by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 12 of
I have a sneaking suspicion that this week's episode of Onihei was adapted from one of the original author's longer stories. The subject matter – the near-fall of Heizo's subordinate Koyanagi after the tragic deaths of his wife and newborn – feels like it deserves more development than it gets, and given that we know the show is capable of this (like in that episode about the poor kid who refuses Heizo's help), it seems to indicate an original length ill-suited to a single episode. Since we're nearing the end of Onihei's run (it's listed at thirteen episodes), perhaps the idea of a two-parter wasn't something the writers wanted to consider – even though it would have helped to tell this particular story better.
The plot covers any amount of time from a year and a half to seven months, depending on which anniversary of Mrs. Koyanagi and child is being referenced; it's never actually made clear. We open with the tragic birth, which is a bit of an issue in itself – thanks to an unwillingness to show blood (which feels strangely unlike this show), there doesn't appear to be anything actually wrong with the child or the birth. But Omitsu and child (who is born breathing) quickly expire, setting the stage for Koyanagi's depression. Instead of being home while his wife gave birth, he was out arresting a thief, and both he and Heizo feel guilty about it. Koyanagi spirals quickly downward, and by the anniversary of his wife's passing, he's basically lost all will to live. (He's also beaten up Tatsuzo at the dojo, which the kid needed, but he seems to show a lack of concern for pounding the boss' kid regardless.) As he's walking home from visiting the family grave, he sees a woman with a baby strapped to her back about to throw herself from a bridge – and just like that, Koyanagi's snapped out of his daze.
It's very clear that the story is setting up a grand redemption for Koyanagi, whose wife and child died due to his absence. His presence now to save someone else's wife and child from an untimely death seems like divine intervention, a chance for him to right his own wrong. Of course, it can't be that easy – the woman is trying to commit suicide because Koyanagi arrested her husband for theft. It isn't clear whether or not he's the thief Koyanagi was arresting when his wife died, although if we're talking about the one-month anniversary of her death, that would bring things to a full circle. This is just one of the reasons why this episode feels underdeveloped; just knowing these small details could have resulted in better development for Koyanagi and made his actions more meaningful. Not that the act of saving a woman and her infant daughter isn't inherently meaningful in itself; it simply would have rounded out the episode in a more satisfactory way.
Once Koyanagi finds out the truth behind the woman's attempted suicide, he decides to go directly to the thief in jail and offer him a chance at redemption as well – if he'll give up his partner, who committed two murders along with the theft, Koyanagi will let him see his wife and child. Naturally, this doesn't go well for Koyanagi, with the thief jumping in the river and Koyanagi himself landing in prison for six months, but it's not clear whether or not Koyanagi knew that this was a possibility, or that the man would return. It seems to be implied at the end that Koyanagi did know, but it could also be Heizo doing his best to clear Koyanagi's name so that he can come back to work.
That's the major issue with this episode – there are so many places where just a little more information could have rounded out the story, made Koyanagi a more fully realized character, and helped to make the bittersweet theme of lives lost and saved more meaningful. Having read some of the author's work, I know he's fully capable of writing with that depth and detail, which is why I think that this is likely a condensed adaptation of a longer and better story. It's a risk that we run with any adapted work – it's a shame that this one fell on its knees, though happily it stopped short of landing on its face.
ONIHEI is currently streaming on Amazon's Anime Strike.
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