Don’t you just hate a smug villain? You know the ones, they’re always talking about how they’re the best and will never be defeated by the likes of you. They suck. Yet, there is one glaring benefit to witnessing a character/creature who fills this role; watching them fail. Is it vindictive? A little, yes, but they’re evil so it’s okay…I think. Regardless, we’ve all been watching Hakumen be an arrogant, selfish monster for all this time, so I think it’s about darn time that we get to see this fox-bird-horse get some just desserts. Or at least, the prequel to dessert, since the show’s not done yet. Would that be dinner then? The prequel to just desserts…I hope Hakumen gets its just dinners.
When we last left half of our protagonisitic duo, Tora was floating somewhere in the ocean with three giant holes in his body. Which I assume would hurt. Of course, this is not the end for our tiger striped companion and we spend some time this episode delving into the complex mind of a tsundere. Okay, so it’s not that complicated, but still. Despite all his bluster on confidence, Tora’s recent defeat has torn him down all the pegs and left him pondering his lifetime of fighting. Having never lost when fighting alone, he wonders what was different this time, despite already knowing the answer. Call it glaringly obvious if you will, but the wounds inflicted upon Tora this time around are utilised in a symbolic way. After first cutting to him, we find Tora realising his injuries along with the fact he lacks the strength to move, simply stating that there is a hole in his chest. However, as he ventures deeper into his soul, he remembers Ushio, and the way they left things, and declares once more that there is a hole in his chest. Again, not the most subtle symbolism in the world, but for a guy like Tora it is a massive step forward. Sure we all know that he cares about Ushio, but it’s different to straight up hear that realisation happening. The situation is aided further by the spiritual intervention of Mayuko who, after retrieving the comb used to subdue the feral Ushio, brushes Tora’s hair in an attempt to make him human once more. She also spends this time planning a date with Tora, Asako and Ushio, regaling Tora with all of the food they’ll eat and how he’ll let her ride on the back of his bike on the way home. Existing somewhere between the worlds of inspiration and an honest desire, Mayuko’s words have the intended effect and spark some life back into Tora, heralding the beginning of the final battle.
Just in case you though that wasn’t enough Tora time, Mayuko also cuts to the core of a truth we have known for a long time. After swearing to live in order to eat his tasty looking dessert (Mayuko), Tora says she on the menu right after Ushio. Mayuko’s response is to simply smile and say that he has no intention of eating her, as he we never follow through with his threat to Ushio. Again, a simple moment, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. Especially when followed by a ridiculously shonen promise, wherein Tora refuses to protect Mayuko for her hundreds of years guarding Hakumen, as he will just kill the thing now. Awesome. It’s that kind of bravado that makes you a shonen character people and the ability to follow through is what makes you a shonen hero. Well, that and the assistance of a suit of armour forged from fellow former humans who just kinda disappeared after being used that one time against the evil laser Toras…
Not to make this episode entirely about Tora, we also catch glimpses of everybodys favourite characters; that one military guy from that plane episode and the two scientists who were evil but then not evil after their friend died in that season one finale episode. That being said, though somewhat left of main cast, Ushio and Tora continues its journey to make every character matter, which is a commendable practice. As a high up in the military, one man may command thousands, and as scientists who invent yokai slaying weapons, two injured old men can hold out to the very last. Hell, even the souls of the dead come back to help, that’s just how much teamwork is going on in this series. Because if there’s one thing that you can to do help, even if it doesn’t seem big or important, you do that thing to the best of your abilities. Sure not every task seems grand, and not every action will throw you into the limelight, but it might just help in ways you can’t image. That’s the lesson of this series as it stands and it’s a pretty damn good one if you ask me. Especially since it breaks a trend in oh so many series and makes it feel as if Ushio pulls characters forward as much as they push him to victory. It doesn’t feel like an empty, incompetent world bar one superpowered high schooler and that is a definite strength this series can be proud of.
As a preamble to an episode literally called The End, Ushio and Tora spent this week putting a lot of pieces into the right place. Tora’s back, Ushio is re-energised and yokai and humans are helping each other save the world. It’s beautiful. Of course Hakumen no Mono is still alive and kicking out laser Tora minions by the boatload, but I’m pretty sure next week will be devoted solely to tearing that particular force down. Though I severely doubt that Hakumen will go down so easily. No, I expect a long knock down drag out rumble that will appease everyone by showing what is literally the manifestation of evil and ill will get a sound thrashing. We’re already two tail monsters down at this point, so we know that hero power is approaching shonen critical mass, so all we can do now is wait. Wait and hypothesis just how loud Ushio is going to scream before, during and after his final strike…I’m guessing a lot.
Ushio and Tora can be found, doing what they do, over on Crunchyroll