Uchouten Kazoku, My Brother, and Me

yaichirou shimogamo, uchouten kazoku, the eccentric family, eccentric family, uchouten, yaichirou tiger

“He’s my younger brother. I understand him too. I understand him, that’s why it hurts.”

-Yaichirou Shimogamo, Uchouten Kazoku, episode 8

Growing up, my brother and I were close friends. This was borne of necessity as, for a few years, we were the only children close in age in our neighborhood. As we grew older, other families with children our age moved in; however, my brother and I remained close. Often, both our friends and their parents would comment on how rarely we fought compared to themselves, or their children, respectively. To anyone who met us, we appeared to have a fantastic brother-sister relationship. The reality was often far different than the image.

Uchouten Kazoku surprised me with how well it portrayed subtle familial emotions and relationships within the Shimogamo Family. Opening with the various ways that four brothers, and their mother, are attempting to deal with their father’s death the series – in spite of turns to the dramatic – takes great pains to show the complexity that can accompany one’s feelings for their family members.

The obvious emotional height of Uchouten Kazoku is in episode 12, when Yajirou Shimogamo is finally able to put his feelings of self-loathing and guilt aside, transforming for the first time since his self-imposed seclusion as a frog in a well. This lays to rest any sort of animosity that he may have felt towards his brother Yasaburo over his arranged marriage to Kaisei Ebisagawa – showing the two brothers able to come to an understanding instead of allowing feelings to fester and poison their relationship as Soun did with his brother Soichirou – and allows him to accept the circumstances surrounding his father’s death. Uchouten Kazoku sets up the parallel to Yajirou’s narrative, (Soichirou and Soun’s relationship as brothers) and his method of redemption (transforming into the false electric railway for the first time since Soichirou’s death) almost too neatly. I loved cheering for Yajirou; however, the character that I most empathized with was Yaichirou.

Yaichirou’s narrative in Uchouten is equally well bookended, but far more subtle than Yajirou’s redemption. In his attempt to take up the mantle of his deceased and powerful father, Yaichirou falls far short of his own expectations. He is bound by the various laws of tanuki society that he tries to uphold, leaving him unable to bend the rules as he wishes like his younger brother Yasaburo. Yaichirou shows his strength as the head of the family against more lowly opponents, the bumbling Ebisugawa brothers, but is unable to keep his composure when attempting to find his mother in episode two. This continues throughout the series as Yaichirou dives deeper into the rabbit hole that is tanuki society, all the while struggling, and failing, to take his father’s place. He is shown as someone who doesn’t have the respect of his brothers when he seemingly wants it, although they do humor him a few times, demonstrating that they do care for Yaichirou’s feelings. While Yaichirou does scold his younger brothers, particularly Yasaburo, on their lack of effort and serious nature, they rarely come to blows or even verbally argue, leaving the depth of their individual relationships unspoken.

I eventually grew apart from my brother once I moved out of the house and attended university. Our relationship was hardly strained, but we didn’t speak to each other often. Personally, I have a hard time keeping up relationships with others. I never know when to reach out to people, and am often afraid to, for fear of annoying them. Recently, I have begun to realize that this is additionally due to my own fear of opening up to others fully, as I am a deeply-flawed individual. In spite of all of this, and in spite of not keeping in contact with my brother as I should have, I arrogantly thought that my relationship with my brother would always be a good one. He is my younger brother, after all.

Following my university graduation, and my move across the country, I called my brother to catch up. In that conversation, he said something that really struck me: “We don’t have to be close, if you don’t want to be. I won’t hate you for it.” The longer we spoke, the more he opened up about his relationship with me, and how he had once worshipped the ground I had walked on, only to find out that I was extremely flawed and made a great deal of mistakes.

While I had been struggling mightily with my own shortcomings, apparently so had my brother, as the younger sibling.

yaichirou shimogamo, uchouten, uchouten kazoku, the eccentric family, yajirou shimogamo, yasaburo shimogamo, cell phone

Yaichirou reunites his younger brother Yajirou and their mother.

For Yaichirou, the respect he so desired from his brothers comes when he is able to put the restraints of tanuki society behind him and act, without thought of consequence, on behalf of the best interests of his family alone. In episode 13, Yaichirou transforms into a tiger to not only protect his immediate family, but attack his treacherous uncle. He holds this transformation – and in this way he surpasses his father, who was unable to stay transformed in front of Benten – in front of Benten as well as the Friday Fellows, who are also responsible for his father’s demise.

Essentially, by eschewing his ideals of what an eldest son should be, Yaichirou upholds these ideals perfectly, simply through his actions, coming to the aid of his family when it matters most.  The Yaichirou present when the dust has barely settled towards the end of episode 13 is calm, composed, and unconcerned with whether he will be the next leader of tanuki society or not, even in his necessary apology to his mother. He seems to simply be enjoying his time with his brothers and, in accepting their flaws, is able to reconnect with them on a far more personal level, going as far as officially reuniting his wayward brother Yajirou with their mother. Similarly, when I actually opened up to my brother – allowing him to open up as well – instead of letting our feelings go unspoken, we were able to have a far better relationship. Our communication exponentially improved once, much like Yaichirou and his brothers, we were able to accept our own personal shortcomings as well as each others’.

