It would be hard to set up a final battle much better than Ushio to Tora has done it these last couple of episodes. This is not what I would call a genre-busting series, even in its original timeframe of the early 1990’s. But it doesn’t have to be, because it’s series like Ushio and Tora that make series like Hunter X Hunter possible – some might say when an author like Togashi pushes against the boundaries that others have created he’s implicitly criticizing them, but I think it’s just the opposite. For an author to try and deconstruct is a tribute to what he or she is deconstructing, because they found it impressive and substantial enough to fire their imagination – and inspiration.
Everything about the final arc screams “epic”, which makes MAPPA the perfect studio to adapt it. All the ducks are lining up, and with UshiTora that’s a massive brace of ducks. Hell, even a pro wrestler who was on the airplane Ushio saved in the first season (I don’t even remember if he spoke or not) is looped back into the story, lending credence to Asako’s attempts to calm an increasingly panicked crowd in an emergency shelter by telling them that Ushio will save them. One gets the sense that everyone who hasn’t been killed off (and I’m not even sure about them) is going to have a role to play in this drama.
That crowd scene in the shelter is a crucial one, and not just because it shows the moment when everyone gets the Hiyou knocked out of their noggins and remembers Ushio at last. The especially insidious thing about Hakumen no Mono is that it feeds on fear – the more terror it encounters, the bigger and stronger it gets. And who the hell isn’t going to be terrified with Hakuman popping up overhead? This is seriously one of the all-time great anime monsters here, absolutely terrifying and convincingly pure evil. It a combination of writing, art (those expressions!) and one of the all-time sinister seiyuu performances by the great Hayashibara Megumi. Seriously – she’s amazing here, a performance that deserves to be hailed as one of the historical greats.
Things are certainly still bad – Hakumen is cutting a swathe of destruction across Japan south to north, leaving places like Tokyo and Aomori blazing wastelands of death and destruction. Naturally, it’s soaking up fear as it progresses like a typhoon drawing strength from warm ocean water as it passes over. And it’s interesting to speculate whether the massive typhoon that’s bearing down on Japan as all this is happening is there by coincidence – it would be a whopper of one if it was. Surely this is all connected to Hakumen somewhow? But something else is passing over Japan, too – shards of the Beast Spear – and they seem to have the effect of tamping down the terror Hakumen no Mono is leaving in its wake.
As Ushio is gathering himself and getting ready to re-engage, Tora is left as the only holding action against Hakumen no Mono. Hakumen has remembered who Tora is, but it seems Tora hasn’t – he only remembers the hate he feels for Hakumen. Tora is another victim of the curse Kirio describes the keepers of the barrier, the countless Akafuze he’s seen in his travels through time who gave everything to fight Hakumen and surrendered to a terrible fate. It seems only one completely pure of heart has a chance to wield a weapon that was forged from rage and death, but if that description applies to anyone it would seem to apply to Ushio.
Things go pretty badly for Tora, who seems to be no match for the being he birthed into the world. But Ushio is coming – he’s liberated the youkai of the East (from their amnesia, too), and all of Japan’s youkai have joined forces as a great army at his back. Happily that includes Izuna, who has his first speaking role of the season. I don’t know why, but every time that little furball appears on-screen it makes me irrationally happy, no matter the situation. This isn’t going to be an easy fight for Ushio, no matter how many allies he has – and I very much worry that when the battle is won, Tora’s race will have been run and the great partnership of Ushio to Tora will have reached it’s poetical end.