Supreme beauty, yet with sadness
I don’t know if we’ve gotten a direct continuation from one episode to the following one in this series before, but this episode picked up right at the end of the last, with Benten and Yasaburou up on the rooftops. So what happens when they are joined by Hotei?
Spare a Thought for the Lovelorn?
Benten’s not really interested in company, but she allows them to come along
Benten is quite the heartbreaker. She’s certainly the most unique person in the world of Uchouten Kazoku, a human taught the ways of Tengu, a beautiful woman who lives according to her own whim. And who knows how many people are in love with her? We now know that at least two are: Hotei and Yasaburou, although Yasaburou I think more rightly describes his as a crush. Yet that crush keeps him in her sphere, even when she is angry at him, even when she threatens him mortally, that he shall be dinner. In a way, I think that Hotei and Yasaburou’s conversation was a commiseration between two people who love the same unreachable person, even though they hardly talk about Benten. It was ‘get to know someone who loves the same person you do.’
Almost as if the light is separating them
But as strong as Benten is, she seems to be far from immune to that force of love. She’s dropped hints about how much she likes Yasaburou, so much that she wants to eat him, but we see her far more conflicted here, warning him away, leaving him and Hotei behind, and then alone, silently crying into a well. And not just any well, but one well known as a place for offloading feelings and troubles, and not for the first time. Does she feel that falling into love is a weakness, something that she seems to be unable to abide? Is it too much of an opening, giving another control that she has worked so hard to wrest from the rest of the world?
Diner and Dinner
We also see, again, the supreme circularity of this series. We already knew that Hotei is the same man, Yodagawa who saved Mother Shimogamo in the past, and had deduced that he was one who ate Souichirou. But as always, the story is filled in, with perhaps a hallucination, perhaps reality, that he was the last person who talked to Souichirou prior to his demise. And as I suspected, the death of Souichirou was far from a tragedy, from his standpoint. He felt he had accomplished what his life was about. Whether his motivation was just to be that final step in the circle of life, or whether it was to save some other tanuki from being the year’s feast, or whether he didn’t have any other reason, he was content with it. And his final request? To make sure that he didn’t taste bad.
But as Yodagawa says, it’s the responsibility of the eater to make sure the eaten is delicious. And an important responsibility it is. As someone who has eaten anything he can find everywhere he can go, he views being in that position as one of love, love for the things to be eaten. And love demands respect, so he finds an inherent contradiction in loving to eat things, and yet loving the things to be eaten.
Two people sharing stories and philosophy
I find the act of Yasaburou sharing onigiri with Yodagawa interesting, as that’s now the 3rd Shimogamo that has both recognized Yodagawa as the human who helped Mother and eaten his onigiri. And once again, Kaisei appears where least expected, as a ladder for Yasaburou and Yodagawa to climb down. She must be watching Yasaburou far more than is known, and I start to wonder her feelings, since she must see how he looks to Benten. But how much of Yasaburou’s crush on Benten is the person she used to be, the one that he himself recognizes is no longer the person she is?
How much she’s changed since being grabbed from the shoreline
Again, we’re treated to very interesting stories, set in a beautiful world. The wreathing of the forest in smoke from Benten’s cigar was masterful, as well as the amount of standoffishness it implied. And just to be near these people as they talk to each other, with Yodagawa and Yasaburou talking almost as equals, with Yajirou and Yasaburou looking up at Benten crying silently down at them, we are drawn into their world yet again.
What is the reason?