Posted on 28 June 2017 with categories: Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario, Uchoten Kazoku

(Note: Since psgels didn’t give his final review to the first season, this review is for the entirety of Eccentric Family. If I had to grade the second season alone, it’s 90/100).

Doesn’t matter how you look at it, the Eccentric Family is a unique show, in a way it feels and tastes like no other shows out there, both in and out of itself. Everything surrounding it feel magical just like its world: the series is the only anime show that promoted as a city ambassador (Kyoto Special Goodwill Ambassador), the second season that no one see coming (especially at the time the first season ended the second book hasn’t even written yet), P.A Works studio became the leading unit in production committee of this second season, meaning they are passionate about this series and they have total artistic control over it (as for how influential the anime studios usually have over the decision of their work. Nil. Most of the time they are slave who draw and deliver what were told. Sad fact). This is one of few series where I can see a lot of love was put into those details, from the love of their characters to its rich world settings, to Yasaburou’s various adventures. Of course P.A Works does a magnificent job to visualize that world, but I also credit the success on Tomihiko Morimi’s adept writing. Eccentric Family is at heart a character-driven series, and he’s simply one of the best in this industry when it comes to character writing: eccentric cast of characters who distinctive, whimsical but always insightful and intriguing. I have a lot to say about this world so let get right down to it.

The Eccentric Family’s first and foremost strength comes from its magical-realism Kyoto world where human, tengu and tanuki live together in harmony. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that this setting is my personal favorite anime settings ever. Magical-realism has always been right up my alley: the mundane, ordinary world that mixed in with magical elements that serve as a normality to their world. And sure, in this world a lot of strange things happen: tanuki who transform into human shape and fool around until they get caught and turn into a hot pot tanuki, human who float in the air in broad daylight, a tiger (and bear) appear in the middle of the city. Just by the look of it, this world promises to provide a lot of fun, but this show even goes much more further than that: all the settings that not only gorgeous to look at, they all have strong sense of personality that feel like they get stuck in that specific moments: when you see the rooftop you immediately link to Benten, Yasaburou and the moon; when you see a flying house you would think right back to the Daimonji Festival and the stupid fights between Shimogamo and Ebisugawa’s family.

And to support for both its sense-of-wonder attitude and its magical-realism settings, The Eccentric Family is a masterclass at portraying an impossibly huge interior space that looks much grander than it supposed to be***: the Painting of Hell that literally pull you through hell with Onis doing wrestling and eating ramen; the 3-stories bus that has an upper floor of open air onsen and bamboo pathway; or a shogi board that can suck you into a secret room. Not only that warped sense occurs in space, it happens in time as well. There is a 2-epsiode worth of playtime that dedicated to Yasaburou’s various adventures in a span of a single day, where he enjoyed a public bath, went through hell, watching Oni wrestling, enjoyed mixed onsen, having crazy dinner party and witnessing his uncle got shot. See, those events feel much longer than it supposed to be. This is on purpose, of course, since what is a better way to highlight the enjoyment of busy carefree life by crazy events one after another?

In addition, the Eccentric Family’s greatest strengths come from its characters. The first season contains a great diversity of cast, but that quality really shines through in the second season as the new additions not only fit very well with the old cast, they even outshine them in many moments. Each of them has their own voice, has great arc to develop and their chemistry are natural, warm and insightful. Here comes one of the decision from the P.A Works that I find worth applauding, they never probably introduce a new character to us. Most of the time the new characters just walk in and have a normal conversation with our main casts and we have to work out their name and their role to the story. It helps that nearly every single one of them has their own way of speaking and their own personalities, so it’s not that hard to differentiate one from another, despite a relatively huge cast. It also helps that through we can tell so much about their characters through subtle gestures, so much as the Eccentric Family is one rare show that I can fall for new characters within the first few minutes (I remember you very fondly, Seiran). Our main protagonist, Yasaburou, is an interesting character to follow, throughout the course although all we see about him is having as much fun as possible with no consideration for responsibility, he takes care of everyone arounf him in his own way and in the end, he reaches a personal grown on balancing between those two factors. It’s up in the air if he’s constantly thinking of everything or constantly thinking nothing at all being led by his fool’s blood; but for him anyway, these are the same goddamn thing.

But by all mean, even 95 percent of the time this show treats their characters thoughtfully, the remaining 5 percent whenever the idiotic twins and Soun appear, they unfortunately drag the show down. These characters are the type that we all love to hate, so they possess their annoying traits… all the way, being annoying for the sake of annoying. I have since warmed up to Soun, but the way he came back to life kind of demerit his meaningful death. Another factor that happen in second season, is that sometimes they reprise the events of the first season (the Daimonji festival, the Nise-emon election), and whenever they do that they can’t bring the same impact as the first and seem like they rely on the beaten path.

While the first season focus more about familial bond, the responsibility one would strive to do versus the fun one has to experience through life, the second season follow that freedom sense, but touch on other themes such as self-identity (in term of Nidaime and Benten: one is a tengu who refuse to be one, the latter is a human who wants to become a tengu. None of them are happy), and the fate of love. The romance part is what surprise me the most as I would never expect I would ship for almost all the lovey cute little love here. I also give my hat off to the character designs, as each of the tanuki have human and tanuki counterparts, and we have such huge cast here but nearly every one of them is distinctive and attractive. The animation is thoroughly consistent and the music is really, really well done. In term of production value, I really have no complain.

