Uchouten Kazoku 2 – 02
OP: 「成るがまま騒ぐまま」 (Nasugamama, Sawagumama) by (milktub)
「幻術師 天満屋」 (Genjutsu-shi Tenmaya)
There’s only one real downside to another season of Uchouten Kazoku for me, and that’s that it’s so adept at depicting the magic of Kyoto (and its love for the place so obvious) that I get a wrenching pain every time I’m reminded of just how much I miss it. Kyoto’s absence from my life feels like a part of my soul is ripped away, that’s how dear that place is to me. If you’ve never been there, all I can tell you is this – The Eccentric Family may be fanciful, but once you’ve experienced Kyoto you’ll find yourself thinking this story might not be as far-fetched as it seems.
I enjoyed last week’s premiere, certainly, but this episode more fully re-captured the special magic of the first season. It’s hard to describe the allure of Uchouten Kazoku in words (as is so often the case with great anime), but part of it is that this show simply feels like no other out there. The narrative style is so free-form, the whimsy so infectious and comprehensive, the – for lack of a better word – eccentricity so vastly entertaining. This is a serious story to be sure, but it also has a calming and uplifting sense to it. It reminds me of the words of FLCL mangaka Ueda Hajime: “To be a boy is to be a fool. And to be a fool is pure bliss.”
Things started off on a great foot this week with the new OP, which is wondrous-good both musically (I think I’ve loved every anime theme milktub has ever done) and visually. And we jump right into the story with the conclusion of the “fight” between Akdadama-sensei and the Nidaime, and the re-introduction of Kaisei. As usual she’s not letting herself be seen by Yasaburou, but it’s little Yashiro who asks the pointed question – “When are you two going to get married?” And the equally pointed “Well – what’s stopping you now that Sōun is gone?” This is complicated, what with Yasaburou being hopelessly in love with Benten (as is Akadama), which Kaisei is well aware of. But it promises to be a recurring thread for the rest of the series, I would think.
We also meet Yadogawa-sensei again this week, but the major introduction is a new one – Tenmaya (Shimada Bin). We first meet him as he’s plopped a ramen stand on top of a building in Teramachi (one of my regular haunts – oh, the agony…). And he pulls a pretty good one on Yasaburou, who’s been hired to shoo Tenmaya away. Ysaburou tries to spook Tenmaya with a transformation into a bear, but the latter bewitches the former, causing him to lose all sense of his true self. Disaster is only averted when Kaisei suggests they throw Yasaburou into the Kamo River to shock him back to his senses.
In the wake of the fallout of Sōun’s betrayal, Yadogawa-sensei has been banned from the Friday Club, but a new “Thursday Club” is born – a “protest against tanuki hotpots”. It’s held at the studio of Ayameike-sensei, an old man (at least he appears as a man) who imagines himself a frog in a well and paints masterworks of varying themes. Tenmaya-san is a member of this club too – he brings a Hanzaki (Japanese giant salamander) for the pot, an animal almost as rare and mystical as the tanuki itself. Tenmaya is an entertaining trickster, but he has a habit of rubbing folks the wrong way. After a run-in with him on the way home, Yasaburou sneaks back to ask Ayameike about Tenmaya, and is told he emerged from a painting of Hell in which he’d been asked to paint the Buddha – having climbed a spider’s thread and escaped from Hell (and the painting).
It seems a safe bet Tenmaya is going to be one of the major MacGuffins of the season, especially in light of Yasaburou’s comment at the end of the ep about how the age of humans tricking tanuki has arrived. It’s not clear just who or what Tenmaya is, but if one chose to infer any foreshadowing based on the original “Spider’s Thread” story by Akutagawa Ryuunosuke, there’d certainly be ample fodder there. The best thing to do with Uchouten Kazoku, really, is just to embrace the strange wonder of it all and be gently carried along with it. There’s no experience in anime quite like it, and experiencing it again is a powerful reminder of just how much I’ve missed it.