Oh, there’s gonna be hell to pay for this.
Ushio to Tora packs the momentum of a runaway locomotive, and the train, it won’t stop going – no way to slow down. We’re barreling towards one very obvious main confrontation but it seems as if there are several others simmering beneath the surface (literally and figuratively) too. This week saw one of them come to a full boil, but even though it was resolved in the most definitionally final manner possible, it seems sure to have put another rather large pot on the burner by doing so.
This was a pretty great episode in most respects – beautifully drawn and animated action sequences, the usual relentless pacing, some well-depicted emotional moments. I do have a couple of issues with it, though. The first of them is pretty minor, which is that the two civilians on the navy ship who helped Ushio seemed to pop up rather randomly. I needed some sort of backstory there, something to give me a rationale who why that happened (or at least who the hell these guys were). Maybe that existed in the manga version, I don’t know.
The larger issue is with Nagare-niichan’s storyline (may it rest in peace). Ultimately I felt his reasoning for having turned traitor was rather hollow. I get that he was severely existentially constipated from having had to hold back for all of his life, but it seems a thin rationale for joining forces with the potential destroyer of Japan. All that so that he could finally take off his limiter and fight Tora? I sort of get it, but it still feels weak to me. I think the best part of all this is that Hakumen no Mono knew even this innermost secret of Nagare’s – it’s eyes see deep and far, and they’re every bit as scary as they look.
But that is what it is, and there’s no denying it set up one hell of a great fight, with one hell of a potential set of repercussions. Having dropped off Reiko’s portrait (d’aww) Ushio and Tora head out to sea, searching for the ship that’s about to blow up Ushio’s mother. The first surprising thing is that Asako ends up out there too – thanks to her spotting a HAMMR truck as she’s roaming the streets drunken stumblebum, searching for the boy who pulled her from the fire. The headline here, obviously, is Ushio telling Asako “I love you” (though safely out of earshot), but no less vital is the revelation that if he continues to fight using the Beast Spear, Ushio will soon lose his humanity – joining, it’s presumed, the ranks of the Azafuse.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come down to that (obviously) but in the meantime, Ushio heads off in a submersible with the two random dudes from the ship. That clears the stage for Nagare to get what he says he’s wanted more than anything – a full-bore rematch with Tora. And quite the match it is, though don’t tell Nagare that Tora actually was holding back quite a bit. It can certainly be said that Ushio placed an unfair burden on Tora, sending him into that fight with a threat that if he killed Nagare, Ushio would “make Tora regret it”. Nagare is no weakling, and he went into the duel with killing intent.
I think it can be said that Tora did try and give Nagare a chance to survive, but in the end, Nagare just wouldn’t step off. I don’t blame Tora for what happened – I don’t even chalk it up to an understandable bout of anger, though Tora did get pretty pissed off. But unavoidable or not, Tora having killed Nagare is going to be pretty problematic – and Tora clearly knows it. Ushio is going to be devastated when he learns what happened, and it’s going to drive a wedge between he and Tora when they can least afford to be at odds with each other (it’s almost as if Hakumen no Mono saw this coming). This series has all along been a story about Ushio’s innocent nature, and the manner in which it’s come under constant attack by events beyond his control. Nagare’s death at Tora’s hand may just be the event to irreversibly sever the link between Ushio and childhood.