The Eccentric Family 2
Episodes 1-2

by Nick Creamer,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Eccentric Family 2 ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Eccentric Family 2 ?

Alright, let's talk The Eccentric Family. First airing in 2013, the original season of this unique series is one of my all-time favorite shows. The series married a rich cast of characters to a whimsical interpretation of Kyoto, creating a magical realist tone where grounded reflections on aging and family would give way to astonishing fantasy setpieces. Centered on four brothers all coming to terms with the death of their great father, it explored the bonds of blood and companionship that form our greater selves, offering a scattering of gorgeous adventures all along the way.

That first season told a relatively self-contained story, where the mystery of the senior Shimogamo's death and the upcoming election of a new tanuki leader eventually tied together into one climactic “battle.” Tears were shed, philosophies were tested, and peace ultimately returned to Kyoto. At the beginning of this new season, fresh faces promise to bring new drama to their beautiful city: Akadama-sensei's “son” Nidaime (more a title than a name, meaning “Second”) and the trickster human Tenmaya.

Like the first season, The Eccentric Family 2 seems deeply concerned with identity and how we place ourselves within larger societies. The first season took care to consistently emphasize the roles we are assigned in society - humans walk on the streets, tanuki scamper beneath them, and tengu soar through the skies above. The idea of a clear, natural hierarchy informed the show's acceptance of horrors like humans eating tanukis, and testing that hierarchy resulted in much of the show's drama. Being a human, tanuki, or tengu was as much a reflection of what you did as the tribe you were born into. The Ebisugawa patriarch betrayed his family, shifting his role from a tanuki to a human. Benten, born a human but raised a tengu, found herself an eternal outsider. Social roles may be accepted, but they chafe at us all the same.

Akadama's son Nidaime aptly reflects these contradictions of identity. Like Benten, Nidaime seems to be a human raised as a tengu. Also like Benten, his sense of self seems torn by this contradiction - he denies his own tengu nature, but he also scorns Akadama for disrupting the natural order and considers himself superior to foolish tanukis. He is powerful but ungrounded, made an outcast by crossing societal lines. He seems dedicated to restoring order while embodying its disarray.

Tenmaya also exists on the borderline, though his identity seems to be a mixture of human and tanuki. This mix is perhaps the most dangerous of all - blessed with the trickster spirit of a tanuki and the amorality of a human, Tenmaya's games shift rapidly from the playful into the dangerous. It's not surprising that Tenmaya seems related to the Friday Club leader Jyurojin, whose personal power and mastery of these borderlines was only hinted at in the first season. The artist Ayameike seems to think Tenmaya is an escapee from hell itself, and Tenmaya doesn't seem eager to deny the charge.

Of course, The Eccentric Family isn't some focused contest between these great figures. Like the first season, our introduction to these newcomers proceeds at the pace of Yasaburo's life, as he roams the city, completes odd jobs, and generally enjoys his young adulthood. The Eccentric Family urges us to enjoy everything, and its narrative structure embodies that maxim. We've yet to run into any of the truly astonishing setpieces that made the first season such a wonder, but the joy of simply living is still clear in Yasaburo's idle errands and the care with which P.A. Works illustrates his gorgeous city.

Yasaburo himself is the ideal protagonist for a series like this, standing at the intersection of freedom and responsibility, family and self, and all three of Kyoto's great races. The first season saw eldest brother Yaichiro attempt to take on his father's role, but it was already clear that Yasaburo is the true Shimogamo heir. Though he complained with every step, Yasaburo naturally navigated the political pitfalls of Kyoto's tiered society and rose to every challenge set before him. The Eccentric Family's rambling storytelling ultimately celebrates the contradictions inherent in our lives, and Yasaburo is a contradiction to the core. That's the magic of life. That's what makes it interesting.

Overall: B+

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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