“Never a dull moment” is an overused phrase, but with Ushio and Tora it really fits.
Ushio to Tora is one of the most efficient anime I can remember. It almost never wastes a moment on-screen – everything is pointing towards a destination, and the direction is always forward. But even more particular to this series, it never seems to waste a cast member either. As I think back on the first 30 episodes I’m legitimately struggling to think of a character who had a significant speaking role who simply disappeared after “their” episode (assuming they didn’t die of course). They always come back, showing up at a time and place that feels perfectly logical.
Do I remember the names of the two scientists who worked at HAMMR with Helena? Heck, no – but somehow when I saw them sitting there wearing crowns of Hiyou, it didn’t surprise me a bit. They were waiting to greet Ushio and Tora, who’d been collected by the JSDF for an urgent reunion. What did surprise me, however, was that Nagare-niichan seem to have gone over to Hakumen no Mono’s side. That’s what he said anyway when he ambushed the truck carrying UshiTora to HAMMR time, and judging by his actions he certainly meant it.
I’m not at all sure what’s going on there, since Nagare seemed to be a pretty straight shooter when we last met him. No doubt there’s a lot of deception taking place around the story at the moment – Hakumen no Mono has sent a minion dressed as Jie Mei to convince the army (including Natsuzawa, yet another character looped back into the plot) to fire a missile at Hakumen’s hidey-hole off Okinawa, presumably killing Ushio’s mom but leaving Hakumen intact. But Nagare swears he’s not being controlled or deceived, so I suspect there’s something deeper going on here – blackmail, maybe?
Fortunately for the world, the two scientists at HAMMR have seen through Hakumen’s ploy and recruited Ushio to put a stop to it. On the way to Okinawa he and Tora stop off at Fugen’in, but they have unexpected guests waiting for them there – Guren and his underlings. They’ve stopped by to destroy the Azafuse, but having Ushio and Tora there is a nice bonus. They’ve leveled up since Ushio met them, but fortunately for him the two scientists have given Ushio the Bone Eater’s armor for protection. It’s a hell of a battle but with the fractured Azafuse’s help Ushio and Tora manage to win the day – though at the cost of Ushio’s house.
I rather like the last moments of this episode, full of kenshou as they are. The destruction of that house and the little make-believe Tora and Ushio put on in the storehouse has the feel of a watershed moment, the true end of Ushio’s childhood innocence and the beginning of the final battle. Ushio is right, Tora has changed a lot in the past year – though he has too, of course. Things are definitely in quite a mess though – not only has Hakumen no Mono once again succeeded in forcing his enemies to waste their time fighting each other, but Asako has fled the hospital and is wandering the streets in a daze, looking for the boy who helped her survive the fires of Hell. I can’t help but think that’s going to be relevant next week…