Uchouten Kazoku – Episode 11

So. Three episodes left. Three brothers and mom in captivity, Kaisei captured as well, with the fourth brother still down the well, still unaware his father’s death was not his fault. There are a bunch of relevant pieces still on the board, of course – it’s unlikely Kaisei will be watched as carefully as the family, Yajiro is likely one “it was a trap!” short of busting out to rescue the family (and considering both his train trick and the fact that he’s remained a frog for god knows how long, he’s apparently extremely good at transformations), and both professors and Benten are still out there and still involved in the day’s proceedings. Granted, Benten’s turn will probably not be this easy – her position in the plot is too complicated for that.

Let’s talk about Benten for a second. Clearly we haven’t gotten her entire story – this show often mentions threads without fully explicating them, but it always comes back around to explain things when it hits an episode focused on the relevant character. And the key question with her is – why the Friday Fellows? What made her so intent on joining their group that she essentially killed a man? And what is the exact nature of her regret now?

Uchouten Kazoku is largely a show about family, and though the central characters are a set of biological brothers, the show certainly believes family can take many forms. Akadama-sensei is clearly part of Yasaburou’s “family,” for example. And Soun seems to have discarded the very concept – thinking of family not as a unit in which he is one equal participant, but more an extension of himself. So where does Benten fit into this?

She doesn’t. She was stolen from her family, and raised by Akadama, who clearly doesn’t see her in a familial way. Is Yasaburou her family? Not really – again, their relationship is fraught with complex tension, and they have nothing resembling the honesty shared by the Shimogamo family. When it comes to the familial bonds shared by most of the protagonists, Benten stands alone.

Thus, join the Friday Fellows?

Seems quite possible. Would this justify her selling out So? No, certainly not. But frankly, I actually like that idea – that her transgression isn’t explained away, and that she has indeed done selfish, terrible things, likely unforgivable things. And she’s not a great person, and though she grieves for what she’s done, she has not honestly admitted it. I think that’s fantastic – I’d love to see more characters who you’d struggle to call “good people,” but who still share a common humanity, and are still so damn arresting you can’t help but fall in love with them. I’d love to see her gain Yasaburou’s forgiveness without truly earning it – see him forgive her just because that’s what families do.

Don’t know if it’ll go that way. Quite possible she really will experience some meaningful turn. But I wouldn’t mind if Benten stayed Benten ‘til the last.

Episode 11

0:02 – Christ, starting early today 

0:10 – Love the colors in this very brief shot. They do a great job of integrating everyone’s distinctive color schemes into the background in an organic way

0:37 – Making it a little more overt 

0:50 – So fantastic. A winding monologue leading up to that loud slam of the cage, and then the title in black with no OP. Very efficiently stranding us back in the current moment

0:55 – Someone should get this whole pan. Quite a shot

1:08 – YESSSS. Batman indeed

1:20 – Benten pissed in a badass suit. You stop this show you stop it right now

1:41 – Man, they are terrified of her. I particularly love the very grumpy attendant dutifully holding up Soun’s umbrella.

So yep, I was completely wrong in my prediction, Benten’s sick of this shit and is saving Yasaburou right now. Hurraaay

1:52 – You keep talking like I give a shit what you think. Jesus christ this episode’s Bentenservice

2:21 – Here you go. Again, great detail work with the lighting and the reflections. The plot goes on in the distance, but here, a moment of quiet

2:25 – Again 

2:34 – Stop doing this water stuff Ima run out of film 

2:49 – Look at this image. Look at the tiny story this image tells all by itself. The limp celebratory beer tree, the cigarettes and toilet paper in the corners, the “Merry Christmas” attached to a new cane, a gift that is itself an acknowledgment of his growing infirmity. This one shot is more passively emotionally affecting than most entire shows

2:58 – Feeling like this is gonna be a hard episode to get through. Again, that unnatural cyan light makes for a beautiful reflection on the rocks and water

3:12 – What she seeks cannot be bought. I doubt winning this election would make Soun any happier, either

3:18 – Okay fine fuck you I’ll visit Kyoto 

3:39 – Oh please 

4:08 – Wow, goddamnit Benten 

4:56 – Her usual pattern, I suppose. Cold as hell, but ultimately giving him everything he needs. Telling him where to find the key player who she herself made sure he befriended

5:13 – What is with this “that’s what humans do” stuff? Obviously the first contrast would be how tanuki are defined by their “idiot blood,” but… I mean, the idiot blood ties in neatly to family. That works. But what significance can be drawn from how they’re defining humans here? Benten says “that’s what humans do,” but she seems to be the only human aware that tanukis are as intelligent as humans, and the only other human we’ve had any real experience with is the fairly sympathetic professor. What does it MEAN?

