I get the feeling from the pacing of this episode that the Tono “mini-arc” was shortened considerably for scheduling purposes – it had the feel of something that originally occupied a larger part of the story. Nevertheless, from a dramatic standpoint things are coming together nicely, with a major confrontation in Kyoto looming on the horizon – and there’s even some sort of chibi breast-sumo after the ED.
This episode makes it pretty clear just what a stiff price Yura’s family has paid for their role in sealing Hagoromo-Gitsune four centuries ago. Not only is the main family destined to have all their sons die young due to her curse, but they represent the only line of defense against her current incarnation’s revival. With each landmark and requisite of the 13 seals systematically destroyed – Kiyomizudera and Nishi Hongan-ji fell first this week – a member of the Keikan clan dies along with the breaking of the seal. Now there are only three left, and Kinkajuji is the next on the list. With their own demise looming, the guardians of the last three seals team up to try and take out Hagoromo-Gitsune when she moves on the Golden Pavilion. Akifusa (Morikubo Showitaro), Pato (Sanada Asami) and Masatsugu (Nojima Hirofumi) each have a different specialty, but by combining them hope to seal Hagoromo-Gitsune away once again.
As for Rikuo, he’s still training in Tono Village. Though he acknowledges his own weakness, he’s growing increasingly impatient to get to Kyoto, and when word reaches the village that onmyouji are being massacred and H-G is on the verge of triumph, he can take no more. As his Grandfather did Rikuo aims to convince as many Tono youkai as possible to support him in Kyoto, and not surprisingly the ranks of his training companions seem most willing to do so. Itaki is, too, though not as a follower but as a teacher. Rikuo may still be wet behind the ears (his own words) but he’s smart enough to know he needs all the help he can get. And significantly, he’s smart enough to have put the pieces together and figured out who it was that probably killed his father in the flashback that opened the season. He heads off to Kyoto with several new members of his night parade in tow.
I can’t imagine that the three young onmyouji introduced here were brought in just to be killed off immediately, though things certainly don’t look good. Masatsugu’s barrier has been broached by giant skeleton youkai Gashadokuro (Kusunoki Taiten) who was released when the fourth seal was broken. Pato’s shikigami have been routed, and there’s no reason to think Akifusa’s lance will be able to do H-G any lasting harm. But these three appear to be the best the Keikan have to offer, so they must have a few more tricks left. Yura is out training with her brother, the desperation of the times seemingly forcing the clan to allow her into the battle. The only chance for victory in the long haul seems to be an all-encompassing alliance between the Nura clan, the Tono and the Keikan – and I’m wondering if the Shikoku youkai won’t get involved before it’s all said and done, too.
This week certainly represents the yin and yang of demon foxes in anime, doesn’t it? You have the nine-tailed Hagoromo-Gitsune, the kuropan-wearing, liver-eating, slutty supervillain here – and just down the road in Natsume Yuujinchou you have the spectacularly kawaii, innocent and loveable crybaby boy Kogitsune. What a versatile creature is the Kitsune!