It had been widely reported – at least in every source I saw – that Hoozuki no Reitetsu was going to be 12 episodes long. Happily, there’s going to be a 13th next week (one which I assume will have more of a traditional “finale” feel to it). If the show does nearly as well as Stalker predicted it would a second season seems inevitable – the huge boost in manga sales alone might already have clinched that – but it’s still nice to get that extra week now.
This week’s chapters bring us the usual combination of high and low humor that makes this series so successful (and unusual in anime terms). First off it’s another visit from our old pal Beelzebub, this time in the company of his seductress wife Lilith (on a spending spree with Beelzebub’s “6666 6666 6666” platinum card). As Western religious figures go she seems to be an absolutely fascinating character to the Japanese (you’d certainly assume so based on how often she’s mentioned in anime), and she’s introduced here through another of the delightful short montages narrated by Inagawa Junji (which seem to be more plentiful lately) as having given us “the first Western divorce” after she and Adam had an argument over “who’d be on top and who’d be on the bottom at night”. Now she roams the afterlife in the company of her husband Beelzebub, seducing and destroying men all the while.
Beelzebub’s in town because his boss, Satan, is on a lecture tour (which starts out talking about how he “bulked up” after his fall from grace and ends up being a lecture on maid cosplay). She’s accompanied by her goat assistant, Scape. Now this is a great gag for so many reasons – “scapegoat”, obviously, and also because the English expression “scapegoat” comes from the English translation for Azazel, but here the Japanese track actually uses the name “Scape”. Lilith expresses admiration for Enma’s beard, then coos over Nasubi’s peachfuzz – which prompts Hoozuki to observe “Milady’s strike zone (again, “strike zone” is used in the Japanese track) is a bit too wide.” That’s just… It’s just gold, that’s all. Lilith objects that she has standards, and that it would be Hoozuki (naturally) that she’d choose from this group. Hoozuki defers, but says he knows someone who’d be a willing partner in a tryst – and I think we all know where that’s going.
Yes, Lilith and Hakutaku is a match made in Hell. Meanwhile, Beelzebub is as before quite unnerved by Hoozuki’s unnatural coolness – I guess that bonding over the maid thing only goes so far – and spends the rest of the chapter trying unsuccessfully to find something he can one-up Hoozuki in and assuage his wounded pride. Sports is definitely not the answer, but the real finishing blow comes when he tries to use the fact that he has a beautiful while while Hoozuki is single, only to have Hoozuki produce the camera with the evidence of Lilith’s activity during her trip to Japanese Hell (starting with her crawling all over Hoozuki).
Hakutaku stars in the second act as well, with Hoozuki in Shangri-la to pick up a prescription. As an aside I love the fact that Hoozuki is lovingly cradling and petting one of Hakutaku’s bunny assistants for this entire scene, but the main point is a 4000-year flashback to the time when Hakutaku fell to Earth and was captured by the quasi-mythical Yellow Emperor. To buy his freedom he ratted out his fellow mythical beasts, turning state’s evidence and giving info on 11,520 of them to the Yellow Emperor, who forced Hakutaku to draw them all (and upon discovering his legendarily bad art skills, had one of his artists do so instead). This became the legendary Hakutaku no Zu – and a subject for Hakutaku to complain about his likeness therein.
The punchline here of course is that Hakutaku’s fall from Heaven turns out to have been Hoozuki’s fault (naturally). The latter was touring China doing research for setting up Japanese Hell’s infrastructure, and got Hakutaku hammered so he’d tell him all the details of China’s justice system for free. The red string of fate definitely joins these two, and their bickering (they engage in a game of Shirotori – word chain – that consists entirely of insults – “word yanking your chain”) offers a combination of hostility and underlying obsession that makes it unsurprising that this is the pairing that’s launched a thousand doujins.
There’s just nothing like Hoozuki no Reitetsu to be found anywhere in anime – the humor is all over the spectrum, and if you’re of a mind to chase it, the rewards are considerable. I continue to be amazed that this series is a popular as it seems to be (part of me still won’t believe in the strong disc sales until I actually see them), but it’s incredibly gratifying to see that a series as unapologetically intellectual, esoteric, goofy and just plain weird as this one can be successful commercially. That fact is almost as inexplicable as the series itself…