Uchouten Kazoku ep11: a chasm of understanding and emotion
Providence favors the wise, wisdom favors the patient, patience favors the thoughtful, and the Yasaburou is none of those. But he does have luck. Hell, that’s all he’s got going for him now. In a matter of hours, the Shimogamo family’s history will be written in stone. A history of a family that failed to live up to the low expectations of even tanuki society.
You know, I’ve never been able to get a handle of Benten. Maybe it’s the training under a tengu, or a measure of overwhelming guilt and loneliness that she may be feeling, but she so often comes off as less than human. Even her good deeds come off as divine and whimsical. Even here, as she intervenes in Soun Ebisugawa’s attempt to capture Yasaburou. She seems to descend from the heavens on a whim. though I can’t imagine that the chosen beneficiary has any issue with this. Her whisking Yasaburou away as an umbrella (he’s the umbrella obviously), burns Soun up, but there’s nothing a tanuki can do against one of the Friday Fellows. Lest he end up as the hot pot dish for the night.
Once to safety, Yasaburou petitions Benten to help him in his attempt to free his family, though that doesn’t seem to be any of her concern. As I said before, it appears that she’s only shown up on a whim, literally carried by the wind. Though she does carry some interesting information. She tells him that Professor Yodogawa, the man who was so fond of eating from the Friday Fellows, has made a deal to get himself a tanuki and leaves. Just moment later, he sees Yodogawa walking down the street with a large box in hand. The old man dips into what looks like a quaint little restaurant, and Yasaburou follows in disguise. Too bad for him that it was all a convenient and perfectly executed trap by Ginkaku and Kinkaku to capture him. Another Shimogamo family member is put in a cage.
Speaking of which, we’re then shown where Yaichiro and their mother are being held, likely in a pantry in another one of the Ebisugawa restaurants. When Soun comes to visit his captives, he’s accompanied by a thin, sharp, intimidating old man named Jurojin, likely another member of the Friday Fellows. Jurojin is quite pleased to see the captured tanuki for the year end bash, though Soun is adamant about not letting Mother Shimogamo go. Jurojin is surprised by his fondness for the female tanuki, but doesn’t really care and leaves. Soun leaves and later returns once the professor has shown up to get his main ingredient. As Yaichiro is carried away, his mother begs Soun not to go through with this. Soun takes notice of how she calls him Ebisugawa, for a moment we catch a glimpse of the hurt that has been residing behind Soun’s eyes. Never the less, Yaichiro is gone.
Back inside Ginkaku’s stomach (that’s right, he disguised himself as an entire restaurant), the two brothers just can’t resist the urge to tease Yasaburou and brag about their win. Though we find out through a phone call their little sister Keisei is not pleased at all with what they’ve done.
At the Ebisugawa complex, Keisei escapes her heavily guarded home and helps the youngest Shimogamo child, Yashiro, escape. Though she herself is recaptured. And with the talented Yasaburou now deep in Ebisugawa hands, it seems that only poor pitiful Yashiro is still around to save his entire family. Then again there’s Yajiro, but as has been said before, what can a frog at the bottom of a well do?
End of episode.
Fair credit has to be given to the Ebisugawa family for at least being talented and clever tricksters. Kinkaku was perfectly prepared to snatch up Yasaburou, even after he had just escaped his father likely no more than fifteen to thirty minutes earlier. Like all tanuki though, they are idiots, with him still wearing that ridiculous metal diaper as a precaution. But for all their aptitude, we’re still able to a chink or two in the armor. For one, not everyone is on board with this plan in the family. Kaisei clearly wants nothing to do with the murder of another tanuki, she especially doesn’t want Yasaburou hurt. Then there’s the scene where we see that Soun still has negative feelings about no longer being a part of the Shimogamo family. These last few episodes, we’ve been given a good deal of incite into Soun Ebisugawa. And I get the feeling that he’s particularly bitter about being married away from the family, and perhaps he may have wanted to be the one to marry Mother Shimogamo, just as Yajiro was hurt that Yasaburou was chosen to initially marry Kaisei, before that engagement was broken.
It feels more and more like Soun’s descent was started with a rebellious action that over time escalated into a desperate, jealous, ruthless and bitter personality that was willing to murder his own brother, and now his brother’s children to get what he wants. Soun desperately wants to prove something by becoming Nise-emon, whether it be to prove he can equal or better his brother, or to prove his existence to someone.
Then there’s the curious Benten, who I love and hate to talk about. This is mainly because no matter how little time she spends in a given episode, I end up devoted loads of text to her.
I don’t think she’s fooling anyone in the audience with her attitude. She clearly has feeling for the young, dumb Yasaburou. But her tengu upbringing and her immense power places her so high in the clouds that even Yasaburou, someone who is supposed to know her as well as anyone, still gets the wrong idea about her. When she asks why Akadama received a gift and she did not, Yasaburou responds by saying that she already has everything she could want. Benten’s rebuttal is that she has nothing that she wants. These two characters have their differences, but they’re supposed to be intimate on a certain level. This conversation illustrates a huge gap between these characters.
The problem here is that Benten is way too graceful and subtle. While Yasaburou may be a slick and talented trickster, he hasn’t shown that he’s capable of picking up the finer details in their interactions like he’s able to pick up the details in a subject he’s mimicking. Conversely, Benten’s subtle and calm nature comes off as incredibly cold and cruel to Yasaburou, and it grates him greatly at a time like this. He doesn’t have time, nor does he care for subtleties when his oldest brother and perhaps his mother are about to be eaten. It’s a shame that despite Benten’s efforts to be closer to Yasaburou, they still have this same void of understanding between them that they had way back in episode one.
Going into this final stretch, I hold out hope that Yaichiro will find a way to live someway somehow. Though I’m waffling back and forth on whether I’d like to see Soun Ebisugawa take his place (it’d be the most bitter hot pot ever). I’ve been given enough of a glimpse into his past for him to be a sympathetic character, but I still believe he’s done some utterly reprehensible and unforgivable things. Though I’m starting to think that in the end, the hardest thing for this show to accomplish will be to manage some semblance of healing and emotional honesty between Yasaburou, Benten and Akadama.