Check-out Station: Uchouten Kazoku ep13 (alien world, alien culture, familiar familial values)
What a warm, inviting show. Well, until humans start trying to eat cute tanuki moms and tengu get drunk and start blowing people away with hurricane force winds! GEEZUS Akadama! Calm the f*ck down! Oh god! He’s looking this way! Run awa- AAAAAAAAH!
With everything coming to a head at the Sensuiro, we’re given the most convenient of events, as the Friday Fellows year end bash sits adjacent to the the meeting for the next Nise-emon. As Yaichiro b*tches out Soun Ebisugawa over his attempts to kill him, and his murder of his father, the Friday Fellows are settling in next door with a fresh back up tanuki being set up in the room. That back up tanuki being Mother Shimogamo of course. Yasaburou has wiggled his way into the Friday Fellows bash, hoping to sneak her away. Though Benten keenly has her eyes on him.
Things are calm until Soun goes one step too far in his argument with Yaichiro when he swats Yajiro out of his nose and onto the ground. (If you don’t understand what that statement then you’ve obviously started reading this too early. Go back and watch the show again.) This insights Yaichiro to go into his awesome giant tiger form and attack Soun. This causes the thin paper wall between their room and the Friday Fellows’ room to come crashing down. Guess what everybody? Mass awkwardness!
When Soun sees that the Friday Fellows have Mother Shimogamo with them, he’s furious. *ahem* Allow me a moment.
“Tough luck *sshole! It’s your fault she’s in there! I hate you Soun! You’re such a dirtbag!”
Juroji, the defacto leader of the Friday Fellows and creepy old man extraordinaire, refuses to budge on having her for dinner though. None of that stuff matters though, because Hotei sees Mother Shimogamo and recognizes. He freaks out and attempts to walk off with her, despite the warnings of Juroji and the other Friday Fellows. As this occurs, all the prominent tanuki in the next room are freaking out and losing their transformations. So now the room is just covered in cute, scared tanuki. And Juroji sees this, and all he can think about is how delicious all those tanuki will be to eat, in fact he even says this out loud. So as can be expected, all the tanuki aside from the Shimogamos and Soun freak out, scurrying all over the place in a panic. Benten goes to check on Hotei, as the commotion has caused him to fall and drop Mother Shimogamo’s cage. Just as this happens, a very, very, very drunk and annoyed Akadama pops over from the next room, clearly displaying a vibrant anger. He’s pissed off because he’s been kept waiting in the next room for far too long. Yasaburou sees his chance, pushing Benten onto Hotei and pointing it out to Akadama. Akadama, of course, sees this in his belligerent drunk state, and dons his Raijin fan in anger.
And that’s the end of the building!
Akadama begins blowing everything in his path away, indiscriminately. He’s already blown the Sensuiro away and everyone in it (hopefully they all landed softly in the river), and now he’s stalking Hotei in vengeance. In the end, his rampage isn’t quelled by Yasaburou this time, but by Benten. A few kind words, and the offer of a relaxing q-tip massage, and Akadama’s rage is quelled.
Capping off the night, all the Shimogamo siblings call up their mother to make sure she’s alright. Yaichiro acknowledges that neither he nor Soun will make Nise-emon, but he’s not too bothered by it. And Akadama happily leaves with the beautiful Benten in a cab.
We flash forward to New Year’s Day, where the Shimogamo family visiting the shrines, getting ready to make their wishes for the year. They meet Hotei, who seems to be doing alright despite being kicked out of the Friday Fellows. He says he has no regrets about the choice he’s made. They then see Akadama and Benten as well, and Akadama certainly seems more happy. He has a few nice words for some of the Shimogamo siblings before leaving, though it seems Benten hangs around a bit longer. The next visitors they come across are the Ebisugawa clan. Ginaku and Kinkaku are pretty sore about their Christmas loss, but are quickly put back in line by the hidden Kaisei. Still remaining hidden (kinda) she talks to her ex-fiancee, telling him that Soun Ebisugawa has left the area for a hotspring, though she has no idea if he’ll ever come back. And though Yasaburou tells her to quit playing around and let him see her, she still manages to slip away. I wonder if she’s actually more talented than Yasaburou.
In the final scene of the show, Yasaburou and Benten stand side by side at a shrine making conversation and their wishes. Benten says that she has a ton of things she wants to wish for, and Yasaburou comments that it’s because she’s so greedy, and warns her to narrow down her wish, lest it might not come true. So she wishes to meet “the one she’s destined for”. She then asks Yasaburou what he’ll wish for, and he silently places his wish.
For a moderate amount of glory for his family and friends. I think it’s the perfect wish for a talented, yet aimless tanuki like him.
End of series.
I have to say, I’m satisfied with the episode, though there is some disappointment that this show didn’t end as spectacularly as I had hoped. Some things were kinda left hanging. Most notably being the circumstances surrounding Akadama’s accident and bad back, and the weird rift between Akadama, Benten and Yasaburou. While Souichiro’s death was explained quite well, Akadama’s accident was the other giant mystery that I was looking forward to being explained. Then there was Soun, who I was really hoping would end up dead one way or another. I just couldn’t imagine a scumbag like him just getting to walk away.
It wasn’t nearly all bad though, I really enjoyed this episode. And it’s because I’ve really grown to like and care about the Shimogamo family. They’ve been through a lot. And they managed to triumph, overcoming their darkest hour.
Watching this show has been a pleasant experience, that has managed to surprisingly hit close to home for me. I could really feel the animosity and the love within the family and the show. What I thought would be a show heavily revolving around Yasaburou, actually turned out to be a show very much about the family as a whole, and I’m not just talking about the Shimogamos either, I’d include Akadama and Benten in there, too. Eccentric Family truly lived up to its name.