12 comments

  1. THIS. I’ve gotten sick of most romances, but I feel like I’ll never stop liking shows about family, which seem to be much rarer for some reason. They’re probably harder to do well too…
    Keep writing! I love reading your blog posts.
    ^-^

    1. It’s odd, because I don’t think that families are more or less rife with things to explore and opportunities for the dramatic than romances. Perhaps it does come down to the subtlety of the relationships portrayed, where families take the edge in complexity of emotions and are therefore more difficult to portray well. Who knows? I personally love stories about families, which is why I ended up loving Uchouten.

      Thank you so much for the compliment and the comment! ^ ^

  2. Thanks for sharing your personal stories with us. It must not have been the easiest thing for you.

    “I never know when to reach out to people, and am often afraid to, for fear of annoying them.” – This sounds like my bf, though he can be very talkative of himself, he’s scared he becomes tiring. But everyone is flawed, we hurt people without knowing, and there are words to be used if we want people to understand us. So, don’t worry too much. Although I can’t claim to know you well, I think you’re a very sweet and thoughtful person and judging by your work here you make other people smile. The other day you made me happy by the simplest fact that you mentioned CLAMP; despite the fact I haven’t seen you around my blog, you’ve noticed something I like🙂

    1. The more I share, the easier it becomes, if that makes any sense. ^ ^

      Your words remind me a bit of Kimi ni Todoke, and the advice that Sawako receives from her two girlfriends: if you say what you mean, honestly, eventually you’ll be understood. I think the key is to keep pushing through the misunderstandings, and realizing that you’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. That’s what the entirety of this blog is based on, me putting myself out there and hoping that somehow I’m communicating with people. ^ ^

      I do read your blog, but I’m an awful commenter. I should be better about that, but most of the time, I just like to sit back and read. (I’ve really loved your recent Romantic Illusions posts though!) Thank you so much for your continued comments here. It means a lot.

      1. I don’t get out of my way to be nice, so be sure that I mean what I say and that I enjoy your writing.

        You should see my face now – I’m ‘dawww, sempai noticed me’. On the other hand it’d be embarassing *giggle*. See you soon on the next post😉

  3. “Personally, I have a hard time keeping up relationships with others. I never know when to reach out to people, and am often afraid to, for fear of annoying them. Recently, I have begun to realize that this is additionally due to my own fear of opening up to others fully, as I am a deeply-flawed individual.”
    Wow. You just described me exactly.
    I feel like if I talk too much, or people don’t react in a way I expect them to, then I’ve annoyed them. I also have this fear that people are always talking about me behind my back, even though I know that it’s unlikely, since I don’t give them good reason to.
    I’m almost never the one to start up a conversation. I always watch how others talk and behave like with me, and then try to match myself with them. This is why I sometimes fear that I don’t have much of my own personality.
    Thank you for this. I have an older brother and a younger sister, so being the middle child really made me connect with Yasaburou, since I’m always trying to get close to both siblings. The way you described Yaichirou is perfect. I love the way you construct your sentences, (in all your articles) and honestly, I’m a little jealous.😛

    1. Personally, I actually like holding back and simply listening to others speak. I find others’ stories so much more fascinating than my own (as anyone is wont to do). That being said, I do worry that sometimes my presence annoys/bothers people that I care about. It’s an odd balancing act between reaching out to let them know that I do care, and not being too bothersome. One can never assume another’s feelings, in my opinion, and I worry that the people I do care about may think that I don’t because I don’t reach out to them enough. Who knows? Based on the response to this post, I have hope that they could recognize that. ^ ^

      Thank you so much for the compliments regarding my writing. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, and my largest transgression is repeating myself and structuring my sentences similarly. Hopefully this blog will continue to help me grow.

      Thank you so much for the heartfelt comment.

  4. Glad to hear that story. I have a younger sister who I constantly have feelings of guilt towards because I felt like I was such a horrible brother to her. Despite that, and some bitter fights, we still remain friends who respect each other’s space. There’s something beautiful and unique about how siblings can be close without being too close that I think other relationships could learn from.

    I think that may also have been part of the lesson in this story. I liked Yaichirou despite his uptight ways, too. And I felt like they all hit that perfect balance when learned to respect each other’s personalities and space. It’s too bad that bastard Soun couldn’t learn that lesson, though I sit back with the pleasant thought that perhaps he really did meet his end in a hotpot.

    1. One of my friends, who had a fairly rough childhood for various reasons, once said something to the effect of, “I’ll always be friends with my brother because he’s the only person who will truly understand what it was like for me growing up.” I think that most siblings do tend to realize this as they mature. One’s childhood is a unique experience, and the person who will understand the most will definitely be another sibling.

      I liked Soun’s role as a representation of what *could* have happened, had the Shimogamo brothers not put in the effort to relate to, and understand, each other. He served a purpose at least… ^ ^

      Thanks for the comment!

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