People really need to vett their sources before they authorise a complete tactical bombardment of a stone pillar. Okay fine, it isn’t easy to perform a background check on a spirit that has lived for aeons, but still, an attempt should be made. In this particular case, we find Hakumen no Mono pulling a fast one on the JASDF by convincing them that attacking is the only course of action to save the future. Obviously this is wrong. Even ignoring the Hakumen part, these guys aren’t even close to being main characters, there’s no way they’re going to end this fight. Geez, anime life would be so much easier if people just realised that only the primary cast has any true impact on events, especially if their names are in the title.
In addition to the aforementioned trickery, this episode crams a whole lot of moving gears into the Ushio and Tora machine. Starting with the simplest first, Asako has finally regained conciousness despite what were once horrific burns covering her body. Thanks to a little kappa magic, these are mostly healed, at least to the point where she is able to shamble out of her hospital bed and down the street because hospital security is terrible and how did she even do that? Seriously, the poor girl is badly hurt, how did nobody see her leave? I know this is far from the point of anything, but it always strikes me as odd how civilians just escape hospitals in fiction. Asako doesn’t even know where she’s going, not specifically at least. Though it is still up in the air whether she truly remembers Ushio, though most signs point to no, she most certainly recalls him leaping into goddamn fire to save her, which is about the ballsiest rescue ever. Confused and most definitely scarred both physically and mentally, all Asako can think to do is find her saviour and try her darndest to figure anything out. Though this entire event takes a decidedly small chunk out of the runtime, it is nice to see the Asako/Ushio thing progressing in its own weird way. I also most certainly hope she resolves at least some of her dealings with Ushio before she finds out that Mayuko is somewhere beneath the Pacific Ocean, because that would not bode well for her recovery.
Jumping from one confused friend to the next, Nagare makes a rather striking return this episode as well. Having not turned to stone, something seemingly in vogue these days, the motorexorcist himself decides to drop a bombshell on poor Ushio; he has switched sides. As this announcement was preceded by the man in question slicing a JASDF vehicle in half, in which Ushio and Tora rode, it was quite obvious that there was some kind of elephant in somebody’s room that needed to be addressed. That being said, nothing was really answered during this exchange. Apart form stating his new allegiance, Nagare gave no more information. No why he did it, no when it happened, no explanation for how he does that really creepy smile thing with his face that Hakumen does, nothing. Now I like a good mystery as much as the next guy, but the pacing of this reveal was just a little off to me. Like why did the JASDF pick up Ushio at all? If a helicopter from H.A.M.M.R was en route, why bother? From a meta sense I ask this as well, why the car ride? Why not just have Nagare turn up at Ushio’s house and then get scared of by the helicopter there? Slicing a jeep in half was awesome sure, but it just seemed like an oddly clustered sequence of events. Also why did the helicopter scare him? He pretty much just murdered a whole bunch of soldiers, what was a helicopter going to do? Shoot him? Dude can stop lightning with a stick, I don’t think he cares about bullets too much.
Speaking of H.A.M.M.R, guess who’s back? If you guessed H.A.M.M.R, you’re right, good job. Yes, everyone’s favourite jerkbag scientists are also back this week to lay down a little more exposition and show how they have softened slightly on their horrific approach to science, because Ushio’s company fixes everyone. Having fended of the Hiyou mind invaders with sweet science hats, Beaker and Bunsen (or whatever their names are) show off their latest toys to a confused, angry and confused Ushio and Tora. After revealing that the Kouhamei Sect and Azafuse turn to stone in order to both remember and prepare for the final battle with Hakumen, which is an oddly recent development in a centuries old conflict if I might add, the two friends (?) gift Ushio with a familiar set of armour; the Stone Eater. Recovered for reasons unknown, possibly for this moment, this former enemy is now a near-inert set of battle armour designed for Ushio to wear into battle. Neat. Surprisingly enough, Ushio actually does utilise said armour within the episode. Now, call me cynical if you will, but this stuff hardly ever plays out this way in other series, or even this series for that matter. The idea of armour for Ushio was first brought up in the first episode of this season. Designed by the Yokai themselves, this suit was swiftly rescinded along with everbody’s memories of our titular hero. As such, I was rather surprised when the Stone Eater suit was donned by Ushio, rather than being destroyed by his would be assailants, or straight up refused due to its nature as a former enemy.Of course, both of these options are still on the table, although with Tora’s new equipment, perhaps it will stick around for a while yet. What’s that? You want to know about Tora’s new equipment? Then allow me to share with you all. Yes friends, our good ol’ tiger demon netted his own set of power armour this episode as well, albeit under very…actually, slightly different circumstances. With Hakumen having figured out that the weakness of those willfully turned to stone was that they could be broken like stone (go figure), a couple of Azafuse-esque minions with dope Cyborg laser visors turn up and do their light based thing. Having been shatter in the ensuing battle, we learn that the Azafuse totem (which is still weird) is able to consciously converse with Tora and, after some truly amazing wheeling and dealing, transform into a suit of armour that provides our stripped buddy with more faces than a clock shop. On the plus side some of those faces shoot lasers of their own, so I think there are more pros than cons on this one.
With all of that combat aside, the episode wraps up with an oddly sweet moment that comes a little out of left field. Having rescued them from the crumbling remains of his home (which was lasered to death), Ushio reminisces over his treasures. Having accrued them over the year since he met Tora, it serves as a nice reminder that people’s lives have been changed by the actions of these kinda-heroes. It also reminds us that Ushio is super into art, a fact that kind of got lost amongst the world ending threats that plague his daily life. The segment from left field however is the one that follows this. Travelling to the basement where it all began, Ushio finds Tora looming in the dark, pondering the first human he’s seen in 500 years. To his credit, Ushio immediately picks up what Tora is putting down and the two re-enact their first meeting. It’s quirky, it’s unexpected, but it’s a nice way to reinforce the bond between these two characters. The promise Tora made way back in the day to fight the Yokai invading Ushio’s house also doubles as a battle cry, as the two prepare to stop the military from freeing the most evil evil who ever eviled from being released once more.
As a whole, this episode was…a bit of a mess. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, however when compared to the previous episodes of this season, it seemed to lack a little direction. Or rather, it wanted to head in too many directions at once. Whilst the armour acquisition was pretty neat, the speed of succession in which both battle buddies suited up was a little swift. With Tora donning his brethren, the impact of Ushio wearing his own armour, let alone the fact that it was the Stone Eater, was diminished. Though I like that both chose to accept the power of others in order to get stronger, the proximity in which they chose to each other robbed the moment of some of its magic. The segments with Asako and Nagare also add to the chaos of this episode and feel as if they don’t receive enough time in their own right. Okay, Asako’s segment was fine, but Nagare’s seemed random at best. It’s all just a bit of an adjustment following the solid story driven episodes that we’ve seen thus far. Here’s hoping that this all leads us down a path to awesomeness for next week. Although something tells me the JASDF might not listen to an impossibly long haired boy wielding a spear and riding some kind of tiger man….
Ushio and Tora can be found, doing what they do, over on Crunchyroll