I was beginning to give up hope, but after what seemed like months, we are finally graced with the fourth episode of Hyouge Mono. It is a very good one; one about Governor Furuta being one-upped at nearly every turn. First, whilst in the parade, Oda Nagamasu one-ups him in the wardrobe department.
Then, once under the roof of Tea Master Senno, he is seemingly one-upped, in rather crude fashion, but Senno’s deciple, Souji. Souji not only shoots down Sasuke’s appraisal of the hiraguno pot as a “masterpiece”, after hearing Sasuke has only been in the presence of ten masterpieces to his fifty, he question’s Sasuke’s ability to discern a masterpiece at all! Sasuke wavers in his head when asked to appraise a tea jar – not his forte – and is further taken aback when his choice is only considered fourth best by the surly disciple.
Most interesting, however, is Master Senno’s conversation with General Hashiba. It’s a big-eared powwow of sorts. Hashiba asks Senno what’s with his black fetish, including an extremely well-turned black tea bowl. Black means death and mourning in the culture of the land, but Senno defies that culture, calling black an absence of imperfection. He wants to create a similar absense in the realm, and asks – straight up – for the general to assist him in making that reality. In short, he plans a coup. Rating: 3.5
The rich, buttery, epic tale of Hyouge Mono continues with all the battles taking place inside Sasuke’s head. When Senno Soueki served him with the araki bowl, he suspected the tea master knew he had spared Araki’s life. He chose to be upfront and honest with him, and he proved correct; but Senno had no intention of ratting him out to Master Oda. Say what you will about Sasuke’s priorities, the man has good instincts, and it’s why he’s survived many battles and now serves as a governor.
Another example of his instincts is when Oda welcomes him to his sublime, over-the-top Azuchi Castle and offers him a choice of rewards for his deed: cash money, or an exquisite “barbarian” (read: Chinese) green lacquer container. Sasuke choses the cash, but reaches out and touches the box. Oda accepts his verbal reply for the cash as the wise choice, as a leader of men such as he must have cash to spend. He gives him both the money and the container.
Then Oda goes all megalomaniacal, proclaiming to a somewhat worried Sasuke that he intends to besiege and conquer the mainland, currently run by the Ming and Joseon Dynasties. The island isn’t enough for him. Just when Sasuke thought Oda had acquired and achieved everything he possibly could, he raises the bar. Later, one of General Akechi’s men insults Oda as deluded by grandeur. Sasuke all but demands satisfaction, but Akechi extinguishes the brush fire.
The true message – which only Sasuke can discern amongst those gathered at the banquer – is sent when Akechi uses an ordinary teakettle and not the exquisite gift from Oda. This could mean displeasure with Oda, or a refusal to follow him to China and Korea, likely to die in a blaze of glory. Speaking of exquisite, this series continues to feature the very best facial expressions and sayings. Old-timey Japanese talk is some of the most fun stuff to listen to, especially with chill, modern beats in the background, lending a noirish atmosphere. Rating: 4