When Benten says “goran nasai”, you pretty much have to look.
I mentioned to someone else that, for some reason, Uchouten Kazoku slips my mind when I talk about this season’s anime. And this is strange, because it’s really captivating in a way that no other anime this season is. I ended up blaming the schedule, in that I watch it Sunday, write about it on Monday, and then it’s not one that I have to wait to look forward to, coming at the ‘end’ of my anime week. But it certainly deserves better than to be “Oh yeah, I also like Uchouten Kazoku”. So how was this week’s episode?
Nearly Constant Exposition
Tengu and Tanuki telling tales
This is one of the things I am enjoying most about Uchouten Kazoku. It’s always taking the opportunity, any opportunity, to be providing exposition about the world of the Tanuki and Tengu. From showing us the petty maliciousness of Kinkaku and Ginkaku Ebisugawa last week to the yearly happening of the Gozan Fire Festival, where the tanuki all launch flying craft to party in the skies. And while there’s a story in setting up for that that begins with Yaichirou failing to find a suitable craft and asking Yasuburou for help and ends with Benten taking a grab at a whale’s tail, they take even more time to tell us more about things like Yasuburou’s broken-off arranged marriage to Kaisei Ebisugawa, which Uncle Ebisugawa broke off apparently as soon as they could after their father’s death, infuriating Mother Shimogamo, and Adakawa-Sensei’s history, as the mountain that he formerly led is now overrun with Kurama Tengu, a group that seems to be in league with the Friday Fellows as well as Benten.
The Menacing Mountain
We also get more stories of Father Shimogamo, who apparently played a huge (literally) trick on the Kurama tengu, transforming into the whole mountain and getting the better of them. It’s this kind of storytelling that keeps the show engrossing, with intertwined threads all moving at their own pace, slowly giving us all a picture of this strange and fantastical world that they are living in. It never feels like an infodump or like a character just talking to the camera. It’s always blocked and set in such a way that it’s more of a peek, a glimpse into this world, with interesting people sharing stories and histories, like you’re a fly on the wall, or a guest at a dinner party with other interesting guests.
The Power of Magic
Some don’t need a tea room to fly
Another thing this episode reinforces is the force of magic within this world. From flying ships and tea rooms to tanuki transforming into everything from frogs to maneki-neko to giant mountains, the powers of illusion and magic are central to this story, yet where they are leading we still don’t know. But something that becomes more obvious with every episode is the fairly overwhelming strength of Benten’s magic. She’s supposed to be a human, so the question I find myself asking is was she magical before, or is this something she learned (or perhaps even took?) from Yakushibou? Or is this a latent force in most humans, and most of us just don’t know it, and can’t use it. Either way, she is a force to be reckoned with, seemingly conjuring a whole world to sun herself in next to a clock tower, or to wait for whales to show up to play with. And who is there to tell her no? It certainly strikes fear in the tanuki, whose magic is limited to the illusory. And yet it provides us with a beautiful setting for this story.
Maybe Superman could pull on a whale’s tail too. Also (possibly NSFW) Show ▼
There’s so much more that this story is going to get to, I think, from things like why Kaisei and Yasaburou have never even met face-to-face despite being cousins and betrothed to things like what is Yasaburou’s true feeling for Benten. He certainly seemed smitten in their first meeting, does he still feel that way, and what does she feel for him? I think the most important thing, really, is that this story is taking its time. Coming from last season’s offering from PA Works, Red Data Girl, it seems dead set on not making the same problems, primarily trying to cram too much stuff into the show.
Static it’s pretty, animated it was tremendous
And speaking of PA Works, while this show doesn’t exactly match the style of most of their other shows (if you want gorgeous skies, look at the skies in Tari Tari, when Wakana is visiting her mother’s grave), it is instead giving us brilliant visuals in a different style. I was captivated by the waterfall in the background as Yasaburou conversed on the bridge, complete with fish ladder. And the flying tea room over Kyoto was gorgeous. Even if the style is different, the quality is still top notch.