Sunday, 2 December 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 47: Yoritomo and Yoshitsune meet at last!

Yoshitsune (Kamiki Ryūnosuke) and Benkei (Aoki sūkō) offering their service to Yoritomo, ep 47

This week’s Taira no Kiyomori (September 1180 CE) opens with the Rokuhara Lord Kiyomori dispatching orders and strategies to fight against Yoritomo’s forces. Click here to see it online. Below is the summary from NHK World Premium:

In 1180, Kiyomori commands his followers to defeat Yoritomo under the name of the former Emperor Takakura. Although Yoritomo loses the battle against the Taira forces at Mt. Ishibashi, he vows to realise Yoshitomo’s long-cherised wish to build a true samurai-oriented country with the backing of powerful anti-Taira samurais. On October 20, the Taira forces led by Koremori (Shigemori’s son) and the Minamoto forces led by Takeda Nobuyoshi stand face to face near Fuji River – The Battle of Fujikawa. The Taira forces, however, flee in fear from the battlefield, mistaking the sound of water birds for a surprise night attack by the Minamoto forces.

Meanwhile, Minamoto no Yoritomo, Hōjō Tokimasa etc were face to face with the Taira force (led by Ito Sukechika and Ōba no Kagechika) for the first time at Mt Ishibashi (14 September 1180). Yoritomo was orginally shocked to see his army receiving big hit, but he fought back with his arrows and sword. Nonetheless, since the reinforcement did not come as expected, the Genji still had to retrieve to a cave. Kajiwara Kagetoki (one of the Heike lead samurai) found the cave and entered it just enough to detect the Genji. However, Kajiwara said to his friends that he didn’t see anything; a narrow escape indeed. The Genji army and Yoritomo would then escape by the sea and regrouped with their comrades to Awa Province. By the way, I think Ito Sukechika here was the same Sukechika, Yae-hime’s father who killed baby Senserumaru and got rid of Yae to God knows where in ep 32).

Yoritomo (Okada Masaki) at the Battle of Ishibashiyama

News of Yoritomo’s upraising also travelled to Hiraizumi Ōshu, where Yoshitsune lived with Benkei under the auspices of Lord Fujiwara no Hidehira. Learning of the news, Yoshitsune told Hidehira that he wished to join his brother’s forces. Hidehira was concerned that Yoshitsune was not good enough yet to defeat the Heike. Benkei took charge and stood just under the bull’s eye. The warrior monk then asked his student to shoot the bull’s eye (not his head). Yoshitsune managed beautifully, which made Hidehira reluctantly let him go (Benkei fainted hilariously afterwards).

Benkei waiting for Yoshitsune's arrow, ep 47

Back at the Yoritomo camp, despite his lost at Ishibashi, Yoritomo’s effort captured the hearts of many warriors. He kept receiving allies from all over Japan; the latest one to arrive at his camp was Kazusa Hirotsune. Hirotsune was a famous warrior from the Eastern Countries who seemed to undermine the ability of the young Genji leader. Hirotsune’s haughty air irked Yoritomo who resolutely told Hirotsune to just leave. I think Yoritomo also said that his cause only needed people with sincere hearts (and he considered Hirotsune not being sincere). However, instead of getting pissed off at being told to leave, Hirotsune perceived Yoritomo’s stern attitude as a good sign of leadership and joined Yoritomo’s camp instead.

By the way, Yoritomo said a very long sentence before he told Hirotsune to just piss off. I wonder if Masaki-kun stumbled when he said these words and hence had to do retake(s). He did it several times in his other projects (e.g., 'Golden Piggy' and 'Himitsu no Akko-chan'; check this YouTube and this YouTube respectively), such that it caused others (including me) to laugh at him (and he got pink-faced because he was so embarassed). I hope they would insert funny bloopers in the TNK DVD, which include Masaki's NGs!

Afterwards, Yoritomo held a meeting with his loyal generals and extra aides. He said that the dream of his father Minamoto no Yoshitomo was to build the Age of Samurai. Yoritomo intended to take the first step towards that goal by making Kamakura his headquarter. This idea was uniformly supported by his aides. 

Yoritomo welcoming Masako in Kamakura (sorry, bad screen cap)
Later, when the Kamakura headquarter was already established, Hōjō Masako came to visit her husband. Yoritomo was sitting with his supporters when Masako entered the Kamakura HQ. Yoritomo’s face was suddenly lit as he realised it was Masako who came. He went out with sparkling eyes to welcome her. Masako said something about the Battle of Ishibashiyama, to which Yoritomo replied tongue-in-cheek with (IINM), "Oy, I'm not that easy to die!" It was a short but lovely scene amidst the escalating war. I really like Masaki’s act here. He brought the general in Yoritomo resolutely; yet he also beautifully portrayed a husband who adored his wife when Masako was around.

Masako (Watanabe Anne) visiting her husband at Kamakura

Tō Kuro arrived with news that the Heike troops have camped in Suruga. As Yoritomo gave an order to attack, he exchanged a short but deep glance with Masako, who nodded back. I think at this time, Yoritomo’s force was already 20,000 cavalry strong. 

