Uchouten Kazoku – Episode 4

So, we’ve had three vignettes so far, each helping to illustrate the relationship between Yasaburou and his world, as well as his somewhat love-hate relationship with responsibility. He’s resentful of it, but actually a natural at it, and seems easily the most capable of his father’s four sons. But he himself values freedom, exemplified through his infatuation with the whimsical, apparently dangerous Benten. Though each episode so far has been fairly self-contained, this one seems like to be a direct follow-up to the last, portraying the festival that will likely bring Yasaburou’s family into direct conflict with the tanukis they no longer have any social power over. It seems like every episode has forced Yasaburou to exercise his natural gifts for negotiation and leadership in more and more direct ways, and the high stakes of a drunken mid-air family feud strike me as a pretty natural next step.

Or, you know, this show could do whatever it wants to. Its mastery of storytelling is clearly beyond my depth, so I’m happily on for the ride either way.

Episode 4

0:21 – Aw, what a thoughtful student. His relationship with his teacher seems like a pretty glaring indicator of his actual nature

0:30 – “If I think of it, I might go. Wait, but don’t count on me.” He’s such a lovable old bastard. Well, pretty much everybody in this show is lovable, because pretty much everybody feels real

0:41 – I’ve been noticing the music more and more in this one. It’s understated, but quite good

2:52 – “Battle of the Daimonji Leisure Cruisers.” This will be fun

3:09 – On the one hand, wow he looks ridiculous. On the other, he’s pretty closely mirroring the appearance of his father from those flashbacks. Being the oldest is pretty tough

3:35 – “Father would always transform into Hotei.” Well it doesn’t make me look smart if you point it out, Kazoku!

4:50 – “I-it’s not like I came to ride the teahouse or anything!” Looks like I’ve got a new favorite tsundere

5:20 – “We were just planning on riding the teahouse.” “Now that I think about it, you did mention something about that…” This really is the cutest conversation ever

5:44 – “Where’s Ben…” Wow, youngest brother distracting the professor with liquor. Surprisingly/accidentally cunning work there

8:22 – “Let’s just say the fireworks happened to start a fire.” “Fuck that!” Yasaburou’s surprisingly heated about this. And once again they just allude to some other critical family incident that is given no explanation, but just the necessary amount of context to both add color to their world and inform their current relationships and conflicts

8:43 – That initial gasp and stare when he thinks it might be Benten

12:35 – “Father really was amazing, huh?” “He was quite a fool, yes.” That’s very much the professor thing to say here, but it also pokes at that “idiot blood” thing they’re stressing. Still not sure exactly where they’ll go with how tanukis are defined as reckless versus the responsibility of leadership. But it’s obviously a good thing the show isn’t making things that obvious

13:19 – “I’ve gone and done something rather foolish.” “You should take care of yourself.” Goddamn do I love these character interactions. The combination of formalities and friendship here are just so gracefully portrayed. So few lines say so much

13:37 – Benten with THOSE assholes? I don’t know about that girl, Yasaburou

14:09 – This great expression has to be at least partially reflective of the fact that his own first thoughts couldn’t have been much better

16:00 – This battle is fantastic. They’re really showing off visually. Damn streaming…

16:47 – You left them the fan? Goddamnit, Benten, it’s too easy to fall for you

16:57 – “Bring out the heir, Yaichiro.” And Yasaburou rises. Really like the pacing on this sequence

17:47 – “As a tanuki who lives purely and justly in this era of peace and tranquility, it is my duty to punish the unjust.” Man, I love these characters. It seems likely this hammy performance is much more for Benten than these jokers, though – she brings out the most self-consciously funny side of him

18:50 – Another great image – Yasaburou taunting his enemies but being supported by his entire family.

20:45 – For a moment there, I almost thought Benten would rescue them. But nope. Sometimes ya gotta take the hard fall

And Done

…aaand then he just runs away. Beautiful. This guy’s definitely one of my favorite recent protagonists – he’s very capable and charming, but he has his flaws as well. And all the other central characters are great and very fully written, outside of the intentionally mysterious Benten. What they’re doing with her is excellent as well – they’re working particularly hard to make the audience at least see what Yasaburou sees in her, by playing very loose with tangible details about her and instead only portraying her in these alternately dangerous, carefree, or actually helpful and seemingly sympathetic contexts. And that mid-air teahouse battle was fantastic, and this episode was definitely the funniest one so far, and I still can’t say where this show is going outside of “family, responsibility, identity,” and I couldn’t be happier about any of this. Whew!

Apologies again for this week’s crap image quality, by the way. I’ll still be away for next week’s episode, but hopefully I’ll have set up a more stable system by then.