This episode marked the end of a major phase of Ushio to Tora, but the story didn’t really miss a beat. Partly I think that’s due to the unique sort of continuity this series employs – there’s not much that happens that doesn’t turn out to be significant, and very few characters who show up and then disappear without a trace. Everything that’s happened so far has been building up to this moment, so it feels like a natural extension of those events. That’s quite fitting for a story where the past is so seamlessly connected to the present.
Of course, there’s another reason I’ve been looking forward to this episode. The Hunter X Hunter connection with Ushio & Tora has been strong all along, but never more so than with the long-awaited arrival of Han Megumi as Inasa Kirio, the fourth (and last) of the candidates to wield the Beast Spear. Han has made an impressive start to her career, most obviously of course in her role as Gon, and knowing a bit about Kirio’s character I’ve been very much looking forward to seeing what she could do with the role.
Well, Han doesn’t disappoint. She hasn’t gotten a lot of boy roles but as female seiyuu go I think she’s already proven herself one of the best, and in Kirio there’s definitely a hint of Gon Freecs – but it’s Gon at one of his more unhinged “Chimera Ant” moments. Kirio is a grade schooler who wields a scythe he calls “Elzar”, and has a demon companion of his own – a strange bird-like creature (dare I say he looks like a chimaera) called Kuin. Kirio and Kuin arrive at the temple – where Ushio is looking to settle in for a breath of peace and quiet after a very trying road trip – ready to rumble. And Kirio makes it clear that he considers not just Ushio, but the Beast Spear itself inferior and ultimately irrelevant in the battle against Hakumen no Mono.
There’s clearly much more to come in this rivalry (though obviously Ushio isn’t picking a fight in any way, shape or form) but it takes a back seat when the headquarters of the Kouhamei sect comes under attack by an avatar of Hakumen no Mono called Kuragi, and Shigure choppers in to solicit the help of the Beast Spear (and Kirio, as it turns out). The fate of old Hizaki Mikado has already been unmistakably flagged by her conversation with Shigure earlier in the episode, but the end comes pretty quickly, The old lady goes with a bang though, that’s for certain – and after 400 years of life (three hundred of them keeping watch on Hakumen no Mono at the bottom of the sea) it’s clear she’s ready to move on.
That’s especially true once Mikado has had the chance to meet Ushio, and their scene together – the impossibly old woman who gave up her own children to the fight against Hakumen no Mono and the boy who gave up his mother to the same fight – is one of the best in the episode. For all his strength and indomitable spirit Ushio has a purity and innocence about him (sound familiar?), and he wears his heart on his sleeve. And while Mikado insists that Ushio’s mother is “much nicer” than she is, she comes off as a pretty noble spirit herself.
While the axis of the story has evolved pretty neatly into the pure evil of Hakumen no Mono against everyone else, Kirio – and this woman who may or may not be his mother – seem to represent a pretty big wild card in all that. While the other candidates put up token resistance to Ushio’s primacy as the spear-bearer, there never seemed to be any real doubt they’d eventually become his backup. With Kirio there’s a different air – he doesn’t even want to take the spear from Ushio, but to discredit its use altogether. And Kirio seems disturbed on an entirely different level, too (though seemingly with good reason).
Before I finish, I want to loop back to the seiyuu for a moment. First off to give a tip of the cap to Hatanaka Tasuku, who’s doing a great job as Ushio – once again he really put me in mind of Miyu Irino this week. And MAPPA has finally acknowledged (why the delay I have no idea) the identity of Hakumen no Mono – as some had guessed it’s Hyashibara Megumi, whose standout career has ranged from Ayanami Rei (and Yui) in Evangelion to All Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku to Ranma to Hello Kitty. Needless to say she’s an amazingly versatile actor, and she’s absolutely nailing it as Hakumen no Mono here.