I rarely ever write about a currently airing anime, Space Brothers being the only exception. Part of that reason is because I’m relatively new to Beneath the Tangles and have been slowly digging my way through ideas that have been floating in my head for the past few years. The other reason would be I like to have a very clear and established view and understanding of whatever I am writing about; I want to encapsulate the work as a whole rather than a certain episode. That’s just how I am as a writer. However, Uchouten Kazoku has impressed me so much the last few weeks that I decided to write about a select couple of episodes.
At the beginning of summer season, Uchouten Kazoku was not even on my radar. Nonetheless, I picked it up on its first episode for the sake of watching it with one of my good friends. It was interesting but nothing special. It was slow but not boring. It was clearly establishing a world of tanuki, tengu, and humans, but I had no idea how it planned to go from there. Uchouten Kazoku is by the same author as Tatami Galaxy, so on that note, it had a plus. Still, it was an anime made by P.A. Works, a studio that has a fairly bad reputation, particularly when it comes to adaptations. With their most recent failures of Another and Red Data Girl, I was still going in just waiting for them to mess up. Pessimistic, for sure, but that didn’t mean I would hate on it for the sake of hating on it. Indeed, the world building was done well and entertaining, not to mention Noto’s amazing performance as Benten. And when I was just starting to get bored of the slice of life, they pulled out some amazingly well written and executed drama.
Spoilers ahead, but it is revealed near the end of episode 7 that on the night their father was killed (captured by humans and eaten in a tanuki hot pot), one of the four brothers Yajirou had become drunk with him and essentially left him alone and presumably defenseless. Perhaps not directly, but surely indirectly causing the death by irresponsibly leaving his drunken father alone, he is filled with guilt and abandons life to become a frog in a well, literally. The oldest brother, Yaichirou, breaks down in tears with all kinds of emotions while the third son Yasaburou (I know, these names are so confusing) is left unsure how to feel. The youngest brother is left uninformed.
The following episode was absolutely beautifully done, and the show shot up as one of my favorites this season. We learn the last thing their father wanted was for his children to separate or be on bad terms. We learn of their father’s final words to his tengu friend, confirming that he was quite content with his life and even accepting towards his death. His final request was for his friend to take care of Yasaburou, which had been seen plenty in past episodes. He plainly states his death was a cause of his “idiotic blood.” When the brothers go home, their mother reveals she had known all along why Yajirou had chosen to live in the well simply because “he’s my son.” Although Yaichirou is implied to have anger and disappointment towards his brother, he responds “I understand him; that’s why it hurts.” The episode ends with Yasaburou narrating that the only thing holding together the four brothers were their love for their mother and the departure of their father.
This parallels the Christian idea of loving each other as family very closely, albeit not perfectly. The brothers are as different as can be and are described as each inheriting only one aspect of their father. However, they are able to stay connected as family because of their love for their mother and the departure of their father. As Christians, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but while some get along great, others of us have more clashing opinions than we can count. But if there is one thing to connect us, it is our love for God and the death of Christ. Furthermore, it is not as if the brothers’ love is shallow as something to please their mother. They honestly love each other as brothers. However, they maintain their solidarity with each other despite their differences and disagreements because of the strength of their connection: their parents. They could have gone their separate ways with no ill will but they stay together. As Christians, we don’t have to agree with every Christian and love every single aspect and never ever feel even slightly negative about each other; that is not possible. If such a thing were to happen, we would lose the individuality that God gave us. However, we are called to treat and love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Just like these brothers, we are connected together by our love for God and the death (and resurrection) of Christ, if nothing else. And a connection through God is the strongest connection we can have with others.
As a result, while we may not agree with every action or opinion of our siblings in Christ (For example, some may have strong negative opinions regarding anime culture), we are expected to understand each other through God’s eyes and wisdom. Yaichirou, in a state of complex emotions that we can only infer, says that he understands his brother and that’s why it hurts. No matter how angry or disappointed he may or may not feel toward his brother, he also understands the pain and guilt. In the same way, Christians should be able to understand each other, put aside our many differences, and commune with each other through our largest common factor: our belief in Christ and love for God. Yajirou was already an outcast of sorts who was said to a failure of a tanuki. After the guilt of causing his father’s death, he chose to hole up in a well saying he has no right to call himself his mother’s son. And yet, she still does, just as God calls us sinners his children. Regardless of our sins and the sins we will continue to do and regardless of our opinions and views on what is right or wrong, we are all connected as siblings through Christ. And it is through Christ that we can best understand each other because it is the strongest connection we can have with each other. If we cannot understand our siblings in Christ, how much less will we understand those who aren’t?
While the familial love of the Shimogamo household is certainly one to admire and appreciate, it is not without problems. With the head of the household gone, there is a family feud between them and their cousins, who they never got along well with in the first place, over who the successor will be. Arguably, they do not share the connections the brothers have and symbolically are not a part of the family. However, their father wanted reconciliation between himself and his brother and surely considered them to still be a part of his family. In the same way, while we may not be siblings in Christ, we are all children of God, and there is no reason not to love each other as such. We my lack a spiritual connection, but we can still find connections with people in other ways, such as our love for anime. How Uchouten Kazoku will resolve the problems remains to be seen. Regardless, I look forward to the final stretch of the show with great anticipation. If it keeps up this quality, it might just be my favorite of the season.