Yoritomo smiling, seeking Masako's approval on his Fujikawa plan
Meanwhile, at the Heike camp at the bank of Fuji River in Suruga, Ito Tadakiyo was having an argument with Koremori (Shigemori’s son) who co-led the troops. I think it was about the idea to invite prostitutes to ‘increase the morale of the soldiers’. Then we have a scene of Kiyomori suddenly reminiscing on his friendship with Minamoto no Yoshitomo, when they laughed and shared fun together during the war. Kiyomori’s eyes were misty as he remembered those memories.

Fuji River in Suruga Province by Utagawa Hiroshige

Back in the Genji camp, Yoritomo received more intelligence about the Heike troops who camped at the bank of Fujikawa (Fuji River). At night, some Genji soldiers approached the Heike camp for a surprise attack. Apparently, instead of preparing for war, the Heike were indulging themselves with wine and women (black-teeth women!).  The footsteps of the Genji troops alerted the waterbirds nearby, which suddenly fled. The drunken Heike perceived this noise as the Genji troops attacking (which was about right) and fled without fighting! This time, the Genji won, making the score a clean 1-0 without even lifting a weapon!

The clever duck who aided the Genji during the (non)Battle of Fujikawa

 Afterwards, we have the famous scene of Yoritomo’s first meeting with Yoshitsune. Yoritomo was reminiscing the easy victory by the banks of Fuji River when Yoshitsune and Benkei (and their troops) arrived. Yoshitsune politely (but rather excitedly) asked if Yoritomo was indeed his brother. To answer Yoritomo’s curious inquiry later, Yoshitsune told him that his name was Kurō Yoshitsune. An elderly samurai (Takeda?) explained that Yoshitsune was Yoritomo's younger brother. Benkei introduced himself as Musashibo Benkei, Yoshitsune's aide. The monk also stated that, upon learning of Yoritomo's raising an army, Yoshitsune came to aid Yoritomo in his cause. 

“My younger brother?!” Yoritomo was rather startled to find that he had a living, younger brother. Yoshitsune confirmed it again, and restating his wish to serve his brother. 

After overcoming his surprise, Yoritomo smiled and welcomed his long-lost sibling (while Benkei cried a bucket in the background). It was a genuine smile, one that I wish would remain the same, had this story evolved into ‘Yoshitsune 2013’.  

Yoshitsune happy to be well-received by his half-brother Yoritomo

Anyway, it was a happy episode for the Genji camp. Not so for the Heike camp. Taira no Kiyomori was astronomically pissed off to hear their loss at the Battle of Fujikawa (‘Battle’ was not really happening here, thanks to the ducks!). He hit Koremori several times until Munemori (was it?) restrained him. Still not happy, Kiyomori barked to the audience, particularly General Itō Tadakiyo, “What the hell have you been doing?!”

Tadakiyo apologised and stated that Kiyomori was welcome to take his life. Lady Tokiko warned Kiyomori to think clearly, for Tadakiyo had been loyal to the Taira family. Everyone begged for Tadakiyo’s life. But then Tadakiyo rose, approached Kiyomori, and made a speech about the spirit of samurai etc. Both Kiyomori and Tadakiyo got misty-eyed (I swear, these samurais, if they are not killing each other, they are crying like babies!). 

Ito Tadakiyo (Fujimoto Takahiro), the great Heike General
Anyway, Tadakiyo went outside the hall and kneeled down. Kiyomori grabbed his sword Kusanagi and – despite everyone’s plea – started to swing it at Tadakiyo’s neck. But somehow, Kiyomori fell backwards (rather comically). He suddenly remembered all the good things he had in the past with his father; his vow to be a good samurai, to define himself as a good samurai, etc. Kiyomori’s hands seemed to shake as he remembered those memories. 

TNK ep 48 is resuming the Genji upraising (we have Yoritomo conversing with Yoshitsune and Benkei), while Tadakiyo and Tokitada (Kiyomori’s brother in law) was conversing about something else. Below is the NHK summary for ep 48 just to entice you a bit:

After the loss in the Battle of Fujikawa, Kiyomori reluctantly gives in to Munemori’s tearful appeal for restoring the capital to Kyoto. Learning Kiyomori’s decision, Yoritomo no longer understands Kiyomori’s thoughts toward a samurai-oriented country, and asks Benkei about Kiyomori’s younger days. As he hears of Kiyomori’s boldness and fearlessness, Yoritomo comes to realize that Kiyomori and Yoshitomo had the same ambition for the future as Yoritomo is now trying to achieve. Around the same time, the Taira forces accidentally burn down Todaii Temple while trying to drive out the warrior monks. 

So, that was how Yoritomo came to respect Kiyomori in the end (which we saw in eps 1-3). Interesting. Well, we still have THREE more episodes to go before the end of this drama. Auberginefleur has uploaded summary of ep 47-50 on her website here. I cannot believe how fast time goes after I first watched this drama last September, just three months ago! I will definitely miss this Taiga drama. Sigh.

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