Whatever lessons you take from Uchouten Kazoku, at least learn to NOT wear ties like these
There are some anime, which literally touch you on an emotional level because the character not just merely enact their story but they resonate with you somehow, to the extent that you reflect their shown emotions. Coming from Tomihiko Morimi (writer of Tatami Galaxy), I was already set to enjoy this before it started airing and I definitely did. And I’m glad to join this tag with Highway to commemorate the brilliance of this series.
And my last series of the summer, along with all the signs outside, makes me really believe that fall is coming (or here! I watched a few shows already). But we can’t say goodbye to summer without talking about this show that’s captivated me throughout its run: Uchouten Kazoku. Thanks to Kyokai for joining me and let’s see how it went.
The Coup de Grace
Everyone’s in one place and all together
After the show went to all that work setting us up for the final episode, you knew there were going to be some interesting happenings in this last episode. And while it was a good finale, it was somewhat more understated than I had imagined it being. Perhaps that was a function of the setting: having everyone in one place doesn’t really allow for chases. Perhaps it was a function of the characters involved: having the final showdown between the Kin-youbi Club and the tanuki, or between Soun and Yaichiro doesn’t have the dynamic possibilities that Yasaburou and Yajirou vs Kinkaku and Ginkaku had in the previous episode. And Yakushibou is more of an gas leak explosion waiting to happen than a energetic force for motion.
Do not cross this tengu
But given all that, I still found it a very satisfying ending, and as befits the series, it showed us what happened at the moment of truth, not just told. In fact, it never even specifically spelled things out, instead letting you realize things, and letting the characters realize things, as the story unfolded. So we get to see Yodagawa’s slow realization that the pretty red tanuki brought in was really the same one that he had saved (and fallen in love with, in a way). We get to see Soun’s reputation self-immolation as he implicitly admits to everything that Yaichirou has accused him of as he argues with Juroujin about boiling Mother. And we see Yaichirou once again take up the mantle of responsibility for the Shimogamo pride, defending he and his family from Soun’s craven plotting.
Along the way we get wonderful visuals like the tanuki popping into furballs and scattering in panic as they realize the group they’ve intruded on is the dreaded Friday Fellows, Yakushibou blasting cars, people, and scenery out of the way as he chases Yodagawa, or Yodagawa’s panic and changed resolve as he admits to “total defeat” of his previous worldview. I’ve seen some comments that have said this is convenient flipflopping, but I found it to be more of a situation where, when faced with incompatible “facts”, one must discard one in favor of the one that is ‘truer’. I don’t necessarily think that Yodagawa’s worldview about loving what you eat is wrong, and we saw similar themes in Gin no Saji this season, even. But it’s a different kind of love. And when he realized that he loved THIS tanuki, he realized that he could not allow her to be eaten. Does this make him as craven as Soun? I don’t think so, given the difference between humans and tanuki. There was a realization that Yodagawa came to at that moment, that tanuki are more than just animals. But Soun knew that from the beginning, and still was going through with betraying Souichirou and Yaichirou.
Recapturing old glory
And finally, we again see Benten’s mercurial nature. Why does she step in and calm Yakushibou down? Why does she start to pay attention to him again? Possibly it’s because he shows the old fire? Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, needing to be cajoled just to go take a bath, he’s finally retaken on his Aspect and is wielding his attribute, a tengu in full fury using the power of the wind. Who knows how long this will last, but it’s enough to get us out of this situation, even if it feels a little contrived.
Aho no Chi
Perhaps only in this series could the most touching moment be putting a frog on the phone
We have heard about the influence of ‘idiot blood’ throughout the run of this series, in different tones of positive to derision. However, it’s clear that the Shimogamo family are a unique bunch with their idiosyncrasies and sharing their head’s different characteristics of carefreeness to actual responsibility. Of course, even the most serious situations were made comic with external elements but whatever the situation, all the siblings tried their best to save each other’s hide to their best ability. What I liked most about them is their ability to do things that would usually scare their pants off but they did to save their loved ones, like running to save their mother from the rain/thunderclaps to using all kinds of tricks to show fellow-tanukis the real face of their uncle. However, imperfect, they worked together with all their shortcomings and that really hit home with me. I cheered them on because of their family mechanics and even when it’s hard to come by such family in this day and age, don’t we all in our own way do the same for the people we call our family (parents, siblings, childhood friends, boy/girlfriend, spouse/partner)? Yes, and that’s one of the reasons, the bonds portrayed were not typically cliche’d and came down to their strong resolve in tight spots. So, I’d rather fondly merit the idiot blood to a lovable upbringing, making them imperfectly perfect.
