Ushio to Tora – 33

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Looks like last week lifted our spirits only to utterly crush them here, as Hakumen no Mono rises out of the ocean, and its tails take the form of monsters Ushio already defeated, reminding him of how much he lost, and how much hatred has built up inside of him after enduring all that loss.

His mom tries to slap him out of his spiral of hate, but that only makes things worse. Whether she’s there with him now, for the majority of his life she was lost to him, and he has very little time to be with her now. Ushio dredges up all of that accumulated hatred to launch a counterattack, but he’s going about it entirely the wrong way.

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But Ushio won’t listen to reason from anyone. Not his mother, and not even Tora. Especially when Tora admits he killed Nagare and doesn’t bother explaining the extenuating circumstances. He doesn’t bother because he knows nothing he’ll say will change the fact that Ushio told him not to kill Nagare, and he killed Nagare.

The Kouhamei Sect awakens from their stone slumber and comes in force to set up a barrier, but they, and apparently the prison where Asako was waiting, are easily destroyed by Hakumen. He destroys an entire island, killing untold thousands, in the blink of an eye. And news cameras get it all on camera, spreading the fear across Japan and further fueling the demon.

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Did I mention the stone pillar the JASDF fleet destroyed had kept Japan from sinking into the sea? Well, that happened to. The triumphant return of Mayuko isn’t triumphant at all; it’s an afterthought, as nothing anyone can do can snap Ushio out of his berserk hatred-mode.

But he can’t fight hatred with hatred, and when he tries to stab Hakumen in the head with the Beast Spear, the spear shatters into a million shards. So yeah, this was not a feel-good week for Ushio and Tora; not at all! Ushio lost; Hakumen won, Asako could be dead…it’s all over. Japan is hosed. 

Except it isn’t, right? There are at least six whole episodes left! So even with no spear, no hope, and nothing but seething hatred in his heart, we can’t rule out a come-from-behind win. But I have to salute this show for letting things get so very FUBAR before that happens. This Hakumen guy is one tough little shit!

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Ushio to Tora – 32

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“Mother” – such a simple title for an episode positively bursting with powerful, complex emotions; frustration, loneliness, and powerlessness among them. Ignoring his fearful young colleague, the Undine’s grizzled pilot Goro is willing to take Ushio where he needs to go now that he knows what Ushio wants to do once he sees his mom, which is to give her a stern talking-to about how devastating her absence from his life has been.

But nothing, nothing can prepare Ushio, who has been through so much, for the singular occasion of being in the presence of his mother for the first time since he was barely crawling. He doesn’t even remember her face, and for one horrifying moment I thought a monster or corpse would be all he would find. The episode really does a good job building up this, one of the most important moments both of Ushio’s life and for the show as a whole.

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The sights and sounds of his journey to his mother’s side is filled with a sense of quiet awe and grandeur. And to my relief, his mom is just a regular woman…who happens to have been sitting in the same place for nearly Ushio’s entire life. She may have freakishly-long hair, but she also has Ushio’s familiar dark eyebrows above warm, kind eyes. There’s no doubt about it: this is Ushio’s mom.

And look a how all of the things Ushio wanted to say to his mom melt away, replaced by love, gratitude, and relief. He’s in awe of his mother and her own meekness and contriteness. Her first act upon seeing him is to bow her head. But before he lets her ask his forgiveness, he assures her, by showing her all of his various scars and wounds—some acquired fighting monsters, others just doing stuff kids do—that it’s no big deal; and it’s true.

While she’s been here, the love she put into Ushio endured and sustained him, and made him into the fine young man he is today. He knows that, and he no longer has any hard feelings on the matter. How can he, when his mother sacrificed so much?

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Her look when he starts dusting her off, and the laugh they share when he bashfully askes for miso soup (there’s no kitchen there, bub!), it’s all wonderful. Finally, goddamnit, Ushio gets to see his mom, and she’s not terrible! What is terrible is the impending situation, in which the shit hits the fan before his mom can pat him properly on the head.

