Ushio to Tora – 03

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Nothing I say could improve on simple perfection like that.

Ushio to Tora makes a perfect companion piece with Kyoukai no Rinne, Jitsu wa Watashi wa and Gangsta (and I’ll even add a bit of Joukamachi no Dandelion) as a quartet.  They provide a kind of sampler platter of old-school anime – each a very different genre, but each eerily authentic to what anime was in the 1995-2005 era.  We just need a really good classic mecha series to complete the set, but sadly there isn’t anything airing right now that fits the bill.

This is one of those anime episodes that’s sort of tough to write about because they’re so self-explanatory.  Honestly – what could I possibly add that the ep didn’t say better for itself?  Not only was it flawlessly executed, but its intentions were perfectly clear.  If you want a monster-of-the-week story in the vintage shounen style, you may as well make this the one they use in the dictionary, because it was an object lesson in how it’s done.  A series could hardly be more in the wheelhouse of the Madhouse/MAPPA family (and this staff is almost all Madhouse current and past) than Ushio and Tora.

As good as the first two episodes were, this was definitely a level-up in that it added a bittersweet element those eps were lacking, while advancing the story and character arcs at the same time.  The jig is up back at the temple – Shigure has discovered what’s happened in the cellar, though the repercussions of that are still to be determined.  But Ushio’s mind is on art, namely an exhibit of the work of his favorite artist, Hanyuu Michio – especially is “Reiko” portraits of his daughter.  But Michio’s final “Reiko” is highly disturbing and dark, and Tora immediately recongnizes it as the work of a man who died hating the human race.

This connects to the story through Hanyuu Reiko (Makino Yui) herself and her osananajimi Masaki Kenichi (Nakamura Yuuichi), the school banchou who takes a resentment to Ushio’s outspoken personality.  When Ushio finds out Reiko goes to his school he’s desperate to paint her portrait, but she refuses – and with good reason, as it turns out, given that her Dad has turned into an oni and causes anyone (especially with a Y-Chromosome) who gets too close to his daughter to have an “accident”.  Ushio, of course, is nothing if not bull-headed and fearless, and this news is but a red cape waves in front of his eyes.

As youkai-themed shounen goes this is a pretty traditional plot, but the magic comes in the way it’s executed.  Simply put, it’s note-perfect – and simply is exactly how it should be put when discussing an ep like this one.  The acting, the pacing, the art and animation – it’s completely committed and authentic.  And the moment when Ushio stabs out at Hanyuu’s painting and Reiko throws herself in the way is a genuine cracker, a gasp-worthy payoff to the episode’s buildup.

Tora’s involvement here is especially interesting.  He declines to tell Ushio what he’s discerned about Reiko’s father, but when he’s presented with an opportunity when Ushio uses his spear to prevent Reiko from committing suicide, he doesn’t leap on it.  And while he tells Ushio to beg for help when he (along with Reiko and Masaki) are being dragged down to Hell by Michio, he still offers it unbidden when Ushio refuses to beg.  I think we have the case here of a youkai who’s been really bored for a really long time, and against his wishes he’s starting to find this reckless little human interesting.  As Rick said to Louie, I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

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13 comments

  1. F

    I couldn't agree more – this episode was just plain EXCELLENT. What a pity that this series is not getting more attention!

  2. A pity but not a surprise. Maybe it will move some back issues of the manga.

  3. R

    At least it isn't one cour, though it could be more than two.

  4. Already announced at 39 eps, taking the manga through the finale arc.

  5. s

    aaahhh, throwback summer; ushio to tora is quite the decent shonen. Im eagerly anticipating the moment where the story truly takes off. The throwback vibes alone of this series is through the roof.

  6. m

    Tora is indeed interesting, it seems that even if he wants to eat Ushio, he wants a fair fight. With so many occasions to attack him when he's vulnerable, he never does and that shows he holds Ushio in high regard from the start. And he does not seem to mind the company. What's missing now is Oto-san's interaction with Tora!

  7. Y

    I don't follow what's going on in the anime world, besides for the animes themselves… This is not popular? For real? How is that even possible?? It's so good! I totally don't get it. What a shame…

    This episode took it to the next level and I can't help but get the feeling that the main story arc is going to be really interesting.

  8. K

    I am with you on that but then i guess the kids of today want cool cgi and modern looking character design. i am loving this series so far….I laughed out several times and they packed so much in the 23mins. Loving the yuyu hakusho vibes in the uniforms and fights as well.

  9. S

    With a lot of the people I know this IS popular, usually ranked 2nd place in the season after Gangsta… I guess it's really a matter of age and anime experience. If you're a former 90s' kid wtih 10+ years of anime watching history, this is a treat. But the millennials might find it dull and be more attracted by the flashiness and edginess of other stuff.

  10. I also think Western anime tastes lack well behind the trends in Japan, and both Gangsta and Ushio could just as easily be airing in 1995 as 2015.

  11. l

    After 3 episodes, I cannot deny the feeling that Koyama Rikiya is using Mamoru Takamura (the character he voices in [i]Hajime no Ippo[/i]) to voice Tora. If you replace the image of Tora with that of Takamura, it is one and the same. The tone, the way he speaks, mostly everything.

  12. E

    Great episode, the statement about the painter dying hating the human race made me chuckle a bit. Who would've thought?

  13. E

    Oh, the tag is wrong again BTW.

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