Uchouten Kazoku – 12

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A public service message from the folks at Uchouten Kazoku: if you’re feeling down, Kids, a full bottle of brandy can cure even those bottom-of-the-well frog blues!

There were quite a few ways this episode could go, which is a testament to the way Morimi-sensei and the team at P.A. Works (especially Yoshihara Masayuki, the director) have teed up the story like a golf ball.  There’s a risk in series like Uchouten Kazoku, full of magic and magical characters with undefined powers, that all sense of realism and consequence can be lost in the endless possibility (and perhaps more to the point, the lack of impossibility).  But that’s never happened here: the real magic of this series is that it’s managed to stay resolutely on a human scale emotionally despite the presence of so few humans in the main cast.

I’ll say up front, I didn’t especially care for the way Yajirou’s crisis was resolved, and since I haven’t had many material disagreements with this show that’s a rarity.  Both the fact that his malaise could be cured with a bottle of Denkibran and the fact that no one thought of it before now seem a bit weak to me, considering how well-written this show is otherwise.  Frankly I thought Yajirou – whose personal tragedy had been set up so beautifully and with exquisite care – deserved a better rebirth moment than that.  Ideally, I think it would have been best for him to regain his ability to transform upon hearing the news that his father’s death wasn’t his fault.  It’s true Yashirou didn’t know that, but Kaisei did – and she could easily enough have told him that when she rescued him from the warehouse.  For me at least that would have made more sense, and had a lot more poetry to it than what actually happened.

That aside, the rest of the episode was pretty fabulous (as usual).  The credo of this episode was most certainly “what’s fun is good” – Souichirou’s last words (remembered by Yajirou at last, when Yasaburou repeated them).  This could have been a reflective, highly emotional, or somber episode – but what it went for was uncontrolled exuberance.  It was all the magic and imagination of Uchouten on full display, the Kyoto of the mind in all its glory.  And really, that seems fitting – this is a series that’s more than anything about tanuki, despite the presence of the others, and in the end it should represent itself as a manifestation of their idiot blood.

The buildup to the rebirth of the false Eizan Electric Railway has been a long time coming, and it didn’t disappoint.  It figured that Yashirou pausing on that bridge was a sign that he’d figured out the best course of action – instead of diving into the lion’s maw trying to rescue his family himself, head for the one onii-san that was still a free tanuki.  I loved this whole sequence, but then I love Kyoto – seeing the Yajirou-streetcar powering through Teramichi (even a fake one) and soaring over the Kamo River was well worth waiting for.  I also enjoyed the cat-and-tanuki between Yasaburou and the Ebisugawa brothers, using tanuki trickery to think one step ahead of the other.  I almost felt sorry for the idiot (and not in the good sense) brothers here – they’re their father’s sons, but they’re so goofy that it’s hard not to like them just a little.

My favorite moment in this sequence, though, was when Yasaburou carefully prepared to use the Raijin fan to generate “just a little” wind, and then proceeded to ram the train into the building where the Kin-youbi Club was having its dinner at full force (that’s a hell of a fan, as Yashirou found out later).  That’s one way to bring the plot elements together, that’s for sure.  From this sequence it emerges that Jurojin (Mamiya Yasuhiro) is the one among the Friday Fellows (along with Benten of course) to watch out for.  I don’t think he was fooled by Yasaburou’s story about just being a human passing by – we’ll see next week – and it seems a little too convenient that he “thought something like this might happen” and made a reservation at the restaurant (Sensuiro, which literally translates as “The Color of the Fan”) where the tanuki were having their sacred succession meeting.  He’s also got a backup plan in mind to fill the hotpot – use the other tanuki Souun had caged up (Mother).  With Akadama-sensei already in attendance (and already drunk) at the tanuki meeting, Sensuiro is the stage that’s set for an all-in finale.

We pretty much got all the bases covered in this episode that you’d expect.  Yashirou got his chance to think for himself and show some steel, Yajirou emerged from his froggy cocoon, and the idiot brothers got their comeuppance.  I feel pretty confident Mama Shimogamo isn’t going to be boiled in the hotpot, but there’s still plenty of mystery as we head into the final episode. I still think the issue of the Friday Fellows and their grisly tradition needs to be dealt with definitively, and of course there’s the matter of Souun being held accountable for what he’s done.  I wonder if Yaichirou may just come to realize that being the Nise-emon isn’t what he truly wants – it seems as if he’s been playing out the role that’s expected of him (“he only inherited his father’s sense of responsibility” after all) but not following his heart.  In many ways the final arc seems to be a story of each brother transcending the limitation that Yasaburou described in the postscript of episode 8, and I suspect that theme will carry the day in the end.

