With Episode 1 of this season firmly setting the stage for Sugimoto’s group, Episode 2 takes the time to focus on Hijikata and the trouble he and Ushiyama have found themselves in. As Kadokura and Kirawus close in on the tattooed prisoner Sekiya, Kadokura’s character-defining bad luck becomes ever-important. As the rival group closes in on another piece of the map, where will this leave Sugimoto’s group in their search?
The second episode of the season takes a more comical bent, showcasing the off-color humor that often breaks through the tension of the chase. Ushiyama awakens and breaks out of his coffin but is still under the effects of Sekiya’s poison. As such, he’s unable to even search for the still-missing Hijikata and instead wanders off in a daze. He stumbles upon Chiyotarou — the young boy who informed Kadokura about Hijikata’s last known whereabouts — tied to a tree by some older boys. Chiyotarou gets Ushiyama to free him by offering dried peaches and, stunned by his raw strength, decides to take Ushiyama on as his personal servant.
While Ushiyama caters to Chiyotarou’s whims, Kadokura’s search for Hijikata is reignited upon receiving a ransom note from Sekiya demanding the tattooed skins. Because Nagakura left on his own to search for Hijikata — while in possession of the group’s tattooed skins — Kadokura and Kirawus have no choice but to try and bluff their way to saving Hijikata before reuniting with Nagakura. As they try to formulate a plan, Chiyotarou is also stuck concocting one — how to get rid of Ushiyama after realizing just how dangerous his strength is.
Chiyotarou’s parallel story is more than just a comedic sidebar. The two stories converge when Kadokura and Sekiya rendezvous at Lake Akan, not far off from where Chiyotarou is busy trying to get rid of Ushiyama in a hot spring. At first, it seems that Kadokura’s plan falls victim to his bad luck when Sekiya calls his bluff. However, as Sekiya races back to his hideout, it turns out that letting him believe the plan failed was the plan, allowing Kirawus to follow him back to Hijikata. Nonetheless, Ushiyama’s sudden appearance from beneath the frozen lake ruins the plan for real, letting Sekiya escape from Kirawus’s reach. Given the unfortunate unraveling of the plan, Kadokura’s decision to split up and search for Sekiya alone seems less than ideal.
Kadokura’s Bad luck Is His Secret Weapon
When he finds Sekiya, Kadokura is challenged to a deadly game of chance involving poison in exchange for Hijikata’s freedom. Should Sekiya ingest a silkworm cocoon filled with poison, he’ll tell Kadokura where Hijikata is; if Kadokura ingests the poison, he can only hope that Sekiya will keep his word and free Hijikata. Like Kadokura, Sekiya is a character whose life is dictated by luck. After his daughter was struck by lightning, Sekiya became obsessed with testing the luck of others by ensnaring them in trials of chance.
Pitted against chance, Kadokura has little hope that he’ll survive. Unsurprisingly, Kadokura begins succumbing to wolfsbane poison within minutes. Sekiya leaves to free Hijikata, leaving Kadokura to end his suffering by ingesting the remaining poison. As pervasive as Kadokura’s bad luck is, it has also been shown to save him when least expected. Episode 1 saw him dropping the poison-laced smelt, effectively saving his and Kirawus’s lives. Likewise, the extra poison he ingests ends up being fugu, which cancels out the wolfsbane.
Kadokura’s salvation came through sheer luck, whereas Hijikata’s was calculated. When Sekiya goes to open the coffin, Hijikata flies out and fatally wounds him. Before succumbing to the wolfsbane, Hijikata uses his prior knowledge as a medicine seller to take enough fugu poison to nullify the wolfsbane. In the end, Hijikata’s view of luck is diametrically opposed to that of Sekiya’s and even Kadokura’s. Hijikata doesn’t seem to believe in luck at all, whereas Sekiya seeks to test luck and prove it, and Kadokura lets his belief in his bad luck almost dictate his life. Nevertheless, with Sekiya dead, the odds remain in favor of Hijikata’s group.
They’ve gained another tattooed skin, bringing them closer to the gold. When Hijikata reunites with Ushiyama to continue their hunt, will they again cross paths with Sugimoto? The first two episodes poised both groups for the next step in their respective journeys, which leaves Tsurumi’s plans next. What will he and the rest of the 7th Division have in store for either group?