A tart with a heart is a stock character found in many literary works and movies. If you remember Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman, that’s probably the most commonly accepted example. It is simply depicting a bad girl outside with a heart of gold inside.

I’ve seen so many depictions of this stock character, either in literature or movies, that I found it a cliche. Good look, bad luck, bad environment, conscience of gold inside, over and over again. The stock character became a great pathetic bore to me. So anytime I found the appearance of this character I treated it with a suspicious skepticism, thinking that it would be like any other typical ‘tart with a heart’. I became desperate to see a different take on this character.

Enter Lone Wolf And Cub. Surely enough, a tart with a heart makes several appearances here. I didn’t expect much, so I wasn’t too disappointed to see that they’re still the same old character with little variation on the backgrounds. When I reached Volume 19, Chapter IV, “A Mother’s Flavor’, I still didn’t expect much until I finished this chapter. Clutching at the book tightly, I saw that my knuckles went white. The most surprising thing is, I felt a lump in my throat. What’s wrong with me? The last time such a thing happened to me was when I watched the film ‘Questo sì che è amore’ starring Sven Valsecchi many years ago as a 9-year-old kid; another lifetime, another me. I didn’t read the next chapter that night. Instead I read that fourth chapter over and over again, and it still had that same effect to me. I began to tell myself, “This feeling, it will pass. In the morning it will pass. Sooner or later it will pass. No way it will last forever. In the morning it will pass.” It didn’t.

What’s so special about this chapter, anyway? To begin with, it’s just a story of the woman O-Sen, “… a daruma prostitute, the lowest of the low, since she was eighteen… a woman with nothing but will… a woman who had lost her human heart…”. Just one of so many people encountered by the wandering ronin Ogami Itto and his son Ogami Daigoro on their quest of vengeance, another tart with a heart; or so I thought. In a desperate attempt to free herself from her pimp, she followed Itto & Daigoro, correctly calculating that with the Lone Wolf and Cub beside her no one would dare to do her any harm. Inside a hut, Itto gave Daigoro and her dried rice to eat. Finding the taste disgusting, she couldn’t bear to eat it. Instead she tried to cook her own rice for herself and Daigoro. Unfortunately, being a ‘woman of the floating world’, she had forgotten how to cook rice properly. It turned out that Daigoro ate the rice with gusto, despite the taste which she said “not fit for a dog”, because he was eating to live not for luxury. As Itto explained that Daigoro never knew his mother’s flavor, O-Sen began to experience a change of heart. Previously she remembered how her mother cook the “best rice” before she was sold to the brothel, then she began to feel a real sympathy to Daigoro who never learned about flavor from his mother. The next morning she made up her mind to make a real good rice, thus teaching Daigoro a ‘mother’s flavor’. As she went out to find some leaves to wrap the rice she was cooking, the Yakuza enforcers found her. One of them managed to slash her with a sword, mortally wounding her. Despite her wound, O-Sen kept on running and return to the hut. Dying, she still managed to finish the cooking, wrapped the rice and gave it to Daigoro, telling him that it’s his momma’s flavor, as well as her own momma’s flavor. Then she died. On the next page, Daigoro is seen holding the wrapped rice. Just holding it, staring at it.

Here, you can see some of the pages yourself:




This O-Sen, she is not a tart with a heart. She is an expansion of this stock character. She is what I call “a tart who regains her heart”, a far more difficult character to create and even harder to picture. From my point of view, it is possible to hold on to your conscience no matter how low you fall. However, once you’ve lost your conscience, it would be really-really-really hard to regain it; if not downright impossible. This is what O-Sen character means to me. She is a remainder of how precious human heart is.

Many nights later, I still read the same chapter over and over again, telling myself, “It will wear out in time, this feeling. It will pass, sooner or later. It will pass.”



You know something? It never did pass. And deep inside I suspect it never will…




~ by edwinlives4ever on November 9, 2017.

3 Responses to “O-SEN, DEAR O-SEN…”

  1. Hiyaa

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