It’s a new year, and a new (old) episode of Hyouge Mono to blog.
It was obvious that the chaos in the aftermath of Oda’s death would drive the next arc, and perhaps even be the main arc of the series (it’s easy to forget given the pace of the releases that we’re less than a third of the way through). And indeed, what we see is a mass scramble to find out just what’s happening, using 16th-Century communications technology – and among those in the know, to decide what to do. And more importantly, on whose side to fight in the inevitable conflict to come.
I’m sure Hideyoshi knew full well that Mitsuhide would claim credit for the murder of Oda that he himself committed. As mentioned last time it’s interesting to speculate on why, having successfully enticed Akechi to rebellion, Hideyoshi didn’t simply let Akechi kill Oda himself. Perhaps he didn’t trust him to do the job, or perhaps he wanted to make sure no body (or head) was ever found. In any case it was a plan of impressive genius, allowing him to eliminate his greatest rival to power and to cast himself as the avenger of the rightful Lord of Japan at the same time. Hideyoshi surely knew many Lords would hesitate to follow Mitsuhide given his status as a rebel and usurper, but he’s not a man given to leave things to chance, and it’s been clear he’s been cementing alliances and poisoning others since long before he cut Oda in two.
Oda’s weasel of a brother in tow, even sheltering him for a time at the family estate. As the brother contemplates which general to ally himself to in order to allow himself the best chance at survival – even sharing a laugh with Sosuke at the expense of one uncouth warrior – a host of other clan heads and generals are presented with confusing information, and asked to make the impossible choice of serving the man who’s now in charge and allying themselves with a usurper, or to become rebels themselves. I confess it isn’t easy to keep all the names and faces straight, especially given the length of time between subs, but the gist is clear.
Akechi, who had planned murder but never got to act on it, emerges as the idealist of the group, planning on ruling from an aesthetic perspective and undoing the damage Oda has done to the land. His idealism puts him at a fatal disadvantage to Hideyoshi who, acting in concert with his brother and the presently unseen Teamaster Senna, has been seeding the ground for this day. He wins Sosuke to his side by flattering his ego (granting him a greater value in treasure for his service than he grants to Sosuke’s older brother, who he knows will serve as an act of honor) and wins others by a steady flow of disinformation about the situation in Kyoto. As we know how the coming conflict will turn out, the real interest comes in watching how Hideyoshi orchestrates events to make it happen. And indeed, the picture of Hideyoshi that emerges is that of the ultimate manipulator – moving all the pieces exactly as he sees fit, and thinking several moves ahead of anyone else. Poor Oda, for all his bravado and cruelty, never really stood a chance.