The East and West youkai have arrived up at the surface (in giant amalgamated forms), with the former keeping the latter from attacking Hakumen by fighting them. The navy fires its torpedoes and destroys the stone pillar, as Hakumen had planned. Ushio’s mom’s barrier finally fails after 700 years of continuous activation.

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It’s the end of the line for Ushio’s mom as far as being the Oyakume goes, which begs the question: where the heck is Mayuko at? Isn’t she supposed to pick up where Ushio’s mom left off? I hope she gets there soon, because it becomes clear Hakumen isn’t going to stay put.

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Indeed, after ignoring Ushio’s mom’s warning that he’ll be dealt with by Ushio and the others soon enough and has no reason to celebrate, Hakumen still appears to be very happy to be free, and does celebrate by tossing the entire sub fleet into the air and impaling the East youkai, then vowing to destroy everything in the world.

All poor Tora can do is watch! I do hope his girl Mayuko arrives soon with a barrier, or some other somebody comes out of the woodwork to lend him and Tora a hand. I also hope that while her Oyakume days are over, Ushio’s mom doesn’t have to die; at least not until she gets to see her son defeat Hakumen no Mono once and for all.

Then she gets to pat Ushio head, and they get to spend some time as mother and son, with worries about saving the world far behind them. But I’m getting ahead of myself…the next episode’s title isn’t vague at all: “Beast Spear Destroyed.” Nuts!

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Ushio to Tora – 31

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Ushio’s previews are never anything than a listing of the (usually vague) title of the next episode accompanied by the sound of the Beast Spear striking something. As such, we’re always in the dark about what exactly will come next. I’ve always kinda liked that.

It meant I didn’t know if Asako would somehow end up encountering a HAMMR humvee on the street, and be taken to the floating dock by helicopter to Ushio’s side, right after he’s thrown in the brig with two civilian researchers who built the Undine submarine who let him take them hostage to escape.

That’s…a lot, but the bottom line is, Ushio and Asako are reunited. But as is usual with these two, it’s not that simple: Asako’s memories aren’t fully back, and they may never come back. That doesn’t matter, as she’s confident this is the boy she loves anyway, especially after he literally plucked her from the fire, along with the bits and pieces of memories still rattling around.

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This leads to one of the most raw and poignant scenes between these two. Asako begs Ushio not to go, lest he lose himself. Ushio insists he has to go, and he’ll be back “in a little while.” It’s the most comfort he can offer, because he knows there’s a good chance he won’t be back at all. He can’t promise anything.

But seeing Asako, even regarding him as a stranger, act in this way, and remembering everything they’ve been through and everything she’s meant to him, their last exchange is an exchange of I love yous…only because of the sub’s thick glass, neither can hear the other’s confession.

At this point, I just want more than anything for Ushio to get the job done and come back safe. No matter what else happens, Asako deserves that much.

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As Ushio goes down in the Undine to perhaps meet his ultimate fate, Tora stays topside to give Nagare what he’s always wanted, and what he betrayed Kouhamei and Ushio to get: a serious, no-holds-barred fight with Tora. Tora doesn’t disappoint, though at one point Nagare nails him to the deck and rants about another reason he had to betray Ushio: in order to show him, and his painfully naive eyes it grew so hard to look at, what he really is: a traitor and a wretch.

Tora doesn’t buy it, breaking out some ruthless chortling and mocking. If Nagare is afraid of that little twerp’s EYES, there’s no way he can beat a dyed-in-the-wool monster like him.

It’s moments like this that I’m reminded that perhaps Tora truly plans to eat Ushio one day, just that he’s in absolutely no hurry to do so. That, I guess, makes him a monster. Also, whatever else he is, he’s a being who can do things Nagare simply can’t, even when he hulks up and digs deep into his bag of spiritual tricks.

But for all his insistance that he’s the baddest mofo-in’ monster around, Ushio was still trying to obey Ushio’s wishes by not killing Nagare—only for Nagare to make him go far enough to kill him anyway.

