Uchouten Kazoku 2 Finale: Recap and Critical Analysis

Uchouten Kazoku: A Labor of Love

Every so often, when a series comes to its end, what strikes us most is the undeniable presence of a labor of love. Tsuritama and Kyousougiga instantly spring to mind as examples of anime where it is abundantly clear that the full heart and soul of the staff was poured into the creation, driven by the idea of crafting something truly exceptional. This sentiment is echoed in the words of Horikawa Kenji, the founder and president of P.A. Works, when he speaks about “Uchouten Kazoku” (also known as “The Eccentric Family”). It is evident that no one at PAW had any illusions about the show’s commercial success, but the entire team was united by their love for the material and their desire to make it the studio’s signature work. After two seasons, it becomes undoubtedly evident that they have succeeded in their noble pursuit, perhaps even breaking even in the process, if luck was on their side.

Bursting with Complications and Simplicity

As the finale of Uchouten Kanoku unfolds, there is an initial worry that the series may be heading in unexpected and unfavorable directions. What truly defines this show lies not in grand, epic finales, but rather in the intimate character moments that capture the essence of Uchouten Kazoku. There was a brief concern that we might witness a “deathbed conversion” for Benten, with her turning into a sudden ally, and the narrative potentially sacrificing the Nidaime. However, as the episode progresses, these worries are quickly dispelled. In the world of The Eccentric Family, life is both complex and simple, with paradoxes unfolding at every turn. Woody Allen once quipped that the world could be a wonderful place if it weren’t for certain people. And indeed, those certain people exist – tengu and tanuki. In a sense, one could interpret this story as the struggle of the rest of us to lead wonderful lives, despite the existence of these bastards whose greed, vanity, and petty vindictiveness complicate things for everyone involved. True to Uchouten fashion, tanuki prove to be both the wisest and most foolish among us within this context.

A Climactic Showdown

This episode initially presents itself as a climactic battle royale, encompassing all the conflicts that have unfolded over the previous twelve episodes. Yasaburou and Benten manage to crash Jyurojin’s flying rail cars onto the roof and into Nidaime’s house, leaving him infuriated. Soun is equally enraged when he discovers that Kaisei has become entangled in his scheme, providing a long-awaited resolution to that particular question. Jyurojin directs Tenmaya to throw every tanuki onto the roof, with the intention of cooking them all in a hot pot, further solidifying his status as the closest thing to an outright villain in the series. However, before this atrocity can occur, a giant hand emerges from Jigoku and snatches Tenmaya (along with Soun, who happens to be throttling him at the time), pulling them both back down to Hell.

But this is merely the prelude to the main event, an event many of us have anticipated for quite some time. In the end, Nidaime, for all his exaggerated dignity, is revealed to be just a man who, like most of us, can be undone by a woman. It seems Benten bears a striking resemblance to a flapper woman he fell in love with approximately a century ago, a woman with whom he fought against Akadama-sensei (ultimately losing the battle). My supposition is that both Nidaime and Benten were human disciples of Akadama, and considering the length of time Nidaime has been engaged in this struggle, it is not surprising that he holds the edge in power over her. Their battle devolves into a chaotic melee of flames and wind, deteriorating into nose-gouging and hair-pulling. Ultimately, Nidaime extinguishes the conflict by setting fire to Benten’s hair, a moment that, to say the least, is hauntingly dark.

A Sad and Lonely Wretch

Following the climactic battle, Benten finds herself in a state of distress and vulnerability. When Yasaburou pays her a visit at her mystical lake retreat, she poses the question, “Do you pity me?” Yasaburou’s response is affirmative – he loves her, after all. But do we, as viewers, share in this feeling of pity? It is a complex inquiry. In the end, Benten emerges as a sorrowful and lonely creature, and her story finds a fitting conclusion (at least for the time being). Benten possesses immense power that she uses to tease, titillate, and massage her massive ego. Yet, she collided with someone even more powerful and was subsequently brought low. However, in the process, this powerful figure, too, was brought low by her charms and his own human frailty. Even in the depths of his darkest despair, Nidaime managed to find the detachment to summon rain and extinguish the blaze he himself had ignited. In the end, both Nidaime and Benten elicit a sense of pity from viewers – they are pitiable figures, despite their divergent outcomes.

Humor, Warmth, and Wry Wisdom

The latter part of the episode brings us back to the Uchouten Kazoku that resonates most profoundly with viewers – the delightful blend of humor, warmth, and wry wisdom. Ginkaku and Kinkaku are left to contemplate their sins, firmly held accountable by Kureichirou. It becomes apparent that they too fell victim to Soun’s web of deceit. Dear old Yadogawa-sensei returns to his Thoreau-like existence in the woods, seemingly content and secure, while the tanuki population finds temporary safety. Someone (presumably Tousen) leaves care packages for Yadogawa-sensei regularly, maintaining a connection and offering support. Meanwhile, Yaichirou and Gyokuran tie the knot at Heian Jingu, where Akadama-sensei pays them his respects, inevitably reminded of Souichirou in the process.

Finally, our attention shifts to Yasaburou and Kaisei, who unknowingly cross paths at Tanukidani Fudoin. It is here that Yasaburou’s grandmother, Grandma (who, shockingly, turns out to be literally his grandmother), pays them a visit. As she interacts with them, it becomes clear that Yasaburou and Kaisei are inexorably bound by the red fur of fate. This crystallizes everything that Uchouten Kazoku embraces about life – the importance of having fun, of cherishing family, and of embracing a mischievous spirit. This is the ultimate wisdom of the tanuki – to keep the childlike wonder alive within oneself, regardless of age. Life only becomes unnecessarily complicated when we allow ourselves to be distracted from what truly matters. And of course,