It’s hard to believe we’re already staring down the barrel of Episode 24, because this series has flown by in what seems like the blink of an eye. I think that’s a particular advantage of adapting a series in a time slot that’s a bit briefer than would be “ideal” – every moment on-screen counts, and there’s never a sense of a moment being wasted. Admittedly that advantage is lost an a manga reader who knows what’s missing, but from my selfish perspective things could hardly be much better.
This episode was strong on all fronts, as they pretty much all have been lately. But I admit to feeling a special predisposition to like it, because of the prominent presence of Han Megumi in its key moments. As one watches more and more anime (and reads more manga) the lines from the past to the present become more obvious, and there’s something fitting in Han-san’s desperate, vulnerable energy here. One can absolutely see the connections between Ushio and Tora and Hunter X Hunter, and in this new-old series made by a “new” studio full of old Madhouse hands (including the oldest, Maruyama-san), having memories of Gon’s more unhinged moments in “Chimera Ant” conjured up seems profoundly right.
Perhaps my favorite moment of the episode doesn’t involve Kirio, though, and that was when Tora became offended when Kuin called Ushio weak. It’s been a given for weeks that these two are now allies, but this was the most affecting demonstration of it – and of Tora’s true “humanity”. I should also add here that Kuin is played by Kunishi Katsuyuki, which is another bit of casting that surprised me when I confirmed it – I’d actually thought it might be Sugita Tomokazu.
I can forgive Kirio for being taken in by Towako, because not only is he a child, but he was in her clutches since he was an infant. But as for the monks, that’s another matter. Even if they didn’t know of Towako’s existence or her hold over Kirio, there were still plenty of clues as to what was really behind this plan to destroy the Beast Spear. But this is a new side of Hakumen no Mono, and a rather insidious one – prying on the ego and weakness of individual humans, and playing the long game to get what it wants.
And a long game this was – a lifetime of tucking Kirio into bed and buying him trinkets, all to build up to the moment when the Beast Spear was trapped inside the lead. It occurs to me that the Beast Spear is a device created from hate which runs on hate, and thus there seems likely to be some terrible ultimate cost to its use (and Ushio to be the one who pays it, in the “Sea of Blood”). But perhaps nothing less were ever stand a chance against an entity as powerful as Hakumen no Mono. And it’s that undying, burning hatred from Giryou that allows the spear to survive its ordeal and once again return to Ushio’s side, just in the nick of time.
The thing is, there’s never any question that Ushio will gladly pay whatever price need be paid, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. And he’s also the sort of guy to forgive Kirio in spite of everything the boy has done, and “Mama’s” last moments are certainly hard on Kirio emotionally (and physically). It’s no surprise that he needs some time after learning that his entire life has been a lie spent in the service of evil, and that the only person who ever loved him was an avatar of Hakumen no Mono. But I suspect that Ushio is right, and in the end Kirio is going to be needed to win this fight – because it’s going to be all hands on deck when the final battle rolls around.