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Where the Heart Is – Ushio and Tora Episode 36 – Season’s Writings

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Hope is reforged

Well we’re certainly turning onto the home stretch now aren’t we folks. With Hakumen no Mono locked in a battle against every character who has ever bore it ill will, our ending draws ever closer. Now, how that ending plays out is yet to be determined but, in the mean time, it sure is nice to see the bird-fox-horse we all hate go on the defensive for once. Of course this is due to the fact that its destruction will mean the safety of every sentient creature on the planet, but you have to admit, it’s also mostly because Hakumen is a jerk and you want to see it get punched in the face, like, really, really hard. I know I do.

Following last weeks heroic charge into dramatic still frame animation, Ushio and the yokai crew are interrupted on their journey to Hakumen by the appearance of Hakumen. Needless to say, everyone is startled and panic ensues. Hakumen, being the loveable scamp it is, couldn’t care less about them for the moment, as it is entirely focused on destroying the Beast Spear shards that have been causing so much love and hope arise from Ushio’s buddies. Though it sounds a touch goofy in this particular explanation, the sheer fact that the Beast Spear is still such a threat, despite being reduced to mere fragments, is a testament to the power of the weapon. As the one thing that Hakumen fears in this world, the spear’s power lies just as much in its ability to rally an army as it does in its actual power. Sure it’s a weapon born from dark magic and human sacrifice, but it is also the greatest symbol of resistance this series has. Not that that is an endorsement for dark magic and human sacrifice, because it totally is not. Seriously people, don’t do that stuff…it’s weird.

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Good pushes back

History aside, Ushio decides to do the shonen thing this week and change the future, refusing to back down in the face of evil and standing stalwart at the side of his friend…who he totally cut down a few episodes back. Not, like, actually cut down, but emotionally. Having realised that he should have trusted Tora over that one monk guy with a motorcycle he met twice, Ushio fulfills his promise to his friend by allowing him to drink some of his blood. Sure Tora is unconscious for this exchange, but the sentiment is nice. Hell, most people probably forgot that this series began with Tora trying to eat Ushio, on account of it being left behind for a whole bunch of character development and plot. Still, it was nice of the series to wrap up that particular thread in the only conceivable way, despite Ushio’s wishing he could have given at least an arm. Man, that Ushio really is a swell, stupid guy isn’t he? Regardless, this exchange and even Ushio’s assault on Hakumen was far from the focal point of this episode, rather we pivot to yet another promise fulfilled and witness the conclusion of another journey and the end of a revenge filled life.

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The flames of revenge burn brightest before they go out

Since his first appearance, Hyou has been a bit of a badass. Scar clad and filled to the brim with hatred, this exorcist went toe-to-toe with Tora back when nobody could come even close to doing so. Of course, his whole revenge deal was relegated to the background of our minds until the advent of the Azafuse and the revelation that tora did not in fact slaughter his family. No, that was Guren, the guy that evil yokai think is an evil yokai…which says a lot. So, this week the two are at it again, apparently having been locked in combat for three days, which is a long time to be locked in combat for. But none of that matters, partly because we weren’t there to see it and partly because the coolest stuff happens on the last day of the fight. Speaking of which, having been knocked unconscious, Hyou is oh so conveniently rescued by an award winning actress who is spending her final moments on Earth getting drunk on her lawn in front of her young daughter, who she is very clear she never wanted in the first place. So, a pretty crappy person to be saved by. Nevertheless, these two soon-to-be-casualties provide a very obvious heat of the moment substitute for the wife and child Hyou failed to save in his long gone past of normalcy. Is it a little on the nose? Yes, yes it is, but it is still quite effective in reminding us that Hyou is not entirely consumed by his rage and that there is still a good man trapped inside. What saved this encounter for me was the fact that Hyou never once vocalises the similarities between his family and these two, rather he tries to make the mother see how much her daughter cares for her, despite her treatment. It’s not a major portion of the episode, but it cements that Hyou is not looking for a substitute in any way, his wife and daughter will always be his wife and daughter and nothing will change that. To top it off, Hyou has a flash of memory regarding Ushio, expressing that, in the brief time they spent together, he did in fact manage to form one relationship despite his grief. Again, it is only a brief moment, but it is certainly a poignant one.

Emotions aside for a moment, this episode also featured a pretty cool fight between the aforementioned Hyou and the even more aforementioned Guren…their last fight in fact. Having suffered tremendous injuries over the course of their battle, Hyou employed his most suicidal tactic yet and, after absorbing Guren’s own lightning into his blue eye, tore out said eye and rammed it down the Azafuse’s throat…along with most of his arm. Yeah, it’s just as cool as it sounds. Having had everything taken from him by Guren, Hyou decides to give it all back tenfold and tears the beast apart from within. Even without the symbolism, that’s a pretty hardcore move. However, the symbolism is there and it permeates every single second of Hyou’s final moments. Revealing that he has never stopped carrying a fragment of the toy meant for his daughter, we see vision of Hyou crossing over into the light, opening the door to his house and finding the family he thought he would have seen all those years ago. Call it cheesy fi you will, call it played out, but after all this guy has been through, Hyou definitely deserved to go home at last.

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Welcome home

I gotta say, Ushio and Tora continues to keep me enthralled each and every week. With us all so close to the end, the series is not afraid to cut away from the protagonist and remind us that there are a whole bunch of other characters working towards Hakumen’s defeat. Better still, these characters have a definitive impact on the main plot, aiding our heroes at every turn. Guren wasn’t some henchman Hakumen sent off to fight Hyou, he was a very real threat that Ushio has fought before, that he very well could have fought again. But he didn’t. He didn’t have to because Hyou did it. We’re there personal reasons at play, sure, but that does not negate the act. If anything, it makes it all the sweeter since finally the good guys are dealing some very real blows to Hakumen no Mono. It isn’t invincible anymore, it’s starting to feel the pain wrought by a combined force of good and, if this series continues to fulfill the promises it has made, you better believe that pain will keep on coming. Which is good…because Hakumen is a jerk.

Ushio and Tora can be found, doing what they do, over on Crunchyroll

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