I said that the rest of executioner-criminal pairs had been introduced in the previous episode, but there are still one more pair that has yet be properly introduced, and they were Tenza and Nurugai. Unlike the other pairs (save for Chobei and Touma), Tenza and Nurugai have a rather friendly interaction compared to the others. The other executioners couldn’t really careless about the criminals and only accompanied them out of their sense of duty in finding the Elixir under the shogun’s order. Tenza, on the other hand, actually cared for Nurugai and believed she’s innocent, so he encouraged her to get the pardon. He went as far as attempting to get her out of the island when he realized how dangerous it was and determined to talk to his superior to ger her pardoned. I’m happy to see there’s Asaemon executioner that able to see through a criminal’s real self and truly consider her as a person. It’s a good sight to see how Tenza gave Nurugai a reason not to give up on living for the sake of herself and her deceased loved ones.
I truly felt sorry for Nurugai. Unlike the other death-row criminals who committed crimes, Nurugai was wrongly convicted. She’s a good girl yet was made into a criminal simply because she’s part of community who refused to submit to the Tokugawa shogunate. Sure, they won’t submit, but the Sanka People also didn’t make any move that indicates rebellion, do they really need to massacre the whole Sanka People? Overkill if you ask me. To make it worse, her act of good will was what inadvertently led her people to be killed, leaving her a sole survivor. It’s not strange for her to develop survivor’s guilt from the incident to the point she considered her dangerous mission to be a divine punishment and she deserved to die. It’s a good thing that Tenza was the executioner who was assigned to her. Tenza’s optimism and kindness reignited Nurugai’s desire to live and return back home.
The other part of the episode that became my favorite, was without a doubt, Sagiri’s part. Maybe I’m just being biased, but Sagiri truly stole the spotlight again in this episode. Once again, Sagiri was faced with the problem she had since long ago: her gender. Because she’s a woman, like most people during that era, they expect her to marry and give birth to an heir. Many told her to give up on being a samurai and live like “a woman should be”. Even though she has polished her swordsmanship, she’s still often being looked down upon simply because she’s a woman. Even her own father gave a look that clearly scorning her for choosing to learn the way of the sword. Genji was also not an exception to this. I was angry at Genji when he just told her to return so she could “fulfil her duty” to give birth to a child that’ll succeed the Yamada clan. Maybe he’s not wrong in saying that Sagiri has no experience in art of real battlefield, but the way he spoke was condescending that I couldn’t bring myself to agree with him, and instead of respecting her wishes and decision, he continued to insist on her role as a woman.
Sagiri has overcome her insecurity when it comes to take responsibility for the lives she’s taken, but her insecurity when it comes to her gender was something she has yet to overcome. And again, ironically, the one who light her path was Gabimaru, the criminal that she only knew for a day. Gabimaru has a knack of sensing people’s potential, so he knew if someone is strong or not. Since their first confrontation, Gabimaru could tell that Sagiri is a strong samurai as he felt threatened enough to fight back against her. He’s also not the type to care she’s a woman, he acknowledged her strength and the potential she has to become stronger regardless of her gender.
It never ceased to impress me how Gabimaru and Sagiri helped each other without them even realizing or meaning to, which gradually improved their relationship despite only just getting to know each other. Sagiri helped Gabimaru realized his love for his wife and found his resolve to be with her, and Gabimaru helped Sagiri to face her problem head on and realized that she’ll never know her own strength if she stayed quiet like her peers told her to. The way the conversation between them was animated was simple but the impact of Sagiri’s epiphany was powerful. I can’t wait to see Sagiri proving herself in the next episode now that she has regained the confidence to stand her ground.