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.
Content (warning as portions of this review may contain spoilers):
Ushio and Tora came back from its hiatus last week with a vengeance, but if you thought that was great you haven’t seen anything yet. This episode dials up everything that was built up last week to eleven and brings us some of the most powerful material from the series thus far. The current situation hasn’t quite resolved itself just yet, but in lieu of what the show is bringing here, it’s making for one of the show’s best arcs yet.
Kicking off almost exactly where we left last week, Asako and Mayura are still being held by the yokai, and when the former ends up being put in further danger, Mayuko’s powers suddenly awaken. Shortly afterward, Jie Mei appears to tell Mayuko that she’s destined to become the next Oyakume, and needs to take the place of Ushio’s mom as her powers are starting to weaken. Both Jie Mei and Asako try to get the yokai to see reason, but realizing their desperation and Mayuko’s importance to stopping Hakumen, Asako offers to be the Beast Spear’s sacrifice in place of her. Desperate not to lose anyone else, Ushio comes to Asako’s rescue, but this only causes the yokai to retaliate and attack them. Ushio still considers them his allies and refuses to fight them but the battle gets interrupted when Hakumen’s forces show up led by a yokai named Guren (voiced by the illustrious Norio Wakamoto who you may better know as Emperor Charles from Code Geass) who bears a striking resemblance to Tora. With the yokai distracted, Tora tries to get while the getting’s good but Ushio can’t bring himself to abandon them and after going through the usual tsundere routine, Tora’s convinced by Mayuko and Jie Mei to come help him. Seeing the duo fight together, inspires the yokai a bit but not quite enough to undo whatever Hakumen’s done to them. Instead, it causes Mayuko to resolve towards taking on the role of Oyakume as she heads off to meet Ushio’s mom.
I mentioned last week that the conversation between Asako and Mayuko concerning Ushio might end up having an effect on the dynamic between them, but I wasn’t expecting it to happen quite this quickly. Though while I assumed it would affect things in a romantic sense, it’s instead used to explore each one’s sense of heroism, which is way more compelling. For Ushio’s part, we see how much he’s been affected by the losses he’s gone through over the course of series, and Jie Mei’s death in particular is highlighted, as he felt he could have saved her had he not hesitated. His desperation not to repeat the same mistake shines through when he literally jumps into the inferno to save Asako without thinking twice, but it also makes him feel more frustrated for having dragged her into things in the first place. It’s also reflected just as strongly in his desire not to attack his yokai allies, and while the whole “heroic resolve not to sacrifice anyone” thing is a shonen trope that’s pretty much as old as dirt at this point, there’s enough emotion behind it here to make it come off as genuinely powerful, and Tasuku Hatanaka’s performance really adds to the delivery.
Ushio’s not the only one who’s sense of heroism gets a deeper look, though. We see a similar sense of resolution in Asako before she attempts to sacrifice herself for Mayuko, but it’s what happens with the latter that’s particularly notable. Ushio and Asako are both pretty strong people, and Mayuko’s always admired that about them, even attempting to emulate it herself. However she realizes here, that she can never really be like them, and that’s not the kind of inner strength she possesses. Instead, she sees the importance in her own role of becoming the next Oyakume, and through her resolution to follow through on it, comes closer to being as strong as the two of them in her own right as her own strength shines through.
Though while I’ve gone on at length about the theme here, it’s far from the only strong thing about the episode. It’s definitely got it’s share of ya yokai-brawling action and offers almost as much intensity on that front as it does the more emotional moments, making for a satisfying experience all across the board. The fact that one of Hakumen’s minions is a Tora look-alike is also pretty major tidbit and it’s got me pretty curious about the connection (given the new opening shows a few other Tora clones it’s likely a big one). With the amount of stuff that happened here, I’m not too surprised the memory wipe thing wasn’t quite resolved yet, but I imagine that’ll get fixed sooner or later. In the meantime, though, it’s certainly working out for the show, and I’m really hoping it can keep this up.
Ushio & Tora follows up on its strong season premiere, with an even stronger showing here as it delivers one of it’s most gut-punching episodes thus far. Heroic resolve is something that almost never really comes across as well as most shonen stuff wants it to, but the amount of heart the show puts behind it here really helps to sell it with Ushio, Asako, and Mayuko all given a moment to shine. The whole memory wipe plot isn’t done with just yet, but with as much as this episode dished out, I’m certainly not complaining.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll, Hulu