Whew. I’ve been busy cavorting with old friends all weekend, and I’m really not much of a social dude, so it is extremely satisfying to have something as calming and excellent as Uchouten Kazoku to come back to. Last week’s episode focused on that most alarming of incongruencies, the fairly blase attitude everyone takes towards tanuki-eating. As I’ve said elsewhere, while this show normally does a tremendous job of grounding its fantastical leanings in such universal conflicts and emotions that they appear almost mundane (or beautiful, but beautiful in a way that reflects all moments of sudden and unexpected beauty, not just unbelievable ones), the disconnect between these characters’ acceptance of the tanuki-eating and its inherently horrifying nature is a little hard to square. Or at least it is for the show’s two central characters – Yasaburou and Benten.
Not that this is a bad thing. In fact, the complexities of each of their feelings, and the way Yasaburou often treads around emotions and responsibilities he knows he will have to address, is one of the show’s great strengths. And considering how strong this show’s character writing is, I’m not really worried about that emotional disconnect; last week someone hypothesized that the disconnect is probably a strong indicator of where the show still intends to explore, and I’m inclined to agree.
Anyway. Enough nonsense.
0:07 – It is remarkable to me that a medium like anime is so often used just to depict four or five people sitting in a classroom and talking
0:10 – I don’t even know why I bother with screencaps. Every second could be one
0:39 – Yeah, the focus is closing. Yasaburou has now directly addressed the inevitability of both conflicts – his relationship with Benten last episode and his family now
1:43 – It’s really a mark of how fantastic this adaptation job is that the only reason I can really tell this was adapted from an actual novel is because the writing is far above the level of almost all anime. It seems to be using the same structural trick as both Chuunibyou and OreGairu – lean on a series of standalone, generally satisfying vignettes to lay all the character and thematic groundwork, and then transition into a compelling central track using all those passively established resources. Speaking of OreGairu (which is easily my other favorite show from this year), one thing that attracted me to Uchouten is the fact that the two shows share the same series composer. I’ll be keeping my eye on him
2:46 – Shades of the father’s perspective. No one but Benten seems to place much intrinsic value in the “interesting life” Yasaburou desires – they consider it basically a nice gift if you get it, but not much else. Granted, you could also interpret this as saying that worrying about larger goals is unimportant and Yasaburou is right. Seizing the day is kind of a relative concept – it could just be that whether he takes more responsibility or continues to live for the moment, Yasaburou needs to be representative of his honest self. A shame knowing who you are is tough as well
4:08 – Even this mundane artificial river is rendered beautiful. Anime is capable of such mastery of atmosphere, if it’s put to good use. Compare this tone to something like Aku no Hana, where the mundane is constantly rendered grotesque and threatening by the careful control of palette and detail
Man, now I’m just staring at that river shot again – that is some gorgeous composition. Hopefully someone who actually knows something about photography and shot composition will put together a piece about this show at some point
6:00 – This is great. As is Yasaburou’s incredibly unthreatening roar
6:56 – Seriously, where has this show’s team been hiding? Give me more pretty things
Also, I love the kind of lighthearted sadness of so many scenes with the professor. That moment where his wind just fails to amount to anything is a joke, but it’s also got this strong melancholy edge to it. It’s really tough to balance the professor being a kooky old coot and the professor being a once-proud man unable to come to terms with his aging body
7:15 – Involving Yaichiro was a good call. His own brittle formality and need to please play into the professor’s sense of self-importance
7:51 – The Uchouten hot springs episode involves three skinny brothers and an old man. I really do hope this show sells well…
8:32 – “Why do I have to take a bath with you hairballs?” Of course, Yaichiro takes the professor’s well-intentioned but grumbly face-saving at face value (and Yasaburou ignores both of them). You know how I keep saying the character work and dialogue in this show are top-notch? This is the stuff I’m talking about
10:24 – I guess a successful life requires both coffee and milk
11:30 – And the Ebisugawas finally make their appearance. Well, one of the threads was getting picked up here, and this show is pretty far above making it Benten
13:33 – I love this shot. For some reason the professor just barely sticking up in the corner makes his “these idiots” expression even funnier
19:06 – A pretty key line. There are many ways to run away
That ending really got to me. They framed that so well, and focused wholly on Yaichiro’s perspective, which was definitely appropriate. That yell and collapse – Yaichiro acts tough for the political side, but it’s clear that he needs to trust and believe in his family, and so this is devastating to him. As Yasaburou says at the end, life is defined by loss, and this show never shies away from the deep, abiding sadness of living, even though it celebrates life as well. The great moments have no weight or meaning without the sadness, and the sadness ultimately reveals how deeply we connect and care. Coffee and milk, I guess
Man. This show