This week’s episode of Nurarihyon was a nicely balanced blend of action, humor and some surprisingly placed exposition – giving us our longest look yet at a crucial character from the past who has thus far gone largely ignored.
I really wanted to knock Kubinashi and Itaku’s heads together for being complete idiots, letting their passions get the better of them and fighting each other in the skies over Kyoto while Hagoromo-Gitsune advanced her plans below. Fortunately, Lord Zen (Sugita Tomokazu) intervened and did just that, pretty much – literally pouring cold water on their fight as if they were a pair of snapping dogs. We haven’t seen much of the sickly but fiery Zen since the beginning of S1, but he made quite an impression on me then. It was a good thing he stepped in, too, because it wasn’t long after that the Nura airship was attacked by the Kyoto youkai, under the leadership of Hakuzozu (Itou Kintarou) as the cast list continues to grow ridiculously long.
Hakuzozu is an interesting character, quite a departure from Nine-tail’s other henchmen. He refuses to attack until he knows who the enemy is, and even then until their leader introduces himself. Well, it was easy to see that this is a guy who’ll end up turning his cloak, which he does after Rikuo uses his fear to destroy his weapon and leave him helpless. Through Kubinashi’s eyes we see that Nura’s fear is actually not similar to Nurarihyon so much as to the Second Heir – Rikuo’s father. Well, he’s voiced by none other than Fujiwara Keiji himself so I assume we’ll be seeing more of him – but it was certainly an interesting flashback to Rikuo’s toddlerhood. The Second was clearly a powerful half-demon, and though rarely discussed in the anime his casting and the fact that this season opened with a flashback to his murder indicates that’s about to change.
There isn’t much focus on Nine-tails and the battle with Yura and the Keikain this week. The second seal is destroyed, releasing yet another supersized youkai, Tsuchigumo (Kosugi Juurota) who doesn’t care about Nine-tails but seems inclined to fight whatever strong opponent he can find. Only the final seal at Nijo Castle remains now, and it’s obvious the onmyouji don’t stand a chance without the Nura’s help. Interestingly, for some reason hinted at in the cliffhanger daybreak doesn’t seem to be turning Rikuo human – but it also isn’t sapping the power of the Ayakashi fighting him. So at this point the two main characters of the first season – human Rikuo and Kana – are basically non-existent in the story. That’s an interesting turn of events, and though I knew big changes were coming I confess the series has transformed even more than I’d expected. Mostly, it’s for the better – there’s no question this is a more taut, involving season so far. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of those familiar faces in the episodes ahead though, as I’m actually starting to miss the kiddos a little – especially Yuki-onna.