That was certainly an ep that had a little of everything – in fact I’d say it had a lot of everything, like a nabe overstuffed with everything from the pantry and the fridge besides (as long as it’s not stuffed with tanuki, it’s fine by me). Pretty much every plot thread that had been dangling this season got tangled up, and while there wasn’t really anything resolved (there’s the finale still to come, and of course the novels are still ongoing) it certainly set the table (as long as there’s no tanuki on it, it’s fine by me) for a blockbuster final episode next week.
Some of this stuff you could see coming like an Eizan (real or false) Electric Railway car speeding up from Shikoku, while others were pretty much out of left field. I certainly didn’t expect to see Yashiro’s lab tied into the plot this way, through an explosion that appears to have been staged as a means for Kinkaju to “discover” evidence that it was in fact the Shimogamo that killed Soun. Given that we pretty much knew that the Ebisugawa Kureichirou we’ve been looking at is a fake, it seems impossible not to conclude that everything from the moment Yashiro was given that lab in the first place was part of an elaborate setup.
This episode was really about the Ebisugawa clan more than anything – about their perpetual scheming, yes, but also the divisions within their own family. Given what we now know (thanks to Yajirou heroically zipping home with the real Kureichirou in tow) – that “Kureichirou” was in fact Soun, who faked his own death – it seems the key question is “who knew what, and when did they know it?” It’s probably a safe bet that Kaisei wasn’t in on any of this; a good bet (though not a lock, I think) that Kinkaju has been in on it since the beginning. But Ginkaju appears to have been left out of it – at the very least, he has some sympathy for Yashiro and Tousen, and doubts about whether they could really do what Kinkaju accuses them of. And when Kaisei turns up missing (Ginkaju finds her “elopement” note) Ginkaju seems likely to turn to Tousen for help.
Who’s one wild card in this deck? The real Kureichirou himself, of course – though one suspects he’s not entirely sympathetic to the schemes of his father. There was a reason he left home in the first place, of course, and he was willing to accompany Yajirou back once he heard he was being impersonated (and had probably figured out by who). Then there’s Tenmaya, who – if the “shooting” at the Kinyoubi Club was a ruse – was in cahoots with Soun as well. But Tenmaya is a trickster, and he has no loyalty to anyone but himself – when he “sold” the Nidaime’s gun to Soun (so he could plant it as evidence) he sold him a fake.
This is the curse that follows Soun through all his schemes – the castles he builds are always made of sand, and he has no true friends anywhere in the world, only allies of convenience. The one element of all this that really saddens me is that Soun’s death was all a sham – because it was rather sad and beautiful, I thought. Was it really so important to him to be trick magister, that he would go to these lengths and condemn another of his extended family to the pot? Clearly, yes – because clearly, the hatred Soun feels towards Souichirou’s family is so ingrained now that it’s impossible to say where the hatred ends and the man begins.
There are all kinds of interesting Easter eggs scattered through this episode (like Kureichirou telling Yajirou that it was his father that named the little girl he met in Kincho – “Seiran”). And there’s the wonderful father’s day gift of a dream conversation between Yasaburou and Souichirou, full of all the sardonic warmth and tenderness that imbues all the relationships in the Shimogamo clan. But urgent matters win the day – Yasaburou and Kaisei are about to be cooked after all (I assume the latter was not part of Soun’s scheme), and Yaichirou tosses aside the matter of the Trick Magister election to go and save his brother. He’s beaten to the punch, though, by the heroic Yodogawa-sensei – (poorly) disguised as “Pompoko Kamen“. He manages to get the ball rolling, at least, though if Yaichirou and Gyokuran hadn’t showed up in tiger form it’s hard to imagine all that would have ended well.
Finally, we have the two jokers in the deck – the Nidaime and Benten, whose roles in the denouement are yet to be determined. Do I judge Benten less harshly because she sheds tears over devouring Yasaburou? No, more harshly if anything – her crocodile tears mean nothing when help up against her actions. As for Nidaime, one imagines he’s going to be rather cross – Soun’s scheme was, ultimately, an attempt to put one over on him, as the arbiter of the election. And when Kinkaju presents the fake gun to him, he realizes he’s been used as part of an elaborate hoax by Soun. I won’t go so far as to say Nidaime feels any loyalty to Yasaburou per se (though he might), but he certainly sees himself as a gentleman and a man of honor – an honor which has been besmirched by all this ugliness. He’s going to have his say next week, you can bet on that – and my bet is that his goal will be to restore some integrity and dignity to tengu-tanuki society.