Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 02

The Gist: Akadama and Nidaime’s top-dog Tengu fight ends before it even begins, with Akadama falling off the building and Nidaime not seeing his father being worth the effort to fight. For whatever reason, Akadama takes this as a victory, which Yasaburou thinks is patently absurd.

Though perhaps that’s Nidaime’s point in not calling himself a Tengu? The very definition of Tengu may project an arrogance that he finds unnecessary and unproductive.

Meanwhile, a noodle shop opens on the roof of the shopping arcade and the owner wont take it down. Apparently, he can extend his chin as a whip, amongst various other illusions and even Yasaburou’s foolishness is not enough to win the day. Actually, Yasaburou ends up a hypnotized bear, and is nearly shot by the police…

This conflict leads to a few passing confrontations between Yasaburou and his formerly betrothed, who’s angsty at him for a variety of things but, most obviously, that they are no longer engaged. Even though Yasaburou is the only one who doesn’t realize there’s no reason for them not to be engaged anymore…

It also leads to the introduction of a painter who doesn’t want to sell his paintings and reveals the name and identity of the noodle shop owner. Tenmaya, who appears magical but is also consistently referred to as just human, apparently climbed out of a painting of hell because the painter illustrated a Buddha holding a spider’s thread out to the damned… it’s unclear who the painting belongs to or what the significance of all of this is. (Tenmaya doesn’t seem to want anything from life except amusement)

What is clear is that Yasaburou probably shouldn’t have tried to scare Tenmaya by turning into a demon, which is where the episode ends. A shotgun pointed right in our poor foolish hero’s face…

The official theme this week is that we are in the age in which Man plays tricks on Tenuki. However, for me, the story was more about the world not being able to move forward. (or not being aware of its lack of forward development)

Akadama is not only stuck in the tradition of Tengu, but also stuck on his conflict with his son. Despite his rejection of Tengu, Nadaime hasn’t moved ahead himself, which is evident from his characterization of Akadama being pathetic because he interacts with Tenuki, and Nadaime’s somewhat vaguely contradictory like/disrespect of Yasaburou throughout their encounters.

Yasaburou is stuck in last season’s position of servitude to the community, pranking around without purpose, and with not advancing his relationships with family and his love interest. He doesn’t exactly have a strong narrative reason to have changed, but he hasn’t changed regardless.

The Verdict: Uchouten Kazoku takes a casual approach to narrative. It just sorta wanders all over the place, touching on many different story threads, but without any sense of specific purpose. This very much fits the nature of Tenuki, and the experience is enjoyable enough due to the odd and specifically weird situations, but it does risk becoming so whimsical as to lose my attention.

It’s already somewhat hard to follow, due to the gigantic cast, many of which can shape-change and many others who simply don’t get enough story time for me to remember who they are or what their objectives may be.

For now, the magic has me under it’s spell. However, like Akadama, I too miss Benten and the sense of specific adversarial focus she brings. Hopefully, we’ll see her sooner than later…

Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: the stage is set some time after the events that closed the first season, with the cast serving mostly familiar roles. The Shimogamo brothers are an eclectic, often disrespected, but equally relied upon members of the Tenuki community.

Yasaburou continues to take care of the elderly Akadama-sensei, who appears a bit depressed now that Benten is on an extended vacation. Yasaburou’s older brother is still vying for the position of leadership amongst the Tanuki, the youngest brother is immersed in books and his own world, and the second brother is still a frog at the bottom of the well. Fools’ blood all around but fools’ blood where we would expect it.

One day, while Yasaburou is searching for a mythical snake, a couch falls from the sky. Eventually, this leads him to meet Akadama-sensei’s son, who’s returned after over a hundred years in exile. While their exchanges are guarded, the two wayward sons seem to bond over clever and polite banter. However, it’s obvious that Akadama’s son will be a source of major conflict.

