「虎は死んで皮を残す」 (Tora wa Shinde Kawa o Nokosu)
“A Tiger May Die, But It Leaves Its Skin”
I wasn’t emotionally prepared for this how wholesome Ushii’s relationship with Tora was going to be! There was reason to believe that she was angry at Ushii because of something standard like vengeance, but I didn’t expect it to be because she wanted him to recognize her after he helped her improve herself. Although Tora fell into her vices hard, having Ushii be the one to aid her in rediscovering the “Bu” and “Michi” that had vanished does justice for both character by making them complex and multi-faceted.
It says a lot about Tora in particular, who comes to realize that she needed to face the emotional turmoil she is in, and the fact that her drinking did very little in hiding the sadness she was trying to drown out. However, many of her actions throughout the Zodiac War hint at how susceptible she is to breaking. After working so hard to shape up and make amends with her callous sensei to participate in the War, she is distraught by Ushii not recognizing who she is. From that point forward, she’s spent her time in the War angrily attempting to track him down only to get distracted by the city’s alcohol that she was more than happy to indulge in. Ushii’s forgetfulness possibly sparked the desperation that lead her to taking up drinking in the first place.
And then, you have the events in this episode that lead up to her demise. Tora jumped in front of Usagi’s knife, knowing he could’ve parried it with ease and that trying to take the stab for him would only get her killed. Later, when she had the chance to tell him who she was, and how much he meant to her, she sabotaged that by lying about never meeting and only wanting to challenge him because he looked cocky. Tora’s decisions in this episode were infuriating based on how easily her death could’ve been prevented and how she could’ve at least had him recognize who she was in her last moments. At the same time, the way Tora kept talking about how pursuing her own desires wasn’t her speed hinted that she didn’t feel like she deserved to get the closure she would’ve wanted. Telling him who she was or asking for a kiss seemed like requests that she felt weren’t her style, so doing things her way meant a tragic end paralleled with the pure luck of having Ushii deliver the final blow.
While Tora was the most emotionally compelling person in this episode, Ushii won a ton of brownie points for giving us insight on the emotional core and nurturing side to his character. I was extremely worried that Ushii was going to stab her along with the soldiers in her flashback, but seeing him show concern for Tora’s safety and health was a relief. On top of that, he was reassuring about her convictions, outlining his personal ethos about accomplishing goals and acknowledging the responsibility one should have when doing the wrong thing. Additionally, the unease he had about Tora sacrificing herself and requesting for him to deliver the finishing blow shows that he’s not always as composed as he comes off. The nobility he shows in honoring debts and duels is one thing, but his emotional range in this episode went far beyond how we’ve seen him up to this point. His role in helping Tora reignite the spark she once had, and tending to her after trying to rush her to safety adds a layer to depth to him as he isn’t merely the cold warrior who has killed systematically throughout the Zodiac War.
With Tora gone, we only have Nezumi, Ushii, Usagi’s zombified body parts, and Zombie Shuryuu left in the game. Those who predicted that Usagi wasn’t going to be killed that soon were right on the money, but it is baffling how Usagi would even be able to fulfill his wish if he were to win it in pieces. Nezumi popping up out of nowhere is all, but guaranteed, though I am wondering how everything is going to go down with all of the strongest combatants now pitted against each other.