Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 01

Uchouten kazoku 2 - 01 - 01This is a good season for sequels, no question about it.  With Boku no Hero Academia, Natsume Yuujinchou and Kyoukai no Rinne out there the competition is damn steep, but this show might just be the one I was most looking forward to.  It’s not as though the first season of Uchouten Kazoku was perfect – there were a couple of minor ebbs, and the ending arc wasn’t the strongest side the series displayed.  But it was also a show that featured a couple of episodes I consider to be among the very best in anime, especially the eighth (I can count on one hand the anime episodes that moved me as much as that one did).  Any show that can impact me on that level has my full attention from day one.

Uchouten kazoku 2 - 01 - 02It’s been almost four years since the first season of Uchouten ended, but I found myself slipping back into the universe it creates pretty quickly.  Without any question the city of Kyoto is a character in its own right here, just as it is in all of Morimi Tomihiko’s works, and that helps.  It would be hard to overstate the emotional hold Kyoto has on me – it’s no exaggeration to say it’s my favorite place on Earth.  It’s highly emotional for me to watch this series now, having lived in Kyoto for a time – more so than in the first season I feel a jolt of recognition with every scene change, each one bringing with it the memories I have of that street, that building, that Shrine.

Uchouten kazoku 2 - 01 - 03This season of Uchouten Kazoku is off to a pretty measured start – there’s a lot of re-introduction and scene-setting going on here.  I had to double-check my reaction to be sure I remembered correctly, but the first season started off that way too – and there’s a reason for that.  The Eccentric Family is not a series that attacks you head-on.  Rather, it seduces you – with the beauty of its scenery, with the quirky charm of its characters, with the subtle elegance of its plot.  This is a pretty mature series to begin with, but shortcuts simply wouldn’t work with this material – the experience would be cheapened to an extent that it held little emotional power.

Uchouten kazoku 2 - 01 - 04The head of the Shimogamo clan of tanuki (it’s already been a great year for tanuki in anime) is one of those dead characters that holds major sway over the ones left behind, and it’s fitting that we began with an homage to Souichirou-sama.  It’s clear some time has passed since we left Kyoto, but not too much – Yashirou is still a short-pants bozu and Yasaburou a gangly teen (though he smokes now – that’s new, isn’t it?).  Benten, Uchouten’s great femme fatale, is missing – having left for a cruise around the world to allay her boredom.  She’s left a hole in Akadama-san’s life, and in Yasaburou’s heart.  The latter has filled in for Benten in looking after the old man, and in his spare time is engaged in a hunt for the elusive tsuchinoko with his little brother.

Uchouten kazoku 2 - 01 - 05There are reminders here that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Tengu are still imperious and still squabble incessantly, and tanuki still defer out of self-preservation to these “greater” beings.  But there’s new stuff too, perhaps most significant being the arrival of the Nidaimae (Majima Junji).  He seems to be the Nakadama’s son (though it’s interesting that he tells Yasaburou that he’t not a tengu).  He and his father apparently fought a century earlier, and when the Nakadama defeated him Nidaimae left Kyoto.  His return signals a confrontation – these are tengu after all – despite Yasaburou’s best efforts to prevent it, and that seems to be the focus of the first arc this season.

Uchouten kazoku 2 - 01 - 06There are some other seeds planted – like the mysterious “X” on the sheet of paper in Nakadama’s box of postcards from Benten – but for now, Uchouten Kazoku is primarily concerned with slipping back into its fictional setting like a comfortable old suit of clothes.  It’s great to have it back, and not much has changed.  It is immediately apparent in the backgrounds and animation that the budget is substantially lower this time around, but when you consider that this series generated little in disc, merchandising or licensing revenue (this sequel exists mainly due to the popularity of the source novels) I’m certainly not going to worry too much about that – it feels like a miracle of good fortune that it exists at all.  This was a very good premiere, but with Uchouten Kazoku that’s only a teaser for what may follow.

ED: “Moon River” by fhána

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7 comments

  1. H

    I adored this! I’m a huge fan of the first season so I can’t say I was too worried about being disappointed, but I think this was even better than I had anticipated. There is just something about the humor and underlying drama of this show that resonates with me. I am so, so happy that we have gotten a second season and can’t wait to see where it takes us. Nakadama is a personal favorite of mine so I’m feeling enthusiastic for more of a focus on his character this time around.

  2. Y

    My favorite part of this series is the focus on the four tanuki sons and their relationship to Souichiro, so it was nice to see that in the opening scene. That shift of seasons and time on the temple stairs is such a Kyoto moment, and I loved how that was executed animation-wise. The only misgiving I have about this second season is the love-triangle(?) foreshadowed in the ED. Love-triangles can easily make or break a series for me.

  3. C

    Wow, UK2, way to start with a bang (in a quiet sort of way). The opening scene was spectacular and really helped put me back in that heads pace where the world seems just a bit less full without the complete Tanuki set. There’s still a power vacuum this season, and while Ebisugawa may be gone, the game isn’t won yet, and that’s not even touching on the impending tengu power struggle. I don’t remember Yasaburou embracing the subservient language so well, he really seems a bit wiser with formalities still have mixed feelings about Akademi sensei’s actions toward Benten, but as a character, he probably does deserve some more screen time. We’ll see. I’m glad the Nidaimae’s return is how we’re approaching it all.

  4. M

    New season of The Punching-Bag Family. Oh joy…

  5. So glad this show is back. Love the way the tanuki look.

  6. m

    yasaburo already smokes on season 1 ep 1 so it is nothing new.

    o and x that benten writes is just her laziness to writes letter to akadama sensei.

  7. R

    Love UK, no double, but love it when I read a review that’s written with passion…totally share the love for Kyoto and the love for how this show brings out the beauty of this enchanting city.

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