Uchouten Kazoku – Episode 10

Oh hey. It’s the most wonderful time of the week again.

Last week was beautiful as always, but it was also as close to this show comes to a board-arranging episode. By having the episode’s chosen character (as I’ve said before, the second half of this show has built its narrative structures around further illustrating one relevant character at a time) be the constant observer, the episode was able to give us a fairly broad overview of the different plots up to this point. The election is in two days, and the New Year’s Bash will swiftly follow. So was rendered powerless by the mere appearance of Benten, which might explain his being captured more than the liquor would. The Ebisugawas have at least one more trick up their sleeve, and it’s clearly a nasty one. We have yet to see the last two members of the Friday Fellows, and it’s likely Benten chose to introduce Yasaburou on the night she did specifically because they would be absent.

Even if I didn’t have absolute faith these threads would be successfully tied together based on the show so far, this is by the writer of The Goddamn Tatami Galaxy. Let’s see where we’re headed.

Episode 10

0:49 – Ah, I was wondering about that. So yeah, they’re setting them on the exact same day, which makes sense – obviously the tension of the two should play off each other, and whatever trick the Ebisugawas pull is almost certainly going to be related to getting someone critical in a hot pot. So this last day will take up the space of all the remaining episodes? Fantastic. Another side effect of being adapted from a full novel – novels have the luxury of ruminating on character relationships for months or years in the first few acts, but one day of finale can last a hundred pages

Also, Benten is apparently Batman

2:29 – Soun episode? Well, yeah, that’ll give away some secrets

2:39 – Yaichirou is moe as fuck  

3:33 – Nice that he realizes it. Yaichirou’s never really had the luxury of figuring out who he himself is as a person, whereas Yasaburou has pretty naturally come into his talents because he’s never been forced to exercise them. It’s also nice to see Yaichirou so comfortable revealing his worries like this – normally his familiarity with his brothers comes out accidentally, when he’s upset, but it seems the events of the show have made him more secure being willfully honest with his family

Goddamn do I find the “nothing happens” complaint about this show silly. LIFE IS HAPPENING. EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING. I like to be taken on a grand adventure as much as the next person (well, actually that’s not true, but Ican appreciate a well-crafted driving narrative), but I find this style of slowly filling in a rich portrait of these people and this life so incredibly rewarding. And their dynamics do change, and the plot is moving, but the show has actually structured itself so most of the forward motion is in the order in which preexisting variables are revealed to us – by focusing first on Yasaburou’s errands and secondly on the various relevant characters, it’s transformed the exploration of a pair of transformative events in the lives of these people (the death of So and the election of the next Nise-emon) into a series of beautiful little adventures and an incredibly full depiction of this world and way of life. It is perfect. I am continuously in awe of the lightness of its touch. The Tatami Galaxy wore its strengths on its sleeve, but I find this story even more impressive because it does so much with so little. And the series composition… in the space of two consecutive seasons, Suga Shoutarou has shifted from a complete unknown (to me, he was already working on great shows) to one of the premier names to look out for in the future.

Sorry about that. Like with OreGairu, I’m kinda starting to lose it with this one. Anime can be pretty great.

3:52 – I think Yaichirou’s VA really nails the emotional moments. His labored, kinda uneven tone really conveys how hard he works to keep himself together

4:03 – Probably what their dad would say  

4:07 – Today’s first shot. Perfect mood for this conversation

4:19 – Red herring, or did Yaichirou just tell us what’s going to happen? I could see them baiting the narrative in that direction, and then revealing they actually abducted the youngest brother or something. But I’m not a big narrative-guessing person – there are a few directions they could take this, and they could all be great or not based on the execution

4:38 – He’s worried about living up to his father, but he always expresses greatest confidence in competition. A born politician, perhaps, but maybe not a born leader

5:09 – Really like this song. Good, understated ‘setting forth on a journey’ music

5:46 – Nice color composition in this shot. Both their mother and Yaichirou’s color schemes blend nicely into their side of the frame

6:02 – Ominous. Well, that route’s been fully baited

6:20 – Oh god right he works for them  

7:09 – And there we are. It’s like magic! (it’s not like magic stories aren’t complicated)

7:37 – Wow, they’re gonna abduct the whole damn family? This is gonna be quite the episode. It’s a good thing there are girls like Benten and Kaisei out there with actual heads on their shoulders to save all these derpy brothers

7:51 – Something he shares with his cousin Yaichirou  

8:19 – This view is just as gorgeous even without a full moon and a Benten  

8:46 – Cute line. I’m really liking the new palette the overcast skies are creating. Not only does this show constantly portray known areas from new angles, pretty much every time or type of day warrants an entirely new color scheme

9:02 – That’s two brothers who’ve expressed disenchantment with the idea of the Nise-emon. You can certainly honor your father without trying to be him (though, speaking from experience, that’s not something that always comes easy)

9:08 – Kyoto better be footing the bill for this thing. I couldn’t imagine a harder sell

9:16 – More wellservice  

11:01 – Aw, c’mon, frogs need love too. But yes, retreating from life comes with consequences

11:59 – Couldn’t miss that. Good trick by the Ebisugawas – playing off their mother’s known fear of thunder will make the rest of their actions extremely predictable

12:44 – Those trees. They picked a great location for this moment. Another great parallel shot, with even the puddles helping reflect vertically, all drawing the eye to that lonely carriage

13:29 – Once more. God this show’s beautiful

14:26 – The scoundrel! 

