Ushio and Tora: TV season 2 (2016)
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2016
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Episodes 27-39
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17 January 2017
ushio tora
It's a lot less fun than Season 1, being darker and bleaker. It's good, though. It also finds some optimism in the final stretch, which is the point.
Our heroes' problem is Hakumen no Mono, of course. It's normal in this kind of show to have an ultimate big bad, but this one's on another level. If you want bigger and badder, you'll be a bit stuck short of reading Devilman or something. Hakumen no Mono is the size of a small island, will sink Japan just by waking up and is basically a living apocalypse. (She's also a fox with nine tails. This is standard in Japanese mythology.) She's so powerful that anyone going up against her can expect to have their spirit crushed into despair and their bodies turned into monsters before even getting within fifty miles.
We learn about Tora's backstory. He wasn't always big and orange. The details of this are ingenious, but... ouch. What makes that story horrible isn't just the events that happen, but the fact that he's such a vicious, damaged bastard who's so badly misunderstanding the world that in any normal story he'd be the tragic ultimate villain. "Hatred became my blood and body." It hurts to watch him. What happens to Ushio is related, going to some dark psychological places from which you can only hope he'll emerge before he causes too much damage to himself and the world.
What's more, this is intrinsic to Hakumen no Mono. She lives on fear. She needs the world and everyone in it to be full of negative emotions. She does pretty well at achieving this. When hope starts returning to the series in the last few episodes, not only is it a relief to the audience but it's also crucial for being able to fight her.
I shouldn't overstate it, though. It's still the same show as before and it's not a soul-crushing ordeal of depression or anything. The darkest point only lasts a couple of episodes or so, which isn't so bad. What's more, the show has a happy ending. (I'd been a bit nervous.) There's been a cost, obviously, but the good guys win and they're going to be okay.
Well, the survivors will be, anyway. Which is most of them.
Is there anything I don't like? Hmm... Japan having a keystone is silly. Sorry, but it is. It suggests to me that if you went underwater, the country would be balancing on a thin stone pillar down to the bottom of the ocean.
It's a heavier final run than I'd expected. The characterisation of that Oscar-winning actress in ep.36, for instance, is far colder and more damaged than you might have expected for a one-episode supporting character like that. I can respect that, though. They're taking their story seriously. Besides, the darkness gives the eventual light more power. The old ghosts, Ushio and Tora together for the final battle, the message of co-operation and not being driven by hatred... It's a worthwhile series. Just don't expect it to stay as light and entertaining as Season 1 was, let alone the 1992 OVAs.
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