Ushio to Tora – 27

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Our easing back into the world of Ushio to Tora seems at first like it will be a bit of a respite for Ushio, as he and Asako butt heads when passing each other in a romantic sakura-strewn street.

Then Ushio questions his default conduct towards Asako (to yell at her, feigning disinterest, and for her to yell back) when he realizes this kind of foolishness might not be able to go on for another year because for him, there might not bea next year.

So he offers, in his very Ushio-to-Asako way, to walk her home, and the two are on cloud nine—right up until Asako suddenly loses all memory of who Ushio is. So does her family. And when Ushio heads to the Kouhamei Sect HQ for help, they’ve all turned to stone. Sooo…not a rest episode, then!

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Instead, it’s more of a Murphy’s Law episode, where everything bad that can happen to Ushio does happen. But even that turns out not to be 100% the case, as Tora, bless the big furry guy, remembers Ushio all to well, to Ushio’s giddy delight. You wouldn’t forget someone you’ve promised to eat one day, now would ya?

Whatever is going on, Tora’s no affected, and he suspects neither is Mayuko, who he’s always thought was a human who never feared youkai or monsters as much as she should. Mayuko has taken Kirio into her home and is showing him both simple kindnesses like a hot breakfast, and the idea that simple kindnesses need not be things that send one into a spiral of self-hatred for being unworthy of such.

Unfortunately, Ushio and Tora are a little to late to get to Mayuko. Ushio meets amnesiac Asako, who wants nothing to do with him and suspects he has no good reason to be bothering her friend. The two exchange slaps, but then things take a turn for the worse: the heads of the East and West, all amnesiacs, arrive to take Mayuko and Asako captive. Ushio and Kirio try to stop them, but they escape.

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THey pursue, but Kagari and Raishin strike them down, and after dreaming of the Beast Spear shattering, Ushio wakes up in Saya’s house. She remembers him too (again, to his giddy delight) and they’re protected by her barrier from the culprits behind all the amnesia going around: memory-devouring hiyou; one of Hakumen’s latest tactics against Ushio.

Not only that, but the time-traveling Tokisaka is there. He saw the same thing Ushio dreamed—the spear being shattered—and reported it to the East/West alliance, all of whom had had their memories wiped. Thus fear and apprehension swept across the ranks, and fear is Hakumen’s most powerful weapon.

Things are bad, but there’s still plenty to hope for. Mayuko and Asako are both safe for the time being. Mayuko remembers enough of Ushio to candidly lay out the nature of the triangle she forms with him and Asako, who is starting to remember (though isn’t keen on the idea of loving a guy who loves her if it makes Mayuko cry).

Furthermore, Mayuko is confirmed (if it wasn’t already pretty clear) as a descendant of Jeimei, whose soul lives on in the spear. That means if Ushio, Tora, and Saya can’t fix the memory loss, the East/West guys may try to forge a new Beast Spear with her. It never rains…

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Ushio to Tora – 26 (Fin until April)

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When Tora arrives, he’s really bored and just wants to smash shit, despite the fact things are more complicated due to the presence of Bal-chan within the Hakumen experiment. The insufferably procedural attitude of the scientists continues, with the three preparing to seal the entire lab and detonate it in order to prevent Hakumen from escaping—without regard to whoever is still inside.

That’s when Asako and Ushio are all like STFU with the science-y emotional detatchment, because it’s getting really old. They manage to convince one scientist, Helena, to stay behind and try to stop Hakumen to allow everyone to escape safely.

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Asako works with Helena up in the control room, but when Helena is seriously wounded, Asako has to take over getting the oscillator up and running. Once they immobilize the Hakumen in its tracks, Ushio and Tora free Bal-chan and smash the Hakumen to pieces. But while everyone is in a good position to be saved, Helena seems to know between her blood loss and the encroaching poisonous gas that her own time is up.

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In her last minutes, she’s enlightened by the power Ushio and Tora draw from each other, those they wish to protect, and the powerful enemies they face. As such, this episode becomes a kind of mission statement for the show and it’s core chemistry as a whole. No one in Ushio to Tora thrives alone. Ushio needs Tora and Asako; Tora needs Ushio and Mayuko (and vice versa all ’round); and Ushio and Tora need Hakumen no Mono to realize their full potential.

Without Asako and Helena’s help, Ushio and Tora wouldn’t have been able to beat Hakumen. When the humans succumb to the gas, it’s up to Tora to get them all out of the lab before it explodes. It’s a “pain in the ass”, but Tora has to do it nonetheless, or he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. More than that, he’d have a lot less fun without these humans around.

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I was glad to see Helena, initially a thoroughly unlikable and immoral mad scientist, redeemed this week, along with her less courageous colleagues, who surrender to the JSDF, ending H.A.M.M.R.’s brief rebellion. They can take solace in knowing their faithful colleague worked tirelessly until the end to get them data on Hakumen vital to developing a weapon against it.

As for Ushio, he’s faked out by the Asako dummy Tora made from his hair, and the real Asako is right behind him to hear him cry out for her. So naturally, the two start bickering in each other’s faces about who was more reckless today, but at the end of the day, aside from Helena, whose sacrifice made it possible, everyone is safe and sound.

