Yup, still here.
Sadly, my schedule just hasn’t allowed me to jump back and watch all the episodes of Hyouge Mono that are starting to release subbed with some regularity, much less do justice to them via blogging. Nevertheless, I am still watching when time allows and yes, this is still a fantastic series.
The sense I get in watching these two eps is that with the fictionalized account of Nobunaga’s death behind it, the series is starting to tack closer to accepted historical fact – though we still have presumably fanciful moments like Hideyoshi’s stabbing of Sen no Rikyu. And yes, that is his name officially now – as Hideyoshi’s official tea master he needed a stronger title than Sennou. And he wasn’t the only one – Sasuke has been promoted to full-on Daimyo (35,000 Koku) and allowed to choose his title. His choice? “Oribe” Furuta – Oribe because he loved the color of the cloth he’d earlier see. That’s the name history remember him by, and our odd warrior/aesthete is definitely moving up in the world.
Anyone who knows the story of Sen no Rikyu and Hideyoshi has some idea what’s coming – I won’t spoil just in case – but it’s interesting to see Hyouge Mono establish him as practically a Rasputin-like figure whose influence impacts everything that happens in the post-Oda era. His aesthetic of “imperfection” and simplicity still acts a guidepost in Sasuke’s life, as the younger man tries to step out of the elder’s shadow and become more than the imitation Rikyu derides him as. Perhaps the most compelling moment, though, is the aforementioned scene where Hideyoshi stabs Rikyu after the latter suggests poisoning the Emperor during a tea ceremony so that Hideyoshi will be the only perfect flower blooming in the hearts of the Japanese people. Was this merely a test of Hideyoshi’s will, as Rikyu suggests? I’m more inclined that the character as written was being quite serious – but either way the hypocrisy of Hideyoshi’s reaction given his own past is rather striking.
Hideyoshi definitely doesn’t fare too well in this telling of events. There are certainly traces of the brilliant tactician who rose higher than any other commoner in Japanese history – I found his dismissive “meaningless” description of the Daimyo titles quite fitting – but he’s not only a murderer of Oda, but now a rapist of Oda's daughter (a symbolic act if ever there was one) as well. Furuta, on the other hand, continues to be a rather hard fellow not to like, and just as fascinating as Hideyoshi. His path is quite unlike any we’ve seen in anime, his sensibility strange and unique. I especially loved the scene where he became a patron of the artisans who created the Mino ceramics which would later bear his name, and the one where he was asked by the dying old war horse Araki to tell his son of how his father survived the turmoils he faced. He offers Furuta the choice of any of his tea wares as payment, but when Furuta chooses a priceless Korean tea stand he refuses – the which Furuta memorably replies “No take backs!” and they manage to break the piece fighting over it. Araki’s eventual conclusion? “We humans take our greed to the grave.” It’s not an entirely unfitting encapsulation of the strange and endlessly fascinating world created by Hyouge Mono.