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Even ignoring historical considerations, it's a little hard to give a Ninja Replacement Score for The Tale of the Heike because of its structure. There is an overall story arc, but a large part of the Tale is a series of vivid episodes, most of them about people who, like Tomoe, never appear again. The effect is rather like a epically long fix-up novel. Is it fair to rate every single short story and then apply the sum to the work, rather than only testing recurring characters?

The answer, of course, is Yes. If it's good enough for the Canterbury Tales, it's good enough for the Heike. Besides, they lost the war and don't get a say in how they're treated.

Even so, the NRS is remarkably low. There's one recurring character who tops the list: Koremori, oldest son of the oldest son of the former head of the Heike, who I was already calling "the Emo Samurai" by his third appearence. In an era where sleeves wet with tears are a commonplace, he stands out as a drip. When the Heike lose an important battle and get kicked out of what will one day be Kobe, because he cannot stand to be away from his wife and children back at the capital, he sneaks away from the clan's current stronghold, rows across the Inland Sea to a remote monestary, where he takes vows as a Buddhist monk ... and drowns himself in the sea a week later.


I submit that if he'd ninja'd into Kyoto to rescue his family, it would have been a much better story -- even if he'd gotten killed while doing it.

So much for recurring characters -- among the one-offs, I find only three who'd improve the story if replaced by ninjas, all dancing girls: two from early on who become involuntarily competing concubines of the head of the Heike, and one employed by Yoshitomo (the eventual victor over the Heike and first permanent shogun) -- all of whom go drippy before taking vows as Buddhist nuns. Not that giving up by taking vows is uncommon -- quite the contrary, given the evidence -- but those three are the ones where ninjafication would distinctly improve the story. (There's one widow where I had to think hard before eventually deciding it would neither help nor harm the story).

Final NRS = 4.

I think I need to bump The Seven Samurai up the NetFlix queue.




( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Mar. 23rd, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
a maiden shall I die
"the Emo Samurai"

I misread this as "Edo" while skimming. Hehehehe.
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