What’s this – two strong episodes in a row? An even-numbered episode that carries its weight? There were two directions Inari Konkon could go from its middling inconsistency – it could continue and fade into irrelevance, or it could start to focus on what it does well and make the final part of its too-short run matter. Happily, the evidence of the last two weeks is that it’s the latter that won out, and we should be set up for a finishing kick that’s somewhat interesting at the very least.
The recipe for success with this series has always been simple – make the side dishes the main course. And the recipe for this episode is simply that – the focus is mostly on the supernatural side of the story and on Uka and Touka. That said Inari, who’s been a tolerable though quite uninteresting main character, has one of her better episodes of the series. And it’s because the series doesn’t gloss over her weaknesses even as it allows her to show her strengths.
The setting is Izumo, where the Gods have gathered for their annual wing-ding, but the driver of events is Touka. He’s the one who drags Inari with him to Izumo to catch up to Uka – ostensibly so that he can find out the truth of the power that Uka has placed in her. That’s not a lie, but Touka obviously has other reasons for his interest, especially in that Uka has spilled the beans about what her mother has planned for the occasion.
I like Uka as a character, but there’s a certain irony in the fact that the top Kami are so worried about her fraternizing with humans so much because I find her character to be a bit too human all the way around. There’s just not enough “otherness” about Uka – she could easily pass for human herself based on the way she acts, and I don’t think that serves her character as well as it might. I’m not at all sure Amaterasu is wrong that this is a problem, and I don’t think the Gods are wrong at all in believing that Uka putting her power in Inari was a really bad idea. Inari has proved over and over again that she can’t handle it. She’s not ridiculously stupid or immature – just typically so for a 14 year-old girl. And that’s plenty to make having Divine powers a really bad idea.
We see one of Inari’s more unwise abuses this time when she decides to transform into Uka-sama herself to try and fool Uka’s mother Kamu-Ouchi-Hime (Sanada Asami) and get the O-miai meetings kiboshed. This is a horrible plan in so many ways I lose count, and as usual it’s a case of Inari running with her good intentions and paving the road to Hell. It’s certainly true that Kamu seems to be – as annoying siscon Toshi tells the Fushimi siblings – trying to get her daughter married off to a stud to one-up a rival Kami, Kushinadahime, and that’s a bad reason. But even so Inari’s dumb plan makes things worse, and it’s only with the intervention of Uka’s father Susanoo-no-Mikoto (the unmistakable Kuroda Takaya) – Amaterasu’s brother – that outright disaster is avoided. Susanoo is a very silly take on the mythology, but he’s quite a fun diversion and certainly stands out among his Divine brothers and sisters.
The other major component of this episode’s charm is the continued development between Touka and Uka. I still don’t see any way this can work but the two of them are a fine couple, no doubt about it – and any doubt of their mutual feelings takes a few more devastating blows this week. In a sense the two of them are perfect for each other: he’s a boy who’s always been more comfortable with fantasy than reality, and she’s a Kami who seems much more interested in the pleasures of the human world than the majesty of the Divine. The upshot of all that is that the two of them understand each other, and that’s a fine cornerstone for a romantic relationship. Now it’s just a matter of about a million obstacles standing in the way.
As the episode ends, Amaterasu-sama is locking Uka-sama in the “Heavenly Cave” in order to give her a “cooling off period” from Inari. Again, it’s hard to judge Amaterasu too harshly here because she’s basically right – Uka is way too close to Inari, and she’s threatening her own existence rather than take the simple steps needed to take her power back, because that would entail losing all contact with Inari (and just as critically, Touka – though Amaterasu may not realize the significance of that yet). Objectively that would probably be the best thing for everyone, but of course in reality you can’t expect Inari Konkon to gracefully accept that and move on.