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26 comments

  1. M

    Glad I wasn't the only one slightly disappointed by the resolution to the Yajirou. Was starting to get worried there.

    But great as always. The train slamming into the building was worth the price of admission.

  2. i

    I was pretty disappointed with the Yajirou bit. It felt like a wobble, or rather that it was made into a quick plot point rather than an emotional one that it deserved.

    All three brothers slowness to escape from the Friday Fellows was also quite wrong/stupid. You'd think they would have time to escape first and talk next, even if a battle plan is needed. Soun's reaction was typically evil but wholly predictable.

    Overall I felt it didn't match the level of UK over its run but hope that as with episode 7 it is being set up for an amazing finale.

  3. M

    I also kept yelling at the tv–"Get the hell outta there, you dolts," when they dithered around the hotpot locale. And like the blog entry, was both disappointed with the froggy resolution (booze, really?) and totally delighted by that fan bit. I actually said to hubby, "Sorry, I gotta play that back," and played that part again. Cracked up both times. The action was great. I really found the twists thrilling, though I really wanted to drown the whole Ebisugawa lot, frankly, in the Kamo or hotpot. I was all for turning over the idiot brothers to the Friday Fellows in exchange for Yaichiro, and then leting Uncle Creep know so he'd have to figure out how to save them….let him get a taste of hsi own nasty medicine. Yeah, I want payback.
    I do love the set-up for an all-out human/tengu/tanuki face-off. And it would be nice to see the hotpot tradition abolished. Maybe have an annual "Three Species Bash" instead, where everyone lives.

  4. L

    I honestly expected Yajirou's predicament to be resolved like Enzo said, when he finds out Souichirou's death wasn't his fault. I'd like to believe the anime team chose the Electric Brandy route to save time, because the book seems to be well-written up to this point, but I really don't know. The rest of the episode is still deliciously pensive as always.

  5. i

    I was not disappointed at the time, but after reading you say how Yajirou recovery with boozes was disappointing makes me agree and wish they did something better. It's worse because we know they had better options and it feels like they did it only because they had no time.
    I have somewhat of a problem with how the shows tense parts are at the end back to back while before this the show had such a leisurely pace. I think I only have this problem because it makes waiting for the next episode so much harder; the show is so good because they build the characters to be so likable and make you feel for them and they get throw in such danger.

    Side note, have you been keeping up with Gatchaman Crowds Enzo? I like how the last episode was first half recap and second half non stop action.

  6. I've watched, wasn't too impressed with the last couple of episodes.

  7. C

    I like to think that the Brandy only got Yajirou out of the well and that his personal crisis was only resolved when he remembered his fathers last words, the essence of being a Tanuki and thus was able take his Tanuki form once more. Then again I'm pretty in love with this series so I'm pretty biased in it's favor.

    Gotta love the fabulous expressions on the extra's faces as the train ran around town though. I really missed this sense of fun that took a back seat in the somber middle episodes.

  8. A

    I really liked the use of the brandy. Even after being appraised of the situation Yajirou was still in his self-pitying funk and the brandy was just that bit of the old 'dutch courage' to shake him up.
    It was one of those 'throwing the spinach to Popeye' moments, and I felt it was a perfect manifestation of their idiot blood.
    The entire train sequence was absolutely gorgeous and a true joy to behold.

  9. R

    This episode took me by surprise. I was worried about the Shimogamos for weeks and was expecting another emotional ride — seriously, I had my Kleenex with me. Instead, this episode is fast-paced, exciting, and fun — it's an extreme manifestation of the idiot blood and a perfect portrait of "what is fun is good".

    Even with an eventful episode like this week's, there are some good character moments. As timid as Yashirou is, he has become resourceful and dependable — he's absolutely adorable when Yaichirou patted on his head. Yasaborou, once again, resembled their father by saying the same words that Souichirou last said to Yajirou. As for Yajirou, I agree — he deserves a more dignified comeback. At the same time, he's so fun when he's drunk — and this kind of ties back to what he said about feeling motivated only when there's booze. I just love it when he kept complaining to Yasaborou for the impossible requests since he's too drunk, and I love it when he just jumped on Yaichirou's shoulder like an otouto.

    I also wanted to praise P.A. Works. Uchouten is wonderfully directed and written, and it's also a beautiful piece of art. For every episode, I can almost pause the screen every minute and be awed — the details, the colours, the depth, the texture, the lighting, the composition, and the camera angle all make each frame astonishingly beautiful. The visual beauty not only adds so much to the atmosphere and narrative, but also transcends the beauty of Kyoto to beyond belief. I wonder what Morimi-sensei thinks of P.A. Works' portrait of Kyoto in Uchouten — I'm sure that he's pleased with their work. By the way, I couldn't help but laugh when Yajirou stopped and reminisced Souichirou's last words, there was a woman standing there and taking photos with her cell…lol.

