「天狗の血 阿呆の血」 (Tengu no Chi Aho no Chi)
“Tengu’s Blood, Fool’s Blood”
That was certainly an ep that had a little of everything – in fact I’d say it had a lot of everything, like a nabe overstuffed with everything from the pantry and the fridge besides (as long as it’s not stuffed with tanuki, it’s fine by me). Pretty much every plot thread that had been dangling this season got tangled up, and while there wasn’t really anything resolved (there’s the finale still to come, and of course the novels are still ongoing) it certainly set the table (as long as there’s no tanuki on it, it’s fine by me) for a blockbuster final episode next week.
Some of this stuff you could see coming like an Eizan (real or false) Electric Railway car speeding up from Shikoku, while others were pretty much out of left field. I certainly didn’t expect to see Yashiro’s lab tied into the plot this way, through an explosion that appears to have been staged as a means for Kinkaju to “discover” evidence that it was in fact the Shimogamo that killed Soun. Given that we pretty much knew that the Ebisugawa Kureichirou we’ve been looking at is a fake, it seems impossible not to conclude that everything from the moment Yashiro was given that lab in the first place was part of an elaborate setup.
This episode was really about the Ebisugawa clan more than anything – about their perpetual scheming, yes, but also the divisions within their own family. Given what we now know (thanks to Yajirou heroically zipping home with the real Kureichirou in tow) – that “Kureichirou” was in fact Soun, who faked his own death – it seems the key question is “who knew what, and when did they know it?” It’s probably a safe bet that Kaisei wasn’t in on any of this; a good bet (though not a lock, I think) that Kinkaju has been in on it since the beginning. But Ginkaju appears to have been left out of it – at the very least, he has some sympathy for Yashiro and Tousen, and doubts about whether they could really do what Kinkaju accuses them of. And when Kaisei turns up missing (Ginkaju finds her “elopement” note) Ginkaju seems likely to turn to Tousen for help.
Who’s one wild card in this deck? The real Kureichirou himself, of course – though one suspects he’s not entirely sympathetic to the schemes of his father. There was a reason he left home in the first place, of course, and he was willing to accompany Yajirou back once he heard he was being impersonated (and had probably figured out by who). Then there’s Tenmaya, who – if the “shooting” at the Kinyoubi Club was a ruse – was in cahoots with Soun as well. But Tenmaya is a trickster, and he has no loyalty to anyone but himself – when he “sold” the Nidaime’s gun to Soun (so he could plant it as evidence) he sold him a fake.
This is the curse that follows Soun through all his schemes – the castles he builds are always made of sand, and he has no true friends anywhere in the world, only allies of convenience. The one element of all this that really saddens me is that Soun’s death was all a sham – because it was rather sad and beautiful, I thought. Was it really so important to him to be trick magister, that he would go to these lengths and condemn another of his extended family to the pot? Clearly, yes – because clearly, the hatred Soun feels towards Souichirou’s family is so ingrained now that it’s impossible to say where the hatred ends and the man begins.
There are all kinds of interesting Easter eggs scattered through this episode (like Kureichirou telling Yajirou that it was his father that named the little girl he met in Kincho – “Seiran”). And there’s the wonderful father’s day gift of a dream conversation between Yasaburou and Souichirou, full of all the sardonic warmth and tenderness that imbues all the relationships in the Shimogamo clan. But urgent matters win the day – Yasaburou and Kaisei are about to be cooked after all (I assume the latter was not part of Soun’s scheme), and Yaichirou tosses aside the matter of the Trick Magister election to go and save his brother. He’s beaten to the punch, though, by the heroic Yodogawa-sensei – (poorly) disguised as “Pompko Kamen“. He manages to get the ball rolling, at least, though if Yaichirou and Gyokuran hadn’t showed up in tiger form it’s hard to imagine all that would have ended well.
Finally, we have the two jokers in the deck – the Nidaime and Benten, whose roles in the denouement are yet to be determined. Do I judge Benten less harshly because she sheds tears over devouring Yasaburou? No, more harshly if anything – her crocodile tears mean nothing when help up against her actions. As for Nidaime, one imagines he’s going to be rather cross – Soun’s scheme was, ultimately, an attempt to put one over on him, as the arbiter of the election. And when Kinkaju presents the fake gun to him, he realizes he’s been used as part of an elaborate hoax by Soun. I won’t go so far as to say Nidaime feels any loyalty to Yasaburou per se (though he might), but he certainly sees himself as a gentleman and a man of honor – an honor which has been besmirched by all this ugliness. He’s going to have his say next week, you can bet on that – and my bet is that his goal will be to restore some integrity and dignity to tengu-tanuki society.
