Having put complete trust in Zen, Rikuo finds his fear becoming infused with his own, allowing him to wear his fear. The very technique that Gyuuki had been referring to.
So with Zen’s help Rikuo is able to strike all the Great Tengu’s underlings down, coming to terms with his past mistakes before they head out to meet Tsuchigumo and rescue Yuki-Onna. Who at this point is looking back on how she’s seen him grow up and how she must protect him, and looking over the city the Youkai from Touno prepare to make their move against Tsuchigumo. And at the ruins of the Keikain household, Ryuuji and Akifusa reflect on their clan’s current state while Kubinashi consoles Aotabou, assuring that he doesn’t make the same mistake he himself made not that long ago.
Alongside that Rikuo and Zen pay a vist on the injured Dohiko and Reira and meet up with the likes of Jami to march on Tsuchigumo, following which Minagoroshi-Jizou receives reports of all the seals being retaken one by one up to the second. Where Tsuchigumo is starting to get impatient and Yuki-Onna feels that she must stop him before Rikuo gets here, yet just as she feels as if she’s a burden he arrives, apologising for taking so long. And so Rikuo’s rematch with Tsuchigumo begins, however Yuki-Onna stands in the former’s way, wanting to fight as well. So Rikuo asks her to put complete trust in him in order to wear her fear. Resulting in Nenekirimaru manifesting icelike properties as opposed to the poisonous ones that appeared with Zen, with which Rikuo freezes and shatters one of Tsuchigumo’s arms, and at the end of it two new snow flake tattoos appear on his back alongside the wings.
However merely doing this has only made Tsuchigumo realise how much fun this is and to get serious for the first time in a while, destroying the temple and sealing off a ring of sorts to leave Rikuo no room to escape. Allowing him to land grazing blows before pummeling him with his palms, but still Rikuo manages to avoid most of his attacks and with Yuki-Onna and Zen at his back is completely unfazed. And not only them as well, but the Youkai from Touno as well, with Itaku declaring that they can be his strength if he wishes it.
Looking forward to jealous Yuki-Onna and more delicious Hagoromo.
I may have said that the fights weren’t anything that this series excelled that, but it’s gems like these ones that make me rethink that. Rikuo’s rematch with Tsuchigumo accompanied with the addition of him being able to wear the fear of his companions simply made it great.
As first off this addition to Rikuo’s techniques was interesting enough on its own, not only does it allow cool variations and ways of attacking for Rikuo but it’s a way of keeping characters relevant as well. Making sure that none of the side characters are edged off to the sidelines and into the bounds of irrelevancy, where in they simply become too weak to make much of a difference and cease to play a role at all. Or at least for a number of the characters. In all it just allows them to take to the frontlines and quite literally fight alongside Rikuo and play a definitive role, with even the likes of Zen, someone physically frail and more in line with supporting than attacking, being able to provide some strong offensive power.
Alongside which this new technique also makes for some pretty cool variations/forms for Rikuo, as with each team member whose fear he wears he not only obtains a more varied fighting style but his appearance seems to change as well. Where with Zen he appeared to have a poisonous aura and with Yuki-Onna noticeable icicles began to sprout and around Nenekirimaru and from his back. Which speaking of also seemed to noticeably change, as the idea of how his new technique allowed him to carry his Hyakki Yakou turned out to be quite literal with tattoos representing each member he has so far worn appearing. Both being things that have me looking forward to the events ahead, as we’ll see him use this technique with the other member’s of his Hyakki-Yakou, making use of more varied fighting styles and eventually having his entire back covered in a complex arrangement of tattoos that represent them all.
So because of this alone Rikuo’s fight with Tsuchigumo was simply great, however looking past that it was still fairly good, for the first time in a while it felt as if it wasn’t being run by asspulls, or just being a matter of one of the characters revealing just how strong they were at the last moment and completely stomping their opponent into the dust. Even with his brand new technique Rikuo was still having to trade blow for blow with Tsuchigumo, sure he took off his arm but it’s not like it did him much good. Tsuchigumo having finally found a fight that he could enjoy for the first time in a thousand years simply got rallied up and made it so he wouldn’t be able to just breeze by with it. And not only that but I also thought that Studio Deen did a fairly good job with it, as an animation studio I think they’re more specialised in the art and detail side of things rather than the actual animation aspect of it, yet still the fight itself was pulled off nicely. It looked great and was still able to
feel fast paced and action packed.
Aside from all that just like Kubinashi and Aotabou before her, we also saw Yuki-Onna receive some nice development in this episode. Where in we were able to see just how much and in what sort of way she currently cares about Rikuo, having essentially watched over and protected him as he grew up she feels as if there is no other way about it. At first refusing the idea of him protecting her and even finding it unforgivable that she fell into a situation in which he would certainly be hurt and maybe even killed trying to do. And while I may have thought that some of these details could have been better suited for when Tsuchigumo tore Rikuo’s Hyakki-Yakou apart, making it all the more heartbreaking, it still worked nicely here. The point where it was all put to the test and as a matter of complete trust between them. And not to mention that I’m looking forward to seeing the way she’ll react when she finds that this new super cool technique that Rikuo used with her isn’t special.