Like it or not, all children are in some ways their parents. Those who copulate and leave to fate the gelling of gametes to form an organism uniquely their own, by doing so, doom the fruit of their loins to that chaotic chemistry called chance, the inheritance called blood. But no matter the myriad traits carried via chromosomes, those who drop from their parents’ branches always seem infested by the same worm: some pedestaled Platonic ideal that confuses individuality for greatness and, by its linear burrowing, creates the family vein. Take, for instance, the four current sons of the Shimogamo family: tanuki who have (like all offspring), betwixt themselves, a Mendelian scattering of traits from their mother and father. Linking them all, however, is their idiot blood and the various manifestations thereof: innocence (Yashiro), idiocy (Yasaburo), indolence (Yajiro), and responsibility (Yaichiro).
As this particularly touching Great Moment comes at the end of a wonderful set of character building episodes, it contains significant spoilers. If you've watched The Eccentric Family to its end, then read on. If you've yet to watch this fantastic show, kindly come back after you have watched it so that you do not curse my name for spoiling such a tender moment of both homage and revelry.
Yajiro, renowned throughout Kyoto’s tanuki community as the Shimogamo sibling with the least amount of motivation, was the last of his family to see Soichiro alive. Aside from harboring circumstantial guilt, Yajiro bears an additional regret; he only displays the will to do anything when drinking and, as a result, cannot remember his own father’s last spoken words.
Soichiro and Yajiro, like so many a father and son pairing, had a unique bond, a ritual in which Yajiro would transform into the False Eizan Electric Railway with Soichiro as its sole passenger. Together, drunk, they’d barrel through the neighborhood and startle people all in good fun. It was their game, their favorite game, which was repeated many a time without consequence.
One night, however, while feeling tormented by an impossible love, Yajiro opens up to his dad about his desire to break his branch from the family tree in recompense for such treacherous feelings (while simultaneously sparing himself the burden of conflict). After their discussion and subsequent ritualistic antics, Yajiro leaves an inebriated Soichiro downtown, on his own, after which he is never to be seen by his family again.
Some time after Yasaburo and Yaichiro confirm all of this by confronting Yajiro, who has been holed up in a well as a frog (unwilling or unable to return to his true tanuki form as penance or due to guilt) ever since having learned of his father's fate, a family emergency brings Yashiro to well’s edge with an alchemic pocketful of liquid encouragement. Call it Samson’s hair tonic, call it Dumbo’s feather, call it whatever you like, but upon imbibing an entire bottle of electric brandy, the frog that wouldn’t turns into the trolley that does. Infused with that special absentmindedness only liquor can bring about, Yajiro forgets himself and transforms into a vehicle of atonement and solidarity.
It is while in this state that Yajiro, upon hearing an unwitting exclamation from one of his passengered younger brothers, recognizes Soichiro’s final words. The joyously simple statement exemplifies tanuki nature in general but also spells out the fundamental Shimogamo family philosophy. Revelation ignites into rallying cry, and the ensuing revelry is nothing less than the empowerment stemming from the four parts of a father's blood — once divided by accusation and doubt — running thick as thieves once again through the family vein. This fraternal solidarity brings back into the world of the living that which had been denied ever since Soichiro’s passing. The False Eizan Electric Railway conveys more than a few tanuki; it's an homage to fun and a never before gotten chance to say goodbye to a beloved legend — proof that, at least for tanuki, even alcohol-thinned blood is thicker than salt water.
On the first Friday of every month (or occasionally on the hazy, hung-over Saturday directly following), Ani-Gamers blogger Ink tackles an anime, manga, or video game through the theme of alcohol in our column "Drunken Otaku." Look out for "Beer Googles" (reviews), "Great Drinkers" (character profiles), "Drinkin' Buddies" (interviews), and "Great Moments in Drinking" (more or less). To read previous entries, click here.