Talk about a multi-layered story. It’s been a while since I’ve actively wanted to see the next episode now, and not a week from now. Let’s all make sure there aren’t any earthquakes or Golden Weeks so that we can see the conclusion before July!
The problem I have with Kaisei is that she was the last one to see Soun after his “death”. So did she help him cover things up? For that matter how did they manage a dead body for Soun?
You bring up a good point that she was the last one to see his body, assuming that was really his body and not some illusion by Tenma. However, I don’t think she is in on this. I believe that she was truthful when she said she was getting suspicious her long lost brother’s behavior last episode which apparently was spot on because it was her father in disguise. I do think that Soun sent Tenma after Yasaburo to get him out of the way and the fact Kaisei was there was probably not have been planned. Though if it was it would be because Soun noticed she was on to his disguise and manipulated her to go see Yasaburo around the same time Tenma was going out to get him.
I’d say she was simply fooled. Kaisei clearly knows nothing about it and thought her father had died. She probably called for her brothers and I’d say at that point at least one of the twins knew of the deception.
My inkling is also that she was fooled – she just doesn’t seem like the type to have been in on something like this.
I don’t know if I’d call Benten crying over him “crocodile tears”. Benten is many things: malicious, vengeful, whimsical, twisted – every bit a creature of her captive upbringing. But, when it comes to Yasaburou it would be a mistake to call her insincere.
To Benten, he’s quite possibly her only true friend. He’s the one she grew up with when she was stolen from her friends and family. The one who helped her deliver a comeuppance on Akadama in the Demon King Cedar incident. The one she still has the most fun with…
However, she’s trapped herself within increasingly bad decisions that have spiraled downwards ever since she learnt power. Now, if she’s to be seen as the villain – even cast out and discarded in favour of an outsider by her only friend – she will play the role to the end. Because she’s human, and that’s what humans do, right? Yasaburou has never understood how much that comment hurts her.
That said, I’d never debate an argument that Benten’s long past that point where she can only be seen as the victim here. There are too many harmful actions under that bridge for it to hold…
I have to give you credit for what I consider an insightful description of Benten. I think she follows her own code, but it’s just one that humans and tanuki would agree with or possibly even understand. She’s a unique creature (though I suspect Nidaime is human too) who no longer totally fits in either tengu or human worlds.
One thing I think gets missed a lot of the time is that there’s a lot of history here and much of it is only alluded to or depicted from one person’s point of view. So, much is left to be interpreted and we can only use the little hints we’re given. With Benten, it’s very much about picking up what pushes her buttons and the moments where she falls out of character.
If you look at the key events so far – from Benten’s relationship with Akadama and Souichirou, to the exact details of what led to the final night of the latter’s life or, this season, what the nature of the feud between Akadama and the Nidame actually is – we don’t have the full story yet. Even the Demon King Cedar incident is something we only really know the outcome of and have a few hints from season 1 and 2 as to what/why it might have happened.
Book/Season 3 anytime now….
Soun’s death brough dignity to his character. For such a hateful tanuki, it’s only fitting that he would squander that too.
In the end, everything goes back to him. In the great scheme of things of Uchouten Kazoku, even the Friday Club are just a bunch of amoral sharks, and Benten is the goddess beyond good and evil. But Soun? He’s the one who turns others into bait and is willing to use his own family and betray every value of tanuki society as long as he can satisfy his petty ego.
Looking forward to the conclusion. Sadly, I guess we won’t have more Uchouten Kazoku for a while. As far as I know, “the novels are still ongoing” only means that there’s a third novel planned, but the anime has already covered the first two. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes 5 or so years for the next season to appear.
Massive respect for Yaichirou for that little speech while ditching the election. It was done so well.
Especially with Gyokuran joining him. I was like “OMG, marry her already..oh right, that already was the plan. Good.”
As for Yasaburou, he really does know how to get on a (not)tengu’s good side. I’d expect for Nidaime to not specifically ask where he was if he didn’t care.
Also why are Ginkaku and Kinkaku written like Ginkaju and Kinkaju?
Uh…..the Kaisei we see during Soun’s death might not be the real Kaisei. Remember, tanuki is pretty resourceful, and remember that Yasaburo has never seen her for a long time till after Soun’s “fake” death.