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Back to Fugen’in we go, where it’s another day, another threat by Tora to eat Ushio, and another instance of Ushio successfully resisting being eaten by using his Beast Spear. Asako and Mayuko arrive to calm things down, or at least join in the chaos, and Shigure celebrates how back-to-normal life has become, hoping it can stay that way at least a little longer until the final showdown with Hakumen no Mono, who is awake and biding his/her time. We can look forward to that showdown this coming Spring.

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Ushio to Tora – 25

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Okay, now that I’m aware that this show isn’t ending with 26 episodes, I’m a lot more on board with episodes like last week’s which deepen the bonds of the characters through conflicts not directly related to facing and defeating Hakumen no Mono (also, Ushio isn’t quite ready to face the boss yet).

Last week was Mayuko’s time to shine, and shine she did; but I’ve also been itching for a proper Asako-centric episode, and this week delivered. It also re-integrated Hakumen into its conflict by introducing a new adversary not yet seen in the world of Ushio to Tora: Sthe anti-Hakumen scientific organization H.A.M.M.R. (it’s a tortured acronym).

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That’s right, Asako and Tora: these guys are trying to Science the Shit out of the Hakumen problem. But they’ve apparently gone rogue, or so (as Atsukawa, from ep 8, reports to Ushio’s dad), and this week let their hubris get the best of them, believing they can do whatever the hell they want in the name of scientific advancement.

They also don’t fight by the same rules as Ushio and Tora’s former foes, employing unsporting tricks like tranquilizers on the former and a “Kirlian oscillation device” on the latter. But while Ushio is passed out when he’s captured, Tora lets himself be captured, certain they’ll take him and Asako to their base where they can then rescue him.

Ushio uses his magic hair to create a distraction, then make a double of Asako, letting the real Asako loose in the facility, determined to save Ushio.

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Everything about the scientists’ approach once they have the Beast Spear offends Ushio; poking and prodding with machines what he knows was a labor of love and sacrifice. He knew the people whose souls went into the damn thing, and these white coats are desecrating it; but he’s too hopped up on tranqs to do anything about it.

With Tora locked up as well, that leaves it all up to Asako. She’s temporarily sidetracked when she enters a lab where numerous youkai and ghosts are being restrained and experimented on, including a gentle, blue-haired humanoid, Bel-chan, but this is a good opportunity for Asako to show off her profound decency for all beings, be they alive or dead. Like Ushio, everything about this place is just…wrong.

The Scientists have Ushio fighing a robot to test his levels and the spears when Asako is finally reunited with him, but a particle of Hakumen they collected goes berserk, and all their fancy tech can’t bring it down, Ushio has to take a stab at it. And in true Ushio fashion, while the scientists are pretty awful people, he still protects them from the monster they created, because that’s his job.

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Even so, he has to be careful, because Asako’s new friend Bel-chan is among the entities absorbed by the Hakumen fragment, giving him all their powers and abilities. Even though Bel is fine being killed and the scientists don’t know a way to separate the good from the bad, neither Ushio or Asako are keen on the idea of killing him.

That hesitation almost gets them all killed, but Asako still has Ushio’s hair tied around her finger. Once she pulls it, Tora—who’d been waiting impatiently in his cell, wondering if “that woman” forgot him—blasts out of his confinement in a very badass sequence. TORA-KUN HAS ENTERED THE BATTLE.

At first I was a little surprised the fight didn’t get wrapped up this week, but any resolution would’ve been so quick as to diminish the threat of the Hakumen beast. Also, it’s not inconceivable that Ushio’s dad could still show up to help out, since he’s aware of H.A.M.M.R.’s treachery. Finally, I’m game for a part two if it means I get to watch more Asako!

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Ushio to Tora – 24

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Okay, so this episode, taking place back in Ushio’s hometown and featuring Inoue Mayuko as the protagonist, feels a little filler-y after all the excitement with Ushio, Kirio, and the Spear. In fact, with only two eps left after this, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ushio to Tora continues another cour or two, as shows with rich tapestries like Sket Dance and Fairy Tail did (and it apparently will go a third…dang MAL!)

Whatever the case, this episode had little to do with the main storyline, and Ushio was only in the beginning and the end, helped with digestive troubles by Asako. And that’s okay. Mayuko, meanwhile, ends up hanging out—and being saved again—by Tora, whose crush on her goes far beyond a desire to eat her for dessert after Ushio. And it’s never a bad time for Mayuko.

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The monster-of-the-week plot is pretty thin: a pair of nasty ones suck the brains of those who can’t or won’t answer a “question.” For some extremely random and bizarre reason, they’ve chosen Mayuko as their next victim, and she accepts an invitation to the “dinner party” where they await her.

Tora’s not about to let some other monsters eat Mayuko, so he follows her—but not before demonstrating a power I don’t think we’ve seen from him before: the ability to shapeshift into a double of her. While I can’t think of an instance of when this power would have been useful in Ushio and Tora’s many past battles, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

It’s mostly played for laughs, and though it’s quite disturbing to see the sweet Mayuko’s face contort and scowl just like Tora, watching him scare the crap out of some aggressive guys on the street was worth it.

