「有頂天家族」 (Uchouten Kazoku)
“The Eccentric Family”
What a spectacular ending. Just lovely. P.A. Works, you’ve done a good job on delivering a very satisfying ending to a very unique series. Congratulations on completing another series! *the party ball falls* It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to a series that has treated its viewers well to the very end. The slowly unraveling plots, the constant character development, and the sheer deadpan absurdity, all of it will be missed.
First, I applaud the episode for clearly illustrating the true power of the Friday Fellows–nothing, really. Through tradition, scare tactics, and just being human, the Friday Fellows were a group that could do as it pleased without opposition. However, in reality they held no power, where the only opposition the Friday Fellows could offer were some harsh words, heckling, and the repeated use of, “Shut up!” Though they are quite an intimidating group to be shouted at, once the smoke clears and someone has the guts to actually oppose them, the whole image of their power falls to pieces. As Stilts would put it, their realpolitik shattered thanks to well…basic decency.
Hotei, with his love for Tanuki, was most likely a confused soul trying to reconcile his love for Tanuki and his involvement with the Friday Fellows. To eat is to love, he claims, but to not eat is also a way to love. Beforehand, Hotei was probably aware of this second option to love dearly, but the confusion from his moral dilemma in justifying killing overshadowed this. However, since Mother Yasaburou is loved so much by many, it gave Hotei the eyes necessary to see that well…not eating your love is a good way to love them as well, and that no one should force you to make the choice.
These chains of events start to mix with the other rooms though, which brings me to my second point–I love the way that Tanuki and Tengu are portrayed to the very end. The Tanuki will always be idiotic (even when trying to escape, they can’t hold a transformation long enough to open a door), and the Tengu will always be hot-headed and ‘high and mighty’. Oh yes, there are many exceptions to this rule, such as the stealthy Kaisei and other calmer Tengu professors, but as a whole, each race cannot remove the traits that pervade their blood. It is the story’s perfect blending of these ridiculous traits into human behavior that makes for some interesting character interactions, especially when races collide. In fact, everyone gets blown away by the whole fiasco…heh heh. In all seriousness, seeing each of the races interact with one another and even influence one another was a beautiful thing to see. To see Professor Akadama act soft yet brash around the Tanuki he cares about, to see Yasaburo keep his cool even in the face of a hotpot, to see Benten freak everyone out–it all was surreal yet at the same time plausible and thought provoking. If there was a world out there with irrational Tanuki and loud Tengu, I’m sure it’d be close to the world that Uchouten Kazoku has painted.
Finally, I wish to point out Benten and Yasaburo, whose thought processes and past still remain a mystery to this day. Though I could start forming new hypotheses about them now that the show is over, without a clear sight into the events that brought them to the present, it’d be mostly for moot. Instead, I give the series a thumbs up for making these two characters a sight to see, while also giving us leeway to make our own conclusions about their behavior. With Benten switching back from the Friday Fellows to a more positive group of people and Yasaburou wishing for a small amount of glory for his family, it’s clear that while these two characters are wildly different, their desire for an interesting and exciting life is the same. Where Benten actively chases and catalyzes the events necessary for an interesting life, such a life conveniently finds itself into Yasaburo’s daily activities without any effort on his part. Where Benten will conveniently save the day and grant mercy when the time arises (except for when it came to Souichirou, a puzzling aspect I still can’t figure out), Yasaburo has to resort to sly diplomacy and constantly walk a tightrope to keep his family together. However, the concept of an interesting life binds these two together, making for a very unlikely, unorthodox, but strangely fitting couple. Though I do cheer for Kaisei to show her face one day to Yasaburo, the human and the Tanuki seem a better fit, despite how Benten may not admit it.
As for flaws…there aren’t many if you think about it. Some people did complain about Yajirou’s sudden jump out of the well thanks to alcohol, but I think that the circumstance of a family in danger is a good enough catalyst to have alcohol do its job. Now, this show isn’t for everyone, that is unarguable–the show is a bit slower paced and less action-filled than most–but in terms of actual flaws, not much can be found. Things could’ve only gotten better with a longer story, but what we’ve been given here is just great in itself. Every character is fleshed out appropriately, the story expands at a constant pace, and by golly, the show made me laugh so many times during the end, more times than most comedies do. Uchouten Kazoku is a special gem that doesn’t come around often, exploring the themes of family, non-romantic love, and the morality of eating anyone. It expanded a side of Kyoto that is charming in its presentation as well as the eccentric lifestyle that each person faces. It was all like a Ghibli movie, except in episodic form, which served the story nicely–never was there a moment that the storyboard seemed force from an awkward transition to the screen.
While it’s not going to make any AOTY’s anytime soon, I’m sure all of us who have made it to the end have a special place for Uchouten Kazoku for this year in anime. It sought to tell a story of fantastical Kyoto and family, and it did it excellently. Thank you dear reader for following along to the end, and I hope to see you guys next season as well!