Overall Series Impressions
P.A. Works, a job well done! I definitely enjoyed this series; more than I originally thought because seriously, a story about tanuki and tengu who dwell with humans? What’s so unique about it except for the idea? But the way the tale was told just sucked me right in and I give all credit to the way the characters were written and the seiyuu who did a brilliant job in playing their respective roles. I mean, Takahiro Sakurai as Yasaburou was his second best role this season (first being Oshino from Monogatari series – he can never downplay that), along with big names like Junichi HNNG Suwabe, Hiroyuki Yoshino and Mai Nakahara actually seemed like siblings in their various exchanges, the best being that amazing tram ride through the city. Even if the humans seemed mostly stupid except for Benten (Noto Mamiko hell yeah), they provided enough lulz as background to the internal political feud of tanukis and supremacy of tengu.
Like Tatami Galaxy, I was expecting some solid conclusion with set ships, which we partially got with Benten and Akadama-sensei but then again, knowing her, it doesn’t really seem real for the long-term. But what was painfully left unresolved was Kaisei and Yasaburou’s pairing. Sure, Yajiro had a crush on her forever but from her actions, Kaisei seemed pretty hung upon Yasaburou so why the hell she didn’t just show herself to him after so many years? And he could have tried a bit harder. But even when this development irritated me for a bit, it made me smile in the end thinking that all the characters would come back to the circle of their shenanigans exactly from where they started. Nothing gets resolved but they still go their merry way and who cares until they are happy, right? By the end, I laughed and cried with the characters, even when I had nothing in common with them. That’s the power of a good story and Uchouten was definitely one.
Highway: I don’t know if there’s too much more to say that I didn’t say above, or throughout this season. Uchouten Kazoku tells a wonderful story, in a way that is rare in any storytelling medium. Unafraid to bring the same story back up again and again, it continues to embellish, to add detail, to clarify. And like some other anime recently like Zetsuen no Tempest, it wasn’t afraid to make someone who had died before the story even started a main focus of the show. Souichirou was just as much of an important character to the show as anyone else – in his actions while alive, in the guidance he gave his four children, in the presence he continued to have in their lives after his passing. It took the whole series for us to find out all the truth about Souichirou’s last hours, and we got so many perspectives on it. And the finding out was glorious, even while being sad.
Yasaburou reminds us that it’s always time to warm your butt
This show was a departure from PA Works more signature ‘reality’ style, but was beautiful in its own way. In my posts throughout the series, I’ve had some beautiful screenshots: The flying Fake Eizan Electric Railway silhouetted in the moon, the upside down stream as Yajirou gives up on life, the Kamo River captivating me with the animation of a fish ladder waterfall. The animation was always good enough, stepping up to shining in places like the aerial fireworks fight. The voice work was great, needing to keep up with form changes and conferring tremendous personality on all the characters – Sakurai Takahiro’s Yasaburou’s casual nonchalance, Yoshino Hiroyuki’s Yajirou’s abdication of everything, Suwabe Junichi’s Yaichirou’s tension and weight of responsibility, and Inoue Kikuko’s Mother’s love for all her boys (and her late husband). And the OP and ED songs supported the show well, with milktub’s loud and strong anthem Uchouten Jinsei (“Ecstatic Life”) opening the show and fhána‘s more reflective que sera sera closing it out (always with images of Benten, being reflective even).
With all this said, it’s surprising to me that it wasn’t my favorite show of the season, but for whatever reason (maybe Shinku), Rozen Maiden just held a place in my heart. But this show was truly special, and one that should be wholeheartedly recommended to anyone.