Uchouten Kazoku ep6: the two pillars of this show
If this show gets successful enough, I can easily see Benten becoming a popular choice for a lot of people’s favorites list. She’s an intriguing character, and one of the two pillars that this show seems to revolve around, the other being the great and revered Souichiro Shimogamo. In this episode, we’re shown how even a group of the most influential humans in all of Kyoto seems just be moths to a flame. She’s a woman too beautiful and too dangerous to ignore. And yet, six episodes in, she’s not actually that mysterious. Or at least she isn’t so long as you’re one of those rare creatures privy enough to interact with her on a regular and intimate basis.
What makes this information even more interesting is the knowledge that her rise to power directly coincides with Souichiro’s fall. In this episode, we see how a show that has the death of an important character hanging over it, can lack so much antagonism, or anger. Though very few knew about this (even Yasaburou was ignorant of this fact until now), Souichiro died a very peaceful death. Well, I assume it was peaceful until they started boiling him, I still don’t know how they prepare the tanuki for a hot pot. Anyway, Souichiro was content with his life, and the rare opportunity he had to live it fully enough that he got to see most of his children grow a little before his expiration. He harbored no ill will it seems towards the Friday Fellows, and even talked to one of them, seemingly as a last gift. Souichiro Shimogamo was a sagely character, not only in deed and legend, but through words, too. And this contrasts rather harshly with Benten in her prime.
Poor Benten, while Souichiro is thought of as practically a sage, or saint; Benten is very nearly considered a demon. And this reputation makes sense given the now known fact that Akadama (forever being the d*ck that he is) kidnapped her as a young happy child, and raised her like a tengu. Then there’s her current demeanor which is very cold, but also resonating with enough malice to make others fear her. At this point, we don’t really know enough to know how much of her actions are actual deeds (aside from the annual dining on tanuki) and the rest on reputation and rumours. Because the audience follows Yasaburou around mostly in this story, we’re given a privileged seat when viewing Benten. We get the climate controlled, curated box seats that only someone who is especially endeared as much as Yasaburou can grasp. We don’t really get to see much in the way that a normal person from Kyoto sees her. She just seems to float above everything. And that brings to question this:
If it takes someone like Yasaburou to see her even in the vulnerable, private situations that we’ve seen so far, then who does she confide in on a day to day basis?
Think about it, aside from the Friday Fellows (I believe only two were missing) I don’t think she really interacts with anyone even that intimately. And while she’s up there, she’s incredibly standoffish. It’s only hinted at that in one scene behind a bright light that she’s crying. And at the end of the episode, we only see her crying at the well because she doesn’t know anyone aside from the talking frog is there. It is lonely at the top, very lonely apparently. And I haven’t seen such a thing be more true for anyone besides Benten… well, perhaps I have to go back to the infamous Vicious of Cowboy Bebop to get an equivalent.
Since this isn’t just a post about Benten, but all of episode six, we have to talk about the weird old man in the Friday Fellows that loves her as much as he loves eating. Perhaps it’s him that she got that whole, “l love you so much, I just want to eat you up” thing.
I can’t remember the old man’s name, but he has a very interesting and passionate outlook on life, and especially the food chain. While he came off a little creepy in the beginning, this old fool has one of the happier, most positive and pragmatic approaches to life I’ve heard. As he and Yasaburou follow Benten in the episode, he’s constantly spouting about his passion for eating. It comes off as creepy at first, because he’s talking about how passionately he enjoys the tanuki hotpot, and by extension he’s telling him how delicious and wonderful his kind is.
Now imagine this: you’re sitting at a party with a bunch of tigers and performing tricks or telling stories for them, when one of them starts talking about how much he enjoys eating people. He loves them stewed and in his favorite dishes. Wouldn’t that make you nervous? If you were able to get past that emotion, wouldn’t you find that a bit antagonist or rude? Yet, weirdly enough Yasaburou and the old man get along swimmingly. Perhaps it’s the shared connection they have to Benten and Yasaburou’s father, or just they’re just naturally fated friends, if only for that one night. Regardless, they both have a special night together following Benten, and Yasaburou learns quite a bit from the old man about their shared connection.
Even the touchiest subject of them all, the old man’s love of food is shared in a way that Yasaburou can’t seem to give much of a rebuttal or complaint. The guy just loves and respects food and the act of eating. For him, it’s a sacred special thing that pays honor the defeated, eaten creature. To him, the fact that he has made the choice to eat the animal means that he’s taken on the responsibility of making it edible and tasty. Anything else, would be disrespect to that creature’s sacrifice. While some may find this to be an act of foolishly romanticizing killing, eating and survival; I find it to be a rather honorable rationalization of the process and human responsibility in it. HA! I might take it up as my excuse to avoid practicing vegetarian or vegan practices!
In the end, I thought this was a very, very interesting episode that tried to speak to the audience from the heart. In an episode, a situation that could be so intense, the whole thing turns into an eccentric, moonlit stroll through the rooftops. Instead of an argument between a son and one of his father’s killers, we get a master passing on knowledge to a student, a predator passing on sympathy to the prey, the old generation passing on last words to the new. Really, it’s the old man that delivers Souichiro’s last words and moments to his son. And most thankfully, instead of getting another cooked tanuki in a hotpot (at least for now), we get a confused but grateful Yasaburou at the end of the episode. Now I’m just hoping that the strange turn of events doesn’t entice him to join his brother as a frog at the bottom of a well for the rest of his life.
Note: I don’t usually do this, probably because I’m afraid no one will respond, but who’s the loneliest anime character you can think of? I’m sure I’ve skipped over someone in between the span of Vicious and Benten.
Note 2: didn’t you just love that beautiful rooftop? It almost makes me anxious for Fall.
- Episode 5
- “I’m definitely going to eat you up!” Uchouten Kazoku and Relationships as Social Capital
- Eccentric family movies – because I didn’t think you’d seen enough terrible movies in your lifetime.