The Eccentric Family has a lot to recommend on, I would argue that distractors can read the show as un-focus at times, because it feels like they set up for one crazy set-piece after another without a central conflict; but take heed that the majority of its 2-season runtime is about Yasaburou wanders around his city, tries to live the life to the max so it has its merit. I just say this simply; this show is brimming with love in every scene and with shows like this I know why I fall in love anime medium in a first place. The Eccentric Family already has a special place in my heart.

 

***If you want a real-place equivalent to this, I’d say it’s like the Old Quarter in Hanoi. From the outside you can only see a small pathway between 2 old houses that only wide enough for a bicycle to get in, then you get through that pathway, turn to some small alleys, go up-stair, pass through some small apartments and TADAH: a bookstore, a store and a café located inside all that maze. I was utterly amazed but there’s no chance an outsider would know such a place without the help of the local. And I do worry what going to happen if there is a fire there?

Posted on 26 June 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

Oh god, this climax. Other shows, take note. This is how you SHOUD NOT do on your final battle. How this show can jump from Yasaburou, Yaichirou fighting the Fellow Friday for their lives last week, to the conflict of Soun and Tenyama (that they eventually ended up in Hell again), to end with Benten and Nidaime’s face-off in a span of 5 minutes is way beyond me. It’s all over the place, and just like some oldschool screwball comedy where crazy events just keep stacking up by the minutes. But somehow this climax freaking WORKS. After all, that Kyoto world is fantastical crazy, so isn’t it the most fitting idea to have the craziest showdown ever for that fateful night? At the end of the day you won’t learn much how Soun faked his death or the reason why Nidaime come back to Kyoto, but whatever the case, the emotional development is clear. Soun pathetically uses all means possible to attain the Nise-emon title; and doesn’t matter the reason Nidaime comes back, he’s clearly unhappy and frustrated. With that Eccentric Family tied up all of the core casts’ character arc magnificently. I won’t lie when I say that this is the climax only Eccentric Family can pull off, with satisfying conclusions and feature almost everything you love about this series: warm, whimsical with heart. This show ends in a very high note.

Benten and Nidaime finally have a long-awaited battle. Well, all the previous events all build up to this battle and for a while I thought that Benten would have her first win since Nidaime is clearly angry, thus vulnerable. From before that fight there was interesting opposite visual metaphor for these two: Benten appears with ice cold atmosphere, while when Nidaime gets out of control, he burst out of flame. The battle between Ice Queen and Flame Boy has some great set-pieces, but that powerful fight slowly descends into the fight between kids as they desperately try to grab each other’s hair, and mouth and dirty trick are in play too. That fight feels sad. The two comes out of it both feel like losers. This is the first time we see both of them cry, in a way that they feel frustrated with themselves. Akadama sensei, a mentor for them both, faces his son eye-to-eye for probably the first time in decades, concludes nicely “If you feel frustrated, grow stronger”.

After that crazy night, the rest of the episode feels like a welcome epilogue where Yasaburou meets all the casts for the last time. Congrats to Yaichirou and Gyokuran for their tying the knot (imagine Yaichirou’s most nervous moment isn’t when he ends up in a hot pot but when he looks at his bride in gown. Puff!!). Kureichirou (the real one) makes amend with the Shimogamo again, and Yasaburou finally asks Kaisei for her hand paw, with some wry wisdoms from Yasaburou’s grandma, despite that means he can’t transform freely in front of her. The sweet last sequence where the three of them exchange to each other is probably the fitting ending to this fluffy tale. Here they are, as she grasps on the edge of his jacket, and they walk on for new adventure. That, my friend, is the red string of fate. I die a happy man now.

This second season certainly is a great season on its own. As to the question whether or not it surpasses the original season, let me just say that sequels most of the time are inferior to the originals (well, unless you’re The Godfather or Mad Max, but even with the former, the original still holds more cultural landmark than the second, and I am talking about complete story here – Light Novels where they will expand the world in 20 plus volumes are out of question), so the real angle would be if this second season is a WORTHY follow-up to the first? The answer is obvious, Yes. The Eccentric Family 2 not only improves the settings and the themes of the original, the new additions have been phenomenal and they are even more WOW set-ups than the first, most notably the Painting of Hell and the Moon parts. One thing that I feel this season improves on the first is the romantic part as all the romances feel grounded here. The Eccentric Family is considered as a signature work for P.A Works, mostly because how the staffs clearly love this world and I can totally see the love breathes through in every scene here. You say anime is looking doom in the future? As long as there are works like this, created by the passion of the staffs because they just fall in love the project like this; I don’t see anime dying anytime soon. The full review is coming soon but take note that since psgels originally covered the first season without a final impression, my review will be about the two seasons of The Eccentric Family.