Sure enough, by the end of the evening, Father and son stand on a roof ready to duel…

At it’s core, this opening episode is a leisurely exploration of nostalgia and the challenges of tradition (or, perhaps, generally grappling with the past).

Yasaburou’s snake-hunt is something his father own father played at long ago. It’s even how his father and mother met, which Yasaburou attributes as the singular reason he and his four brothers exist.

Meanwhile, Yasaburou’s older brother is attempting to revive the town’s shoji tournament, which has not been run since their father was cooked in a hot pot. Not only does this repeat the shadow of the father motif, but it reinforces the older brother’s need to retain the family place as an upstanding leader in the community. It’s strongly implied this will let him tanuki-bang the wide eye’d girl at the clinic too.

Double meanwhile, Akadama and his son have an unavoidable need to battle, due to their traditional pride as tengu. However, neither seems up for that tradition (Akadama physically and his son emotionally). It’s comical to see the modern tengu, a classless lot, dressed like dime store mobsters, egg them on from afar. As Akadama’s son says when he first meets them: if you’re tengu, at least put some pride in it.

You should probably watch Uchouten Kazoku’s second season because the first was a lovely, whimsical tale of weirdness. While the narrative buildup and payoff, and the tension along the way lacked the emotional impact of other weird-genre shows (Tamako Market, Tatami Galaxy, Mr.Despair), Uchouten Kazoku absolutely rules the roost for world-building. Only Durarara!! comes close.

You may choose to skip Uchouten Kazoku because it’s destined to be a slow build with an all-too-uneventful finish. While the high concepts appeal to me, and pose a creative challenge to tease out and express via review, I must admit that academic focus creates a barrier between the story and emotionally resonant action and conventional drama.

The Verdict: Uchouten Kazoku is solidly enjoyable to look at and confidently cool. Despite being a slow burn, it presents a lot to absorb; at times, too quickly for me to read without pausing.

But that’s hardly a complaint, as re-watching and rewinding lets me revel in its wonderful camera angles, solid color work, imaginative facial expressions, character designs and gestures. The music choices haven’t stuck with me but that also means I have no complaints about them either.

Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 09

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san sees a rather quiet week. No one new is added to the cast and none of the central cast see much development. Kohina and Kokkuri-san’s relationship in particular has taken the back burner, which is kinda a let down.

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The run down: Kokkuri-san thinks he’s balding even though he’s probably shedding and freaks out. The result is over-use of hair-grow tonic and a giant puffy mess. Later, Inugami is bored and ultimately realizes no one cares about him. So he runs away for good. (maybe)

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The good: Giant, fluffy Kokkuri-san is adorable, the weird happy cat-cameos were amusing, and Inugami running away at least did something for the narrative. (even if he will obviously return in next week’s episode)

This episode also had a strong visual style. Not only were many of the characters exaggerated (giant fluff fox, tanuki in a wig and school girl outfit) the framing and positioning of the characters was more playful, and often aligned to emphasize Kohina’s size in the world. The adults are taller and break out of the frame above her, while the animal forms are close like imaginary friends or stuffed animals. It’s very charming.

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My favorite moment is when Kohina reads Inugami’s run away letter, which is an obvious ploy to get the household to come after him, and somehow identifies it as a fake that implies he’s been kidnapped. It’s a cute, if not totally bizarre event. I only wish the episode had done something with it…

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The not as good: nothing stood out this week. Worse things can be said about a show but everything leading up to the final line of narration was a rehash of previous stories and themes, gently inflated to be more extreme.

Kokkuri-san’s hair falls out in greater quantity, Kokkuri’s counter measures result in a bigger mess, Kohina ignores everyone to a greater extreme, and Shigaraki’s heart of gold comes through ever so slightly more.

None of these things are exciting and Kokkuri’s balding freak out is only funny at the end when he turns into a puff ball. ho-hum?

