「有馬地獄」 (Arima Jigoku)
“Arima Hell”

Seems like the wrong tanuki got sent to Hell there…

There’s an odd element to Uchouten Kazoku, one that’s only occasionally acknowledged openly but most of the time lurks as the elephant in the room, a kind of unsettling and puzzling presence. I’ve noted in the past that the tanuki in this series are often very human, and the Kyoto they inhabit now so different than the one we humans do – it works very well as a usage of fantasy to illuminate the nature of reality. But when it comes to this whole hot pot thing, tanuki in Uchouten Kazoku are very alien.

The rather nonchalant attitude tanuki seem to have about this whole Friday Club thing is strange. The impression one gets is that they acknowledge that occasionally being eaten in a hot pot is just an integral part of tanuki existence, like acting deferential towards tengu and generally playing the fool. But the idea that Yasaburou can be friendly with someone who’s part of a social club that feasts on his own kind is hard to accept in human terms – that his own beloved father was a victim makes it that much more inconceivable. He’s in love with Benten of course, in his adolescent way – but even so, it’s only the most stark example of a larger phenomenon that represents one of this series’ most opaque plot threads.

The Friday Club is still very much a factor in Uchouten Kazoku, though they’ve been only rarely mentioned this season. They’ve decided, apparently, to revenge themselves against Yadogawa-sensei for rebelling against them and starting the Thursday Club. They’ve gotten him kicked out of the university (Tenmaya seems to be behind that) on a trumped-up sexual harassment charge, though the curious old professor is undaunted and unfazed by that (he’s gone off to live in the woods and hunt wild boar with one of his students. He does leave behind a message for Yasaburou – the Friday Club is meeting in Arima Onsen (a famous onsen village above Kobe – I was there once).

Yasaburou’s constant companion in Arima (once he’s out of the baths anyway) is Kaisei, disguising herself as a variety of postage receptacles and a sugar bowl. Kaisei is increasingly unable to hide her irritation at what she sees as Yasaburou’s infatuation with Benten. Her whole family (and I do mean all of them) are in Arima, and that includes the reprehensible Sooun, making his first appearance of the season. Not content with having gotten his brother eaten in a hot pot, he’s now apparently schemed his way into the Friday Club and is willing to eat tanuku hot pot himself – yet more evidence of this strange attitude tanuki have towards the phenomenon.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the episode comes when Sooun traps Yasaburou in a painting of Hell. It’s surreal and creepy, but rather funny at the same time. This is “industrial revolution” Hell, seemingly a place oni in deeper and even more unpleasant levels aspire to be promoted to. Tenmaya’s ramen stand is here (though unmanned now) and so is the arena where none other than Benten herself wrestles oni so she can gather their horns (presumably powerful magical items) as penance for losing to her in sumo. And it’s lucky for Yasaburou, too, as it’s only Benten’s presence which allows him to escape the painting.

In a series where good and evil are nuanced constructs, Benten is one of the most vexing elements of all. I suppose one could argue she transcends good and evil (in a way classic femme fatale often do) but for me, she’s almost always bad news. Yes, she finds Yasaburou amusing and as long as she does, can be an ally of sorts to him. But the more he associates with her, the more he risks being cast into a Hell of a different sort sooner or later. Sooun is the clearest villain in this cast, certainly – and he may very well be this season’s big bad just as he was in the first. But it’s Benten who represents Uchouten Kazoku’s most dangerous face, alluring though it may be.




  1. It’s Soun, not Suou! Please fix this 😛

    I’ve grown to like Kaisei a lot more than Benten, and I really hope we’ll get to see more of her (has she even once graced us with her human or tanuki form this season?). Whereas Benten is put on a pedestal by almost every character–tanuki, tengu or human–and treats Yasaburou like her favorite toy, Kaisei is content with anonymously supporting him from the shadows. She has also expressed genuine concern for him as well as guilt on behalf of her father’s actions in season one. Benten, who was directly involved in Yasaburou’s father’s death, believes she does not even owe an apology to him (and Yasaburou being okay with that is as you mentioned kind of disturbing).

    I don’t dislike Benten though even if I strongly disagree with what she finds ethically acceptable.

    On a more general note, these six episodes have been a real treat, and I have almost absolute confidence that the remainder won’t disappoint. This is really the only anime in the past year to make me grin uncontrollably whenever a new episode becomes available.

  2. Without remorse nor regret, now the fat idiot tanuki becomes a freaking cannibal of a group where he practically sold his brother. The symbolism of this show is really doting on the ugly side of real life issues. Whether it be for sheer greed or desparation, people can and will do anything.

  3. The impression one gets is that they acknowledge that occasionally being eaten in a hot pot is just an integral part of tanuki existence

    Well, that is exactly what mom Shimogamo tells her sons back in episode 2 of the original series.

      1. I think it boils down to one thing. for all their smarts and trickery tanuki are not human. no matter how much we project our own emotions and how much they emulate the human form. it stills boil down to this. Tanuki are not human. and I think this highlights it the most. in the wild the prey does not resent the predator, it will still try it’s best to get away but ultimately it is part of nature. to deny that its to deny the very nature of what a tanuki is. and while it is sad to an horrible extent. it is also part of life. Tanuki understand this and choose to not let it shackle their lives. (certain frog in a well not withstanding). for a shackled Tanuki is anathema to what they represent. a free wild spirit.

        Then again this is probably just me reading to much into it. just take it as my fools blood playing a trick on you 😀

  4. So Benten, a human female taught tengu magic of flying, can wrestle demons because anything she touches with tengu magic becomes weightless.

    I just thought I’d throw this in there to explain how Benten was tossing 200-lb+ male demons around like they’re pillows.

    As to the why she’s there – I have no idea.


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