“Humans live in the city, tanuki crawl the earth, and tengu fly through the air. Since the city’s establishment humans, tanuki, and tengu have maintained a delicate balance. That’s what keeps the great wheel of this city turning round and round. And watching that wheel spin is more fun than anything else.”
-Yasaburo Shimogamo, The Eccentric Family, Episode 1
This monologue from tanuki Yasaburo Shimogamo opens the first season of The Eccentric Family. After a season turmoil, warmth, forgiveness, and love, these words close the season as well.
The first episode of The Eccentric Family‘s second season eschews Yasaburo’s monologue about the hierarchy of tengu, tanuki, and humans in Kyoto. It wasn’t at all what I had expected.
But it was more affecting.
Rather than Yasaburo’s familiar mantra of the lives of humans, tanuki, and tengu, The Eccentric Family 2 opens with the story of a young, female tanuki. Yasaburo is our narrator once more, but this time he begins his story like a fairytale. “Once upon a time,” he says. “There lived a tanuki who was young and fresh as a peach, and carried herself light as a mountain hermit.”
By the coloring of the tanuki in question, we know that Yasaburo is talking about his own mother. And, although the Shimogamo family patriarch has only been shown in flashbacks, it’s easy to presume that the dark-haired kid who yells at her is none other than Souichirou Shimogamo himself. Yasaburo confirms this moments later, and the camera flashes between one of presumably many childhood fights on the steps Tanukidanisan Fudo-in Temple, to the day of their marriage on those very same steps.
Much of The Eccentric Family‘s first season revolves around lingering effects and fallout from Souichirou’s untimely hot-pot demise, all while showing the sometimes symbiotic, sometimes hostile relationships between Kyoto factions both human and supernatural. Although the words of Yasaburo’s monologue for the first season were detached from his own emotional state — or that of his family members — The Eccentric Family took no time to dive into personal matters immediately. Complex and nuanced familial relationships were juxtaposed with tanuki ridiculousness. It was a series where holding up a cell phone to a frog could have you in tears.
Thus far, the second season has been a bit of the same, but with an inevitable twinge of longing for the first season — or perhaps just longing for the enigmatic Benten. Yasaburo’s introduction is the real-life fairytale of his parents — childhood friends who later became lovers and made a family together. Rather than leading with an overview of social hierarchy, he leads with a personal anecdote, relying on the emotional connection formed with viewers of the first season.
Although it is far more affecting than his simple introduction of human, tanuki, and tengu, this only lasts for a few moments before jumping immediately into Yasaburo’s latest antics, Benten’s absence, and the return of Professor Akadama/Yakushibo Nyoigatake’s son.
Palpable tension between the returning Nidaime and his father takes the forefront, but is immediately pushed aside to introduce the dangerous Tenmaya: a deceased human who escaped from a painting of hell. Although there are a few affecting notes here and there — Yasaburo carrying the professor after his “fight” with Nidaime mirrors their walk to a taxi in the first season — The Eccentric Family 2 has focused on the addition of two new characters to an already crowded mix.
The opening scenes of this season’s first episode promise a similarly intimate look at the Shimogamo family for which The Eccentric Family is so beloved. Hopefully it will continue to deliver on this front. Family politics, relationships, and arguments formed the backbone of the first season, complemented not overshadowed by the series’ supernatural antics.