No matter what you do, there is always someone who will take it the wrong way. Be it because of a misinterpretation or a simple clash of ideals, it is impossible to convey your intentions to all. Unfortunately, in the world of Ushio and Tora, such ideology is usually the precursor to some kind of fight, probably one involving lightning. This being the case, former ally, turned minion of Hakumen, Nagare decides to bring all of his opinions and pent up rage crashing down right on the back of Ushio’s skull. Now Ushio is okay, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that Nagare probably won’t be leaving unscathed…if he leaves at all.
So, remember that whole thing where the military got tricked by Hakumen no Mono and are planning to straight up bomb the ocean? Yeah, that’s still happening. Of course, when Ushio decides to visit their battleship and inform them of how dumb their plan is, they immediately believe him to be a minion of Hakumen and throw him…into a break room. Yeah, not sure whose idea that was. Naturally, two submarine officers take Ushio’s side after having spoken exactly zero words to each other and plan a phony kidnapping in order to help Ushio get to Hakumen via a wicked cool submarine. It happens kinda fast I know, especially given how this plan is formed off screen, but it is by no means the focus of this episode. If anything, the fact that the submariners agreed to help Ushio because of the look in his eyes is the entire reason for this series of events, as it ties in to the much greater conflict occurring on deck; the battle of Nagare and Tora. But before all that, let’s take a second and pay attention to Asako, who makes her entrance into this episode by leaping from a (low hovering) helicopter…directly onto Ushio. With her memories still 100% scrambled, all poor Asako can remember is that she cares for Ushio more than anyone on the planet. Thus, despite not actually knowing him, she pleads for him to not go and fight. Now, whilst she has shown concern for Ushio in the past, this time is markedly different. With no walls between them, the pair does not result to their usual dynamic and instead simply voice how they feel. Though her amnesiac status has something to do with this lack of routine, the emotion of the scene makes it so you almost forget anything is amiss. After all, the words Asako speaks are the ones she has been wanting to say since before the series began. It’s just kind of unfortunate that she doesn’t entirely know why. And though Ushio is unable to hear Asako’s final words as he departs beneath the waves, we are all witness to Ushio’s honest and solemn confession that he loves Asako. Sure we all knew it, but it’s a little different when the words finally come out.
As if this wasn’t enough emotion, it is made known through Asako’s questioning that Ushio is indeed succumbing to the effects of the Beast Spear. With his wounds healing slower than ever and a pain wracking his body, Ushio is undoubtedly on the path to becoming an Azafuse. Though perhaps expected, the way in which this truth is revealed took me by surprise. Rather than laugh and dance around the issue as per usual, Ushio calmly admits to Asako that this is indeed the reality he is facing, one he has known for quite some time. For him to so openly admit this shows us just how unique his relationship with Asako is, regardless of her memories. Having effectively lost her already, Ushio is well past lying to Asako and, despite doing little to alleviate her worries, decides to bear his soul to her for perhaps the last time. That being said, he does refrain from declaring his love for her, but some heroic traits die hard.
Back on deck, the situation between Nagare and Tora is much, much different. With his fury and insanity seemingly at their peak, the former monk lets loose upon Tora with the absolute intention to kill. Why you ask? Good question. Let’s turn our heads to flashbacks and dialogue to learn more. Apparently, ol’ Nagare-niichan is a bona fide genius. Having succeeded at everything since his childhood years, Nagare’s outlook on life took a turn for the bleak. With no challenge in the world, he decided that he was never meant to utilise his full potential and thus he was never meant to enjoy life. With brief snippets showcasing the ire his mother received due to her son’s genius and the overall lack of friendship his so called perfection granted him, it is not too hard to see how a young Nagare came to this upsetting conclusion. However, the beginning of this journey into darkness began in the unlikeliest of places; Ushio’s face. Okay, that’s a lot less poetic than the actual dialogue, but run with me on this. With a gaze of compassion and determination, our hero has gained a great many allies and averted a great many catastrophes. Which is neat. Unfortunately, this same look drove Nagare certifiable as it represented everything he lacked. Combined with the fact that Tora is the one being to defeat him, all whilst holding back, it was all too easy for that creepy Hakumen lady to corrupt Nagare and draw him to the side of evil. Which is not neat. However, all things considered, I’m glad Nagare turned evil. Not because I disliked the character, or wanted our heroes lives to be harder, but because the alternative did not appeal to me in the slightest. If it had turned out that Nagare was playing the part of double agent, or was pretending to have turned as some form of test, I would have been somewhat frustrated. But that’s not how it turned out. Nagare betrayed the good guys because he was a jealous genius who felt more fear in understanding his own emotions than facing of against a being that is literally made of evil. Says a lot about his character.
However, what interested me the most about this fight was its ending. Despite Ushio’s warning, Tora does not hold back and, in the end, winds up killing Nagare. Yet, this is in by no means through Tora’s usual obstinance. With every intention to spare Nagare, Tora is forced to go all out by an opponent who refuses to stay down. Worse, Nagare brings out some bizarre transformation that gives him the proportions of a Fist of the North Star character, which is not how any human should ever look. But this is all a part of the theatre of this episode. With this new form and a plethora of creepy faces, we are meant to see Nagare for all his evil glory, his outside finally matching his inside. His violent, monologue heavy inside. However, rather than take this all as seriously as one should, Tora just kinda mocks the guy until the end. Refusing to see how someone so powerful could fear the eyes of a brat, our favourite being of fire and lightning tries his damnedest to beat some sense into his opponent. Though it does work to some degree, the fight is ultimately too much for Nagare who succumbs to his wounds, having finally fought without holding back against one who did the same. With Ushio’s wish broken, we come to realise that our usual hero has nothing to do with this fight. Though the unknowing catalyst, this was Nagare and Tora’s fight, wherein each fought by their own code and bore the consequences that followed.
Though the focus of this episode swayed a little from Ushio himself, the story did an excellent job of showing us just how far reaching his influence is. For better or worse, there is not a single character he has met that Ushio hasn’t affected. The spectrum runs wide from love to hate and everything in between, whether he knows it or not. Yet despite all of this, it was Tora who provided us this week’s moral compass. Refuting the idea that a being would hide their true nature in order to blend in, we are able to see the extent to which Tora has changed. From the creature who swore he would devour Ushio, Tora’s demeanor at the conclusion of this fight is decidedly sombre. Concealing his face with his mane, and choking up a little, his overall attitude is that of someone who broke their favourite toy. Though this sounds somewhat sinister, I don’t feel as if it is, rather it shows how Tora sees humans as something separate to himself. Something he cannot truly compare to. Which, given the revolution regarding the true nature of the Azafuse, is truly saddening.
Ushio and Tora can be found, doing what they do, over on Crunchyroll