5:54 – His dad’s face looks very weird attached to his scrawny, schlumpily-dressed self 

6:54 – Goddamnit, this show plays so fast and loose weaving the literal with the metaphorical. It basically works once you accept that this is essentially a fairy-tale-essence infused reality and that it’s more the emotional/thematic import of events that’s supposed to land than the practical (have I mentioned I like characters and themes more than plots?), but it’s a tricky thing to adjust to. So yes, I’m well aware Frodo would have a field day with these “shapeshifters trapped in cages” shenanigans

8:03 – So ends Yasaburou’s brief, embarrassing stint as a secret agent 

9:12 – And one of the mystery Fellows makes his entrance 

9:39 – Even the show is playing up the professor’s sentimentality. Which makes me hopeful the ‘humanity’ line will be given some clarification

10:01 – Right. There’s still that 

10:44 – Normally I’d agree with you, but it turns out your brother is not just an idiot metaphorically 

11:13 – Oh snap they explained it take that Frodo 

13:26 – Don’t bait the plot. 

Man these twins are annoying. If they were going for “cousins you dread seeing at every extended family engagement,” they certainly nailed it.

14:29 – Wow, these two are absolutely terrible at this. Baiting narratives, goading the only person who can do anything…

14:59 – Very nice counter to “the Shimogamo family is broken!” They might be separated and captured, but they sure as hell aren’t broken

16:50 – Hm 

17:09 – Decent amount to unpack in this exchange. All related to the family definition stuff – Soun’s making the hard-line distinction of family name equaling family, as opposed to the Shimogamo’s more broad and situational use of it. Additionally, you could read this as Soun feeling he is being viewed as a representation of his family, and not as an individual, which also plays into the mentality he’s instilled in his sons and failed to in his daughter (he is Nise-emon, I am an extension of him, etc). Finally, there’s that “what would your brother think” – “he already knew,” which I find really great – it shifts his betrayal from pure jealousy to not being able to stand his brother’s judgment and acceptance of him, a kind of self-hatred that he only fights by seeking arbitrary exterior signals of power. Which is, you know, not exactly the most uncommon thing

17:21 – Lovely 

17:45 – Benten’s line. It almost feels like humans or “humanity” kind of represent everything that isn’t human, or is just out of our control – they’re not supposed to be malevolent individuals, they’re supposed to be Age and Change and Circumstance, the inevitabilities that we must always live in the presence of, but not feel like we are slaves to

18:21 – Nice to see he’s not accepting this 

19:06 – Pretty much everyone is getting a great moment this episode. Understandably – this show very carefully built its core ensemble, so it’s not gonna put them to waste in the finale

19:51 – Kaisei and Benten have to do everything for these idiots 

20:46 – Noooo 

21:04 – Time to grow up, little brother 

21:22 – Last one for the day 

And Done

Well, this isn’t good. We’ve lost Yasaburou, Benten’s already made one failed contribution, and we traded a Kaisei for a Yashiro, which no offense to Yashiro is a pretty bum deal. I think we’re gonna need at least one more brother to get out of this one.

Didn’t like this episode as much as the last one, but it started and ended extremely well, and my problem may be more that I just find the Ebisugawa twins actively painful to listen to. Everything else was great – both Benten and Kaisei got very satisfying hero moments, and the conversation between Soun and Mom was a very rich exchange for his character. I’m somewhat surprised but not at all unhappy to see they’re not leaning more on Yasaburou at this point – they seemed to almost make a point of having him be too noncommittal and ineffectual at such an important moment, whereas pretty much everyone else understands the gravity of the situation. Hopefully a rescue by his brothers will help shape him up.

2 thoughts on “Uchouten Kazoku – Episode 11

  1. Huh, I actually liked the Ebisugawa twins. They’re annoyingly dumb, but I can’t say they’re not entertaining to watch. Particularly the younger brother. Comic relief at a high tension moment might not be too bad after all.

  2. I preferred this episode to the previous one, and I thought I hated the Ebisugawa twins. As the events unfold, I’m getting a clearer idea of how the twins work within the context of the overall story, so I’m rewiring my thought process to better appreciate the show as a whole, I think. Benten is still an enigma though, and I’m inclined to agree with you that any simple explanation of her motivation would make her less captivating.

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