Posted on 20 June 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

The Eccentric Family again takes some solid steps to its final showdown. But let me address this first because I’m sure no one really see it coming. Soun comes back to life. A fake-out death? Seriously? Using fake-out death ALWAYS comes with a price, which is all the emotional investment we had for the death is now gone, moreover we feel utmost betrayal; thus I hope The Eccentric Family better has something up their sleeves for using Soun again. Now I remember back it was Kaisei who stayed with Soun in his final moments, so saving his life and taking him back are entirely possible. Or was it a scheme staged by both Soun and Tenmaya? But then Tenmaya seems to be mistaken Soun for Kureichirou like everyone else too. This was a very smart plan I must say; only there are two downsides in that plan: that gun is a fake (easily recognized by Nidanme) and the real Kureichirou shows up and makes it clear one and for all. Hmm, no matter HOW he came back to life, the fact that he tricked everyone for so long and nearly pulled of a complicated plan like that just to show us how mad, desperate and wise Soun has become.

Despite doesn’t appear much in this episode, I would safely say Benten’s tears is my favorite moments this week. We have been told many times before, and we know, that Benten has her vulnerable side and she clearly feels empty, always aiming for what she doesn’t have. Doesn’t matter if it via flashback when Yaichirou the frog told his brother that she cries many times alone in a well, or via the dream of Yasaburou when she looks melancholic, this is the FIRST TIME we actually see Benten sheds her tears on screen, in front of Yasaburou no less; when she realizes that she will have to eat him. You could say Benten is a cruel, egotistical, and heartless monster, but I see the fact that she eats tanuki despite knowing all of them well and keeps bragging about that very fact are just the natural hierarchy of that world. Human is at higher rank on the food chain than tanuki so it’s just a natural way of life that tanuki gets eaten by the human. Heck, the tanukis here eat meat and chicken wings from time to time too. Anyway, Yasaburou has always been a source of amusement for Benten (remember how happily she was in the Painting of Hell), and it’s nice to see how much affection she has for Yasaburou, even for a fleeting moment.

Yaichirou once again is incapacitated of his Nise-emon title, as the Shimogamo falls into the scheme made by the Ebisugawa family, this time it’s even grander and more organized than the first season. Yaishirou is framed for exploding his lab, with the gun that shot Soun in it. Yasaburou thus is declared as the person who shot Soun down, and Yaichirou is framed as the mastermind behind it. Losing the reputation he has been so careful building up all this time, Yaichirou breaks out, gives hell with the tradition, and runs forward to help his brother. It’s great to see such a fearless determination from Yaichirou, the one who usually loses his calmness when conflicts arise. But the cream of crop here is Gyokuran, who will support him till the end of the world. She has no second-thought here, just jumps straight to his side to rescue Yasaburou. The director, Masayuki Yoshihara, when talked about this new season, especially mentioned that one of the highlights of this second run lies in its attractive new characters. Well, I wholeheartedly agreed with that, it has been such a joy to see those new characters, most notably Nidainme, Tenmaya, Gyokuran, and my new favorite, Seiran; not only fits the original cast so well, but also shines as their own unique person.

Of course, I can’t end this post without mention one of the key sequences in this series, when Yasaburou finally has a heartily conversation with his father, in a half-dream half-nirvana dinner hall. It’s the moment of life and death for Yasaburou, and here when he finally meets Souichirou, he makes a solid counterpoint to his father’s sudden death. Souichirou might be ready to depart the world with his head held high. The rest of the family members, however, were unequipped for that lost and throughout the first season they were all struggling to both live up to his father’s legacy, and try to protect each other. When his father asks him if he still wants to do more with his life, the answer is clear. He doesn’t want to drag anyone else into this mess (Kaisei) – responsibility – and he still wants to live to do heaps of things – freedom – Yasaburou now has reached the balance between those two forces, with the help of Pompoko Mask hero of course. I know the climax just heating up now, but with just 1 last episode to go (they confirmed that this season will only have 12 episodes), how the hell are they going to tie everything up neatly? We still have that final match between Benten and Nidaime, right? We still need to solve Soun’s fake death, and Yasaburou and Kaisei finally together, right? In order to achieve the last goal, at least Benten will have to go…

Posted on 14 June 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

The plot of Eccentric Family thickens greatly as this episode ended and heads nicely towards a much-awaited climax. Well, all the developments are pretty much expected, but with a compelling twist. I mean, was there any doubt from the beginning that Yaichirou will become the next Nise-emon? Except maybe not. Kureichirou – his opposition – might be an imposer for whichever unexplained reason and the true Kureichirou might go back home and break all the tanuki’s peace there. Was there any doubt from the beginning that the one who would end up in a tanuki hot pot is none other than Yasaburou? Except maybe not. Kaisei is unfortunately dragging along the ride too and it would be much more tragic (I WIL SCREAM) if Kaisei’s the one who become a tanuki meat. Meanwhile, we have some lovely moment of Yaichirou finally achieved his dream and the new ship of Yajirou and the hole-digger Kancho-girl has been sailed fast (I’ll be here shipping them hard). This episode hasn’t lost any of The Eccentric Family’s charms yet.