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The verdict: At its core, GKs is a show about 4 room mates hanging around the house making fun of each other. 2 room mates have one-sided crushes on other room mates, 1 character is a perv with a heart of gold, the oldest character is wracked with stress over aging and losing his beauty, etc. If you strip away the japanese spirit motif painted over it’s surface, GKs just isn’t that original.

So, even though I recommend watching GKs, if you haven’t already started, there are plenty of similar shows that are funnier anime you could look into.

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 08

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san picks up more or less where it left off last week. Kokkuri-chan is a woman, Shigaraki is head over heels drunk in lust with her, and no one else really cares.

I probably shouldn’t be so surprised that Gugure! Kokkuri-san carried this theme over from last week. This show has been all about its consistent, evolving, development driven plot after all. However, for some reason, I just expected Ono to be back voicing a male Mister Fox, with no real explanation.

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I couldn’t find who voiced Kokkuri-chan, but the voice sounded vaguely like Club President Miou from Sabagebu!, which I’m very okay with. Whoever it was, she captured Kokkuri-chan’s slightly timid, flustered voice very well, which worked well and really made me empathize with the character. (YES PRESTON I HAVE EMPATHY!)

I guess I would have been more impressed if the voice was done by Ono, or the show runners had found someone who could capture an Ono in female tones. Maybe I’m asking for too much but Ono has a very specific pentameter and a sort of dryness to his pallet that is very specific. (It’s almost like he has a perpetual summer cold).

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Understandably, Kokkuri is not especially interested in staying a woman. Knowing this, and knowing he can exploit the situation, Shigaraki wins some tickets to a hot spring in a town that is rumored to have a curse-breaking-hot spring.

Kohina implies that Shigaraki spent almost all his allowance on the lottery in order to win the tickets. So it seems like Shigaraki may be doing this as much because he really is a friend to Kokkuri-san as he is a lecher. He did save Kohina from the spirit and get a nasty scar after all…but I’m not really sure. Shigaraki’s pretty lusty and it’s a perfect setup for some ogling and heavy petting.

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So it’s going to be a hot spring episode, which I guess makes sense for the middle season, even if it does feel a bit out of left field. We get plenty of the things you’d expect: well drawn bodies, skin, decent angles, conventional girl-on-girl boob feeling and peeping-tom jokes.

It’s cliché but harmless by most standards. In fact, I’m almost willing to give the show extra credit for playing with the conventions: the girls are wearing Bikini’s because they know Shigaraki will peep, by girls I actually mean mature Women, and we can’t forget that two of them are basically male in female form.

The whole thing is reminiscent of 4Chan dare to fap games… which I’m not going to explain in any greater detail than that :(

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On the topic of unexplained, Yomomoto the alien and Tama the cat god are both in this episode because why not? When you have a big cast of one-off characters, making fun of their continued reappearance without context can be a joke in and of itself. Almost.

To be fair, I did enjoy Kohina, Inugami and Kokkuri’s conversation after running into Yomomoto in the hall. There’s something honestly funny about the characters not knowing which one of them is supposed to be friends with the alien. Everyone assumed it was Kohina, since she’s in his class, but she insists the alien likes Kokkuri… who doesn’t really like him back.

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It’s cute and works well enough. Certainly Yomomoto works better than Tama being there. Tama doesn’t even have jokes to tell or to be told about or anything. She’s just there for a bath, to fight with Inugami once, and provide a pair of legs and boobs.

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As for the primary lot and character developments? In between fine meals and baths Shigaraki… takes Kokkuri-chan to more baths. They play a carnival style shooting game and win prizes and have a bit of fun with each other but nothing brings Kokkuri closer to being male again, which is obviously the point.

That’s not really a complaint — these characters have good chemistry. Kokkuri is so feminine to begin with, and all his/her demands to be self reliant and stand offish and vulnerability just entice Shigaraki more.

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The best moment shows us that Kokkuri is so much smaller than he/she’s used to, he/she can’t even carry the bags of prizes they won at the shooting range. However he won’t let Shigaraki carry them for him. So Shigaraki picks Kokkuri up instead.

