Uchouten Kazoku – 04
「大文字納涼船合戦」 (Daimonji Nouryousen Gassen)
“Daimonji Leisure Cruiser Battle”
It’s good to be back, though things on my end are slow to start up. Thanks Asobi for all the wonderful write-ups you’ve done for the series–I could feel your passion for the series! Consequently, as a side effect, I feel the pressure to be just as detailed, so here goes nothing…
While I may not be as experienced with the director’s works, or even P.A. Works in general, I do get the sense of what’s been described these past few episodes. It’s very much true that the character interactions in this show are what make it wonderful and it’s been a pleasure seeing such robust and fresh characters interacting with each other with nuanced implications. Most of these implications enrich the backstory of each individual character, but what fascinates me most is how those same hints have gradually revealed the mystery that is the over-arching setting: the societal lore that governs the interactions between the various factions within fantastical Kyoto–that focus is what I wish to primarily discuss today.
In setting up to discuss today’s episode (aka stalling), the chart above should make the paragraphs easier to follow. If you’re like myself and have a hard time keeping track of a large cast (Yashirou, Yachirou, and Yajirou? Screw that!), this chart should hopefully make it easier to put names to faces and group them appropriately. Before anyone asks, I’m already guessing Kaisei feels more comfortable with the Shimogamo than with her own family–her absence from the Ebisugawa ship has been noted.
This week’s episode, rather than furthering development of any singular character, has opted to further reveal the interactions between Tanuki and Tengu, as well as interactions even within their own societies. The Tengu, despite being rulers of the sky, reveal their prideful nature time and time again; it is a defining feature of Tengu within Japanese lore. Overall, they are mostly well-meaning beings who do not disturb unless provoked, but once somebody starts to step on their pride, the storm goes down. As such, the Tengu in our story’s Kyoto are constantly at odds with each other, with each faction completely unwilling to humble themselves towards each other. It’s not just that Tengu harbor superiority over other races, but instead they seek that birds eye view over everyone. They fight more among one another than between other societies–they might throw some harsh rhetoric towards a Tanuki, but such words receive nowhere near enough backlash as a prideful Tengu would bring. Akadama is the prime example of a typical Tengu, both in his youth and now in his largely helpless old age. Not all Tengu are born equally prideful (see Professor Yodogawa), but man, Akadama sure knows how to pick a fight. The Kurama look just like the FBI and he still thinks to pick a fight? He must’ve been either been amazingly skilled, a die-hard prideful Tengu, or both.
Thankfully, Souichirou of the Shimogamo can tidy up the amazing mess that Akadama brought onto himself during one specific incident, in quite the amazing and overpowered way. It makes you wonder why such a wonderfully powerful Tanuki that can grow the size of a mountain, even earning Akadama’s respect no less, could end up in a hotpot. I’m sure a deeper reason will arise in the next few episodes, but for now, let’s say carelessness was a contributing factor. After all, Souichirou and practically every Tanuki admits to their innate desire to be silly–it’s so ingrained in Tanuki society that it causes just as much bickering as two Tengu forced to share one bottle of wine. With Father Shimogamo no longer Nise-emon, of course Tanuki society would devolve into a mess of careless freedom. Today’s episode was a prime example of how far their antics will go, to the point where it almost looks like full-fledged warfare. I do applaud P.A. Works for framing the Cruiser Battle perfectly through animation–the silliness of a floating tea room and a ship, the cannons bursting abound with colorful fireworks, and of course overpowered fans. All of it was ridiculous, but it was exactly how one would imagine two Tanuki families in the modern era battling it out.
While Tengu and Tanuki culture don’t normally mix together, the most conflict actually occurs within societies rather than between them, giving us important meaning and motivation behind many characters. It explains why Professor Akadama is so willing to teach students (in what exactly?) outside of Tengu society–they’re probably the only students he can stand. It shows why Yachirou is so cautious about provoking anyone so close to the Nise-emon elections–without his father’s ridiculous might to strong-arm Tanuki society in check, he has to resort to subtler means to achieve the unity his father achieved. Heck, it even probably explains why Akadama is so reluctant to go back to his beloved mountain–his pride and poor posture would be laughed at by the Kurama instantly. I love it when series construct a grand and major setting where society dynamics are fleshed out–in this show, the major events may never take the front seat of the series to displace one-on-one character interaction, but it subtly guides the characters’ backstory from afar, revealing a rich world both within the characters and around them.
However, there is one aspect of interaction that hasn’t been completely solidified–why do humans hold so much influence over otherwise superior beings. All the while this battle is taking place, Benten casually goes where she pleases, influencing the outcome from afar without being too involved. She rubs shoulders with the Ebisugawas while also indirectly tormenting a desperate Akadama and a conflicted Yasaburo. As such, next episode, I hope we get answers to the following questions. Why is the Friday Fellows group so feared? Why does Benten have such sway over practically every influential society and group in Kyoto Yasaburo has finally gotten caught for losing that overpowered fan, so hopefully his forced capture by the woman he both loves, fears, and possibly hates at the same time will manifest some answers–a reward that probably all of us are interested in seeing come to light.
Post note: I deliberately capitalize Tengu and Tanuki here, as I like to frame them more as societies rather than common animals and products of lore.
P.S.S.: Random thought: I find Mother Shimogamo’s alternation between crossdressing and her normal wear interesting. It’s as if she’s attempting to fulfill both roles as a parent–both as a strict mother and admirable father–after the death of Souichiro? Just a hypothesis.
Full-length images: 5.