14:34 – Another beautiful new scheme. Look at how differently they portray the texture of virtually every object in this room – the smooth, reflective surface of the leather chair, the blanket defined mostly by its folds, the detailed texture of the tatami floor, the shifting grain of the wooden stairs. So much love in every single moment of this show

15:21 – Love love love the nightlife color scheme

16:08 – Interesting. Soun was also a student

16:22 – Another nice symmetrical shot 

16:37 – Well that was some efficient characterization. Listing his grievances, as if steeling himself to betray his brother

17:21 – Interesting. I’ll have to think about the differences in their interpretation of ‘a great tanuki.’ Obviously it’s a charged phrase, and critical to this show’s constant questioning of the definition of a life well lived

Man, I hope this show has some good answers for me. Life is tough

18:36 – Yep 

19:00 – This is quite an act. Pretty much pure villainy on her part – she’s expressed regret in episodes past, but the extent of her culpability has never been clear. Now it is – she basically killed him herself

19:36 – They even get their gloating villains shot 

19:55 – Everyone should have a little brother, huh? Grim little echo there

20:10 – Yasaburou’s a hard one to rattle 

20:37 – Great line. Unlike her brothers, and just like our brothers, she is not destined to be like her father. She is her own person

21:07 – Yasaburou’s a goddamn badass.

21:32 – Maybe today’s last shot. I wish I could screencap the soundtrack, because it is killing it today

And Done

Ugh, Yasaburou, you and your tragic, meditative goodbye speeches. Spare me, I’m weak.

What an episode. I start off all fawning about this show’s mastery of subtle storytelling, and then it just kicks into high gear and barrels towards the finale. Some nice touching moments between the brothers, that fantastic capture sequence, and the full revelation of Soun’s betrayal. Man, I just cannot wait to see how this will end. With three episodes remaining, it’s looking like the whole last act of the show will keep up the intensity. We are in for a ride.

4 thoughts on “Uchouten Kazoku – Episode 10

  1. That was so good. Personally loved how the show’s been taking it slow so far, all waiting for the big release. All that’s left is my question as to why Yasaburou doesn’t seem to hate Benten for what she’s done, and Akadama’s accident, if the show’s ever going to get there.

    • The show’s fully explained almost every event it’s alluded to so far, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Akadama’s attending the election ceremony prompts an explanation of the tree incident, which will possibly also explain why Benten was so determined to join the Friday Fellows.

  2. I love practically everything about this show, except for Ginkaku, Kinkaku and the Ebisugawa henchmen. The henchmen are nameless, faceless automatons, and the twins are so cartoonishly evil that I can’t reconcile them with the subtle touch that has been shown in the way the story has dealt with all the other characters. Just look at Kaisei, and how differently she turned out from her brothers. I don’t even mind Soun, since he has his reasons for feeling such a deep and long-lasting grudge. But those twins, oy! Maybe their roles will make better sense to me once I see how it all ends.

    Bob, you seem to be able to see a lot of things that I’ve missed while watching this show. Could you explain to me how you see this? Do I just have an abnormally low tolerance for cardboard cutout characters who seem to be designed to inspire nothing but audience hatred?

    • Yeah, they’re not great, but the way I see it is they’re just not related to the show’s goals. Their position is never meant to be more than “asshole relatives” – they’re useful only insofar as they push the show’s actual goals, which is to stir and illustrate the relationships of the central family and its satellite characters (the professor, Benten, etc), question the power and necessity of family and obligation, and contrast that against the value and best use of an individual life. I certainly know people whose relationship to my own circumstances is a fairly binary one (though obviously no one is actually a caricature), and drawing focus onto them as full people would basically cede focus from the people/ideas they’re acting as antagonists towards.

      But I agree, the scenes with them are generally my least favorite of the show, mainly because the humor is just more simplistic than the subtle writing displayed everywhere else. Perhaps making them a joke is necessary to keep the tone of the show less ominous in the first half (for example, something like the air battle of #5 would read very differently and less comically if we took the Ebisugawas seriously at that point), but that certainly doesn’t make me like them as characters. They are a possibly necessary tonal speed bump.

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