Then they kiss and turn back into men.

Without that resolve, which deliciously pokes fun at true love’s kiss as a convention, it would have been decent but typical. With the resolve, and the narration that this brutal resolve was the intent of Kohina’s ancestors, who appear to be a bunch of malicious prankster jerks, I was sold.

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So, basically, this week’s entire joke structure revolves around Kokkuri-san already being a woman. In fact, Kokkuri notes that he stopped transforming into a woman ages ago even though he loves house work, cooking, and skin care products because men couldn’t leave him alone.

I suppose everyone’s response to him as a her is as cliché (or at least as predictable) as it was in his other gender. Still, I can’t help but agree with Kohina-chan. I’d find Kokkuri-san more interesting as an actual woman…

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 07

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san episode 7 introduces Tama the Cat God, who owns a Japanese Café called Nennekotei. It only has a 1 star online rating and she’s obsessed with dolls, which means Kohina-chan is all she has eyes for and, when it hits the fan, Kokkuri-san has nothing to take away from her.

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Obviously Tama snatches Kohina and hides in the cafe and Kohina’s trio of spiritscan not break through the barrier. Fear not! Kohina escapes on her own and I’m sure we’ll see Tama in future episodes…

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Then Kokkuri-san opens a box that has many warnings written on it and is turned into a woman. Kohina is upset because Kokkuri-san’s only notable feature is that he’s a man that does house work, which is sad.

Regardless, the episode doesn’t change him back.

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This week’s most out of context came during Tama’s cafe scenes, where the Halloween horror movie theme was playing totally out of place with the otherwise, non-horror moment. Not exactly non-horror I guess — Tama’s place is inexplicably a spirit nightmare setting, not unlike Kohina-chan’s place in the opening of the first episode but kinda weird choice all the same?

Over all it was a cute episode of G!Ks. Nothing special, exactly. Just a few good jokes and a new character with a straight forward reason to be connected with Kohina.

Carry on…

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 06

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san episode 6 was an odd duck, structurally. No! No! It was fine to watch and there’s nothing to complain about. I just don’t know what to make of the 4-minute plot extension thread that happened after the credits.

The extension’s content isn’t even outside the normal scope of the show’s style or subject. It just happens AFTER the credits, instead of AFTER an act-break-card.

Weird, right?

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So Act 1 is about Kohina becoming able to see spirits and finding a little winged eyeball that she turns into a pet. Except that’s really not what it’s about. Rather, it’s about Shigaraki actually having a moral center or, at least, mild compassion for Kohina-chan.

See, the spirit drinks Kohina’s blood and loses it’s ability to live with humans. Specifically, it’s going to cut her up and eat her in her sleep. That’s strongly implied anyway.

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Kokkuri-san splits in two so he can pitch himself the eyeball AND hit it into the atmosphere, thus Kohina keeps the eyeball’s return secret. She even gets Shigaraki to keep the eyeball a secret, which is the first sign that he maybe kinda sorta can care for others.

Later, as he see’s the spirit get more and more dangerous, he destroys it and removes Kohina’s ability to see spirits at all.

His reward? Kohina admits she was just keeping the eyeball around to eat as a Ramen topping…

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The post-credits plot is about Kokkuri-san and Inugami fighting in Inugami’s dog house. Inugami admits to hating everything in the world except Kohina-chan. He even hates himself.

Though, I suppose, he also likes coffee?

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Episode 6 definitely hit a stride, humor-wise. I found it regularly funny on all fronts, from all characters. I also greatly greatly appreciated Shigaraki getting some character development. Without that, I was worried that he’d start to really annoy me on the cast.

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Otherwise? Gugure! Kokkuri-san is just a solid, mostly self-contained show. I don’t think it will ever get a rating higher than 8. It isn’t unique enough or beautiful enough or touching enough for that. Not from what I’ve seen so far.