Let me just get off track a bit and compare The Eccentric Family to another show airing this season, Saekano. Both are character-driven shows, yet in Saekano’s case, despite a smart-sounding writing that usually fall within my taste, somehow the characters always leave a sour taste in my mouth. Take how they introduce new characters to see the difference in their approach. Last week Saekano introduced a new “boss”: Kosaka Akane, and she surely makes the most out of her introduction with over the top gestures, screaming, demanding and even deranging her face. Her extreme actions have a purpose though, as she was pushing our characters to their limits, but I still have issues with that. In Eccentric Family, they highlight the “boldness” of the tanuki who love to dig hole through showing us many subtle details. Yes, she’s quirky alright, but the new girl wouldn’t be that distinctive if she hasn’t make witty comments WHILE poking his frog-face with whatever things she was holding (the YELLOW fur of fate) and running around the hole carelessly in her BARE FEET. And I haven’t get to the part that she recognized Yajirou (by his name no less) just by sniffing at him (how awesome!) and they already have some sort of history before with the Fake Train and all that. This show knows how to make a good impression on their new characters and to top it off, her chemistry with Yajirou is amazing. Well, the girl who was born to dig hole to meet a guy who literally lives in a hole. I can’t think of anything else to say except that they’re born for each other.

The inner parlor rooms where the Kincho clan resides are another case of impossibly huge interior space that The Eccentric Family is famous for. In this case, they can change in shape and size as well. However, it’s soon revealed that the lazy grumpy guy who we don’t even get to see his face might be the real Kureichirou. Which means who the hell is this monk back home and why reveal that twist that late of the game? It will have to do with the climax, right? Whatever the reason that the guy tries to impose as the eldest of Ebisugawa might be, it’s all from his good will as he has done nothing but trying hard to make peace for the two families. As for Yaichirou, the moments that he become the next Nise-emon, I actually feel that he’s truly earned it. His father said some wise advice here and if there’s anything to indicate that Yaichirou doesn’t follow his father’s footstep, it’s that he still very much sincerely cares for all his brothers. Gyokuran have many solid moments with Yasaburou and even outshines him in some scenes. The Eccentric Family really knows how to develop new characters that fit right in with the old cast and the world around them.

At long last, both Yasaburou and Kaisei get shot down and on their way to become a delicious tanuki hot pot. Till death do us part, hey? If there is one thing that we should learn throughout the course of this series, trust Kaisei’s instinct. Like when she hears the sound of music, you better know that you’re about to be in deep trouble.

Posted on 6 June 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

This episode sets up nicely the main conflict for what seem to be the final arc of Eccentric Family: the coming Nise-emon to choose the prime minister of this Kyoto tanuki clans, but bigger and more serious affair is the rival between Benten and Nidaime, now that Yasaburou single-handled creates the situation where the two of them have to face off each other. Their rival has been built up since the beginning of this season, and with both Nidaime and Benten are amongst the most kick-ass characters in this universe, there’s a lot to look forward to. I’ve mentioned many times about their chemistry in previous write-ups – Benten has some sort of identity crisis, follow both human and tengu’s rituals (Friday Fellows and the successor of great Tengu line); Nidaime, whom his whole life has been avoided following his father’s Tengu path – and this episode is all about Yasaburou set them up to their confrontation. As such, this episode loses the richness of previous episodes, but I won’t complain if it builds up to a satisfying conclusion to our cast.

Now, Yajirou is officially leaving Kyoto, and the brothers come to see him off. I completely understand the reason Tousen didn’t come to see him. Saying goodbye is hard, but seeing someone off is ten times harder as god knows how long you will see them again. The remaining of the episode though, focuses mainly on the next Nise-emon election, but for once I see no contest in that election at all. Mainly because we spent nearly 2 seasons following Yaichirou, and for now his competitor, Kureichirou’s only defining traits are his calm demeanour and his positive attitude towards the Shimogamo. Even in previous season when Yaichirou had to go against Soun, he had a real shot of becoming a Nise-emon, so I don’t think Kureichirou poses any real threat there (he doesn’t seem to care for the position at all). But one problem arises, Akadama-sensei refuses to be the observer, instead asking Benten for the position. That doesn’t bode well for the tanuki, of course, since Benten ate their greatest Nise-emon of all time in a delicious hot pot stew before.

That’s where our Yasaburou comes in, after failing to change Akadama-sensei’s mind, on a whim he decides to ask Nidaime as an observer instead, knowing full well the outcome. Knowing Nidaime hates to own tanuki any favour, Yasaburou frames his request as a form of payback all the favours, thus he’s able to convince Nidaime. Benten certainly doesn’t like that idea, so she’s basically bullying the poor tanukis on their meeting. Remember Nidaime:2 – Benten:0 for now, how will it goes from there? Ah we also have Benten‘s brother lurking somewhere in the forest, so how he, the Thursday Club, the Friday Club come together again in this epic final arc? Looks like it’s going to be exactly like what Yasaburou sings out of his boredom:

“I’m always causing trouble,

A whole lotta trouble,

I’m always gonna disturb the peace,

Always gonna disturb the peace.”

