The Eccentric Family 2 Episode 5
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Eccentric Family 2 ?
At right around the halfway point, I was ready to glumly label this episode a disappointing retread. Covering the events of the same festival that featured in last season's fourth episode, it was also predicated on pretty much the same conflict - the Shimogamo family needs to find a floating barge, the Ebisugawa twins steal their ride, and then the two families fight it out in the skies above Kyoto. While that first season episode was a thrill, seeing the twins repeat their meddling this time felt a lot less exciting. Not only was this a direct copy of a sequence we'd seen before, but the twins are easily this show's weakest characters - every time the usually thoughtful writing leans on them, the work suffers.
But of course, things turned out a little differently this time. What begins as a tanuki conflict ends up pulling in some of Kyoto's most distinguished tengu, and violence swiftly ensues. Though the story may be the same, the context of this episode ultimately made it special in its own way.
First off, the buildup to that aerial clash was full of its own small pleasures. The Eccentric Family's simplified character designs facilitate a lot of natural character acting, and seeing Yasaburo and Yaichiro try to act charming around Gyokuran was a perfect venue for it. The sequence of Yasaburo “helping” his brother by transforming into Gyokuran offered a charming twist on the usual “practice confession” scenario, with both Yasaburo's questionable Gyokuran impression and Yaichiro's reactions being funny in their own ways. And the buildup to the festival let Eccentric Family's wonderful backgrounds and color design take center stage, as the whole city assumed a warm and dreamlike atmosphere.
The festival itself offered a different set of delights, hinging largely on the strong bonds this show has established within the main family. Yashiro and Yajiro rarely get to interact much, so seeing Yajiro play conductor offered a nice glimpse into their relationship. Akadama actually stole the show, using his blunt and forceful personality to drag a confession out of the lovebirds. It's rewarding just seeing this family spend time together, with their communal love so clear in their small asides and laughter.
Of course, the twins weren't going to sit down and let the Shimogamos have a good time, so the episode turned to ship-on-ship warfare soon enough. While I wasn't particularly enthralled by the twins' childish and overlong boasting, I thought the execution of their fireworks attack was one of the episode's visual highlights. Traditionally beautiful shots of Benten and Akadama highlighted against the sky were mixed with great visual gags, like Gyokuran hanging from the train handles while a goggled Yajiro protected the liquor. The whole sequence built naturally to a collision course, ending with the arrival of Akadama's dour son.
Nidaime's feelings on this whole sordid affair were about what you'd expect: tanukis are fools, tengus are shameful for getting involved with this, and I'm super great. Nidaime's a fine antagonist, but more compelling to me were the quick switches in power that occurred just after his appearance. Though Nidaime was clearly there to antagonize Akadama and Benten, Yasaburo demonstrated his leadership qualities by quickly trying to take responsibility for the situation. And though Benten prides herself on her capricious nature, she was equally quick to rescue Yasaburo, demonstrating her underlying loyalty to her friends in a fight that ended in clear, inescapable defeat.
The finale by the riverbed was perhaps this episode's best scene. Dynamic shots tracked Yasaburo's legs as he trudged into the river, hiding his face but still letting both his loyalty and hesitance come through clearly. Rich blues were accented by the lights of Kyoto reflecting on the water, creating yet another gorgeous color palette. And Akadama once again proved his true worth, telling Benten that “even tengus fall sometimes” and actually sitting down in the water with her. Though his powers may have faded, it took another kind of greatness to set aside his pride and meet his student on equal terms.
Overall, this was an unbalanced but ultimately solid episode. The first sequence with the twins felt regrettable in a variety of ways, but that weakness was easily offset by the strong material before and after. I was happy to see Gyokuran integrate so naturally into the family, and I also appreciated finally seeing some of Akadama's true glory. Yasaburo may admire Benten, but sometimes you need someone who'll just sit in the river with you when you fall.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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