There’s a definite sense that the real story of Ushio & Tora kicked off this week. The last two episodes have been fantastic, but largely seem purposed to set the mood and establish the mythology. The monsters in question were one-offs, and apart from the seeds for a potential bond between Tora and Mayuko there may not be a whole lot there that directly connects to future events.
With the arrival on the scene of Hyou (Namikawa Daisuke), however, that dynamic seems to be changing. We start off with a sequence which decisively disproves the notion that things are now hunky-dory between Ushio and Tora, as the latter attacks the former in his sleep and manages to grotesquely scar his face (four claws – remember that number). He’s also figured out that Ushio is most vulnerable just as he’s about to transform.
As for Hyou, he’s an exorcist from China, and one with a chip on his shoulder even bigger than the scar (three claws) over his right eye. Seems a youkai who looked a whole lot like Tora killed his family fifteen years earlier, and he’d dedicated himself to the path of revenge ever since (which may be some sort of Jedi/Sith training, given his “These are not the droids you’re looking for” encounter at Japanese Immigration). This is not a role that stretches Namikawa a whole lot to be honest, but Namikawa in his comfort zone is still one of the best seiyuu in the business, and he manages to project Hyou’s tortured rage with his usual volcanic raw energy.
It was Tora’s (along with transformed Ushio) picture on TV that drew Hyou to Japan, and the misunderstanding he makes is quite understandable. The interesting part comes when he confronts Ushio – who’s stopped him just as he’s about to finish off two thugs who were terrorizing a father and his daughter. Yes, Hyou is the sort of man that will kill humans, which I think is an important character trait. And Ushio ends up selling out Tora, on the grounds that Hyou eliminating him would save him a lot of work.
Hyou is seriously strong at this point, more than a match for Tora in battle. But fortunately for Tora Ushio is having second thoughts about what he’s done, and Asako can clearly see something isn’t right. I definitely like Mayuko better than Asuko, whose tsuntsun childhood friend act is pretty standard issue, but even if the execution is unexceptional it does serve its purpose, and jolts Ushio back to himself. Injustice of any kind just doesn’t sit will with Ushio, and even if Tora has reaffirmed in so uncertain terms that he’s no friend, Ushio still can’t abide him being ended for a crime he didn’t commit.
We’ll see where all this leaves us, but it’s pretty clear by Tora’s actions at the end of the episode that he’s at least decided to take out Ushio in an honorable fight if he does so at all (and that hamburgers likely taste better than shounen protagonists). Ushio’s actions may just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back in pushing these two from enemies to uneasy allies if not friends. As for Hyou, he’s sticking around Japan to search for his target – revealing in the process that Tora himself came to Japan from China – so it’s a lock that he’s going to involved in future episodes in some way (though whether as friend, enemy or something else it’s too early to say).