Posted on 29 May 2017 with categories: Uchoten Kazoku

Woah, there’s a lot of things going on in this episode. This week, The Eccentric Family returns to themes that it is most comfortable with: family and life’s purpose which have been put mostly on the sidelines this season. The episode, in hindsight, is a string of many effective scenes combining, making this week one of the most diverse cast we have this season, yet all these sequences point towards the family’s responsibility, the red fur of fate and individual’s goal and deliver many resonate bittersweet moments. Eccentric Family might just release its best episode to date here. First, the ongoing feud between Shimogamo’s and Ebisugawa’s families have finally come to an end as the young head of Ebisugawa: Kureichirou brings down the annoying twins to the Shimogamo to amend for their father’s evil actions. Like Tousen said earlier, it’s idiotic blood of the tanuki that make them fight against each other (but aren’t we human the same?). Yaichirou of course doesn’t want any more conflict so they agree to lay off that dispute and shake hands. Well, since we were witnessing along them how the feud come into its biggest confrontation in the first season, seeing that war was resolved completely feel like a triumph for me. Just imagine how Kureichirou could bring the stupid twins to kneel down and offer to be pulled out fur from their butts (which I could imagine a very humiliated tanuki way) make me realize how influential the guy to his brothers. This sequence links well to the theme of family, now with the former powerful heads of each family gone, the young heads have to settle down and have to choose their own ways; there’s no point in continuing the feud, must like there is no point to punish the Ebisugawa’s sons for what their father had done.

We also have all the members of Shimogamo (plus one future member) meeting together. This episode smartly showcases the development of each brother in the family. Yajirou can be able to transform again, although he still can’t stay in his shape for too long. Yashirou, with the help of Kureichirou, has a whole lab for himself to experiment whatever he likes. In term of personal conflicts, there is a lot to chew on as well. Yaichirou feels his responsibility to look after his brothers, to guide them to their own paths, and to become like what their father did. Of course, the first two are genuine but Yasaburou points out the last point that he doesn’t need to shoulder the responsibility of a dad. Because he can never fulfil that role, nor he need to be (he was sitting the exact same spot that his father had dinner before he disappeared). Asking Yasaburou to marry Kaisei in order to have something for Yasaburou to protect is an interesting valid point, but doesn’t Yasaburou’s everyday chores are to take care of his sensei and protect the people around him? Yassburou might be too carefree to never consider what is his real goal in life except slacking around, and Kaisei’s comments in the end all point out to his lack of responsibility, but remember he was always the first to run to his mother whenever thunder came, or helps out his sensei whenever possible.

Benten also makes an appearance in this episode; and she’s having a date with… Nidanme no less. Their conversations are still pretty vague right now, but I do hope Nidanme isn’t into Benten like almost every male creatures in this Eccentric Family’s universe. (She’s bad egg, don’t cha see that?) One thing for sure is that he comes back to this town because of their previous encounter in London and they remain awkward, but surprisingly no ill-resentment to each other. Then it’s Yajirou who have a juicy role this week, as he decides to leave Kyoto to find his own path, much to the dismay of Yasaburou. For Yasaburou, whatever happens, the family stays together, but Yajirou will forever be a frog if he still stays under the well (the image of all his belongings fit right into a hankerchief is serious sad – and there is greeting from Kaisei here). The brotherly talk brings so much warm to the scene, and the tender score really hits its spot. This is a sudden but believable development from Yajirou. Yasaburou doesn’t cry (he proclaimed himself that he never cry, and doesn’t have any weakness – both of which were prove untrue in this episode), but he ends up running to the mountain to sulk for A WEEK, which of course is far more immature.

And finally, it’s Kaisei’s secret. In truth, the only disappointment I had for this marvelous episode is that I expected a lot more Kaisei’s moments this week. In reality, she only appears in the last 5 minutes though, but boy she sure delivered. Her secret, turn out to be such sweet twist that tie up the red fur of fate nicely. The sight of her makes Yasaburou’s transformation come undone. Plain and simple. Just like how the presence of Benten did the same thing to Yasaburou’s father. That explains how she can transformed the hypnotized-Yasaburou-bear back to tanuki few episodes back (great foreshadowing). Apart from the fact this is one of the sweetest thing I’ve seen this entire year bar none (the exchanges, especially when she cracks up, are extraordinary), the revelation 1) just shows us how thoughtful and attentive Kaisei has always been to the people around her, especially to Yasaburou. While Yasaburou’s reason for rejecting this proposal idea is mainly about himself and his freedom, Kaisei’s reason has always been for his sake. It’s obviously hard for her to hang around Yasaburou, especially he’s the one she cares dearly for (common, this’s pretty obvious now) 2) more importantly, Kaisei represents the cage that block Yasaburou’s freedom of transformation. Remember they mentioned that tanuki can’t transform inside a cage, because they lost the freedom so to speak. So to choose Kaisei mean that Yasaburou agrees to give up his transformation altogether, which you know he would never do. Such fate that can never bring the two furballs together – the red fur of fate. We have for ourselves a true star crossed anime here.

