With no clear destination in mind, disconnected telephone poles sprout about the cluttered pop-up book of Kyoto and its dizzying buzz of alcohol in the air. But behind the muted mischief, a towering tanuki descends into the shape of the mountains and from this dialogue of highs and lows, captures color in The Eccentric Family.
Drifting along, a daruma floats downstream while Benten glides against the current. Even though the opening lyrics refuse to champion perseverance, there’s something to the daruma being synonymous with “fall down seven times, get up eight”. More in spirit with the show is going wherever the wind takes you, regardless if misfortune finds you. At this intersection, breathes calm in the calamity where butterfly wings flap before flashes of geometric patterns, scattering across everything from the streets to the skies. One second, the Ebisugawa Elite Guard’s panic at the disco disturbs the pleasure of a good meal and the next, blown away underneath Benten slowly exhaling smoke. When you take it all in, a push into hell may rejuvenate as much as the hot springs, pulling you towards heaven.
Cars hover at the height chochin hang and clouds occupy fence boards. Rushing up with a bottle to gently put down another, it’s strangely easy to tremble in relaxation. Birds, too, eventually rest lower than Yajiro in an effort to bring the enigma of Benten all the way down to earth. Conversely, Yasaburo fills the pants of a giant, leaping over a crowd of cellphone-ready spectators, reducing the Kyoto Tower to but a stepping stone. Once held in the palm of her hand, he should stand tall enough to undermine her magnificence, without really stepping on her toes. In due time, he reverts to his humble tanuki form, scurrying around the ground as the butterfly returns overhead. Despite Yasaburo vanishing through fenced up enclosure, the lighting isn’t boxed in like much of the typography. Free, to brighten its surroundings instead, shining down on rock bottom with the warmest hue of the OP.
The title’s rainbow kanji soars with sun rays, but also sits on a rusty, old sign at the end of the day. What was separated becomes unified, even for a moment, to unveil the breakdown of the hierarchy. Tanuki property graduates to Nidaime’s taste. Art diminishes to murder weapon. Tengu and tanuki affairs cease to remain isolated from each other until the winged ones stagger on the crosswalk. Yodogawa either clings to roof tiles or runs to the riverbank, speaking for everyone looking for anything other than themselves. Nidaime and Soun reject their respective identities, which feels especially melancholic for shapeshifters. None of Souichiro’s children will ever replace his greatness and only fools would pretend to. The greatest fool, however, finds the plummet imitating the summit. At their lowest, a mother and son are at their happiest as frog and tanuki. “Undone transformations” lack romance where love lives and as often as Yasaburo minds their behinds, losing your balance gives you new perspective.
Like lining up dominoes, the explosive fish-eye sequence proposes a toast to the fall of them all. A tearful Benten weeps alongside the Shimogamo siblings clumsily tumbling through a merry mix of maple leaves and sakura petals. The fireworks which lit the sky now sparkle across the waters as a seagull lands below and rising from its trajectory, a smile on her face. No need to frown upon foggy memories when they make the monuments. Or the bigger picture is seen through the lens of a Voigtländer Vitessa, dating back to the 1950s, yet animating the lives of today with a palette wider than black and white photography. Moving through the motionless, yesteryear appears anew and the departed return to be interesting again. Before you know it, the invisible catches the eye like ecstasy of silent laughter.
There’s this knack for deflating tension that doesn’t scream copout, nor does it feel the need to scream at all. By the time it’s begun to raise its voice, it’s already settled down into a whisper. Not to say the drama is without impact, because it hits hard when blood-stained leaves and barren branches reach for the stars, but there’s always a silver lining. Consider, a merciless shogi board sucking unsuspecting players inside, only to reveal itself as a harmless portal into the accumulated mess Souichiro left behind. Don’t fret if you uncover a manhole, reeking less than the stench of Nidaime’s view from his pedestal and a daruma shatters from the drop. All in good fun, another will turn up with best wishes as lovingly as a firefly in the bitemarks. That said, while the whale surfacing is a sight to see, it’s just as beautiful diving back down.
So, when Benten does fall from grace, all that’s for certain is it’s a far cry from the moon. No high heels to exercise her pettiness, just a wet kimono soaking in a mix of frustration and resentment—directed at herself? He who dares to defy her? Both? Hard to tell. Yasaburo calls it “indescribable sorrow” and I don’t know if it’s more pitiful than humbling, but the fhána ED begins to play. Soothing, in the key of how whimsical she may be.