The Eccentric Family 2
Episode 4

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 4 of
Eccentric Family 2 ?

At last, the day of the great Tanuki Shogi Tournament has arrived! Hosted by the noble Nanzenji family and promoted by the sons of the prestigious Soichiro Shimogamo, this event heralds a new age in Kyoto's tanuki society. Let this event stand as a symbol of tanuki community, casting out the dark shadows of our city's recent turmoil.

At least, that was presumably the idea. This fourth episode centers on the shogi tournament that Yaichiro has been stressing about all season, but it's more about Yaichiro himself, his relationship with Gyokuran Nanzenji, and the difficulty of following your heart while staying true to your self-image, sense of propriety, and social position. It's a wonderful episode that really speaks to the complicated soul of Eccentric Family.

As the eldest and most respectable of Soichiro's sons, Yaichiro has always strained under the weight of the expectations he places upon himself. He worked hard to make sure the Nanzenji tournament is a success, but when he's actively baited by the Ebisugawa twins, he's unable to fight back. Yaichiro's sense of propriety and shame also constrains his potential relationship with Gyokuran - though she wants to reconnect with him, he still feels guilty over losing his cool back when they were children. His youthful digression and subsequent guilt perfectly encapsulate his character; he's really a passionate and opinionated person, but the eyes of society limit his every action. Though Yasaburou sees his brother as too stiff, Gyokuran's brother rightly reminds him that when you're bound by a need to fulfill so many expectations, you're that much more likely to make mistakes.

Yasaburou is utterly impervious to such social restraints. On the negative side, this means he can act in impetuous and deeply selfish ways, like in his own squabbling with the twins. Though the Ebisugawas provoke him, “they started it” is a childish defense of his actions, particularly given how important the shogi tournament was to his brother. Yasaburou's cavalier disregard for his brother's passions leads to his mother actually dressing him down, in her own subtle and ever-loving way. The scene of Mom plying him with snacks before bluntly outlining exactly how he'll make this up to Yaichiro is just one of this episode's many highlights.

On the positive side, Yasaburou's lack of propriety means he's also free to bring people together where a more reserved character might not. Yasaburou is carefree, but he's not unkind, and his matchmaking in this episode's second half acts as both a charming apology and a demonstration of his competency within the family. Yasaburou has turned his carefree nature into not just a life philosophy, but a force for good - something this episode gracefully demonstrates by echoing his appropriation of shogi tiles into his own silly stories. The irreverence that once caused his father to sigh in exasperation ultimately raises Gyokuran out of her gloom.

As the third pillar of this episode, Gyokuran does a terrific job of establishing herself as a strong and multifaceted character with clear strengths and weaknesses. Like Yaichiro, Gyokuran feels bound to live by the conventions of tanuki society, being responsible for her family's overall reputation. Unfortunately, it's that very respect for convention that keeps the two of them apart. With Yaichiro bound by his childhood shame and Gyokuran too shy and self-doubting to make a serious move, they're incapable of growing closer. But Gyokuran is not simply an echo of Yaichiro; from her early appearance nudging Yasaburou about the tournament to her later brawling with the twins, it's clear that she's both more wily and willing to break from convention. Gyokuran seems sensitive but insecure, respectful but occasionally headstrong, and driven by a variety of unique passions. She's a great character, and this episode was a great platform for demonstrating it.

On the visual side, this episode offered a sprawling variety of gorgeous new backgrounds, along with many beautiful layouts and silly visual ideas. I appreciated how well this episode used different times of day to establish unique moods; the early-morning light as tanukis boarded a bus set a clear tone of anticipation, while Gyokuran's memories of Yaichiro were given a sense of majesty by the gorgeous night sky. And the visual execution of tanukis transforming into shogi tiles was as funny as it was bizarre.

In the end, this felt like the new season's most well-realized episode yet. It told a gracefully self-contained love story that demonstrated the charm and complexity of three core characters, while also reflecting on the show's inescapable themes of family and our place within society. By carefully illustrating the feelings and responsibilities of Yaichiro and Gyokuran, this episode was able to make the forces that limit their actions clear, bringing a sense of universality to a very specific conflict. And Yasaburou stayed true to his rapscallion nature - sometimes cheeky, sometimes destructive, but ultimately committed to getting his high-strung brother and insecure childhood friend together. It is a constant joy to watch these vividly realized furballs try and be good to each other.

Overall: A

The Eccentric Family 2 is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.

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