    One episode left, and the final stage is set. The four brothers — each inherits one thing from their father, the great tanuki — are finally reunited, and all the species — human, tengu, and tanuki — are all under the same roof. I wonder what will happen next. I certainly don't want to see any tanuki get boiled, and the preview asks if tanuki, humans, and tengu can have a happy ending… This ties back to when the show started and explained how the three species have co-exited for more than a thousand years, and this kind of gives me some hope that perhaps there can be a happy ending and a peaceful way for everyone to co-exist and enjoy an interesting life.

  10. P.A. Works has supposedly been working on Uchouten for 4 years (it shows) so I suspect they've collaborated quite closely with Morimi to make sure what they're doing meshes with his vision. This has the air of a series that's been exactingly pieced together with an enormous amount of care and love.

    I have my own ideas about what's going to happen in the finale, and I suspect there will be things that surprise viewers. We'll see.

  11. R

    Four years! No wonder, and the quality totally shows. I'm not good at predicting and can only wish for the best for everyone… I can't wait for next week to come.

  12. L

    Four years? I'm curious where you heard this, because it definitely sounds right for the level of consistency we've seen so far.

  13. I've seen that quoted in various places, though I honestly don't know what the original citation is.

  14. m

    I went along with the booze excuse because I'm holding out on Yajirou's emotional rebirth to take place when Kaisei says it wasn't his fault and he finally takes human/tanuki form. Note how he stays a frog even after he pops out of being a train.

  15. e

    LOL I love how it's the *Ebisugawa-brewed* brandy of all things to propell Yaijirou out of the well and trigger his henshin: in vino veritas ;D + a poetic justice of sort. It just went well with the overall tone and pace of this episode. I giggled so much.
    And similarly to moodytot's comment I'm expecting for a more serious emotional rebirth – if any – to happen next week.
    I find interesting that you've some like left in store for the Ebisugawa twins while you seemigly despise Benten so much btw. As much as the tetsu no pantsu charm is effective their malice to me is much more clear-cut than Benten's – she has both damaged and helped the Shimogamos in turn, while the twins have never really helped their own blood relatives actually (mockery, bulliying and outright shimogamo senmetsu strategy/complicity? In spades) – . They're two wicked fools but to me they're the evil ones in comparison. I still moderately like them for their contribution to the story :p.

  16. I think the fact that Benten should know better and chooses to be as capricious as she is speaks against her character, not in favor of it.

    And for Gankaju and Kinkaju, I admit whatever affection I feel for them is because they entertain me – the seiyuu and character designs are hilarious. And besides, they at least have the out that they were warped because of their father (though Kaisei turned out all right).

  17. M

    They are hilarious, and the voice actors do a terrific job; but they are too much like their father. Ruthless and rather amoral. I wouldn't care if the whole Ebisugawa gang sans Kaisei met a nasty, shameful demise (at last Uncle, with the brother run out of town or made to do humiliating atonement). Though I doubt that's what will happen. The ending will be surely more "grey." I think Kaisei might be the only person who can give illumination to her siblings and bring them to repentance..they seem to want her to respect them. Maybe they are salvageable. Uncle is not. I see him as a monster. Even Benten is "redeemable" to me, since she has the decency to weep at the froggy well. I doubt Uncle weeps while he plans the murder of his kin.

  18. R

    I agree — the seiyuus for the idiot brothers are brilliant. They totally nail the characters and inject so much fun and silliness to the show — it feels like they are having fun voicing the characters themselves.

    Actually, to me, all the seiyuus in the show are great. They all are so in character — making each character feel so natural and distinctive — and they play off of each other so well — making you feel that the relationships are real. I particularly like Suwabe Junichi and Yoshino Hiroyuki — geez, I was crying non-stop in episode 7 when Yaichirou questioned Yajirou at the well and when Yajirou responded to his brother. Anyway, the performance of the voice cast here is very believable — they are just great.