But just being “very good” is far far far away from being remotely bad. Happy watching fellow foxes! Woof!

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 05

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san episode 5 introduces us to Jimeko, Kohina-chan’s incompetent bully, while desperately juggling the four characters in Kohina’s life. It works quite well, even with all the characters, and the tree acts gave us an average laughs-per-episode rating.

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Inugami still hasn’t decided on his gender and Act 1 is mostly throw away fighting, perv-nuzzeling Kohina, and Shigaraki falling for Inugami’s female form. It’s cute enough I suppose, and it’s good for us to have times where Inugami is on the back foot, but the gender swap ability seems so arbitrary and under used by the story.

At least, under used in an interesting way. Becoming Shigaraki’s very short term lust-interest isn’t really all that interesting. But I’m biased I suppose, since I don’t find anything interesting about Shigaraki at all…

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Act 2 is about Kohina’s bully at school. This one’s a little weird because the bully is a shy tsundere who no longer has any idea what or why she’s doing anything and, while the scenes are funny, I couldn’t help feel it was all disposable?

The whole joke that Jimenko has been bringing Kohina fresh flowers every day for a year ‘as a bullying gesture’ and that fact that Jimenko isn’t even her name (we never actually hear her real name) are clever but… goofie?

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Jimeko obviously likes Kohina and wants to be liked by Kohina, but Kohina doesn’t pay attention or notice. The scene that saves it is when Kohina asks why Jimeko is even bullying her in the first place — and Kohina has her human face on.

Sadly, Jimeko isn’t able to answer and runs off blushing.

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A cute little joke hidden in the infographic that describes why Kohina’s classmates don’t like her.

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Then Kokkuri and Inugami join Kohina’s class using their magic. Naturally, this doesn’t go well and Kohina is frustrated that she’s the only one who can see through their tricks. Yamamoto-kun takes the brunt of most jokes.

We learn that Kokkuri-san has bad eyesight, and that he’s really only here to try and make friends for Kohina. It’s a cute final act to end the episode on.

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As always, this show has great facial expressions and odd situations. It’s chuckle worthy and equal parts emotionally touching. I’m not sure how ‘smart’ it is, though.

Likewise, if Ono wasn’t a major voice of the show, and if he hadn’t voiced such a great show last season with a similar relationship, I’m not sure I’d be this into it? Kokkuri-san is nowhere near as good as Barakamon, that’s for sure!

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san – 04

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This week is all about Shigaraki, the old tanuki, the most recent uninvited spirit in Kohina-chan’s house. As was obvious last week, he’s a drunk mooch and no one likes him. Not even the viewers.

He’s the first truly unlikable character Gugure! has given us and I guess it works because he gives everyone an unapologetic antagonist to work against. Except, compared to Kokkuri-san’s fights with Inugami, no one seems to be putting much effort into getting rid of this douchebag.

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Shigaraki literally has no redeeming qualities. He ruins everyone he haunts and, unlike Inugami, he doesn’t even give them a short period of success before burning them. He’s so selfish and/or delusional, he sees nothing wrong with his actions either.

If his gags weren’t so funny, Shigaraki would be an incredibly difficult character to watch on a regular basis.

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Desperate for some reason not to kill him like the methheads who live in the trash across my street, Kohina-chan asks to see Shigaraki’s animal form. As you can see, this is surprisingly horrifying and funny. What you can not see is his bulging human genitalia…

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Then Shigaraki either misunderstands Kohina when she admits to preferring his human form or is just being a jackass when he turns into a hybrid of the two and chases Kohina around the house…

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However, he soon realizes he’s crossing the line and that Kohina may chase him out of the house somehow. So he bribes her with a million yen… that immediately turns into a leaf.

Yes! Shigaraki is so lazy his tricks don’t even last long enough to trick anyone!

