Blade of the Immortal
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 17 of
Blade of the Immortal (TV 2019) ?
It may have taken a solid month or so, but Manji is finally free from Habaki's grasp and Dr. Burando's insane experiments, and Rin has demonstrated how far she's come both as a warrior and as a survivor. This story arc hasn't been the smoothest of runs, but it has contained some of Blade of the Immortal's most entertaining and satisfying moments to date. The conclusion may be sloppy and disorganized, even as it kicks ass and takes names, but that's all a part of the show's charm at this point, I suppose.
“Ceremonial Bonding” is basically Part 2 of the climactic assault on Dr. Burando's that began last week, only this time the action is mostly confined to the small cell in which Rin finds Manji, who is a little worse for wear but otherwise intact. The confined nature of the battleground ends up working as a vehicle for both tense fight sequences and some subtle situational comedy, as literally everyone shows up for their moment in the spotlight, all while poor Manji is just trying to chop off a couple of limbs and escape his chains. Rin gets some very satisfying kicks into Burando's greasy little face; Habaki shows up to do some damage control, and ends up having his eye stabbed out with a tainted hairpin by Manji; Doa comes back, and she reveals that Isaku is still alive, much to Rin's shock – she wasn't about to leave his body behind without smushing his limbs back together, and wouldn't you know it? They just stuck right on. It's a veritable reunion for our heroes and our villains, including some faces we haven't seen much of before.
I'll be honest: I thought I recognized the big bar-bending guy as Asaemon the Beheader, but I guess that the tiny old guy with a penchant for slicing people up is the actual Asaemon? This adaptation of Blade of the Immortal is very fond of just tossing characters from the manga in without properly introducing them, so it could be that this is another instance of that happening, or perhaps I just got mixed up. Either way, I was surprised to see this funny-looking guy pose such a threat to our heroes, but I settled into the carnage quickly enough. The fight between him, Rin, and Manji is one of the show's best so far, mostly because of how exhausting you can tell the ordeal is for our heroes. The underground tunnels are collapsing, the whole lab is being swamped with mud and water, and Manji just wants this guy to die already so he can get his arm free. It takes an impaling and a strangulation, but Rin and Manji work together to win the day, and I can't tell you how satisfying it was to have Rin feel like a proper partner in the fight, instead of a dead weight damsel. Her fiery throwing knives came in handy yet again, and she didn't even get threatened with sexual assault once this time. It's a low bar, but progress is progress in my book.
More to the point, I appreciated seeing Manji's respect for Rin grow, with their deepening feelings for each other made very apparent by the episode's end. As a parting gift, Doa gifts Rin with a ceremonially carved blade, which bears an insignia that represents an eternal bond, and is meant to be given to the man Rin loves. Doa and Rin's friendship has easily become one of my favorite things in all of Blade of the Immortal, so this scene had me feeling a little misty-eyed, and you can bet I had a big ol' grin plastered on my face in the earlier scene with Rin and Manji lying together in the forest, reveling in the momentary peace they've earned, his hand clasped in hers. This might be the first genuine gesture of affection and intimacy Manji has demonstrated all series – at least, it's the first that hasn't come in the middle of a traumatic ordeal or bloody battle. Manji may have missed out on much of the goings on of recent episodes, but he's still growing and changing, in his own way.
The pair is going to need their rest, too, because two distinct shadows from their past have returned to haunt them in a big, bad way. Shira's arrival was foreshadowed a while ago, but I was absolutely not expecting to see Renzo as his abused ward. I'd nearly forgotten about Manji and Rin's encounter with the masked member of the Itto-ryu, so seeing his kid pop-up with Shira here was really out of the blue. I don't know if Blade of the Immortal is going to explain this connection better, or if much of it is just going to be left on the cutting room floor, like usual. Even if the execution is clunky, the implications are undeniably intriguing. Shira is a monster, through-and-through, but it's Rin and Manji's fault that Renzo got caught in Shira's orbit. One way or the other, the cycle of revenge that our heroes have perpetuated is going to come to a head, and I am both excited and scared to see where it leads us.
Odds and Ends
• Manji mentions that the needle he stabbed Habaki with was hidden in a place that absorbed all the anesthetics that got shoved into Manji's mouth and nose. That definitely means he hid it in his ass, Pulp Fiction style, right?
• Toraemon gets his own little arc this week, as we get a handful of scenes documenting the prisoners' escape, which the doctor facilitates. He seems like a genuinely goodhearted chap – I wish we'd gotten to see more of him. It's good to see he was able to escape being punished for helping the prisoners, at least. Between him, Doa, and Isaku, it seems that sometimes even Blade of the Immortal characters can get their happy endings.
• Dr. Burando also gets something of a reprieve in the end, which I'm less certain about. His brother randomly shows up to rescue him from the underground flood, and we see Burando reckon with his crimes and destroy his research in penance. That's all well and good, but the guy definitely made an army of immortal zombie monsters out of dozens, if not hundreds of murder victims. Feels like he got off a little light, to me.
Blade of the Immortal is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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