Ushio to Tora continues to steamroll towards its final reckoning, and all the pieces are slotting into place. This promises to be one of the all-time battle royales in shounen, since no character of any significance in this series seems to be forgotten once they’ve appeared. Unless they’re dead, all the major players in the story figure to be on hand for that apocalyptic climax. And that’s already a pretty long roster on both teams.
For now, both the principal heroines have been taken out of action though. Asako is in the hospital recovering from her burns (given that she was effectively immersed in lava, that’s no surprise), leaving us to wonder if there’s some magical component to her regenerative abilities. And Mayuko has taken her place at the bottom of the sea watching over Hakumen no Mono, leaving Kirio heartbroken and determined to do whatever he must to save her. The reality is, of course. that if Hakumen no Mono is ever defeated the need for the females in Mayuko’s line to keep that lonely vigil is eliminated – the question is really who’s going to be left around at the end of that final battle.
The void is filled this week by Hyou, who makes his long-awaited return to the story (Gon out, Hisoka in). He brings a boatload of exposition with him, given that he too has taken a trip in the wayback machine with Tokisaka. There are two principal revelations here, the first of which is that it was Guren who killed Hyou’s family – except that Hyou calls him by another name, Soukei. That was Guren’s name when he was a human, a black-hearted thief who rampaged and murdered his way across Japan 1700 years ago. Guren has no memories of his time as a human, but he remembers Hyou and his family very well indeed.
The second revelation lies in the implications of the first – Guren’s similarity to Tora is no coincidence. Another group of youkai arrive on the scene who resemble Tora, and Hyou refers to them as “Azafuse“. All of them were once human, the bearers of the Beast Spear who lost their souls to it, and all but Guren respond to the Beast Spear’s call to destroy Hakumen no Mono. Apparently they’ve spent most of their time turned to stone, and their revival indicated that the final battle with Hakumen is coming soon.
The fact that Tora was once a human is certainly an interesting twist I didn’t see coming, and I definitely find myself hoping we get a flashback episode where we see what sort of story that human had. It’s tempting to pass off the growth in Tora’s character to his interaction with Ushio, but it seems clear that he’s fundamentally different from the other Azafuse anyway (he’s the only one who likes popsicles). As for Hyou, he finally gets his long-awaited reunion with Soukei, but it ends indecisively (though it seems Soukei could have ended it, had he really wanted to). Both of them are needed for the final battle to come, one which I don’t really expect either of them to survive. Once Hyou has seen his mission accomplished there’s not much reason for him to live on and in shounen, that’s usually fatal…