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Ushio blasts into the unusually huge office where Mayuko has the question put to her and rescues her while in her form, surprising her to no end. The two baddies, one of whom looks like Albert Einstein (famous for a photo where he’s sticking his tongue out that adorns many a dorm room wall), have been trying to get the question of why so many humans don’t seem to mind dying for causes other than their own answered…but it’s all a bit thin.

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In fact, this enemy’s existence seems tailor-made to provide commentary on how Mayuko, who was inspired by selfless action by Ushio in the past (trudging in the mud to save her hat), wants to become like him. That’s why, despite the fact she wouldn’t mind being Ushio’s wife, she’s willing to stand aside and let Asako have him, because she loves them both, and their happiness is hers.

Naturally, Tora doesn’t quite “get it”, but then again, like Ushio, Mayuko is someone he can’t quite stay away from, nor is he in a hurry to make good on his threat to eat her. Oh, but they do dawdle a lot in some abandoned department store, where she tries on at wedding dress…just to drive the point home.

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As a result of their dawdling, the baddies come back and corner the two. Mayuko sheds the dress, dons a shirt made out of Tora hair (wasn’t her top with her skirt?) and then Tora transforms back into her, splitting up the enemy. The snake-man follows Tora, mistaking him for Mayuko, and once he’s wide open, “Tora-ko” takes him out.

Mayuko doesn’t have much in the way of combat skills, but she does have spirit and the ability to confound those who can’t grasp her mindset, so when the Einstein toad-man grabs her and threatens to suck out her brain if she doesn’t answer him, she decides to take a literal leap of faith.

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Tora, after all, had never failed to save her in the past, and whenever she found herself falling to her death, she always ended up being scooped up in those big fuzzy arms of his and landing softly on the ground. So it is this time. And when Tora delivers her back to Ushio’s doorstep where a recovered Ushio and Asako receive them, Tora can’t help but finally address Mayuko by name.

Like Ushio, he may not ever be able to come right out and say it, but what he has in Mayuko is a dear friend whom he wants to protect, even if, like Ushio, she can be a selfless, kind-hearted fool. And who can blame him?…Mayuko is surpassingly adorable, and so were their interactions this week. Mayuko to Tora wouldn’t have been that bad of a show…

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Ushio to Tora – 23

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Hinowa and Nagare buy Ushio time to advance towards the Beast Spear, but Kuin comes out to meet him. Tora tags along, but totally not because of Ushio; he just wants to fight Kuin. With no spear, Ushio can only hit Kuin with rocks, but even when Kuin seems to get the better of Tora, Ushio doesn’t stop hitting him with rocks.

Tora finally gets fed up and exerts a little more energy into the fight, saving Ushio from getting stabbed, cracking Kuin’s faceplate, and continuing to duel with him, buying Ushio more time to advance. I guess seeing Ushio not acting like a defeated wimp made him want to preserve his future dinner, huh?

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Inside the very carefully-staged chamber where the spear is about to get dunked, Kirio puts Ushio on the ground, then listens as his mom Towako plays a dirge on her cello under a single narrow pillar of sunlight creeping through a hole in the roof. Theatrical much??? Anyway, when she’s done, Ushio can’t stop Towako from cutting the red cloth and sending the spear plunging into the molten metal.

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For a second there, it looks like the show just destroyed its protagonist’s one and only weapon, which would be quite a dire eventuality. But then, out of the shadows, Ushio’s dad tells the sect members, confused by Towako’s presence, that this whole thing was of Hakumen’s making. Towako is another one of his minions, who created and raised Kirio for the express purpose of destroying her master’s anathema—the Beast Spear.

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In hindsight, I should have known from the look of her eyes that Towako was somehow related to the final boss. To see her mother in this new monstrous form, telling him everything she’s ever done wasn’t for him, but for the destruction of the spear, is all a bit much young Kirio, who proceeds to go bye-bye. And for the first time, I actually sympathize with the little bastard. All this time I knew what he was—nothing but a tool—but he never did, while I didn’t know whose tool he was until now.

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Speaking of tools, Ushio is, at the end of the day, the Beast Spear’s tool as much as it is his. He needs the spear to defeat Hakumen, while it—or rather Kiryou within it—needs him to wield him, even if it means his soul getting torn to shreds. When Ushio calls the spear once more, it emerges triumphantly from the solidified metal and into his hands. For the first time, Towako frowns, and her attacks are shattered by a revitalized Ushio in Beast Mode.

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Sensing a stronger resistance to her plans, Towako summons her stone golem, who still has a weakened Hinowa and Nagare in its clutches. Towako tries to give Ushio the choice of giving up his own life to save the others (a false choice, since she’ll kill them anyway for sure) or let them die. The two of them start the incantation for a self-destruct spell, forcing Ushio’s hand. He takes out the golem before they blow themselves up.

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Her golem gone, Towako reverts to her “human” form and beseeches a still-in-shock Kirio to help his “mama” from the bad guys. Now, up to this point, Towako really has been Kirio’s mama, and by far the most important person in his life. So it’s not really a surprise that he’d fall for her treachery once more and turn his scythe on Ushio. But only once more.

