「神獣」 (Kamijū)

If Sengoku Youko had to turn out to be a split cour, a summer premiere is at least the best we could have hoped for. And indeed that’s what we’re getting (it’s not confirmed whether the rest of the series’ two cours will be split, though the consensus is they won’t be). Having come of age as a fan in the era when shows like Sengoku Youko were far more common, multi-cour anime was the norm and split cours almost unheard of. So maybe I’m spoiled. The production committee system has taxed studio capacity far more than it ever was in those days, and if this is what it takes for Sengoku to get the adaptation it – and Mizukami Satoshi – deserve, then so be it. If there’s one think Mizukami fans have plenty of practice at, it’s waiting.

Still, that, as Mr. Petty said, is the hardest part. And that’s because as good as this cour was, Sengoku Youko really hasn’t started yet. This was the prologue, now we can begin the real series. But summer will need great anime too, and this will certainly be that. And the topic at hand is the prologue, because it does deserve some praise in its own right. It may be out of alignment with the general anime fan zeitgeist in 2024, but it’s a classic of a type of anime we just don’t see much anymore. And it’s the first time a Mizukami work has ever been properly adapted. That alone ensures that “Yo Naoshi Kyoudai-hen” will always have a special place in my heart.

The finale is something of a melee, as Episode 12 was, but the main focus here is on Yazen’s battle with Jinka. And while no one could argue that Jinka’s eventual fate was anything but mostly self-inflicted, Yazen being as tough as he is was undeniably a big part of the problem. Nine tails beats seven where spiritual power is concerned, and ultimately both these guys are the same thing here – spiritually enhanced humans. But Yazen has Kuzunoha in his corner, and she’s been around a few more corners than her daughter to say the least. One gets the idea that the mother-daughter bond here isn’t exactly close.

Whether Tama likes it or not (not), the aburaage really didn’t fall far from the tree. Each of them loves a human desperate to become more powerful. Tama couches her love in terms of loving the entire human race, but when cornered by Kuzunoha it’s Genzou whose name she drops – the human man who raised her (and Jinka’s father). A katawara raised by a human in love with a human raised by a katawara – it’s a tale as old as time. Tama maintained her love for both races, while Jinka harbored a deep resentment towards humans. As such he always strove to become a katawara, while Tama never longed to become human.

Any way you look at is, Jinka feasting on Taizan’s flesh in order to raise his spiritual power was a very bad idea. In doing so he unleashed something he lacked the power to contain. And wily old Yazen, in goading him on, accelerated its unleashing (but he was really only concerned with making his escape – along with his lover). Sure, Jinka got his two additional tails and (briefly) gained the upper hand against Yazen. But that old bastard knows every trick in the book and a bunch that aren’t, psychological and otherwise. If Shinsuke hadn’t intervened things would have gone worse for Jinka a lot sooner.

This is such a revolting development that even the Mountain Goddess is in no mood to stick around and deal with it. She just wants to get Rinzu out of there before Jinka fully transforms and “strips all life from this land”. And there’s someone else with a vested interest here too – those same hooded figures we saw last week, who intentionally or otherwise threw the Douren fight in Jinka’s favor. Jinka still has those willing to stand by his side even as he descends into madness – Shinsuke and Tama, and Rinzu would have too if not crowed away by Yama no Kami. But when Tama transforms into an enhanced version of her katawara form, it’s clear to her that all she can do is stay by his side. She can’t bring him back.

Sadly, Rinzu – with all the good intentions in the world – deprives her even of that when she uses soul calling to spirit Tama and Shinsuke away from the scene. But not before Tama pledges herself to Jinka eternally, whatever he’s become. She does love him, to be sure (that whole sibling thing never really fooled anybody). But he’s lost to her now, and even to Yama no Kami, whose shikigami at the scene are destroyed and who loses all sight of Jinka. Even a Goddess is in terror of what that is, and indeed only one might someday be strong enough to stop Jinka from bringing death and darkness to the world – one who the Goddess has the power to set free to resume his own journey…

The lessons of this denouement are pretty clear. The pursuit of power for its own sake doesn’t lead to anything remotely good. The game just escalates because there’s always somebody stronger out there – whether you’re just taking baby steps like Shinsuke, or a master of puppets like Yazen. They’ve all paid a price for it, and others will be the ones who have to try and pick up the pieces. But then, no one is perfect – we all make mistakes, often doozies. The real test is whether one is capable of learning and growing from them.


  1. What an episode; I didn’t expect Jinka to become some monstrosity. I knew Jinka’s hatred for Yazen ran deep, but I didn’t expect Jinka to let his rage consume him till the anger hid his conscience. I can’t imagine how Tama feels right now, and I blame Kuzunoha entirely. That mischievous vixen of a mother, if she didn’t instigate all this, Tama, Jinka, and Shinsuke would have thwarted Yazen’s plans. Speaking of which, oh man, Shinsuke isn’t looking so hot.


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