Kyoukai no Kanata – Youmu 1, Idols 0
November 10, 2013 1 Comment
While previous weeks of Kyoukai no Kanata have had a decidedly serious, often very dark tone, with the central characters fighting for their lives in one form or another, this weeks took a different approach to Youmu and Youmu hunting. Initially Youmu hunting was introduced as a serious matter, one where Spirit Hunters would go out and hunt down and destroy potentially dangerous spirits – at least we are told they are dangerous, and the threat they pose to human’s remains to be seen. Mirai has to hunt to survive, her powers are immense, but for a variety of reasons, many we have yet to fully comprehend she has not spent much of her time hunting Youmu, and is therefore immensely poor. In fact, one of the main comedic gags used throughout the series so far has been Mirai’s poverty, and her immense pride that makes her try to ignore others charity, even when she knows would allow her to survive.
The Hollow Shade further reinforced the dangerous nature of Youmu hunting, with elements of Mirai’s, and Akihito’s pasts coming to the fore, and demonstrating how complicated the world of Youmu and spirit hunters are. If we take a closer look at Akihito for example, we see an individual who on the surface lives a carefree and happy life, while underneath there is an individual with immense power and the ability to destroy all those he holds dear. Furthermore, his friendship with Mitsuki and Hiroomi is a complicated one, they are friends, but there is also a fair amount of tension between them. Mitsuki has already explained to Mirai in last weeks episode that Akihito is under constant surveillance by the Nase clan, and she, along with her brother have been tasked with keeping an eye on him. The power than Akihito demonstrated further reinforces the dangerous nature of being a half-Youmu, and we can assume that his father is, or was a particularly powerful spirit, perhaps one of the most powerful. As a half Youmu he may possess immense strength and power (even if he has yet to show any of it), and his very existence seems to be a tricky subject for the local Spirit Hunters. The laws of humanity don’t govern him since he is immortal, but because he isn’t a full Youmu, Akihito may also be exempt from the rules of Spirit Hunters.
Onto another, potentially more sinister element of the series we begin to see a complex web of intrigue and rumours surrounding Akihito, Izumi, and the Spirit Hunter association. When Mirai is introduced to the Nase clan, arriving as Fujima Miroku leaves. While Mitsuki brushes away the association as merely a group of people that research Youmu, and the history of Spirit Hunters, Miroku gives off the impression of someone with another agenda. His sideways glance at Akihito, completely ignoring Mirai, despite her background and powers. Similarly, Miroku makes some comment in last weeks episode pertaining to Akihito’s power, suggesting that Akihito is a known individual – as one would expect considering the company he keeps, and his mothers job as a Spirit Hunter – but his apparent interest in Akihito suggests that the Spirit Hunter Association, or at least a small part of it are interested in things a little more complex and dangerous than the history of spirit hunting.
But now we come to this week’s episode that presented us with a completely different side of Youmu and Spirit Hunters, one that has more in common with slapstick comedy than it does with a fight for survival. It also helps to demonstrate how varied Youmu are, and also how many of them don’t really pose a threat to humans, although foul stenches could possibly be categorised as harmful to your health, and possibly mental capacity. Youmu (or Youkai, since that is what they are really) come in all shapes and sizes, from humanoid or shape shifters, through to household items, or even spirits that appear while carrying out certain tasks. Here are a few examples of the kind of spirits that can be found in Japanese folk tales/stories:
- Bakezori (straw sandals)
- Biwa-bokuboku (a lute)
- Burabura(a paper lantern)
- Karakasa(old umbrellas)
- Kameosa (old sake jars)
- Morinji-no-kama (tea kettles)
- Mokumokuren (paper screens with eyes)
- Azuki Arai (a yōkai who is always found washing azuki beans).
- Akaname (only found in dirty bathrooms and spends its time licking the filth left by the untidy owners).
- Ashiarai Yashiki (A gargantuan foot that appears in rooms and demands the owner to wash it)
- Tofu Kozo (a small monk who carries a plate with a block of tofu).
The fruit-type youmu in this weeks episode is about as outlandish as the Akaname and Ashiarai Yashiki, especially since it seems to be a particularly perverted Youmu that gets distracted by beautiful women or girls. On the surface the idea of an incredibly lucrative Youmu seems like an excellent proposition, but having a youmu that is easily startled, and releases noxious yellow liquid when that happens results in a particularly entertaining series of circumstances.
Whereas in previous episodes the act of hunting Youmu was a serious one, this weeks turned out to be a case of a blinkered attempt to get revenge on a youmu making Mirai and Mitsuki smell particularly bad. The resulting dance sequence, complete with the sort of training montage that would make Symphogear proud, and ending in a brilliant anti-climax helped to bring a sense of comedy to an otherwise potentially dangerous profession. It was a tongue-in-cheek episode that moved away from the more serious side of the series to present us with a group of high schoolers who seemed to have forgotten how to hunt Youmu and instead became idols for a few short moments. The dark side of the series has not been forgotten, but for a single, stand-alone episode this one helped to show a group of friends who can enjoy themselves and be utterly fabulous in the process (looking at you Hiroomi you big diva).