2016
04.26

Episode 5: The Shadow Ninja Clan – The Mystery of the Hokage!!

Kurei Mansion Arc

Chapters adapted:  Volume 2, Chapters 18 and 19

 

Welcome back to the fun, friends! Let’s continue on seeing how the adaption of Flame of Recca compares to the original!

After messing up a character’s introduction so badly he almost seems like a different person, episode 5 appears to get things back on track again. Once again this episode starts off rather promising.

We start in school where Recca’s teacher is off on maternity leave, leaving him with a substitute teacher, Mr. Tatesako, who is a ninja freak just like Recca. They bond pretty quickly until Recca casually mentions the Hokage Clan. This is enough for Mr. Tatesako to think something is special about Recca so he invites him over for some research on this secret ninja clan.

The only difference with the original version is how Recca is shown in different subjects how much he cares about them. It’s a short little scene that was endearing and really made it show how much of an impact Mr. Tatesako’s arrival really meant for him. But the anime trims this stuff anyway, so it was expected to be cut at this point.

This is the lightest in tone the anime has been so far, and it really shows. But the manga was a bit more comical about the situation, showing more of Recca’s aforementioned school habits before introducing us to Mr. Tatesako proper and Recca did not bring up the Hokage clan at all. Still, compared to all the deviations the anime has made so far, the fact that this episode is so close to the original so far both in story and tone is a very promising sign even if it isn’t quite up to the level it should be.

It is also nice to see bright colors for the first time in a long time. Other than the scene in the amusement park in the last episode, it has been rare seeing any in the anime.

Both versions also feature a short news segment on a man named Mori Koran, a big time Chairman of a large company who donates to charity and all sorts of noble causes. He’s a bit odd looking, but there’s definitely more to him than meets the eye.

But next we have the first real divergence from the manga: Domon and Fuko tag along with Recca and Yanagi to see their teacher at his place. Now, there really isn’t any reason for them to come along: they don’t really care about ninja stuff and usually prefer to leave Recca and Yanagi alone, but at this point following the manga is as rare as Anime Recca winning a fight without a fluke so a slight deviation like this is digestible.

Compared to turning Mikagami into a psychopathic serial murderer, any changes here are a really a drop in the bucket.

At least, for now.

They reach Mr. Tatesako’s residence to what might be the single most pointless change in the adaption so far. In the anime, Mr. Tatesako is well off and lives at a large shrine with tons of ninja paraphernalia at his fingertips. He lives in this large place alone with his wife. How he can afford this as a substitute teacher isn’t ever explained. In the manga, he is poor since he is only a substitute teacher and hoping his research on the Hokage Clan will finally pay off so his wife and he can finally live a little better off.

Tatesako's place in the Manga

Tatesako's place in the Anime

This change might not make any sense now, but the second half of the episode will make it all clear as to why they changed this seemingly innocuous detail.

Recca pairs off with Mr. Tatesako as they go off to discuss the Hokage Clan and Yanagi takes off with his wife (yep, he’s married!) to get some food for the group. In the manga they go eventually go grocery shopping; in the anime they stick around in the kitchen the whole time. The weather begins to go south outside in both versions.

Mr. Tatesako explains the history of the Hokage Clan, a group that created madogu as mystical artifacts that could give them powers and abilities. This made them a highly feared clan among all the others. It turns out Kagehoshi’s shadow abilities come from a madogu, and both Mikagami’s Ensui and Fuko’s Fujin are madogu as well. All these elements are tied together, though it is not clear yet how.

The Hokage Clan were even flame masters, something Recca almost assuredly is becoming. Whoever this group was, they were certainly something else. But what does all this have to do with Recca?

They go on speculating as to what all this means when the power goes out.

Now, I’m at a loss as to describe what happens next. The same basic event happens in both the manga and anime, but the execution is so wildly different that I will have to describe them separately in full. This means I will first describe what happens in the manga version followed by the anime when I reach the end.

Keep in mind, the end result is the same for both and several things happen in both, but they are otherwise entirely different encounters. The staff of the anime must have figured Anzai couldn’t write a good fight scene.

Anyway, here it goes.

 

Manga

The power goes out and two strangers show up outside their apartment. Their target is Mr. Tatesako for the obvious reason that he has the only known scroll of the madogu. The younger of the pair even has one of the madogu listed on the scroll earlier.

The kid enters the apartment, uninvited, saying he’s here to kidnap Mr. Tatesako, and Recca scolds him for playing “games” and messing around with strangers. The boy sucker punches Recca with his weapon and sends him across the room. Mr. Tatesako identifies the weapon as the Kogon Anki, one of the madogu on the scroll, which he just used to sneak attack Recca.

Recca jumps out to hit him back, but finds himself paralyzed and unable to move. It turns out the kid’s partner, Mokuren, used aconite to paralyze Recca so he wouldn’t fight back. He is apparently a master of plants. The pair takes the also paralyzed Mr. Tatesako and leaves the apartment as Recca is frozen helplessly. The two successfully completed their mission to retrieve the only one who knows about madogu without anybody getting hurt.

But then the unexpected happens.

Outside, Mrs. Tatesako and Yanagi return from the store horrified at the sight of the kidnapping. Before the kid can stop Mokuren, he leaps into action, plant limbs and roots sprouting from his body and stabs Mrs. Tatesako quite gruesomely. It’s quite the unexpected moment and happened too fast for anyone there to react. Yanagi screams at the sight which leads Recca to burst through the poison and crash through the upper floor window down to the street.