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When Kirio sees his “mama” encircling the sect members in the blue flames of a Hakumen minion, even he can’t ignore his eyes, nor his ears as she gloats about everyone writhing in hell. He stabs her, asks her once more if she’s tricked him all along, then hears more of her lies for what they are before she bursts into flames and vanishes.

Now, Kirio is pretty pissed, despairs that it’s all over and blames Ushio and everyone else for killing his mama as he lashes out at them with his scythe. Ushio calms him down by crossing spears and giving him one hell of a slap to the face. Nothing is over. People suffered and died so they can live and complete their mission to destroy Hakumen. Annoying he may be, but Ushio’s going to need Kirio in the coming showdown.

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He’s going to need everyone, as Oyakume said they’ll all have to work together in order to achieve victory. The rift that Towako created in the Kouhamei sect with Kirio shows just how far Hakumen is willing to go to stop his enemies from getting to him, but now they’re united against him like never before. Kirio may need a little time to process all of this, but there’s not much time left.

Meanwhile, Ushio is done with losing and done with letting anyone else die for him. He almost lost himself when he lost the spear, but getting it back made the fire in his belly burn even brighter and stronger…and that’s more than enough to bring Tora back to his side, as that fire will make him that much tastier a meal when the time is right.

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Ushio to Tora – 22

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Sensitive as Ushio is, especially when it comes to mother figures, he remains emotionally drained and doubtful of his own strength in the wake of the loss of Oyakume. Logical arguments like it was her choice, and perhaps she was always meant only to live long enough to protect Ushio there and then against the minion of Hakumen, won’t dissuade him from his spiral of despair.

As for Tora, he gets sick of this attitude real fast, and tries to snap Ushio out of his funk by threatening to kill and eat him in his weakened state. Ushio listlessly fights back, causing Tora to conclude he’s far too weak to be worth eating, so he’s peace-ing out until he is.

Ushio and Tora may have become near-as-makes-no-difference friends, but Tora’s not the hand-holding, comforting kinda friend; he’ll split if things get whiny and boring. After all, Ushio’s weakness uncomfortably reminds Tora of just how strange an tenuous a relationship they have, which makes him question his own strength in terms of being a Big Bad Monster.

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Conveniently, Tora’s absence leaves Ushio open to a confrontation with Kirio and a group of ten Kouhamei monks who steal the Beast Spear, intending to destroy it in favor of Elzaar Scythes, the “superior” holy weapons.

Meanwhile, Kouhamei sect members who haven’t fallen in with Kirio—Nagare and Hinowa—both act to support Ushio. Tora hooks up with Nagare, who at the moment is more interesting than Ushio, while Hinowa’s loyalty to the high priest and late Oyakume won’t allow her to let Ushio or the Beast Spear be destroyed.

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Hinowa and Ushio get an education on the Inasa, a former sect member who raised Kirio. Driven by his fear for Hakumen, he grew so obsessed with developing weapons that he started to believe he could make one better than the Beast Spear, using a forbidden combo of sorcery and science that got him excommunicated. He took up residence in the “House of Whisperers,” which is where Nagare and Tora begin their search for Kirio and the Spear.

What we basically have, then, are two very common genre concepts—mad scientist and his haunted mansion—cloaked in an Ushio to Tora skin. Which is fine; again, we knew he’d have to contend with one more would-be successor (albeit one who wants to destroy, not wield the spear), it’s just that Ushio’s crisis of confidence feels like a rehash, and we’re with Tora when he says a weak Ushio is a boring one.

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Nagare and Hinowa, on the other hand, are their usual delightful selves, with the former offering Tora some interesting insights about his life, (seeking a life of excitement while stopping short of putting his own life on the line for others), while the latter is constantly scolding Ushio for his lack of manners and propriety, but not hesitating to help him, because she believes he’s the true wielder.

Then there’s Towako, a woman who comes out of nowhere to help Inasa advance his research and perfect Elzaar scythes. Another evil crazy-eyed character? Sure, why not?

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Towako seems like some kind of dark muse for Inasa, until she steals an infant and decides they’ll use it to create the “materia”, the ultimate artificial spiritual warrior who will wield the Elzaar Scythe, and along with Kuin take out Hakumen no Mono. They share the desired end with Kouhamei Sect, but it’s the means that are so, so wrong, to the point that even Inasa isn’t really fully on board with creating Kirio, though he’s not strong enough to step in and stop it.

Inasa ended up dying in that house, while Towako is still around somewhere, having raised and twisted Kirio into her instrument. But you know what? Despite learning that Kirio had a rough upbringing and probably suffered much at the hands of people who were, charitably, on the cusp of insanity, the bottom line is I still don’t much like Kirio.

Revealing him as a GMO Monster that can only act as programmed doesn’t make him any more sympathetic or compelling a character. He’s literally a tool, and an obstacle to Ushio, and whether he’s killed or joins the cause, I’d prefer if he was dealt with sooner rather than later.

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Ushio to Tora – 21

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With just six episodes left going into this episode, and many things bound to go down soon, it was nice to see Ushio back to his old life, just enjoying simple things like being back in school, shootin’ the breeze and laughing with his mates, and walking with Asako and Mayuko. In fact, I must admit this first act was my favorite of the episode.