  19. e

    @Enzo: aaaah I see. What stand out to me are her capriciousness and the mixed signals (and actions) she sends coupled with the crying and the 'I never got anything I wanted'. Then theres the whole issue of her early life+kidnapping+back-breaking joke on Akadama and Yasaburo's memories of her before she was Benten. She's a walking contradiction. And frankly for all her supposed power and influence she's a pretty pitiful one.
    That capriciousness to me is a clue to a inner conflict. And that's why she intrigues me. In this sense I 'like' her more than the twins as entertaining as they are – bless their stupidity – .
    The fact that she should know better but that still it's not enough it's very pesky human nature at work. She can act like a tengu but she's not one and never will be. And she lacks the idiot blood with its 'fun is good' potential. She'll never belong . The closest thing to a family is her sensei (who was her kidnapper), and she she hasn't made any real friends that we know of. Yasaburo's words at the river last week stung. And he's arguably the one that knows her best and the one she has a certain closeness with.
    I don't think there be enough time last week to shed a bit more of light on her character though, so I can't really put my hunches to the test :,). Still I like the mental gymnastic, and I have the Shimogamos to unreservedly root for. Go go guys!
    ——-
    Actually I'm almost hoping by the end of the next episode the two groups in the adjacent rooms will merge for a giant tanuki-free hotpot celebration ^__^" .
    —-
    Voicework is indeed glorious.

  20. K

    Yes I know the brothers are bad but I can't bring myself to hate them because they are hilarious in how over the top they are.

    Although I can't bring myself to hate Benten either. Well I suppose love to hate is the best way to describe my feelings for her. She's both a great female character and villain.

    Honestly the only character I actively dislike is Soun. He is just so pathetic to me and I don't see any redeeming qualities to him. Although perhaps that will change in the final episode.

  21. Z

    In my view it is a mistake to place one's own morality onto powerful entities who even have the luxury to act capriciously. One will never hope to understand such a character that way. As much as people like to think otherwise, 'benevolent' isn't always the default status.

  22. F

    I felt that the moment with Yajiro was on point. The Denkibran was foreshadowed as the drink of choice for Yajiro and his father and a symbol of their connection. I think that it would have felt contrived if he had simply 'discovered the truth' and decided not to be a frog anymore and jump to the rescue. This way we see him become a hero in his own right, because of his love of his family, not because it wasnt his fault. It was because he wanted to protect them, he needed the shot of courage and it was the drink he shared with his father that sparked it. I think it was perfect and not simply just 'getting drunk'

  23. K

    I was a bit disappointed how Yajirou got over his issues but I really like your interpretation, it gives me something to think about, thanks!

  24. e

    @Frog: I like this interpretation too. And your nick too especially given the circumstances XD.

  25. M

    I think what was dragging this show down for me was the insistence with week-by-week breakdown description the brothers' idiot blood and not enough time spent displaying it. This episode fully demonstrated that idiocy on screen and for that I'm eternally grateful.

  26. R

    @Maxulous: you know, I agree with you…well, partially. I love Uchouten immensely, and I'm biased. Even so, I still think that this is a very good episode and a strong penultimate — to me, it doesn't drop from its top-notch writing and directing that Uchouten has been proving us. I agree that Yajirou deserves a more dignified comeback that will give the same emotional punch as the setup of his tragic story. At the same time, I want to focus on the rescue story — which has had me worried about the Shimogamos for weeks. This episode may seems like it's heavily driven for the plot, but it actually does a lot of things in just one episode — it reminds me of episode 2 and how meticulously well planned and written it was. I like that this episode changes the mood from somber and intense to fun and exciting — this reminds me of episode 7 and how well it transitioned from comedy to drama. I like that it brings many pieces back — the Fujin Raijin fan, the flying railcar, Yajirou's love of sake — and makes good use of them. I love it so much that this episode doesn't abandon its characters — which is one of Uchouten's strength — or make them feel contrived. Jurojin makes an impact. Yashirou, while still timid, shows his worth. I like the smile on Yasaborou's face when he knows that his beloved brother is having fun — I think he's just overjoyed to be reunited with Yajirou. This episode pushes the meaning of having idiot blood to the extreme level. It shows us the true nature of the fun-making and peace-loving tanuki — this is something that the show has been subtly telling through the characters — and to them, what is fun is good. This episode does it so well in bringing everything back to full circle and setting the final stage for the story of the Eccentric Family to end — and it's super fun to watch which reminds me of episode 4. In a way, like you, I'm grateful to watch the idiocy on display, but I'm also grateful for the many things that it has achieved — in just one episode!

    Now, I don't think the show spends insufficient time in displaying the idiot blood. Episode 4 is a good example of the idiot blood in action. Yasaborou's mingling with the Friday Fellows and later having conversation with Yodogawa-sensei is also a demonstration of his idiot blood. Even for Yaichirou, his pursuit of becoming the Nise-emon despite knowing his own weakness and true desire is also a proof of his idiot blood in my view. The idiocy is always there — it's embedded in the characters and shown — subtly sometimes — through their actions. Well, this is just my view. One more sleep and we will say goodbye to this brilliant show — I can't wait, while I don't want it to end…

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