Ushio to Tora – 13

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Ushio gets a much-needed breather at the bread shop of the old man he saved from the youkai, but the youkai hordes are still out there, and once they find him, he’s thrown right back into a battle where the youkai have all the numbers, and Beast Spear or no, Ushio is getting worn down. Enter Kagari and Raishin, who are not only there to help him, but are willing to die by his side.

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The kamaitachi are nothing if not loyal to those who helped and empathized with their plight. I find myself liking them more and more. Yet even with them around, the youkai keep coming. It’s ultimately Tora who saves the three of them from the hordes, deciding not to sit on the sidelines after all. Sure, that puts him in Hitotsuki’s crosshairs, but he couldn’t care less; in fact, he wouldn’t mind fighting his old associate, for no other reason that he keeps calling him Nagatobimaru!

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Ushio finds himself deposited before a large traditional Japanese estate wreathed in fog, and he is welcomed to come in, calm down, sit, and listen. The Zashiki Warashi is there, along with the leader of the youkai who have been attacking him; Hitotsuki’s long-nosed boss. He tells Ushio a little more about who her mother is, and the nine-tailed Hakumen no Mono she protects from the youkai with a powerful barrier, as her predecessors have done for the last thousand years. What the youkai boss can’t tell Ushio is why, but he suspects Ushio can ask her himself when he finds her.

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Ushio also learns the reason the boss is being so nice to him: he’s the old man he saved in the forest, who he hung out with at the bread shop. Like Kagari and Raishin, if one is kind to youkai, chances are they’ll be kind to you as well; they’re not wholly evil or anti-human under all circumstances.

As for Hitotsuki, the boss is miffed for him disobeying orders, but allows him to duel Tora to decide whether he gets to have his way. As I said, Tora is fine fighting him, considering they have history, but twists himself in knots explaining to Ushio that he’s not doing this for his sake (even though he really kinda is.)

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At first Hitotsuki mops the floor with Tora, slapping him around and biting him with his many serpent-head digits and goring him with his giant horn. But Tora eventually takes the gloves off, breaths fire on his opponent, then zaps him and smacks him around until he’s declared the winner (though Tora doesn’t kill him, again showing his new, slightly softer side). The boss shows his true form—a magnificent Tengu—and promises Ushio none of his youkai will harm him ever again, as per the terms of the duel.

With that, Kagari patches up Tora (I like the deference the kamaitachi now show to who is essentially their “senpai”), and he and Ushio head into the misty woods on the next leg of their eventful journey to find Ushio’s mom. Turns out it will take a lot more than bumping into an old acquaintance like Hitotsuki to break his complex bond with Ushio.

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Ushio to Tora – 10

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Another week, another supernatural task-of-the-week for the titular Ushio and Tora. This time, while bathing in a healing hot spring, they encounter a beautiful white-haired girl whom they accidentally startle away. That girl, Saya, is the latest in a long line of white-haired women who have served as intermediary between the wealthy and powerful Takatori family and their “household god”, in truth a zashiki warashi being held against her will.

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Saya is very sickly and frail, and prone to fainting spells, which is how Ushio meets her next: saving her from one of anime’s patented Killer Vehicles. Saya is prone to overapologizing, and when Ushio learns the reason why—a life of being used as little more than a tool to keep her shithead father and grandmother rich and comfy— he’s very pissed off and wants to do something to help.

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It just so happens that Omamori-sama, the captive zashiki warashi, had been expecting a lad with a spear since Saya’s dad was young, warning him when such a lad arrived, it would mean the end of his prosperity and good fortune and the beginning of his ruin. Omamori is also sick of watching white-haired woman after woman life and die “consoling” her, and would prefer at this point to die herself when the barrier is broken rather than continue this vicious cycle. Saya brought Ushio and Tora to talk about freeing her, but she’s obviously against Omamori dying.

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As Tora (once a captive himself) surprises Omamori with his relative kindness and loyalty to his human by opening a temporary tear in the barrier, Omamori convinces Saya to seek a better life than the one she has; aiming higher than being a servant her lazy cheat relatives. The barrier breaks, the househould literally crumbles, and Omamori floats away in a gorgeous ethereal way.

Saya and her family now have nothing, and it will be tough going, but at least she’s now free to live her life and explore heretofore untapped strength and ability…like the ability to stop reflexively apologizing and tell Ushio an idiot when he flirts with her! I’m a little disappointed Saya and Omamori don’t accompany Ushio and Tora on their quest, but the whole point after all is for them to stand on their own two feet. Maybe they’ll show up again down the road.

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