He sucker punches (well, kicks) Mokuren square in the head, landing a critical hit, but before he can capitalize the kid hits him on the back of the head, knocking him square out. Turns out Recca cut himself with a knife to break out of the trance and the boy marvels at his tenacity. Recca is nothing if not tenacious.

They notice that Yanagi matches a description of some rumors of a healer girl, so they take her with Mr. Tatesako as Recca is left unconscious in the rain. This Kurei freak has not only captured his target, but the bonus of Yanagi as well! Recca might be out of his depth here in the middle of events he just doesn’t understand.

His last words are to mutter hopelessly for his princess as he fades away.

And that is the end of volume 2.

 

Anime

While the manga’s versions of the events are more dramatic and unexpected, the anime takes a bit more of a confrontational and obvious route. The reason the staff changed the setting from a small apartment into a shrine was to get a small fight scene to happen.

And what a clunker of a fight scene it is.

The kid introduces himself as Kaoru Koganei and proceeds to dominate Recca in a fight. It isn’t even close. Recca is clearly outmatched on every level as the anime has to show us on a constant basis. After getting bounced around like a moron, he is paralyzed just as he is in the manga.

The only difference is that Mokuren wanders away when he hears a woman’s voice and stabs Mrs. Tatesako through the sliding door out of the room. Outside the room, Yanagi screams while Recca still remains frozen in place. Koganei does nothing at all but watch as this farce plays out despite clearly not approving. But he’snot done yet! This is the reason why Fuko and Domon were put into this episode where they shouldn’t have been—it was in order for them to get beat up.

Mokuren proceeds to take both Domon and Fuko out in one hit and readies to butcher Fuko when Koganei cuts him with Kogon Anki and forces him to stop. Why he waited so long to act is a question that no one will answer. Mokuren finally complies and they take Yanagi, their actual target, and Mr. Tatesako out with them. Boy, what a lucky coincidence he was there with them, huh? Not like he would have been far easier to track down than a random schoolgirl who might have a power that might not even exist or anything.

Everyone was beaten in one hit. Are you kidding me.

After far too long a pause, Recca finally breaks free of being paralyzed and chases after them. He sucker punches Mokuren (actually gives him a Hurricanrana after tripping him . . . I don’t know why he does this either) and takes him out in one hit while he goes straight to Yanagi and not like, you know, capitalizing on the surprise attack or anything. Koganei once again simply watches it happen.

When I said the earlier fight was a clunker, this part is just nonsensical. They both saw him coming yet neither could stop him despite easily being able to stop him seconds earlier. And if Recca could do this earlier, uh, why didn’t he? And didn’t Fuko almost kill him a few episodes ago? How is she beaten so easily? Why doesn’t she even use Fujin? If Mokuren is so easily beatable then why was he able to beat Fuko and Domon within a second? It doesn’t compute.

That’s right, this guy took out both Domon and Fuko in one hit, both of whom Recca has trouble beating, and then Recca beats Mokuren in a single hit. There is no consistency here at all.

Stupidly taking his eyes off both Mokuren and Koganei, he runs to Yanagi to make a dramatic speech for some reason instead of  calling the police or helping her. He watches Koganei sprint up to him from about twenty feet away and stands unmoving as he flips over Recca and hits him in the back of the head to knock him out in a single hit. Even with plenty of time to spare, he still manages to embarrass himself. Anime Recca never fails to disappoint!

So, really, this episode is so eager to get to the shonen battling that it crammed it into this episode where it had no place. What was originally a pair of fun chapters capped off by a shocking and dramatic ending was turned into a long battle scene that lasted much too long and made every single character except Koganei look like a chump. Of course this is actually inaccurate to the source material as Koganei is not a powerhouse character but one known for strategy, speed, and quick reflexes, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that the mystique of the situation is entirely lost here to be replaced with pointless fight scenes.

But that is where this episode ends. After all that mess, the end of the episode is much the same as the manga with Recca slipping into slumber.

In the original version, the tenseness came from the unknown. Even after Mokuren and Koganei’s entrance, we are still not sure how strong or weak they are or what they can fully do and yet they managed to best our hero. But the anime makes it blatant how strong they are off the bat (while giving Mokuren a total glass jaw in the process, which is inaccurate to the character, in a sense) and sucking the drama out of the situation. Throwing in Fuko and Domon to make the enemies look stronger and to give the pair shallow motivation for the next episode, was totally unneeded and only manages to make them look as incompetent as Anime Recca does.

This episode was not a disaster on the scale of what was done to Mikagami in the last two episodes, or the sucking out of the humor of the other episodes, but the inability for the staff to let a dramatic encounter stick without turning it into a typical shonen battle scene sucked a lot of what made these chapters so good in the manga right out.

See, Flame of Recca, despite what the anime wants to tell you, was actually a lot of fun as an action adventure story. The cast dynamic, the humor, the drama and suspense, the adventure and lore, and, yes, the battles and fights, are all what make it such a fun series as a whole. It’s every piece that makes it work. The Flame of Recca anime is dead set on removing everything but the fighting and are turning the series into a one note story in the process.

While the plot’s events are more or less the same, the execution is undeniably weaker than the manga. The fact of the matter is that not a single change from Nobuyuki Anzai’s original story to this anime has been for the better yet making me wonder what exactly the staff was thinking of here. It’s starting to become obvious why this anime didn’t last.

We are at the beginning of the first arc in the series, and it is already starting off on a bad foot. This does not bode well for the rest of it.

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