Posted on 23 May 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

For a show that has a knack for little moments, this episode is one of the rare times that Eccentric Family goes for big dramatic emotional route, and manages to knock it out of the park. Soun, in the end, serves no more purpose than a pawn in a chess. Wicked all the way, but died abruptly and meaninglessly. Everyone might just brush off and say that he deserves it, but for once I can see his real struggles there. Running away from tanuki society, he aims to join the Friday Club to hunt down all the tanukis that “betrayed” him, but all his efforts and careful schemes are all taken away by spurring moments by Yasaburou, who obviously doesn’t even try, nor care at all, but getting everyone’s approval instead. Irony is there. The natural order is there, too. At the end of the day, doesn’t matter if they’re a hero (like Soichirou) or villian (like Soun), ultimately they are just a weakling tanuki who died helplessly at the hand of the human. Soun doesn’t end up in hot pot tanuki stew, but his death is equally vulnerable. In fact, building him up as evil and ruthless make his defeat even more tragic.

But before that resting moment happened, we have quite an eventful day out of Yasaburou; the more amazing when you notice that last week and this week occur in a span of one single day – where he enjoyed a public bath, went through hell, watching Oni wrestling… and back, enjoyed mixed onsen (boy, that IS truly heaven), having crazy dinner party afterward. Just like what I gathered from the new movie “Life is Short, Walk on Girl”, also written by Morimi. The whole movie happens in a span of a single night, but the events feel much longer than that. This is on purpose, of course, since what is a better way to highlight the enjoyment of busy carefree life by crazy events one after another? It is the magical realism not only by its settings that consists of many mythical figures; but also by warping a sense of time that feel much longer than it supposed to be.

And that wrapping sense isn’t only limited in time, but in space as well. The Eccentric Family has various impossible physical interior places that looks much grander than it supposed to be. Last few weeks we have Nidaime’s cozy apartment that situated in a roof of a small, washout building; we have a hole in a shogi board that actually has a secret room inside it; we also have a painting that have a whole world inside its own; this week they might have its greatest addition: a three-stories train by Jyurojin whom its first story is his office, second story is a dining room and the third one has an open-air onsen with bamboo pathway to boost. The interiors clearly don’t fit with the exterior outside, but that is again intentional to highlight this magical world.

Jyurojin emerges himself as the real threat this episode, especially now when Tenmaya joins him again as a faithful servant. You dare to defy the Friday Club purpose? You get a gun pointed right at you by him. You want your dragon stone back because you couldn’t get in the club? No way in hell. When he mentioned he’s scared of the Painting of Hell because it reminds him of his own inside he seriously gives me a chill. The banquet night, likewise, isn’t your normal banquet. Things quickly go out of hand when Yodogawa sensei declares his love for tanuki (“Love is something you have to force on others”, haha), and protests tanuki stew hot pot tradition. Jyurojin quickly ties him up and “force on his love” to sensei by shooting him in the face, and he means business. Yasaburou then saves his friend by expelled himself from the Thursday club in order to change sensei mind, but Bentei gets the clue and asks him to join the Friday Club instead, meaning he will eventually get to eat a delicious tanuki hot stew. Benten has been very playful this week (guess she’s really in a good mood). That decision also means the total exclusion of Soun, and our Yasaburou is the stone that cries in this episode.

I’m glad that Kaisei has an excellent moment this week, and it appears she will get more spotlight now, as next week will be her episode: “Ebisugawa Kaisei’s Secret”. I have a feeling her secret will be dark (maybe she’s adopted by Soun?), and I hope whatever the secret is, it doesn’t involve with the death of Soun. After all, she takes her father’s death surprisingly calm, doesn’t it?

Posted on 15 May 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

Hell, this episode of Eccentric Family sure is surreal. While this show has always been your very definition of magical realism series, the latter half of this episode leans far away from the “realism” spectrum with the most ridiculous catch ever: Yasaburou found himself inside the Painting of Hell, being pushed by none other than his uncle Soun. But true to Eccentric Family’s universe, this version of hell is glorious and bright, with Oni who as cool as a cucumber (off track but why the cats so afraid of cucumber by the way?). Really, what an episode! The sequence in Hell totally won me over for its rich background details, stylized world of industrial ruins in hell. And then we have Oni girl commenting on hair fashion. And then we witness Oni demons doing wrestling matches. And then tanuki flies off the sky. My mind’s blowing with such goofiness. This season of The Eccentric Family just getting better and better and now with the main antagonist starts to appear (in this case, reappear), the plot is rolling much faster now.

This first half continues to give more screen time to the recurring characters as Yasaburou visits them along the way. First, Yodogawa-sensei gets kicked out of his teaching because of the influence of the Fellow Fridays (the show makes it like it’s no big deal at all but it’s scary when you think about his situation applied in real life), as a result he has to retreat to the rural forest whose wild boars are all around. But the interesting bit lies in his assistant, Suzuki, whose has the same hair color and the same eyes with Benten (her real name is Satomi Suzuki). Indeed, it wouldn’t be far-fetched if he turns out to be her brother. Heck, I’m quite amazed the way The Eccentric Family just throw new characters in the scene without any proper introduction or exposition, and then by the little information we gather and by the way they behave, we have to work out who they are and how they’re related to the big picture. The best thing of all is that those new characters, even without proper introduction, fit right in with this universe. Prepare for some sibling reunion (and maybe tissue-grabbing moments) later down the road.