I’ve tried mightily to get around this subject, but its impossible when talking about the character in this show. The subject is Benten. She is the class of this show, and a character not to be underestimated. Somehow, while being a woman of few words, or actions, she manages to be entirely enchanting and engaging. This woman, who has become one of the most powerful characters in this story. She’s a near perfect combination of beauty, smarts, power, charisma, mysteriousness, vulnerability and regret; and all of this is rolled into a poetic package. She dominates every scene in the way a tiger would dominate a room it had just entered. She commands respect, she demands the eyes of the men around her, and she incites a healthy fear in anyone she considers prey. Though it is hard to truly describe the air she brings to the show. Though I think it may be safe to say that she resembles a god descended down to Earth, in beauty and in attitude. Which makes it so much stranger when you see some of her more childish and eccentric antics, like the famous scene of his swimming naked and grabbing onto the tails of whales. That’s a hard to forget moment.
As for the person who you may consider the actual main protagonist, Yasaburou, he’s a pretty awesome guy actually. He’s your classic free spirit. For him, it’s not so much what you can accomplish in life, but what you can get out of it. Yasaburou only wants to enjoy his time on this Earth, he cares only to do what he loves. At the same time, he’s not so flippant that he can’t bring himself to help others or so some sense of responsibility. While he rather not be bothered with other people’s problems, he still makes time and effort for the people close to him. I’d even venture to say he’s dependable.
What I can’t quite understand about him though is his relationship with Benten. Strangely, it seems that she’s more infatuated with him, than the other way around. And the way they talk between each other, I get the impression that they’re old partners in crime that have just gone separate ways, Yasaburou seemingly taking the more straight and narrow path. Of all the relationships in this show, their’s seems to be the most ambivalent, but also the most intimate. I’m only upset that I didn’t get see more of their past.
Another thing I didn’t quite understand was the relationship between Yasaburou and Hotei, the man who in actuality was just as responsible for his father’s death as anyone, including Benten. Oh yeah! How the hell did I gloss over that fact. Benten was the one who captured and ate Yasaburou’s father along with the rest of the Friday Fellows. I just could not understand how Yasaburou could so calmly talk, and socialize with these people who have hurt him and his family so. It’s a disconnect that I’ve heard from others. I want to chalk it up to tanuki just being a different species that thinks differently of situations and their own position in the world. But it still felt strangely alien to me. It’s just another one of those things that I felt was never fully explained to me.
Moving on, there’s Akadama the tengu. The demon. The jerk! On one hand, I can completely understand his attitude. He’s lost the most important things in the world to him, most of his ability to fly, and Benten. And Benten’s relationship with him is another relationship I haven’t fully understood. From the flashbacks, it appears he kidnapped her when she was just a little girl strolling along the beach, so I always wondered if she held any animosity towards him. Though I thought it may have been displayed by her refusal to see him personally. Though given the hints dropped by the show, she may have done that more out of guilt than anything. Akadama is a boorish man, and a belligerent drunk, but he’s also a famous and well respected member of the city and the tengu community. He’s also a close and dear friend of the Yasaburou’s dead father, Souichiro. So despite his horrible attitude, you can see why the tanuki in the show pay him so much respect. The rampage he went on in the last episode is also further evidence that he’s still to be feared.
The show itself was a quality and creative project. I do remember initially showing interest in this show because of the character designs that brought back fond memories of my time watching Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. But that didn’t over shadow the show for long, nor did the weird way the ears were drawn on the characters (like thin wafers attached to people’s heads). I truly loved the way the characters were drawn and animated in this show. None of it spectacular, but all of it very simple, yet nice to look at and watch. The color palette and the art style often lending the show to appear to take place within a watercolor painting at times.
And while I can’t say that I found the soundtrack to be very interesting, nor did it stand out in any particular way, I did enjoy the very soft and soothing ending theme.
Leaving this show behind, I leave with very few regrets. I was pleased to find out that I could watch a show that could be very culturally impenetrable for many western viewers. I believe that was because the story was interesting, entertaining and clearly told. I dare say, that even a show that’s so very, very Japanese like this one, could still be a good recommendation for viewing by non-anime fans. The show’s characters, drama and story are relatable enough to get people past that barrier.
There’s so much more to talk about in this show. Whether it be interesting dynamic between the different Shimogamo family members, the strange clan/family rivalry between the Ebisugawas and the Shimogamos, the playful and romantic relationship between Yasaburou and his ex-fiancee, Kaisei, or even the Friday Fellows themselves; this show is deep and layered. It’s thoughtful and romantic. It’s pretty, but shows the ugliest sides of family relationships. Shoot Soun Ebisugawa himself is a fascinating and tragic character study, that I could possibly talk about for hours with other fans of this show. I really couldn’t recommend this show more to those who want a unique and enchanting character drama. And for now, I’m gonna miss watching this show from week to week. Here’s hoping this gets a eventual season two.
- Wrong Every Time – Uchouten Kazoku – Episode 13
- Uchouten Kazoku ep12: what is fun is good – for tanuki!
- Uchouten Kazoku ep11: a chasm of understanding and emotion
- Uchouten Kazoku ep10: the true goodbye
- Uchouten Kazoku ep9: musical hotpot
- Uchouten Kazoku ep8: the blood of sages
- Uchouten Kazoku ep7: blood is thicker than tears; Ebisugawas are dumber than rocks
- Uchouten Kazoku ep6: the two pillars of this show
- Uchouten Kazoku ep5: you can’t have your tanuki and eat it too – so don’t eat it!!
- Uchouten Kazoku ep4: incorrigible!
- Uchouten Kazoku ep2 & 3: our father was, our mother is; tengu were, humans are
- Check-in Station: Uchouten Kazoku ep1 (foolish old man, foolish little girl)