Thread: Hyouge Mono
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Old 2011-04-24, 12:59   Link #21
Feeling comfy
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Singapore
Age: 44
Originally Posted by frubam View Post
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
I could care less about the tea.
Your username would say otherwise.
Lol. My username has nothing to do with tea. It comes from a pun on my Chinese name, 叶志鸿 (pinyin Ye Zhihong; surname Ye, which means "leaf"), which also sounds like 叶子红, literally "leaf small red". Hence, TinyRedLeaf, which sounds a lot cuter. A colleague invented it for me on a whim some five years ago, and it has since become my permanent online moniker.

That said, there was one show whose forum I regret not participating in at the time of its airing: The House of Five Leaves. Of all series, that was surely the most obvious one for a fellow "Leaf" to support!

Originally Posted by frubam View Post
I just watched episode 1, and I'm not sure what I just watched. I really lol'd at Sasuke's serious observations depicted in a comedic fashion, but the whole reason they were fighting flew right over my head. Probably because it's 6am in the morning. I'm not quite seeing the reasons that emphasize these special artifacts are worth fighting and dying for, but that might be attributed to me not knowing anything about the era the show is depicted in or the real-life personae that the chars are based on.
I'll try to break it down so you'd understand what was going on (intense politicking!).

First though, a rebuttal:
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
But even if I wasn't hooked by the subject matter, I'd easily forgive that for the final scene where Oda asks Sasuke his opinion on the warship. That exchange captured the contradiction of Sasuke's position perfectly - how do you serve a master whom you can't wholeheartedly respect?
You've entirely misunderstood what was going on, I feel.

Sasuke has nothing but utmost respect and admiration for his liege, Oda Nobunaga, the only man he feels deserving to be lord of the realm, not just because of his political and military prowess, but also because of what he feels to be Nobunaga's superior aesthetic tastes. That much was apparent in the opening scene of Ep1, when Sasuke compared Nobunaga's "tasteful" Western attire against the austere but old-fashioned armour of his "boorish" generals.

What transpired at the harbour is a stark portrayal of what makes Nobunaga such a powerful yet frightening man (dubbed the "Sixth Demon Lord" by Matsunaga Hisahide). The warlord is wildly ambitious, far beyond the ken of almost all of his contemporaries. This is a man who, once he has decided on a goal, would stop at absolutely nothing to claim it. For him, every decision is a do-or-die moment. He is the ultimate gambler: He aims to either win everything, or lose everything in the attempt.

But ambition alone is not what makes Nobunaga so powerful he is also, at the same time, an extremely shrewd judge of talent and potential. As far as possible, he strives to surround himself with men as hungry as him for total domination, men like Hisahide and Hashiba Hideyoshi, a former peasant who literally climbed the ranks to become one of Nobunaga's most trusted generals.

These men are wolves who bear nothing but naked ambition and that is exactly the way Nobunaga likes them to be. A man like Nobunaga has zero tolerance for weaklings who lack the courage to stand up for their own beliefs. That was why he executed the impertinent merchant on the spot not because he felt insulted, but because, when challenged, the fool backtracked on his words ("Speak your truth, but never recede!" roared Nobunaga).

And this was also precisely why Nobunaga was so keen to woo the recalcitrant Hisahide back to his side. Hisahide, for all his apparent disloyalty, was an honest broker, a brazenly ambitious man who fought not for the spoils of war, but for his own independence. Nobunaga appreciates such courage, the way a tea master appreciates fine tea.

What we have here is an obvious conflict of interest: How to subdue a wild bull who refuses to be tamed?

Hence, Nobunaga's "test". He ordered Sasuke fetch him the legendary Hiragumo, knowing full well that Hisahide would never part willingly with his prized possession. This is Nobunaga's typical gamble at work: He'd either win back Hisahide if the plan had succeeded, he would have no choice but to follow the Hiragumo back to Nobunaga's side or he'd lose the general forever, as he knew the cornered warrior had no other option but suicide.

In truth, he didn't care a wit about the Hiragumo. He failed even to recognise it, mistaking it for a pile of junk when Sasuke brought back what was left of it. All he wanted was to secure Hisahide's loyalty, or to get rid of a thorn in his side once and for all.

Now, I've mentioned that almost no one understands how Nobunaga's mind works. Indeed, almost no one but the crafty, and also obviously ambitious, Hideyoshi.

Among all of Nobunaga's retainers, Hideyoshi was the only one to have guessed his lord's intentions right away. So, being a cunning man, he went about to hatch his own plot to ensure that Hisahide would not return to Azuchi Castle.

Why would he do so? Well, that's because Hisahide was a powerful rival, and Hideyoshi can always do with one less competitor for Nobunaga's favour. Sasuke was actually on the verge of persuading the "old fox" to return ("Does Nobunaga wish to prolong my life so? Or perhaps he wishes to see my death personally," mused Hisahide) but, at the crucial moment, Hideyoshi unexpectedly intervened.

We may not be witness to what then transpired, but it's easy to guess. Hideyoshi likely made it clear that he would not allow Hisahide to live, so the "old fox" might as well die a hero's death by suicide.

Note that Hideyoshi's gambit was not without its risks. The "monkey" presumed to be privy to Nobunaga's plan, a grave act of impudence that nearly got him killed by the warlord on the spot. But here's where Hideyoshi displayed his own brilliance: He forged a poem, claiming it to be Hisahide's last words, an expression of regret that the world was not large enough to contain both his and Nobunaga's ambitions.

Whether or not Nobunaga was fooled, I can't really tell. But it hardly matters, because the daimyo was clearly amused and appreciative of Hideyoshi's ambition and cleverness, and hence forgave the "monkey", and even rewarded him with the plum role of leading the Western campaign against the Mori clan, a series of battles that would later prove to be the turning point of Hideyoshi's political fortunes.

And finally, a coda.

Throughout all this politicking, take note of how Sasuke was the only man who genuinely appreciated art for art's sake. For all the other men of war, works of art were merely tools, a means to an end.

What makes Hyouge Mono exceptional to me is that it spares nothing to ridicule even Sasuke, precisely for this one virtue.

Nobunaga, Hisahide and Hideyoshi were vain fools who would risk everything for ephemeral power. Similarly, Sasuke is a fool who would risk everything for the sake of an artefact that even tea master Yamanoue Souji had decreed to be a useless treasure; which Nobunaga described as junk; and which we ourselves, as viewers, see as nothing special, just an ugly old lid.

For all his pretensions of being an aesthete, Sasuke was, at that point, no less vain than the most powerful men of his age. It's a quality that endears him to Nobunaga ("Perhaps his life may not end as a mere field messenger."), but will also doom Sasuke if it is not set to balance.

And that, I suspect, is what we'll see happen in Ep3.
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