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Gugure! Kokkuri-san was outrageously funny this week — and I’m not even going to talk about the gray-skin Martian that sits next to Kohina at school!

If you need a criticism of the show, it’s that I have no confidence that a deeper mystery will ever manage to surface in a meaningful nor ham-fisted way. That, and it’s Ranma 1/2 style ’90s visuals will keep it at an 8 for most of the season. But what a fun little 8 it is!

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 09

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Chiyo and Nozaki forget their umbrellas during a 100% chance of rain day. Bored, the couple considers various manga scenarios for rainy days. Nozaki attempts to ‘spin’ the manga cliche of walking home together under a coat, but fails miserably. Later, while walking under Seo’s umbrella, Chiyo keeps getting Nozaki’s head stuck.

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Nothing goes the way they both would hope but, light appears at the end of the storm and Nozaki is about saying ‘ill protect you from the rain no matter what’ only to be drenched by a passing card and totally unable to protect Chiyo in any way. Progress!

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Nozaki and Chiyo head upstairs to visit Miyako, who’s battling Maeno-san over adding yet another superfluous Tanuki to her manga. (If battling means agreeing to do it no matter how absurd!) While Miyako chronicles the various abuses she’s taken at the hands of Maeno-san, the group tries a few alternative treatments to lessen the impact of needlessly injected Tanuki.

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Each idea is hilarious, for us, but obviously not helping Miyako, who ultimately creates a new character — a dour faced Nozaki-kun clone to wear a Tanuki suit — which instantly is coveted by Chiyo to Nozaki’s bewilderment. Nozaki tries, but he can’t create she’s willing to trade for the drawing and feels down that she doesn’t like his work as much. Progress!

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Saying this week’s GSN-k was laugh out loud, spill vulcan-hot ramen all over your pants but keep laughing anyway funny seems redundant at this point but, honestly, that’s what it was!

Episode 9 really shines because it puts everyone on the cast exactly where the need to be most effective. Chiyo and Nozaki are at the story’s center, where there silly thoughts and shattered expectations get our full attention. Kashima and Seo are pass through, giving Nozaki gender flipped inspirations for manga. Hirotaka and Hori are barely in the episode, just there to remind you that there is a larger cast, that lives in a world, and has it’s own agendas, loves and hates.

It’s just beautifully balanced.

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And if the first act wasn’t enough, act two exploded with totally out of place Tanuki humor and chances for Nozaki to express his emotions. Sure those emotions were mostly anger over Meano being a one-man absurdist comedy of professional torture, but we got a hint of jealousy too.

If nothing else, this episode was flooded with Nozaki emotions. We still have no idea if he’s just crazy or on the spectrum, but it’s starting to look like he wants Chiyo’s approval — and to support her because he wants to, which could be the signs of actually liking her! Maybe.

Progress!

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Uchouten Kazoku – 13 (Fin)

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Yaichiro informs the elders of Soun’s treachery, but he stubbornly feigns innocence. Enraged, Yaichiro transforms him into a tiger and throws Soun through the wall, into the room where the Friday Fellows relocated. They have mother in a cage, which even enraged Soun, and when Hotei gets a good look at her, refuses to let her get boiled. Akadama interrupts the chaos and blows everyone away with his fan, and continues to chase Hotei through the streets as the Shimogamo brothers chase him. Benten takes over, coaxing him into a cab. The brothers talk to their mom, who is safe and sound at Akegarasu. The next day the family celebrates New Years at the shrine.

This episode takes some time to get going, as we must endure more of Soun’s lies, but Yaichiro finally does what we’ve wanted him to do for a while now: go into Tiger Mode and flatten him. In a city where humans, tanuki and tengu live in a delicate balance, they all end up converging at the same restaurant to celebrate New Year’s Eve. While the Friday Fellow’s sacred tradition is deferred and the election for Nise-emon in tatters, the Shimogamo family is made whole again. That’s all that mattered to Yasaburou, his mom, and us. Yajirou speaks to his mother again, Hotei meets the tanuki he nursed back to health, and even Benten returns to her master. New year, indeed.

