Ushio to Tora – 17

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I know grooming is important and everything, but – really??

This was another rollicking, wildly entertaining episode of Ushio and Tora, but I must confess there were a few times I laughed a bit when I probably wasn’t supposed to.  This certainly went in a direction I wasn’t expecting – gathering together everyone in Ushio’s harem to save him by… combing his hair?  I suppose mothers of teenaged boys everywhere would give their seal of approval, but it’s a pretty wild way to climax a shounen manga arc.

One of the real pluses of this premise is that (and this is something I’ve praised before) it ties together so many of the characters who’ve come before.  I really appreciate the fact that there’s so little waste in UshiTora – the so-called side arcs really matter, not just in terms of the mythology but the characters themselves.  Heck, even surly old Hyou showed up – headed towards Asakhikawa to learn more about his quest, though I suspect we won’t be seeing him playing hair stylist anytime soon.

It’s not all about bringing back old friends, though – there are some new faces here too.  Foremost among them is Jie Mei (Kana Hanazawa, no less), who would appear to be the matriarch of the Kouhamei sect and – presumably – Ushio’s great-grandmother.  At this point in time she’s a spirit, and she appears before the head (who’s presumably Ushio’s grandma) with the prescription for what ails Ushio.

Context does matter with Ushio & Tora, because I’m honestly not sure we’d see a plot twist like this in a recent manga rather than one which was written 20-25 years ago.  Is this series sexist?  If I’m honest, I can’t say anyone who felt that way would be wrong – and the notion of gathering together a bunch of girls to comb the beast-boy Ushio’s hair does have a distinctly old-fashioned air about it.  Yet it doesn’t feel malicious to me so much as “period” – even today gender politics in Japan are hardly enlightened, and this was 1990-1996.  And it’s not as though the girls are demeaned or exploited here – they have quite a bit of spirit, in fact.  It is what it is, but it’s certainly not a deal-breaker for me – especially when contrasted with the insidious, creeping chauvinism that dominates anime these days, especially anime adapted from light-novels.

As for the specifics of the gathering itself, the most interesting part for me is Asuko’s interaction with the others – especially airplane girl Hiyama Yuu.  It’s quite sharp and funny, in fact, that Yuu calls out Asako for her reflexive tsun snarkiness.  She’s belittling Ushio, the guy who’s been out risking his life and saving countless others without a complaint about the burden he’s been forced to bear.  Tsundere has been a staple of manga and anime for a long time (as Asako proves) yet rarely do we see a writer call attention to how silly and thoughtless it usually is.  Also of note here is Asako’s observation that Mayuko looks like Jie Mei – which would certainly explain Mayuko’s connection to the spirit world.

It’s all hands on deck here – Shigure-san has come to help his son, and all of the spear-bearer candidates are drafted willingly into helping try and save Ushio (who struggling in vain against the power controlling him, though he does seemingly manage to steer it away from a human mother and child).  Tora and Izuna (who I still love, love, love by the way) pitch in too, with Izuna stealing the comb literally out of Ushio’s back pocket and Tora jumping in to save Mayuko (flag!) at the very last moment.  The girls are taking their turns at the comb, but one assumes that it’s Asako who’s fated to be the final player – annoying as she is compared to the others (especially Mayuko), that’s just how these things seem to work…

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6 comments

  1. K

    I am surprised you didn't mention the visions that Ushio was seeing in regards to the spear maker….I was pretty much intrigued by that and very curious to know who that person or half youkai is….he breathed fire afterall….

    good ep…keep them coming….

  2. Yes, that was interesting too (thus, the screencaps). Just can't talk about everything.

  3. K

    I think that calling it "sexist" it's a bit too much. Today landscape in almost everything is tainted with that stupid blight that is "political correctness." I will leave that there because it's not really a topic I like to discuss.

    This is about how the events have impacted, in a big way, Ushio's and the girls lives. It's not "Ushio's Harem" (Reiko has her own love interest, by the way. The anime has clearly show it, even if it not as clear as the manga did.), but the girls who had have a mayor impact in his life in one way or another. It's a really sweet twist, because it's not just how Ushio has changed those girls lives, but how they have changed him.

    Asako being the main girl is not s surprise, Japan unconditional love for the tsundere archetype is well known and in a series as old as this one it should be a given.

  4. S

    I think it is "sexist" in the sense of being rather old-fashioned in the roles it gives to men and women. But yeah, if one by "sexist" carries the negative implications of something being actively demeaning and belittling for women, I don't think that's the case here. Some works might break the mould, but most will be simply immersed in their culture and time – we don't consider the Odyssey a despicable book because even the heroes own slaves.

    But yeah, modern discourse about these things has become WAY too polarized. Admitting that a work has a world view we don't share should not mean considering that work as actively poisoning the minds of people with hate and discrimination – it usually takes a bit more than that. It seems perfectly "safe" to me to watch something like Ushio and Tora with a bit of critical spirit. Even an impressionable kid can quickly catch on how to look at it with just a few discussions with a parent.

  5. e

    Having your hair combed can be pretty soothing IRL you know ;p. The more I think about this twist the more it makes sense, ahah. It feels also like a nice subversion of combs=vessel of evil folklore.
    Yay for flags btw. Especially when they involve Mayuko the spiritual Pink Ranger.

  6. S

    Yeah, that's what I thought too. And after all he IS getting it combed by cute girls, so that's surely a plus XD.

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