys only putting up with this guy’s stupid lust for so long. The conflict's going to ratchet up even further, I'm sure, when he inevitability runs off his own camp's rails.
Watch this episode, "The Loner” below and decide for yourself, then read my comments on the previous episode here.