I don’t see Tora being genuinely contrite enough to convince Ushio it was an accident, and I don’t see Ushio (if and when he returns, or if and when Tora goes to him) easily forgiving or going back on his promise that Tora will regret it. But hey, who knows: the preview, as always, won’t show even a glimpse of what is to come.

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Ushio to Tora – 30

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With Mayuko doomed to live the rest of her life replacing Ushio’s mom, Asako in the hospital still growing her skin back, and a lot of people either dead, turned to stone, or unable to remember Ushio, this entire second season has been one big fat DOWNER.

There seems to be no end to Ushio’s torment, as one thing after another crops up to make his life that much more dark and tragic. Just take Nagare, who “frees” Ushio and Tora from a JASDF transport taking them who knows where.

As was teased previously (by his evil grin), Nagare is now on Hakumen’s side. There’s no explanation why, nor why he retreats as suddenly as he appeared when a HAMMR helicopter approaches (he sliced an armored humvee in half; he can’t take out a chopper?)

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So yeah, there’s been a lot of piling on this season, and each episode has dug deep into the vast repository of Ushio to Tora characters from the first season, dusting them off and putting them back on the game board, like the two HAMMR scientists who didn’t die.

All the negativity of compounded ordeals early on made it hard to enjoy this episode, but the show does,to its credit, throw us a few bones of both hope and levity, which are much appreciated—though Asako getting out of bed and wandering around town with her skin still healing, looking like a damn mummy, is definitely not one of those bones. For the love of God, Asako, go back to the hospital!

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Rather, Ushio’s first bone is the Rock Eater armor HAMMR procured from the Kouhamei Sect before shit went down. They believe it will help them in the latest trial he must face: stopping the JASDF, all the brass of which have been fooled by a false Jei Mei, to launch missiles at the stone pillar at the bottom of the sea where Hakumen is (barely) being held.

It’s pretty obvious by how she speaks and looks that this Jei Mei is not Ushio’s mother, but a Hakumen fake, and it’s just as clear destroying the stone pillar will have the opposite effect of destroying Hakumen’s power.

You know you’re in a plot-heavy show when a fleet of submarines makes an appearance in your supernatural action fantasy shounen rom-com-a-drama! So much stuff going on.

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After Nagare’s tease and HAMMR, Ushio decides to stop by at home to…clean his room for some reason. Naturally, he runs into an ambush by more agents of Hakumen determined to crush the stone Azafuse before they revive and join the fight.

In the process, Ushio’s house is fucking destroyed (I can’t believe that hasn’t happened like five times already, considering all his dangerous adversaries!), and even when he dons his arguably badass Rock Eater armor, he and Tora end up in a tight spot.

So it falls to the shattered bits of petrified Azafuse to glom onto Tora like armor which, while lamer-looking than Ushio’s, enables Tora to take out the baddies with ease.

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After that, all that’s left is for Ushio to collect a couple of mementos from previous episodes and go down to the cellar to re-enact the scene where he first met Tora, which was….weird. I guess it speaks to how on-the-same-wavelength these two are—and how desperate for a moment of fun and levity among all the destruction and despair—that they’d do such a goofy thing.

However, after seeing Asako wander the streets in her bandages, I was really hoping she’d end up at Ushio’s place, even if, realistically, she’s still probably too frail to make it there. But she didn’t, which sucks, because now Ushio is off to the Okinawan Sea to stop those JASDF subs from doing something stupid.

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Ushio to Tora – 29

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With the East and West youkai still not remembering Ushio (but admitting he and Tora are probably their best hope), Mayuko gone off to relieve Ushio’s mom, and Asako healing in the hospital, Ushio and Tora…don’t have much to do this week. Instead, they learn a couple of new nuggets of information and run into an old acquaintance. A pretty quiet, often lumbering episode.

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That old acquaintances is Hyou, who we haven’t seen in who-knows-how-long. He doesn’t get much of a chance to explain why he’s at Ushio’s house when another unexpected visitor arrives: Guren, the black Tora working for Hakumen.