Yasaburou has spoken at length about the idiot blood of tanukis. Perhaps part of that idiocy is trying to create the same hierarchies and possess the same lofty ambitions as humans. In the end, Souichiro rose as high as a tanuki could rise, but it didn’t save him. Yasaburou doesn’t want to be Nise-emon. He just wants to live a full and interesting life, and to have fun with his family, which is now whole again. Of course, now all the tanukis and fellows who were present that very weird night will remember Yaichiro turning into a tiger and taking Soun down – some of the small “glory” Yasaburou allowed for in his New Year’s wish. And interestingly, he didn’t wish to see Kaisei’s face: that’s her choice.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

 

Uchouten Kazoku – 12

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Yashirou heads to the well and makes Yajirou drink a bottle of Denki Bran. He transforms into the False Eizan Electric Railway and races through the streets. After rescuing Yasaburou and capturing the twins, they find the Friday Fellows, accidentally ram their private room with the train, and free Yaichirou. Jurojin moves the fellows’ party to Sensuiro, the same restaurant where the elders and Soun are assembled. After Yashirou disrupts their meeting with the Raijin fan, Yaichirou arrives to expose Soun’s plot.

The ladies did their part last week; now it’s up to the brothers: starting with Yashirou. Worried, perhaps justifiably, that he alone won’t be enough against the Ebisugawas, so he makes the inspired choice to give his froggy brother a try. Yajirou doesn’t think he can help, so Yashirou gets him drunk, and we’re off to the races. Of all the memories reminisced throughout this series, one of the most joyful was of a drunk Soichirou riding the False Eizan Electric Railway, Yajirou’s signature transformation. This time the joyride doubles as the conveyance for the Shimogamo family’s salvation.

We’ll admit we pumped our fists when that train rammed into the Friday Fellows’ party; even if it wasn’t intentional, it got the job done with panache. Sorry Yodogawa, no tanuki hot pot for you! At least, not the tanuki he thought. Worryingly, the Shimogamo mom remains in custody, likely as Soun’s last bargaining chip. If a tanuki has to be eaten, we’re hoping it’s Soun, but until that’s decided, this week showed that when they join forces, the Shimogamo boys can reverse the grim fates their evil uncle set up for them, and perhaps save tanuki society from his poisonous corruption.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Uchouten Kazoku – 11

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Benten saves Yasaburou by using him as an umbrella and flying away. She tells him Yodogawa is claiming the tanuki soon, and right after she leaves he spots him, covered cage in hand. Yasaburou follows him to a restaurant, where he orders an egg bowl, but it was all a trap by the Ebisugawa brothers. Poison in the egg bowl makes Yasaburou revert to tanuki form and they cage him. Soun brushes off judgment by his sister-in-law and delivers Yaichiro to the real Yodogawa. Kaisei notices a light in the warehouse and frees Yashirou, but she must stay behind to occupy the guards.

The ladies come up big this week, with Benten saving Yasaburou from capture by Soun. It’s only temporary freedom, though, as Ginkaku and Kinkaku actually get one over on him. Disgusted by her brothers’ behavior, Kaisei decides to sabotage her family’s plans by springing Yashirou. Benten could pass of her heroics as simply needing an umbrella, but Kaisei’s won’t be so easily explained to her father. So two brothers remain free, though one is small, weak, and timid, and the other is a frog in a well who doesn’t think he can change back. Still, better than nothing, right?

