Uchouten Kazoku – 05

Uchouten Kazoku - 05 -9 Uchouten Kazoku - 05 -16 Uchouten Kazoku - 05 -21

What a fascinating flight of fancy Uchouzen Kazoku is turning out to be.

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.

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10 comments

  1. S

    I guess for us the thought of eating tanuki is disturbing since we know them as intelligent beings and most of the tanuki's we know are always in human form. For the friday fellow's it seems, they are still simply animals.

    I found it interesting however, when they came to the topic about how they started having tanuki hot pot as a "rule". Unfortunately the one who was responsible for it was not among them. Interesting was also the remark, that tanuki's are also in this anime-world definitely not a regular dish, as they only can have this dish at one of the fellow's own restaurant.

  2. i

    Uchouten Kazoku is quickly becoming my favourite show not just for the season of the year. Despite my eternal love Chihayafuru, I'd match my fascination with UK with SSY.

    The two are completely different fantasy series in each and every imaginable way, from characters, atmosphere, story, etc. and yet they are so ruddy good. SSY is interesting in that classic fantasy way of a large scale conspiracy that kids growing up find out about and feel the terror of, though not finding a solution for.

    UK is just utterly bewildering as a series, it keeps my attention far better than any show currently airing and better than most this year. The characters are all so hard to read and yet interesting. These episodic days of the strange triangle in Kyoto of Tanuki, Tengu and humans is so unheard of that it comes off as brilliantly original. But I honestly feel that UK's primary fans will be people who have seen all the different kinds of fantasies already from AoT to Dragon ball and are old enough to enjoy something like it.

    Doesn't take away that it is so exasperatingly wonderful, like reading a children's book for the first time. My experience with it is like that of reading Peter Pan or Gulliver's Island when I was 5.

  3. i

    Oh and GE, with all this stuff happening in your life try taking time off until you feel that you'd like to blog again. If you want you can just a 2-3 episode post for a show you've missed and would like to keep blogging. Or just start from the latest episode out, although I hope you keep up with HxH since it's getting so interesting.

  4. h

    I get the impression that the eating of tanuki actually taps into ancient ritual/ancient ideas of sacrifice and what it actually means to eat other life forms. After this episode, I don't feel that the Friday Fellows are "cold" in what they do so much as they are bound up in a tradition that is well beyond who they are as individuals. I mean, it seemed like several of them were actually kind of put off by the idea of eating tanuki, suggesting that they mostly do it out of a sense of obligation more than anything else.

    But the professor shows that it is possible to love tanuki, knowing full well what they are, and get psyched about eating them too: I think this comes into older magical thinking about the spiritual power of eating things, how taking the flesh of other beings into your body imbues you with their essence, things like that. It's an old way of thinking that it's safe to say most modern humans have no understanding of anymore, but it seems to me that Benten does: I think that she views her eventual eating of Yasaburo as an inevitability, one she is both happy about and sad about at the same time.

    Think about how in Silver Spoon they eat the pigs they care for and how there is a certain poignancy about that. Pigs are known to be highly intelligent creatures and yet we don't feel bad about eating them, even if we don't have the level of respect for the act that maybe we should. With tanuki, they take on human forms as a guise but it's clear that they are truly non-human and are therefore animals according to the Kyoto culture, and so it's not so strange to me that a more traditional strain of people who live there cling to old ways, possibly as ways to ensure bountiful crops or good fertility in the upcoming year (traditional things that humans have made animal sacrifices for in the past). In any case, ultimately this eating of tanuki seems to me to be a spiritual/religious act in keeping with the pre-Buddhist religions of Japan, where to be one with nature is to recognize and embrace your role as someone who consumes and also someone who will be consumed, because life (well, non-plant life) ALWAYS feeds on life in order to survive.

  5. H

    I thought similar things about this episode as it relates to Silver Spoon. There can be a reverence for an animal, even as you're eating it and enjoying it. And knowing that animal better probably makes the reverence deeper. That, to me, explains "Hotei"'s feelings.

  6. R

    Thanks Enzo for the review, but don't push yourself too much — you're working past midnight! Give yourself time to rest.

    This show continues to fascinate me. One thing that I want to applaud it for is its storytelling. Through showing the characters' daily lives, it introduces the characters, breathes life into them, brings us into their world, shares with us their deep bonds and intertwining relationships, and weaves the pieces of the story together. There is just always something interesting to tell each week. By the way, that chopsticks fight was quite something…I mean, I would definitely ask for a fork and knife if I even dined with Hotei and Yasaborou…lol.

    I am quite drawn to the Shimogamo family but notice that Benten attracts lots of likes from many viewers. She is the least that I am emotionally attached to, but I think it's totally more tasteful — if not sexual — to portray a female character by showing her feminine gestures than her body. Of course, Benten's free-spirited and spoiled attitude, mysterious background, and superior power definitely add her points. I like that we see a bit more of her this week without giving away her mystical goddess role. I can never understand or accept the notion of eating someone out of love and do hope that Yasaborou — or any of the Shimogamo members — won't end up in a hot pot.

  7. S

    Best show of the season. I can't explain why I like this show.

    Thanks for taking the time out of your currently hectic time. I hope all is well with you!

  8. If I didn't blog past midnight I'd never get any blogging done, though…

  9. R

    Take care and hope that all is well.

  10. f

    I'm a little embarrassed to admit that it took me 5 episodes to really get engaged with this series. Boy, am I glad I stuck with it. I've never seen anything like it. I know I'm just repeating points Enzo has made here, but the characters feel so real despite all being fantastical creatures.

    I think it was Benten's mysterious charm that finally drew me all in. I somehow find her to be incredibly sexy, despite there being nothing exploitative about the show's portrayal of her. I also love how you can totally tell Yasaburou is into her even though they haven't been at all obvious out it. I can't think of another anime that has done this so well.

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