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Then Inasa Kirio had to come along and ruin everything, hijacking the nice Ushio-Asako scene with his creepy ant-predation watching and creepy expression and creepy…Kuin. Now, don’t get me wrong, Megumi Han is very good when not being made to speak English; she was wonderful if a bit squeaky as Rinko in Ore Monogatari!! and can effectively voice both genders.

But Kirio is a thankless role: a arrogant, cocksure little twerp whose introduction came way too late for my taste. He’s an answer to a question no one is asking at this stage in the game: What if there’s another Beast Spear and wielder? Sure, I knew he’d show up eventually as one of the four Kouhamei finalists, but, for one thing, I thought he’d be a she. Kirio is in a lot of this episode, but at no point did it feel like the episode needed him.

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The episode strives to right itself when the Kouhamei Sect’s main temple is attacked by a vicious avatar of Hakumen, and Ushio is summoned to deal with it. Seeing Nagare, Satoru, and Hinowa in action again, but that only serves to remind us that all the “challenging Ushio’s role” stuff has been wrapped up, and amicably so, as these three continue to fight by his side as team players.

I also really enjoyed Ushio brief but powerful encounter with the three hundred-year-old(!) Oyakume, AKA Hizaki Mikado, who had previously stated her last regret in life would be not meeting the true successor to the beast spear. When she finally does, she’s heartened by how kind, warm, and caring he is, while she makes Ushio wonder if his mom is as nice as she is (nicer, according to Oyakume).

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When Ushio gets in trouble fighting the avatar, it’s Oyakume who puts up a barrier and petrifies it, sacrificing herself in the process. As Ushio tends to the collapsed old lady, Kirio leaps into the fray to flashily deal the finishing blow, which he does simply so that he’ll be praised as great and awesome. Honestly I can’t even with this kid…can he be put back in the box and shipped back to wherever he came from? (Probably not, alas.)

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Still, Ushio seems to take Oyakume’s death awfully hard. I mean, he met her like five minutes ago. Then again, he’s always been a sensitive, empathetic guy who above all is always willing to put his own life on the line to protect others. Those were a powerful five minutes for him, and to see her protect him, old and frail as she is, well, that’s just Ushio being human.

As for Kirio, he lies in the lap of his creepy…mother, I guess? Someone with a crooked grin, in a creepily-lit dining room, who praises Kirio and gives him a new annoying baseball cap, telling him if no one will believe he and his scythe and…sigh…Kuin are better and more powerful than Ushio, the Beast Spear, and Tora, well, doggone it, he’s just going to have to force the issue. Which means we’re not done with Kirio by a long shot. Damn.

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Ushio to Tora – 20

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Events get extraordinarily heavy in this week’s UtT, with Hakumen massacring men, women, and children indiscriminately, and Ushio rendered helpless before the monster’s fearful visage. Even Tora’s fire is little more than the inconsequential buzzing of a harmless bug in Hakumen’s ear. Thanks to Ushio, Jeimei and Kiryou are still alive, but both have been transformed by their traumatic experience and the loss of their mother and father.

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The way things shake out is even darker: Kiryou knows that human sacrifice is a way of forging a sword strong enough to fight Hakumen, but he dare not suggest it outright, because Jeimei is the only family he has left. Yet it’s Jeimei who offers herself to the flames of the forge, over the desperate protests of her brother and Ushio. Her rationale is that if her sacrifice can lead to Hakumen’s defeat, it’s all worth it.

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Despair eventually turns to hope, as Jeimei and Kiryou become the blade and shaft of what becomes the Beast Spear, imbued with the strength and power to oppose Hakumen no Mono. Jeimei returns to Ushio and Tora in spectral form to complete her saga: she reincarnated as Yuki, found that Hakumen had inserted himself between the pillars that held Japan up against the very sea, and the task of holding Hakumen in place fell from Yuki to Mikado, and finally, to Sumako, who was only freed of her task deep under the ocean for two years, during which time she gave birth to Ushio.

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By travelling back in time, Ushio experienced a kind of causal loop: the reason the Beast Spear chose him is because it contains the souls of Jeimei and Kiryou, who sacrificed themselves with the hope that “Tsung Yue” or Ushio would use the spear they became to one day rid the world of Hakumen no Mono.

His actions in the distant past led to his very conception. And he also learns his name refers to the unyielding, steadfast ocean that bends to no one where his mother dwelt and dwells still. Now Ushio heads home to think over how to go about fulfilling his destiny, which he himself set into motion.

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Ushio to Tora – 19

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Big change of gears this week, as the focus shifts from the women in Ushio’s life back to Ushio and Tora, who waste no time exploring the suspicious-looking cave with a temple and a really nasty demonic aura all about it. As the very creepy youkai Tokisaka informs them, this is where a piece of Hakumen no Mono landed when he retreated many centuries ago when humans and youkai joined forces to fight it. But it’s not dead, only dormant.

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U and T have a lot more questions, but rather then tell them the whole story, Tokisaka decides to send them back in time 2,200 years to the village where it all began. There, outside the castle walls, they meet a young Jiemei, who bares more than a slight resemblance to Mayuko (likely with good reason).

