Gingitsune – 05

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OK, I admit it, that one got to me a little bit.

I think it should be said up-front, Gingitsune is not a show for cynics.  At least, it’s not for cynics who don’t welcome the opportunity to check their cynicism at the door once in a while and bask in the warmth of a show like this.  Gingitsune is more idealistic than it’s cousin Natsume Yuujinchou (which in-turn was more idealistic than Gingitsune’s second-cousin, Mushishi) – this is a story where kindness and respect for all living things are both a means to a better end and an end in their own right.  There’s pain here, certainly enough acidity to keep the series from becoming cloyingly sweet – but the heart of Gingitsune is clearly in the camp of optimism and nobility.  And there’s not a thing wrong with that.

I was certainly laying my hopes on the arrival of Satoru and Haru (turns out she is a girl, by-the-way) to elevate Gingitsune from a pleasant diversion into something truly meaningful, but it’s safe to say the change has been even more dramatic than I hoped.  The difference in gravity and emotional heft is profound to say the least, like one of those before/after diet ads that are always too good to be true.  I think it’s possible that Satoru’s harsh back-story – and the parallels with Makoto, limited though they are – may end up giving her storyline more depth, but even if it doesn’t the mere presence of this new thread has made the entire tapestry far more compelling.

Among the many things I liked about this episode was the symmetry of how Haru’s story led into the present day.  Through a flashback to 80 years into the past, we see a sad event – a young fox following its mother across the road is hit by a car and killed.  A young man named Seigo happens to be riding by on his bicycle and after a futile trip to the vet (or more likely, the town doctor), decides to give the fox a proper memorial at his Shrine.  This boy is Satoru’s great-grandfather, and it turns out that this small act of compassion causes the fox cub to be reborn as a Herald after her spirit follows Satoru into the Shrine.

The salient point of all this is, it’s this small spirit that winds up giving comfort and compassion to Satoru, three generations later, after he’s lost his parents and grandfather and inherited the sight.  This is a very Buddhist take on paying it forward, and it’s central to the perspective of Gingitsune and what it represents.  Small acts of compassion are their own reward, and they make the Universe a better place – and by doing so, improve the lot of everyone who resides in it.  Idealistic?  Heck yes – but that’s Karma.  Buddhist compassion and the Shinto reverence for nature are intrinsically linked in Japan, and I suspect it’s the fact that they’re so much under threat in the current society that makes stories like this one resonate with Japanese readers and viewers.

The other standout for me in this episode is Tatsuo, Makoto’s father.  It’s been a good year for Dads in anime, and Tatsuo is a great example of the quiet hero here.  He doesn’t have the sight, he’s not the true inheritor of the Shrine, but he has the compassion and the decency to always try and do what’s right.  In taking Satoru in even temporarily he’s displaying it, but in his unassuming way he makes sure Satoru knows that this isn’t a duty, it’s a privilege – and that the boy can always look on Saeki Shrine as a refuge.  It’s a refuge he needs, with the barely masked resentment of his Aunt having driven him away from his own Shrine (at 1200 years old clearly one of considerable importance).  This also means leaving behind Otomatsu, the old Herald who stayed when Satoru and Haru left.  I suspect that when all is said and done, Satoru will come around to wanting to claim his family inheritance and become the 76th Priest of the Shrine (sadly he should have been 77th, but tragedy prevented that) but that can wait for a few years into the future.

In the present, the drama plays out as a result of Satoru stubbornly wanting to do what he sees as the right thing even if that means even more personal unhappiness, and that means pushing Haru to go back without him.  It’s a given that the tsundere old Gintarou will get involved at some point, but he takes his time.  What Gin wants, clearly, is for Satoru to come to him himself and ask for help, because Satoru is the one who needs to decide what he really wants to do in this situation.  Haru is indeed “in too deep for a Herald” as Gin says – she’s bonded more with the human than with the Shrine itself, and of course the lives of Heralds and humans being what they are, this will mean an unhappy end for her eventually.  But the nature of Haru’s existence – how she came to be a Herald in the first place – seems to me to bind her more closely to the family than to the place (I think this explains why Satoru can almost see her, even before he’s supposed to have inherited the sight), so her loyalty to Satoru seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Of course, truth be told, I would have happily sat through the episode just to hear Miki Shinichirou do his Kanemoto Hisako impression and it would have been worth it.  But happily it delivered the goods all-around, giving us an unapologetically sentimental conclusion that was earned by the events leading up to it.  It’s impossible not to be reminded of Natsume Yuujinchou because the emotional pull on me is very similar, but Gingitsune has its own identity that’s distinct from that or any other series.  Happily though what it shares with Natsume is highly appealing, not least a great seiyuu delivering a bravura performance at the heart of the series.  Gintarou certainly isn’t a new type of character but he’s somewhat different from what we’ve seen before – he seems to see the world from a larger perspective, perfectly (if perhaps precariously) balanced between his connections to the humans who can perceive him and his timeless connection to the land.  That’s a very strong basis around which to build a story, and right now this was is working for me on all levels.

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12 comments

  1. e

    This is the next in my catch-up list. I loved both the Mushishi manga and anime, Natsume is still one of my favourite series – and they've just licensed the manga here in Italy yay! – and well I guess I'm weak to white furry entities :,).

