Mystery is an alluring concept. If somethings exists in a form not entirely understood, people will endeavour to know the truth. Finally, after thirty four weeks, give or take a seasonal break, we have definitive answers as to the secrets that lie within our tiger striped deuteragonist. From Azafuse, to Nagatobimaru, we now know that our lovable tsundere yokai began life bearing neither of those names, rather, he was known as the Cursed Child and his name was Shagakusha.
Okay, we’re finally here. The answer train has pulled into the station and we now know the horrible past that Tora was forced to endure. Having been born in what I assume is ancient Egypt, Shagakusha lived as a street urchin, scraping by through acts of thievery and violence. You see, on the day of his birth, a violent ball of energy feel to Earth and resulted in the deaths of all but baby Shagakusha. Naturally, it was the town’s consensus to shun him as a Cursed Child and turn their heads in the hope that he would just kinda die and the problem would solve itself. Real classy not-specifically-stated-ancient-Egypt. Obviously he didn’t die and eventually rose to the ranks of general or something because joining the military and killing things gave him a warm fuzzy feeling…in his shoulder. This notably strikes Ushio as weird who, just so you know, was witnessing Shagakusha’s life through his eyes because of some mystical magical power the shards of the Beast Spear possess because, surprise yet again, the spear isn’t dead. Who’da thunk? Regardless, this is how the episode allows both Ushio and the rest of the useful cast (Mayuko, Mama Ushio, kid-in-hat-with-scythe) to learn the truth all at once, with future-travelling-mirror-guy relaying the past, despite their separation by the ocean. Which nobody seems fussed by. Like, at all. Not once to they say, “Hey, shouldn’t we see if Ushio is alive? I’m pretty sure he’s survived worse.” Nope. they just kinda gather around for story time. Oh well, magic shards are flying him back to the surface anyway, so no harm no foul…unless he gets the bends. That thing is really dangerous.
Anyway, back to our story already in progress, Shagakusha finds a lovely young lady and an energetically cute boy and the three begin to connect in that special way were you know they are immediately going to die…and then they die. Turns out one body can not stop and amount of arrows that would block out the sun, though definite points for trying not-yet-Tora…sorry about your love interest. Regardless, the real meat of the episode comes when we discover that the pain in proto-Tora’s shoulder was actually Hakumen no Mono and the pain he felt was the weird little fox-bird-horse feeding, growing stronger, all so it could gloriously burst free and kill everything, because being an incorporeal force of malice just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Seriously, that’s legitimately the reason. Hakumen is so evil that literally being evil itself wasn’t evil enough, so it eviled its way into some kid’s heart and proceeded to feed off evil until it was evil enough to be physically evil and evil all over the place…evil. Oh, Hakumen also cursed soon-to-be-Tora to live forever (because evil) and for 800 years our almost-tsundere friend wandered the world, killing stuff until he found the Beast Spear. Also he had some kind of stretchy arm and was fully aware that Ushio was riding shotgun through the big moments in his life. It was kinda weird. But at least we know who Tora is now…
…and that is where I take a bit of a backstep. I am not entirely a fan of this new revelation, it’s all too…neat. When we started the series, part of Ushio and Tora’s charm was that they were two mismatched allies fighting a cadre of evil monsters. Real supernatural buddy cop stuff. When we learned of Ushio’s connection to Hakumen, it helped explain why the Beast Spear was even in Ushio’s basement, as well as how his father knew what he did. The truth of the Azafuse was a little coincidental, but it raised questions about how tora came to be on the receiving end of the spear he once wielded, as to why he ever wielded it in the first place. Now we fin that Tora was the incubator for Hakumen no Mono…yeah. Everything is just too connected. We all knew that tora held a grudge against Hakumen, something far more personal than the vague threats of destruction, but this? I’m just not feeling it. If Tora was the first human to ever stand up to Hakumen? I could get behind that. But to have created it? It just really drives home the point that Ushio and Tora are the only characters that matter. Hell, any doubts in our mind were alleviated by the sudden appearance of Guren, who was revealed to have committed every evil we though Tora did, like killing a certain exorcist’s family. Which isn’t bad per say just…neat.
The most interesting concept of this episode was alluded to only briefly, in the dying moments of lovable scamp Raama. Having spent his whole life hating and killing, Shagakusha perceived those around him as evil and untrustworthy, having changed their opinion of him simply because he was now useful to them. However, if Raama truly spoke for the citizens, they held him in a much higher regard than he ever knew. Having seen Shagakusha stand up to protect them from invading forces despite their treatment of him, they came to think of him as noble and altruistic. It was a brief exchange, but it was one that highlighted how perception can be all that stands between good and evil (unless you’re Hakumen). Had he realised sooner how his own actions had changed the world around him, perhaps Hakumen would never have been born. Additionally, it serves as a nice little link between Shagakusha and Ushio’s ineffectiveness when trying to deal with situations through hate. Clever. Though I still retain the opinion that Ushio’s rage was not unjustified. Not that that matters anymore, what with the flashback and all. Shonen heroes people, one dream sequence and their fury is replaced by friendship and love…hooray.
Anywhen, we now have a whole lot of answers to one particular question that some people were probably asking almost every week. So what next? Ushio bonds with Tora having now understood why he’s such a jerky jerk jerkface all the time? Probably. tora fights with a new zeal, emboldened by the realisation that those he loved are still with him in spirit? Sounds shonen enough. The Beast spear magically repairs itself and Hakumen no Mono perishes like it should have millennia ago? Most definitely. Though that will probably happen in the last episode, anime is weird like that. Also, I still want to know why Tora was pinned by the Beast Spear for 500 or so years. did nobody miss it? Because everyone seems pretty into it now. I would enjoy it if Tora pinned himself there from fear of his own transformation, an action that could’ve stood just as powerfully without the whole I’m-Hakumen’s-mother subplot, but oh well. Oh also again, Tora was a baby, living normally, albeit briefly, when suddenly a nine tailed demon was trapped inside his body, killing his family and leaving him an orphan despised by an entire city…Tora is Naruto. Believe that.
Ushio and Tora can be found, doing what they do, over on Crunchyroll