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And we’re back to your regularly scheduled liveblog of Ronin Warriors / Yoroiden Samurai Troopers: Message. The last episode, “The Truth Arrives”, is sure to fuck with us big time, so strap in and prepare to have your mind blown.
Let’s take a look at the beginning of “The Truth Arrives”. Suzunagi is the first character we see, not Ryo. She feels lost, physically, mentally, and spiritually, questioning “Where has my spirit gone?”, the first words of this episode (she is most certainly a wayward spirit). We see her lying on the floor of a traditional Japanese room, sleeping, which is a very human thing for a ghost to do—I believe the juxtaposition is intentional. She sleeps under a kimono patterned with butterflies, which represent death in some cultures, as well as transformation and the ephemeral—all major themes of Message. The room contains elements of tradition: a Japanese ink painting and Ikebana, as well as the nontraditional cross Suzunagi always wears (some could argue that Suzunagi’s physical appearance, with her red hair and green eyes, is a nontraditional element in and of itself). Suzunagi says she’s lost her “spirit”, which I take to mean the will that drove her to entrap the four Samurai Troopers she’s gathered so far. Is her grudge leaving her, or is it being transformed into something better?
We cut to the city at night. Ryo’s in a phone booth, talking to Nasuti Yagyu / Mia Koji. We only hear his side of the argument right now: she’s advising him to be cautious, but Ryo is only interested in getting his missing friends back, and he knows where to find them: Shinjuku. (Huh. Interesting. A traditional spirit inhabiting one of the most modern areas of Tokyo.) When we finally hear Nasuti’s voice, she get the last word in. “Can you fight, Ryo? We may be the ones who are wrong.” Wincing, Ryo hangs up the phone and shrinks against the wall of the booth. The scene changes to Ryo sitting in a bare, darkened apartment, listening to the phone ring over and over. He listens to messages (!) left for him on his answering machine. Touma says he’s sent the script to Ryo and remarks on the idea that their battles were predestined. “The story rolls on, but it also ends in a bottomless pit of darkness. The script describes the human spirit…in the end, we are troubled by our spirits as we run around in circles…something has to change, or else it’ll all be repeated.”
Next is a message from Shin, telling Ryo that he hasn’t heard from Touma but he’s sure that he is alright. He dismisses his own condition as “fine, too”. Shin says, “I’ve made up my mind already. All you have to do is fight.You just have to defeat your enemy. It’s easy. Otherwise, they’ll get you.” He goes on to tell Ryo that all he can manage to do is take care of himself; he can’t control the world of the armor, only his immediate surroundings, even if it’s selfish. More tellingly, he then says “I hope it’ll be over soon, if there is an end.” Shin is obviously desperate and afraid, but at the same time, resigned. “Ryo. Forgive me,” are the last words of Shin’s message. Forgive him for what? His “selfishness”? His fear? His weakness? We’re never truly sure.
Shu’s message is up next. After greeting Ryo, he immediately says he “can’t take it” if Ryo “goes away too. Seiji was alive at least until this morning. It seems like someone wants to wipe out the world with the armors. I wish I could show them the true nature of the Inferno armor. Sure, the world may be tainted. But I still believe that human beings are better than you think.” Laughing weakly, Shu says his hands are shaking and that he’s scared. “What are we fighting? There’s no enemy…I’m fighting my past self. We defeated the netherworld, and what did we gain?…I haven’t gained anything, and I haven’t left anything. It’s always the same. I can’t contain the power I wield.” Shu goes on, saying that he probably wouldn’t have said this if he spoke directly to Ryo, and thanks him. “I’m sorry. I’m embarrassed. Bye.”
Seiji’s message begins without preamble. “I think we can believe in ourselves. The sadness, intimidation, and fear we feel is real. But this is why we can love others.The armors came into this world, and have influenced the world in many ways for many years. You can see the sorrow of the people caught up with them. The armors have intertwined with the dark side of history. We can’t talk of the past or the future without referring to the armors…The human spirit influences them… Isn’t this the start of a new journey? Ryo. The next time we meet, I feel as though I will be wearing my armor. I want to believe in our five spirits…Goodbye, Ryo. I’ll see you in the light.”
Throughout the entirety of the phone messages, Ryo is unmoving. He sits in his darkened room and doesn’t even blink as each message plays. We see a star-filled sky and the Ryo, wrapped in a blanket, sleeping in the same sitting position he held throughout listening to the answering machine. A pop song plays, and we again see each of the Samurai Troopers confront Suzunagi, facing their fates. As we see Suzunagi collapse, weeping for Seiji, the flashback ends.
A group of politicians are gathered, talking about youja / not-youja that have seemingly appeared around the world (not entirely sure of the exact location, but they say that “a similar thing happened in Japan”, (probably referring to Arago’s invasion) “but they handled it so carelessly.” They say they can “only counter it by using each nation’s forces.” The cycle of violence is poised to repeat itself, this time on a global and otherworldly scale. The shot pans down to reveal the back of Nasuti Yagyu’s head, then cuts to her shaking hands. Wishing silently for the Samurai Troopers to “lend me your power”, Nasuti stands up. “I address the council!” she says, and takes a deep breath, presumably preparing to tell the world about the Samurai Troopers.