  2. t

    happy ending for now.
    it wasn't that touching, but it was executed well. if I may remind the drama of last week by NnA, then at least in gingitsune they didn't force it upon us. which made the connection much more smoother with the situation.

    although I said it's not that touching, yet it was lovely to have all these feels. the past was much more intriguing than the present in terms of feels. yet the present express the conflicts of the characters. so it is kinda tied together gracefully.

    clearly Haru and Satour still have a long way. they have a lot to learn and need to be more mature, but we can see it as first step.

    I like the father, he is quite supportive and fulfilling his job as a priest. he comes in the right moments and even without the "power of sight" he is quite helpful there to stabilize Gingitsune's ship.
    speaking of Gingitsune's ship, Makoto who's supposed to be the key which turn the ship on…wasn't significant enough this ep.
    she tried, really hard, to put some sense in Satoru and Gin, but in the end I didn't see enough of the influence she should have as MC. I mean…I didn't expect her to do something really practically like finding Haru…but I expect the series to do something practically with her as a character, and at the end…it felt like she wasn't that much important. and she is the MC.
    I guess it's part of the future plan related to her. I hope we'll see much more of her.

    random thoughts:
    1. "It's been a good year for Dads in anime"
    how is that? Eren's father (SnK)?Hachiken father(silver spoon)?
    there's the weird parents of blood-lad too
    2. Haru-chan is a girl. how is that I always get stuff like that so late?it was in front of me..!
    3. I like Gin. I guess he has been through a lot, thus he is reluctant, yet he has some compassion. I wonder if we ever gonna see his full past as we've seen Haru's. we only got a glimpse of his past in the first episode with the oranges. now that I think of it, it's much more clearer than before.

  3. As to your #1, Blood Lad is the first one that springs to mind for me, and it's bedtime here or I'd think of others (and 2 decent Dads would make it a good year for them in anime, sadly).

    AFAIC Gin is the main character, and I'm not in this for the shipping any more than I was in Natsume. I think Satoru has to eventually go back and reclaim his birthright, and Makoto has to stay put and claim hers.

    And hey, what can I say – I found the ending touching – but no more so than the whole sequence with the flashback, and the way Haru comforted Satoru after his grandfather died. And Otomatsu cheerfully volunteering to stay behind, despite the fact that he'll be entirely alone.

  4. t

    I don't think Gin is the MC alone. it's like Natsume. so Makoto is the MC along with Gin (comparing to Natsume it'd be Natsume and Nyanko-sensie).
    they are in this together. and yes, both Makoto and Satoru are suppose to claim their original shinto temple. though things can "surprise" us if they will take things together 😛
    I am ready to ship Makoto X Satoru 😛

    the episode itself indeed conveyed the feelings quite well.
    I meant that it didn't brought me to tears or made me shed a tear, yet of course I was..well you are actually right, it is somehow touching, but not the ending itself (aka the reunion between Haru and Satoru), but the ep as a whole is.

    have a good night 😛

  5. S

    I found this episode very touching as well, especially the reunion which caused me to shed some tears. The hug doesn’t solely represent two friends making up after a fight, it signifies how much value they mean to each other. In Haru’s case it’s about a promise with the grandfather, but Satoru’s point of view is the one that made me emotional. I empathized with him for living with an estranged family, but never feeling at home, feeling unwanted, not belonging, the feeling that you’re alone in the world and nobody cares. The only positive light in his life is his loyal invisible herald, who’s always there to look out for him.
    I felt the hug showed how sincerely grateful Satoru is for Haru’s everlasting presence, her support, her friendship. He realized how important she is to him, why he should treasure her and I couldn’t help getting emotional witnessing it.
    And as was said, it was greatly executed by letting Satoru show his emotions and the viewer connect the dots instead of him screaming about all his misfortune.

  6. J

    Longtime reader, first-time commentator here who just had to say thanks for the frequent references to Natsume, which motivated me to finally check the series out. I absolutely adore it and I don't know how long it would have been before I'd seen it otherwise.

    I'm liking Gingitsune more every week, and if it keeps this kind of quality up I'll be a happy viewer.

  7. You're welcome – I don't openly evangelize Natsume much because I figure most people who want to see it have seen it, but if my praise wins a few converts so much the better!

  8. F

    That is it – you have well articulated exactly the very thing that I love seeing in both this and other series to a "t".

    If I were sitting with you in a coffee shop I would have just jumped up out of my chair and yelled "Sore da!", grabbed your hands and began to shake them up and down while shouting "You got it! You got it! You got it!"

    Of course then I'd calm down and re-take my seat and sip the coffee again. ^^

  9. K

    I thought it was particularly poignant in the scene where Makoto's father was talking about being separated with loved ones. In the background, you can see a photo of him with his wife, holding a baby Makoto. This seems to be one of the main themes; the attachment of the Heralds to the successor despite knowing full well that they will have to part one day. It's a sad thought, yet touching at the same time. Many years own the road, the Herald will make new relationships with future generations of successors, just as they've done with the current generation. It's a bond that transcends time, as evidenced in this episode quite clearly.

  10. Z

    I just… can't do it. I can't turn my cynicism off. It's always on autopilot. 無理

  11. R

    I realized that often my appreciation of anime comes from where they stand in the Sliding Scale of Cynicism vs Idealism. I was never too keen on Mushishi, even though I realized its merits. But I loved Natsume and now Gingitsune.
    This applies to most genres, too. Highly acclaimed classics like "Cowboy Bebop" never really connected with me. I found myself prefering series like "Trigun", even if the technical merits were quite inferior. I guess my idealism is always on on autopilot.

  12. K

    I felt something – and I want more of it.

    TQ

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