Ushio to Tora has always had a way of taking funny little detours just when you figure the series is about to get to the big stuff. The difference is that with this series everything is so interconnected that what seems like a detour usually isn’t (well- ever) really a detour. With a big bad as big and bad as Hakumen no Mono, it seems like literally everyone we meet who doesn’t work for it is going to have to pitch in one way or the other to try and defeat it. If there’s a common thread running through everything connected to the central plot of UshiTora, it would surely be “united we stand, divided we fall”.
Our first excursion away from the main cast this week takes us to where Saya is – namely, trying to find a way to help the cause in any way she can. That means exercising the special power of her Takatori clan – to open the door to the netherworld. What I don’t believe we’ve been told before is that the Takatotori women can only perform this act once in their lifetimes (and since they all seem to die young, I’m guessing it really takes it out of them). What we’re not told immediately is just what Saya intends to accomplish by doing so now.
Every little bit helps when it comes to fighting Hakumen, and Saya’s act turns out to be crucial. What it seems she’s done is summon the spirit of Hizaki Mikado, who returns from the netherworld just long enough to place a barrier on Hakumen no Mono at a crucial moment. It can’t hold Hakumen long, but it does prevent it from destroying the Beast Spear before it can re-form – and given that neither Jie Mei and Mayuko, the Priests or the brainiacs (Trump!) were ready to cast a barrier around Hakumen yet, the few moments this buys the good guys are absolutely pivotal.
That intervention also causes Hakumen to spit out Tora. But Tora, clearly, is in very bad shape. Ushio gives him a little snack, vampire style, and the Beast Spear seems to use Tora’s body to re-form itself. With everyone – Ushio, the youkai of both the East and West, the science and the spiritual practitioners – acting at once, Hakumen no Mono for the first time seems to be in real discomfort. None of his local incarnations are able to free him, and the barriers slowly begin pulling him westward. Desperate for the first time, he calls out to Guren to come help him – but Guren has other things on his plate at the moment.
This second excursion is by far the longer, and it consumes the entire second half of the episode. We haven’t seen much of Hyou this season but he and Guren have been going at it for three days. Hyou wakes up dazed on the lawn of an Academy Award-winning actress (if there’s a joke here, I don’t quite get it) with a seven year-old daughter she expresses a general disdain for. This whole sequence is a very odd one, especially coming as it does more or less out of nowhere. But it’s surprising effective, a fitting end to Hyou’s story. He saves the lives of two people to represent those he couldn’t save before, and in the process finally exacts his final revenge against Guren – though only though an attack that can only succeed as a suicide act.
The upshot of Hyou’s grisly end is, of course, that Hakumen no Mono now has (as far as we know) no high-powered help he can call on from outside the barrier. Has the tide really turned just like that? I do have my doubts with three episodes to go, but there’s certainly no question that this is the closest we’ve seen anyone to having Hakumen on the defensive. It’s a rare bit of optimism in this very dark second season of Ushio to Tora, even with Hyou’s death and Tora’s unstable condition. But Hakumen remains the ultimate badass, and I suspect it’s going to require a bigger blow than this to keep him down for long.