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Ushio & Tora Episode #16 Anime Review

4 min read

Ushio & Tora Episode 16The Melancholy of Ushio Aotsuki

What They Say:
Long ago, a ferocious monster terrorized the land, until a samurai, wielding the legendary “Beast Spear”, sealed him away. 500 years later, a middle school student named Ushio Aotsuki accidentally uncovers the monster in a hidden cellar under his family’s temple. The unsealed monster and the spear attract many other supernatural creatures to the temple and Ushio is forced to release the monster in order to defeat them. Ushio names the monster “Tora” and unwillingly work together to battle other spirits and demons.

The Review:
Content (warning as portions of this review may contain spoilers):

Alright so despite the ominous implications of this week’s title, the episode itself has very little to do with Ushio’s potential transformation into a monster (not that it doesn’t pop of course). Instead what we actually get here is a surprising dive into Ushio himself as a character and the effects all the recent events in his life have had on him. Unsurprisingly it makes for some pretty compelling material, and certainly a bit more than I was expecting from this one, but not without it’s 90’s writing.

Last week’s cliffhanger is rendered moot almost immediately as Ushio rescues Moritsuna from his suicide attempt in no time flat. However seeing how distraught his sister Jun is over everything, it only makes Ushio’s sense of responsibility heavier and he decides to do the body dive regardless of the risk. Both Tora and Nagare are worried even if the former hides it behind his usual tsundere facade and he decides to tag along with Ushio alongside a yokai named Izuna who specializes in body dives. Once inside, the battle against the Hiyou quickly takes it’s toll on Ushio as he tries to fight off his transformation into a monster at the same time. Meanwhile Jun blames Ushio for the agony her brother’s going through, but Nagare convinces her to see things from Ushio’s point of view as he’s taking on a lot of burdens he doesn’t need to and would frankly be better off abandoning but he does so anyway because it’s the kind of person he is.

Ushio himself is forced to question this sense of excess heroism when he comes face to face with the leader of the Hiyou. In spite of everything going on with his mother, Ushio himself doesn’t feel he has any reason to take a stand against Hakumen personally, Izuna tells him he’s been inspired by the tales of Ushio’s heroics and gets injured trying to protect him. This in turn gives Ushio a reason to fight since he knows Hakumen will stop at nothing to bring harm to others and it’s something he can’t stand for. It’s a message rooted in 90’s Japan values concerning how the “ideal man” should be (which truthfully isn’t that different from their modern values on that end but that’s a whole other thing on it’s own) right down to not wanting to make women cry which all feels a bit eye-roll worthy but the show’s so earnest at tying them down to the core of Ushio’s character that it works pretty effectively on that end. We’ve seen first hand how much those ideals tie to his nature over the course of the series so far, along with the good and bad that comes from them  so even if everything else attached to it feels a little outdated it makes for an interesting character analysis if nothing else.

This all culminates in Izuna trying to sacrifice himself so Ushio and Jun can destroy the Hiyou leader, but even though it’s the sensible thing to do he won’t let that happen because his sense of responsibility won’t let anyone else get hurt because of him. Unlike the other times though, this instance of heroism does have it’s consequences. While Moritsuna is rescued and Jun reconciles with both him and Ushio, Ushio himself finally begins his transformation into a monster, and all the more hastened by his attempt to rescue Izuna. It’s a grim cliffhanger to end such an ideal heavy episode on, but it certainly paints the idea that while Ushio’s ideals aren’t necessarily bad and they’re an important part of who he is as a person, they can be equally self-destructive and quite literally so in this case. Now it’s just a question of how severe that destruction is going to end up being.

In Summary:

In spite of the danger surrounding Moritsuna, this week is all about Ushio and his heroic ideals. This makes for a pretty interesting look into his character and provides enough backlash at the end to negate the dated nature of the message behind it. I’m looking forward to see what comes of Ushio’s monster transformation and what effect it might have on him going forward but I’m glad the show’s taken the opportunity to give us one last glimpse of the person he is now. Let’s see how much of that sticks.

Grade: A

Streamed By: Crunchyroll, Hulu

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