If I had the time, skill, and budget, I might have switched things up by turning this review into short film parody of that “Too Many Cooks” viral video from back in the day. I’d call it “Too Many Twists”, and it’d have a bunch of day players dressed in Joran costumes; they’d stab each other, rise from the dead and/or pull off their convincing flesh Masks, and then stab each other again. This cycle would repeat for, oh, maybe thirty minutes or so. At some point, the Bird Person version of Makoto would descend from the rafters and just start screaming Shakespearean quotes at random, all while he sprays the cast with blood confetti.
Anyways, I can’t do any of those things (not yet at least), so I’ll have to stick with the traditional print version of my job by simply asking, “How Many Twists is Too Many Twists?” Joran has never been shy about its campy approach to bloodstained melodrama, and I’ve totally been game to indulge in its artery clogging splendors up to a point, but we’ve only got a few episodes left. I can’t help but be afraid that the plot can only take so much more abuse before it disintegrates right in front of us.
The problem with a story like this is that, when the characters’ emotions are so broad and operatic, you can’t really sustain a story with dialogue and character beats alone. It’s like when the Fast and Furious movies try to pretend its characters are real human beings that care about anything other than doing impossible car stunts and punching buff men in the pecs. Sure, there’s a base level of narrative expectation you have to fill, so go ahead and give Vin Diesel a scene or two that involves speaking multiple lines at a time, but don’t go crazy with it or anything. The same principle applies to Joran: Sawa is sad and angry, and she will eventually channel her grief-rage into a ballet of blood and dismemberment. Jun is mysterious and duplicitous – does he love Sawa? Will he betray her? Is there a difference? It doesn’t much matter, since we know that his involvement in the story will result either in his getting killed, his getting someone else killed, or – and this is the most likely option – both.
Point being, most of the scenes involving either Jun or Sawa this week end up feeling rudderless on account of the bone-simple plot: Sawa is going back to her village for one last goodbye, and then she’s going back to Tokyo. There is one minor incident on a train involving some terrorists who kidnap the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, but that is mostly a diversion meant to showcase the deadly skills of Jinko, the girl Sawa met a couple of weeks back that is actually another Nue assassin. She’s honestly the best part of the episode, both because her Disaster Drunk routine is a nice change of pace from Sawa and Jin’s grim personalities, and because she’s got dozens of razor-thin metal blades inserted into her body that she can whip out at any time when some Killing needs to be done. You know, typical stuff.
It’s honestly another sign of Joran‘s refusal to stopping throwing stuff our way that we’re only just now getting introduced to a relatively significant side character like Jinko, but I’ll take it. She’s fun, she’s sparky, and she’s got an appropriately screwed-up backstory; basically, she’s the Joran version of Wolverine, except if his weapons worked less like claws and more like the world’s deadliest roll of measuring tape. Hell, I’d be lying if I said most of my enthusiasm for the character didn’t come from that kill where she turns a guys head into a gory, metal Fruit by the Foot. Good shit.
Outside of that, the only other thing this episode has going for it is the twist of the week, which Sawa learns when she finds the last clue Makoto left in the old bookstore: The one who murdered Sawa’s family…was Jin, all along! I’d cue the “Dun dun dunnn” stinger right about now, except does anyone really care at this point? Jin was just some guy for most of this whole season, and his last-minute feint towards being an actual character only made his inevitable betrayal all the more predictable. Now, what we really ought to start putting money on is whether or not he will double-reverse-betray Sawa by proving he’s really been out to get the Shogun this whole time, and also that Asahi is safe and sound with Elena somewhere, waiting to resume that peaceful life of domesticity that Makoto interrupted with all of the murdering and whatnot.
The way I see it, the only alternative ending would be for literally everyone to die in a hail of exploding organs and transmogrified meat. A less happy conclusion, to be sure, but it’s probably the more entertaining path for Joran to go. My emotional investment is more-or-less completely superficial at this point, so as long as we get to some supernatural sword fights sooner or later, I’ll be satisfied. Not overjoyed, not impressed, and not inspired…but satisfied.