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They save her from youkai, but because she can’t see Tora, she thanks only Ushio, and invites him to her house. It’s a nice house, warm and loving and happy…but there’s also a fair amount of sadness to it, both the fact Jeimei’s clothes are rather tatty, and the house is outside the walls.

Turns out Jeimei’s father was once the court priest and swordsmith, but he and the family were cast out when a distant relative tried to assassinate the king. Her father and brother Giryou (whom Ushio also met while within the Beast Spear) are eager to forge a divine sword that will grant them access back into the castle.

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When elbow grease doesn’t do the trick, Giryou suggests they use dark arts in the forging process, and hey presto, they churn out one fine-looking sword. Turns out Hakumen no Mono has been in the castle all this time, disguised as nine concubines. His transformation is, shall we say, extremely disturbing and creepy? Because it was, as is his voice.

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Hakumen lays utter waste to the court and all who charge him with their divine weapons, including Jeimei and Giryou’s father. Then their mother gets the top half of her body blown off by Hakky’s ice breath. In a rage, Ushio rushes him with a spear, but not the spear we’re used to seeing him wield. That’s because the Beast Spear hasn’t been forged yet. Also, he seems paralyzed by the evil eye of the great messed-up looking beast.

While it’s a bit odd for Ushio to suddenly end up going back in time to relive history, it’s certainly better than a straight narration. It’s also interesting to see Jeimei and Giryou at this early stage, and a glimpse of the happy, simple lives they led before dark arts, fate, or both, thrust them onto far different paths, not to mention see Hakumen no Mono in all his terrifying glory.

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Ushio to Tora – 18

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Few anime this year have worn their hearts so brazenly and so effectively on their sleeve as Ushio to Tora, and these past two episodes—in which the women (and one special woman in particular) in Ushio life literally save his soul—comprise UtT’s finest and most thrilling hour yet. Not a single line or action is wasted, and the dramatic stuff is expertly garnished with bursts of UtT’s trademark comedy.

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Two girls have successfully combed his hair, and once Yuu uses her athleticism and courage to be the third, that leaves his closest friends Mayuko and Asako. Mayuko almost instantly falls into a river charging ahead, but she is continually rescued by Tora, under the pretense of preserving a future meal.

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That neither Mayuko, a grateful Asako, nor anyone else take Tora’s malevolence seriously cracks Izuna up while showing how far he’s come whle maintaining his preferred way of showing affection to the humans around him: by claiming, almost defensively, they’re all food. With Jiemei showing him the way, Tora carries the girls to Ushio’s new location by the mouth of the cave where “a piece” of Hakumen no Mono dwells, and Mayuko reflexively uses the comb to parry a blow from the Beast Spear.

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That sends her flying to the edge of a cliff from which she falls rather than drop the comb that contains “all their hopes”, but fortunately for her Tora is really diligent about keeping his food clean and unharmed. Mayuko in arm, he decides he’s sick of Ushio, a human, acting like this. So he lets Ushio stab him with the spear, giving Mayuko the opening she needs. Four down, one to go.

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As suspected, for maximum dramatic effect, the one who loves Ushio the most is saved for last. Jeimei reveals it’s her brother who is the Beast Spear trying to devour Ushio in service of destoying Hakumen, but she begs him to stop. Ushio is even able to get the words “it hurts” out, sending the tears streaming from Asako’s eyes as she laments that all this crap is happening. Like Tora, she wants the old Ushio back, preferring him and all his lovable flaws to the mindless monster before her.

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As she wipes her eye she combs his hair, but the Spear senses Hakumen close and seemingly undoes all the progress the combing made, and neutralizing the power of Asako’s emotions. But she doesn’t give up, grabs hold of Ushio and doesn’t let go, and remembers all the times throughout the years Ushio pissed her off by teasing her, only to be her dopey knight in shining armor when she was in a spot.

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Just as Tora has a shorthand for why he helps out his “food” so much, Asako has a shorthand for the “idiot” Ushio. But she also happens to love that idiot, and all but says it when his crystal eyes shatter for good, released from the Beast Spear’s hold. Back in “normal” Beast Mode, he summons Tora and the two deal with the threat that had been bubbling around them, and had been dealt with by his dad, the chosen four, Jun, the priests, and even Hyou (Hi Hyou!), until the end of their limits: the massive swarm of Hiyou.

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Noting he seems stronger than before, Tora works with Ushio to obliterate the storm, after which Ushio collapses from exhaustion, back to his old self. He mutters to Tora how before he woke up, he felt like he was having a strange dream full of strange people, but also filled with warm people who were at their very best. But it all seems like a dream to him; he’s unaware of what has transpired and who was involved.

That Ushio may forever be ignorant to their deeds and hard-won victory is a little disappointing, but they’re right: if he learned what he did to them, he’d likely never forgive himself. They’re protecting him from needlessly punishing himself for hurting them, because to a woman, they were there by choice, and would do it again to save him in a heartbeat.

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This is an experience none of them will ever forget, but it’s also notable that it’s an event that brought them all together, as shown when they decide to go party together to celebrate a victory everyone who was present knows about except the one they saved.

