Sunday, 23 December 2012

Taira no Kiyomori ep 50: Finale!

Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo with his Higekiri sword

I'm a bit sad that Taira no Kiyomori comes to an end. But I cannot always spare my Sunday evening or Monday early morning doing recaps, so perhaps it's a good thing as well. Plus, I need someone to resume the English translation for me to really understand the fine lines in TNK. Anyway, below is the summary of ep 50 on NHK World Premium:
Kiyomori is struck down by a febrile illness. Kiyomori appears before Saigyō, formerly named Norikiyo, as a wraith, and learns the meaning of his life through dialogue with Saigyō. In Kyoto, people rush to Kiyomori's bedside and bring up their concerns over their future. Kiyomori finally passes away. After the passing of Kiyomori, the fate of the Taira family takes a turn for the worse. Tokiko throws herself into the sea with Emperor Antoku in her arms, and the entire Taira family ends up being destroyed at Dannoura. At the bottom of the sea, Tokiko sees the members of the Taira family standing, including Kiyomori with a sword in his hand.
Click here to watch the finale online.

The last episode of Taira no Kiyomori opened with a scene of Yoritomo conversing with Taira no Yorimori. Yoritomo already wore the garb he wore during the first episode. The fact that Yorimori was there and looked subdued made me think that this scene was set after the Dan-no-ura battle. Of course, without subtitle, I struggled to understand what happened. But I think Yoritomo asked what Yorimori was writing when the Genji leader came into the hall. Yorimori replied with something like 'the memoir of the Heike'.

Taira no Kiyomori at his deathbed
The scene switched to Saigyō Hoshi having a visitor, the very spirit of Kiyomori himself. In his own house, Kiyomori was dying of a very high fever. Back at Saigyō’s place, Kiyomori was talking about Yoshitomo and his son Yoritomo. Back in the castle, Go-Shirakawa-in was singing the theme song (if you’d like), of the children playing and having fun. Tokiko heard the song as she tried to comfort her dying husband. Something Saigyō said made Kiyomori’s spirit cried. He then woke up in his house, walked like a spirit, reached his hand and fell to his death. 

Upon his death, Saigyō placed the Kusanagi sword on the throne. Then, as if he was Kiyomori, he started distributing orders, gifts and gratitude the Fukuhara Lord didn’t have time to distribute before his passing. I think Saigyō (as Kiyomori) specifically asked his younger brother Yorimori to preserve the memory of their parents. He even said something nice to General Itō Tadakiyo, who predictably burst into tears. After saying thank you to Tokitada (his brother in law), he said thank you to the most important person in his life: Taira no Tokiko, his wife.  

Later, Yoritomo narrated the fate of every important Heike members. I don’t know how Taira no Yorimori eventually arrived in Kamakura, but I think he handed himself over to the Genji in Kamakura. Most members of the Heike died or committed suicide during the Battle of Dan-no-ura on 25 April 1185 (the 24th day of the 3rd Japanese month). Learning the imminent defeat of the Heike, Taira no Tokiko took Child Emperor Antoku and jumped into the strong currents of Shimonoseki Strait. Before going down under, the child Antoku did ask where they would go, to which Tokiko answered ‘the Miyako under the sea’. Tokuko (her daughter and the mother of Antoku) failed to commit suicide and was kept forever under the Genji’s rule.

Taira no Tokiko jumped into the sea with Antoku

After the elimination of the Taira family, the Minamoto had their own trouble. Somehow, Yoritomo and Yoshitsune had a fall out. Yoshitsune sent a letter to Yoritomo, which made his older half-brother concerned. I wish to God I know what Yoshitsune wrote, for Yoritomo was looking rather sad and troubled (not in a mean 'I'm so going to kill my brother' way). But, it didn’t matter anyway, for in the end, Yoritomo still ordered the demise of his own half brother.  Sigh. Just because I love Okada Masaki, doesn’t mean that his Yoritomo wouldn’t do what the historical Yoritomo did...

But beforehand, Yoritomo received another guest:  Saigyō Hoshi. They conversed about the late Taira no Kiyomori. Then, just as with the Heike, Saigyō suddenly changed appearance into Kiyomori. Did this monk really have this ability? Or was it only in Yoritomo’s mind? But if the latter was correct, then how come the rest of the Heike also saw Kiyomori post mortem back then?

Yoritomo finally 'met' Kiyomori

Doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Yoritomo finally conversed with Kiyomori himself, and Masaki-kun interacted with Matsuyama Kenichi in the same, only scene! Did NHK create this scene to make Masaki interact with Kenichi? I think so. Click this for the Japanese interview with Masaki about this scene

Anyway, Kiyomori said something about the spirit of Samurai (something like, ‘show me the true spirit of Samurai’), to which Yoritomo raised to the challenge. Kiyomori then changed again to Saigyō who then made his leave. Yoritomo then solemnly took the Higekiri sword he inherited from his father.

What I don’t understand is, still, afterwards, Yoritomo ordered the demise of Yoshitsune. Benkei heroically died protecting his master. Yoshitsune committed suicide inside the temple, after saying something tearful to his absent brother. Why, Yoritomo, whyyyy??? (oh for God’s sake, just move on, girl!)

Benkei's heroic ending

The next scene had Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo playing dice with Cloistered Emperor Go-Shirakawa-in. The dice were now at the hand of the Genji and the Imperial Court, a peace that unfortunately would not last long, for Yoritomo’s seven years reign was cut short by his falling from a horse in 1199, and his sons were killed one by one by none other than his own father in law, Hōjō Tokimasa. Anyone can spell karma? 

The scene changed with the youthful Kiyomori handling his own ship. Under the sea, the young Kiyomori held the sword Kusanagi and saw his family all welcoming him inside his palace in Miyako. The young Kiyomori laughed as the voices of Yoritomo and Tokiko said, ‘the lost Samurai world of Taira no Kiyomori at Miyako under the sea’.

The sword Kusanagi lost at sea

My verdict for TNK? Final wrapping was done in a hurry I guess, not enough story to cover the fallout between Yoritomo and Yoshitsune. It's not just my lack of Japanese comprehension that caused my lack of understanding. I guess it cannot be helped either, for the story focused on the Heike family more than the Genji.

It's still worth watching tho, particularly when it has English sub already. I have no complain about any of the main supporters; they all delivered great performances. Love Okada Masaki’s narration and performance. So proud of him! He was only 22 years old when he played Yoritomo, but he held himself against Matsuyama Kenichi, Fujiki Naohito and Matsuda Shota beautifully. Watanabe Anne (Masako) should be mentioned here, for she really helped Masaki getting the tough Yoritomo out.

The next Taiga drama is ‘Yae no Sakura’, featuring the cute and funny Ayase Haruka (‘Himitsu no Akko-chan’, ‘Hotaru no Hikari’). Will watch it on NHK World Premium, but won’t go into trouble of interpreting it. Some Japanese speakers can do a much better job than myself. 

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