Orient episode 2 kicks off right where last week’s episode ended. After breaking off from the soon-to-be slaves, Musashi and Kojirou face off against Oni for the first time. Last week, the highlight of the episode was primarily the focus on character introduction and exposition. While there was certainly plenty of screentime dedicated to the combat skills of the two main characters, even more time went into establishing both their origins and unique motivations. This episode took a bit of a mixed approach compared to the separated approach of the first. What I mean by that is that rather than have scenes of character-building and scenes of combat, Orient combined the two in episode 2. Combat and flashbacks traded the spotlight back and forth as we got a bit of a deeper look into Kojirou’s past and his complicated relationship with his Bushi bloodline.
While this episode conveyed the message it wanted to, it didn’t do so in a way that felt in need of the entire 23 minutes of content. The vast majority of the episode’s flashbacks and combat felt occasionally drawn out to fill time. Like episode 1, Orient episode 2 has the same persistent struggle with occasional sluggish animation. At times it almost felt like they were budgeting for some amazingly choreographed scene toward the end. Unfortunately, that never came. However, while I think much of the characterization in the episode felt somewhat derivative of last week, the world and power building was intriguing. We got to see more examples of exactly how Bushi fight and are organized.
Obviously, in talking about how that played out in the episode, I’ll be going over its content. Read with that in mind!
The Duo Takes on a Kishin!
What felt like the majority of the episode went to the recently-arrived Kishin beating the absolute hell out of Kojirou while trying to eat his sword. Kishin, apparently, eat precious metals and things like swords, becoming more powerful after doing so. This gives us some degree of insight into why their sycophants enslave people as miners for life. What didn’t make too much sense, however, was the fight itself. The Kishin spends a great deal of time basically trying to shake Kojirou off of his sword in order to eat it. This felt odd to me considering we saw the Oni eat many humans last week with basically no qualms.
I did appreciate the focus on Kojirou’s identity. This fight forced him to confront a reality he never really considered before: a world in which his sword, said to be the pride of a Bushi, was taken from him. This obviously wouldn’t happen in a society where the sword was used to identify him as a target of ostracization. For him to have its ownership called into question the moment he broke free of his former life meant he got to show his resolve. In Musashi’s case, we saw plenty of good-ol-fashioned Shonen protagonist obstinance as he retrieves Kojirou’s stolen sword and manages to deal a blow to the Kishin. While, similar to the first fight, I felt confused at how easy this went for him, I did appreciate the exchange between the two partners as they hardened shared resolve.
New Powers and New Characters in Orient episode 2
What gave me some relief was the revelation that, while the Kishin was briefly taken down by our main heroes, it was nowhere near defeated. Orient episode 2 is an excellent place to finally introduce some other Bushi for a couple reasons. For one, it gives the audience some idea of the “ceiling” our main characters need to approach. This narrative technique is pretty common in action anime; after the protagonist confronts some initial obstacle far beyond their means, a character that absolutely dwarfs their current abilities shows the audience a sort of endpoint for their power. But secondly, it brings to life what up until now had just been a foregone assumption. Now we truly know that Bushi are real, recognized, and, from the looks of it, quite organized within themselves. The band we see show up has their own insignia and quickly can identify Musashi and Kojirou as not being part of some other band.
Most exciting to me was that Orient episode 2 showed off some abilities not mentioned too much yet. Aside from the weird motor cycles Bushi seem to have, they can project energy from their swords both to attack and fly freely. Oni and Kishin seem to have access to barrier techniques requiring the strength of many to break through. Knowing how Shonen usually pan out, and knowing what this series’ creator did with Magi, I’m hopeful that the sorts of powers and abilities we saw in Orient episode 2 eventually become accessible to our main duo alongside other, unique abilities.
Images via VRV