Come on, Mushibugyou - you almost got the eyecatch after the ED this week. I know you can do it!
Kingdom 2 – 15
One of the interesting things that's emerged over two seasons of Kingdom is the sense that great military commanders form a kind of unofficial brotherhood. And in a very real sense, they owe more allegiance to this fraternity than to the Kings they serve. Lian Po is the most obvious recent example, having thrown over a King he despised and defected to another of the warring states, but in this world these great Generals understand each other in a way that transcends nationalistic loyalty.
The latest of these figures to emerge is Lun Hu, Lian Po's deadliest weapon, who on any given day "may command 300 men, or a thousand, or ten thousand". He enters the Qin camp like a viper in a tent, striking quickly and with deadly accuracy. Eight Thousand-man Generals are dead before he finishes up one night's work. It's tempting to moralistically look down on this as a cowardly and disgraceful tactic, but in reality Lian Po is acting in the defense of a county that's just been invaded. Generals are soldiers, too, and Lian Po is using every resource at his disposal to level the playing field, which is what outmanned Generals have been doing since the dawn of organized warfare.
And what a resource Lun Hu is. A few days after the moonlit massacre in the Qin camp he takes out Meng Ao's right-hand man as the Qin march towards their next conquest, right at the center of a heavily guarded platoon. Ever-smiling, the boyish Lun Hu is in fact in his 30's, and he has an encounter with Xin and the Feixin Force on his way to attack (presumably) the White Elder himself. This has all the hallmarks of one of those "fated moments" Kingdom and all series of its type adore - Lun Hu recognizes something special in Xin, "the air of a military commander" despite his youth and obvious ragged inexperience. "Beloved by Heaven" he says of Xin - the quality of luck, he says, which even the smartest and best military commanders must have if they're to survive long enough to become difference makers. He's not on Lun Hu's list, but as of now he's on the list in his mind - and Lun Hu swears that the next time they meet, he won't let Xin survive the encounter.
Mushibugyou – 24
Mushibugyou delivers the goods each and every week, but occasionally it hits you with an episode that just fires on all cylinders and surprises you with its subtlety and depth of feeling. This was certainly such an episode, and as so many of them have it featured Kuroageha prominently.
I'll say again what a terrific job Han Megumi is doing with this role, and what a great year she's having in establishing herself as one of the best young seiyuu of her generation. She's the emotional anchor of Mushibugyou, the perfect complement to Kenn's earnest and guileless Tsukishima, and together they've crafted one of the unlikeliest great romances of recent anime history. I like Hibachi and Haru but sorry, they never had a chance once the Insect Magistrate showed up on the scene.
We don't get all that much historical clarification of Kuroageha's identity in this episode, but probably enough - her name is Princess Naa and we certainly witnessed the siege of Osaka Castle, so it seems inevitable that her father was indeed Hideyori Toyotomi. But it appears unlikely that Hideyori is the Insect King - rather, my money is on the "cute" giant grub Princess Naa took under protection, and which resurrected her after she was brutally executed by the Tokugawa forces - and in the process, turned her into the strange creature she currently is. This all comes via the memories she sees as she descends into the Eternal Well - memories that are also seen by Jinbei, as Sanada Yukimura has tossed him in as well after toying with him for a while.
Kuroageha's painful memories are the spine that runs through Mushibugyou, so this is obviously a critical moment. Much to her surprise but I expect no one else's, Jinbei takes them in stride and professes that he'll still follow her anywhere - the last icicle of her heart melted, I suppose, though he'd already done that pretty thoroughly. What a great pair they are - both thoroughly sympathetic yet completely different people. The rub here is that in regaining her power, Naa-hime apparently gives up her memories - and the more she regains, the more she loses. This is the ace-in-the-hole for Sanada, and why he's wanted this result all along.
There were other things happening in this episode - a very brief check-in on the supporting trio's battle with Juuzou and Kamanousuke (who appears to be an actual female in this mythology) and a surprisingly brief skirmish between Mugai and Saizou. I could see that disappointing some, but while Mushibugyou delivers the shounen battle arcs with alacrity, it's the deeper emotional stuff with Kuroageha that sets it apart so I have no complaints. Mugai has been a minor player of late, that's for sure - but no less badass for it, as he apparently absorbs Saizou's insect power into his blade (we saw that ability with the "fortress" rhinoceros beetle) rather than kill him. I'm not sure just yet whether it's to be he or Jinbei who finally kills Sanada - I could see that going either way, especially if there's to be a confrontation with the King himself in the final two episodes.