Ryo stands in front of Suzunagi’s building. She appears before him, and he says, “I am the last one. Ryo of the Wildfire. I sense that everyone is here.” The new armors appear in a row on the building above. Taking a step back to look up, Ryo gives a small smile and says “I’ll do it. Believe in me, and I’ll believe in you.” He seems to be speaking to his friends.
Lifting her arms, Suzunagi summons the box that Ryo realizes must holdi the new armor of Rekka. Suzunagi says, “Touma realized the mistakes of the past. Shin was unable to realize his hopes. Shu recognized the battle will continue forever. Seiji has denied all battle, and even his own spirit. And you…where do you expect to be led with this armor? The five armors created from my hatred existed only to bring forth the Inferno armor.” (i.e., destruction).
Ryo comments that he and his friends have lived to fight dark spirits, a fate that would normally require him to fight Suzunagi here. But he says he will pose the question to the armor itself (I take the question to be where will the armor lead him? This is a little unclear) “to get an answer as to why we feel such despair”.
"My despair?" questions Suzunagi. Ryo replies that it is through their battles that they have seen what it means to be human. "Weak, cowardly, pathetic humans…we’ve taken it to heart."
Suzunagi says that she wants to put the armor on Ryo with her own hands. She does so, during which time Ryo reflects that humans will always fight as long as they are desperate. “Hate is easily created. I’ve lost it (hate?) and it will never return.”
"I cannot forget it," Suzunagi replies.
"Don’t look back," advises Ryo.
Suzunagi asks, “Your injuries?”
"Will heal," assures Ryo.
"Will dry up."
Lastly, Suzunagi offers Ryo his helm, asking, “My hatred?”
Ryo takes the helm. “I ask that you watch over me. I will smash them, together with the armors.” Ambiguous translations aside, I think this means that he will destroy her hate with the assistance of the other armors. He shouts to the other four armors. “Samurai Troopers! I summon your spirits to come to me!” Four armors become beams of light that arc into the sky and down into Ryo. The resulting blast makes Suzunagi flinch.
We see Ryo, sans armor, on his knees, breathing hard in a fog. Touma is walking towards him, and Ryo looks up. They smile at each other and are joined by Shin, Shu, and Seiji, also smiling. “If only a day would come when light would come to this place,” thinks Ryo (so maybe they’re in a netherworld? Or are they in their own mindscape?). They turn to see that Suzunagi is also there, and that they’re surrounded by gravestones, ancient traditional ones, Christian cross headstones, pagodas, and others.
"These graves," Suzunagi says, looking around. We see an image of an old warrior holding an armor box and being shot with at least fifty arrows before he falls off a cliff into a river; people dying to defend yet another box from an assault on a fortress. The cycle of war and destruction. Suzunagi says, "I see the history of those who rejected the power of the armors. Do these graves belong to these people?" She seems cold. "The tragedy that repeats itself. I lost my compassion for such a thing long ago. Human spirits enjoy licking each other’s wounds. All it results in is a pathetic pile of corpses. How appropriate! I’ll create five new graves right here!"
Suddenly, who should appear through the mist but Byakuen / White Blaze! He’s holding an orange lily in his mouth, awww. He sets it on a grave with a cross carved into it, and roars. It’s her mother’s grave! Suzunagi sees a vision of her mother, who speaks to her daughter. “Your sadness…caused a great grudge to grow within you. I cannot blame you for that. Within this land lies those who rejected the armors throughout the ages.”
"The land of those pathetic souls," Suzunagi interrupts, "who chose death without creating anything, nor acknowledging anything."
"A pathetic death." Her mother says. "A miserable life. Nevertheless, spirits here do not hold a grudge against humanity." When Suzunagi asks why, her mother tells her, "Those who drew upon the power of love lie here in this land. Love brings forth an incredible power, but occasionally that power can change to hatred." Turning to her daughter, Suzunagi’s mother says, "I feel pity for a love like yours."
Suzunagi again remembers her death and her mother’s death. When the screen is completely black, she says, “I placed my love in a small corner of the armors. I entrusted my love to the five spirits of a later era. The spirits were troubled by power.” Again, we see flashes of all five Samurai Troopers, followed by a young Suzunagi flinging herself against her mother’s apparition, sobbing. “Mother and Father died! There’s nothing left that I can love.” The spirit of her mother embraces the little girl, and we see that the butterfly kimono Suzunagi was sleeping under was in fact her mother’s kimono. A mirror glows behind her mother’s spirit, enveloping them as the mother says, “Gentle child, may you love me again as your spirit tells you.” (THANKS AGAIN, WEIRD CHINESE BOOTLEG TRANSLATION.) The light envelopes them and we see the grave, followed by the mists of the graveyard parting to let in the sun. Suzunagi’s mother says that “the spirits who heroically sought the proper path have guided my daughter to the light. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for that.” (So I guess this means that the Samurai Troopers were the spirits who sought the proper path? Damn you, vagueness!)
