Since the name Hakumen no Mono first passed ominously through our ears, a storm has been brewing, the likes of which the world has seen only in a forgotten history. Nevertheless, doom seeps ever closer as the forces of good lie in chaos, consumed by fear and infighting whilst evil plots. It will not be fun. However, as we are all too aware, there is a calm before any storm. Sure it won’t lessen the impact of what is to follow, but respite must be taken wherever it is available, lest it be too late.
With the deep sea a callin’ and an overall lack of viable options, we begin our journey this week with Ushio and the faux-hostage crew of the Undine making a bee line straight for the most evil creature in all of existence. Laying eyes on the demonic fox-bird that plagues all our nightmares once more, Ushio is made all too aware that Hakumen no Mono is, like, really, really big…and scary…also evil. Though this has all been obvious since the get go, seeing the villain to end all villains calmly smiling whilst embedded in a deep sea rock formation is honestly unsettling. Combined with the various close up shots of Hakumen’s eyes, this episode certainly wishes to drill home the fact that we should be frightened of this creature. Which we are…at least I am. Have you heard that thing’s voice? Creepy, with a capital everything.
Surprisingly enough however, the bulk of this episode is actually rather sweet. With Ushio finally coming face to face with his mother, our usually hyper verbal protagonist is rendered entirely speechless. Despite having whittled down his list of complaints regarding her absence during his childhood, Ushio is unable to even ask her about the miso soup she used to make, a simple question he believed best expressed what he missed about having a mother. Despite this however, Ushio’s mother is too happy to care about her son’s nonsensical stammering and merely spends the time smiling at the child she left behind, after having bowed as a sign of apology and proclaimed that she has no right to be called mother. As you can infer from all of this, this particular reunion is entirely chaotic and speaks to the fact that, despite their relation, these two characters know nothing about each other. Having left when Ushio began to crawl, his mother has no clue as to his personality and, in turn, Ushio can not even remember her face before stepping into her chamber. It’s honestly a pretty real interaction. They don’t gush about their bottled up emotions, they don’t leap into each others arms and cry, they just awkwardly talk because neither has any idea what to do. Ushio even blushes profusely when his mother’s innate protection mode kicks in and she asks him how he got the scar on his forehead. It’s pretty sweet. Especially when Ushio proceeds to show each and every scar on his body in an attempt to dissuade her guilt for not having been there. On a lesser note, this display also showcases just how much Ushio has been through since he picked up the Beast Spear. Kid’s seen some serious action.
What struck me most about this episode however is how quiet it was. With the abyss of the ocean as the backdrop and an overall lack of background music, a sense of emptiness permeates the majority of scenes. This is bolstered by the simple fact that much of Ushio’s words take the form of an internal monologue, whilst his actual dialogue remains brief and fractured. Ushio’s mother only helps this theme when she first appears on screen, facing away from the screen in a sitting position…covered in dust. the sheer implication that she has not moved at all in a time period long enough to gather dust is unbelievably saddening. Her initial lack of contact with the screen also serves to place a physical barrier in a situation where the emotional one was already palpable. That being said, these elements served their purpose well and provided us with a kind of calm that has not been seen in this series for quite some time…even if it was rather short lived.
Having been swept up in his internally tearful reunion, our sweetheart hero entirely forgot about the plethora of torpedoes aimed straight at the pillar in which his mother does her magic thing…until they all hit said pillar in which his mother does her magic thing. This of course leads to an “oh crap” reaction from Ushio and a similar reaction from all of us who wonder why the military only makes a move in fiction when it is absolutely the wrong thing to do. Unless it’s a story about the military, ’cause then they’re awesome. Regardless, the torpedoes all launched as planned and now bid bad Hakumen is free to unleash carnage upon the world because of evil. In order to just rub in how powerful and evil Hakumen is, its first act is to launch each and every submarine that fired at it into the sky and also stab all of the Yokai from the East, who had turned up in some kind of weird Voltron style fusion body in order to fight. So situation most assuredly not normal I would say.
In the recent run of Ushio and Tora, this episode stands out as one of the strangest. With the reunion of Ushio and the mother from which he gets his wicked eyebrows, things took a turn for the slow as emotion took precedent this week. Which I kinda really liked. Sure the series has always combined emotion and action together in a heartwarming way, just take Ushio’s rescue of Asako as an awesome example, but this week opted out of that. With screentime entirely devoted to the aforementioned reunion, there was no choice other than to watch each and every moment of these two characters finally coming face to face. Hell, Hakumen no Mono was omnipresent in the background and no-one could care less. It was honestly just nice to see some people be legitimately happy for once…not that that will last, what with Hakumen beginning its extermination of Earth and all. Man, Earth just cannot catch a break can it?
Ushio and Tora can be found, doing what they do, over on Crunchyroll