Ushio and Tora Season 2 (2015)
Fresh off the Beast Spear's near destruction, Ushio continues dealing with the many scemes and manipulations of Hakumen no Mono, starting off with everyone around him suddenly forgetting that they ever knew him. And that is just the beginning.
It feels a bit odd referring to this continuation as a second season, because Ushio and Tora basically just resumes where it last left off, to the point where the first episode is counted as episode 27. With a grand total of 39 episodes in all, that means that this season has half the episode count as the first season did, so why everything wasn't just made to be one season, I have no idea. Not that it matters much, since this is also where the show ends, which is also another thing to be grateful for. Ushio and Tora is spared from having to exist forever at the whims of people who never want their favorite thing to end, and are throwing enough money at it that its producers are more than happy to indulge these people.
At this point, most of the players in this story have already been introduced, including a being made completely out of evil and darkness, the Hakumen no Mono. At the present, he's sealed away in the sea as the form of a giant, nine-tailed fox being splayed all over the cliffside. As we also learned in the last season, it's held there, but destroying it means also destroying the support pillar that keeps Japan from sinking into the sea.
Imprisoned or not, this doesn't stop the Hakumen from deploying its many scemes. The first one is, as mentioned, blocking the memories of Ushio and Tora from everyone else's minds, a plan that's made partially to demoralize the heavily emotional Ushio, but the addition of making the other yokai want to recreate the Beast Spear by sacrificing Mayuko. Of course, it's not just a matter of removing memories of someone, because the closer Ushio and/or Tora was to everyone, the more the disrephancies of the memories they once shared sticks out in their minds.
And it hurts Ushio, because he has never been one to hide what he feels. His tsundere personality is all the more ironic for it, but Ushio handily proves that you can be a badass and a complete crybaby at the same time; they do not necessarily cancel each other out. There isn't really any more you could add about him, because he's always been one to wear his heart on his sleeve, and he doesn't really change a whole lot for the remainder of the show. More than anything, this is the story about Tora and about the Hakumen. While this season starts out with Ushio and Tora having to deal with some of Hakumen's scemes, we still learn a lot about Tora; who he used to be and how he became the monster he is today. He's still easily as much of a tsundere as Ushio is, and his act is still as much an act as it was in the last season. The only weird red herring of his is the name he was given in the first season; Nagatobimaru. It was most likely a name he was given by the other yokai, because once we delve into his past, we learn that he was known under yet another name.
In a weird parallell Ushio and Tora shares with the mildly shoujoified Inuyasha is that this season cuts down on its episode number, and as a result of that, the pace really picks up. In the first season, Ushio and Tora allowed itself to take some time to give its characters a breather every now and then, but there's little time for that now. The Hakumen is always one step ahead, and our twosome barely have time to finish one sceme of his before the next one is underways. Ushio and Tora was never boring in its first season, and now that the cast is as large as it is, it certainly doesn't have the time to get boring now. Also, due to said cast being as sizable as it is, it never really dwells on anything for too long either. All the yokai he helped? They're there. Asako and Mayuko are hardly just bit players either, particularly in light of the fact that Mayuko is the descendant of Jie Mei, the girl who sacrificed herself and became part of the Beast Spear. The way said yokai tried to have Mayuko sacrifice herself -- by force if necessary -- seems like such a callous deal, but it really lends weight to the danger that is the Hakumen, that they'd resort to such a desperate plan. In addition to that, we meet Hyou again, who will finally have the chance to face his family's murderer. But even in light of this, it's still good to see the guy's soft side now that he's put some focus on his revenge instead of just lashing out at any yokai he meets to satisfy some short-term urge of satisfaction.
Artwise, the show is as it has always been: vaguely retro-inspired character designs that works just as well now as it did back when it was a new franchise. Animation quality is a bit up and down -- mostly adequate, but nothing special, though it has its moments every now and then. It mostly suffers in the character animation department, while special effects -- mostly spiritual and/or magical attacks -- look pretty good. On the other hand, the show does have pretty good music, and everyone in it are acting their hearts out, so it's hard not to get enthusiastic about it.
The potential to falter is, as always, in the show's tendency to balance a message of "thou shalt not sacrifice thyself in vain" with the fact that not everyone will see this journey through to its very end. Even before this season had started, characters in the show had sacrificed themselves for the greater good, often going out in spectacularly heroic ways, and that is a tradition Ushio and Tora is more than happy to uphold in its second season. The difference lies, I suppose, in the fact that the people Ushio meet are willing to fight for him to the bitter(sweet) end. They do not necessarily mean to sacrifice themselves, but they still work beyond the point where they can be saved, and there will be no deus ex machinae there to save them. Indeed, even Ushio himself often pushes himself past his breaking point even though he knows it's a bad idea, mostly because he still carries the guilt of holding himself back in self-preservation in the first season, even if there really was nothing he could have done. But people blaming themselves aren't necessarily always going to be rational about it.
And so, Ushio and Tora comes to a bittersweet, but magnificent end. With 39 episodes, it has the time and the source material to tell an exciting and emotionally laden story without wearing out its welcome with fights that never seem to end. It's not perfect -- it's still a shounen that prefers to deal with its evils by defeating it in a fight, and yes, the tsundere shtick does grow a bit old after a while, especially since tsunderes seems to grow on trees in Ushio and Tora -- but it's still a classic with memorable characters, fun interactions and a heart as big as the sun.
A shounen classic that's always worth a watch... or a rewatch. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The violence in Ushio and Tora is one thing -- it's mostly implied; you thankfully never have to see the monster eating Hyou's wife and daughter, for instance -- but several of the characters have to carry huge burdens of despair and hate, fueled by the very being whose sustenance all these feelings provide. You should not let children watch this.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Ushio and Tora Season 2 (2015) © 2015 MAPPA, Studio VOLN
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