Not for those whose glass kokoro can’t take a cliffhanger plus the wait.
This has GOT to be the best Hybrid Child story (I mean, I’ve said that since the first OVA I think) despite the rather fragmented way the story was presented. Before I blamed its plot execution, I browsed through the manga and decided that the anime followed the manga too closely. There’s something off about how the scenes change, the untimely whitening of backgrounds and all, no?
Tsukishima, Kuroda and Seya are childhood friends who stayed as close friends as they grew up despite the differences in their social positions. However, their clan was involved in the overthrowing of Japan’s last feudal military government (am actually not quite sure what I’m typing here, it’s just a mash-up of all the words that sound right) and during a battle where they were attacked, they were faced with defeat. Someone had to take responsibility for that and in terms of social position, Tsukishima was the only one who could fit that role. The episode ends with Kuroda struggling to reach Tsukishima before the latter commits suicide.
I can’t really put my feelings into words for now, but before I continue, let me just set this straight. During the first episode, we saw Kuroda ALONE right? So I’m assuming that everyone here knows what’s about to happen because I don’t think it’s meant to be a shock/surprise anyway. Knowing that they won’t have a happy ending together made this episode sadder than it would have been, especially when I saw how much they cared for each other. Even though Tsukishima (Onodera, lol) can’t seem to stop ordering Kuroda to “die” every time he was made fun of, you can’t not see how much he actually likes Kuroda. On the other hand, I think it was very obvious for all to see that Kuroda has a soft spot for Tsukishima and he’s just one of those who likes to bully the one he likes. Despite how he seemed to always pick on Tsukishima, he is always doing all he can to cheer Tsukishima up and to be of help to him.
Matsuoka Yoshitsugu voices Tsukishima and I thought he did a very good job. I loved his narration of the opening scene, just because it’s him, but that soothing voice soon became a tad irritating when he transformed into bratty Tsukishima. Although this voice of his is definitely not my favourite, he sounded so unlike himself at times, that I thought it was proof of Matsuoka’s prowess as a voice actor to be able to change his voice that much. I loved how he transformed again when he was giving out orders for battle, from brat to minister. This guy definitely deserves my vote for Best Seiyuu of 2014. Ono Yuuki, another of my recent favourites, took on the role of Kuroda very convincingly. Although he didn’t use his gentle voice which I really like, gruff Ono Yuuki is kinda sexy so Shion isn’t complaining.
I’ve decided to do some wiki-reading during my translation of this episode, because it wouldn’t have made sense otherwise. Here’s a quick summary of the key facts which are relevant:
The Shogun, lords and ministers
During the Edo period, the emperor appointed a Shogun (military leader) who were then the de facto leader of Japan as the emperor took on a largely ceremonial role then. The Shogun will have many lords (Daimyo) beneath them, these lords oversee their own territory and clan. Each lord will then have their ministers who serve them and Tsukishima was appointed as one of these ministers to his lord (or Daimyo).
The Meiji Restoration
Basically, it was the Meiji Restoration which ended the traditional feudal Japanese military government of Shoguns and ushered in the modern era of reforms. An alliance between two powerful lords resulted in a successful overthrow of the then Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, who then resigned from his position, handing governing power back to the Emperor. However, the opposing lords didn’t want the formation of a new government with Yoshinobu leading it. They did some underhanded things to strip Yoshinobu of all his land and titles, to which Yoshinobu protested against. This eventually resulted in a clash (the Boshin War) between Yoshinobu and the two lords. However, when it became apparent that Yoshinobu won’t stand a chance against the two lords, he escaped to Edo Castle and surrendered. Eventually, Edo Castle was handed over to the Imperial Army, sparing the city’s people from war. That’s probably what Tsukishima’s clan was talking about when they said that the Shogun disappearing, Edo castle being handed over, and about the Shogun caring only for his own people. The remaining army of the Shogun was then taken care of by the Imperial army, and Tsukishima’s clan would fall under this “remaining army”. Although the Meiji Restoration was probably the best thing that happened to Japan during that century (just look at how powerful Japan became after that), it is bringing nothing but sadness in this story of Hybrid Child.
At the end of the episode, we found out that Tsukishima had volunteered to commit suicide because “someone has to take responsibility for the defeat”. Seppuku is the act of disemboweling oneself, specially reserved for samurais and in some circumstances, the wives of samurais. It’s a largely ceremonial ritual (gosh, these people are sick) and happens due to various reasons, because someone disgraced himself, to prove honesty, to show protest, to preserve one’s honour, etc. Sometimes a lord will be called upon to perform a seppuku as a basis of a peace agreement after a defeat of a battle and that’s what happened here. It’s usually done to weaken a clan so that future resistance will be difficult, hence it had to be someone of high social position i.e. Tsukishima and not Kuroda. Although I’ve always been a fan of Japanese culture, reading the wiki page for Seppuku still shocked me quite a bit.
In general, this episode was great, albeit confusing. Along with the usual moments of boisterous humour, we were rewarded with two moments of fan-service which got me screenshotting like mad. I still can’t believe they ended while Kuroda limped off to find Tsukishima, but you can be sure that the next (and final) Hybrid Child episode is going to make everyone cry buckets of tears. Will they come to a realisation about their mutual feelings before the inevitable?
(PS: was I the only one who saw Gin from Bleach when Seya leered at Kuroda after the headband exchange?)