Second, let’s talk about our Kaisei. Finally she’s back and I enjoy every conversation between her and Yasaburou, even if the majority of their chat is about she’s being busy lately for some reasons unknown and her jealousy towards Yasaburou’s affection for Benten-sama. Later, that ninja tanuki teleports from one red post to another (not really!) to follow Yasaburou around is so endearing and whimsical to watch. Great chemistry there, although I would prefer she has some more development for herself. Last season she was special for her ability to appear in the right time at the right place (like how she transformed into the stair to help Yasaburou and Yodogawa-sensei last season), it has been sorely lacking this season as all she does for now is hanging around Yasaburou at her own pleasure (I hope you get the signs, Yasaburou) or disappearing into thin air.

But the biggest reveal of this week’s episode is the return of Soun. In truth, he has never been gone. He sneaks around that Arima onsen, and preparing himself to be the next candidate of the Friday Fellows, meaning providing a new tanuki hot stew and will eating it himself. CANNIBALISM. Kind of freak me out how inhumane (in-tanuki-ne) Soun has become, as he refuses himself to be a tanuki anymore – in a way just like Nidaime who refuses to be called tengu. But to tell you the truth, this is the most glaring issues that I have with The Eccentric Family back from the first season: Soun and the twins are just badly-written characters in otherwise a sincere character-heavy show. They’re the characters we love to hate, and Soun proves once again to be evil all the way. When you see it that way he resembles the villains in Disney movies: ruthless and evil.

And then we get to the second part. The Painting in Hell part. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that this is one of the best sequence I’ve seen this year. Period. The sequence is so great that it’s compatible with another hell episode (Showa Rakugo) in terms of greatness. Prior to this episode, I had expected that the Painting in Hell would come up as a reference only, so seeing Yasaburou actually gets sucked into that world is eye-popping to say the least. Only in mere 10 minutes, that hellish world is well realized, both as nothing we’ve ever seen in this series, yet somehow never out of tone. Instead, it’s one of the brightest and most whimsical version of hell that I’ve witnessed so far. Then the Oni demons come and they turn out to be a very enjoyable bunch. For such a limited screen time, that Oni Girl already appears as adorable and trustworthy – not a small feat to pull off at all. And then the most absurd moment that no one would never have anticipated: Benten wrestling with the Oni demons; in order to collect their horns and exercise some muscles. She’s taken by surprised as well when she sees Yasaburou in this living hell, but her genuinely joyous moments are truly the best moments this show had to offered. Definitely the best episode The Eccentric Family so far, this episode highlights the show in its most magical sense. In fact, watching that Hell part making all the previous episodes somewhat improved in retrospect.

Posted on 8 May 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

Who would’ve thought that the chaise will be a declaration of war in that universe? For the record, their head-to-head battle: Nidaime:2 Benten:0

If last week was all about romance – which now looking back the Eccentric Family had never actually focused on this aspect before – this week we have dispute as a main theme – tanuki and tengu disputes, such fool and prideful creatures; another reflection of their idiot bloods. This week manages to be one of the best episode of all season, offering both the magical sensation this show is famous for, and further deepens the conflicts and most of all just full of beautiful, heartfelt moments. I’ve realized that reviewing Eccentric Family is getting harder and harder since I’m embracing the show so much that instead of critique I’m just babbling about my favorite moments. But damn it, let’s do it anyway.

The first half we have a continuing of our tanuki love from last week. Turn out Gyokuran, Yaichirou and Yasaburou were sucked into his father’s secret shogi room, which in turn is the place where 1) it linked directly to Akadama-sensei room and 2) their parents were trap by none other than that old cranky tengu and then their love blossomed. Such lovely details. Eccentric Family don’t usually go sweet, but they handle that romance with such heartfelt. I guess Akadama-sensei is actually useful for once (in truth, he looks like a mighty, proper professor this episode), bringing the courage between two individuals who too shy/stubborn to admit their love – and what they say to each other is rather simple, TO THE POINT (other anime takes note, cut out all the Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo bullshit and the romance is strengthened). And that lovely story from Tousen seriously melted my heart. The storytelling of Eccentric Family is as strong and effective as ever, even the comedy really hit home as well. I have a good laugh when Yaichirou gets dokidoki he bumped his head to Gyokuran, roleplayed by Yasaburou. This first half is up there as one of the most magical moments in the whole Eccentric Family, hands down.

As the title suggests, the leisure cruiser battle begins, again. I’ll be frank, this year’s battle just can’t compare to the one in last season; both in scope (last year the Shimogamo was an underdog; this year do we have any doubt they would lose to the stupid twins?), and in the excitement it evokes (they don’t even focus on the Daimonji festival for Christ sake. Such a waste). The only stand out moments were when Gyokuran loses her temper at the twins (she fits right in the Shimogamo family. No doubt). Seeing another vulnerable side of Gyokuran sure is great fun, but also witnessing the bus (Yajirou) landed right on top of the cruise that literally blew everyone out is the whole other experience together. It is a tradition for tanuki to enjoy themselves in a floaty house on the Daimonji festival, now adding the dispute between those tanukis as part of the tradition as well. While this sequence sure highlights the slapstick, silly nature of the show, it sadly is the weakest part of this episode, but I guess mostly due to the fact it was bookended by two stellar sequences.

