Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kakuriyo -Bed & Breakfast for Spirits-
Part 2 BD
When Ranmaru, the master of Tenjin-ya's rival Southern inn Oriyo-ya, shows up to take Ginji back with him, Aoi refuses to let him go, resulting in her being taken along. Now in a new setting, Aoi must adjust to working and living with an entirely different group of ayakashi, most of whom aren't thrilled to see her. She soon learns that this (and Ginji's return) is all because of a ritual that must be carried out once every hundred years – and there have been problems with it in the past. Armed with her cooking skills and fierce determination, Aoi elbows in on the preparations, determined to help out so that she and Ginji can return home.
At first glance, it looks very much like the second half of Kakuriyo -Bed & Breakfast for Spirits- is simply taking the easy way out and rehashing the same story of human Aoi being plunked down in an ayakashi inn in the Hidden Realm. When she gets herself kidnapped by the heads of rival inn Oriyo-ya at the end of the first half and then arrives in a hostile new location to be surrounded by masked ayakashi, the similarities with the start of the series are impossible to ignore. By the time she ends up cooking in an old, disused building on the inn's grounds, a little eye-rolling would certainly be permissible, especially since once again fox ayakashi Ginji appears to be her only ally.
Fortunately, as the show goes on, these similarities prove to be only surface dressing. The tension in the second half comes not so much from Aoi being in a new place with new people, but more from the fact that the Southern Lands are preparing for a disaster-warding ritual that they must perform every hundred years without fail. If something goes wrong, the lands fall prey to a curse and natural disasters of every stripe befall them. Since in the (relatively) recent past the ritual went sideways, the pressure is very much on to make sure that it succeeds. That's why Ginji has been forcibly returned to Oriyo-ya and why no one has time for Aoi's anger, which clearly comes off as histrionics to the harried ayakashi who can only see her as getting in the way.
Because of this increased folkloric aspect, the second half of Kakuriyo is able to work in more world-building than its predecessor. Things around Tenjin-ya are fairly smooth in terms of economy and society, but that's not the case in Oriyo-ya's domain, which has some almost Dickensian aspects in terms of class divides and slums in the closest town. This also helps to explain the harsher attitudes Aoi faces when she arrives at Oriyo-ya, and it may also contribute to Ranmaru's surly attitude. He's already dealing with a lot of stress: his adoptive mother vanished when the ritual went wrong, his brother Ginji took off, and the lands he oversees are clearly not as prosperous as they could be. The last thing he needs (in his mind) is some punk human attached to his returned brother, insisting that she be treated humanely and that she's going to take Ginji back to Tenjin-ya with her.
The folkloric elements also take an interesting turn in the story of the ritual, which revolves around a yokai known as the Daidarabochi. Viewers of GeGeGe no Kitarō may remember him from recent episodes, as well as the Umi-bozu, who got a much earlier Kitaro storyline. In most of folklore, these are two distinctly separate beings, with the former as a land yokai and the latter belonging to the sea. Here, however, the two are combined, with their names used almost interchangeably. While not strictly correct in terms of academics, it's easy to see how this choice was made – Umi-bozu has the word for “monk” in his name, while Daidarabochi has the word for “priest” in his. Both are giant, bald, round-headed beings whose mythologic origins are largely unknown, and if you simplify their stories down to a base level, it could be said that the only major difference is where they roam. Therefore Kakuriyo's combination of the two offers a potential explanation – because of his job and his nature, he's been misinterpreted as two separate beings based on where he's spotted, when in fact it's just one yokai in reality. (As a note, Ginji repeatedly uses “yokai” when describing him as opposed to “ayakashi” for most of the other characters.) This is the farthest Kakuriyo has delved into the actual folklore of its characters and it really pays off, creating a through-line of story that draws a parallel between Aoi and the yokai as well as making it clear that what we believe about someone and why we do things is not always the truth. Since this is a lesson that Aoi has been learning right along and that Ranmaru's in pretty desperate need of internalizing, that helps the second half of the series to feel like it's made a lot of storytelling progress.
Of course, we can't just up and leave the other characters from the first half of the show, and many of them make guest appearances at Oriyo-ya, mostly to not-so-sneakily check up on Aoi. Naturally the Ogre Master is the most devoted in this aspect, and the romance plot, while not fully solidified (Ginji still seems like he could be a potential fly in the Ogre Master's ointment), definitely makes some serious progress. In part this is possible because Aoi is not at Tenjin-ya; when the Ogre Master comes to visit her, he does so disguised as a fishmonger, looking younger and less horned than usual. Because he's not also her boss, this lets him come to see her as himself rather than as the master of Tenjin-ya, and that gives him much more freedom and openness in his interactions. Oryo and Byakuya also put in appearances to help out, and by the halfway point of the set, we can see that Aoi's presence is helping to mend the relationship between the two inns.
The second half of Kakuriyo -Bed & Breakfast for Spirits- really comes into its own as it goes on. Exploring world building aspects like the fireworks ritual and the desire of ayakashi to marry human women (think Black Bird, but with much more consent) help to ground the series as a whole, and new characters like the crane twins, Ranmaru, and the deliciously evil Raijin (David Wald's version knocks it out of the park) all work to make this a strong, albeit open-ended, finale. The animation and art is still not terrific, with off-model episodes almost feeling like the norm, but strong vocal casts, an impressive collection of character-specific ending themes, and an entertaining commentary wherein the English cast mostly coos about adorable grumpy puppy Ranmaru and makes “Take on Me” jokes all add up to make this absolutely worthwhile.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : C
Art : B-
Music : B+
+ Aoi is a truly strong person, great vocal performances from both casts. Interesting worldbuilding and folklore.
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