Somewhere in the Mutsu province in Tenpou year 14, a group of peasants are praying for their crop when one of them suddenly spots something forming in the distance. It is a giant creature that these peasants call the god of the mountain. Around that time, Ogasawara Houzaburou is told to find a man named Ryuudou Yukiatsu, an Ayashi, for the Bansha Aratamesho group because of the youi threat. It is in this city of Edo that there lives a man called Yuki who works at a bathhouse. One day, he sees a poor woman and child, who have traveled here from Mutsu, begging for food and then getting assaulted for violating the begging rules. Yuki considers doing something, but the group gets broken up by the authorities. These types of people are called fumin and are beggars who have no home and no money. They get a tattoo when they enter the yoseba (a labor camp/ghetto), and they get another one if they try to run away. If they try to escape the yoseba a second time, it’s execution for them. While overhearing the authorities talk about this in the bathhouse, Yuki remembers himself getting a pair of these tattoos. He intentionally reveals his tattoos to them, making them realize that he’s a fumin. After getting thrown around, Yuki tosses water into the boss’s face and runs upstairs. He gets cornered there, but when someone throws a kettle at him, he expertly slices it in half with a wooden ladle. They realize that Yuki must used to have been a samurai, but Yuki claims that he’s not a samurai or a fumin – he’s nothing. With that, he escapes by jumping from the second story and runs away. To himself, Yuki thinks out loud about how the fumin are discriminated against.
Later that night, the owner of the bathhouse is telling a man named Abi about how he might be mistaken since they knew Yuki by that name and not by Yukiatsu. When Abi’s acquaintance Edo Genbatsu comes to check if Abi has learned anything, the bathhouse owner thinks that Genbatsu is a woman, but in actuality, he’s a man. They discuss how Yuki used to be the son of a hatamoto, left home 25 years ago, and how he became a gambler, a thief, and a fumin. What they don’t know is where he is, which is actually by the docks selling worms to fishermen. On his way home, Yuki finds a boy digging through dirt and garbage. The boy doesn’t listen to Yuki telling him that there’s nothing to eat here, so Yuki picks him up and to make him stop. When the boy starts screaming, Yuki puts him back down and the boy starts digging again. The boy’s mother comes by and Yuki recognizes her as the beggar from earlier. The pair live in a makeshift hut and refuse to go to the yoseba because they’ll be found, making Yuki realize that they’re running from something. As Yuki and the mother are talking, the digging boy gets approached by a female with a sword who knows that his name is Ota. Yuki confronts this new person and asks if she’s the one chasing the pair, but the girl reaches for her weapon. Yuki calls her a child and promptly gets in her face to neutralize her. He throws her into the mud and then runs away with Ota. Yuki takes them back to his own one room home, but that night Ota runs off.
As they pursue Ota, the mother explains that Ota is looking for something and can see things. Ota is indeed back to digging, but this time he finds an orange, lava-like liquid coming from the ground. As Yuki and his mother arrive to stop him, Yuki sees the liquid and remembers something similar in a moving wall scroll he saw when he was young. Aside from beautiful flower patterns and moving fish, there had also been a bust of a woman with butterfly wings behind her head. This makes Yuki wonder if he’s being chased again. His friend Kumoshichi explains that the child sees the same thing as Yuki does. It’s the thing that Yuki ran away from – the spirit world. Behind them, a giant youi suddenly appears and gets attacked by the young girl from before named Saizou. She is with Abi, who sends several projectiles into the monster’s neck, but it responds by throwing Abi back with a blast of wind. When Yuki runs up to them, Saizou tells him to go protect the boy and his mother because that’s who the monster is after. Yuki gets in front of the boy, but proceeds to get thrown back into a nearby pond. As the monster approaches Ota, the pond starts to glow and Yuki rises out of it. Words form at his hand as a visualization of his power, allowing him to easily deflect back the charging youi. Saizou recognizes that Yuki is using Ayagami, and Abi figures out that Yuki is the one they’ve been searching for. Meanwhile, watching the events from a nearby boat are three sinister looking characters who discuss how Yuki is getting power from the words. Holding back the youi, Yuki tries to get Ota to run away, but the boy doesn’t respond. Instead, Ota heads for the orange, so Yuki has to stop him. It is at this point that another gigantic youi suddenly appears before them.
ED: 「Winding Road」 by ポルノグラフィティ (Porno Graffiti)
Watch the ED! Mirror 1 Mirror 2 (10.1MB, XviD)
Fairly high profile groups doing the OP and ED here, with ikimono-gakari and Porno Graffiti. The OP is a bit more catchy, but I like listening to the ED more. You can see/hear the full version of the ED on Youtube.
As an introduction episode, this isn’t bad but it’s not great either. It didn’t really get that interesting until the appearance of the youi monsters near the end. But we do get to know most of the main characters, including the five who are to be the Ayashi in the Bansha Aratamesho group. Yuki in particular appears to have both swords training and his Ayagami powers to rely on, but the other members surely have their own special abilities too.
I’d probably characterize the plot here as being split into two parts. On one hand, there are the youi coming from the spirit world chasing after the boy and perhaps Yuki. There’s probably a ton of back-story to be had there. On the other hand, they spent a lot of time talking about the fumin and how they’re discriminated against, so there appears to be a bit of a social message about poverty in this too.
The one thing I’m glad about is that the animation is a lot better than the preview special last week made it look like. I guess I probably shouldn’t be surprised because this is BONES doing production after all. My favorite scene was when young Yuki was looking into that scroll of the fish and the flowers. That images and the music used there were just superb. Anyway, I’m planning on sticking with this series because I expect great things from this timeslot and from BONES. That is, unless I really hate the first set of episodes, but I doubt that’ll happen.