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 – 04

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Ushio to Tora continues its run of Very Good-ness serving up meaty portions of unsettling supernatural baddies-of-the-week, the gradual forging of something resembling a friendship between the titular characters, and exciting action with high stakes laced with hearty comedy.

There’s something both frightening and funny about the giant floating heads called the Gamin-sama, not to mention the fact they’re released by the greed of developers for whom there are no sacred cows. Frightening because they tear humans to pieces like wild dogs; funny because, well, they’re giant floating heads with extremely expressive faces and voices.

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They’re out for the blood, flesh, and bones of the beautiful shamaness Hizaki Mikado, who sealed them in the Meiji era, according to an old man who pleaded with the construction teams not to lift up the “keystone” that kept the demons sealed. When Ushio gets a look at Hizaki, he finds she bears more than a slight resemblance to his old friend Inoue Mayuko.

Mayuko just happens to be on a shopping trip into the city on her own, which was a situation that immediately spelled dread. But her doomed trip crosses with Tora’s own excursion into the city, for the first time, where he’s flummoxed by glittery skyscrapers, annoying cars, and those magical transparent barriers known as windows. It’s a great fish-out-of-water situation for a youkai out of his time.

Best of all, Tora is in town to eat someone, so he’ll have the strength to kill Ushio once and for all. But the smells of perfume and hair products and the presence of “anti-youkai trinkets” (i.e., accessories) on their bodies nearly puts him off his lunch…until he finds the soft, clean, nice-smelling Mayuko (who conveniently told Asako she’s not one for accessories).

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Not only is it clever to make Ushio target the same food as the giant heads, thus bringing them together in conflict, but Ushio chooses her specifically because she’s a more traditional human that looks and smells like the humans he’s used to. Kinda like Hizaki Mikado, whom the heads mistake her for (we’ll see if in turns out they’re actually related).

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Regardless, Mayuko puts up a pretty good fight, in that she’s able to successfully run away and evade the Gamin (and her death) for a good long time; she’s partly fueled by primal fear, sure (who wouldn’t be) but there’s a toughness to her refusal to be glomped up, not to mention put bystanders in harm’s way. That buys enough time for Ushio and Tora to show up and save her; Ushio because she’s a dear friend; Tora because he won’t let these moronic heads eat his food; the same reason he won’t let anyone else kill Ushio.

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It’s selfish altruism, but it’s altruism, and Tora is making more an more exceptions to his evil youkai ways and doing ever more semantic gymnastics to explain away what are, essentially, good deeds that make him more than just a monster and Ushio and Mayuko more than just dinner.

Once the five heads are squished, sliced, and speared into oblivion, Mayuko gets up, dusts herself off, and, realizing Ushio told her who Tora was, offers a cheeseburger in gratitude for his help. And it’s perhaps the most proportionally amazing feat anyone pulled off this week that despite everything she went through, she managed to hang on to those burgers!

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