Hyou gives Ushio and Tora the scoop about Guren, whose name used to be Sokuei when he was a human thief who loved to kill, found the Beast Spear in the mountains, used it to make money, and eventually let it corrupt him and consume his soul (Ushio got close to a similar fate, but his friends saved him).

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Anywho, Guren continues to do what he wants, which in this case is doing the bidding of Hakumen. However, Ushio doesn’t fight Guren, and he tells Tora not to either. That’s because Guren also happened to be the sonofabitch who killed Hyou’s family.

That gives Hyou a better claim to fighting him, and he does…but I’ll be honest, it’s not the most thrilling or consequential fight. It doesn’t help that it doesn’t even end decisively, with Hyou managing to survive and leaving a knife in Guren’s body to track him later.

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The other big news is that Tora himself was once an ordinary human whose soul was corrupted by the spear, which is news to Ushio. A lot of other Tora-like monsters showed up for Hyou and Guren’s duel, but they didn’t do any more than Ushio and Tora, which was watch.

Anyway, Ushio patches Hyou up as best he can and lets him help himself to the house sake, which is apparently the best thing to drink after a big battle, win or lose, in order to “wash the hate out.” Hyou is also confident that not only will he defeat Hyou eventually (not caring what happens to him) but that Ushio and Tora will eventually defeat Hakumen.

That may be because Hakumen is fueled by the fear of its enemies, and Ushio and Tora are too busy bickering with each other to have much fear. Still, they’d better not come at Hakumen with anything resembling fear, or they’ll likely be toast.

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Ushio to Tora – 28

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The East/West youkai decide Asako can go on her merry way, but Mayuko is to be sacrificed. Obv., Asako ain’t taking that sitting down, and tries with everything she has to fight back, but the monsters are too strong.

Asako’s only kept from being killed by the barrier when Mayuko starts flexing her oyakume descendant muscles, saving her with a protective magic. I’ll admit, it’s a little strange seeing Mayuko use magic, but all this hullabaloo seems to have awakened her true power.

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Mayuko is willing to be thrown into the forge, but Asako stops the youkai, and offers herself as a sacrifice so Mayuko can perform her duties as the oyakume. Mayuko doesn’t like this one bit, but she can’t stop Asako from sacrificing herself. Only Ushio and Tora, arriving in the nick of time, can do that.

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For a second there, I really thought this was the end for Asako, which would make things very tragic indeed for Ushio, who’d have to carry on fighting Hakumen having lost one of the people most important to him in the world. Indeed, Asako only remembers Ushio when she’s about to leap into the flames—and she does leap in—but Ushio jumps in before her and catches her.

Both of them are badly scorched, and the youkai start attacking them mercilessly for interrupting their plan, but Tora steps in to take the punishment, and Mayuko uses her magic to protect them and eject them from the building.

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Of course, things aren’t any safer out there: a Tora lookalike named Guren has arrived to fight the youkai and destroy the Beast Spear on behalf of Hakumen. Guren’s crew and the youkai engage in an aerial battle while Ushio, Tora, and the girls fly away with Jeimei.

Saya enlists Kappa to help heal Asako’s burns, but Ushio doesn’t have time for medical attention, and rushes back into the fray, even against those who no longer know who he is and don’t wish him well. Tora, unable to let his meal get killed by someone else, soon follows him, and the two show the youkai how well they fight together, and that the present Beast Spear is still a powerful weapon.

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Before Ushio returns, Mayuko leaves with Jeimei to fulfill her destiny, leaving Asako with Saya and the Kappa. When Ushio and Tora get back, Mayuko is gone, but Ushio doesn’t persue her. He knows he was lucky to come away from the day with one of his friends alive and free. He’s going to trust in Mayuko’s strength, get back to the fight with Hakumen, and eventually come to get her back.

Things are still in a pretty dark place in Ushio to Toraland: Asako’s in bad shape, while most everyone still forgets who Ushio is, and may well still be convinced a new Beast Spear needs to be forged. I’m guessing he has to address the mass amnesia (which is likely curable) and get his allies back before he can fight Hakumen in earnest. Lots of trials still ahead for our hard-headed protagonist.

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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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