This is really the first time since very early in Hoozuki no Reitetsu’s run that I’ve felt a bit left out of the joke. The entire episode was pulled straight from Japanese legends and fairy tales (and just my luck, none of them were on Folktales from Japan while I was watching it), and not ones I was previously familiar with. There’s also a relative absence of regular cast members, though several do make brief appearances, with Shirou being the most prominent.
That first chapter was the story of Issun-boushi (Suzuki Tatsuhisa), the one-inch samurai (you know, now that I think about it I’m pretty sure I did see that on Folktales), and for me it was the funnier of the two halves this week. Uncle Shirou has apparently been handed babysitting duties by his boss, and the puppies want him to read the aforementioned “Little One Inch”. Shirou (not surprisingly, if I’m honest) isn’t much of a reader, and rather than explain one word at a time Hoozuki kindly offered to read the book himself. And he’s proving himself to be prepared for show business at any moment – if it’s not a musical number featuring the Kings of the Afterlife at the drop of a hat, it’s a bunraku puppet theatre.
The conceit here is universal enough that even before remembering that I remembered the story I got the genius of it – One-inch is a guy with the ultimate Napoleon complex. Except that Issun-boushi (who’s in Hell because he deceived the Lord in order to marry his daughter) has now decided he was better off being an inch tall, since everyone finds him a disappointment and a bore now. When a guy goes after puppies with an axe you know he’s seriously messed up – and it’s not until Momotarou shows up and offers him a sympathetic ear that the storm passes.
The second chapter takes us into the world of the Gods of Mt. Fuji – namely the homely “Rock Princess” Iwa-naga (Shouji Umeka) and her beautiful younger sister the “Blossom Princess” Konohanasakuya (Komatsu Mikako). A little Kodama Tree Spirit (Hirohashi Ryou) shows up at the cafeteria, claiming an escape from the mortal world for a respite from his hay fever (that’s a tough affliction for a tree spirit). The real reason, though, is the wrath of Princess Rock – and here we see a take on female insecurity to act as a sort of mirror for the first chapter’s riff on male insecurity.
I admit I laughed less at this than any segment in Hoozuki since the first episode, though it was worth it in order to see Hoozuki-sama play it cool wedged between two two Goddesses. I can’t blame Iwa-naga for being pissed off at life – she was rejected by the God she was engaged to because she was too ugly while he was happy to marry her sister, who everyone still fusses over non-stop. He didn’t even flinch when Iwa-naga asked him the loaded question “which one of us would you marry?” question – Hoozuki merely answered “whichever one of you would eat my special brain tissue miso soup without flinching”. Indeed, the guy fully lives up to his name here…