“The Hand That Caresses The Night” 「夜を撫でる手」
Fear leads one to seek power, but too much power blinds one from fear.
Fuki is the sake of decay, specifically, when kouki (essence of life from Ep 01) sort of ferments and decays, unable to become mushi as it usually should. It contaminates the ground water and when consumed by a living being, in this case being human, it mixes with the host’s blood and slowly corrodes its life away. A high concentration of fuki is deadly but there are those who are strong enough to survive its effects, even passing it onto the next generation host. In exchange, the host develops an eye-shaped ring on their palms which emit a sweet, fruit wine like scent. This toxic scent attracts and lures in animal beasts. When tainted enough, the animals are petrified and immobilised, eventually succumbing to death. The only cure to being tainted by fuki is by consuming a certain quantity of kouki.
This week’s main characters are Tatsu (Uchiyama Kouki doing one of his finest work here) and his younger brother Usuke, who both live in the mountains and hunt for a living. Fuki has tainted their family since their grandmother’s generation. She was too weak against it and died coughing blood, a condition Usuke currently has too. Their father on the other hand, used the side effects of fuki to hunt, often hunting more than they ever needed because according to Tatsu, their father was obsessed with the hunt itself. Animals are attracted to the scent and lose the ability to attack. Killing becomes all too easy which. Eventually, his physical body succumbed to fuki – Tatsu and Usuke could see right through him and he lost his shadow, causing him to lose both his physical form and soul, becoming the mushi that fuki was meant to become.
Tatsu and Usuke were afraid of their father and their mother had run away in fear. Tatsu was increasingly wary of whenever their father hunted for sport because one day, he believed he and Usuke will become the hunted. But he had the same “strength” and “power” given by the fuki to protect Usuke if it comes down to it. Unknowingly, Tatsu too got carried away and became more and more like his father, a change Usuke has noticed. Ginko first meets Tatsu at night while the latter’s out hunting. He chooses to roam the mountains at night because that’s when animals come out and are easiest to lure in. As Ginko says, in the dark, everyone is afraid of phantoms. But Tatsu is fearless even of such phantoms because he has his powers.
Ginko warns that Tatsu may feel like he’s the king of the mountains now that he has nothing to fear, but to remember that he’s just another part of the mountain. No one is immune to danger and to death. Tatsu declines the kouki cure because who can say no after having a taste of never ever living in fear again? The fuki will eventually claim its host although, drunk on its powers, Tatsu gets carried away night hunting and gets shot by other hunters because the boy refused to carry a lantern with him (the animals won’t approach him if he did). And that’s when Tatsu finally senses fear once again, of the animals in the wild that may attack him in his weakened state and of the terrors of darkness itself. He sees that he has changed indeed and knows he has to return to the real human he used to be. But is he too late? Daybreaks and Ginko and Usuke find him along with a flock of black crows (creepy) waiting to attack Tatsu. Thankfully he only loses an arm but in return, learns to become human again because to know fear, is to know death, and to know death, is to know life.
It’s only for an episode but I thought Uchiyama Kouki did wonders with Tatsu’s character. I’ve not heard such colours in his expression in far too long, since his debut in Soul Eater so many moons ago which he only followed up in Shiki, also many moons ago. It’s easy to typecast Uchiyama in laid-back, emotionless roles (Kimi to Boku, Tsuritama) because his register is just so. But the guy’s capable of so much more and I’m glad he’s given the chance to this week as a younger, scared Tatsu and as an older, slightly sadistic and menacing king of the night mountain. The moral of the story itself is probably not foreign to viewers but as with the episodes so far this season, it’s the Mushishi take and humanisation in anime (see how important voice acting is now?) that brings such a thoroughly refreshing rendition that’s again for keeps.