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):
With last week’s bit of reflection behind us, the stage has been set for the final battle, and the show wastes no time in kicking it off with a bang. This time around things are centered around Nagare and we quickly learn the true motivations behind his betrayal. What they actually ended up being turned out to be pretty different from my expectations, though, as Nagare’s character ends up taking a strange but fairly compelling twist and one that results in a rather grim conclusion.
As Ushio and Tora head off to intercept the JASDF, they find themselves once again stopped by Nagare who’s looking to settle the score with them. Tora decides to stay behind and face him alone while Ushio tries to reason with the army before it’s too late. Unfortunately, the consequences of Hakumen’s memory wipe strike again, as none of them believe Ushio about the seal, but when a pair of disgruntled engineers happens to overhear him they decide to help Ushio hijack one of the submarines so they can get to the pillar first. Just as they get ready to leave, however, Asako arrives thanks to some help from HAMMR and has one last moment with Ushio.
Her memories still aren’t back yet, but she understands enough of the situation to know that Ushio’s put a heavy burden on himself, and we soon learn that the Beast Spear is still continuing to eat away at Ushio’s soul with the very real chance he’ll either die fighting Hakumen or turn into a beast trying. He’s prepared himself for that, but after hearing Asako tell him to come back even if it’s as a monster, he finally realizes he’s been in love with her this whole time, and he’s now more determined than ever to keep her safe. While it’s a bit of a cheesy scene, it’s still pretty touching, and it’s nice to see just how much these two have grown up throughout the show.
The real focus here, though, is on Nagare, and the fight between him and Tora is what ends up taking the lion’s share of the episode and in the process of their battle, Nagare reveals his true nature. Growing up, he was always seen as something of a genius and as a result, he’s had to constantly hold his true self back to the point of feeling hollow. Hakumen decided to feed on that side of him in order to lure him over to his side, but Nagare has more personal reasons for wanting to bring down Tora. Even though he’s just been keeping up a facade around Ushio all this time, Ushio’s faith in him is unwavering, and that earnest nature has only served to remind Nagare of his own emptiness. He feels that killing Tora will be enough to rid him of that burden. but Tora mocks him and calls him out on the fact that in reality, he was just scared of letting Ushio see the real him, and that he’s never been as special as he thinks he is. Sadly this truth comes a little too late for Nagare as his injuries from fighting Tora end up being fatal, but he does manage to come to terms with it, and in his final moments he admits that he truly did admire Ushio, and tells Tora to let him think that he died as a villain so that Ushio wouldn’t blame him for what happened.
Nagare’s been one of my favorite characters from Ushio’s group of allies since his introduction, so it was nice to see him getting so much focus here. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to be so deeply troubled beneath his friendly attitude, and while I can’t say it meshes perfectly with what we’ve seen of him up till now, it definitely puts a bit of a darker spin on some of his previous interactions with our lead duo. That said, it’s a little frustrating to see the show resorting to the old narrative fail-safe, of revealing everything about a character just as they’re about to die. That generally just tends to come off as cheap, though to the show’s credit it mostly works here, as it gives the impression that had he opened up to Ushio about everything, there was a chance he could have been saved. With that, Nagare’s death here at least works as a compelling tragedy, though I do think this could have worked out a lot better had these aspects of his character been telegraphed earlier. Nevertheless, what we do get makes for a strong enough episode, and if nothing else it serves as another example of how well the show’s sense of heart can carry it through its occasional narrative stumbles.
The final battle starts to get underway this week, and things kick off with a battle between Tora and Nagare. I was pretty surprised to learn that Nagare’s betrayal was genuine, and it was certainly interesting to see just how much of himself he’d been hiding from Ushio and Tora. Tragically this bit of character insight ends this death, and I mean that in more ways that one as while it mostly worked as a tragedy, it also left me kind of disappointed that he was killed off just as we learned more about him. In spite of the bit of fumbling on the latter, this episode still works in keeping this season’s momentum going, and with next week’s episode title suggesting that Ushio will come face to face with his mom for the first time, I’m hoping that will end up going a lot more smoothly.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll, Hulu