Right after the chaos created by the tanuki, the tengu takes the stage. Nidaime comes to pick up his chaise, whom Benten took for her sightseeing. Now I am convinced that the reason Nidaime come back to visit his estranged father have something to do with her visit in Britain. For now, I guess that she triggers him in some ways, but her true intention is still for him to see his father (I’ve learned the roundabout logic of the tengu. So it seems). The final showdown between Nidaime and Benten comes as quickly and unexpectedly as none of us would guess. Indeed, blink and you might miss the outcome. It’s the first time we see the weak, helpless side of Bentei, when all her pride is strip down by the (foreshadowing) beaten. As Yasburou points out, there is something that hold her back? What is it then? I love the last part, as Yasaburou stays behind, looking at Akadama who solace Bentei. Now the ED sequence starts to make so much sense. We see Bentei visiting Britain, and later we see what likely is the continuing of that last scene. Akadama carries Bentei on the back, Yasaburou picks up her lost thong from behind. That is pure visual storytelling my friends, when two such simple shots can tell us much about the mood and the emotions of the scene. Likewise, what Bentei admits, that she’s frustrated, while sitting at the pond, is understated and just goddamn fantastic. I have never thought she’d be no match for Nidaime. But what are they even fighting for? Tengu dispute? From a human and a tengu turned English gentleman? Over the chaise then? That makes no damn sense.

But really,

I’ve truly missed Kaisei.

Posted on 1 May 2017 with categories: Currently Watching:, Uchoten Kazoku

Time for little furball romance. This week is all about pairing up Yaichirou and Gyokuran and she definitely fits the show like a glove. So far, Eccentric Family has been successfully follows Yasaburou around with his frantic odd jobs, while at the same time reintroduces the old cast and more over fleshing out the new additions, as such this week is another great week for our furballs adventure. We have a solid 3-arc standalone development for our new girl, Gyokuran. She first appears in this episode when she pays Yasaburou a visit, he himself serves as a stand-in for Okazaki family – a zoo tanuki family that consists of dozen members that all go to a holiday on a city bus (how can you even beat that?). Upon the conversations two things are pretty clear about Gyokuran: she’s lovely, caring person and she has romantic feelings towards Yaichirou, but they had a “tragic past” that prevent Yaichirou from playing shogi with her again (in other words, silly little reason – she was purposely lost that made Yaichirou raged).

But good things never go as plan in the world of tanuki. Despite making the best efforts to bring back such an old tradition of Shogi Competition (which in truth is the match between only 2 players: herself and Yajirou the frog) to tanuki community, small disputes between the idiot twins and Yasaburou bring annoyance and chaos to the event. Gyokuran shows her insecure side by transforming into a white tiger to snap back the twins. The commotion upsets Gyokuran so she holes herself up and refuses to meet everyone. Yasaburou shows up to make amend and bridges the love between Gyokuran and Yaichirou. All those flashbacks are lovely, which I’m particularly impressed with the second flashback when the young kids looking for Yasaburou: the atmosphere, the vivid background and the sound of the wind really bring a sense of overwhelming-by-the-nature to life. The shogi match at the end between the love birds feel like a natural progression for their relationship. Gyokuran appears as sincere, yet insecure who like Yaichirou is torn between responsibility with the community; her own family’s tradition and the desire of freedom. Just like how the tanuki lose their ability to transform when they’re inside a cage.

This episode further examines the main weakness of Yasaburou. Yasaburou lacks any sense of responsibility, that we all know well. So far, his carefree attitude breaks the normal convention to bring something fresh, fun and exciting to his everyday life, but when putting in the context of society, his impulsive actions tend to bring trouble to the people around him. Sure, the twins start the fight but it’s just plainly irresponsible of him to ignore all the efforts of others and fight back. I actually feel worse that he shows little remorse over the consequences. Likewise, he can’t understand the appeal of shogi in which discipline and patience take priority. For him, he rather invents new rules instead of follows the old beaten path. But given that he’s flexible in every situation also equal to Yasaburou is very quick to console others from their disappointment. His meeting with Gyokuran where he humors her by his silly shogi moves and directly tells her to go for what she’s feeling because “why not!” says the best of his characteristic to bring optimism and enthusiasm towards other members.

Other characters all doing fine this episode whenever they appear on screen, but it’s those characters who don’t appear this episode that makes me kind of puzzled. I can overlook the absence of Kaisei (she comes and goes as she’s pleased, just like Benten), but I can’t think of any reason why Yashirou didn’t appear in the Shogi Tournament. I know The Eccentric Family has such large cast so it’s better to divide them up but please don’t put them away for too long or make them disappear inexplicably. Hopefully as the story keeps rolling forward together we will have everyone appears again soon. Other than that, Tousen steals the scene by offering Yasaburou an offer that he can’t refuse. Yajirou is as observant and cool as ever and Bentei, OMG Benten, she comments how petty Nindaime is but she proceeds to ruin all his shirts and flies off? I’m hype for their crash in the future. As of now, like the old tanuki say, after beating Yaichirou, Gyokuran is taken by the God of Shogi (remember this guy? The one who made a contract with Rei in 3-gatsu). Or is it Father’s forgotten secret room? We will have the answers next week.

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