But while many friendships were forged in this ordeal, as Ushio heads into the cave with Tora (no time to waste!) all the girls not named Asako know that Ushio will definitely be back, but won’t be coming back to them, but to her.  That will be some reunion.

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Ushio to Tora – 17

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The temple elders are visited by a beautiful ghost, Jiemei (voiced by Hanazawa Kana) who reports that Ushio’s body has been overthrown by the Beast Spear, making him a true beast. The only way to save him involves his dad, the Kouhamei Sect, the comb that his mother gave him…and none other than all of the girls he’s saved on the way to Asahikawa.

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One by one, to my increasing delight, Jiemei pays a visit to those girls: Yuu, Saya, Reiko, Mayuko, and Asako. And when they hear their Ushio is in trouble, they don’t ask about the danger, or why a green ghost goddess is talking to them: they drop what they’re doing and GO. I should have known this was coming: after spending most of last season saving these girls, the time would come when they’d be able to return the favor.

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And let me just say, it’s a delight to anyone who’s been following the show closely and enjoying it to behold this episode assembling the “Dream Team.” Ushio is in rough shape, and it wouldn’t be as satisfying if some new priest or shaman or youkai stepped in to save him with some kind of miracle spell or ritual.

Ushio’s soul is under siege, and these girls who touched that soul are the best chance to break that siege. Naturally, Haniwa, Jun, Satoru, and Nagare are also on board. And let’s not forget Tora, who wants to restore Ushio to his human state so he can eat him…and because, c’mon, the big lug loves the guy.

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To save Ushio, the girls have to comb his hair with the heirloom comb, but the comb is on his person. Enter Izuna, the fleet green jackal-weasel-fox thingy who fights through Beast-Ushio’s black tendrils and snatches the comb up. Easy part over. As Ushio’s dad and the sect members prepare for an approaching Ushio (followed closely by a massive horde of hiyou), the girls introduce themselves.

The sudden melding of these girls’ personalities and histories with Ushio is exceedingly fun to watch, especially how Mayuko tries to kid around with Asako’s feelings, only for it to get more serious when Yuu reacts to Asako’s usual defense mechanism of running down Ushio and claiming not to care about him. Yuu calls her the hell out, causing Asako to cry and admit the truth: she’d have come running earlier had she known what was going on.

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Once Ushio arrives, Reiko is the first to volunteer to go at him with the comb. He tries to shove her aside, but she successfully gets the comb in his hair, tearing off a big lock. But once she’s done, Ushio is racing straight at the other girls. Saya trips trying to run, but Asako puts her body between her and Ushio. When the injured Asako thanks God no one else got hurt, Yuu realizes she was harsh on Ushio’s childhood friend. She’s the real deal.

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Hinowa manages to trap Ushio in a magic barrier, something Saya is able to punch through due to her status as a white-haired woman. Like Reiko, Ushio saved Saya from a life of despair and servitude, so she’s no less committed to freeing Ushio from his demonic prison.

She gets a lock off too, but Hinowa’s barrier breaks, leaving the next girl, Mayuko, exposed to Ushio’s wrath. That’s when ZZZZAP, Tora unleashes a lightning storm that half-destroys the bridge, saving his “future food” Mayuko along with Saya. Everything happens bang-bang-bang in this episode, and even when it doesn’t, the scenes are full of great character interaction.

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Like Asako and Yuu, Hinowa and Jun quickly get over their mutual animosity when the latter saves the former by helping her maintain the barrier on Ushio. While they’re not part of the group of girls who must comb Ushio’s hair, there’s no doubt Ushio saved Jun from a life of despair by saving her bro, while Hinowa can’t help but respect him, considering how many others are willing to put their lives on the line for him.

Yuu’s up next (Asako will probably be the last, for dramatic purposes and all), and she too is steeled by witnessing the love and devotion of the others. They may have been saved in different ways, but they were all saved by the same goofy, hard-headed, kind, selfless guy. And they’re going to get him back.

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Ushio to Tora – 16

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As expected, Satoru is saved from falling to his death by Ushio’s spear, but despite Jun temporarily getting through to him, his body and mind remain possessed by the Hiyou. Watching Jun shed more tears for her all-but-doomed brother, Ushio can’t sit back or get on with his own business. Not while a girl is crying. He’s going in!

To aid Ushio on his foolhardy, extremely dangerous and possibly soul-rending mission into Satoru’s body, the Elder of Ungaikyou lends the services of a youkai used to such trips, the fuzzy green Izuna. He may be tiny, but he makes an immediate impact, as new characters on UtT tend to do.

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This then becomes a Very Special Magic School Busstyle journey into the body, with Ushio, Tora, and Izuna being shrunk down to the size of microbes, travelling between bones, muscles, and organs to battle Satoru’s Hiyou infestation as Jun, Nagare and the others hold him down.

The concept’s more than a little silly, but I appreciate the audacity nonetheless, as well as the dual perspectives on the battle. Also, the more Ushio battles, the more of his soul the Beast Spear takes, and that spear is probably playing for keeps.

