Thus begins a stretch where my posts are going to be considerably shorter than usual as a concession to my outside distractions this week (see the note in the sidebar) but don’t for a moment think it reflects any loss on interest in Uchouten Kazoku. This show remains utterly fascinating – a real puzzle that’s in no hurry to reveal its secrets, and a remarkable exercise in contrasting moods. There’s certainly no other recent anime quite like it.
The vast majority of this ep was theoretically consumed with fleshing out the Kin-youbi Club, but it seemed to raise more questions than it answered. We now know that the members take their names from the Seven Lucky Gods, which at least in theory suggests that Benten is not actually the Goddess Benten. We meet several of them (four more to be exact) at a sukiyaki dinner where Yasaburou is to provide the entertainment as payment for having lost Benten’s fan and destroyed the inner parlor. They all seem like surprisingly normal Friday Fellows considering that they eat tanuki at their year-end dinner, but clearly the most important of them is Professor Yodagawa, “Hotei” (Higuchi Takehiko). He saved Mama Shimogawa in the past – though he didn’t know it was Yasaburou’s mother he was saving – and developed a “thing for tanuki” in the process. Yet he savors the notion of eating them, despite claiming to love them.
The entire dinner scene is enchanting and disturbing at the same time – very, very weird. Yasaburou sits quietly by as the others calmly talk about eating his father, and enjoys his hot pot with the rest of them. Benten continues to joke about eating him herself, and it’s not clear how serious she’s being. Just how much the other humans know about tanuki – and Yasaburou – is an open question. After he performs transformation magic to entertain them one asks if he’s a tanuki, seemingly in jest. How tuned it to the world of tengu and tanuki are these men? They seem like decent, normal fellows – yet if they do understand the nature of their Bou-nen-kai feast, they’re pretty damn cold.
The life of a tanuki is a hard one, indeed – forever living in fear of the pot. And Benten is clearly the most dangerous person in Kyoto, especially to a young tanuki who’s in love with her. She behaves as if she knows she’ll be his doom, and genuinely regrets it – but not enough to stop herself. She bemoans how much she likes Yasaburou, but how sad it’ll be after she eats him and he’s gone. No, she can’t “have her tanuki and eat it too” as Yasaburou scolds her. This is a very disquieting relationship, and I’m curious as to what message Morimi-sensei is going for with this thread about eating what you love – I can honestly say I’m a bit baffled at this point. I’m also curious to see where the story is going with Kaisei, who still refuses to let Yasaburou see here (this time hiding in a tansu). It seems clear she likes Yasaburou and his family better than her own, and also that she can see the path of destruction he’s headed down with Benten.