Blade of the Immortal
Episode 22

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 22 of
Blade of the Immortal (TV 2019) ?

We have another episode down in Blade of the Immortal's extensive climactic chapter this week, which means another week of basically uninterrupted action set-pieces, with a splash of very awkward character writing for good measure. “Act Twenty Two – Ten Final Pushes” finds the show at an interesting crossroads, as we have more action that perhaps ever before coming in at all sides of the Itto-ryu/Rokki-dan war, yet almost all of it is heavily focused on the characters we have the least reason to care about. Manji and Rin are completely absent from this story until the last couple of minutes of the episode, and we have absolutely no idea who almost all of the Itto-ryu and Rokki-dan characters are, save perhaps for Abayama. That leaves Giichi and Hyakurin as the emotional anchors of 80% of the episode, and that unfortunately sees Blade of the Immortal falling back on some of its worst and laziest storytelling instincts.

Let's get one thing out of the way up front: If “Ten Final Pushes” gets anything right, it's the action. This is perhaps the most visceral and blood-soaked as we've ever seen Blade of the Immortal, which is really saying something. We get some cleanly animated and well direction choreography to marvel at in Giichi and Abayama's fight, and so many gnarly decapitations that it practically becomes a dark running joke. The Rokki-dan do some real damage this week, and most of the Itto-ryu exist purely as cannon fodder, but that doesn't make the fight entirely one sided. The best and most ridiculous moment of the whole episode is an obscenely brutal kill that involves an Itto-ryu fighter getting a hole melted into his guy with acid, only to then melt the Rokki-dan assassin's face clean off after the Itto-ryu guy shoves it into his own bloody stomach hole. I was whooping and clapping at the sheer, stupid audacity of the scene, which is exactly the kind of ludicrous fun that I wish Blade of the Immortal had indulged in more as a series.

Here's the thing, though. I enjoyed most of this episode as an exercise of macabre spectacle, but I couldn't be bothered to care much about it when I couldn't name or place almost every single character on screen. There's a hulking brute in the Rokki-dan that is just positively slathered in armor, and he works with a fellow who I think is a German shipwreck survivor – the big guy is responsible for most of the decapitations, and the German guy gets into it with another German guy that's with the Itto-ryu. There are the faintest hints of neat characters and interesting stories here, and maybe they get their time to shine in the manga, but they feel too disconnected from the characters we already know to matter much for the show. It's like watching other people pick characters you don't know in a fighting game and then being forced to watch them play without you – it's cool to watch the weirdos in the funny outfits kick each other's asses and all, but it can't possibly be the best use of your time.

Speaking of utterly wasted time, of all the things Blade of the Immortal needed to focus on in this episode, Hyakurin getting sexually assaulted again was literally right at the bottom of the list. What makes this obnoxious scene downright idiotic is the fact that the due that assaults her literally gets no lines before abruptly tackling her and going on a very long monologue about how he intends to rape her as a psychological act of projection, seeing as he had a sexual relationship with his own step-mother, which was in and of itself a manifestation of his desire to murder his father and brother. That isn't me inferencing or expounding upon anything, either – he literally explains all of this while he is in the middle of molesting her, and it's just so insanely dumb that I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Thankfully, one of the Itto-ryu members is decent enough to ignore the war for a moment to slice the rapist's head off, but I would have appreciated this episode ten times more if the whole awful sequence just didn't exist.

Thankfully, “Ten Final Pushes” has the good sense to end on a thrilling and suspenseful note. It's been awhile since we've seen Makie get involved in the action, but she acquits herself so well in the Rokki-dan slaughtering that Habaki and his top killers are given a reason to run away from her, rather than fight. It's another great action beat in a an episode full of them, except this time the emotional stakes are there too – Makie has become essentially suicidal as a warrior, pushing onwards even as her body gives out; she's ready to take on the whole of the Rokki-dan while blood is spurting out of her mouth. This is where Manji and Rin arrive – from where, I'm not exactly sure, but given how fractured this adaptation has been in connecting its dots from the beginning, the gap in the narrative doesn't bother me as much as it might have once. It to a doozy of a cliffhanger too, with Manji and Makie joining forces, the Rokki-dan in front of them, and dozens of archers loosing arrows into the sky behind them. Manji will be fine, no doubt, but Makie deserves better than to be turned into a pin-cushion like this, so my hope is that next week gives our heroes a brief reprieve from total defeat, at least. I also feel like it's time for Kagehisa to get back into the action, what with this war being all about him and all. Remember when he was ostensibly the antagonist of this story? Things sure have come a long way since then.

Rating:

Blade of the Immortal is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

James is a writer with many thoughts and feelings about anime and other pop-culture, which can also be found on Twitter, his blog, and his podcast.


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