As he sits in his cage under the watchful eye of an iron-girded Ginkaku and a creepy Kinkaku who’s giant face is literally popping out of the wall, Yasaburou gets broodily philosophical, as Yajirou is wont to do. Everything that he and his family has endured is all part of being a tanuki, whether it’s tricking humans, annoying tengu, or getting captured and eaten. Their situation can be fully explained by their blood. But as his mother protests, the Soun and his sons aren’t acting like tanukis. Such horrible treachery is more suited to humans or tengu. Which is precisely why they can’t be allowed to lead tanuki society. They’ll be its downfall.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • The twins’ elaborate “back in the game” celebration upon capturing Yasaburou was a fantastic piece of stagecraft.
  • When a caged mother tells Soun how pained his brother be if he knew how horrible his brother had become, Soun simply says “he knew I was like this.” Cold bastard.
  • We realize he’s not strictly a villain, but when Yodogawa takes delivery of Yaichiro, the tone of his voice is blood-curdling.
  • Again, mad props to Kaisei, who is just plain badass this week. We only wish she could go with Yashirou to teach her dim-witted brothers a lesson.

Uchouten Kazoku – 10

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The day of the Nise-emon election – and anniversary of Soichirou’s death – arrives. Yaichirou heads to meet with the elders. The twins lock Yashioru in a warehouse. Yasaburou meets with Yajirou, when a thunderstorm suddenly rolls in, and Yasaburou runs off to find their mother. Yaichirou’s rickshaw is interrupted and he’s captured in his tanuki form. Yasaburou and the empty rickshaw arrive at the same time. Kaisei is there to again apologize, for it was her father who betrayed Soichirou and sold him to Benten. Soichirou and his elite guard capture Kaisei and surround Yasaburou…

For most of this series’ run, the Ebisugawa family has been primarily represented by the fumbling, dim-witted duo of Ginkaku and Kinkaku. Initially threatening and in control, but always ending up with tiger bites in their rumps. Their petty mischief lulled us into forgetting that the family they represent is not merely a political rival but an existential threat to the Shimogamo family. This week they’re charged with capturing the youngest, weakest Shimogamo, while their father, Soun, takes the lead in executing a carefully-planned takedown that is devastating in its efficiency. The episode oozes with imminent dread that gradually builds like that storm as things go from bad to worse.

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A day filled with so much hope and promise turns to utter shit for the Shimogamos, many of whom never see what’s coming. Kaisei’s apology last week definitely intrigued Yasaburou enough to relay it to Yajirou, and he knows as soon as he hears it something awful will happen today. This time, Yajirou’s crushing pessimism is perfectly accurate. Soichriou didn’t just get eaten by Benten; he too was lulled into a false sense of security, under the ingenious guise of a “reconciliation ceremony”, Soun uses So’s kryptonite – Benten’s mere presence – to revert him to tanuki form. So could only shrug and calmly accept defeat. Kaisei recounts the story to Yasaburo because her father had taken her with him to witness everything (in the form of one of a purse).

It’s very much left to our imagination whether So knew it was Kaisei he was taking along, just as its ambiguous as to whether Kaisei is actually fulfilling her family duty by stalling Yasaburou with her long and troubling story. At any rate, the Shimogamos are now on the cusp of total ruin, all for believing Soun had a shred of honor and trusting he’d follow the rules. The episode ends with Yasaburou surrounded and only Yajirou unaccounted for which could be the one fatal flaw in Soun’s grand scheme. Now that he’s the only one who can save his family, will the useless frog be able to transform into a useful tanuki?


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

Stray Observations:

  • “What’s with that cage in the corner?” Ah, shit, man. Run. RUN! AAAAAGH!
  • Other questions for next week: Will the cliffhanger end with Yasaburou surrendering, or will he be able to fight his way to safety, perhaps with an assist by Kaisei? We’ll see…
  • Other than the flashback, Benten was absent this week, but that flashback proves she’s quite villainous for accepting the leader of tanuki society on a platter simply to ingratiate herself with the Friday Fellows.
  • Any one of the captured Shimogamos could end up in their next hot pot, but we suppose the money should be on Yaichirou.
  • Yajirou says “I’m convinced a little brother is something everyone should have.” Well he has a nice one, but his late dad’s SUCKS.