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When the trio nears Satoru’s brain, they meet the Hiyou boss, Chibakama, who then gives Ushio a glimpse of what his boss Hakumen no Mono looks like in order to frazzle the kid further.

Ushio initially says he has nothing against Hakumen personally, but that’s only because he knows so little about him. In reality, Hakumen is all but pure evil; the manifestation of the world’s hatred. He’s not just Ushio’s enemy, but the enemy of all living things and monsters alike.

Izuna sacrifices his body to stop Chibakama from killing Ushio, in doing so taking a selfless page from the Beast Spear wielder himself. Meanwhile, Tora sets up a plan to rid Satoru of Chibakama once and for all; a plan that requires Jun to disrobe and summon her anti-youkai power in the nearby river. Alright then!

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Using Satoru’s eyes as a conduit between the world within and without him, Satoru shoots all her power at Chibakama, being held in front of the eye by Izuna, who fully intends to die with him.

Ushio doesn’t let that happen. Instead, he tells the spear it can take the rest of his soul if it means he can stop others from dying for his sake. The combined power of Jun and Ushio petrify and destroy Chibakama, and Satoru wakes up himself.

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When he hears the person he admits he was jealous of (thus allowing the Hiyou into his body), he cries tears both of guilt and gratitude for his still-absent saviour, and wouldn’t you know it, inside one of those tears is Ushio, Tora, and Izuna! Again, very goofy, but the show sells the shit out of everything it lays out.

Jun then finally gets to thank her bro, only to learn he knew she was grateful anyway, and had been thanking him by accepting him, loving him, and staying by his side, even when he falls. As for Ushio, he’s glad he stopped another girl from crying tears of despair…but he should probably revise his goals to allow tears of relief, gratitude, and happiness.

Oh, and then there’s the matter of the Beast Spear transforming him into a grotesque, inhuman beast with demonic crystal eyes. No good deed goes unpunished!

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Ushio to Tora – 15

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This week’s UtT starts out in deliciously absurd fashion as Ushio is once again a passenger on a runaway vehicle—this time a bus being controlled by Hakumen’s lesser youkai minions, the hiyou. One or two of them are no problem, but as this arc has proven, get enough of them together and they’re a menace.

When they learn of Ushio’s latest dilemma, Nagare and Tora both race to the speeding bus, and the three then use a neat bit of teamwork to rescue the 40+ passengers. It involves Nagare slicing off the ends of the bus, Tora blowing out the people, and Nagare catching them with a magic barrier. Then Ushio stops the bus by stabbing the Hiyou with the spear.

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The passengers are safe, with no serious injuries, but Ushio is racked by guilt over what happened to them and how much worse things could have potentially gotten. But it’s a burden the wielder of the beast spear must bear, and Nagare doesn’t want to see his pathetic face, so he  starts asking him about the girls in his life, and Ushio’s scowl turns into a blush.

Nagare, Ushio, and Tora then encounter what looks like a group of Stigs, but are actually former potential spear wielders who didn’t make the cut. They include the long golden-haired biker girl Moritsuna Jun, whose big brother Satoru is an onmyou master and one of the four chosen along with Nagare and Hinowa.

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Jun can’t find Satoru, but then he turns up with a fearsome shikigami called a hiruko, targeting Ushio. Nagare and Jun can’t do anything against it, but Tora tears through it, and the deranged Satoru has to retreat for the time being. Tora opines that Satoru’s body has been taken over by the Hiyou, like the bus, and has become their latest instrument for disposing of Ushio.

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Unsure of how to proceed, Ushio remembers he can contact the Elder of Ungaikyou through any mirror, even a rest stops! The elder puts him in touch with the tengu Osa, who informs Ushio that the only way to remove the Hiyou from Satoru’s brain is to become an apparition or monster, which Ushio does whenever he wields the spear, enter Satoru’s body, and destroy the infestation. But it’s a risky proposition: the spear could very well consume Ushio’s entire soul in the process. So Ushio is faced with a choice: risk his own humanity to save another, or put him out of his misery.

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Of course, Ushio doesn’t really see that it’s much of a choice, especially when he sees how distraught Jun is and why: her brother once had trouble controlling his spiritual powers, and when he saved her from a low-level youkai, he ended up scaring her.  Ever since, she’s wanted to properly thank him.

To see Ushio’s reaction to her story, you just know he’ll put even excising the regrets of others before his own life; to do so would only add to his guilt and make it even harder to live with himself. At the same time, he has responsibilities as the true chosen wielder of the spear. At some point he must put his selflessness and emotions aside and think about the bigger picture.

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Satoru returns as promised, he has a few tricks out of the gate, and combined with Ushio’s uncertainty about how to handle this situation, the good guys are quickly on their heels. But it’s Jun who grabs hold of her brother and won’t let go that eventually draw the real Satoru out and make him come to his senses.

But once he does, and realizes what he’s done, he too is overcome by guilt and regret, harking back to how his sister recoiled when he last lost it. He’s so overcome, in fact, that he doesn’t believe he should live anymore, and leaps backwards off a cliff, giving us…a cliffhanger. Of course, considering Tora—who can fly—is around, and Satoru features prominently in the OP and ED, I’m not willing to write Jun’s bro off just yet. Catch’im, Tora!

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