“I, Shimogamo Yajirou, hope to return from this journey a bigger man than I am now.”
-Yajirou Shimogamo to his family, The Eccentric Family 2, Episode 9
Supernatural stories at their finest ensure that — no matter how grand of a spectacle their conflicts become — they never stray away from intimate experiences with which their audience can resonate.
For example, one of the most affecting scenes in The Eccentric Family is that of an eldest brother holding up a smartphone to the ear of one of his younger brothers, a brother that just happens to be a frog. Visually, it’s ridiculous. Emotionally, it has the power to move a viewer’s heart, becoming an iconic image.
In its first season, The Eccentric Family started big before focusing on the personal struggles and triumphs of one tanuki family. This allowed the second season to immediately narrow its focus with a personal anecdote, then cast a wider net, capturing a few more conflicts before honing in on the personal once more. The problems and warmth of the Shimogamo family remain in the background — including a wonderful scene where Tousen, now the Shimogamo matriarch, visits her elderly mother — but the series has now shifted to include the devilish human trickster Tenmaya, and Professor Akadama’s (tengu Yakushibo Nyoigatake’s) estranged son Nidaime (Junior).
“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.
“Our dad was one of the well-known, great tanuki of Kyoto. He was respected by many tanuki and with that influence he united tanuki society, but regrettably, several years ago he passed away. He was eaten as an ingredient in a hot pot.”
-Yasaburou Shimogamo, Uchouten Kazoku, episode 2.
I’ll admit, a chuckle escaped my lips as I heard this.