Touma, in his new armor of Tenku, flies through the sunny sky. Shin brandishes his Jumonji Yari against waves breaking on a rocky shore. In a canyon, Shu appears to be breaking rocks to smithereens with his mind. Seiji studies his new (even longer and super elegant) nodachi, a skyscraper behind him. And then we see Ryo, looking fly as fuck with two swords at his hip. They all stand together on top of a skyscraper and stare out at the city around them.
We cut to…Byakuen! It’s a still shot of Shu playing with him. “I hope you come to my grave, too!” Shu says, petting the tiger’s head.
Next is a still shot of Shin, holding his helmet before him. “Shu, our era is only beginning.”
Looking over his shoulder at Ryo and Seiji, Touma remarks, “I guess it starts with five.”
"We’ll create a new history that will not spoil the Samurai Trooper name" Seiji agrees. He looks optimistic.
Ryo stares off into the distance. “As long as we have love, we’ll do as our soul tells us.” He sees an apparition of Suzunagi, who says that she still wants to hear an answer to her question one day, bows her head, and vanishes as the camera pulls back on a shot of the city itself.
AND CREDITS. Holy crud, is that it? But wait! One last scene.
It’s Jun! (I know, I know, but give the kid a chance.) He’s in Junior high now, participating in a kendo tournament. He stands up, ready to fight as an announcer calls his name.
Then it’s over. Yaaayyyy? That was a little anti-climactic. Oh well. Analysis to follow, but for now, I’m beat as hell.
And now to interrupt our usual liveblogging schedule to address a few issues. That’s right, kids! It’s time for an open letter. This is an open letter to Suzunagi. Hopefully she won’t trap us in a church for our presumption and our inevitable but unintentional disrespect.
I dig that you are a powerful lady-ghost with enough mojo to trap armor-wielding dudes into more powerful armors you made yourself. And you’ve been around for hundreds of years, which takes dedication! Way to be, ghost lady. Way to be. [Also, I want to know how the fuck your hair got like that. I’m willing to suspend disbelief on the color (it’s a goddamn anime from the late 80’s after all) but why the spidery bangs? Explain your aesthetic choices.]
Of course, my first loyalty is to the boys and it sucks that you’re mindfucking them, but ghosts don’t always have the gentlest approaches when it comes to shit they’re angry about. I get that you’re new around here (or super-old, depending on one’s perspective) but you should know that nobody gets to fuck with the Samurai Troopers like you have. Not cool, madam. Not cool at all. You were rude to Touma and just downright cruel to Shin. I get that you’re upset but jeez, did you ever stop to think that these idiots might have no idea what you’re all about? A little conversation goes a long way. Look at the experience you had with Seiji. You listened to him just a little bit, and look at how much you both grew as people. Granted, you’re still set on a spiraling path of nihilistic destruction, but you totally have doubts now. I can tell.
Let’s see…I’m also digging the fact that you’re pretty gosh darn unique as far as villainnesses go. Okay, maybe not unique, the whole vengeful supernatural lady bit has been around a while ( I AM LOOKING AT YOU, ONRYU OF FOLKLORE) but you’re pretty cool. Although, in the context of Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, we really only have Kayura to compare you to. You, like Kayura, are a character who seems one-dimensional at first but who is not all that she appears to be. You both have bitchin’ powers, although Kayura’s were more physical at first and became spiritual when she became a “good” female character (which I think says a lot about what people think a woman’s power is supposed to be; but she also keeps Shuten’s Oni armor, which is fucking dope. You just know she kicks ass, even if her last scene shows her in a court kimono). You’re both distantly related to Kaos, although you seem to have more of a love/ hate (emphasis on the hate) relationship with his creations and purpose. Unlike Kayura, though, you weren’t forced to make crappy choices by an external influence. You made all your own decisions, and you totally own that. I admire that in a villain, although I don’t like how you bitch-slap the boys just because you can. You are truly a character who embodies darkness and light, and I can get behind that. You’re not an evil person, but you’ve done a bunch of evil things. You’re not good either, but you are scared and lost and you want better for the world than what you had. And isn’t that what “real” people are like, ultimately?
Do I like you as a person? Hmmm, not sure. You’re way out of line re: the Samurai Troopers. Also, I still have to remind myself that you can be more than a disillusioned, destructive fantasy railing against the failings of tradition and progress in postwar Japan. So no, I don’t think I really like you yet, because you hurt the boys and you’re kind of a heinous bitch sometimes. But I totally respect your pain, your struggle and everything you’re trying to work through as a person instead of a two-dimensional caricature.
So you keep being you, Suzunagi. Just let the Ronin Warriors out of those fucking suits of armor first.